explaining a shaved head, missing work conversations because I don’t smoke, and more

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

1. How do I explain shaving my head to my coworkers?

I’m a late 20s woman who has been dealing with genetic hair loss (female pattern baldness) for over 10 years now. It’s at the point where I’m over getting anxious every time the wind blows or stressing about styling my hair to hide it. I’m going to shave it all off tonight.

However, I’m pretty sure no one at work has really noticed, and I know as a woman it’s always a big deal when you turn up bald. Do you have any advice for how to approach questions and comments without being too rude or specific? I’m dreading being asked if I’m raising money for something.

P.S. I’m so happy baldness is becoming a more and more chill thing for men to talk about, but I’m shitty it is still so so stigmatised for women.

Are you comfortable saying, “It’s just a style choice!” Or even just a cheery, “Yep, shaved it off!” People aren’t entitled to know more than that and if you make it clear you chose to do it, anyone even moderately polite should accept that.

You might get some questions from people who are simply curious about it (a lot of women will find it fascinating and have questions, which will be more about their relationship with their own hair than with yours) but if you don’t want to get into it, it’s fine to say, “Oh, I’d love not to talk about it since half my reason for doing it was not to think about it anymore — thanks for understanding.”

2. Is my manager overreacting to small mistakes?

I started my first corporate job six months ago, but I had 15 years of work experience prior to my current role. My boss told me he was unhappy with three mistakes I made in weekly reports I sent to him. Over six months: I incorrectly totaled one column in Excel, I duplicated a tab in one report, and once I used the wrong colored text for a field. None of these mistakes had any business impact and I promptly corrected them when he pointed out the issues. I think this was a reasonable number of mistakes in my first six months.

My performance review and ranking were very bad. The review stated I have “poor attention to detail” and required me to make a plan to improve my performance. I’m stunned because I haven’t made any errors since November. Is this a normal thing for corporate jobs? The HR specialist said she’s giving me six months to improve my attention detail, citing those three reports. There are no other examples of having poor attention to detail in the review. I have met all internal and external deadlines and my work has received good reviews from the other managers. This one manager is known to be particular but he is high up in the company.

Unless there’s really important context missing (like you were asked to fix the mistakes but then you finalized the report without bothering to change anything), this is not normal. This sounds like a routine, unalarming number of minor mistakes made during your first months on the job — and it’s particularly weird that it’s being brought up months later.

Instead of making a plan to improve your performance, I would make a plan to get away from this manager.

3. I’m missing out on work conversations because I don’t smoke

I work for a government department through a contracted agency. There are 50 of us working varied days and hours. No one is allowed to smoke on grounds, so a designated smoking location is by the parking lot. Several members of my department schedule their smoke breaks at the same time every day, making a rather large group from the department.

One of my directors, “John,” joins staff on these scheduled breaks. During these breaks, department information is shared and discussion of department scheduling and staffing decisions/options take place. John has spoken to one of my coworkers, “Jane,” who I work most directly about possible workload decisions. Jane and I work very well together, and to her credit she does share conversations with me and I am aware that my input is also passed on to John during these breaks.

I am a non-smoker. I do not want to join a group of smokers as the non-smoker so I can be part of the “department.” I do have health issues that would be compromised and I do not feel the need to participate in everything involved in a smoke break (going out to the parking lot, weather concerns, my own scheduling, signing in and out for building clearances, etc.).

John has been there as long as I have. I often feel he was promoted beyond his competence, or possibly unprepared for the management role within the department, and has difficulty managing staff who were his former coworkers and remain his friends.I guess I would not have a problem with a smoke break that happened to be at the same time as some of the staff and it happened infrequently. Is there an issue with any of this or do I let it go and not let it bother me?

You’re right to be bothered by it. It’s fine for John to take his smoke break with other smokers, but he should make a point not to have significant work conversations there. He’s putting you at a disadvantage because you don’t smoke and don’t want to be around smoke.

What’s your relationship with John like and how reasonable is he? Ideally you’d talk to him, say you’re missing out on important work conversations that you’d like to be part of, and ask if hold those conversations back in the office instead. Whether or not he’ll be amenable to that is a question — but he should be, and it’s a reasonable thing for you to raise.

Another option if you need it: any chance Jane would be willing to make the same point whenever the work conversations start up out there?

4. Who pays for a travel mistake that’s partly my fault, partly my employer’s?

I went on a work trip to another state, and HR booked my tickets. I asked in advance to return three days later than other colleagues, as I have a good friend in the state we travelled to. I travel there a few times a year and work has always approved this arrangement as long as I cover costs for the additional nights and the date change doesn’t result in a substantial price change. Being out of the office the following three days doesn’t have an impact because I work remotely on any weekdays and we have a hybrid policy, so I wouldn’t be in the office anyway. The extra days make the trip more manageable for me, because otherwise HR books our flights on the same day as our meetings, resulting in long days (think a full day of meetings on the final day, a work dinner, and flight arriving home at 2 am — we’re generally expected to log on a couple of hours later the next day if we choose, but still work a full day unless taking annual leave).

This time, HR booked my flights with the return on the same day as everyone else. They sent me the tickets, but only a few days beforehand when we were all crazy busy preparing for this trip. I didn’t notice the return date was different than I wanted until my intended return date — when I realized the flight had been booked for three days earlier, along with everyone else’s, and had to get a last-minute ticket to get myself home.

I’m happy to suck up the cost and chalk it up to experience, but would I be totally off-base if I did ask my employer if they’d consider contributing toward the new ticket I needed to buy? I admit I’m responsible for not noticing the different date, but I was clear about the dates I wanted in our back and forth about booking and when they forwarded my ticket they didn’t flag that they’d booked a different date to the one I requested. I can see that from their point of view, the mistake arose from them going out of their way to try to accommodate me, but it’s also not a huge accommodation since there’s no extra cost to them and if anything, this arrangement leaves me more well rested. We used to book our own flights and get reimbursed, and I know if I’d done that, I’d have been checking details more thoroughly.

Hmmm. I think you can ask, but be prepared for them to say no. Frame it as, “The ticket purchased for me was different than the dates we’d agreed to before the trip, which left me needing to buy a last-minute ticket on my own to get home. I’m hoping that’s something the company will help me cover, at least partially, since the mistake was on the booking side.” It’s not a super strong argument, and if they say no, I wouldn’t pursue it any further (since, as you point out, the mistake arose from them trying to accommodate you for something personal and they can argue it was your responsibility to check the dates), but I think you can at least raise it and see what happens.

Caveat: If this results in them not being willing to book late returns for you in the future, will you regret having raised it? If so, skip it and just check the dates religiously in the future.

5. Calling students “clients” when moving out of teaching

I’m a teacher looking to move to a different profession, and I am seeing some advice about the language to use when “translating” experience as a teacher to careers outside of education. Some of it makes sense — for instance, not using abbreviations that are often used in education but instead spelling out these things (ex. Learning Management System). Some of it, though, feels akin to bending the truth or lying — suggestions like replacing “students” with “clients” and “parents” with “stakeholders” on a resume. This feels disingenuous to me and like something a hiring manager would roll their eyes at. Does it matter one way or the other?

Yeah, do not call students “clients” or parents “stakeholders.” Hiring managers will indeed roll their eyes at it, and it will seem like you’re trying to paint the experience as something it’s not (when it’s perfectly valuable stated as exactly what it is).

{ 407 comments… read them below }

  1. New Jack Karyn*

    #3: Wasn’t this the plot of a ‘Friends’ episode, with Jennifer Aniston trying to pick up smoking? Joanna Gleason guest starred?

    1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

      “The One Where Rachel Smokes”. Yep.

      And OP should not use that episode as any kind of professional advice…

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        I mean is there any friends episode that could/should be used as professional advice?

        I feel like all the episodes that related to work were what not to do? granted it has been. awhile since I watched it.

        now I’m curious if there is even one episode of good professional advice ?

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Didn’t Ross and Rachel once wake up in the middle of a museum set-up that he was supposed to be supervising? Like, woke up together after the museum opened?

          Yes, definitely not a go-to for professionalism.

          Sometimes I wish for the return of the occasional feature here of ‘letters’ taken from TV, movies, and other media. Although I’m sure Alison has enough original material!

          1. Salsa Your Face*

            Chandler decided to start over in a new field in his 30s because of how deeply unhappy he was in his career – the show acknowledged that it was going to be a difficult, but doable financial decision and reinforced that it’s not too late for people to make changes. Which I, having been in a similar situation at one point, appreciated!

          2. FriendsFan*

            The most surprising thing about the “spending the night in a museum display” incident (and being seen there, with his girlfriend, by schoolchildren on a field trip) — was that Ross didn’t instantly lose his job. Some employers are very patient, but still.

            (But the early episode where Monica unthinkingly takes a kickback from a supplier and is fired — that one rings true.)

        2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          In a word, no!

          Let’s see, there was also the time Ross dated a student in one of his college classes, the ti e Rachel dated her cute young male assistant… yeah, Friends is the last place where I would look for workplace advice! X-D

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            “Friends is the last place where I would look for workplace advice!”

            After The Office?

            1. Lenora Rose*

              There’s an episode of Rocky and Bullwinkle where an island loses its oracle; so R&B place Captain Peter “Wrongway” Peachfuzz as the new oracle, by telling the islanders to expect the exact opposite of anything he says. And it works beautifully.

              I think that’s the Office as regards workplace advice.

        3. Unreal Sonia*

          Monica made some pretty good career decisions. I think specifically, when Chandler was reassigned to Tulsa and she was offered a dream job in New York she made a good decision to take it rather than turn down a rare opportunity for his temporary convenience.
          But she is also portrayed as being somewhat unsympathetic for doing so.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            I wonder if her seeming unsympathetic was a sign of the times and if they filmed/aired that today would she be seen as being smart? Or have things really not changed that much and she’d still be seen as unsympathetic?

        4. ecnaseener*

          There’s that one scene where Joey points out that maybe everyone’s managers would like them better if they went to work instead of hanging out at a coffee shop at 11am on a Wednesday!

      2. fhqwhgads*

        Sure but in this case, it’s not so much that that episode is intended in any way to be work advice, but rather it reflects a thing that genuinely happens. Still happens in this century, which is sort of mind boggling given what we know about smoking, but still. It’s a thing.

    1. Lilo*

      I guess it depends on the industry, but since smoking is less common now, I am surprised.

      My first fast food job as a teen, the smokers all got their breaks on time but the non smokers almost never got breaks. That was part of why I didn’t last more than a summer.

      1. wavefunction*

        I’ve heard this from several people who worked fast food as teenagers. No breaks unless you smoked. It’s illegal, but most teenagers aren’t in a position to do much about it.

        1. allathian*

          When I started my first summer job in retail, one of my coworkers said that he only smoked at work because that way he got more breaks. It happened nearly 35 years ago and I still remember it.

  2. Jessen*

    All I’ll say on #1 is you should probably also prepare a good deadpan “Thank you for your opinion” for everyone who feels the need to inform you that you shouldn’t have done that, you were prettier the other way, etc. Hopefully not from coworkers but that is exactly what happened when I shaved mine!

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      No joke, I was told that by a family member when I switched from styling my bun on the upper back part of my head, to the very top of my head. It’s not even my every day hairstyle, I mix it up between several.

      Then a month later the same person told me how stylish it looked that way, and I had to restrain myself from disembowelling them with a spoon. Rest assured it’s not the hair, some people just can’t cope with change.

    2. coffee*

      Yeah, sometimes it’s reassuring to have some go-to phrases ready. As another response if people make a fuss: “It was a big decision, but then I thought that I can always grow it long again if I change my mind.”
      Or, “Getting ready for summer!” if you’re in the northern hemisphere.

      I would probably try “Don’t worry, I saved it so I can glue it all back on again if I change my mind,” but I also know I would make that joke, deadpan, and then have to suffer through someone taking it too literally…

          1. kristinyc*

            Well Sinead O’Rebellion, shock me, shock me, shock me with that DEVIANT behavior!

            Ahhh need to watch it again soon. I think it’s on Hulu now.

              1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

                It’s possible I still have my VHS too. Definitely still have the DVD.

          2. Princess Sparklepony*

            “We mustn’t dwell. No, not today. We can’t. Not on Rex Manning day!”

            It really was a great movie. So underrated.

      1. #1 OP*

        haha I am totally saving that one if I do happen to get any rude comments!

        luckily coworkers have all been more of less fine – but I did get the old eye-roll ‘wow that would look terrible on me but it looks great on you!’ from a client today.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          That’s awesome.

          My first thought was that people might interpret this as a chemo thing–as that’s the driver for a number of women to shave their heads–so you might want to have a response of the “ha ha just wanted to give this a try” variety if you encounter someone who reads it that way.

          1. Billy Preston*

            I’ve shaved my head and I did sometimes get the questions as if it was from chemo, and once when someone asked if I did it to raise money for cancer survivors. (I also frequently got the “you’re so brave” comments mentioned below.) It baffles others that it’s something we choose to do.

            1. BecauseHigherEd*

              Yes, my immediate thought was that OP is going to get a lot of people coming up and asking about cancer/chemo treatment. (My mom is a breast cancer survivor and 100% would do this.) And, to be fair, being forced to have your head shaved *against your will* can be traumatic for some people.

              I’m all for using Alison’s wording here, but yes, OP will need to be prepared for some people to want to talk about her health.

            2. Miss Muffett*

              My friend with alopecia has strangers constantly believing it’s from cancer treatment and approaching her to tell her good luck, or tell their stories, or whatever. She’s so, so gracious about it but it definitely gets old.

          2. goddessoftransitory*

            That was my first thought as well–her coworkers might assume things about her health that aren’t cause for worry! So yes, agree on the advice to have a lighthearted response ready to ward off possible misinformation campaigns getting started.

        2. Jen*

          My sister and I laugh about getting a “complidiss” when we change our hair – cut it short, dye it, etc. People love to say things like, “WOW, I would never be brave enough to do my hair like that!” Thankfully we both have an excess of self-esteem and don’t let it bother us.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            That’s interesting. I haven’t frequently gotten an “I love that on you but it wouldn’t work on me” style compliment, but the couple times I did, it really seemed genuine and not backhanded. The person didn’t pull the “brave” bullshit on me or anything though. It was more like “I really wanted to do that to my hair, but I tried before/mocked it up/some other thing and it didn’t work with my shape face/shape skull” whatever it was. Happened with both buzzcuts and various dye colors.

          2. McMilkMoney*

            After cutting my hair super short a couple years ago, I got “I love your hair, but my husband would never allow me to cut my hair so short!” with a lot of emphasis on “husband”. I just replied that I’m happy I don’t have a husband telling me what I’m “allowed” to do with my body.

            1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

              I’ve never once thought to consult my husband/partner about what I’m doing to my body so the thought puzzles me. I just show up with whatever cut and color and hubs says “looks great” and that’s that.

            2. Miss Muffett*

              Omg yes – i used to have short pixies and i got that husband comment a lot too!! IT’S JUST HAIR PEOPLE

            3. Jen*

              The first time I dyed my hair bright pink, I got asked by a coworker, “What does you husband think? What does his mom think?” I have a friend who still asks me what my mother-in-law thinks of my hair every time I do something to it.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            I don’t mean this to diminish how annoying these comments can be (and must be if you get them repeatedly!), but I really don’t think they’re disses. I think they’re usually genuine admiration of a bold style choice that the speaker would like to make themselves but talks themselves out of for some reason.

          4. goddessoftransitory*

            My favorite is “You are SO brave to wear that.” It’s the dis that keeps on dissing.

        3. olusatrum*

          I was going to say – when I was a woman and I shaved my head, I got that one a lot! A lot of women said some variation of “Wow, I could never pull that off, but you look good,” or “Oh, I could never do that.” I said things like “Sure you could, it’s not hard, anyway about that ” and “Okay!”

          Now I am a man with long hair, and funnily enough, almost no one has ever commented on it, except a couple balding men who jokingly told me they were a little jealous I still have it all.

          Actually, now that I’ve typed this out, I realize that most people’s responses to any “unusual” style choice I’ve made has had an undercurrent of jealousy that I’m doing something they don’t feel they can. So a cheerful tone of “I wanted to, so I did, I don’t see why you couldn’t” usually feels right to me

          1. Some Words*


            For the past couple of years I’ve had buzzed hair. The response has been very positive, with quite a few “oh I wish I could do that” vibes.

            Rock that bald head! It’s very freeing. But be prepared for looks from time to time when you’re out. The self consciousness fades pretty quickly.

        4. Not Jada*

          Hi OP 1!

          I wanted to share that I am a teacher that had locs down to the middle of my back and that I cut off all my hair this past summer between the school years. I did it for the same reasons as you described, and had the same fears you had. (Students can be BRUTAL!) It seems as though you already went through the cut and comments, and I am hoping you are finding that people have the same reactions–a quick recognition of Something Different, a pleasant compliment for me /self-deprecating remark about themselves (the “I could never for myself!”) and then moving on. Maybe you’ll find some fun new styling choices (I LOVE accessories such as scarves, necklaces, earrings etc) to make up for your “lack of hair.”

          Also, I have learned that short hair is a DIFFERENT kind of upkeep, especially if there are some spots that you are concerned about. I learned that I do NOT love getting a haircut every week. I learned that hair grows very quickly and that it costs about the same if not MORE to go get it done. (Going from doing my own hair for free/the cost of products to getting a $30+tip haircut every week was like coming out of Plato’s Cave!)

          Anyway, it’s in initial shock and then somebody else will get new glasses or have a baby or share pictures from their Hawaiian vacation and people will have gotten used to seeing more of your beautiful face.

          1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

            She’s not talking about a short haircut that needs to be styled, she said she’s shaving her head. Bald. Only shaving maintenance be required if she wants to keep it that way.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Maintenance shaving is still a “haircut”, and if she grows it out it will need haircuts to keep it from looking scraggly until it gets to wherever she wants it.

              My hair is hip-length in large part because I hate getting it cut all the time, and because it’s super straight and fine I’ve had a hard time finding a hairdresser who can do a good job (every little mis-cut shows because there is no curl or wave to disguise it. One hairdresser called cutting it a “feat of engineering”).

            2. Not Jada*

              Did you read the whole thing? Short/bald are relatively interchangeable, especially when coming from having longer hair. I had a bald shave but still had hair on top. I am not sure how “bald” she is going–could be cueball, could be short shave, could still have some length somewhere to be styled. But I think the drift of my point still stands, Mx. Nerfect.

        5. metadata minion*

          I’m in a pretty laid-back and quirky profession, so ymmv, but when I did a short buzz cut the only weird comments I got were unexpected compliments on the shape of my head. Thanks, I…worked hard on it? ;-)

        6. OMG, Bees!*

          Some people get really weird over other people’s hair (and other preferences) as if your choice is an attack on them.

          Dealing with hair lose, some day I may shave mine also (but first, shave only the top so I can have a monk style haircut for a bit).

          I have also gone years with dyed hair, eg green for all of college, then normal for a few years afterwards. During that normal period, I was at 1 client for a couple years, then moved to another client for a year before going back to the same client, now with dyed hair. I remember 1 older man slightly frowned and told me I would never get a girlfriend with dyed hair. I merely innocently replied that my GF was the one who encouraged me to dye my hair again, to which he deepened his frown and walked away.

      2. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

        “Thank you for your opinion. I will give it the appropriate weight and factor it into future decisions accordingly. “

      3. ferrina*

        I immediately thought of all the celebrities who have shaved their head. Doja Cat, Natalie Portman, Jessie J, Sinead O’Connor, Jada Pinkett Smith, Halsey….there’s a long list. If you want, you could point to any of these women as a style influence.

        I’d be sorely tempted to add a bunch of Doja Cat lyrics into my explanation….”Yeah, I’m getting ready to paint the town red with my best friend- she’s a real bad chick. Hey, you gonna eat that orange?”

    3. #1 OP*

      I’m sorry you had folks react that way, that sucks.

      luckily my coworkers have been fine so far, if a little suprised/intrigued. So far a ‘haha yeah I get bored’ has worked well.

      1. Other Alice*

        That’s good to know! I was also going to say expect some negative comments from nosy people, although of course I hope you won’t have any. I shaved my head in uni, not bald but almost, and a few people took it as a sign that I was having a mental breakdown or something and would not accept that I just wanted a new look. It was mostly older people, but still.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Ugh, was that around the time of the whole Britney Spears brouhaha? It became gross internet shorthand for “mental breakdown” for a while.

      2. Seashell*

        Glad the reactions have been ok. It probably works better if you have a bit of an alternative look, so it seems like an aesthetic choice. For me, I suspect co-workers would think I had cancer, which would lead to awkward conversations.

      3. Czhorat*

        The novelty will, I’m sure, wear off.

        I know it’s way easier for a guy and, for some reason (sexism) more accepted, but I used to get comments and they’ve faded over the (tens of) years.

        There are plenty of lighthearted things to say:

        “I figured I’d never have a bad hair day again!”
        “It’s wind/rain/humity proof!”
        “The gods made only so many perfect heads, the rest they hid with hair”
        (in response to ‘you shaved your head’) – eyes wide, touching the side and back of my head, “OMG! YOU’RE RIGHT!” (continue to touch bald head in wide-eyed wonder)

        In my experience (and again, man so easier) if you give a light enough answer in the right tone it isn’t the kind of question they’d ask for a serious one on.

        And it’s your head and your hair; if that’s how you look and feel best enjoy!

      4. Baunilha*

        My best friend shaves her head and she just says does it because it’s convenient, most people (especially women) can’t argue with that. But she also has no problem preemptively saying “it’s not cancer, I’m just lazy” deadpan.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          My coworker said almost literally this when she shaved her head. She’d been wearing it slicked back into a bun for years so, honestly, it didn’t look that much different when she shaved it all off.

      5. Foila*

        This is bringing back fond memories of when I had my hair shortest – not buzzed, but a short pixie. I was out shopping, and a woman who had a tight buzz (and was in every way vastly more fashionable than I) said conspiratorially, “I just love having short hair, don’t you?”

      6. ArtsNerd*

        I have a buzz cut with large patches of proper baldness, with a side of weeping sores since it’s dermatitis related. AND YET I’ve had at least three colleagues and a person in another company confuse me for other coworkers of theirs. So yeah, apparently people *really* don’t pay attention to your scalp if you act natural enough.

      7. Seaside Gal*

        I’ve recently done the same and the reactions have varied from, ‘it looks so cute’ to ‘you’ve got the head for it’, ‘I wish I could do that’. I think they’ve all been sincere, at least, I’ve taken them that way. It is so freeing and I don’t have to worry about how thin it looks anymore. If I’m having a low self-esteem day, I throw on a ball cap or one of the adorable slouchy hats I bought. One awesome co-worker told me I’ve become more ‘bad-a$$’ since I’ve done it. LOL!

    4. RIP Pillowfort*

      Yeah I have hereditary early greying hair, started in my teens. I tried coloring it for a while but finally just decided “eff it” in my mid-20’s.

      I typically resorted to a matter of fact “It’s too much money and work to keep coloring it.” I mean it’s a fact! It was one less thing to worry about! I watched my mother and grandmother pour so much time and energy into coloring their hair! It was time to break the cycle, imo. No one pays it any mind now that I’m nearly 40 but from 25-35 there was a lot of unsolicited input.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        There were two students at my college with fully gray hair. At first we thought they were brother and sister, but then the guy became part of my friend circle, and no, they were unrelated. This led to the second thought that they would make a really cute couple. That never happened, and in what is in retrospect a minor miracle, the rest of us seemed to have resisted the impulse to demand that the two of them organize their lives around our collective sense of aesthetics.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        My grandmother started going gray in high school and dyed her hair for years.

        My mother is 76 and her hair is still about 70% dark . Go figure.

      3. Ally McBeal*

        My mother is quite vain and obsessed with appearing younger than her late-70s age, so when I hit my mid-30s I started worrying about how I would react when my greys started coming in. Then I got my first one and it looks like silver tinsel, really pretty against my dark hair, so I was relieved by how much of a non-issue it’s turned out to be (so far). Even my mother admits the tinsel is pretty, so maybe I won’t hear “helpful suggestions” about box dye as the greys start to take over.

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          I admit I’m not sure how much grey I would have. I did find one grey hair between dye jobs once, but I’ve never seen another when my hair grows out some. I just love coloring my hair (I do a lot of cosplay). I don’t care if I go entirely grey as long as I can still rock my vibrant blue or red.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I’m about 60% (?) grey; I’m not sure as I never stopped coloring it. I did take advantage of the annoyance of continual root upkeep to go blonde a few years ago. Now it’s a darker bronde color and the white streaks show up as highlights. There isn’t enough of it yet for me to let it go completely and I don’t like the way salt-and-pepper washes me out.

            I’m hoping it goes all white like my dad’s did, so I can do wild colors and don’t have to bleach it first. :)

            1. Nina*

              ime you do still need to bleach a little on white if you want the color to stay put for very long – the bleach isn’t just stripping the color, it’s opening up the structure of the hair, which lets the new color in.

              1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

                Exactly! I’m personally looking forward to how much less bleach I’ll have to use when my hair turns. Right now my dark brunette to blue routine is pretty intense, but I think in my eventual silver-haired future I’ll be able to get away with 15 minutes of a low powered bleach instead of 45 minutes with a 40 volume developer.

        2. birb*

          I just wish my white hairs would grow in one place so I could dye around them. I love them!

      4. Turquoisecow*

        My husband started going gray in his 20s and when I met him in his 30s he had the salt and pepper thing, which now ten years later is more salt than pepper. He said he tried coloring it for awhile but it was more effort than he wanted to put in to his hair so he gave up. It is still very thick and wavy and I personally think it looks great on him. No idea where he gets it from, his dad and grandpa both lost their hair and shaved it super short, which maybe he will in another 30 years.

      5. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        My dad started going grey in high school, and I was excited when I discovered some light hairs. Now I’m in my 40s and I still only have the lightest sprinkling of natural glitter. I guess I got the other side of the genetic coin!

    5. Harried HR*

      My typical response when people comment on my hair choices (Pink / Purple / Black / Short / Very Short etc….)

      “It’s hair, it will grow back !!” (they don’t need to know that it might not) it’s just to illustrate how ridiculous their protestations are

    6. BongoFury*

      I also lost my hair in my early 30s. It sucks. It’s so unfair that Ed Harris can be an attractive bald man but any woman with thinning hair is abnormal and stared at. You never see Meryl Streep in public with her natural hair, and it’s a shame.

      My advice to LW#1 is to do it on Thursday night.
      You come into work on a Friday and everybody stares and whispers. It’s awful but it’s one day. By Monday no one will care, everyone’s weekend will be what they’re thinking of and your hair will just be something that happened last week. That is what I did the first day I wore a wig.

      I wear a wig full time when I’m at work but I am so thankful I work remote, because wearing wigs is like wearing an uncomfortable bra, except it’s extra hot and itchy. It is the first thing I take off when I get home.

      1. wavefunction*

        Oh that’s an excellent idea for all sorts of things! Make the change at the end of the week and by the time the weekend is over no one cares.

        And it does really suck how baldness is treated so differently on women.

    7. humdrum*

      Just for some variety I’m gonna jump in and say you may not need to worry at all OP. I’m a woman who has shaved her head multiple times and people have never given me gruff about it at all. No one has ever told me to my face anything negative at all about my shaved head, not friends/family or strangers or coworkers. Sometimes folks were a little quiet about it in a way that may have been biting their tongue, but it’s not for me to guess what they’re thinking and they never put negativity on me.

      Possibly that is party regional (lots of woman I see in my city have shaved heads or alt styles in general) and possibly that’s because I already wasn’t dressing or styling myself in a “traditionally pretty” kind of way where the shaved head was a big change, so I have no doubt this will be very different woman to woman, but just wanted to say OP it really may not be a big deal at all!

    8. SpaceySteph*

      What immediately sprang to mind when I read your post is in in the movie Titanic when Rose says “are you familiar with Dr. Freud? His work on the male preoccupation with size might be of interest” only instead of size, its “the male gaze.” People who feel the need to tell you you’re “prettier” the other way need to STOP IT. (Btw this still works if the person telling you that is a woman, because they’re still filtering through male-centered ideas on female beauty standards)

    9. Puggles*

      Also, I recommend to shave it off on a Friday or before a holiday and tan your head or use tanning spray. When you first shave your head it’s almost glistening because it hasn’t had much sunlight. It’ll help with the transition of people seeing your new look.

    10. MigraineMonth*

      When I chopped off my “pandemic ponytail” I went for a bob on one side and buzzed the other. I got some surprised reactions (taking off a foot of hair at once will do that), but everyone said it looked great. Except my (usually very supportive!) mother, who said she loved the bobbed side and was “trying to love” the buzzed side. I still don’t know how I was supposed to respond to that.

      She’s going to have to get used to it, though; I love the feeling of touching buzzed hair.

    11. Reluctant Mezzo*

      When my husband went bald from chemo for lymphoma, he got a lot of ribbing. Of course, he was a chemistry teacher while Breaking Bad was popular…

    12. Freya*

      Yeah, I got “but I LIKE long hair!” from a friend of my then-boyfriend when I cut my ratty, dry, split-end-ridden but hip length hair and got a pixie cut. Was not sad to relinquish custody of that friendship when I dumped then-boyfriend.

  3. Rd*

    I also have hereditary hair loss. I have been open with it from the beginning
    with my coworkers- I share an office with both a man and a woman. They’ve seen my hair disappear 90% within a couple of months, and seen my recovery with rogaine. My hair is still thin, but it looks close enough to normal now. If you could have been open and casual about it from the beginning (like you said about men being chill with it, yes women can be, they just have to actually do it), then it wouldn’t be a big deal or a shock if you showed up bald one day. I know my coworkers wouldn’t be that surprised since I’ve even threatened to do it a few times, I’m just scared that I’ll find out that I have a lumpy head.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I shaved my head a couple of years ago (I kept cutting it shorter and shorter and finally just shaved it!!) and I was terrified that once I buzzed it I would find out I had a peanut head. Fortunately that turned out to not be the case, but the fear is real until you do it!

    2. SpaceySteph*

      As someone with hair but also a lumpy head… fear not, you’d probably already know if you ever touch your own scalp! It is a fear for me that I’ll lose my hair though, because I know I have this golf ball-sized bump on the left side of my head.

  4. ThatOtherClare*

    LW#1: I doubt there’s a single living person with long hair who has never thought “Argh this is so annoying! I’m this close to shaving it all off!”.

    You went through with it. People might be impressed by your commitment, but they’ll most likely empathise with the sentiment. The fact that the final trigger was hair loss and not a bad knot or a long blow-drying session is yours to keep private.

    1. anon24*

      A few times in my life I’ve had almost waist long hair. Every time I’ve ended up having a stressful day/week/month and at some point gone to brush my hair, hit a knot, and it just sent me over the edge of stress-cliff and I’ve grabbed the scissors and hacked it all off. So not shaved, but yeah, this comment feels accurate. Long hair can just be annoying and sometimes you just decide you’re done.

      1. Garblesnark*

        Mid-Covid isolation, one day I said to my spouse:
        “My hair is too long. You are cutting it tonight, or I am shaving it off before bed.”
        …his request for a single day to obtain haircutting scissors and watch a youtube video was honored.

    2. Missa Brevis*

      I’ve had hip-length hair for over 10 years now and never been tempted to shorten it at all, much less cut it all the way off, but also wear it up in a bun or a crown braid pretty much all the time, so I probably do a lot less detangling and maintenance than most people with long hair do.

      But that’s my experience with my own hair. If I were one of LW1’s coworkers, I might be a little startled, as I would be at any major change to a coworker’s appearance, but that’s about it. I think most people will take their cues from you, and that Alison’s advice to be cheerfully uninformative about your reasons is a good tactic.

    3. Emmy Noether*

      Me, I’ve never been tempted to shave it! I have very straight, smooth hair, and if I don’t feel like bothering with it, I can get away with a ponytail or messy bun that takes me 15 seconds (literally, I just timed myself). I also always let it air dry, no products. I’m pretty sure anything shorter would be more work.

      That doesn’t mean I can’t sympathize with people who shave it off. People have different hair and different preferences, y’all do whatever is right for your hair and your life.

    4. Workerbee*

      Ha, sign me up for being one of the persons who have never ever thought that.

      To help the OP, however, issuing either a deadpan or mildly “Why are you even commenting on this” approach to any snooty or rude inquiries may help get those over and done with faster. It sounds like OP works with reasonable adults, fortunately.

    5. Helen Waite*

      Chiming in as another woman with super long hair that would never ever dream of cutting it off.

      Enjoy your new look with pride.

      1. PlainJane*

        Exactly. I love my long hair (and feel weepy even after normal trims), but that’s me. Other people are welcome to do whatever they want with their hair. I have colleagues who dye it two different bright colors, or spiked up an inch from their heads.

        The one thing with shaving it entirely is that people will assume it’s chemo-related. Being cheerful and stressing that it’s a choice will probably help with that.

  5. nnn*

    For #5, I agree that it’s unnecessary to translate “students” to “clients”, but I also think it’s not a good analogy.

    “Client” often suggests someone who is paying for the service and can go elsewhere if they’re unhappy with the service, which tends not to be the case with students (especially if the students are young enough that their parents are involved).

    Teaching involves more of being able to anticipate and adapt to the students’ needs than most professional-client relationships (clients in other professional relationships tend to be adults who can recognize and express their needs better than the average child). Teaching often also involves classroom management, which is an impressive people skill and is not covered by most professional-client relationships.

    While this does vary with the specifics of the job you’re applying for and the skills you need to showcase, I can imagine a lot of situations where obfuscating the fact that they’re students would make you look less impressive on paper.

    One caveat I can think of is if the job posting specifically mentions “client service” or something, you’ll likely want to incorporate the phrase into your resume or cover letter in case they have one of those keyword systems. You don’t have to completely hide the fact that students are students, just make sure you mention it, perhaps directly drawing a parallel in your cover letter (as an off-the-top-of-my-head example that I’m sure could be improved upon, “The interpersonal skills gained in my years of teaching serve me well in client service contexts. For example…”)

    1. ThatOtherClare*

      For situations described by the caveat, I’d say that parents actually come closer to being clients than students. “Tell me of a time you’ve dealt with an unhappy client” would be better answered by an anecdote about a tense parent-teacher interview than the time little David threw a tantrum because one of the other children called him a scalene.

            1. Resentful Oreos*

              HA!! I was gonna go with “which one’s coming from the right angle?” Then changed it, I’m very tired

      1. Nonanon*

        All of these puns are atrocious thank you they’re exactly what I needed this morning

      2. SpaceySteph*

        You can definitely use examples like this for an interview question, but that’s much different than framing it that way on your resume.

      3. Justin D*

        I disagree. Only the most privileged people can just switch because they’re unhappy.

    2. Brain the Brian*

      Several of my friends who teach in the same school district have shared horror stories with me over the past year of admins asking them during evaluations “how they are being client-focused.” It turns out the district hired some fancy consulting firm who told them that they needed to focus on clients. As if a public school has a clients.

      Bottom line, LW5: students are not clients, and referring to them as such will come across strangely. Don’t do it. Any interviewer worth their salt will understand which skills you’ve gained from teaching will transfer to a potential role with their company.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        While I mostly agree with this comment, I also don’t think you can rely on the interviewer being able to connect those dots. Do the extensive prep work you need to be able to convey your value – it’s something those of us who transitioned from one career field to another have often had to do and it seems like you’re already working on that. Keep it up.

    3. DeskApple*

      I differentiate. My K-12 students are students, but by C-level execs who paid for training for soft skills and English are clients .

    4. Spero*

      I think if someone did that on their resume, I would be concerned that their teaching experience was with a profit driven ‘charter school’ type of model that is known to be ineffective precisely because it attempts to apply corporate speech and techniques to education. It would make me think they didn’t actually know what they were doing as an educator and that was the reason they were leaving the field.

    5. Hats Are Great*

      I moved from teaching to a “megacorp” and I found in general that the right moment to talk about students-as-clients was actually in the interviews. “Since I was teaching, I was serving multiple client populations — my students, of course, but also their parents. And then we had community stakeholders, etc.” They mostly wanted to see how I thought about customer needs, and were generally impressed when I would draw out some of the nuances of how students different from retail customers, etc., and what would be the same and different. So that it wasn’t just “yep, I delivered a service to some very small clients” but rather, “I’m good at understanding the specifics of my client population and tailoring what I’m doing, and I’ve thought about which skills I had as a teacher will and will not translate into more direct client service in an all-adult workplace.”

      On a resume or a cover letter, it seems glib and even ofbuscatory. But in the interview, it’s a legitimate example to bring up, as long as you’re being clear about both the parallels AND the differences. It lets you highlight those skills, but shows that you’re thoughtful about client needs and have already thought about what skills WON’T transfer.

    6. Underrated Pear*

      Right – LW, the issue for me isn’t just be that it feels disingenuous – it’s that a student relationship isn’t the same as a client relationship,* and if I were a hiring manager it would be a minor red flag for me if you indicated that you saw them as exactly the same. I’m way oversimplifying, but the basic objective in a client relationship is that you solve a problem for them and make them happy as a result. The objective of teaching is to get students to learn and master something themselves. That means we sometimes have to push them to do things they don’t want to do (like write a paper, or solve tough problems…). :)

      I suggest instead that you highlight the similarities and how your skill set can transfer very smoothly. There are, of course, tons of similarities, and your experience should transfer just fine, but the framing is important.

      *This assumes you are in a “standard” education setting, like a public or even private K-12 school. There are teaching situations where your students are actually both students and clients – tutoring, music lessons, and certain types of ESL businesses come to mind. I’ve taught in all of the above, and it’s actually quite tricky to balance the relationship given the conflicting needs!

  6. MistOrMister*

    OP1 – I think close cuts or shaved heads are becoming a lot more mainstream for women, so it’s possible no one will really even say anything untoward. My manager has a shaved head and I have never thought anything of it, other than to marvel at how well it suits her.
    I agree with Alison that at least some of the people who say something about it will likely do so because they have considered shaving their heads and are curious about the experience. You could always just say you wanted a change and leave it at that.

    1. Millie*

      Seconded! I shaved my head several years ago and the only comments I got at work were “wow! what a change!” or “I’ve been thinking about shaving my head too, how do you like it?”

      My mom cried, but hopefully you won’t have any coworkers who react that dramatically…

      1. Kel*

        Yes, I shaved my head a few years ago and everyone was jealous. People were impressed with me, loved the change and told me they wished they could follow suit!

  7. Pop*

    I am a woman who shaved my hair off! I think this is one of the things that people will take cues from you on. Something like “just wanted to try something new!” with a cheerful tone and then change of subject will go a long way.

    1. #1 OP*

      yep – I definitely discovered thar just because the choice was fraught/loaded for me doesn’t mean that there arn’t lots of benign reasons for shaving hair. so far people have mostly been bemused by my ‘haha yeah got bored’ response -and one client even said it suits me. So definitely not as big a deal as I thought!

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Sounds like this is a great example of people taking your cue. If you act as though it was a light decision, most people will react accordingly.

        Good for you, OP!!!

      2. Trich Chick*

        I have trichotillomania and my hair length is uneven. I’m building up to a short buzz cut in the summer, mainly because that hairstyle is becoming more common in people of colour in London. I’ve been wearing wigs for over 10 years, so it’s going to be a huge change, so it’s good to have some stock phrases ready for the big reveal.

    2. londonedit*

      Yep – my Pilates teacher initially shaved her head for charity, but liked the look so much that she’s kept it for a good couple of years now. And if anyone comments, that’s what she says – ‘Yep, shaved it off for charity but I really like it so I’ve kept it short!’ with a cheerful tone. You could absolutely just do the same thing – ‘Yep, fancied a new look and I really like it!’ and that way there’s not a lot anyone can really say about it!

    3. Eater of Hotdish*

      I also shaved all my hair off a while back! By far the most common response was “Oh wow, I could never do that—I’d be worried my head is a weird shape!” Like, I had no idea there was so much anxiety out there about head shape.

      I grew it back because I am always cold, but it was fun for a while.

      1. Some Words*

        Can confirm my own worry about bad head shape before buzzing off my hair. From the comments here I see it’s a pretty common worry.

        It’s funny some of us were more worried about skull shape than the social acceptability of being a woman without a full head of hair.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        I have a dent in the top of my head and I’m convinced I will look like an alien if I shave my head.

      3. Gumby*

        I’m more worried about the scar that I know is hiding under my hair (surgery to remove a subdural hematoma when I was a child). Plus I don’t actually want to shave my head. But if I did – the scars.

  8. Nina from Corporate Accounts Payable*

    Did LW 2 also forget the cover sheet on their TPS reports?

    In all seriousness, sounds like the manager has unrealistic expectations and probably shouldn’t be managing.

    1. Banana Pyjamas*

      Right? I wouldn’t even care if there was a duplicate tab. Just confirm and hide, nbd.

        1. Antilles*

          If the font color is used to indicate something (e.g., red font means a missed deadline or maybe a green highlight means a passing test result), it can actually be a worthwhile item to flag. But even so, the correct response for the reviewer is to flag it for OP to fix and shrug it off as a one-off misclick.

          Frankly, even if this was an issue that had happened several times, it still shouldn’t be a major issue, just a quick teaching moment for OP to add in Conditional Formatting or modifying the template or whatever to automate the font-coloring.

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            3 mistakes in 6 months, all different mistakes. So its not like OP is repeatedly making the same mistake which would be indicative of a problem. No business impact and mistake free since November. This boss is a loon.

            With HR on board, I don’t even think OP can transfer. They probably have a no transfer policy while on a PIP. So HR are loons too.

            OP you have to decide if you want to stick it out or go elsewhere. YOu can explain it as a poor culture fit — i.e. they wanted a robot and you aren’t one.

            1. Nameless*

              The duplicate tab barely counts as a mistake.These are all the kinds of errors that are why the idea of having an editor or reviewer exist in the first place – totally normal human errors that happen because it’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’ve been working on something for a while.

              LW2, if you’re being put on a formal PIP I would push back with as much firmness as you can. What exactly are they expecting here? That you make no more than one mistake a quarter? Because that’s not how humans work.

    2. Excel-sior*

      It’s just that we’re putting new coversheets on all the TPS reports before they go out now. So if OP could go ahead and try to remember to do that from now on, that’d be great.

        1. Abundant Shrimp*

          “Six months ago, on August 12 and 28 and then again on September 2, you only wore 30 pieces of flair instead of the required 31. For that, you are now on a PIP. You have six months to improve your flair-related performance or face termination if you don’t.”

    3. Miette*

      Pretty likely if they’re this big a jerk. Also don’t rule out they have a personal problem with OP for some reason having nothing to do with the work or OP and they’ve decided they want you gone. These mistakes are their excuse and it’s more alarming to me that HR is on board and okay with it. Does HR have the timing context for these errors? Do others on the team get held to the same standard? Is there anything about OP that highlights the manager’s biases and prejudices (ie race, gender, age, sexuality, class)?

      1. ferrina*

        Yep. I got laid off from one job because I made two typos in three months- and one of those typos was reviewed by and missed by the Editorial team! My boss wanted to fire me, but HR forced her to turn it into a lay off (HR knew me and knew my work- they were pissed, but they didn’t have the power to do anything).

        There was a lot of politics at play. My boss was new to management and very insecure; this was her first time running her own department. Meanwhile I had a decade less experience and had been (unwillingly) running the department for over a year. I was thrilled to have someone else in charge, but she saw me as a threat. It didn’t help that she worked remotely at a time when everyone was in office, so I had a ton of professional relationships with coworkers that she didn’t. Even though I was using those relationships to hype up my boss, all my boss saw was her own weaknesses. Rather than use my strengths to compensate for her weaknesses, she found a reason to get rid of me.
        This stung so much, since I was genuinely excited to have her as my boss and had lobbied to get her hired. I was doing my best to be a great employee for her and had been noticing her distancing herself from me for a couple months (including not assigning work to me), but when I asked she denied anything was going on. When she fired me/laid me off, it was clear that she was just reaching for any excuse she could find.

        1. Michelle Smith*

          That’s awful. I hope you landed on your feet and that she figured out how to deal with her issues (or got out of management, either one).

    4. Smithy*


      I had a friend who used to work for a translation service where their policy was one mistake and you’re fired. It was genuinely insane to see it happen to her when she’d been doing the job at that time for months, done mistake free translation on countless documents, and was then let go after making one mistake within a larger document. Her supervisor still was very happy to serve as a reference because he thought the policy was stupid, but it was above him.

      The concept of hiring and training new translators every time someone makes one mistake – no matter what the volume of their previous good work was just wild to contemplate. But all to say that some employers do have such insane relationships to errors that you can’t common sense them.

      1. gmg22*

        Either they had a huge pipeline of people who wanted to work as translators for that company, or else they must have had a lot of difficulty keeping themselves staffed up at any given time, because wow.

        1. Pierrot*

          Yeah, I coordinate with freelance/contracted translators sometimes at my job, and mistakes are not that uncommon.

        2. Smithy*

          No clue, only worked from the side of my friend going through it and really telling her that the policy was insane and all that.

          Ultimately I’m sure it came from some wild misguided advertising concept of 100% error free translation, but even if that was your marketing – I’d think having an internal system to check for that vs what they did would have made more sense.

    5. AnonInCanada*

      This. If I were OP#2, I would be watching over how this so-called manager treats other members of the team he manages (maybe this is a personal vendetta this manager has based on a protected class and OP is thus singled out), and what bees are in that HR specialist’s bonnet? How do you come up with a comprehensive plan to make sure no mistake, no matter how insignificant, will ever be made (if this is what “attention to detail” means)?

      You’re not paid enough to have to deal with these monsters, OP#2. Find another job where expectations are a bit more realistic. Nobody’s perfect. Not these two monsters, either!

      1. AnonORama*

        Yeah, I worked for a super abusive boss who gave me a 2/5 for writing (which denied me a raise), and when I asked for an example, she said I overused the organization’s acronym. Not only was this never mentioned before my review, when she pulled out the offending document, the acronym appeared three times. In 10+ pages. VERY much within normal limits, and never mentioned by anyone else reviewing my work. She couldn’t come up with any other examples, and I suppose even she wasn’t prepared to say “I hate you and I want you to leave, so I made something up.”

        …so yeah, this is probably not about your (tiny, past) mistakes. There are jobs out there where you won’t be working for jerks who nitpick you to death!

    6. Sloanicota*

      This one was confusing to me. It’s possible OP made a spreadsheet mistake at a particularly bad time and, particularly if the spreadsheeting is entirely within the purview of their job and the boss just happened to catch it, the boss lost trust with OP early – it’s really hard to regain it after minor, early, potentially serious errors (even if the consequence didn’t happen -but the boss thinks, “I can’t trust OP to handle spreadsheeting, I have to double-check everything now”). The boss is still in the wrong but it’s not uncommon. Still, I think it sounds more like this boss just wants OP out, unfortunately. You can always find a pretext reason if you need one since nobody’s perfect.

      1. No Yelling on the Bus*

        I also wondered how “responsible” OP is for spreadsheeting. At my org, we have a person who is (theoretically) 100% responsible for producing spreadsheets other people use to produce business decisions. But her spreadsheets are often riddled with errors so now I double and triple check all her work, and often end up duplicating things just to be totally sure they’re correct. TBH I didn’t find the manager’s reaction to be OTT (if OP is 100% responsible for the spreadsheets). We don’t have reviewers at my org because we aren’t that big, the function lives with 1 person and we need to be able to trust that person to do their job maybe not perfectly but really, really, really, really well. If I found ONLY 3 small errors over the course of 6 months and the rest of the work was excellent, this would be an overreaction. But if I found those 3, and a bunch of other similar small issues (even if they were different each time), it would make me concerned about the person’s ability to consistently produce trustworthy work.

    7. Wonderer*

      Is it possible that there have been a lot of small mistakes and these three are just the clearest examples? I could imagine that the Manager doesn’t want to be bothered keeping an ongoing list of mistakes and just keeps referring to these three; but there are actually still other ongoing problems.

      Maybe every time they see a new mistake, they just think “Arggh, another one, just like those other three!”

    8. Winstonian*

      I’m wondering if the mistakes are something that the managers higher-ups also noticed it and said something to him. That would probably make him be hyper-aware, more than normal.

    9. AnotherOne*

      I laughed at this since I had a phone call today in which my boss asked about something like 45 revenue items that are more than a decade old that our group has never processed (we send checks out to other people.)

      This was a mistake we inherited so less a big deal but it’s still a mistake that needs to be dealt with.

      No one has been had a mistake like this make it into their annual review I’m pretty sure.

  9. Wolf*

    #1: I have shaved my head a few years ago. Interestingly, nobody asked any questions. There was lots of “oh, bold choice” (in approving and disapproving tones), or “I couldn’t do that, I’d feel unfeminine”. A bit rude, but they never expected to hear why I did it.

    1. Mitchell Hundred*

      I remember one co-worker remarking on mine when I went through with it. I just made a joke about hating Superman and went on with my day.

      Mind you, I’m a guy, so it’s undoubtedly easier for me.

  10. Skytext*

    So, does it bother anyone else that John is turning break time into work time? Not only does it put OP at a disadvantage by missing out on work conversations (reminds me of women missing out on important dealmaking among men on the golf course or in the steam room), but her coworkers are being deprived of their breaks. Break time should be their time to chat about tv shows or what they did on vacation, or read something on their phone, and just generally take a mental break from work. If John wants to have casual stand up meetings about work stuff, he needs to do it on work time.

    1. Despachito*

      I wonder what would happen if John and the rest of the coworkers are not willing to stop talking about work at those breaks?

      I have a friend who was in OP’s situation, with the difference she was PREGNANT, and felt she needed to go with them on the breaks because otherwise she would be left off all the important work conversations. She was a newbie so she did not have a lot of political capital and it probably did not occur to her she could ask, I think she was in a situation of “suck it up, buttecup, and if you don’t like it, the door is over there”.

    2. Morning Reading*

      Yes, that bothered me too. As far as I can see, the one useful thing about smoking cigarettes is the valid excuse to take a smoke break and leave work for the few minutes it takes to smoke one. Coincidentally about 10 minutes iirc. If you’re working while smoking, might as well go back to the days of smoke filled offices and have the meeting inside.

    3. doreen*

      It doesn’t bother me , because the letter doesn’t actually say who is turning it into work time. He shouldn’t have significant work conversations with a group of people during a break ( if he’s telling Jane her vacation is approved , that’s another story ) but the letter doesn’t say John is starting the conversations – it could be that the co-workers are starting them.

      1. Mockingjay*

        This is one of those seemingly innocuous situations that can actually cause a problem. It’s natural that a group of coworkers on break, whether smoking area or break room, talk about work or work issues (among other subjects). If boss drifts in: “hi boss, we were just talking about X. What do you think?”

        OP3 should just approach John and/or their coworkers matter-of-factly: “hey, sometimes when you all are on smoke break you discuss work issues and resolutions, but those of us who aren’t present are left out of the loop. Can we please revisit these things during the regular status meeting? Thanks!”

    4. Tim Bayliss*

      As a former smoker who was definitely part of a smokers’ clique back at my toxic corporate consulting job, this was always a double edged sword. There were a few higher ups who smoked and who would come pal around with us on breaks, so we got access to and good will from people we normally wouldn’t interact with. But they also felt entitled to butt into our workflows, ask us to do one off things for them, and generally be “on” during break time. The worst was one of the top salespeople in the company who would hold court outside and then demand that those around her be assigned to her accounts because she felt she had some additional power over us. Also, obviously, any kvetching about policies, etc. was off limits when they were around. It definitely blurred lines in a place that already had pretty awful boundaries.

    5. Lady Blerd*

      IMO John didn’t turn the smoke breaks into working sessions, it happens pretty much anytime colleagues gather. It’s no different than having a work chat with a colleague you ran into in the bathroom or in the hallway.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        But John as the manager should be shutting it down — or at least not conveying important information during the smoke breaks.

        Chatting with a colleague in the hallway is one thing. Having what is essentially a departmental meeting with only part of the department during a smoke break is a completely other thing.

    6. Wonderer*

      It’s not always true that smoke breaks are official breaks from work. I’ve worked in several offices where nobody tracked how much time you spent smoking. Some people took a solid couple of hours out of the day for their smoking.

      I also worked with one guy who really did take up smoking just so he could hang out with the senior management in the smoking area. It helped him a lot in his career, until his first promotion that revealed his general incompetence.

    7. L-squared*

      I suppose the question is, is John making this a work meeting, or are people who he is out there with asking him questions and he is answering since he is there? Because I’ve gone on coffee break walks with my manager to a local coffee shop, and while it is a “break”, the idea that no work talk will come up isn’t necessarily realistic.

    8. Nomic*

      At many jobs, smokes get a lot more break time than non-smokers, so I’m kinda “meh” about this point.

      The solution isn’t to have meetings during smoke time though.

  11. learnedthehardway*

    OP#2 – I would push back on the performance review. Don’t agree to sign it, write a rebuttal, etc. Point out that you made the equivalent of 3 TYPOs, that this is what editing is for (ie. to catch them), and that you not only corrected them but haven’t made mistakes since. I would also point out that you were on a learning curve at the time, being new to the company and the role.

    I’m really kind of surprised that HR didn’t at least try to get your perspective on the situation, before siding so wholeheartedly with your manager.

    I would also look for another job – this one sounds ridiculous.

    1. Fikly*

      What on earth would HR’s motivation be to advocate/protect new hire over manager?

      If they investigate manager, it’s likely they will find out manager is doing this to all the employees they manage, which is a whole can of worms they don’t want to open, especially as this behavior isn’t exposing the company to any legal liability.

      Instead, if they ignore it, the absolute worst consequence is that the new hire quits or gets fired, and they have to hire someone new.

      1. blood orange*

        Actually, the worst consequence is OP is able to show that the manager is singling them out due to a protected class, and has a case for discrimination :)

        I don’t mean that comment to say that’s what OP should look for, but rather, to counter your statement that there’s no liability. There absolutely is liability both legally, and in the cost of turnover. It’s in HR’s (i.e., the company’s) best interest to look into this further, and I would encourage OP to speak with HR about it. Maybe they’ll see it that way, and maybe they won’t, but I can tell you I would.

    2. Cat Tree*

      The manager and HR are both being unreasonable and outrageous, but LW is unlikely to change their minds. What are you hoping for LW to accomplish by refusing to sign? The company doesn’t need a signed review to fire LW. It’s better to just recognize the red flag and invest energy in a job search.

      You can’t reason with unreasonable people.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I agree the manager and HR are being unreasonable, but I think it’s important that there’s a written rebuttal in the review. Someone else might come along and read it and think it’s all true, if there’s no rebuttal.

        1. ecnaseener*

          If there was anything factually inaccurate in the review, I would agree with you, but it sounds like the facts are accurate and it’s just the subjective assessment of their importance that’s absurd. A rebuttal saying “they’re basically typos, this is what editing is for, I fixed them and haven’t made any other mistakes” doesn’t clear anything up for a future reader, it just sounds defensive.

            1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

              Defend yourself to whom? OP is going to find a new job and the bananapants expectations of this one won’t matter. No one at this job will be swayed by the rebuttal (and might just decide to fire her for arguing), and no one in future jobs is going to read it.

              I would advocate for ritually burning the review once she gets a new job, but I do think it’s probably worthwhile to keep a copy so that she can show what her “terrible attention to detail” looks like if it ever comes up in a reference check. (Not that she should list this job as a reference, but it’s not impossible a future employer would reach out to them.)

              1. ferrina*

                Exactly this.

                Sure, you can and should document if there are inaccuracies on your review. But at the end of the day, you can’t control what goes into your file. I’ve seen the internal workings of the review process at a few companies, and plenty don’t even have a place to file a rebuttal. So the rebuttal would be kept in a different place than the review itself. Honestly, unless a manager was a known problem, the rebuttal would look weird for the person doing the rebuttal.

                Reviews are inherently subjective. Managers are allowed to set expectations for their staff, and yeah, usually managers are allowed to have unreasonable expectations (assuming they don’t violate legal regulations).

                And who reads the reviews when they are done? They are only ever used internally (sometimes not even that), but I’ve never heard of a review being used externally. The most I’ve heard is a job candidate pulling quotes from a review on their cover letter- I’ve never heard of a company requesting a review from a former employer (I’m sure someone has done it somewhere, but it’s super uncommon).

              2. DJ Abbott*

                I’ve been at my job two years. Our department manager left and a new one started last summer.
                She observed my work and wanted me to make changes. But, she didn’t *tell me* she wanted changes. Then she gave me a bad review saying I was uncooperative!
                You can bet I wrote a rebuttal! If this organization didn’t have a mechanism for that, I would look for another job.
                I knew grandboss would see it. Since then, grandboss has left and we have an interim grandboss till they find a new one. So all these people might see my review and rebuttal.
                You never know what’s might happen.
                I’m just waiting for the day when grandboss calls me in to ask why I got a bad review after a good review (by previous manager)…heeheehee…

            2. ecnaseener*

              The point of rebutting a review (in a case like this one where HR is on the manager’s side so there’s no real chance of getting the score changed) is, I would think, to have an actual positive effect on the opinion of whoever reads it. (Like if a new manager comes in and reads the old reviews.)

              If your rebuttal is nothing but “yeah it’s all true, but I don’t think it’s a big deal,” that’s not having a positive effect. The reader can see the facts and decide for themself whether those facts are a big deal, so all the rebuttal adds is, again, an impression of defensiveness.

              1. Jackalope*

                Just saying, “It’s all true but NBD,” wouldn’t be helpful, that’s true. But something along the lines of, “While still going through training in my first six months I only made three minor mistakes and once they were pointed out I haven’t made them again. In all other areas my attention to detail has been flawless,” (or something like that; it’s too early in the morning to come up with perfect wording) is recognizing the fact that the OP did make those mistakes but highlighting why focusing on them to make the entire review negative is unreasonable.

                1. Occupant*

                  Plus, it’s not clear how much detail is in the review. If it says “poor attention to detail” without specifying the nature of the errors I’d assume something worse than what the LW did. In that case it might be worthwhile to add context to the file.

                2. Union Rep*

                  Yep, this is how I’d tell one of my members to write the reply in a situation like this. Comes up pretty frequently since most collective bargaining agreements include a right to attach a reply to your review – seems like a small benefit but it’s more valuable than people think.

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

              I agree, especially if there is someone else in the company that is reasonable. If they have it on the rebuttal their side of the situation its on the record. That way if someone else comes to replace cray-cray boss then they can get a better idea of whats going on.

          1. Old Lady manager*

            I would reply and sign stating that when the errors were first discovered, they were fixed and changes were made to keep these errors from happening at the time they were discovered. These errors have not happened since. Here are the things I did to mitigate the errors and the dates I made these changes.
            This way, you look like someone who handles your business vrs someone who had to be told to handle your business.
            Plus it answers their “what changes are you going to make and how do we validate that you made them and they were effective?” questions. Answer: 4 months ago X error happened , I made z change in process on X day and X error hasn’t happened again since. List each error and what you have already done to fix the process so it won’t happen again. It technically is what they are asking for, you are just letting them know that you already did it because you are the BOMB!

          2. Michelle Smith*

            I don’t agree. I do think if the line from HR is “we need you to come up with a plan for improvement” and OP has already improved from not being instantly perfect at a new job, it’s reasonable to put a letter with the review from OP that says “I disagree with my review. I have been asked to come up with a plan for improvement. I made three errors in the reports, the last of which was four months ago. I have not received any negative feedback or been alerted to any errors in those four months and as such do not have any clarity on what would constitute a plan to improve an issue that has already been resolved.” I mean not in those words obviously, but some way to say “I’m not ignoring HR’s directive that I need to create an improvement plan. I’m stating that I don’t have anything to improve at this time as my work has been perfect for the past 4 months. So what exactly do you want from me?” Yes, it’s important not to be defensive, but it’s more important to cover your behind especially if there is ever a future contested unemployment claim.

    3. Sneaky Squirrel*

      I’d push back in the performance review because it’s bogus, but more with a point that it was only 3 errors in what could be 1000s of rows of data (or whatever the # is) and these specific incidents happened in November or before. But pointing out that “this is what editing is for” sounds like it would only come back to bite because then the question becomes “well then why didn’t LW edit it then?”. I’m often asked for excel analyses within a day/week. There is no 2nd party editor.

      1. Narise*

        I was taken to task for using the word “only” in an email. After 15 minutes, I pointed out the VP was hung up on the word – she wasn’t there it was only me and my boss – and she tore into me even more. I knew then I had to leave and after 10 years I did.

  12. Despachito*

    OP1 – if I saw a female coworker with shaved head, my first thought would be she is undergoing chemotherapy, aka is seriously ill.

    I have no idea what the correct reaction should be, I would probably do/ask nothing because I would feel it intrusive. It may come across as indifferent though. I wonder whether there is a better solution, I cannot think of any.

    1. Awkwardness*

      That was my thought too. A shaved head for woman still reads different than a buzzcut.
      Of course, people are not entitled to information. But unless you are known for bold fashion choices, not everybody might immediately assume something “harmless” and might be worried for you.
      Try to be as cheerful about “style choice” as possible.

      1. Katie Impact*

        You *could* say “it’s a medical thing, but don’t worry, it’s not cancer or anything life-threatening”, and that’s probably what I’d do in the same situation, but that’s an awful lot of information to feel like you have to give out to co-workers and might lead them to ask for even more details. People unfortunately tend to get weird about this sort of thing.

        1. Toni*

          A worried “Are you okay??” might be met better with a “Yeah, just got tired of my hair, it’s much easier to handle now!”

        2. OP #1*

          framing it as a style choice to others has also helped me reframe it in my own head and feel better about the whole thing – I’m definitely glad I decided not to hint at anything medical!

          1. Despachito*

            I think this is the best option.

            I’d probably want to convey the information “there is absolutely nothing for you to worry about here”, which you did.

            While you definitely can blame people who become too intrusive, some degree of concern that a coworker may be seriously ill falls more into the territory of a “normal concern of a decent human”, and a cheerful reassurance there is nothing to worry about is beneficial both for them and for you.

    2. I should really pick a name*

      I would probably do/ask nothing because I would feel it intrusive

      That would be the correct reaction.

    3. ferrina*

      Depends on how into fashion the person is. There are so many fashion icons who have shaved their heads- if it’s part of a Look, I’d think fashion before chemo (especially if there was no signs of exhaustion or other symptoms).

      But either way, my reaction would be same as yours- say nothing or say “you look great!” (same as I’d do for any change in hair style). Classic case of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”.

    4. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, OP#1, please be prepared to field some questions about your health. When people see a woman suddenly go bald, or nearly so, their first reaction is probably going to be “Oh, no! Are you okay?!”

      1. RVA Cat*

        True, but the Oscar Slap two years ago should have raised awareness that women can go bald from minor medical conditions.

  13. TG*

    LW#2 – get out asap – this is a huge red flag and you’ll be so stressed trying to not make more mistakes you probably will! The fact three seemingly minor
    mistakes are being treated as a reason for a PIP is ridiculous unless you’re not sharing more. HR buying into this review is even worse. You have both a bad manager and bad HR who won’t protect you!

    1. HonorBox*

      Yeah, I think that looking for an exit plan is the best strategy. A bad performance review for three minor typos is really abnormal. And being told by HR to improve attention to detail over six months is wild. I think in addition to looking for a different job, while LW is still in the job, asking the HR person exactly how to do what they’re being told to do is reasonable. Like are the expectations that no mistakes are ever made? How does one show better attention to detail other than not making a mistake?

    2. AngryOctopus*

      They can hire the “I don’t make mistakes” dude from a few weeks back.

      LW, this is beyond ridiculously nitpicky. Everyone makes mistakes like you cited, it’s part of being a human being! It’s why you ask people to look at your things before they go out to a wider audience! If your manager thinks it’s PIP worthy and HR agrees, there’s nothing for you do to except GTFO.

    3. Mark This Confidential And Leave It Laying Around*

      HR generally will not get involved in something like this in any meaningful way. They exist to keep the company in compliance with labor laws, and this doesn’t break any. It’s petty and unrealistic, but while HR might privately think the manager is out of line, I wouldn’t expect them to act on it. I have seen more than one person go to HR expecting them to arbitrate what’s fair, and it never ends well. Unless it’s discrimination, retaliation, or safety, HR is really not the place.

      1. Sneaky Squirrel*

        Agreed, the idealist in me would like to think that HR would read between the lines and see that these issues are minor to point it out, but it’s really not their job to know or make a determination as to how the mistakes impacted the work. They’re being presented with a boss saying their employee has poor quality workmanship and citing real life examples of how an employee presented a work product that was not up to 100%.

      2. pally*

        Down the line, though, would it be prudent to ask the boss to indicate how seriously the mistakes affected the work product?

        I ask this because I wonder how it might impact the OP filing for unemployment if this boss terminated them because of these mistakes.

        For example: The boss terminates the OP citing ‘too many mistakes’ but with no indication that work product suffered. So, OP files for unemployment, and the company fights this. Can the company prove their case given the OP can show the mistakes were not detrimental to the product?

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Also, is this boss going to do the same to the next people? There has to be a point where HR steps in and says “humans make mistakes, no mistake you’ve brought up in the record has been an actual issue, they’ve been corrected, and your “fire and hire” system is costing us tons of $$”.

    4. justanobody*

      Agree. They seem to be looking for a reason to let OP#1 go. It’s best to be looking for a new job now.

  14. Resentful Oreos*

    Funny how #1 and #3 are Rachel Green adjacent! I do like women with a shaved head though! I guess I’m still that 80’s kid!

    1. Queer AF*

      Women with shaved heads are wildly hot.

      I’d keep my pantsfeelings to myself at work, but I’d not be thinking negative thoughts about it.

  15. Awkwardness*

    Re #5: I wonder if the advice would change if OP was a private teacher, offering tutoring or language courses, where people pay them directly.

    I find use of the term really interesting. One would assume that a client needs to pay, but we will also have internal customers in our project management. I could not point out a clear rule when use if the term is acceptable.

    1. Brain the Brian*

      Private tutoring definitely involves clients — that much is clear.

      FWIW, I find companies who use “customer” to refer to other departments grating. Another department is not a customer, no matter how much backstopping and admin / technical support you provide them. They are another department.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I’ll tack on that I think the distinction is whether the recipient of the service has power over you as the service provider. In a public school, no — the students are not going to tell the teacher to change teaching tactics (or at least, they shouldn’t in any functional school). In private tutoring, they might be able to.

        And this is also what’s so grating to me about “internal customer” as a term. It subtly belittles back-office staff and places sales and other frontline folks (who are usually the “customers”) on pedestals that they too often don’t deserve. In a company, everyone needs to work together to accomplish things — IT should not be powerless to tell Sales no.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think that’s only true if you take a “customer is always right, you can’t say no” approach which is also bad in “real” customer service or client management. I’ve run an internal service with a customer service ethos, and it’s not about saying “they” are kore important than we are or that we can’t say no to them, it’s about considering the experience from their point of view. Is it clear how they’re supposed to approach us? Is it clear what we can and can’t do? How do we set expectations? Are we right about what they want and need? If we couldn’t help, did we clearly explain why? It’s not about hierarchy so much as getting out of the mindset of what’s obvious to you may not be obvious to everyone else.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Yes, and way, way too many sales / frontline folks take exactly that “customer is always right” approach to working with support departments. The terminology does not help.

          2. Awkwardness*

            It is interesting to hear the different perspectives on the use of this word!

            I always struggled with it as I felt it put so much distance between my colleagues and me. Now that I am working with a lot of English native cooperate speakers, I finally got used to it.

        2. doreen*

          That’s interesting and it’s clear that a lot depends on individual experience because I often wished using the term “internal customer” was common at my job. And the reason was because various departments would put policies/procedures into place without paying attention to input from the people who had to use them – for example, the disaster of changing the workweek to something that didn’t match the timesheet. Or requiring a high-level manager to approve computer access so that someone would be left without access for weeks after a transfer. Rather than IT being powerless to tell Sales no, it was the other way around.

        3. K*

          “… the students are not going to tell the teacher to change teaching tactics…”

          It’s so obvious on the internet when someone has absolutely zero teaching experience.

    2. Sloanicota*

      FWIW I have no problem with “stakeholders” as in, “the larger community of people who cared about my job” (parents, other teachers, even the school board or the principals) – but I’m in non-profit where we use “stakeholders” pretty loosely all the time. I don’t like “clients” or “customers” for students though.

    3. K*

      In the public sector clients typically do not pay. My mother was a social worker for years for the school district in which I teach and she’s refer to the families she’d home visit as “clients” and it made perfect sense in context.

    4. Dorothy Zpornak*

      Yeah, I’m in higher ed, and it’s becoming disturbingly common to refer to students as “customers.” It’s actually laid out in our employee handbook at my institution that “students are customers.”

  16. zaracat*

    #4 I think you’re just going to have to wear this cost yourself. Sorry to seem harsh, but it’s not “partly their fault”. You had two opportunities to check that you were getting the changes you requested (confirming with HR whether your request was approved; and then receiving the actual tickets) and missed both.

    1. TravelMishap*

      Hey! I’m this LW and I’m totally willing to accept fault. To be clear, HR did approve my request and agreed to my dates, then I sent the specific flights I wanted as they were having trouble finding them, but they booked the tickets for different days in the end without saying anything (I think because they forgot our earlier emails, and were batch booking all flights). Because it was the same time as the flight I’d asked for and had the same flight number, I didn’t spot that it was the 19th and not 16th. I should have checked more thoroughly when the tickets came through and I was asked to confirm receipt, so I agree with Alison that it’s not a strong argument.

    2. bamcheeks*

      It says they were clear about the dates they wanted in the back and forth, so I don’t know where “you had two opportunities to check” comes from? I can see the argument that they should have checked, but when I’ve booked work travel, if I’ve said, “please book X and Y” and X and Z has been booked, that’s fully seen as a mistake of the booker. I’ve certainly been reimbursed if I’ve incurred extra costs because a mistake was made.

      I think there’s some grey area because LW *could* have caught the late flight home and there wasn’t a work-related reason for her to switch the ticket, but I would definitely ask.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Tickets should always, always be checked before you fly. Especially when someone else books, but people make mistakes when booking for themselves too. Errors happen all the time– people mistake AM for PM, a month is incorrect, you go to Italy when you wanted to go to Florida… I’m not saying the LW is completely and utterly responsible, but as the traveler she had plenty of opportunities to catch the error before the travel date. Had she done that, I would have said HR needed to cover any change fees full-stop. Now that a new ticket needed to be purchased, LW bears some of that responsibility.

        1. bamcheeks*

          They should be, but they should also be checked by the team doing the booking! “Somebody else made a mistake and you didn’t check it, so you’ve got to suck up the cost” doesn’t sit right with me.

          1. Boof*

            It happens a lot when you don’t catch mistakes early see; every time someone in my fam left a repeating charge on. A lot of the time they’ll only refund the last month, not the whole time the charge has been on if it was longer. Maybe if you had some sort of extremely clear receipt of a cancellation notice that was bogus, but i’m going to agree it was on the lw to verify the correct info. That being said i doubt costs are much different changing flights last minute vs a few days before, aren’t the low prices usually months in advance?

            1. bamcheeks*

              I’ve always worked in large organisations where we’ve had to make bookings through corporate accounts rather than directly book ourselves and claim it back and usually that means you don’t have access to the early booking discounts but times and days can be changed for free. Works out more economical once your organisation hits a certain size.

            2. not like a regular teacher*

              OP didn’t incur change fees. OP noticed the mistake after she had already missed the first flight, and had to buy an entirely new ticket.

              1. Czhorat*

                TBH, I’d put the cost on the employer because not taking a single look at the date before the day of is a surprising lack of attentiveness.

                Most people would look at the ticket to at least know what time of day they’ll be flying back; not having looked at the ticket at all is unusual enough that I’d probably eat the cost out of embarrassment for my own carelessness.

                1. Cyndi*

                  I halfway agree, because yes, most people would look at the ticket to check their flight time–but personally I could very easily, in OP’s place, look at the flight time and not register the day at all because I (assume I) already know what it is.

          2. Emmy Noether*

            I agree: it doesn’t sit right with me either, especially in a work context. You should never pay for work mistakes, not even your own.

            Also, if you take the request-for-personal-reasons-aspect out of it, it obviously doesn’t hold up. If they had requested a later flight because another work meeting got added on the day after, or even as an accomodation (need for longer layover time or whatever), it would be obviously wrong to stick them with the cost.

            So we’re only even discussing it because the change was “for fun”. And I do see that complicating things – I’m still struggling with what I think the right solution is, but “you didn’t catch it, you pay” just sits wrong as a rationale.

            1. Smithy*

              I think for better or worse, the fact that it was for personal reasons (to stay longer) vs work reasons, then it’s harder to have the company justify the extra expense.

              I will add onto that, that sometimes these errors can be better to personally absorb from a social capital perspective. I was once on a work trip with external clients, and decided to intentionally not be on the same departure flight as them. However, in doing so – I gave myself an overnight layover in an airport that I didn’t realize at the time, and that my in-country colleagues stress was not a safe airport to spend the night in. While I likely could have charged the airport hotel room to work, I knew that big picture it would make me look bad. Our travel booking colleagues weren’t going to flag this because they assumed I was checking these things and perhaps had intentionally picked that flight to stay with friends in that city on my return flight.

              Another time when I was new to a workplace’s travel system, I booked a very wrong return flight, but because that needed to change for work purposes (and my boss and I had both not caught the mistake) – there was an understanding of mistakes happening and I was never asked to pay.

              I think that big picture, you need to figure out the capital this will cost as well as the business need. The OP knows their workplace better than we do….because in my first example, I knew it would harm me more than help in terms of replacing the $100 for that hotel night. However, for the second example – I knew I had some “new to the system” goodwill for making a mistake as well as a business need to correct it.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        But if you didn’t notice that X and Z was booked until date Z, that’s on you. ALWAYS check when you get your tickets! The time for fixing this was when OP got the tickets, and would be able to say “Oh, see below where we agreed that I was being booked for X and Y, and instead I got booked for X and Z, can you please fix that”.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        I thought it read like since they asked for the return to be 3 days later, and didn’t look at the tickets when they received them, they also didn’t look at the tickets on the day they were actually for. So they couldn’t have taken the actually booked flight, because it had passed by the time they noticed the ticket was not what had been requested. Unless you mean “could have taken the flight” in the sense that LW’s reason for staying the extra days wasn’t a business one.

      4. zaracat*

        there wasn’t any mention in the question as posted that the requested date had been approved. Having that information significantly changes the situation.

    3. lunchtime caller*

      As someone who books a lot of flights for people, it would absolutely be my fault if I booked them the wrong one (even if it was a special requests different from the others) and it would be considered quite a serious mistake at that. The people traveling need to be able to trust that we’ve done it correctly, and it’s on me the person booking travel to do all the triple checking. Even if LW doesn’t get reimbursed, they really need to flag this.

      1. Ginger Baker*

        ^Came here to say this. Of course Travel LW didn’t check…they expected the work was done correctly and the correct flights were booked. I have to book through a travel agency and they have *very rarely* screwed up (DCA to LGA instead of the reverse, is the one I remember!) and when that happens I am thrilled if I caught it myself but – since these errors are VERY rare and I book a lot of travel – I am not in the habit of checking every single email from them to ensure things are correct and if there is a mistake, it is understood by the poor traveler who got screwed over that it was the fault of the travel agency (not mine) and the whole thing gets fixed with minimal fuss. We would never expect the traveler to pay for an incorrectly-booked flight on the wrong travel day from what they requested and it boggles my mind that anyone thinks that would be normal.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          I…I truly don’t know what to say if you think that a quick glace at your travel arrangements is too much. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t look quickly to make sure things are as you think they are. It’s not a huge time investment. I don’t understand. I mean, look at LW#2 who’s being called out for tiny mistakes–point being that things happen and mistakes get made! Why wouldn’t you just take a quick look to make sure it’s all in place??

          1. Unpleased*

            Right?? And did the LW get no email or text from the airline about checking in for the return flight?

            1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

              Now, here’s an interesting thought. I always get emails and texts for personal flights that I book for myself. But would those reminders go to a traveller when the booking was done thru corporate?

          2. AvonLady Barksdale*

            I’m with you. Always, always check your tickets. Shoot, I check tickets I booked months ago for personal travel even though I know they’re correct. Mistakes caught early are super easy to fix.

          3. Smithy*

            Yeah – I’m in this boat.

            I work for a place where we do a lot of travel, and there are constant reminders about a) checking before/after booking and b) who to contact if things change. Whether because of a mistake or things just need to change. Because similar to the OP, we all assume that we told the agent we wanted XYZ flight, on ABC dates, with LMN airline….and either we weren’t as clear as we could have been, or they did make a mistake but then it is framed that it is our mistake for not checking.

            I did make one mistake on a return flight date, and went through the process of last minute changing it. My work did pay for it, but it was because it was truly for work purposes, and I went through our travel agency. But I’ve also eaten other kinds of errors I’ve made while traveling that have cost me, and they never would have happened had I not traveled for work.

          4. lunchtime caller*

            I would always check, and I’m sure the LW will always check going forward, but the people who fly to different places every week often have very demanding jobs in a lot of ways, and frankly the person booking travel needs to get it right! My travelers should be able to get in a car sitting outside at the time they need it and have it take them to the place they need to fly from without having to think twice about it. In an ideal world they’d check, of course. But my work would be right to come down hard on me if a mistake was made of this magnitude (having an important person, which all the people I book travel for are, in the wrong city on the wrong days can be quite a problem) and no one would say to the traveler “well, you should have checked, so really is it Lunchtime Caller’s fault?”

            We can all agree that more checking leads to less avoidable mistakes, but if the question is “who is at fault here, and who should absorb the cost,” my answers as someone who does a lot of this are 1. the travel booker and 2. the company.

            1. Smithy*

              I think that this does go back to the OP knowing the realities of their employer and also where they fit in the hierarchy.

              Someone more senior, more “important” – and this issue may be viewed differently. Someone more junior is likely to be expected to take on more of this responsibility. If my CEO’s EA made this mistake, it’s viewed differently than me working with our travel team. The OP knows where they are in regards to having this standing, we don’t. But I think people saying this is a cost to eat come from an experience where pushing back on this is more capital at work than its worth.

        2. Nancy*

          Why wouldn’t you take a minute to check and confirm that everything is correct? I’ve made mistakes booking tickets for myself that I was able to fix because I checked when I got the confirmation.

          No one is 100% perfect and mistakes can happen.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            Hell, I booked hotels for a trip I did last month, and 6 weeks before realized that I made them for March instead of Feb! Mistakes happen! Check your work!
            (I booked ‘pay at hotel’ through hotels.com, so was able to change quickly and easily. But I was really glad I was double checking my own arrangements!)

            1. Well Hello There*

              Yes! Always check! I live in Portland, ME and twice in the past three years the person doing the booking has mistakenly booked me into Portland, OR. Easy mistake to make if you’re not paying attention. That’s why I always check. And why would you not even glance at your ticket ahead of time to see what time you’re flying out?

      2. ferrina*

        I think it’s a little different if it’s pure business vs business + personal accommodation. If you’re booking travel for several people and one of those people wants to customize their plans, I can definitely see how that could slip through the cracks. I’m not sure if this counts as LW getting the wrong flight- LW got the flights necessary for the business travel, but not the exact flight they requested. This can sometimes happen- for example, if someone wants an afternoon flight but the company chooses an evening flight.

        It was also on LW to check the travel plans. ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK TRAVEL PLANS. LW knows that, and that tends to be a mistake you only make once. I think Alison’s advice is really good- think about how the person booking the flights is likely to receive this comment. Especially if they were doing a favor to LW by regularly customizing LW’s booking when they didn’t need to.

        1. lunchtime caller*

          Again, just speaking as someone who books a lot of trips for other people in the company, it’s really not considered different if it’s “pure business” or “business with a side of accommodation.” It’s an easier mistake to make as the travel booker, definitely, but that’s part of the job. And it’s not considered a favor to book flights to the requested destinations on the requested dates, it’s something you do need to do. I’ve been brought on to replace people and been told directly that one of the reasons they were asked to leave was because of making mistakes like this. For any job that involves booking travel regularly, this is considered a Big Deal.

    4. Sloanicota*

      This one was tough. I have come to the conclusion that, for jobs that involve more than de minimus amounts of travel, the *only* solution is more salary than what you would want for that same job without travel, because I constantly accrue small costs that I feel weird charging back to the company. Could I, if it was my hill to die on? Perhaps, but I’d have to weigh that against my reputation and goodwill at the company. Did I get accused of minor damage to the rental car? I can dispute it but I’m going to end up paying that myself. Did I get lost on the way to the meeting and spend an extra 40 miles circling back? I’m not going to charge that to the meeting mileage since it was “my fault.” Did I get a parking ticket even though I thought I did everything right (but I’m in an unfamiliar city and was distracted?) – my fault again, there’s $150 down the drain. Moving violation because I was turned around? Yep, that’s me again. It all ads up – a LOT in some cases. I think I would consider an incident like this under the same boat, unfortunately. I hope OP is well compensated.

    5. voice of painful experience*

      Yep. Even if we assume for the sake of argument that the employee is at no fault here, politically this could cost them more than the $$$ are worth. Few higher-ups are likely to sympathize instinctively with an employee complaining about how their personal travel was not accommodated correctly. They may become known as “the person who whines about personal travel,” even if that’s unfair.

      Take the hit, move on, and in the future, ALWAYS check your travel itineraries when you receive them.

  17. tokyo salaryman*

    I quit smoking for years, but took it up again when I seconded to a location where all of the upper management smoked. It was the only way to get casual face time with them to build rapport and the only way to hear about what was going on behind the management meeting room doors. Terrible for the health, but I was able to get things done that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise (or that would have taken much longer going through “proper” channels).

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

      Was a very heavy smoker for years (fun fact: some mental illnesses make nicotine very beneficial and incredibly hard to stop) and truth be told? Yeah a lot of our conversations outside were about work.

      Often with four letter expletives attached.

      It was a melting pot of different departments too so a lot of ‘oh I can sort that when I get back to my desk’ was done. Unfair? Yeah. It was.

      When I quit for the (hopefully) final time 8 years ago I noticed a serious drop off in work efficiency because I was no longer talking to these people every day. It’s not a problem with a solution though unfortunately. You can’t stop people smoking, telling them to only talk about non work is unrealistic and joining them is a bad idea for your health.

      The only thing I can suggest is what I tried after I quit which was to arrange working tea break (yes I’m British) with the p same people.

    2. Catherine*

      I never seriously smoked but I pretended at it when I was in academia because it was the only way to get face time with some professors. Being fed up with that was one of the major reasons I changed fields.

  18. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP4 (travel booking error) – by all means try but I really think they will push back with “you should have checked the ticket when you received it” (and it wouldn’t surprise me if there is something about that in the travel policy already).

    What’s interesting to me is that you have a more systemic issue (flights get booked for the same day after a meeting resulting in getting back at 2am and then you have to work the next day) which is being worked around in an individual, circumstantial way (stay with a friend). What if you didn’t have a friend in that state or their living arrangements change etc, would you get a hotel instead? What do other people do? I think there is more value in using this incident (and the discussion it will generate when you make that request) to ask for that policy to be revisited.

    1. WorkTravelExpectations*

      Most places I’ve worked would expect you to fly there and back that day for a one day event and I’ve never gone on a trip that didn’t expect you to go home the evening of the last day if multiple days long. I once took a 5am flight from Boston to DC and a 9pm flight back that evening; I had about a 22 hour day. I would not have been sent on the trip if it required an overnight.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        But you’d expect more TOIL than just coming in a bit late, wouldn’t you? Getting in at 2am and having to be in the office at all the next morning seems drastically unreasonable to me.

        1. TravelMishap*

          Not at the office, we work mainly remote, so logging on maybe at 10am. But still!

      2. TravelMishap*

        Thanks! I agree with the comments/Alison’s advice.
        I would do this, but most people prefer the current system – they have children or other commitments that make additional nights less preferable, and they prefer the long days rather than an extra night. So far, it’s worked well with me asking for the extra nights (with accommodation paid for and arranged by me) and finding specific flights that are a similar cost to everyone else’s, and HR books those, they have no problem with this arrangement. But this time they agreed my dates and then booked different ones. I completely understand how this happened as we were all busy and most people travelled on the same day. It was an extremely hectic lead-up to the event, which is also why I checked times/flight numbers/my details in a more cursory way than I should have, and missed the dates!
        I plan to ask to book my own in future and get reimbursed, if possible. I’m also pushing for better planning around our events in general, which would reduce the chaos in the week before but is probably a pipe dream! I’m writing this incident off as one of those things, and luckily I enjoyed my weekend and the extra cost was only slightly more than if I’d paid for a non-work visit there.

      3. bamcheeks*

        That sounds wild to me. When I was travelling a lot for work, then generally if you were going to get home later than 9-10pm you could charge a hotel room.

        I’m kind of surprised how stingy US seem to be about hotel rooms in general, to be honest! I’ve worked in the public sector and private in the UK, and in both, the assumption has been that if the travel of over a hundred miles is required, accommodation has to be costed in, and if there isn’t a budget for accommodation, the travel can’t happen. Maybe accommodation is comparatively cheap compared to travel here or something? By the time you’re doing business travel of more than a hundred miles or so, you’re quite likely to be paying over £120 for trainfare or mileage+parking, so £80-100 for a business rates hotel doesn’t feel like a massive increase.

        1. TX_TRUCKER*

          100 miles is a daily commute to the office in some parts of the USA. I love learning about work experiences in other countries.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I remember a friend doing a 100 mile commute for a short period (Leicester to London), but it worked out as about £12k a year, which was nearly half her salary back then. If you *have* to do it, it’s usually going to be cheaper to rent somewhere Mon-Fri and commute weekly than do it daily.

            1. doreen*

              A lot of times that depends on the reason and the specifics for the 100 mile commute. I’ve known people whose 100 mile commute took the same 90 minutes as my 10 or 15 mile commute by subway – and they commuted daily because they chose to live 100 miles from where they worked, not because their job sent them 100 miles away for a few days.

              1. bamcheeks*

                That’s kind of what I mean by cost being the limiting factor in the UK rather than time. Timewise, it’s 200 miles or just over two hours from Leeds or Manchester into central London, and it’s not at all uncommon for people in certain higher level roles to do that a couple of times a week or a few times a month– I’ve done it myself. But it costs £300 a day. I think for both business travel and commuting, the point where the it’s more economical to just pay for accommodation kicks in a lot lower!

                1. londonedit*

                  Yes, it’s definitely the cost. I’ve had bosses who have lived in cities a couple of hours from London by train, and they’d do say Monday-Wednesday in the office and then work from home Thursday/Friday, but they either stayed with friends in London during the week, or paid for a hotel so that they could buy off-peak train tickets and not end up spending an absolute fortune commuting back and forth.

                2. Emmy Noether*

                  slight tangent: do you have some form of unlimited railway subscription in the UK? They tend to be *really* expensive, and have never been worth it for me, but I’ve always thought it would be sooooo cool to have one.

                  They’re 4500€/year in Germany. 2h by train with a flex ticket is about 100€, so 200€ per return trip. Twice a month would make you come out even. And you get to hop in any train and have priority seating!

                3. bamcheeks*

                  You can get season tickets for specific routes that last for a week, a month or a year. When I was commuting five days a week they were a bit cheaper than buying a ticket every day, but not much. I’ve just looked up the Leicester to London route I mentioned above and I was *amazingly* accurate with my guesswork— it’s 102 miles, £338 for weekly, £1122 for a monthly ticket, and £11696 for the year!

        2. MsSolo (UK)*

          Yes, the usual metric is “is it cheaper to get a hotel and travel the next day off peak” versus getting back the same day. And with TOIL in most UK offices, if your commute time adds up to more than a day’s worth of work on tope of the meetings they want to get the most out of you in terms of face time before you get that day off in lieu.

          1. Curious*

            I’m guessing that TOIL is time off in lieu, rather than particularly hard and unpleasant work?

        3. Happy meal with extra happy*

          I think it’s not a good idea to form assumptions and ideas about US work culture based on this site. You’re literally only getting a curated feed of all of the bad stuff. I’m sure if this site was UK based/focused, it would make work over there look awful.

          1. Double A*

            Yeah I work in education and we have very reasonable and comfortable travel accommodations. We never have to share rooms much less beds, and our timing is all very reasonable and if it’s not going to be we have an option for a hotel. Therefore, I am never going to write to AAM about issues!

      4. Mina*

        22 hour day is nearly 3 workdays. Let’s round down to 2.5 to consider lunch breaks, that’s an unreasonable ask of employees to work 150% more because their business is out of town.

        If the company wouldn’t have sent you for an overnight, they can’t afford for you to attend that meeting. Instead of admitting that, or deciding the meeting was worth the actual cost, they shifted an unfair personal burden to their employees. That’s a problem.

      5. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        This is right up there with sharing hotel rooms to save money. Penny wise and pound foolish. So you send people on day trips, then expect them back at work the next day. How productive are these people? Probably cost more in lost productivity than if they just made the trip and overnight one and had a well rested employee able to work.

        OP by staying with her friend and logging on probably gets more work done than her tired coworkers.

        1. Capybarely*

          It’s absolutely foolish, and goes back to a focus on accounting/financials – the lost productivity of someone who is making widgets is clear. The lost productivity of most office work is much more nebulous. Meanwhile the actual cost of a hotel room is very clear. So some manager made their budget look good in the short term, and we will never know about the missed profits from those less productive employees.

          1. JustaTech*

            This is very like the original story of Guacamole Bob – in order to save a tiny amount of money on a flight the OP was told to fly out so early that the subway wasn’t running yet and the cost of the taxi negated the savings of the absurd flight.
            (Turns out Guacamole Bob had gone completely rouge.)

    2. TravelMishap*

      And yes, I book a hotel for my extra nights when I can’t stay with my friend. I enjoy visiting the city and making the trip into a break, and I do this with international travel too.
      Work is absolutely fine with the arrangement but in this case when they were booking, they must have forgotten the dates we agreed, and then I didn’t spot the change on the ticket.
      I’m happy to accept responsibility! it just made me wonder, also about other variations eg if I wasn’t extending the trip but work booked the wrong date and I didn’t notice, would I have more cause to ask for partial reimbursement? Obviously the main lesson is to always triple check travel tickets!

      1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

        If you hadn’t been extending / modifying a standard work trip, then they should reimburse you 100%, even though you should always check your tickets.

        However, once you modify things for your own preference, imo any error should be 100% on your own dime. It might reflect poorly on you to bring this up and might result in you – and wprst case even everyone else – losing this perk once TPTB think it causes extra work for staff.

      2. WellRed*

        If they booked the wrong date but you weren’t extending for personal travel they absolutely cover it! In the case if your letter, I’d probably suck it up and lesson learned.

    3. Phryne*

      I would say you can report the error neutrally and point out it cost extra just as a fyi and see how they react. They might say ‘should have checked’ or they might apologise and offer to reimburse you.
      Or maybe make it an open question: admitting you should have checked and asking if they would consider a contribution to the cost as both parties messed up, in a way that makes it clear that you would accept a ‘no’ without a problem.

    4. Lilo*

      My husband has worked both private and government in places like this. Private, he got OT, government he got a mix of travel comp time and OT. He would often use the travel comp to take some time off when he got back.

    5. Sloanicota*

      I agree the set up sounds awful. Work travel can be miserable if you’re getting nickel and dimed. I’ve started to decline travel because of stuff like this (we also had long hours for travel but no comp time or overtime in my past job – my boss told me I couldn’t even log transit time on my time sheet if I was going home – and it was a real morale killer).

    6. Wonderer*

      We don’t know how far the trip was; maybe the flight was not that expensive? Burning capital for this might be shortsighted.

  19. Not your typical admin*

    LW 2 – start looking for a new job. I had a manager like this. She would be incredibly sweet to your face, very rarely give negative feedback, then blow you out of the water with a negative performance review. My first one was especially rough since it was my first “real” job out of college, and I had no idea how a performance review should go. I think a lot of bosses like this don’t actually want to manage and help their employees improve. They expect perfection and for you to automatically know what they want. The only people who were successful and got good reviews at my old job were the few who were buddies with her. And oddly enough that group all smoked and took smoke breaks together.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I had a boss like this in one of my early roles. With more life experience and management experience now, I’ve come to realise that this was because he was very uncomfortable with ‘difficult conversations’ (including anything negative) so just avoided them, but then the structure of the annual performance review and the pre-existing expectation that this was an avenue for providing feedback and an honest appraisal of performance – provided him with the “permission” / “opportunity” to have that conversation, because then rather than ‘owning’ it, he could attribute the ‘ownership’ to the process itself. I think this or something similar is the driver for a lot of the times this situation happens (which is many).

      1. Sloanicota*

        It can also be that a high performance review score triggers raises or bonuses they don’t want to give, meaning they have to suddenly make up a bunch of problems so that they can level-set across the department. I’ve definitely had that happen, but at least in that case my boss was nice enough (?) to explain it to me (“your performance was fine, but I can only get one employee raise in the review cycle, and I need it for Tom this year, so I’m going to give you Meets Expectations this time.”).

        1. AnonORama*

          I said this above, but I was docked for bad writing (after 15+ years in writing-intensive professions with no real complaints, just normal edits) so my boss could deny me a raise. She probably could’ve gotten out of the raise by giving me a 3 of 5, but she liked to twist the knife so she busted it down to a 2. And then came up with one super-ridiculous example of my below-average writing, for which she didn’t have evidence. I’m sure she was very proud of herself for keeping me in line while saving the org a couple thousand bucks. So glad not to be working for her anymore!

    2. Poppy*

      I was told I should know by instinct how to do things. This was after I’d had the presence of mind. after my first performance review, to ask why I hadn’t been told about my mistakes before. I’d had no training.

  20. bamcheeks*

    LW5, doing a broad change to “clients” instead of students on your CV would look deeply weird. However, if you are applying for a job where “client-facing skills” or “client management” are emphasised in the job description, I would try and use the word “client” in either your cover letter or CV, because it’s likely that that’s what the recruiter will be scanning for (and I mean the human recruiter, not an ATS.) Then explain using normal teacher language how you used client-management skills when dealing with parents — prompt responses to queries, setting or re-setting expectations, clarifying your role etc. What you’re trying to do when you change fields is say, “I haven’t done exactly that, but here’s what I think it looks like because I’ve done it in this context and it’s a very similar thing”. You’re showing them that you’ve already considered that change, without pretending that it’s exactly the same thing.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Yes, teaching must give loads of transferable skills/examples, they just need to be worded in the right way. For example…

      – Dealing with a ‘customer’ (parent) complaint – in cases where the complaint is reasonable/justified, and where it is unreasonable.
      – Handling competing priorities (time/workload, interests of different ‘stakeholders’ in a situation)
      – Conflict / disagreement with your boss (head of department thinks it should be done this way, but your professional opinion is that it should be done this other way…)
      – Making a plan and being structured in your approach, but also being able to ‘roll with it’ and update a plan on the fly
      – Knowing when to handle issues yourself and when to escalate them or bring in an ‘authority’

  21. It’s shhhhh time*

    LW 4: while it sucks, I feel like asking at this point would tip them off to not doing it in the future. I don’t love the long day they’re making you do but at this point I would let it go and be more diligent the next time. Otherwise you risk having someone feel like you are getting a perk that others aren’t getting (a mini vacation on the company’s dime) and that you feel entitled to it.

    I don’t agree – I’ve often taken extra days on the back of a work trip, it’s common – but depending on who booked it, they could have the attitude you are criticizing them and that you want compensation for them not making your vacation plans for you.

    I would just suck it up for the sake of not having them allow this altogether.

    1. Lilo*

      My husband’s first job allowed this and then decided to shut it down, even though it was actually saving them money. It really just takes one person deciding against it to kill this benefit, which is why I would tread super carefully if I was LW.

      1. Wonderer*

        I would agree completely with this. All it takes is one person in finance who decides to complain about how much extra work it is to process this payment, and you’ll find a blanket ban on doing anything “personal” with your travel arrangements. It will be justified as “too much of a headache for finance, with people complaining and changing all the time”, even though that’s wildly inaccurate in this case.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      LW isn’t getting anything on the company dime though? Most places let you book your return when you like assuming that there is not a drastic cost difference. And even if there is a difference, the employee just pays that. They’re paying their own hotel, etc. But the business was going to pay to fly them back anyway, so they’re not taking any extra $$ from the company.
      And FWIW, if you’ve agreed on a set of parameters for your travel booking and then they don’t book them–well, you are getting criticized. For not doing your job as previously agreed. Yes, mistakes happen because we’re all human, but you still didn’t do your job right.

  22. Dog momma*

    Re: shaved head..well I’m A cancer survivor and had shoulder length hair or longer since Covid closed the salons. I got it cut short before my surgery.. chemo started 2 weeks later and doc said : looks nice but it will be gone 2 weeks after you start chemo. I saw a couple ladies at the cancer center in turbans who had long scraggles they didn’t hide on an otherwise bald head and didn’t want to go thru that.it looked so awful.once it started falling out it was coming out by the handful, so I got it shaved off. Looked better and didn’t have to deal with one. more.thing.
    I wore a ball cap everywhere til it started getting long enough to cut.( about6 months after last treatment).
    So I understand the LW’s decision even though its two totally situations.. its more than frustrating that you can’t even control your own hair..or its loss.

  23. TravelMishap*

    Thanks for answering my question! I agree with Alison’s response. Now I’m wondering: if I had been travelling the original dates suggested by work, HR booked the wrong day, and I didn’t notice when they first sent the ticket, does it change things?
    I’m not trying to get out of owning my mistake and doubt it’s one I’ll make again, just interested in these things!
    In my situation, if I’d noticed earlier, I doubt they’d have changed it and I’d have just travelled back earlier. But if it was a mistake that meant I’d miss half the event and I noticed beforehand, they’d cover the costs of changing tickets, so would they also have to do that if I also messed up by not noticing the mistake until trying to travel home?

  24. Idontthinkso*

    I’m surprised by the advice for #4. This additional cost is 110% on the employee. There is no “partly the fault of the employer” for not checking your flight itinerary, period. They were accommodating a personal request and you didn’t bother to make sure that it was booked properly so it really all falls on you. It’s not like the employer booked you before you conference was done or something. This is something where there likely would have been NO cost to change had you actually bothered looking at your ticket.

    1. amoeba*

      Hm, I don’t think it’s that clear-cut! The way I read it, they basically sent their preferred dates (as they had multiple times in the past, successfully) and as a reply received nothing but “here’s your tickets!”. I’d also certainly assume that that doesn’t mean my request was suddenly denied after years of that arrangement.

      Now, is it 100% HR’s fault? Of course not. I’d honestly say 50:50 (ish), and can definitely also imagine a HR department that actually just messed up and would feel horrible to lean the employee incurred extra cost because of that! So, it’s probably a matter of “know your environment” – but if they’re generally nice, rational people, it probably cannot hurt to ask (nicely, in the way Alison suggested).

    2. Random Dice*

      Except that it’s their policy that their people do the actual travel booking. If she had the ability to self-service like a normal company, she would have booked it properly. She communicated her needs and they screwed up, and she got screwed financially.

      1. Czhorat*

        I’ve worked in normal companies that self-serve and ones that have dedicated staff who will book for you. Neither is better or worse; if you book yourself you get control over your exact itinerary. If the company book they’re more likely to comaprison shop for price (because you don’t much care if you aren’t paying for it) and free up your time and effort for your actual job rather than having you play travel agent for yourself.

        1. Wonderer*

          I wouldn’t describe self-service as “normal” at all! Most large companies do not allow this. They have liability issues for you travelling during a business trip, tax issues related to whether you’re receiving some additional benefit, emergency assistance from a travel arranger, and massive savings from bulk purchase of travel costs.

          1. Wonderer*

            Note that the savings are often hidden – you might see a price for your flight that is the same or higher than what you see when you search for yourself. You’re not seeing any potential refund back to your company at the end of the year, based on the total value of travel booked. Much like car dealers show you their cost for a vehicle, but don’t mention all the other subsidies they get from the manufacturer.

          2. Czhorat*

            It depends on the size of the company; I’ve mostly worked with companies employing fewer than 200 people, some less than 60. At that scale it’s often self-serve. On the higher end, or with more than that, it wouldn’t be.

            I think it’s very easy to see ones own circumstance as “normal” and anythign else as weird.

            But yeah, if I were working for a company employing thousands I’d expect them to book me. If they employed 20 I’d expect to do it myself. In between it depends; could be an admin’s job, could be everyone does it themselves and submits an expense report.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I worked at a large company that had what I consider the best of both worlds: they had their own travel portal through which to book yourself (train, rental cars and hotels. Flights I believe had to be booked through them). It was awesome, because it saved on back-and-forth, but with special company rates.

      2. Analyst*

        and if OP had caught it right away, then they would be in the right to have work correct it at their cost (or to ask- since the mistake was essentially not giving a favor, work may very well say they won’t incur the cost). By not catching it, the cost to fix the error was much higher- and that’s not on work.

        1. amoeba*

          Well, yeah, that’s why they’re considering asking to share the cost, not to cover it 100%!

      3. Oryx*

        What do you mean by “normal” company? Plenty of “normal” companies do not do self-service travel arrangements.

    3. Lilo*

      I don’t think it’s likely LW gets any money, given it was a courtesy and the choice to book another ticket was on LW. I think asking could make the employer tamp down on the stayover policy. Say nothing.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        It might not have been a choice. OP was planning on staying and the hotel cost is on her, so she probably already booked and paid for her hotel stay. So she would have been out the money for the hotels if she had not changed her flight.

        It is on the booking department to get it right. Just like any other job duty.

    4. Come On Eileen*

      Of course it’s partly the fault of the employer – they booked the wrong dates. It’s also partly the fault of the employee – they didn’t check the date on the ticket until it was too late. Both can be true. Who should bear the burden of that dual fault is up for discussion, but there’s no harm in the employee asking for reimbursement – as long as they are fine hearing a potential “no.”

    5. Mina*

      Wow. OP confirmed dates with the person booking. It is absolutely not 110% on the employee.

      If my employer orders a meal I’m allergic too, after being given all the information they need, I would expect them to reimburse any reasonable expense I incurred feeding myself for that meal. This was a similar mistake, just not at the $15 level.

      Yes, OP should have double checked the ticket. But failing to double check someone else’s work (who does not report to you) is the much smaller mistake compared to booking an incorrect ticket after travel dates were agreed upon.

      In a non-toxic workplace OP would be reimbursed without issue.

        1. Wonderer*

          Except an allergy is clearly a different level of problem.

          Really, a better restaurant analogy would be that everyone was getting chicken and OP said “I really prefer beef, can you order that for me?”. Ooops, chicken got ordered for everyone. When the meals got delivered, OP told the server “No, I ordered beef” and so they got given a bill for the extra meal at the end.
          It sucks, but does the company really need to swallow (heh) the cost for the extra meal just because OP ‘prefers beef’?

      1. Wonderer*

        Except an allergy is clearly a different level of problem. Really, a better restaurant analogy would be that everyone was getting chicken and OP said “I really prefer beef, can you order that for me?”. Ooops, chicken got ordered for everyone. When the meals got delivered, OP told the server “No, I ordered beef” and so they got given a bill for the extra meal at the end.
        It sucks, but does the company really need to swallow (heh) the cost for the extra meal just because OP ‘prefers beef’?

        1. Mina*

          Yes. When they agreed to it and the employee made plans based on trust their employer did what they said they would, the employee should not bare the cost of their employer’s mistake.

          To drag the analogy out – perhaps more appropriate would be if the employee was Jewish and had asked for a dairy meal, had planned for a dairy meal (ie. Had milk in their coffee) and then couldn’t eat the meat meal they were served. The employer should pay the cost to feed the employee as they agreed to.

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


    Aside from the “Friends” parallel, could this be an ADA issue? I ask because…

    (1) John is conducting departmental staff meetings in the smoking section, and
    (2) OP is medically unable to participate in those meetings.

    Maybe OP should escalate to John’s boss and/or HR.

    1. Union Rep*

      I would definitely be concerned about preferential treatment, as well as the point made about the breaks turning into work time. It’s one thing to voluntarily chat about a work issue and another to have your supervisor flag a bunch of you down off the clock to set schedules. There’s a decent chance OP3 is a union employee if they’re in government, that’s where I would start.

    2. Daryush*

      I feel like this is a huge overreaction as the first step? Just follow Alison’s advice and talk to John directly about the issue. If he’s a reasonable person he’ll get the point.

    3. Grandma*

      I agree, although perhaps speaking to John first is still a good idea. The important part is to make it very clear that not being there is NOT a personal choice, a whim, or an act of “wokeness,” and that not being there intentionally disadvantages OP#3. In a different context, I had to make the stand OP#3 does now:

      On Thanksgiving my whole family would assemble for dinner. My three brothers all smoked in the house. For several years I lumped it, because family. The fact that I had asthma was not unknown to my family since I’d had major asthma issues throughout my childhood. Their smoking on Thanksgiving always left me wheezing, which they could see. What perhaps they didn’t know is that when I went home I continued to wheeze regardless of meds. Typically this was followed in a few days by a bacterial infection and a trip to the doctor for antibiotics and steroids. (Asthma doesn’t cause the bacterial infection, it just makes you more vulnerable.) All-in-all, it took me about 3 weeks to fully recover. I finally called them all up and announced that if they were going to smoke in the house, I wasn’t coming; I wasn’t willing to be sick for 3 weeks in trade for their company for one evening. They were truly shocked. They hadn’t actually realized. Yes, it’s a big deal and John needs to be told that in no uncertain terms. He needs to have work meetings in the office when all, not just the smokers, can attend. (After the Great Announcement, my brothers took their cigarettes outside and never harassed me about it. I appreciated it and they insured that the coveted pies I’d been providing since adolescence would still arrive.)

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

        The important part is to make it very clear that not being there is NOT a personal choice, a whim, or an act of “wokeness,” and that not being there intentionally disadvantages OP#3.

        It’s literally John’s job to know this, so he can be presumed to already know. At the very least, OP3 should copy HR (or above) in her email to John.

  26. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    LW1, I shaved my hair off and practically no one said anything, the only response was positive comments!

  27. Lilo*

    Alison’s point about LW4 is super important: if it’s possible bringing attention to this yanks your ability to do this in the future, I’d suck it up.

    I speak from experience. My first year out of college my now husband and I were long distance but he had a ton of business trips to my city and would do the same stayover thing. A lot of his coworkers commonly did that. It was only allowed if the flight he picked to go back was cheaper. But then some director decided they just couldn’t have that and yanked the benefit, which made things much more annoying for everyone (my spouse no longer works for that company).

    So, before making noise be very, very careful because what happened at my husband’s company could happen to you.

  28. Justin*

    I had a manager who got furious over small mistakes. I had to leave not to be miserable every day.

    not diagnosing you but this also finally got me to get an adhd evaluation

    1. Generic Name*

      Three small errors in a six month period isn’t an indicator of anything other than being human.

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely – these are all really small things, and absolutely the sort of things anyone could get wrong in their first few months in a new job. In the first six months you’re still learning all the systems and processes, and anyone who’s human is bound to get a few things wrong while they’re getting to grips with how everything works and while there are so many new things to keep on top of. Any reasonable boss would accept ‘Sorry, I haven’t used this function in Excel for a while – I’ll remember to check all the columns are totalled in future!’ and as long as you *do* remember to do that, then no harm done, it’s all part of the process of getting up to speed with a new job. It’s really not reasonable for a boss to keep banging on about minor mistakes that happened in the first six months of the OP’s employment.

      2. I Have RBF*


        I had a job that included preparing reports that went to a regulatory agency. I finished one such report, handed it to my boss for checking, then went on vacation. They sent it out without having it checked! I always had my reports checked as part of QA. Of course, the one time that they didn’t check it, and I wasn’t there to make sure it got a QA check, it had a fairly big error in it. I didn’t even get chewed out about it – it should have been caught in the QA check that didn’t happen.

  29. Cabbagepants*

    #4 ugh! this doesn’t help you, but for the future, I’d recommend contacting HR the moment they notice the dates are wrong. They may have special ability to change the return flight rather than buying a whole separate ticket, and then the added cost could be a lot less.

    1. Antilles*

      Yes, the change fees are definitely less than the cost of buying a new ticket. Depending on how quickly you notice, it might even be free. Airlines don’t highlight this, but in the US, there’s a Department of Transportation regulation giving you a 24-hour grace period after booking to change your flight without paying the change fee.

    2. Lilo*

      The problem is LW had already missed their flight so it was too late to switch the tickets.

      The problem is the current posture of the situation isn’t great for LW. If they’d noticed before this would be a different conversation. I just worry that this could put LW in a worse position than if they said nothing.

  30. Caramel & Cheddar*

    Everytime a workplace asks their employees to return for “collaboration” reasons, they can never quite articulate what that means. I’m now going to assume it means the boss conducting department meetings in the smoking area, which you definitely can’t do over Teams!

    1. Wolf*

      My employer asked me to return “for collaboration”, and specified that they meant collaboration with a group that sits in another building, and doesn’t share tasks with mine. Welp.

  31. RIP Pillowfort*

    OP 3- Some practical advice from someone in the gov’t agency trenches. I also 100% agree it’s fine to be annoyed by this. And it’s really weird to be holding actual meetings where decisions are made in the parking lot on a smoke break. Like I’ve had to track down so many people on their smoke break so I could have an important conversation (because that was the only time I could literally find them unoccupied) but a group of them having these important discussions unprompted? So weird.

    But you mention you’re contracted for a position? That’s opens up a lot of questions on my end. Because in my gov’t agency, the contracted workers are not employees and while we do ask for their feedback to make the best decisions regarding staffing and workload- they can’t be part of the actual decision making process per the agency policies.

    I only bring that up because I work with contracted employees (both from other gov’t agencies and private sector) in my position and the lines between what they can be involved with and what they can’t does get confusing.

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

      That’s a good point about contracted employees. I understood it to mean that the entire group is contracted, and so the meetings would include everyone getting their input. d

  32. Seashell*

    My husband is a former smoker, and he said he missed being able to chit chat outside the building with smoking co-workers and getting to know them better. I don’t think any actual business was being conducted though.

    1. Generic Name*

      My husband said when he quit smoking, he still went outside to take breaks, because otherwise he wouldn’t get any. Yes, illegal I know. When his manager asked what he was doing, he said he was taking a smoke break (just without the smoking).

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

      it might not be official business but it’s a way that the boss can get more input. Its not fair that those workers are getting more face time with the boss. I see it no different than if a bunch of workers went golfing together.

      Also, I wonder how the other smokers feel about the boss joining. I’m not a smoker but had friends that smoked, so I would sometimes go outside with them. Usually the conversation was how annoying client X was or what BS the upper management was pulling. So if the breaks are a way to get away from management and vent, the boss is not allowing that either.

  33. H*

    I shaved my head and had a ton of women ask “why would you want to shave off your hair?!” as if they just couldn’t fathom not wanting to conform to feminine beauty standards and I just started asking them “why do you want long hair?” Most of the time they’d say “well I like it this way” and then I’d be like “and I like it this way”and I hope it made at least some people think about things.

  34. KnitterWho*

    #4 – was it a mistake? they asked to come back 3 days later. the company isn’t obligated to grant the request.

    1. Madre del becchino*

      According to the letter:

      1. LW’s company had approved this type of arrangement for the LW for previous trips;
      2. LW stated that she had been clear on dates when talking to HR;
      3. HR did not notify LW that the return date had been changed from what was originally requested.

      If there had been a change in policy since LW’s last trip, she should have been told; otherwise, it was a mistake on the part of the HR person who booked the trip.

    2. Jackalope*

      Given that the OP was told this was okay, did this on multiple previous trips with no problems, and was never told otherwise during the process of requesting the different date for returning, it seems much more likely that it was a mistake than that it was a pointed hint.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      They’re not obligated but it’s fairly reasonable that if they’re choosing to actively deny it, when they’ve previously always granted, it’d make sense to, ya know, say that?
      Like LW submits “please book me to arrive on the 1st and leave on the 7th” and booker responds “here are your tickets”… if the booker were intentionally booking them to depart on the 4th as a “no” to the request, it’s super bizarre way to do it. Much more likely they just went on autopilot and booked everyone the same.

  35. Synaptically Unique*

    LW2 – This reads to me like it’s really about something else the manager either doesn’t want to put in writing or can’t quite articulate. Is there anything else that might be throwing off weird vibes? Regardless of whether it’s pettiness or something more significant that they aren’t saying, they are going to fire you at the end of the PIP, so get looking for something else.

    1. No Yelling on the Bus*

      I wondered how “responsible” OP is for spreadsheeting. At my org, we have a person who is (theoretically) 100% responsible for producing spreadsheets other people use to produce business decisions. But her spreadsheets are often riddled with errors so now I double and triple check all her work, and often end up duplicating things just to be totally sure they’re correct. TBH I didn’t find the manager’s reaction to be OTT (if OP is 100% responsible for the spreadsheets). We don’t have reviewers at my org because we aren’t that big, the function lives with 1 person and we need to be able to trust that person to do their job maybe not perfectly but really, really, really, really well. If I found ONLY 3 small errors over the course of 6 months and the rest of the work was excellent, this would be an overreaction. But if I found those 3, and a bunch of other similar small issues (even if they were different each time), it would make me concerned about the person’s ability to consistently produce trustworthy work.

    2. blood orange*

      I completely had the same thought. The manager could just be weirdly critical of small errors, but that would be pretty strange with the information we have.

      It’s also extreme, in my opinion, that HR would approve what is essentially a PIP with such limited information. That makes me wonder if the manager isn’t being clear with their feedback, or isn’t addressing everything with OP.

      Either way, I think it would be worthwhile for OP to chat with HR about this. Maybe it goes no where, but to respectfully raise questions about a review is really common.

  36. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I’m male, so it is slightly different, but as I read your letter, I was thinking about people’s reaction when I was bald due to chemo. I’m anticipating that you’ll get some questions about your health, so just be ready with an answer. People don’t understand how someone’s looks aren’t really something we should comment about.

    I have some friends who work, or have worked, in television and it seems like the majority of viewer comments come because people feel entitled to discuss their opinion of how others look. Someone gets new glasses, changes a hairstyle, wears earrings that are too big, has a tie that is too flashy. All of those seem to be fair game and it sucks.

    I think if you have confidence in your decision to shave your head (which you should) then people will see that and respond well. For those who don’t know you well or who aren’t savvy enough to keep their opinions to themselves, having some sort of neutral, almost dry, response will probably deter further comment. I’m glad in reading comments that your coworkers have been good about the change, and I hope it is something that people don’t give much thought to going forward.

    1. amoeba*

      And even if you don’t get any questions, I’d assume people would be worried – because yeah, chemo would unfortunately be my first thought if one of my colleagues suddenly turned up bald (that hadn’t previously obviously had thinning hair – women more than men, but men as well, I think!)
      So obviously your colleagues have no right to know or anything – I’d never ask – but I’d certainly by quietly worried about them if I like them/as close-ish to them. So making it clear that it’s actually a style choice and they don’t need to worry would certainly be a kindness, as well as hopefully avoiding annoying questions!

  37. Shaved Head Friend*

    #1, some anecdotal experience from a woman who has shaved her head twice. Neither time was a very big deal, I gave my coworkers no advance warning and it was completely fine. There was a brief “oh” of surprise, but I addressed it quickly and positively and then it was never mentioned again.

  38. Not Elizabeth*

    I’m a woman with alopecia areata — basically, my hair falls out in patches sometimes, apparently due to autoimmune weirdness. It’s been as extensive as head to toe (I know what you’re thinking, and yup); right now I have some large smooth patches on my head that are pretty well covered by the rest of my hair, though I do feel a need to wear a hat or a scarf when I’m out and about. In my 20s, when I was in school or just working while I figured out what to do next, I shaved my head and mostly felt good about it, but now in my 50s, in a much more conservative profession, I’m not so sure about it. Mulling it over now, though — perhaps if it gets to the point where I can’t cover it anymore I’ll go for it.

  39. Hendry*

    Are they actually conducting real meetings during these smoke breaks or is it just casual chit chat?

    Either way, I’m not sure LW is the best one to address this given they don’t seem to like John already: “John has been there as long as I have. I often feel he was promoted beyond his competence”

    So just a heads up that depending on how well known your feelings about John are you may want to proceed cautiously

  40. Eldritch Office Worker*

    #2 – I’m pretty sure I’ve made more mistakes than that this week, and I am neither new nor a low performer.

    If you otherwise like the job I’m not going to tell you to run for the hills, but take it as a red flag and don’t let it warp your norms.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Additionally why does *HR* have a *record* of a time you used the wrong color font? Something is screwy here

      1. Sneaky Squirrel*

        I don’t understand quite this question. The only screwy thing here seems to be a boss that’s overreacting. HR has a record because the boss told them their employee is bad at attention to detail citing multiple examples. It’s not likely they have the context that it was over the course of 6 months. I would like to think that these issues were minor enough that HR might push back and ask how a wrong font color impacted the work, but if this manager is as over the top as they are, they might have made up some reasons.

        1. Sneaky Squirrel*

          I’m also sure I made more mistakes this week in one excel report alone than the employee did; I hope that my boss can see that I’m still a high performer despite not having my best day.

  41. House On The Rock*

    LW 2, I can tell you with almost 100% certainty that this is an issue with your manager/HR/perhaps the entire organization. I’ve managed staff for a number of years, and there’s no scenario I can think of where a couple minor mistakes in the first 6 months of a job would trigger that reaction. Even if I had bigger worries about an employee’s suitability for the job, I wouldn’t react like that! And, perhaps more importantly, any competent HR rep would be scrutinizing the manager, not laying out what sounds like a PIP for the employee!

    For some context, I have long term, overall great employees who have messed up deliverables that went out to high ranking people in our organization. At most that led me to make sure they had the time and resources tneeded to check work and/or had a plan to catch mistakes going forward. Granted, I’m lucky to work somewhere that has a pretty good culture and doesn’t point fingers, but even so, what you describe is bananas.

    You might consider how your manager deals with other staff and if there’s something that differentiates you from them. And then make that observation to HR.

  42. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    OP1: I also have female androgenic alopecia, have lost most of my hair, & am this close to also cutting/shaving it all off. Genetics & hormonal imbalances lead to significant hair loss for a huge portion of women especially as menopause happens, but you’re right it’s still seen as stigmatizing for women, they’re less than if they don’t have perfect hair, whereas for men it’s just no big deal. Why should women have to deal with wigs, extensions, toppers, and other “hair aids” if they don’t want to. They’re expensive & itchy & hot. Rock your choice, I’m sure it will be freeing for you.

    OP2: Being microscrutinized & facing constant criticism from toxic bosses in past jobs for just a few harmless human errors led me to ask, in the interview for my current job, how they react to and think of employees when they make mistakes. It was so refreshing to hear them say they look at them as normal, human and a learning opportunity rather than a punishment moment, and they’ve backed it up with their actions since I got hired. I still flinch when I realize I’ve made a mistake but I’m not afraid to bring it up to the boss & try to learn from it.

    1. Capybarely*

      I had an otherwise terrible temp gig, but with a really humane perspective on mistakes: they happen, especially when there’s a lot of data or minutae, and by normalizing it we actually make fewer mistakes in the long run because it’s not shameful. I remember being told that 95% accuracy was the standard!

  43. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

    LW1: This is a question I could have sent in! I have been losing my hair for the same reason since my early 30s as well. I’ve tried just about everything and have been disheartened by the lack of research and options for people AFAB. I, too once said hell with it and shaved my head. At first, it was so liberating to not have to worry about it anymore. When asked, I just said “I find this more comfortable.” Which was true! Where I lived it was far too hot for wigs (as I’d learned) and I was long past the point of clip in hairpieces and creative styling. People at work and school were pretty cool about it and if I could have just limited my interactions to them, I’d have been happy.

    Unfortunately, what finally had me growing my hair back out again was everyone else. So many people felt the need to comment, from grocery clerks to random people on the street. Most people thought I was either seriously ill or “some kind of radical feminist (slur) trying to say you’re better than men.” It was exhausting. I had only one positive comment, from an older woman who thought it was great and wished it was more acceptable. No matter what I said, those people were just awful. But friends, coworkers, classmates, and professors were fine because it just became part of normal everything.

    1. Perfectly normal-size space bird*

      What I eventually wound up doing was wearing colorful bandanas and headscarves I made myself. I have all sorts of colors and patterns, from cartoon sharks and dinosaurs for fun to formal colors and patterns for dressier events and work. It’s not perfect but at least the comments are always positive, usually from people complimenting them. I miss my hair, though. If only I knew in high school to appreciate my long, thick hair while I still could.

  44. Ramen, eh?*

    LW1- I shaved my (long) hair off at the beginning of the pandemic because there was so much going on and I just needed an ounce of control because I had also just gotten dumped by my girlfriend*

    Colleagues definitely noticed and made a fuss for a day or two, but then other folks in my industry were like “you know what? that sounds awesome” and ALSO shaved their heads. After like, a day it stopped being a thing because we had work to deal with.

    If people make a fuss for longer than is comfortable, you really can just say “eh, I didn’t want to deal with it anymore and wanted to try something different,” If you don’t make a big deal of it, folks will hopefully follow your lead.

    *I am queer, and we are known for dealing with our emotions through dramatic hair changes, haha

  45. Law Bird*

    No one has mentioned security- it seems like OP3’s building has pretty tight security. Employees should not really be talking shop in the open air… There are a lot of things the government employees handle that would not be appropriate to discuss like this.

  46. girlie_pop*

    LW 1: As a woman who has gone from long hair to a shaved head/pixie cut many times, I think Alison’s answer is great! I usually just say, “It was time for a change!” In my experience, there will definitely be people who are curious or who act really shocked, but the novelty of it will wear off pretty quickly, especially if you just give casual answers and don’t treat it as a big, serious thing. You’ll probably actually have more people saying things like, “I wish I could do that!”

    Good luck! I hope you love having a shaved head. Every time I do it I’m so glad I did. It’s so freeing and low-fuss and comfortable, and it sounds like it will free up a lot of mental and emotional space for you <3

  47. Peanut Hamper*

    My first exposure to a bald woman was Persis Khambatta on Star Trek: The Motionless Picture and I know it was meant to make her exotic, but in fact, it pretty much normalized women with short hair/no hair for me.

    Seeing how much time and money can be devoted to hair, I see it as an efficiency choice more than anything else.

    1. Kuleta*

      Fun fact: she said that being bald was so comfortable, she’d seriously considered staying that way. And acknowledged it might limit being offered future roles.

  48. Fake Kirkland Coffee*

    #5: You are overthinking this! I moved out of teaching a decade ago and interviewers understand what the relationship between teachers, administration, students, and parents is like. You don’t need to translate it into a different language for them.

    The teaching profession and the rest of society have drilled in a message that teaching is not transferable to any other career, and that’s not true. You don’t need to inflate your experience and credentials to make yourself more valuable; you have very valuable skills and experiences already

  49. Wonderer*

    Except an allergy is clearly a different level of problem.
    Really, a better restaurant analogy would be that everyone was getting chicken and OP said “I really prefer beef, can you order that for me?”. Ooops, chicken got ordered for everyone. When the meals got delivered, OP told the server “No, I ordered beef” and so they got given a bill for the extra meal at the end.
    It sucks, but does the company really need to swallow (heh) the cost for the extra meal just because OP ‘prefers beef’?

  50. Czhorat*

    IMHO, “Stakeholder” is the kind of language that doesn’t usually work outside of either project management training or a business course; otherwise you’ll usually describe who you’re working with by their role.

    “Stakeholder and client” is the kind of language that can feel pretentious in many contexts, even if not intended. You sometimes need to trust your audience; the hiring manager can understand that “communicate educational goals and behavioral issues with parents” is a similar skillset to “communicate project goals with clients and the design team”. If they don’t see that relevance then using language like “stakeholder and client” isn’t going to get them there.

  51. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    During the pandemic I started cutting my own hair. Since I was inept I ended up shaving my whole head. I kept doing it ever since because I liked the look. Very few people either noticed or commented but I did have a lovely talk with another woman while we waited in line. She was also very pleased with her buzz cut and regretted not doing it years ago.

  52. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #4 – They made a mistake, so I would explain the situation to HR asking for reimbursement with a message as simple as a “I missed my flight time and I realize this is because there was an error on the tickets that you booked for me” with a reference back to your original email where you told them the dates of your trip. No need to explain why you chose to stay later than the meetings. Presumably you already had that conversation and HR’s agreement.

    However, I don’t understand how you didn’t check your tickets to confirm they were correct leading up to the trip. Even formal travel agents mess up flight arrangements, airports, a.m., time zones, etc. I hope your takeaway here is to always review your formalized travel documents.

  53. NCA*

    LW #1, I’m an AFAB person who tried shaving my head for awhile, and now wear it in a very tight buzz in part for similar balding reasons. (In part because I’m nonbinary and long hair was bugging me) Wanted to let you know that the comments on my hair, or lack thereof, dropped /massively/ when I went from a complete clean shave to the light buzz – people thought the former was because of illness, but the latter was clearly a style choice. Good luck!!

  54. marymoocow*

    LW1: I recently went from elbow-length hair to a pixie cut. I talked with my coworkers about how I was tired of dealing with long hair and how excited I was for a new look, I’m going to a new stylist, etc. When I actually got the cut everyone knew it was something I wanted and were super complimentary. If you can lay the groundwork and people know you’re getting ready to make a big change (that you’re excited about and doing on purpose!) maybe you’ll get similar responses. Good luck!

  55. Snarl Trolley*

    LW1, I found the easiest way out of a Conversation(tm) about hair and gender when I first started cutting my hair very short (for trans-y gender reasons) was to look slightly puzzled by anyone calling attention to it at all, then offering a small polite smile and “Ah, it saves on hair care products, everything is so expensive these days-” and then with a bit more warmth comment on for ex, my goodness, the eggs at X place were $5, just preposterous! to gently guide the conversation firmly awayyyy from the hair/gender/presentation topic.

  56. AnonymousFormerTeacher*

    I left teaching in May 2023. I used a lot of the resume and cover letter advice on AAM. I also used a lot of The Teacher Career Course resources. Alison and Daphne both give out a *lot* of great free advice, but I also paid for a few things from both to help give me the confidence boost I needed for what ended up being my final round of applications for corporate roles.

    Leaving teaching is HARD; however, the leap out can be done. I did take a contract job first but am now in an employee role as a PM. Cheering you on!

  57. Kat*

    LW1: I’m a woman who in my early 30s shaved my head after having long hair all my life. I did it bc I really wanted to try it. Of course I’d also dreamed of being freed from hair care and maintenance (who doesn’t?!)
    But also bc I wanted to donate my hair to a cancer charity that’s used donations for wigs.

    I would say that you should prepare yourself for about a week of colleague reactions. Once everyone has seen you though, the comments dry up.

    Most of my responses to questions were along the lines of: “always wanted to do it” and to people that asked what if I hated it or it had looked horrible I replied “guess I’d have taken to wearing headscarves or hats til it grew back ‍♀️”.
    If you are flippant about it and don’t go into detail others tend to take their cue from you. If you want to talk about it, so will other people.

    My recommendation is to say something along the lines of what Allison suggested, “wanted to not have to worry about styling it anymore [shrug]”. If you treat it like it’s not a big deal most will follow suit.

    The only comment that I got on a recurring basis was how fast my hair was growing back. I likely could’ve kept those to a minimum if I’d been regular about getting haircuts but I wasn’t cuz I was experimenting and also didn’t have a regular stylist at the time. But if you have regular salon appts or can cut it yourself, or your hair doesn’t grow back as fast, then no need to worry about that.

  58. Statler von Waldorf*

    I don’t usually disagree with Alison this strongly, but in the case of #3, I do. I really don’t think that an employee who appears to have a chip on their shoulder about their boss (“I often feel he was promoted beyond his competence”) requesting that said boss changes their behavior on their break is going to get the results that they want.

    The cold hard fact is that I’ve never met a boss who liked one of their employees telling them what to do. I understand the LW is bothered by this, and I don’t blame them, but I don’t think they have the standing to raise this issue.

    Now, if the LW was not getting information that they need to do their job, that’s a valid issue to raise and I would focus exclusively on that. Don’t tell your boss what to do or what not to do, just ask for what you need to do your job.

  59. MissBliss*

    For LW 1 –

    My mom was recently diagnosed with cancer. When she said she wanted to shave her head, I shaved mine with her. At work, a few people (who knew what was going on) asked if it was in solidarity with my mom. Most people (including some who knew what was going on) just said “I love your hair cut!” I hope for you the same experience of support. It has been surprisingly a non-issue for me.

  60. K*

    I’m a teacher and we don’t call students clients. Teachers don’t have clients. But I think it’s reasonable to call students’ parents “stakeholders”. They have a stake in their kids’ education. I’ve heard current educators refer to parents this way and no one bats an eye.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      I don’t hate this framing… it could also be a good way to address that not every student comes from a “traditional” 2-parent household.

      1. K*

        I’m not sure how it does that, tbh. The way we do that is by saying “adults” or “family” instead of “parents”.

  61. Enginerd*

    OP#1 given the time of year why not shave it for St Baldrick’s day? If you’re shaving it off let them do it for you and donate it to childhood cancer and you can simply tell everyone why you suddenly shaved it and then say you like it that way when you decide not to let it grow back out.

  62. Overit*

    LW2: Run fast!
    This manager and HR have crazy expectations. They will never change and you will end up a nervous wreck. Run.

  63. AthenaC*

    One summer, I was working at a client, and the main contact was a lovely woman with shoulder-length blonde hair. One day, in the middle of the week, I walked into her office to talk to her, and she was completely bald. First thing I said was, “Oh hey! New hairdo?” Which, in retrospect, was probably a bit too casual. Fortunately, without skipping a beat, she responded, “Oh – I have alopecia and I just decided it was too hot to wear my hair today.”

    Low-key, matter-of-fact, that was it. From then on I don’t know that I ever saw her again with her wig on. It was just a normal thing about her appearance.

    OP1 – I think you’re fine to just treat it like a normal thing. Decent people will follow your lead.

  64. M*

    LW #1, I’m a woman who shaved my head last summer. I wasn’t sure how people at work would respond and was prepared for questions, but I actually didn’t get any. Lots and lots of people commented on it (all positive) and that was it. Sharing as a data point for you — I hope you have a similar experience!

  65. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    LW #5, I’m late here but did a terms search and don’t think anyone’s mentioned this yet: If you’re going into something like Instructional Design, it’s pretty common to call students “learners” or “participants.” I wouldn’t change the word wholesale on a resume, but it shows familiarity with norms to use these terms. You might say, “Delivered instruction to up to 35 learners at a time” without anyone thinking it’s weird but would want to stick with “Served as faculty advisor for a student-run chess club.”

  66. Raida*

    2. Is my manager overreacting to small mistakes?

    Now you know: Until you get away from this manager, if something pisses them off then you need to document it, with follow-ups stating the issue is resolved and how your approach to this have been successul.
    IE “My approach to catching small mistakes such as A, B, C has been successful, as evidenced by zero mistakes per month for the months of Dec, Jan, Feb.”
    But yeah, you gotta leave.

    HR isn’t going to be helpful by the sounds of it “giving you six months to improve” instead of actually finding out that there’s an issue that necessitates this.

    And it could be company policy – cut the legs out from under staff at the beginning, limit their opportunities for raises by one fiscal year, keep them on the defensive. Talk to your coworkers.

    And… find a new job for sure

  67. Shorthairdontcare*

    LW #1: I’m a woman who shaved my head because I have alopecia and it was falling out in chunks. I did tell my immediate team because I didn’t want them to think I had cancer or to worry about my health, so I just mentioned I’d have a new hairstyle the next time they saw me. Nobody else has mentioned it, other than to compliment it. I have really only had positive reactions to my shaved head. Maybe I’m extremely lucky, but most people mind their business. If they don’t, feel free to tell them to kick rocks!

  68. Grammar Fanatic*

    LW2, when you write that there are no problems with “my attention detail,” I’m forced to wonder if you’re making a lot of small mistakes, and these three were examples, rather than the sum total of your errors. It’s possible that this is a micromanagement issue, but seriously, you had an attention to detail issue in your use of the phrase “attention to detail.”

  69. Raida*

    Bonus – a shaved head is great for showing off earrings, including ones up high on the ears

  70. Sean*

    #1 I’m a guy so it’s different, but I have a similar situation. I typically have a giant beard but I shave it occasionally (0-1 times a year). I shaved it last week. A friendly coworker informed me that other coworkers had asked her (but not me, I guess because I’m more senior) if everything was OK with me at home/personally. She assured them it’s just something I do every now and then and not to worry. People who have worked with me for a while know the drill.

    I look pretty bad without a beard but sometimes I need to let my face breathe! My grooming decisions are my own and so are yours! When asked directly I usually respond “it was time for a change” but if that’s too cryptic even “I’m trying something new” is a reasonable response that shouldn’t elicit follow up.

    I take pride in my beard because I am also bald but I still like to “reset” every now and then.

  71. SnootyGirl*

    LW #2 I’m a little confused – how do you make a mistake in adding a total to an Excel spreadsheet, especially if you have been “working in the field” for fifteen years? Excel has automatic processes for this. Adding a duplicate tab could have an impact if your functions or other spreadsheets are referencing other tabs or your spreadsheet, and color-coding something wrong can be confusing to those relying on the report. I understand that you think these errors had “no business impact” but unless you know who else relies on these reports I don’t think you can make that statement. I was a finance administrator for twenty years, and believe me, the reports my staff gave me had to be 1000% correct because they flowed up the org chart. Having said all this, and the fact you have been error-free since November, I would talk to your manager again, point out that you are no longer making the same mistakes and ask if there is something else that they are concerned about.

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