I don’t want to participate in my office’s steps challenge, returning to a job I criticized, and more

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

1. I don’t want to participate in my office’s steps challenge

My office is getting ready to start a months-long steps challenge, and there’s a big emphasis on participating because we’ve got a mix of in-person, hybrid, and remote employees and this is supposed to be something to help us all engage. They’re launching it in a week, and I am dreading it.

I don’t count my steps or focus on challenge-based exercise because I find that it’s not beneficial for me. I don’t care if other people do, but I’d rather be left alone. Now I’m likely to be pressured to participate in a steps challenge that ostensibly is voluntary (except that senior leaders heavily participated in the past), and I don’t know how to respond if I am pressured to sign up like I was during our last steps challenge. Do you have any advice about how to respond if I’m questioned why I’m not participating? And why do offices keep doing challenges as a team engagement activity like this that may exclude people? What if I had a physical disability or was recovering from an eating disorder where tracking exercise was detrimental?

Start with a cheery “Oh, no thank you!” as if you assume that of course that will be respected.

If you’re pushed after that: “Oh, I don’t plan to participate since I haven’t found that kind of thing useful for my health.”

If the pushing continues after that: “We need to be careful about pressuring people on this because some people’s doctors actively advise them not to do this kind of activity, and no one should need to disclose that at work.” Consider saying that to HR or the organizers too.

2. Coworkers pressure me to respond after hours

I work for a large corporation and have a role that requires lots of interaction with our salespeople. My duties are often the last steps before a salesperson earns their commission. There is a documented process that they are supposed to follow, as am I. There are also documented standards that must be met and sometimes additional approvals required to finalize their sale.

I was frequently being contacted after hours or hounded during the work day even though I always met the required turnaround times. After a few conversations with my boss, I was encouraged to start ignoring after hours messages. So I did. The first time I let something sit after hours, one of the salespeople wrote a message in a group chat which included me and many high level leaders, stating that I had ignored them and let the work “sit” on purpose. This was after hours but I saw it and was shaken and extremely embarrassed. My boss, Maura, also saw it and said it was out of line. The worst part was that while I had not responded to the after hours inquiries, I had finished the work and it was sitting in this person’s inbox, which they failed to check. I messaged right away to say that it was finished and also that I saw the message and was upset about it. They responded that they were glad I saw and hoped I was embarrassed and that they would be letting finance know about the delay I had caused. I reported it to HR, Maura, and this person’s boss and, while everyone agreed it was out of line, nothing happened. No one ever even spoke to them about it.

Now I’m experiencing similar pressure from a different person and tried to set boundaries several times when I was contacted after hours. Finally after five or six straight days of pressure, after-hours contact, and general unpleasantness, I got fed up and made a flippant comment along the lines of, “Thanks for respecting my requests to not be contacted after hours.” Now I am in trouble with Maura, who brought in HR to scold me about how my behavior was unprofessional. They said that I can ignore these after-hours or inappropriate requests, but no one was going to reinforce that boundary with the salespeople. Now I feel crazy — if I ignore I’m going to be publicly shamed, but if I don’t ignore I’m in trouble with my boss. What do I do now?

The professional answer is to reply to pressure or complaints from the salespeople with, “I’m not available outside of business hours, which Maura knows. I’ll get to this as soon as I’m back at work.” And the next time: “As I’ve explained, I’m not available outside of business hours. Maura has approved that, but you can certainly speak to her if it’s a concern.” If they call you out publicly, you reply to that same audience and dryly say, “Maura and I have explained several times that after-hours messages will be answered on the next business day.”

But what’s up with Maura bringing in HR to scold you rather than just having a conversation with you herself as, you know, your boss? And for the record, your “unprofessional” response was barely that; it was incredibly minor. (There’s also obviously an issue with the way the salespeople are allowed to treat you, but if yours is a company where salespeople get away with bad behavior, Maura might not be in a position where she can change that.)

That said, it sounds like you’re continuing to get rattled by the salespeople when you don’t need to. What Maura is saying is that you do not need to have the availability the sales team is demanding but you need to be more unflappable about it. The best thing to do here is to stop checking messages after hours, commit to enforcing the boundaries your boss has told you to have, and just calmly restate those boundaries when someone tests them.

3. Colleague reeks of weed

I live in a state that legalized recreational marijuana use a couple of years ago, recently enough that the social niceties/culture still haven’t worked themselves out yet. I support legalization and feel the same way about it that I do alcohol use: not for me, but definitely support responsible use that doesn’t impact others (i.e., not driving impaired, etc.).

I belong to a choir. It’s an auditioned group (so a couple levels up from a church choir) but also a very welcoming group, and there are all kinds, from retired elementary school music teachers to college students and everything in between. One of the singers in my section, Jessica, has come in a few times absolutely stinking of fresh weed smoke. As in, she smoked just before rehearsal and came in with a cloud of green smoke like a Cheech and Chong movie. It’s very noticeable, inescapable, and it’s making it difficult to participate, singing requiring a lot of deep breathing and all. The last time it happened, I got a headache from the smell.

From conversation with Jessica, I’ve read between the lines that she might be smoking to deal with/treat medical issues. That makes it tough. I could just tell her, “Hey, I don’t think you realize this, but you smell strongly of smoke, and can you avoid that?” Or I could ask our conductor or manager to discuss it with her, since it’s sensitive. But we are a nonprofit, and I don’t know the ins and outs of that, and how that works out with what amounts to volunteers. Any advice?

Talk to the conductor or manager of the group. First, because it’s a sensitive issue that’s better handled by someone with some authority. Second, because they need to be aware that it’s happening and causing a problem for others. If Jessica’s use is medical, she can raise that — but if it’s interfering with other people’s ability to participate, it’s a legitimate issue to discuss. In other words, good news — you don’t need to solve this yourself.

4. I feel awkward returning to a job I criticized

I worked at a company for four years. I loved my job and my coworkers, but the company went through a six-month phase of rapid growth, which lead to me becoming severely burnt out. Due to the mental and physical effects of that burn-out, I quit to focus on my health because I had become very sick (in hindsight, I should have kept my job and taken medical leave, but the very nature of burn-out doesn’t allow for rational thinking).

In my exit interview, I was very open about my criticism of how the company was mishandling the period of growth in regards to staffing.

To my surprise, after a year-long hiatus, the company asked me to come back to my previous role, even offering me a pay bump. I accepted.

I’m under the same manager as before, who has apologized for the role she played in my burn-out, and the team has grown and is now at a more appropriate number of staff to handle the increased workload. It seems the issues that lead to my burn-out are no longer there, but since I was critical of my manager upon my exit, I’m feeling a bit awkward. I’ve been back for three months and she has been extremely welcoming and supportive, but I can’t shake this feeling like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.

I would ideally like to have a check in with her just to make sure everything is going well from her perspective, but she notoriously hates one-on-ones and has asked her team not to schedule them with her. I want to respect that boundary, but I also feel like I need to know how I’m doing now that I’ve been back for a while so I can prevent the problems that lead to my previous exit. Since this is a unique situation, should I ask her to have periodic check-ins even though she prefers to be hands-off?

Someone who hates meeting with people one-on-one to the point that she’s asked her staff not to propose it shouldn’t be a manager. That’s part of the job.

That said, this particular issue sounds more like your anxiety than anything actually happening at work. It’s not that odd that they wanted you to come back even though you raised criticisms previously; it sounds like they came to recognize the truth and value in your feedback and if you were a good worker, there’s no reason that your honesty should preclude them wanting to work together again. In fact, they may value you more for speaking up about it, who knows. And your manager may be grateful for your honesty (for all we know, it helped her get more staffing) and grateful that you were willing to give it another chance.

It would be reasonable to say to her, “I’d like to talk about how I’m doing now that I’m back — can we schedule some time to have that conversation?” But that’s one conversation. If you wouldn’t otherwise be checking in regularly, and you’re only asking because of you feel awkward about what happened previously … well, I generally think everyone should be talking regularly to their manager, but if that’s not how your team works, and you know your manager resists it, this in itself isn’t reason to push for it. (There are other reasons it would be good to do it — basic workflow/feedback/alignment/development reasons! But your manager sounds like an obstacle there.)

5. Should I stay out of this?

I have a new colleague (she started last month) at my level, Sue. Sue’s been doing great so far, even with some of the expected growing pains of adding a new role onto a small, existing team. Through some volunteer involvement outside work, Sue recently received the chance to take a week-long service trip next month. This service trip, although outside our organization, is aligned with our values and work as a nonprofit and especially with the work she is doing.

Her manager, who I don’t report to, told me candidly that although she approved the request, she’s not happy Sue is considering taking this time off, and that her manager had advised her to deny the request. The week-long trip conflicts with an event we had already planned for Sue to lead, as well as a major process review that cannot be shifted in which Sue would be an integral part.

Would it be a kindness to advise Sue that although it’s a great opportunity, it may be better for her professional relationships to sit this one out, or should I stay out of it?

It would be more of a kindness to go back to her boss since she confided in you and say, “I thought more about our conversation about Sue’s trip. If I were in her shoes, I would take you at your word that it was fine to go, and I would really appreciate knowing you had concerns about it. Especially because she’s new, she may have no idea that it will cause problems for her to be out that week and probably assumes you’ll let her know if it would.”

{ 463 comments… read them below }

  1. New Jack Karyn*

    OP5: Oof. Sue’s manager should have been more transparent with her about the upcoming plans, and how this trip tosses a spanner in the works. AND she should not have told you about it, at all. She put you in an awkward spot, knowing something about a peer that ought to have stayed at management level.

    1. Artemesia*

      And never jump in as a volunteer to share bad news with someone; plenty of bad managers or conflict avoidant people will push cheery volunteers to do their dirty work for them. It never benefits the person who jumps in without portfolio — it just gives them a reputation as a busybody. The manager needs to do her own job.

    2. JAR*

      I’ve had a bad experience in the past with this kind of behaviour, so I’m biased, but if I were Sue I would be angry when I found out about this. She’s new to the job and the company, so she didn’t know if it would be okay – that’s why she asked. She may well have hesitated about asking since she’s new, but figured she would because:
      1. This is a service trip rather than a vacation.
      2. It’s aligned with her work and this organisation’s work and values.
      3. She may not get the chance again.
      4. If it’s not okay, they’ll SAY NO.

      If it’s going to cause a work problem and/or negatively affect her standing at her NEW company, then her MANAGER (not you) needs to explain that and deny the request. Saying it’s fine when it isn’t is not okay.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        There is nothing worse than having managers or authority tell you something is ok and then after you do it, getting months of grief for it. Or even worse, no one says anything but they mysteriously freeze you out and get resentful, and you don’t know why.
        Either of these scenarios would have me looking for another job. I hope Sue’s manager won’t do this to her.

        1. ferrina*


          It’s reasonable for a manager to deny (non-medical) time off because there is a big work event scheduled. Plenty of companies have black-out times for this exact reason.
          It’s not reasonable for the manager to say “Yes” but expect Sue to magically hear “No.”

          1. Impending Heat Dome*

            Smacks of “I want you to WANT to wear more flair. I don’t want to TELL you how much flair to wear.”

            If there is a specific expectation, say what it is.

      2. HonorBox*

        Could not agree more. Sue asked. She was given approval. That can’t be held against her. If the manager heard from their boss that they didn’t agree with Sue taking the time, it is the manager’s duty to say something to Sue or deal with the consequence of Sue being gone.

        You’d like to think that Sue would have thought twice about asking since the trip conflicts with her other work duties, but she asked… and was given approval.

        It would be a kindness for the manager to go back to Sue and have a conversation, apologize for initially approving, and figure out how to make Sue feel OK with the outcome.

      3. Ama*

        Yes — my current department has a couple events a year where we really need everyone present, but whenever we hire new people I basically start their orientation by giving them a list of those events so that if there is an existing conflict we can figure out a plan as early as possible (if it’s something where they can’t move the dates like a wedding, I’m willing to try to work with them — maybe they work the most crucial day and then fly straight to the wedding location or something).

        I would never approve someone’s time off and then go around complaining about it to others. And I’d be very upset as a new employee if a manager didn’t tell me there were dates I shouldn’t ask for time off, approved my time off on those dates, and then held it against me.

    3. Also-ADHD*

      Between that and a manager setting a boundary against 1:1s, managers potentially pressuring people to join steps challenges, and Maura not properly backing her employee, this is not a great batch for middle managers today.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        So true.

        I’m over here trying to figure out how one even manages without 1:1s, and my best guess is it’s not bothering to set goals, coach, or give individual feedback. Is this one of those managers who tells the entire team that there’s a new dress code, instead of just telling Andy that he can’t wear his flipflops and marijuana legalization shirt to client meetings anymore?

        Worse, does she just turn down any private meeting invite? How would her reports privately tell her about harassment or accommodation requests, an email?

        1. DJ Abbott*

          Come to think of it, our manager who started last summer doesn’t do 1:1s.
          Except for formal reviews, when she gave me a bad one and said I was uncooperative for answering her questions about my work.
          However, she is always open to questions and looks into them while I’m there so I can learn from it. And we sometimes have staff meetings.
          I wish I knew if she’s actively trying to get rid of me, or has come around to seeing I have some value.

        2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          I’m retired now, but when I was working, I never had a job that included regular 1:1s. I never even knew they were a thing until I saw them mentioned at AAM!

          Some of my jobs included enough informal feedback that I usually felt like I knew where I stood, but I feel kind of cheated, thinking back to a couple of jobs where I hardly ever got any feedback at all. At one of them, we at least had an annual evaluation process that let me know my boss was happy with the job I was doing, but my first job after grad school had no formal evaluation process, AND the boss there never said word one about anything I did, good, bad, or indifferent.

          I was very insecure in those days, always trying desperately to please, never sure if I was getting it right or not, constantly tied up in knots for fear I wasn’t, and afraid to ask. I lasted only 2 years in that job before i burned out completely and abruptly resigned. Looking back, I still wonder what the hell was wrong with that boss.

          I’ve never had a boss who was harshly critical and demanding, like some of the ones I’ve read about here, and I’m grateful for that. But I think bosses who completely withhold feedback may be the next worst kind.

    4. Uranus Wars*

      I work with someone like this, Mary. We are at the same level in the org and while in different departments, at times we have to work together. Every time she has an issue with me I find out through someone who reports to her (one time an INTERN) – she tells me one thing then goes to them and says something different. Then they loop back to me and tell me what she’s said. I always feel like they are the ones in an awkward position and I think it’s SO unprofessional! I feel bad for OP and love Alison’s advice here.

    5. Lacey*

      Yes, that’s so frustrating! The whole point of getting approval is to make sure it won’t be a problem. Why would her manager approve it when it WAS a problem?

    6. Purpleshark*

      “The week-long trip conflicts with an event we had already planned for Sue to lead, as well as a major process review that cannot be shifted in which Sue would be an integral part.”

      I have to wonder though – Sue has only been at the job a month. Why would she make this ask for a week-long not associated with the job request when she has this going on? I get the manager should have said something but really Sue has to know this is not a good look for a month-old employee.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I thought this, but also thought “after a month, why is Sue leading this event. Is it to be a training? Does she know this? This boss doesn’t seem very transparent to me and there might be a lot of things she thinks are assumed but not know? Of course, I could be assuming too.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Does Sue *know* they planned for her to lead the event, or that there’s a process review and that she’s integral to it? Because if she knows either of those, I agree with you, but if she’s not been told yet, I fault the manager for not saying ‘no’ and explaining those reasons.

        1. Greenie*

          Hi! OP here! Yes, Sue is aware she’s in-charge of the event as we’ve already begun planning with her in the lead (it’s very within her capabilities from her previous job experience, and also I’ll be there for support and her manager will be there to co-lead where needed). And for the process review, she’s aware of her role in it, but she may not have realized the overlap when she asked for the request, as we went through the dates more thoroughly in a later meeting.

    7. Quill*

      Also Sue’s manager should have made the impact clear QUICKLY, because Sue has probably already made her plans. It’s going to be a bigger deal now when it comes out after the manager has said “IDK, sure?” than it would be if they had immediately said “that would be a difficult time to have you gone.”

      1. Ally McBeal*

        This creator is very popular on TikTok, so I imagine this was some algorithm wizardry. I especially love her “UNT” mug (think about the shape of the mug’s handle) that frequently guest stars in her videos.

    1. Blocked & Silenced*

      Yeah I was like “how do you know you’re being contacted”? There’s tons of systems you can’t put in place so that you’d never know you were being contacted anyway.

      1. Phryne*

        Because nasty e-mails and voice mails show up the next morning even when you ignore them at night?

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah – if it’s not just “I sent you XY, could you check?” but “you’re lazy and losing the company money!!”, that would still be pretty unpleasant to read the next morning…

          1. Also-ADHD*

            Apparently the manager saw this too (Maura) and she should have responded for LW at some point as it continued, or offered to. Sometimes sales people can’t be reprimanded for stuff like this (sucks but true), but Maura could’ve made LW feel a lot better by actually publicly having her back so I think LW going passive aggressive later is her fault frankly (definitely not worthy of reprimand). She should’ve put in the earlier chat something like, “This is outside of LW’s hours. [LW] and I discussed it, and she’s not responsible to communication after hours. She has still kept to with addressing next steps within the company’s designated time frames, and I’m sure will do so with this request. Please email me for any other concerns.” (fine to send the next day if SHE doesn’t answer/see messages after hours either or to check in with LW first, but she should’ve offered to run interference at least, even if salespeople couldn’t be disciplined for the behavior—managers have a duty to shield employees in these situations).

            I understand she couldn’t necessarily stop requests from coming—she saw the public chats though, and she didn’t help LW.

            1. amoeba*

              Yup, absolutely! (I didn’t even read LW’s response as passive aggressive at all, but that might be because I live in a notoriously passive-aggressive country, haha…)

              1. Also-ADHD*

                I don’t think it was that unprofessional, but it was passive aggressive. I don’t blame LW though because it was responding to actively aggressive violation of LW’s boundaries and passive negligence from Maura as well.

                1. amoeba*

                  Ha, yeah, I think it sounds normal to me because “thank you for doing XY” is literally the normal translation of saying “please do XY” in French! So “merci de respecter…” would be not passive aggressive at all, but actually pretty direct (“please respect that I am not available during off hours”). Or, well, the French are just really, really passive aggressive!

                2. Beany*

                  amoeba, if the latest communication from sales had actually been in work hours, and hadn’t complained about LW’s availability, LW’s response might not have counted as P.A.

                  But since they were manifestly *not* respecting LW’s hours, LW’s statement that they *were* was sarcastic & P.A. (and justifiably so, IMO).

            2. umami*

              This exactly. Manager needs to publicly support the instructions she has given LW. And for LW, this is just one of those things that is best to learn to not take personally, even though it’s hard and feels personal. The way people treat you and respond in public forums says more about them than about you. If you stay professional, then they are the ones who will inevitably look bad even if they aren’t called out for it.

              1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

                OP doesn’t have a salepeople contact me outside of work hours problem, OP has a manager problem.

                On the one hand, Maura told her to ignore the messages, on the other hand, the manager is letting another team abuse her report for doing exactly what Maura told her to do. Maura should be talking to her counterpart on the salesteam and making it clear that the out of hours messages stop immediately. If there is a problem with the turnaround time, they can contact their manager who will contact Maura. But the direct messaging out of hours — especially if it is abusive — stops.

                Then to top it off, when OP does defend herself, her boss takes her to task? Not a good manager.

                Not sure what your options are in your area OP but it never hurts to look around. Because this company sucks and isn’t going to change.

                1. HonorBox*

                  Yep. The thing that stood out to me was that a salesperson HAD what was needed in their email, called OP out in a very nasty way, and wasn’t at all reprimanded. But when OP made a comment that doesn’t read as all that unprofessional, they were called into a meeting.

                  If Maura isn’t going to step in and help, whether or not OP ignores the messages, there’s still going to be a backlog of messages when they do open up their phone, and that’s not a situation that is fair to them at all.

                2. umami*

                  I agree, it would be great if people actually did (or didn’t do) what we told them, heh. If she had the ability to get the behavior to stop or the manager to publicly support her, then there would be no problem. She has a poor manager, but she can’t fix that. She has a pushy salesperson, but she can’t fix that. So the only actionable advice is for the OP in how to navigate the situation. The best thing she can do is keep the boundaries, enforce them, remain professional, and not take it personally (and job hunt!).

                3. Abundant Shrimp*

                  Yep, Maura 100% made OP believe she had her back, then threw her under the bus the first chance she got. That’s my least favorite quality in a manager. I had a manager who did this, was happy as a clam when he got demoted and then managed out of my division, and then out of the company as a whole. Promised me something verbally in private and then went back on it when I mentioned it in writing – not just went back, but wrote “I have committed and communicated (the opposite of what I’d been promised)” and copied everyone up and down the ladder. It was 22 years ago. I’m still holding a grudge!

            3. LCRx*

              I wish Maura was a more proactive champion of LW’s boundaries too.

              Since she’s not you might pilot auto-replies for email and text so that anyone contacting you after hours gets a message like “Thank you for checking in, I am available for work requests M-F 9-5 and will respond to you promptly on the next business day. For requests relating to X (sales people getting their $) the approved turn-around time for these requests is X hours/days and all requests will be completed within that timeframe.” If it’s true that a salesperson wouldn’t be getting the money afterhours anyway maybe there’s a way to work that in. I work in healthcare and sometimes people will call us for out-patient issues after-hours and I always gently remind/reinforce that the practice won’t be able to respond until they are open so anything that they want done that night or over the weekend won’t really make a difference.

              Also- I totally would have responded to the jerk sales person via the group message ‘Dear ABC, my records show this approval was sent at 4:55 pm yesterday, please let me know if you did not receive it and I will be happy to resend.”

              1. Kes*

                Agreed with all of this. An after-hours autoreply is actually probably a great idea as it makes sure any emails like that are addressed but in a professional way and such that it’s clear it’s not personal but a general reply they’ll keep getting if they keep trying to contact OP after hours.
                I also would definitely have replied, although I would also have included a ‘as you know, I am not available after hours.’ before the ‘my records show…’. But yeah, if they want to take it to everyone, I would have replied to everyone and made it clear who was in the wrong there.
                That said, if the salespeople are going to continue to harass OP and their manager won’t have their back, and it is getting to them, OP may need to decide if they’re okay staying in this situation and job or not.

            4. Ama*

              Yeah I’m pretty disappointed in Maura here. I would be having a word with the sales team’s manager about how it’s not acceptable for their staff to berate my employee.

              I was lucky that I had a good manager early on who would step in and respond to people who were nasty to me (I’m remembering a guest speaker who got mad at me for messing up his title — but his professional profile on his website listed the title I had used and he’d never told us it had changed). That gave me a good example to follow when I became a manager myself.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          It’s absolutely not okay and people who use nastiness, and public call outs to get the job done deserve their own special section of hell. But if it’s 9am and your day is just starting, it is far easier to go into work mode and be all “Eh, sales jerks saying sales jerk stuff. I wonder how many eyes rolled at this feeble attempt? Which disinterested auto response shall I go with, or shall I choose the classic ignore mode?” However, if you’re in the middle of your evening and you see this, then the whole night becomes Venting About the Sales Jerkiness All Night. Evenings and weekends are chosen deliberately by jerks to jerk with, a lot of the time.

    2. Laure001*

      Ha! I just watched it. I think the series must be partly inspired by this blog.

      Toodaloo also.

    3. Sharpie*

      Oh, she’s good! I found her YouTube shorts recently, all her characters are so recognisable. One to watch for the way she handles difficult co-workers.

    4. AMH*

      I love her and I love the way her characters experience growth (or get their just desserts, that’s delightful too). I’m rooting for Brenda, and Donna Sue is my hero.

    5. MBK*

      I’d be tempted to turn on the vacation/out-of-office email auto-responder every day when I leave. “Thank you for contacting me. I am reachable by email between the hours of 8:30am and 5:30pm, Monday through Friday. I will respond to your message at my earliest opportunity during those hours.”

      This level of passive-aggressive does make it essential that you remember to turn it off again every weekday morning. I think some of them can be scheduled to respond only during certain times.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep – where I work quite a few people have slightly different working hours (we have core hours but you can choose a regular working pattern as long as it includes the block of core hours somewhere within it) and it’s common for people to have an OOO on saying ‘Thank you for your email. I’ve finished work for the day but I will respond as soon as I can when I’m back in the office. Please note that my working hours are 7:30am-3:30pm, Monday to Thursday’ or whatever. It’s not passive-aggressive, it’s useful because if you send an email at 3:15 you know you won’t receive a reply until the following morning.

        I’ve also seen a lot of email signatures saying ‘I work flexible hours and am responding to this email at a time that suits my schedule. I assume you will also respond at a time that suits you’, so people know that just because Jane has replied to your email at 9pm that doesn’t mean she expects a response if you’re not working at that time.

          1. Jackalope*

            3:15 made sense to me as a time too. If I send someone an email 15 minutes before the end of their work day I don’t expect them to reply until the next day. So I just figured that’s what you meant.

        1. HonorBox*

          The only thing with an OOO reply or ignoring incoming messages or just shutting off the phone is that they’re still going to be there when OP starts the day. That’s not a fair situation, and someone needs to step in to provide some support in changing the dynamic.

          1. londonedit*

            That’s true, but at least if the OP can stop the expectation that she’ll always be there to deal with these requests immediately, it might stop the sales people from getting angry about it. Or at least the OP can also then point to her OOO and say look, I work these hours, if you want a response within my working hours then you’ll have to contact me then or wait until the next day.

          2. Clisby*

            Maybe I misunderstand your comment, but what’s unfair about having messages waiting for you the next day? If the sales person is working late and sends a message at midnight, OK – what’s the problem? You don’t have to *answer* them right away. You don’t have to check emails/texts at all hours. But they shouldn’t have to wait on you just to send a dang message; they can send what you need whenever it’s ready and be done with it.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              I think the problem itself is that the messages are aggressive and occasionally accusatory. There’s a difference between starting your day with a few messages in your inbox from senders who understand that you’ll respond during your work hours vs starting your day with multiple, angry/pressuring messages with upper management copied. It seems like LW’s situation would put her more in the latter camp if she were to just ignore the messages until the start of her work day.

            2. wordswords*

              Sure, one message, maybe a single follow-up. But it sounds like OP is coming in to a bombardment plus escalation and public shaming when she hasn’t responded immediately.

        2. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

          My “employer industry” has pretty set hours, but my “position industry” is much less so, so there’s a bit of a disconnect between my schedule and some of my colleagues’. In my “position industry,” I see a lot of signatures that are (paraphrased), “I’m responding at a time that works for me; please reply when it makes sense for you.” Mine says something like “my hours are varied and non-traditional. Please don’t feel obligated to reply outside of your normal working hours.” It’s as much to set the expectation that you won’t see me early in the morning as it is to say that I don’t expect a response at any hour.

    6. ScruffyInternHerder*

      I feel that we need an AAM crossover with Toodaloo.

      I also feel that I NEED that coffee cup.

    7. AnonInCanada*

      I binge-watch LowWhaley’s shorts all the time whenever I have those “wtf in corporate” moments :-D. I also want one of those University of Northern Texas mugs. Y’know, to give my own sort of ‘cheers’ to certain people :-P.


    8. Lucy*

      Change your phone number and only provide it to your boss and HR. Dont give out your number unless its paid for by the company. Then be very clear it will be turned off after hours.

    9. watermelon fruitcake*

      (Without even clicking) is that loewhaley? (I know her name is Laura Haley but I always parse her name as Loe (like Zoe) Whaley haha)

      Moist of all I love when she does her “how do you say ____ professionally” back and forth with Work Bestie.

  2. Gretta Swathmore*

    The thing with sales people is that they are good at getting through peoples’ boundaries. That’s how they sell things. So my sympathies with the letter writer. Honestly, I think these guys are never going to change, and are going to be constantly pushing back on you.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      In too many organizations the vibe is that if a salesperson is making quota they’re untouchable and if they aren’t nothing is going to help them. So they do what they want because what difference does it make?

      1. Kindred Spirit*

        Yep. That has been my experience. Salepeople who are bringing it can get away with and are forgiven for a lot.

    2. Awkwardness*

      Yes, and if OP can rely on not getting in trouble when not responding to after hour messages, that’s the best outcome possible.
      Hierarchy due not always allow somebody to be openly scolded, but to be politely ignored and everybody being in agreement on this. This is difficult to understand if you are used to or if it is important to you to make your boundaries clear.
      So ignore, ignore, ignore. When answering, be polite. Then continue to ignore.

      1. BatManDan*

        One piece of awareness, for LW#2 trying to hold boundaries, is that because (apparently) you DID respond in the past, it will take a VERY long time for the new boundary to even be acknowledged by the salespeople. And I don’t mean, in a grudging way, finally saying “I guess she really means it,” but in a “Oh, so there really IS a boundary about replying after hours!” It literally will not sink in that the “rule” is even in place for awhile, and then it will take even more months (yes, months) before they stop testing it. This principle is at stake for ANYONE trying to extinguish a behavior; if you have previously reinforced the behavior, you have set a gargantuan task for yourself to then reverse course and extinguish it.

        1. miss_chevious*

          Yep, and consistency is the key. I have successfully trained my salespeople out of certain things (like after hours messaging or trying to skip our existing processes) by not rewarding those behaviors. You try to skip the process? You will be reminded of the process and sent back to do it. You try to contact someone out of agreed-upon hours? You will be ignored until those hours.

          It does take a long time, and there will still be testing of the boundary occasionally, but it will curb most of it and will make your work life much more pleasant.

          If I were the OP, I would start with the OoO message and absolutely NOT respond after hours, and I would ignore any callouts or aggressive follow up. Do the work, do it in the time requested, be polite and professional, and let the salespeople rage. They rage now because it gets a response: deny them of that and the behavior will start to die out.

          1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*


            And frankly, whenever a salesperson pushes back against those boundaries, I’d be making sure whatever it is I do for them goes to the end of the line/the last hour before the deadline. Teach them that going after you during non-business hours makes them wait longer.

      2. Zweisatz*

        Good point. I also think this is such an ingrained topic that LW should consider whether they want to stay with this company if it will never get much better than this.
        By all means, use the technological means you have to mute these notifications and professionaly push back with the phrases Alison’s suggests. But if this is weighing on you (which it would on me), consider starting a leasurely search.

    3. George Sand*

      Good sales people think about the long term business, so they don’t want to bully people into a sale. I remember when I used to work in business retention as an account manager. So many sales people would lie, bully, and manipulate people into a sale. They’d have a contract with us and my KPIs depended on keeping clients who were starting off a little resentful at us. They were often sold a service that barely resembled what we actually provided. But were locked into a contract. (We were expected to insist they remain a client and point to the contract terms.)

      It wasn’t a good company and did collapse in the end. Arrogant sales people ran everything and it was a terrible business model, tipped entirely towards new business with no consideration for retaining clients. Or how things like word of mouth play out in a small industry.

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        If you try to push my boundaries, I am out of there. You will never turn my no into a yes.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        It’s not just people but organizations. A lot of sales jobs have insane turnover either because commission sales necessarily attracts people with a mercenary mindset or because if you have a bad quarter and don’t meet quota you get made an example to the others. The result is sales people get trained to have a very short term focus.

    4. Festively Dressed Earl*

      If you constantly badger and push people that you need something from, they tune you out and then you’re up a creek when a real emergency comes up. If you’re always polite, patient, and do what you can to make your coworkers’ lives easier, more often than not they’ve got your back on the rare occasions that you need something extra.

      1. Sopranoh*

        It sounds like OP has expected turn around times. I’m petty, and I would be very tempted to fulfill requests by people abusing my free time at the last possible moment.

        1. Lacey*

          My coworkers and I that from time to time just to remind our people what the allotted turn time is. We’re very quick, especially when work is slow, so sometimes that leads to unrealistic expectations on complicated projects or when it’s busy season.

          Complaining about not getting it inside a few hours?
          Well, the full turn time is 5 days and now your project is going to need all of them.

      2. Wait...what?*

        This is how I behaved when I was in sales (SO glad to be out of it), but I was such a unicorn, you have no idea.

        Unfortunately, it just isn’t how things work, in my experience. If OP ignores/tunes this out, they’ll be in trouble. Apparently, if they stick up for themselves/show some frustration, they’re in trouble too. Even their manager gets nowhere on this because they’ve likely learned like anyone else that salespeople who produce are nearly untouchable.

        OP thankfully is allowed to set and enforce a boundary–that’s more than many in their role at other orgs have. It sucks, but it’s reality.

      3. Abundant Shrimp*

        Yep. I worked 24×7 on-call support for a few years in the early 00s. The users that would call tier 1 helpdesk at 4:45 on a Friday, tell them it is a high-priority issue, have them open a P1 ticket for something that could wait till office hours on Monday, and immediately go home and not answer any calls from us? We definitely kept a running list of your names in our heads. It only took a couple of those for the caller to never be taken seriously again. The opposite was also true, we’d go way out of our way for a considerate, cooperative user. Not simply because we liked the person and he had an in with the popular kids=us, but because we knew that, when Fergus says it is an emergency, it really is.

    5. Star Trek Nutcase*

      I don’t think the attitude is unique to sales, I’ve dealt with similar in law & academia. Even when I had supportive bosses, there was a clear indication (short of lawsuit level mistreatment) that the lawyers and professors were more valuable than support. And support will lose in a conflict, and reality is the former are the “money” makers and support more easily replaced.

      Maura should do more in support but also probably realizes banging her head against the wall is pointless and poor use of any of her capital. Realistically, LW either needs to learn to ignore all the after hour crap or find a new job.

      1. Phryne*

        I’m sorry you had that experience. I work as support in higher education (though a kind that is structured differently from classical academia), and everybody, especially management, is very aware that I am way, way harder to replace than any lecturer. Yes I am replaceable, everyone is, but it would take a lot of time and effort to train someone up to my level as I have been here for over a decade.
        The message to teaching staff from management is very clear: support staff is vital to the smooth running of this place so you treat support staff with respect and as equals or it is *you* who is in the wrong.
        But also in 15 years I’ve only had problems of this kind once or twice. Most people fortunately understand the value of a good support team and are grateful for what we do, as we take a lot of the admin strain off their backs.

  3. I don't even WORK there!*

    Fitness challenges have no place at work, period. My husband’s company (note I do NOT work there. My husband’s company, that I am not at all affiliated with, other than being on his insurance plan!) automatically enrolled anyone on their health insurance into some kind of fitness competition where we were supposed to talk to a health coach, set goals, and we would get points for meeting those goals.
    The program started 3 days after my cancer surgery. I had ZERO interest in participating, and I just ignored the calls, texts and emails, eventually blocking them once the pain medication haze wore off.
    After about a month, I started hearing from “teammates” who felt like I was letting them down. They were literally strangers. Some worked there, some did not. They should never have been given my contact info.
    At that point, my husband went in and pitched a fit. They left me alone after that.

      1. Jasmine*

        I seem to remember in the past a commenter on a similar question said that she fastened her step counter onto her dog collar and let him run around in the big backyard. Lots of steps!!

        1. Orv*

          A friend was assigned a pedometer by his insurance company, and told they’d penalize him by raising his premiums if he didn’t hit a step target. Then he got foot surgery and they refused to make an exception. So he tied it to a string and whirled it in a circle to hit the required daily number.

          1. Empress Ki*

            Is that even legal ? Couldn’t he submit a letter from his doctor to shut them up ?
            Following the insurance company advice would have probably worsen his condition.

            1. Empress Ki*

              Plus there are other ways than walking if someone wants to increase exercise. I don’t mind walking but I’d rather swim to hit my target.

              1. Delta Delta*

                I used to have a Fitbit (lost the charger, RIP Fitbit) and it would always hit 10,000 steps within 20 minutes of a horseback riding lesson. I think the moral of the story here is: more horses.

                1. Freya*

                  There was a dance camp I went to where they had a competition (with prize) to see who got the most steps on the (cheap) pedometers they handed to each of us – the idea was that if you went to all the things and danced the whole time, you’d get more steps.

                  That was the dance camp where we discovered that slapping someone’s butt could make the pedometer register a step.

          2. lilsheba*

            What the hell? Raise your premium if you don’t meet steps? HELL NO. That would NOT work for me. What about disabilities and using mobility aids?

            1. Galadriel's Garden*

              Our insurance essentially charges you a penalty if you don’t enroll in a similar “health” program with higher premiums, something along the lines of Virgin Pulse. I absolutely refuse for a number of reasons – chief among which I don’t feel comfortable with my employer having any access to my health information, and since these companies can sell your health data, but this is a huge reason why for me as well. They rolled this out shortly before I had knee surgery with similar step count requirements, and I wish I had a recording of the webinar where the presenters were absolutely lambasted by the audience upon discovery that no, actually, there is no alternative to the steps. Disabilities? Surgeries? Mobility aids? Nope, still the exactly same step requirements – or opt out and pay extra. The optics of this seemed to be a shock to the internal and external presenters…but not enough of one to make any actual changes. No thanks, I’ll pay the extra however much a year to not deal with that bs.

        2. Inkognyto*

          This was,.. almost 2 decades ago when this type of thing with counters started showing up.

          It was some competition and some guy got in trouble and had to send an apology (probably to keep his job).

          What he did was wrap it in a wet towel and toss it in the dryer each night. Someone figured out that it said he was running a marathon each day and that’s not very probable to do for weeks straight. This was published on the main internal website. The prize was something like $50/month off health insurance for the next year.

          1. History Nerd*

            I once drove seven hours to get to a friend’s wedding wearing a pedometer. Somehow, it thought I was walking the whole time.

          2. umami*

            Heh, I actually declined to join a steps challenge team once because I actually was training for a marathon and felt I would give the team an unfair advantage. The point of the challenge (to me) was to encourage people to increase their steps, not to win (and yes, they specifically asked me to take advantage of my steps!)

        3. L'étrangère*

          Yes, just coming here to say that if Alison’s reasonable rsfusal doesn’t work cheating is the obvious solution. OP1 you absolutely do not have to subject yourself to this fitness performance

        4. Baby Yoda*

          Step counters can also be attached to one’s ankle if they tend to shake their foot under their desk on a regular basis…..

          1. Sopranoh*

            I spin yarn and realized my phone thought I was walking if I kept my phone in my pocket while I was pedaling. There are so many ways around a pedometer.

        5. Madame Señora*

          Or you could put the pedometer in a thick pair of socks and tumble them in the dryer on no heat.

          1. feline overlord's chief vassal*

            I have friends who work for a big tech company. The company did a company-wide steps challenge (perhaps due to pressure from their health insurance provider?) but, being a tech company, “creative” ways to win the maximum steps challenge were not only tolerated but encouraged. Dog, ceiling fan, etc.,– all good.

            The well-deserved WINNER of the steps challenge was the guy who hacked the fitness tracker’s Bluetooth interface. One million steps today?– Okay, done!

            OP, your job is not Hunger Games contestant. If your participation in these things isn’t good for you then you shouldn’t have to do them.

            1. I Have RBF*

              The well-deserved WINNER of the steps challenge was the guy who hacked the fitness tracker’s Bluetooth interface. One million steps today?– Okay, done!

              I love this!

              One company I was with provided all of us with one of those “UP” fitness trackers, and of course did a steps challenge. I tried to participate. I ended up with a heel spur, and I could barely walk for like three weeks, just from doing daily walks that my body couldn’t handle. (Thanks, disability.) At least there was no financial penalty involved.

    1. amoeba*

      Eh, there’s a “bike to work” initiative (I believe countrywide) in my country that companies can sign up for, than advertise by e-mail – people can form teams and join, and in the end win prices. In every place I’ve worked, it’s always been incredibly low-key and easy to ignore, but typically some people (think 10% or so) joined and were excited about it. If you weren’t interested, you just ignored the two e-mails or so advertising it and never hear from it again. You only get further info if you sign up.

      I think that level is honestly fine and can be a good thing! But any kind of pressure, even if it’s just peer pressure, is a no-go.

      1. Helvetica*

        I agree – we also had a steps challenge but it was only published on Intranet, no e-mails, so basically no pressure.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          Yeah that’s how I’ve seen it done right. I think at my last job it was in a newsletter email (just mentioning it was happening) and that was fine too, felt voluntary.

        2. Venus*

          Same for us, and it was for a month in spring when it’s nice to have an incentive to get outside and be more active. The only reason that work organized it at all was because they had bought a bunch of mechanical step counters for people who didn’t have anything and offered them every year. They might have mentioned the highest count totals somewhere, but that wasn’t the focus. They had equivalent counts for cycling and swimming, so all exercise counted. It was only about encouraging people to be outdoors if it helped their physical and mental happiness, and that made it enjoyable. It changed behavior because instead of staring at a phone over lunch, we might have a little walk instead.

          1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

            That sounds like they were still primarily encouraging exercise, rather than time spent outdoors. A lot of programs incentivize activity, indoors or outside, but at best ignore sitting quietly outside reading or talking to a friend or coworker.

            If you actually wanted to encourage people to spend time outdoors, you wouldn’t ask people to count steps (or miles run or bicycled). You’d ask people to report how much time they spent outdoors each day or week, and maybe encourage them to eat outside rather at their desks.

        3. Abundant Shrimp*

          That was what ours was. I actually enjoyed it because it normalized getting up from your desk and going on a walk during the work day. I sat next to a window and could always see people walking in circles around the parking lot, which had never happened before. Once, a friend of mine came in for a job interview when I was on one of those walks. She was horrified and wanted to know what I was doing off my butt and away from my desk during work hours. No one followed up on our steps challenge as far as I know, but it certainly improved the workplace culture!

        4. Aitch Arr*

          We do something similar at my company.
          1 email announcement, published on the Intranet, no pressure.

        5. JustaTech*

          I did one of those at work one year where I installed a special app to do the recording. When the challenge was over I deleted the app.
          However, that did not stop my FitBit from sending data to that program, which I discovered the next year when my coworker commented that I’d won a prize one week – when I hadn’t even signed up (I’d just had a baby and I didn’t care).
          I took my prize and then dug deep into the permissions on my FitBit to *not* talk to that app ever again.

      2. allathian*

        Yes, this. My employer also participates in something like this, but it’s completely voluntary and there’s no pressure to join if it isn’t your thing.

        Before the pandemic, we had a “take the chairs” challenge. That was also completely voluntary. People counted the number of floors they walked up and down the stairs during the week, and then they had a raffle for some leftover company swag. The point was that every participant had an equal chance to win, the fittest walkers who always took the stairs anyway had no particular advantage.

        1. Palatino*

          I’m the OP from #1 and appreciate the feedback and other ideas! I was unsure about how to address not wanting to participate because it’s now a super low-key thing but not as intense as the insurance related challenges described above. the CEO is participating and people are really competitive about it, so it made me afraid I was just being grumpy by not wanting to participate.

          1. Kes*

            I think as long as it is really voluntary, you’re fine (and if it’s not, you should push back). Obviously there often is more pressure on leadership to participate in things to model engagement, but it sounds like there already is engagement from others in leadership and modeling that it is voluntary for something like this is also important.

          2. edda ed*

            I do think that you can rest your heart about this unless/until you see something more concerning from your workplace. That’s something I noticed as I read your letter—you were primarily concerned about what could happen. I’m not surprised that this post is bringing out all the horror stories, but people are drawing from their own experiences at work, which isn’t directly relevant to you unless you work at the same place. “Step challenge”-type stuff at my workplace is no-pressure, opt-in. I would estimate maybe >50% of my coworkers tune it out, and a sizeable minority participate enthusiastically. The participants engage with each other about it, they don’t try to recruit pushily. So I think it comes down to what the specific people you, OP1, work with are like. I would expect people to be normal about this until they prove otherwise, but you’re the one best positioned to make that evaluation about your workplace.

      3. Ana Gram*

        We have a bike to work day at my employer too. It’s organized by our health insurance and we get about a 1,000 emails about it. The problem? It’s a law enforcement agency and most staff drive cruisers to work. I couldn’t bike to work unless I biked right back home and drove my cruiser in.

        It’s been happening for years. I have no idea if anyone going’s to tell them to stop…

        1. Sabina*

          Your comment gave me flashbacks to my years as an admin in a sheriff’s department. Our county-wide risk management department really could not get a clue about the job requirements and conditions for our deputies and corrections staff. Every work related injury required a written report answering questions that had no relevance to actual duties, “How could this injury have been avoided?” Gee, I don’t know, Janet. Maybe we could stop interacting with violent criminals and responding to dangerous calls for help?

          1. Katie A*

            Being assaulted may be the leading cause of injury among officers, but it isn’t a majority. A lot of them would be accidents, falls, overexertion, and things like that. So it’s quite reasonable to ask how those things could be avoided. Even with assaults, it’s good to consider if those could be avoided.

      4. Emmy Noether*

        yeah, I participated in something like this last year, and even once I signed up, there was basically no pressure. I think I was last* in our internal ranking, but didn’t hear a peep about it. Maybe it helped that management did not participate.

        *Interestingly, it was advertised as supporting commuting by bike instead of car. So a climate challenge, NOT a fitness challenge. I bike every day (do not even own a car), but for really short distances, like 4km per trip. The ranking was by total distance, so I was beat by far by those that came to work by car as ever and then did 100k on their bike for fun on the weekend. Oh well.
        If they had given me grief about my distance, I would have had something to say about that. As it was, it was live and let live.

      5. ScruffyInternHerder*

        For whatever reason, one of these was brought up briefly about two years ago.

        My questions of:
        1. Bike lockers/safe lockup for the workday? Where are they?
        2. Showering/freshening up facilities? We don’t have any other than your standard bathrooms.
        3. Even in summertime, our start hours are pre-daylight hours. Were those going to be adjusted for safety (being that we are in a vastly suburban area that is specifically known for being automobile friendly and having squat for sidewalks, usable bike lanes, and public transit options that aren’t comical)?
        …did not go over well.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I don’t know, those sound like good questions to me! Even if the answers are mediocre, the fact that the logistics are being considered is a net plus to the success of the project.

        2. amoeba*

          Hm, in my country cycling to work is very normal, anyway, so, like, 30% of the employees do it already – so those questions would probably, indeed, be out of place here.

          (There are bicycle stands, intheory even showers though after a short ride to work, most people don’t use them, and bikes are required by law to have adequate lighting, anyway…)

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I’m trying to figure out how this comment is helpful when ScruffyInternHerder clearly doesn’t live in such a place.

              1. Lenora Rose*

                Dunking on valid logistical questions as “out of place” because you live somewhere where they are already accommodated, and when the person you are replying to doesn’t have the same advantage, also seems harsh to me.

                1. Star Trek Nutcase*

                  Whereas it doesn’t seem harsh to me (or dunking). Many site comments seem to be relating personal experiences or perspectives relevant ( even if just tangentially, to a LW’s letter. Personally, I find comments from other places, countries, especially interesting and prompts me to remember the US (or the world) is not entirely similar.

      6. Kyrielle*

        Yup. Our company has done a few like that where you can sign up if you want, and if you decide to, then you’re committing to (whatever thing they have here). But they tell you about it, maybe with one reminder, and they don’t pester.

    2. Cazaril*

      Oh. My. God. Good for your spouse, and I hope someone was seriously reprimanded for releasing personal contact information.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I would have gone ballistic. Giving out my contact information to strangers? Oh hell no. Signing me up for a fitness challenge at a place I didn’t even work? even larger hell no.

      Some companies are just insane.

    4. Coffee Protein Drink*

      Fitness challenges skip, “Hell no!” and go right to, “F*** no!” in my opinion.

      You are so right that nobody should have your contact information. That’s just vile and I’m sorry it happened. If the insurance company released any medical information, that’s a HIPAA violation. I’m sorry your husband had to pitch a fit, but I’m glad he got results when he did.

      Those “teammates” were so far out of line they were in another postal code.

    5. HailRobonia*

      Every year my organization has a couple VOLUNTARY fitness challenges. One year a senior director in my office decided that the whole office should do it, and it fell upon my shoulders to organize it. (why me? because I done the fitness challenge each year for 10+ years). Trying to hide my displeasure, I said I would invite everyone in the office to join but was NOT going to pressure people.

      Flash forward a couple weeks and the director felt not enough people were participating and went around the office to everyone individually to pressure them to sign up. I then made my rounds apologizing to my colleagues and for people to not feel pressured.

      And after that I decided to quit the challenge. I did it for over a decade, but because of this one experience I decided to opt out of it entirely and haven’t done it since.

    6. Peach*

      I worked for a multinational that made one of the more well-known step/fitness tracking devices. We had regular challenges, but they were completely voluntary and low-pressure. And there was no pressure to even own one of the devices, though we were able to get them for discounts and often won them in random raffles. Many of us didn’t want a tracker so didn’t have one.

      But I think it was appropriate for us to have the challenges, given how they were handled and the fact that it benefited the company for its employees to be familiar with its products.

    7. djx*

      Running a fitness challenge in a mandatory and tone-deaf way does not mean they should not be done ever. Running them as a voluntary no-pressure thing is a service can be nice for participants and to build some community at work.

    8. Fastnachts at 110 mph*

      1. Fitness challenges have no place at work, period – why? We work in a world such that challenging people to get away from their desks and take a mental break through physical fitness is not ok?

      2. I just ignored the calls, texts and emails, eventually blocking them once the pain medication haze wore off. Why didn’t you have your husband speak to the organizer/health insurance right then and there? Why did he wait?

      A bit dramatic. Could have been avoided, sure, but you (by way of your husband) had options to quiet the noise, too.

      1. kt*

        Really? “I know your husband is supporting you after cancer surgery, presumably taking on more household tasks than usual and worried about your health, but he could be on the phone with the insurance company. Take some responsibility for yourself for being signed up involuntarily for ridiculous things!” Oh Fastnachts…. :(

      2. JustaTech*

        To your #1: are people given time away from their work tasks to move around?
        Or are they expected to do this on their own time?

        I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that it’s “on their own time”. Which makes the whole thing much more intrusive, even before the “harassing someone after surgery”.

      3. I Have RBF*

        Really? This reeks of ableism and victim blaming.

        No, it is NOT okay to “challenge” people to “get away from their desks and take a mental break through physical fitness”. It is absolutely not the business of an employer to “challenge” people to do whatever they have decided is the proper exercise.

        As for why their spouse did not talk to the organizer immediately is because they probably didn’t realize it was happening.

        So no, it’s not “a bit dramatic”, it’s an understandable response to severe corporate overreach and improper data sharing.


  4. TG*

    For #2 – keep being professional about it and you also solidified why I would never work with sales people.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. At least not the stereotypical kind. B2B sales people who sell solutions rather than products and who actively work with the client to find the best possible solution for them, are a different matter. They work with the client because the aim isn’t just to get a single sale, it’s to get the client to buy long-term maintenance contracts as well. One of my friends works in this field and they’re genuinely empathetic and solutions-driven.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        I’m currently looking for a job in a STEM field and ended up making exactly that distinction. Pitching products with all their pros and cons rolled into one package – no way, I’d be dying inside. Selling solutions – sure, why not. The amount of collaboration with the client that’s required for the latter makes a big difference to me; I doubt that pressure tactics could ever work in that field so presumably no-one would be pushing predatory behavior.

      2. Distracted Procrastinator*

        I work in a B2B business and work closely with sales. We sell solutions and service. It does make a difference when the sales team is creating on going relationships rather than sales one night stands. I’ve had very few “salesy” issues with our team.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          I think it’s also notable that those roles require a deeper technical knowledge than a lot of typical commission sales. It’s not a case of having one product you can learn and go try to convince people they need it. When you have people coming to you saying “I need a widget that does this sort of thing” for a company that has a catalog of thousands of widgets you need to know how to do your customer’s job to an extent. This has knock on effects in hiring the retaining of your sales people that mitigate a lot of issues.

    2. EngineeringFun*

      I had a pushy sales person escalate an engineering purchase request up 4 levels because I was out of the office and my boss was for a day. My ggg-boss calls me while on a plane to get it done. I did it without questioning. The next morning my boss told me to cancel the order as she was going in a different direction. I gave the sales guy he’ll. “Why did you call a VP over this?” He apologized

    3. Lacey*

      Sales people are the worst. But they’re not all THIS bad. I’ve always worked with sales people. And they can be quite unreasonable if management gets it into their head that the only reason the company makes money is the sales department.

      But no one has ever harassed me like this. This gave me heart palpitations just reading it.

  5. Call me Saul*

    #3, my sympathies. The slightest smell of weed makes me nauseous to the point of being physically sick and literally raises my blood pressure. It’s bad enough dealing with it in a country that criminalises cannabis use – I can’t begin to imagine how I’d cope where its legal.

    I don’t know if cannabis smokers realise (or care) how bad the smell is and the excuse that it’s medical is just a cop out – medical cannabis comes in different forms (spray, chew, pill, cream to name just a few) that can be used instead of smoking it. To me, this is just another example of a selfish individual expecting everyone else to pander to their wants. I think the best way of this being dealt with is by someone in charge telling this person to leave and only come back when they no longer reek.

    1. Language Lover*

      I had a debate with a friend who does edibles but has also smoked weed the old fashioned way about it and she claimed that it didn’t smell that bad and nowhere near as bad as cigarette smoke. And while I’m sensitive to cigarette smoke too, I find some (most?) weed to be far more potent.

      So I definitely think there are people who don’t know how bad it smells.

      1. Myrin*

        I think cigarettes smell worse in the sense that it’s more icky to my personal sense of smell but also that weed smells just as potent. Your personal perception just depends on how you feel about sweet smells; it’s not like one smells more strongly than the other in the sense that one is just a barely-there whiff and the other is a full-blown scent attack.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          This matches my experience (never used either but been around smokers of both). Cigarette tobacco smells worse (although I find it less horrid in pipe/cigar form), but weed is strong – arguably stronger. I’m mildly allergic to tobacco and I find weed not unpleasant, so if the only choice is which smoke to smell, I’ll usually pick cannabis, but of course my real preference is neither.

        2. Dek*

          This one. Cigarettes smell bad, and there’s a chance the smoke some breathing issues for me, but weed smoke will make me NAUSEATED.

      2. MK*

        Of course she claims that, it’s what she wants to believe. In reality it is completely subjective; I don’t mind cigarrete smoke, but weed smell makes me nauseous.

        1. Testing*

          Same here. I mean of course I mind cigarette smoke because it’s actively unhealthy for me, but I don’t dislike the smell as such. Weed, on the other hand, is bad both ways.

        2. RagingADHD*

          Cigarette smoke smells like smoke. Weed smoke smells like skunk or rotten oranges.
          Both are highly unpleasant, but cigarette smoke doesn’t get up into the sour/cloying notes the same way.

          I have no problem with legalization, but where it’s legal this is now an etiquette issue and reeking of smoke (or perfume, or essential oils, or anything else optional) in a choir where people have to stand very close together and breathe your air is bad form.

          1. Rara Avis*

            A lot of choirs I know have scent-free policies. Because you can’t sing if you’re in the middle of an asthma attack.

            1. Aitch Arr*

              My chorus has a scent-free policy, but only for performances. I wish it were for rehearsals too, but we rehearse weekly, after work.

      3. Swan*

        Reminds me of the time I was returning from the pharmacy near my dorm to be greeted with the scent of weed from someone “discreetly” smoking outside on the balcony more than a block away.

        Seriously weed smokers, you do you, but that stuff smells. You’re just as nose blind to it as cigarette smokers or those people who bathe in cologne.

      4. Avi!*

        I don’t smoke either, but between the two I much prefer the smell of weed. It’s strong, but it’s… interesting. Weirdly savory. Cigarettes I didn’t use to mind as much back in my twenties, when most of my friends smoked and I was exposed to them more often. The frequency which I’m around smokers has decreased significantly over the last fifteen years, though, and now whenever I do happen to smell cigarette smoke I think it smells exactly like dog sh-t.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I’m the same. I don’t want to smell either, but given the choice I’d choose weed. It at least is more like incense than straight up smoke.

          1. littlehope*

            I mean, I personally quite like the smell of pot smoke – I don’t even smoke these days, I just find it a pleasant smell – but it is undeniably a smell. Whether it’s an unpleasant one or not is completely subjective, but it’s just silly to try to claim it doesn’t *have* a smell! It’s just like wearing a strong perfume or burning incense or something – you have to take into account that people around you may not enjoy it (or actually feel ill from it) and be considerate.

          2. Emily Byrd Starr*

            Patchouli incense smells like weed. Frankincense and other types of incense, not as much.

        2. Ally McBeal*

          Agree. Weed smoke also sometimes smells like skunk spray, but that’s a smell found in nature vs the unnatural acridity of cigarette smoke. Even before I started smoking weed I found the smell more palatable.

        3. Lady Danbury*

          Third. Cigarette smoke is far more offensive to me than weed smoke, though ideally I wouldn’t want to be around someone who reeks of either.

        4. Moussesauce*

          Yeah, I’d much rather smell any weed than formaldehyde ridden cigarettes. They don’t smell like smoke, they smell like death and chemicals.

          Isn’t it amazing some people hate it and others don’t? The world still goes round.

      5. Dog momma*

        I smoked cigarettes as a teen/ young adult. My parents were smokers til my father’s open heart surgery many years later. Once I stopped, I was surprised how much smoke bothered me. Can’t imagine being near someone that reeked of smoke, regular tobacco or otherwise.

        1. Jay (no, the other one)*

          My mother insisted that her house didn’t smell of smoke. INSISTED. Was insulted when anyone suggested it did. Then she quit smoking and within a year had replaced all the carpets, had the furniture steam-cleaned, and had the whole place painted. Because yeah, Mom, it did.

          1. starsaphire*

            I had a long-running difference of opinion with a smoker friend over whether or not cucumbers have an odor and flavor. Smoker insisted they had neither.

            Smoker friend quit smoking. Six months later, they came up to me and apologized because, for the first time, they’d actually smelled and tasted cucumber.

            Nose blindness is for sure a thing, but also, smoking impacts your senses of smell and taste – which fortunately mostly come back once you’ve quit for a while. :)

      6. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        It’s also subjective. I don’t smoke either one but cigarette smoke bothers me more.

      7. Cat Tree*

        There’s a weird subset of weed users who think it’s the greatest thing ever and has absolutely zero negatives in any way. It’s definitely a small minority but they’re also the most vocal. I had an ex who insisted that it was impossible to have any negative health effects from smoking every day. I had a neighbor who insisted that weed could cure every illness including cancer.

        I’m sure I’ve known hundreds of users in my lifetime but I remember those two because they were the loudest.

        1. anonymous allergy sufferer*

          Yeah, I’m surprised nobody has recommended weed to cure weed allergies yet. I guess it must be because you “can’t be allergic to it…” oof.

          I’m in a legal area with public smoking bans but they are not enforced, neither is driving while high, not that it can be proven like a DUI but here we are, sigh.

          1. 1LFTW*

            I can’t count the number of cannabis enthusiasts who’ve tried to tell me that it cures asthma.

            It’s actually an asthma trigger for me, as it is for a lot of people, but apparently that’s only because I’m breathing it second hand. I’m told it would be *totally different* if I were smoking or vaping *myself*.

      8. scent sensitive*

        As someone who gets very bad-to-debilitating headaches from both the scent of cigarette smoke and weed smoke, I won’t be.

        This does appear to be a classic case of “there is no perfect accommodation” – and an issue with the continued classification of marijuana making it impossible to do research on solutions for pain that both have a faster efficacy without the olfactory side-effects on the people around the user. However, it’s something that people who do smoke for pain relief need to be aware of – your relief may be causing someone else pain or physical discomfort to the point of disrupting their day.

      9. wordswords*

        I mean, no, I won’t, I’ll have a pounding migraine for hours from being near weed smell.

        But I get that it’s a competing needs issue! There’s no easy answer; yes, I would like it if everyone could take edibles instead of smoking weed, but I understand that there are various compelling reasons why someone might not. And given how far the smell travels and how persistently it sticks around, there’s not really a good solution for a place where someone can smoke that won’t risk causing problems to the many people like me for whom marijuana is a headache or migraine trigger.

        But “you’ll be fine” is not necessarily true, any more than “you can just take an edible instead” is.

      10. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        Call Me Saul basically salted the earth with how insulting he was to people who use medical marijuana. You know, they’re “selfish” and entitled because they don’t orient their pain treatments against problems that no one has mentioned.

      11. A Poster Has No Name*

        I had a part time gig at Target for awhile, and encountered plenty of people who smoked cigarettes and/or weed, and there’s definitely a difference in range. Cigarette smokers, I couldn’t tell unless I was talking to them. Weed smokers I’d smell from an aisle (or more, depending) away and the smell would follow them around the store. It’s similar to people who wear too much perfume/cologne and seems to have a much wider radius than cigarettes.

        Which is also what makes it more problematic for a choir, where proximity is part of the deal.

      12. Ms. Murchison*

        Doesn’t matter if it’s slightly less awful than cigarette smoke, it still smells revolting. I wish pot smokers would realize they’re just as offensive as cigarette smokers because they’re doing the same darn thing: polluting the air the rest of us are trying to breathe.
        I live in a place where it’s legal. There are plenty of other ways for pot enthusiasts to indulge that don’t involve forcing it on everyone else in their vicinity.

        1. Ms. Murchison*

          If you smoke outside, everyone on that whole block ends up breathing in your exhaust, anyone who’s just walking by or who has their window open for fresh air. It travels.

        2. Emily Byrd Starr*

          And it’s possible to get high on second hand smoke. It’s happened to me before.

        3. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

          I live in legalized Canada, and my spouse and I still laugh about the weed stench as we walked home from a dinner out on the first day of legalization. It was everywhere that night.

          Thankfully, we really only noticed that for a day. Then the novelty wore off and it was much less public, and now it’s something I occasionally encounter, like cigarette smoke, but not a constant miasma.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think a lot of it is that someone who smokes regularly becomes nose-blind to the smell (and actually enjoys the activities that produce the smell).

      It’s interesting, though. Cigarette smoking has become increasingly unacceptable over the past decades. I’m old enough to remember when smoking was everywhere, including elementary schools and airplanes, and have watched it gradually get pushed further and further out of public and semi-public spaces, to the point that public smokers are regarded with general disgust. Over the past two decades, however, marijuana use including smoking has pushed itself more into the public and semi-public sphere, and public weed use has become increasingly acceptable.

      1. Clisby*

        I was sort of amused when my 22-year-old college student, who’s currently studying in Korea, told me that shortly after he arrived he and several other guys went out one night to some clubs. (This is in Seoul). Did he encounter anything startling in the way of wine, women, and song? Nope. He was gobsmacked that the place was full of smokers. He literally cannot remember a time when lots of people smoked in bars and restaurants (in the US.)

    3. AdriannaBanana*

      As someone who has to plan the timing for opening her 4th floor bedroom window because the smoke from the couple who smoke on the sidewalk in front of the next apartment building over sets off my asthma: I mostly agree with you. I live in Canada where smoking cannabis is essentially as legal as smoking tobacco, and its tougher than I think it should be to avoid it. I was really hoping that legalization would reduce the smoke around me more than it does by making the other options more accessible and higher quality.

      But, it did make a little more *sense* to me once I learned that smoking cannabis does make it take effect much more rapidly (in some cases, hours faster) for a lot of people, and because of that immediate feedback it can also be easier to get the right dosage. That made sense to me when I think about how I handle my pain meds; easy to manage if I’m consistently taking a small or large dose, but can be really hard when it’s varying based on how I feel and so if I plan ahead I have to decide which way to err.

      I still hate the way that we just send people outside to smoke as if that solves all the air quality problems, but I did feel more compassionate for people who aren’t using edibles or one of the other options when choosing cannabis for medical reasons.

      1. basically functional*

        Yeah, as a medical cannabis user, I am not a fan of smoking and generally prefer edibles. But when I want the effect immediately (edibles take 60-90 minutes to kick in) or want to be sober again in under 4 hours, I will smoke or vape instead. I prefer smoking to vaping because the former feels less harsh on my throat, but I choose vaping if anyone is around who might be bothered by the smell of smoke. The choir member should switch to vaping or edibles before practice rather than subject everybody else to the smoke, but maybe she doesn’t realize how strong the smell is and needs someone to tell her. I know I am fairly nose-blind to it myself, but I try to be considerate of others.

    4. wanda*

      When my friend had chemo, he was given a cannabis pill for the nausea. But it didn’t work because he was too nauseous to keep it down. Only smoking the marijuana worked for him. (This is before sprays and creams were available, but there are going to be dosage differences from taking it in different ways, so I can still easily imagine a situation where smoking works the best for a particular person’s problem.)

      This is probably not what’s going on with the choir lady, but I agree with Allison that it’s best if someone in leadership can have a sensitive conversation with the person to figure out what’s going on.

    5. Seashell*

      I don’t get sick from it, but I think cannabis smells awful and I don’t know how people voluntarily want to be around it. I used to go to a gas station and there would always be a smell there that I couldn’t tell if it was pot or a skunk. Considering it happened regularly for a while, it was probably the former.

      I would hope that the choir member could shower before arriving. Hopefully, she’s not driving to choir practice.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I see a connection to number 5, where the boss and grandboss secretly don’t want the new employee to take leave but won’t tell her that–instead, they complain to third parties.

      The person dousing themselves in smoke doesn’t notice the smell, so believes there isn’t an odor. They assume that if a hypothetical odor was so strong as to negatively affect people trying to breathe around them surely this would have been pointed out to them.

    7. Mentalrose*

      As a user myself, but not a smoker, I will note the following things – I have discovered that I become nose blind to weed smoke after a few hours, even though I loathe the smell of it. And my husband, who is super sensitive to that smell, can pick up the odor on me just by my walking into the dispensary, but I absolutely cannot smell that. So, I can easily believe that someone might not realize they stink of weed at a given moment. (They should realize that the smell probably exists around them in general however.) Being told they do should give them a clue, so I hope someone actually brings it up to her. I’d certainly want to know.

      As to coming in different forms, yes it does. However, the time it takes to start working and the time the effects last can differ and different people react best to different delivery methods. Someone might be acting selfish by smoking rather than using edibles, as an example. But they also might just be using the delivery method that works best for them. The best thing to do, rather than make assumptions, is start by saying something politely to the user. If I were the one in the user’s place here I would definitely want to know. I’d be mortified to discover I was disturbing people but I’d still want to know.

      1. Moussesauce*

        The selfish comment that was made hurt my feelings, and I’m not even this women in choir? LOL. If this person can’t afford other methods (edibles, vapes) (which are so much more $$ than flower at any dispensary because of the processing that needs to occur) I can understand the odor.

        I don’t usually smoke flower anymore because I am paranoid about the smell because people will judge me for my medical use. None of you would know if I was stoned- I can barely get stoned. It is medicine for some. Mention your smoke allergy and have someone speak to her kindly.

    8. Ink*

      +1, no one should smoke anything. It shouldn’t be illegal… but the strength of that conviction grows every time I’m remotely near someone who thinks clean air laws don’t/shouldn’t apply to them bc those laws were written mainly with tobacco in mind and not weed/vapes :(

      1. wordswords*

        Hey, now. As others in this thread have said, there are real reasons (immediacy, dosage control, etc.) why someone might smoke pot rather than edibles, and the medical benefits for pain control and so on are very real. You’re being incredibly dismissive and rude.

        And I’m saying this, for the record, as someone who absolutely hates the smell of pot smoke and gets migraines from it very readily. I would love it if no one ever smoked weed within a mile of me ever again! That would be wonderful! But that’s not reasonable or fair to expect, let alone demand, and people have good reasons for doing it.

        1. datamuse*

          I agree–I hate the smell and also know far too many people for whom cannabis serves as an effective pain management.

          I’m really surprised, though, that vaping isn’t more a part of the conversation here. Most of the people I know who use cannabis, either for health reasons or recreationally, use vape pens instead of smoking it. It’s a lot less annoying to be around. (I should add that I live in a state where it’s legal so vape cartridges and hardware are easy to get.)

          1. anon for this*

            I do want to provide another perspective here—a very good friend of mine is quite allergic to vape smoke but not weed or tobacco smoke, to the point that we once found ourselves walking a few meters behind someone vaping in public for half a block and her face literally became bright red and puffy within minutes.
            That’s not at ALL to say that nobody should vape in public, but I tend to think it should be treated the same as any airborne particles e.g. strong perfume; there are legitimate reasons, including recreation, to vape/wear perfume/smoke in public, but none of them should be considered automatically harm-free for everyone.
            As I think the comments on this post show, people have wildly personal reactions to how annoying/intrusive they find different types of airborne particles. I am personally completely unbothered by any of them, but in public spaces, I think it’s just polite to be conscious of how you’re affecting other people, and factor that into your decision-making.
            Again, I’m not at all saying that I want to ban or even restrict vaping/smoking/perfume, I just want to note that there’s no such thing as a truly zero-harm solution.

              1. Statler von Waldorf*

                What do you think that vapor is made from?

                I’m allergic to propylene glycol, which is one of the main ingredients in e-juice. I tried vaping once, and I ended up in the hospital when my lungs seized up. I can smoke tobacco and cannabis with zero issues, but I can’t vape.

                I also can’t deal with fog machines, but that doesn’t usually cause me issues like people who assume that vaping is 100% safe.

              2. 1LFTW*

                Yes. I’m extremely allergic/sensitive to cannabis, whether it’s in the form of smoke particles, vaporized particles, or the VOCs produced by the plant just existing.

        2. lilsheba*

          yes they can. There is no reason to actually smoke anything now, there are sooooooooo many other forms. Do something that doesn’t stink.

          1. Moussesauce*

            They are all really cost prohibitive when you are a cancer patient or medical patient. Flower is really inexpensive. I’ve been a medical card holder for three years as I struggle through my health issues but please, tell me how I just want to be high all the time.

          2. basically functional*

            I am not getting high because it’s fun. I’m using a prescribed medication to reduce my suffering. I hope you never develop any medical conditions that cause people to cruelly judge you the way you are doing now to me and millions of others in my situation.

            I said above that I try to avoid smoking, but sometimes I can’t for practical or financial reasons. As others have said, smoking flower is by far the least expensive, and easiest to dose, way to consume cannabis. Yes, the choir member should use another method before practice if possible. But there are certainly good reasons to smoke. You should speak less on topics you know nothing about and maybe try listening to others who know more. Ignorant, judgmental bluster is not a good look.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        The medical excuse is not BS; many people very specifically choose strains with the ingredient that makes you high removed, or, when that’s not possible, measure their dosage so as to be as functional as possible. You’re being very much against the spirit of this site.

      3. Anon for This Comment*

        Edibles take up to two hours for effectiveness. Smoking takes less than 15. Beyond that, you might want to check your ableism because it’s not a pleasant look.

        1. anonymous allergy sufferer*

          Ableism works both ways, people should be able to go about their day and simply trying to just breathe without getting sick from smoke. If society actually cared about health, we’d have a better solution by now. Unfortunately all people seem to care about is making money but it’s mostly going to Big Cannabis.

          We have the creativity and the technology to make secondhand smoke less impactful on others but late stage capitalism doesn’t care, sigh. I actually chose my air purifier based on reviews from smokers who were trying to get rid of weed smell, back in the early days of being legal where people still cared about hiding the smell.

          There are also treatments for pain that don’t negatively impact others and have FDA approval and clinical trials behind them. Weed isn’t the only answer, but smoking always produces smoke.

          It’s a difficult challenge, analogous to people who have animal allergies conflicting with people who need to use the same space as service animals. I wish we as a society would put more resources into solving these issues to help everyone.

          1. daisycakes*

            Look, I understand your point and for the most part agree, but “ableism works both ways” is a hell of a phrase to use to support your argument…

          2. I Have RBF*

            I will note that a lot more effort needs to go into providing effective ventilation and air filtration. Good ventilation and filtration would help with things like odors (eg perfume, BO and smoke), second hand contamination, and airborne disease spread.

            There has been a trend over the last 40 years to make buildings “green” by lowering air circulation energy expenditures and sealing buildings to make it cheaper to maintain temperature. This leads to stuff like “sick building syndrome” and other indoor air quality issues. (I used to work in air quality, with a focus on indoor air.) This really showed up during the pandemic, where low air exchange rates could lead to easily mappable infection vectors.

        2. lilsheba*

          Then they can time it for that. Not my problem. I don’t want that crappy smoke around me.

          1. Joron Twiner*

            Or you can stay inside. It’s a big world and we all have to live in it. Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean someone else is doing something wrong.

          2. basically functional*

            It is your problem because we live in a society. Other people have needs that sometimes conflict with my preferences. I don’t want construction noise around me, but I don’t get to tell my neighbor not to fix their leaking roof. I don’t want heavy traffic around me, but I don’t get to tell other people not to drive where they need to go. I don’t want your crappy attitude or MAGA hats or whatever around me, but I have to deal because people are entitled to their opinions even when they’re based in ignorance and stereotypes.

      4. Galadriel's Garden*

        “The “medical” excuse to smoke weed is bs” – yikes, let’s go ahead and park the judgement at the door there. Edibles don’t work well for everyone for a number of reasons. Yes, reeking of smoke and being an air pollutant are inconsiderate, but there’s no need to be so aggressively ignorant.

      5. Anon for this one*

        The NIH disagrees with you. There are well-studied medical benefits in some contexts, and given the widespread legalization of pot many people are choosing to use methods other than the prescription derivatives approved by the FDA. To be clear, I am coming at this as a former cancer patient who wanted to understand options (I ended up dealing with chemo very well with the first-line antinauseals and not needing anything additional), not as a cannabis user.


    9. Joielle*

      I don’t smoke weed except for very occasionally at home, but I have a close friend who uses medical cannabis, and from talking to her about it I’ve learned that the different forms of cannabis are not interchangeable in the way you describe. If smoking is what works for someone for medical reasons, they can’t just switch to an edible, cream, tincture, etc – it’s metabolized completely differently. Just flagging that your assumption that a medical patient smoking must be selfish is not necessarily the case!

    10. Festively Dressed Earl*

      Same here, and people think I’m just being uptight if I say “Hey, pot smoke makes me ill.” I’m grateful that it’s legal at least medicinally here, because I know some people it truly helps. The smell triggers a mild headache at best, outright migraines at worst, regardless of whether I support the person using it and I appreciate it when they meet me halfway so I don’t spend 10 minutes in the bathroom puking or the rest of the day in bed with the blinds shut tight.

    11. BethRA*

      I find the smell of post smoke and cigarette smoke equally gross, but I don’t think smokers are being selfish so much as they’re just nose-blind. They’re used to the smell so they don’t notice it, and then assume that no one else really notices, either.

    12. gmg22*

      I also sometimes get the impression from people who smoke weed for pain relief that they firmly believe their habit is “healthy” because it isn’t cigarettes. There has not been enough medical research done for us to know that conclusively, but there IS some evidence to show that heavy, daily weed smoking DOES damage your lungs (when you smoke anything, you’re inhaling particulate matter). I fully understand what some commenters here have said about THC metabolizing differently depending on method of use and that they are doing what works for them, but there’s a potential tradeoff there that I hope people understand and I wish there was more reliable information about. If edibles can work for someone, even if there is a delay in pain relief, they just seem like the less risky choice for the lungs.

      1. Moussesauce*

        It’s not that I think it’s “healthy”- but I know it is better than formaldehyde and other chemicals found in cigarettes, thank you very much.

      2. basically functional*

        That’s up to individual patients and their doctors to decide, though. As a medical cannabis patient, I am well aware that smoking anything causes lung damage, which is why I avoid doing it most of the time. Contrary to the stereotypes you may be drawing on, we’re not stupid. But some patients may not get the same relief from other methods, or may not be able to afford them, and need to balance the risk of lung damage with the ability to function at all.

    13. Cacofonix*

      I agree the cannabis smoke smells bad and I do live in a country where it is legal. But I gotta say, it’s a bit precious to “I could never” on things and situations. I can’t stand the smell of fish cooking, I gag at sewage smell. I abhor loud noises and crowds. All give me physical reactions. They are legal and you know what? I can cope and I will advocate for the right for these things to occur because that’s how it is living around people. I know how to limit my exposure and get along with society. Oh I could live on a remote patch of land, but then I’d probably complain about how much work it is to feed myself.

    14. Statler von Waldorf*

      I’ll admit it. I’m a regular medical cannabis user, and I while I am aware of how strong the smell of cannabis is, I simply don’t care how bad you think the smell is. I’ll continue to smoke it.

      You can call me a “selfish individual expecting everyone else to pander to their wants,” all you want. Pot, meet kettle.

    15. Star Trek Nutcase*

      Yeah, smoke (tobacco, weed, fires) is a big migraine trigger for me. Eons ago when smoking in the office, it was bad and I had 5 days/wk migraines most weeks. Lately, I’ve realized weed is a worse trigger – the smell
      is so rancid. Fortunately, retirement means I don’t have to deal with it at work at least.

      Definitely needs addressed with manager. FFS some offices have banned scents – that should include weed stink.

    16. star*

      This is a very cruel and ableist comment.

      Most people on medical marijuana suffer from terminal or life-long illnesses that cause excruciating pain. You are being nasty, rude, presumptuous, arrogant, judgmental and small-minded here and I strongly, strongly encourage you to rethink your mean-spirited attitude, because it’s extremely hurtful to disabled people trying to manage their hellish symptoms.

      We don’t need people like you sneering about our pain management and making all kinds of unkind assumptions about our motives. Please try to be a less hateful, cruel person in rhe future, or at least stay away from disabled people so you don’t hurt anyone with your nastiness.

  6. middle name danger*

    LW3: even if Jessica’s using it for medical reasons, in a state where it’s legal, there’s plenty of other options that don’t reek and impact other people. She might be so used to the smell she doesn’t realize it’s an issue.

      1. Sopranoh*

        That was my thought. I’ve been part of choirs like this before. There’s an expectation that you won’t smoke anything before practices and concerts because it’s super irritating to singers. The choir director should have a conversation about this. Jessica can eat a gummy.

        1. F. Leghorn*

          I’ve also been in choirs with a general “no scents, please!” policy that covers perfumes, aftershave, cologne, hairspray, etc. The OP and in turn the director could address this as one of many possible strong scents that make it harder to do the deep breathing in close quarters that singing in a choir requires.

          1. New laptop who dis*

            Thank you for posting. This isn’t a “weed” issue, it’s a scent issue — in the workplace, we sometimes have to deal with people with strong perfumes, body odors, cigarette smoke, food smells, etc.

            Like it or hate it, cannabis is legal in OP’s state. People have a lot of bias about cannabis usage, and it definitely shows throughout this comments section.

            OP should deal with this the same way they would deal with a colleague that wore overpowering cologne.

            1. anonymous allergy sufferer*

              Honestly I’m surprised to see any support. If you look at comments about weed from a year or two ago anyone who wasn’t evangelizing pot was attacked.

              1. basically functional*

                Do you have a link for this? I’ve been reading here for many years and have never seen a comment section like that, though I have certainly seen the opposite.

                1. Mary*

                  “employee got her colleagues arrested for smoking pot at a conference and now wants a transfer” wherein a large group of the commenters ignored that the person in question felt pressured by (2) her superior and (3) it was the hotel that called the cops & got the people arrested.

        2. coffee*

          Yes, this is very standard choir etiquette, and I would focus on the “second hand smoke makes it hard for me to sing”. You can give yourself the joy of being able to leave everything else out of it.

          1. Nene*

            My current (auditioned) choir does this. There’s a notice in the choir handbook that says, along with concert dress details, no perfume or aftershave for concerts or rehearsals as it affects some people’s breathing (but adds please wear deodorant). I should think reeking of weed would be similarly treated.

            1. OP3*

              I noted this below as well, but we do have a “no fragrances” policy and it’s just never been an issue before this in my almost-decade with this group! I guess I’m lucky it’s the first time it’s really come up in a noticeable way.

      2. amoeba*

        Or just leave a bit more time before smoking and practice! This sounds like she literally smokes right before, which might be easily changed if she knew people were bothered by it…

        1. OP3*

          To be fair, I can’t say I’ve observed her actually puffing away in her car, but the last time it happened it was so strong there’s no way it hadn’t happened recently.

    1. Allonge*

      Exacctly – I appreciate it’s legal! But as for many other things, ‘it’s legal’ is an extremely low barrier to clear when it has an impact on others (and there are alternatives).

  7. Fikly*


    Publicly shame the harasser right back: “Oh, I’m so sorry you were delayed in your work! I’ve found it helpful, myself, when I’m waiting on work from someone else, to check my inbox to see if it’s arrived. I’d already emailed what you needed, so it was there waiting for you!”

    Professional, polite, helpful, and do it in a place where his entire team will see it. Shame and public embarrassment is the only currency sales people understand beyond money.

    1. Treena*

      Yep, I find it strange that this wasn’t the first reaction. I would have even added a time stamp to my public reply.
      Public callout at 6:15
      Response at 7:00 “Oh no, we should probably contact IT, as I emailed this to you at 5:30. If you haven’t gotten it, there must be a glitch in our email service.”

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        I don’t like either of these, sorry. Snarky, sarcastic, passive-aggressive. This just keeps feeding the beast.

        As mentioned above, the sales people are going to push; that’s what they do. And from their perspective, OP is the last thing standing in the way of their commissions, quotas, bonuses, happy customers, etc. So OP’s objective for office harmony is for the sales team to realize this isn’t personal (which is an uphill climb, to be sure).

        Maura (OP’s boss) and whoever manages the sales people need to have a clear conversation about expectations. It should not be OP’s responsibility to determine the internal SLA.

        Maura has failed OP several times here, and she’s the one I’m most critical of in this situation.

    2. Janet*

      This reads extremely sarcastic to me.. I don’t think it will de-escalate someone who already has bad feelings towards you.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Yeah, it’s very sarcastic, and thus not polite. It would feel satisfying, but since LW has gotten in trouble for being very lightly passive-agressive before, I wouldn’t recommend it for them.

        I would absolutely drag my feet on any future work for this person though. They’re going to be unpleasant either way, so stay juuuust inside the official turnaround times to be irreproachable. Ignore outside of business hours, and respond with “you’ll get it by…” on repeat within business hours.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          My petty self would fulfil the SLA to the minute when dealing with any repeat offender. Turnaround expected in two business hours? 1h59 every single time, even if it was actually ready within ten minutes.

      2. Phryne*

        Yes, this is very very passive aggressive and anyone will read it that way. Better just to stick to dry fact.
        “Hiya, I sent it to you, have a nice day’. And then greywall anything else so they have nothing to hook their criticism on to.

        1. KitKat*

          I would stick to dry fact but include facts that make me look better to the extra people included in the chat. “Hey! I actually sent this to you yesterday, search your inbox for subject line ‘XYZ.’ Let me know if you still can’t find it!” Impeccably professional + CYA is the best approach.

      3. LoraC*

        IME, Sales people who are this pushy and willing to do a callout like this don’t respect basic politeness. They read it as someone they can steamroll over without putting up a fight.

    3. nnn*

      We must have worked in very different offices because that would not read as polite and professional in any office I have worked in. It would read as obvious snark. You could just say “I emailed what you asked for at 2PM today and it’s been waiting in your inbox” and the point would be made.

    4. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      Sales people generally have a lot of social intelligence, and would instantly see this as sarcasm or snark and that you (OP) had written that specifically to shame.

      If I was on the receiving end of this I’d just reply in the group chat with something like “hi Alex, I sent this just after 4pm as requested”.

      Is there a pattern like most of this happens at the end of a “sales period” (month, quarter or however it is managed) and they are pushing to ensure the sale gets recognised in that period?

      1. Myrin*

        Not to take away from your point but I don’t think you need a lot of social intelligence to realise that the proposed script is meant to be snarky and sarcastic.

      2. r.*

        As you say, often sales persons have a lot of social intelligence, and also an ability to understand the incentive structure their corresponding is operating under; otherwise they’d likely be poor sales persons.

        But that goes both ways. By the very same yard stick it is likely the salespersons causing the issues *know* that they’re desiring a given level of service the company has not entitled them to, act as if they had been entitled to them, and essentially bully other employees to get their way.

        At least the person that accused LW of not meeting their job duties coram publico and in front of company leadership would have was out of line and frankly needs a meeting with HR over hostile workplace practices.

        Likewise, Maura was to be honest a little bit feckless as LW’s boss in that instance. Maura had seen the message, had agreed that it was out of line, had noticed that it had a public effect on LW, and said nothing.

        A good manager would not leave this uncommented, and since LW’s higher ups were involved, it would have been appropriate for Maura (herself) to outright state something along the lines of “LW did nothing wrong and did their job as they were supposed to do. If this does not service you enough, or causes you significant problems, please escalate through appropriate channels to start a discussion on how to solve this issues. But you cannot go around and accuse people of not doing their job when they are, in fact, doing their job — especially not in a setting like this.”

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            More like, don’t make yourself look bad to others–especially in a workplace that’s already hauled you in over a somewhat passive-aggressive missive.

    5. HonorBox*

      It looks like they did point out that the message was in the person’s inbox and OP still got a message from the salesperson hoping that they were embarrassed. And salesperson didn’t get any sort of message from higher ups. A snarky response wouldn’t be helpful because obviously the reply that OP did send later in the letter got THEM in trouble.

      1. Sunny*

        I don’t even understand what OP was supposed to be embarassed about. They had already done what the salesperson was requesting. Very weird response (from the salesperson). It feels like a “I’ll just act like the sky has always been purple until it becomes true” approach.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          The mustache twirler was just twirling. They said the quiet part outloud: yes I was indeed trying to make you feel bad.

    6. Garblesnark*

      LW2 is clearly in a workplace that is designed around protecting the feelings of the salespeople. Most people don’t find an obviously insincere apology combined with unsolicited advice to protect their feelings. I don’t think LW2 did anything objectively wrong – they responded to outright harassment with very low-level snark. It’s completely understandable. But your suggestion is even more at odds with what LW has now learned, rather harshly, is the sole intention of the organization: protecting the feelings of salespeople.

      In other news, LW’s org sucks and isn’t going to change.

  8. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP5 (Sue being out for a week) – why did the manager approve it despite being ‘advised’ by her own manager to refuse? I think she’d already agreed it, then talked with her manager (“Sue has asked about taking this trip”). Since it’s aligned with the employer’s mission I do think the boss is in a difficult spot (because of the possibility of Sue saying “company refused my trip, which would have been making a real difference in the area our organisation works in” and that being a bad look).

    Manager hopes OP will deliver the message to Sue and get Sue to change her mind. Thats why she has groused about it to OP. Put it back on the manager to … manage.

    1. George Sand*

      It’s not a bad look if that particular trip isn’t possible. Only a wildly unreasonable person would consider that a bad look, even if Sue communicated it negatively, which she probably wouldn’t.

      So no I still don’t think any of that puts the boss in a “difficult spot” in terms of making is somehow reasonable to approve the request then complain about it.

      If she was concerned about the way not attending the trip would appear to stakeholders she could tell Sue that when declining the trip request. However, it would probably be pretty patronising and weird to make much of it, because *obviously* you would expect Sue to communicate not attending in a professional way, if indeed anyone cares that much.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I think it may be as simple as the manager being too invested in being seen as a “nice” manager, she just couldn’t bring herself to say no. She probably had gone to her own boss hoping to get a firm no so that she could tell Sue it hadn’t been her call, and instead got a “personally I’d deny it but it’s up to you.”

      1. Palatino*

        OP #1 here – that’s one idea if asked! I just don’t even have a tracker in the first place and really, really hate numbers-based fitness challenges. I hated Orange Theory and find it much better to focus on long term health (like better endurance month over month instead of how many calories I burned in one day).

        1. ecnaseener*

          I also don’t have a tracker and I’ve uninstalled the “health” app on my phone out of privacy concerns — you could say the same if you’re worried about anyone saying “oh you don’t need a tracker, you can use your phone!”

        2. Annony*

          There is a good chance that saying you don’t have a tracker and don’t plan to get one will be enough. If it isn’t, I agree that putting a random number in could work.

        3. Raisineye*

          At my job if you don’t participate in the wellness program they won’t contribute to HSA. you have to have 40000 points by mid November to qualify. As no one really checks, I “walk” 7000 steps per day plus anything else I feel like (I hiked 10 miles this weekend and cleaned the house for an hour and gardened for 2 hr, etc). I do not keep track. If you are going to make jump through stupid hoops I will by lying. I make my 40k by February and stop until the next round starts at the end of November.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      The other option is to put the tracker on your dog or small child. I have a friend who put hers on her very energetic elementary schooler. 12,000 steps before lunch, baby!

    2. Snow Globe*

      Our office did one of these challenges, but we had a team member that was training for a marathon. He had more steps than everyone else on his team combined. Everyone else dropped out after a couple of weeks, as there was no reason to keep trying. That was the last time we did a step challenge.

      1. umami*

        Oh that’s funny, I responded upthread that I declined to join a team because I was training for a marathon, That was decidedly NOT the point of the challenge!

    3. Web of Pies*

      It’s likely no one is paying attention to the actual numbers, they just want the participation; I’d just make up my number every day and be done with it if pushing back doesn’t work.

  9. coffee*

    My workplace was very into the steps thing but also completely fine with me just not signing up. I had one conversation where my coworker who organised it checked that I wasn’t feeling left out, and I explained that I had purposely not joined, thanks for checking, and that was it. So I hope you have the same easy experience in the end.

    It helped that discussion in the office was entirely focused on the actual step count and no-one talked about their weight or anything.

    Fingers crossed for you.

    1. Winstonian*

      Same. Sometimes I think people assume things are going to be a much bigger deal and it just isn’t a lot of time. My last job did this challenge once a year and if you wanted to do it you opted in, if not, you didn’t. I think of about 2,000 employees maybe less than 10% did it. Even less finished it. If you had signed up you got communication about it, otherwise nothing.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        We do a steps challenge here yearly and there are alternatives for people who want to participate but aren’t interested in the steps part, but regardless the whole thing is completely voluntary and non-competitive.

  10. Myrin*

    #2, I have to say that I am not impressed with a boss and an HR who don’t even speak to someone being blatantly out of line not only by pressuring coworkers but by outright telling them they should be embarrassed (!!!) only to then turn around and “scold” an employee when they’ve finally had enough and “fight back” for the first time.

    I agree that OP’s response in the second case wasn’t ideal and that it would’ve been much better for her to simply point out that she’d already sent the desired message in the first case, and I understand that Maura isn’t the salespeople’s boss, but good god. Talk about dealing with the person who is not causing any trouble as opposed to the ones who actually do.

    All that being said, Alison’s proposed scripts are excellent and I hope you’ll be able to hold firm, OP!

    1. George Sand*

      Totally. They should at most have said “I understand why you’re frustrated but even when they’re behaving unreasonably, our team has to be seen as professional, so please don’t resort to sarcasm.”

      However, that would be stronger if you could also say “if you have an issue with how they treat you, raise it with me/through channels.”

      In a culture where a) nothing happens to the bullies and b) bad behaviour is clearly deemed acceptable, well, you can’t be surprised that the people on the receiving end of it learn to react sarcastically. What do they expect to happen?

    2. Workerbee*

      Yes. Calmly stating, in as public a way and using the same media as the salespeople, something like, “I sent X to you Y hours ago; I’ll reforward since you say you didn’t get it. Happy to help!” is a fun little tactic to employ. And then definitely do reforward it and CC appropriate bosses, with a line of “Reforwarding since you said you didn’t see it the first time.”

      Yes, it’s a little extra work but LW, you are dealing with grown children and need to survive while hopefully job hunting at the same time.

    3. kiki*

      I’m really unimpressed with Maura here. Telling your direct report that they can wait to respond to messages outside their working hours, but silently watching as other teams berate your direct report for not responding is really uncool. Maura really should be defending LW a bit more here and setting expectations for timelines.

  11. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, we did the steps challenge at work and yeah, I feel it became a bit of an issue. Some people seemed incapable of talking about anything else than how many steps they did, how “bad” or “good” they’d been, people who got high numbers were openly respected – “oh, X is amazing. She did 20,000 steps yesterday. I need to be more like her.” More problematically, there were joking complaints about those who didn’t do as well – “Y only did 2,000 steps yesterday. Somebody’s want to have a word with him. Lol. He needs to pull his socks up.” People started cheating by giving students their watches (at least one person did) and that caused conflict. Most concerningly to me, one of my colleagues started talking about how “bad” she’d been because she hadn’t gotten any steps a weekend she was sick in bed and how she needed to make up for that.

    So yeah, I don’t think it’s a good idea in the workplace, though I can understand why people would think it harmless, compared with things like weight loss challenges. And I will say most of my colleagues seemed very enthusiastic about it and lots wanted to do it again. The feeling that it was concerning seemed to be just mine.

    1. Editor Emeritus*

      One of our offices did a voluntary step challenge (they divided into small teams). The second time they did it, the organisers decided to limit the number of steps that could be logged individually, because one employee climbed up and down like 10 flights of stairs every time he went to work (including after lunch). Since many (if not most) people are unable or unwilling to climb that many stairs, it was thought to be a bit of an unfair advantage. And since there was no actual prize for this, the super-competitiveness seemed really off.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        We had the additional issue of different jobs. The school cleaner got an insane number of steps as her job has her on her feet the whole time (and I think she is also pretty active outside work). The secretary, who spends most of the day in her office and who had two knee replacements, was obviously not in a position to log the same number of steps. Apart from anything else, she needs to be sitting at her desk for most of the day, in order to be available for parents who contact the school.

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          Remember the letter about the company that disqualified the maintenance workers after it became clear they were going to win? Appalling.

          1. Irish Teacher.*

            Yikes, no, I don’t remember reading that. I must look it up at some point. That is horrible.

        2. Myrin*

          That’s what I’m always thinking whenever this topic comes up in a work-related manner – in most workplaces, there are different types of jobs involving different types of movement!

          I work in local government but I’m the archivist and there’s a rare day I spend completely at my desk. I regularly have to collect things from my coworkers, physically look stuff up in the archive itself, clean and toss things, build boxes and folders, collect books for research etc. etc. I naturally get a lot of steps in, especially since I’m mildly uncomfortable with lifts and prefer taking the stairs.

          My coworkers in tax or property management, on the other hand, spend basically all day every day in their seats, and that’s not because they’re lazy or anything but rather because 98% of their jobs gets done on a computer, which simply isn’t the case for me.

    2. Palatino*

      OP #1 here – this is my exact fear. People are already getting competitive and talking about paying kids to wear their Fitbits or who’s going to monitor for cheating or how great of shape people are in who hit high step counts last time. I just don’t care and really want to get through the month without being asked why I’m not participating.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I wasn’t bothered by it in the sense of being concerned about being shamed or anything – I actually do get a lot of “steps” in anyway, as I have a 40 minute walk from the train station to work – but I just found it incredibly boring to be greeted multiple times a day with “did you get many steps in yesterday?” or “did you hear X did 25,000 steps yesterday? She’s amazing, isn’t she? We’ll have to ask her for her secrets.”

        And I can imagine somebody who would have liked to participate but who was unable to due to a disability or recovering from an operation or whatever, feeling very left out.

    3. Busy Middle Manager*

      My last job did the step thing and we had none of this, this sort of idle chit chat sounds like it would come up in multiple situations iregardless of whether it was a step contest or not

  12. CityMouse*

    Maura is a bad manager. Playing lip service to LW and then not having her back when she actually enforces the boundaries sends mixed messages and fails to actually stand up for her people.

  13. musical chairs*

    Serious question: do folks see step challenges the same way that they do other, more explicit weight loss challenges?

    Completely understand the letter writers point about not wanting to participate and don’t think they should or should have to. I’m asking a different question.

    I realize that steps challenges are not gonna be as accessible or modifiable for people with mobility issues, so there are exclusion concerns there. And the competitive part of it can veer left easily. That said, I have always understood them as pretty low stakes and thought they are more in the vein of corporate forced fun/“best place to work” fodder, trying to say they support sustainability or promotion of good mental health or whatever, rather than a purely exercise/weight loss oriented initiative. Do others have that read as well? Why or why not?

    1. DyneinWalking*

      Simple rule: Work places should never get involved in anything regarding people’s health outside of providing sick leave and accommodations.
      It’s an extremely touchy subject where the line between “low-stakes fun” and “exclusive and pressuring” is very thin indeed.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        To elaborate: It’s a competition about something that feels like it’s something that everyone can control (“Just choose to walk more steps, it’s healthy!”) but in reality is outside the control for many people in many situations (chronic health problems, time constraints, temporary health problems like a bad bout of the flu…)

        Don’t make competitions about something where bad luck in life or even just a short period of bad luck can seriously disadvantage people. And especially don’t make competitions about things where oblivious, steamrolling people might pressure others to make bad choices about their health (like hitting a step target when staying in bed for a day would be the best and quickest cure).

    2. Grim*

      I feel like weight loss is the subtle background radiation of steps challenges, the way it is for a lot of these more general “workplace wellness” things. It’s less overt and toxic than like, a workplace biggest loser competition, but I think the subtext is similar to when people suggest walking more or taking the stairs rather than the elevator specifically as a weight loss tip. Of course, for many (not all) people, an attempt to be less sedentary would be beneficial to their health, in ways that have nothing to do with weight loss. But I think it’s just part of the way our culture automatically conflates weight loss with wellness, and considers one a necessary condition of the other, that means the subtext is pretty hard to get away from. And even if a steps challenge isn’t intended to have anything to do with weight loss by the organiser, it’s still often gonna be read that way by the audience.

    3. Irish Teacher.*

      I don’t think it’s as problematic as a weight loss challenge, which is actively unhealthy for anybody at or below their ideal weight. I had a friend whose workplace did a weight loss challenge and she felt she had to participate despite the fact that she didn’t need to lose weight and I don’t think she had any particular desire to lose weight (I’ve known her 25 years and never once heard her complain about her weight or speak about dieting or anything) but she wanted to be part of things and then felt she “couldn’t let her team down,” so was trying to lose weight she didn’t need to.

      However, while I don’t see them as being as big a deal as that, I still don’t think them a good idea and I think mental health initiatives in the workplace are just as problematic as physical health initiatives. In workplaces, people tend to often treat mental health as “making us feel happy and relaxed,” but mental health is health and unqualified people shouldn’t be giving advice on that any more than they should on physical health.

      There was no mention of weight loss or any hints about it when the steps challenge was done in our school, but it was, in my opinion, problematic in other ways.

      I’m not sure about any kind of “challenges” in the workplace, especially team ones as they can so easily become “if you’re not good at/not interested in X, you are not a team player. And the idea of people who can’t walk as many steps being “not team players” is problematic.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Challenges in the workplace should be work-focused IMO. Who can close the oldest ticket or land the biggest new account or get their timesheet in earliest?

        I think I have an unusual relationship with competitiveness. I feel it can often be unhealthy particularly when it’s not directed at what it claims to measure.

        For example, if you want to make your team more productive but set the target as emails sent, people will send two half-emails rather than one. If you want to answer as many queries as possible within two hours, people will prioritise 90-minute-old queries over yesterday’s.

        Similarly, if your aim is to encourage good physical and mental health, improve the medical insurance offering or give more PTO or hire to 110% capacity instead of 90%.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          This is what’s known in software engineering (and perhaps elsewhere) as Goodhart’s Law: when a metric becomes a target, it ceases to be a good metric. Measure your coders by lines written? They’ll change their style to spread the same code over more lines. Bugs fixed? They’ll be sloppy so they can “find” and “fix” bugs.

          Steps taken? People will take one of the many options described in this discussion that aren’t actually walking.

        2. Bast*

          We’ve had metrics like this at Old Job, where people started turning in garbage to be on “top” and meet the numbers goal. Sure, John turned in 30 projects compared to everyone else’s 20-ish, but half of John’s were sent back for being of poor quality. Or Sally wrote 500 notes this month, but only 300 were of quality because she started making blank notes, or notes with just a space or period in them simply to get her numbers up. Both of those were things that really happened when upper management became too numbers focused and certain people wanted to game the system. I constantly attempted to stress to upper management why numbers alone were NOT an effective way to measure someone’s work.

        3. musical chairs*

          Respectfully work-related challenges just aren’t a good practice. As a manager (especially in a project-based work environment) a key part of that role is to provide the structure and support for psychological safety on my team. People need to feel free to make/own up to mistakes so that we can easily identify and rectify them. It my field is somewhat higher stakes than others (not rocket surgery, but I have to be licensed by a state board/I’m accountable to the public at large) and so protecting that ecosystem at work is high on my to-do list. It would be a pretty rookie mistake to add additional pressure to perform where none need be. Totally unforced error.

          Only way I could see friendly competition producing any results is if the teams output is pretty individualized by employee, everyone is trained or actively trains each other, the work is easy to QC, fairly repetitive/uniform and your work environment’s already pretty collaborative. But then at that point, you’re likely not needing gimmicks to get good work out of your team.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I agree with everything you say. If your atmosphere and practices are already good, any all-team challenge is pointless and potentially counterproductive.

            It’s just that I particularly object to a challenge in the workplace that has nothing to do with the work.

    4. Awkwardness*

      A step challenge could also be read as “Try to get out of the house!” and I would take this as a motivation.
      My company regularly participates in a running event for charity and I am happy I tried this out, because it pointed me towards a sport that makes me feel good and that I would not have tried otherwise. But nobody pressured me and “No thanks, that’s not for me” or “No, thank you, not this year” would be completely acceptable.
      Sometimes people really only want to do something as a group and bonding over physical activity is one of the options.
      If you are going to have results displayed, winners promoted or low performers shamed, then this on the person organising the event, not the activity.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        oh yes the shaming! I was top of the class in several subjects but hopeless at sport. My mother had taught me that being sweaty was not ladylike, so Very Bad, and I wasn’t the fastest or strongest.
        So I hated sports lessons.
        So I stopped doing sport at the first possible opportunity.
        But the thing is, almost everyone can benefit from some kind of physical exercise, and it’s often the single most important thing you can do to improve your health, whatever the condition in question. So even those who are not good at sport for whatever reason should be encouraged to join in. Maybe there should be flexibility, so that pupils can choose which sport to practise rather than be made to play ball games where they let the team down.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Honestly, I would find the “try to get out of the house” problematic in and of itself as it implies there is something wrong with choosing to remain at home and that everybody wants to “get out more” but needs motivation to do so.

        If I don’t get out of the house, it’s because that’s my choice. If I want to exercise more, I will. If I don’t, I won’t. Either way, it’s a conscious choice, based on what is right for me at that time. I don’t see any benefit to being motivated to do what I have chosen not to.

        I agree that things like steps challenges aren’t inherently problematic, if they are truly voluntary and “opt in.” In other words, an e-mail goes around saying “hey, does anybody want to do X?,” nobody is asked individually, people don’t necessarily know who is participating and who isn’t and there is no implication that the activity is meant to motivate anybody or supposed to be good for people; it’s just a case of “hey, we’re doing this for fun and if anybody else wants to join in, that would be great,” but I think once you have an implication of something being for “wellbeing” or “motivation,” there is an inherent implication that those who choose not to do it are not as motivated or less invested in “wellness.”

        Your company seems to be doing the running event well and it sounds like the emphasis is on doing a charity event rather than “this is good for you.” The latter is, in my opinion, inherently mildly problematic because it sets up an almost parental or school relationship between the company and the employees. Parents and teachers consider the wellbeing of their children or students because children don’t have the same information as adults and need adult guidance (and honestly, I think some of the focus on wellbeing in schools is problematic in and of itself because it’s often untrained people – teachers are trained in education and in their subjects but not in health information – teaching people about stuff that they may have misunderstandings about themselves). Adults, on the other hand, usually know more about anything to do with health that affects them than other adults with no qualifications in the area and who are unaffected by those issues.

        Yes, as somebody else said, almost everybody can benefit from some kind of exercise and therefore children should be encouraged to exercise, but adults don’t need to be told that by other people who know no more about it than they do. I think it’s fine to offer activities – steps challenge, running, etc – so long as everybody is aware that each person is the expert on whether or not it is beneficial to them and there is no suggestion that taking part is good for people or that there is anything “better” about choosing to bond over a physical activity than about bonding over watching films together or taking art classes or going for drinks together after work. If it’s one option out of many and people are free to sign up or not without anybody taking note of who is doing so and there’s no pressure on “who is best” or implication of “letting your team down,” then yeah, I don’t see a problem with that.

        But if the assumption is that most people will participate and people are asked individually if they want to take part and it is treated as a “wellbeing” activity, then there is likely to be an undercurrent of “defending why you aren’t taking part.”

        I mean, when we did it in our school, a lot of people didn’t take part, it was not organised by anybody in charge and nobody was pressurised to do so. But people were asked individually, “hey, do you want to take part?” and for the time it was taking part, it was the main topic of conversation in the staffroom, so if you weren’t involved, you were kind of excluded, not intentionally, but just because you had nothing to contribute to the “oh, I did so badly yesterday. I only got 5,000 steps. I’m going to start going out for a walk after work every day. Did you go for a walk yesterday?”

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This is well put.
          1) Everyone wants to play the theramin more.
          2) The reason they are not doing so is that they have not been challenged to a theramin playing competition.

          That’s not the reason I wasn’t playing the theramin.

          1. Trixie Belden was my hero*

            Just spit my coffee out visualizing a theramin challenge on the Enterprise! (TOS)

            Now I’m thinking about a bat’leth challenge. (TNG)

      3. ChurchOfDietCoke*

        Some of us exercise a lot – but in the house! I have a yoga mat and an exercise bike in my home office! Why would I cycle on the busy, noisy, dangerous road outside or jog on the potholed, dogshit-smeared pavement when I have my own indoor space?!

    5. amoeba*

      I’d say the problem with step challenges is mostly the pressure on people – that kind of thing can be pulled of if it’s fully opt-in for enthusiastic participants and the rest can easily ignore the messages! (And any further communication about the challenge is limited to the people who signed up for it…) The way it’s described by most people here wouldn’t be great, though. As soon as there’s pressure to join (or pressure on the participants to do more), it’s a no-go for me.

      Weight loss challenges at work, however – absolutely never, ever appropriate.

      1. musical chairs*

        Maybe that’s what I’m not inherently seeing. I’ve only seen or heard of challenges like this done in a fully “opt-in” way and conversation about it between coworkers unable to survive more than 45 seconds without a topic switch. The overly competitive or pushy people are seen as a bit odd or generally ignored at no consequence, even if they’re management. There are no or very small prizes cause like…who really cares, you know?

        I understand this setup for any step challenges to be the norm more than the opposite. There are still exclusions inherent in the challenge just cause it presumes a certain level of mobility, but the challenge itself would almost always part of a myriad of ways employees can connect with each other with completely voluntary, non-work-focused, shared experiences.

        I will admit, though, that I do have less of a nose for the specter of diet culture writ-large (even as a millenial, American woman) due to certain factors of how I was raised. I get the shape of it intellectually, but I don’t feel it the same ways as my peers do for a lot of boring reasons. It’s part of why I asked the question, to better understand! It’s always been really easy for me to see these challenges in a very face-value sort of way, so I wanted be sure I wasn’t missing anything. Sounds like for a lot of folks the issue is the pressure/shaming potential, which is real, but just doesn’t have to be there.

        1. blah*

          You’re not seeing it because it’s not there – no one has even asked the OP to participate yet.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            Except others have talked about other workplaces where the pressure absolutely is there and the exclusion is obvious. Heck, we even had an example of someone who was pressured to get involved when it wasn’t even her own workplace.

            And we’ve had numerous examples of letters where if senior admin is involved, those who don’t participate end up being excluded from consideration for actual work related projects and potential advances, even if only because the senior admin don’t have the same access to them.

        2. sparkle emoji*

          I think some of this comes down to how sensitive one is to peer pressure. If you don’t respond to it, these challenges might be a non-issue. If you do or your workplace has a high volume of pushy people the challenges are harder to ignore.

        3. Awkwardness*

          I’ve only seen or heard of challenges like this done in a fully “opt-in” way and conversation about it between coworkers unable to survive more than 45 seconds without a topic switch.

          It is the same for me. I feel really bad for people experiencing pressure in those challenges, but I never came across about a setup like that. There were cycling groups, a running/ training group, a soccer group, running events or challenges to ditch the car. These groups might be promoted in the employee news because they took part in a competing or to gain new members, but there were never lists of results except they were really successful.
          If it was about something like a step- count, it would be realised through support for an external platform/ challenge so the data would not go to the employer.

    6. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      In my son’s company, there are incentives for those who keep healthy: you can get vouchers for groceries from a health food shop if you log a certain number of steps, or hours cycling, or for attending gym classes. He gets a special discount off gym membership too. It’s all perfectly voluntary, and he gets rewards for himself (on top of obvious health benefits from exercising) and the company pays less health insurance for the healthier members of staff.
      The company doesn’t get to see who’s putting in their 10,000 steps and apart from bumping into colleagues at the gym, they don’t know who has signed up, only how many have done so.
      So basically, staff are encouraged to partake in healthy activities and are rewarded in various ways, and the company benefits without being able to pressure anyone into doing more.

      1. Traffic Engineer*

        And the flip side if that is that those coworkers who are not able to go to the gym or participate in various challenges are punished with higher premiums while the company sits back and claims it’s all a wellness initiative, really, it’s totally all voluntary, just don’t look at what it’s costing the people who can’t participate.

        1. KitKat*

          I’ve never heard of individual employees paying higher premiums based on participation in fitness challenges. It may affect that company’s group rate (i.e. they can negotiate a lower rate for the EMPLOYER to pay the insurer, based on the existence/participation rate of certain health initiatives across the corporation). Or if they have a plan where the employer is the direct payer, of course they’ll end up paying less in direct health costs over the long term if employees are healthier on the whole. But I’ve never ever heard of employee premiums varying based on these challenges. I guess it’s possible it exists but i’ts not commonplace.

          1. basically functional*

            It definitely exists. Not sure how commonplace it is, but it’s a thing.

            Also how is it fair that people who are able to do certain non-work-related activities outside of work get to pay less for food than their coworkers who may be disabled or have too many caregiving responsibilities to participate in these challenges? Or who just choose to spend their time in other ways? My compensation should be based on my performance at work, not my performance of health or moral virtue or whatever in my private life.

      2. OrangeYouGlad*

        Yep – sounds like the cancer muggles who like to blame us stage IV cancer thrivers for our own cancer. I’m not walking 10k steps BECAUSE I have 2 compression fractures in my spine and now a stress fracture in my foot BECAUSE I got cancer through no fault of my own. My cancer would not go away by going to the gym as people like to infer. Imagine being a healthy 30 something going to the gym and taking steps to be healthy – I like I was – and enjoying the lower premiums for the “benefit” of the insurance company and myself. Now I get cancer. Now I can’t take the steps to be healthy and the insurance company punishes me with higher premiums and blames me for my disability and that I must have cancer because I can no longer be healthy when really it’s the other way around. Ableism 101

        1. Zweisatz*

          Yep. It’s all fun and games as long as you’re one of those healthy and fit people.

          Hope you’re doing as well as can be!

      3. musical chairs*

        I’m assuming by “pays less health insurance”, you mean that the employer is realizing fewer cost of ensuring the entire organization because there are ostensibly fewer claims. Not that folks who are considered “healthier” are given a higher employer contribution to their healthcare cost or co-pays in any targeted way based on their participation in this program. Is that assumption right?

        1. Clisby*

          That’s my assumption – at least in the US, with employer-provided health insurance. I’ve never heard of employer-provided health insurance in the US where an individual employee’s premium share cost would be different based on their own health histories. The overall *company’s* premium cost might be more based on overall employee claim histories, but it shouldn’t be any extra cost to an individual employee.

    7. ShineSpark*

      I think they can easily stumble into being triggering for people with a history of disordered behaviour around diet and exercise. The problem isn’t the steps, the problems is having publicly viewable daily metrics about your exercise levels and perceived “fitness”. The level of scrutiny that invites from your peers is often uncomfortable or unhealthy for people recovering from disordered eating.

      For example, your colleagues joking about you “not moving enough” makes it easier to justify restricting food to compensate. Or you already exercise another way, like swimming, but feel pressured to exercise even more to avoid judgement. Or you’ve worked hard to stop monitoring your calories obsessively, but having a tracker on you monitoring your steps makes it easier for those behaviours to creep back in (since you’ve already crossed the threshold back into daily self-surveillance, it doesn’t feel like such a jump to monitor your food intake as well. The wellness app your company uses probably already has a section to record it…).

      I say this as someone who’s had to repeatedly argue with colleagues that no, having a FitBit on all the time actually makes me *less* healthy…

    8. Zweisatz*

      I categorize under weight-loss/”health and fitness” challenge that a company has no place in.

    9. Also-ADHD*

      I don’t think much of voluntary steps challenges in a large company. My last job had them, and I only saw them in newsletters, because I never signed up to participate or receive further updates. I think it’s fine to promote various health & wellbeing strategies on the company intranet. My old company had totally voluntary meditation and exercise sessions available (virtually) weekly, as well as various cooking programs available, lots of wellness apps, etc. It was all on the Wellness page on SharePoint.

      I do think it’s weird in small offices where pressure is unavoidable and certainly if management creates any pressure to join in any way, even just suggesting it broadly or making their participation loud.

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      I view them as annoying and intrusive in the same way.

      My children coined the future epitaph “Mommy: Where It Goest to Die” because tagging me does not cause me to feel like I have been challenged and must now join the tag game. I will just stand there, not competing, as the It slowly fades away. This is how I respond to people issuing me other competitive challenges as well, but not ameliorated by how I am fond of the person because they are my child.

    11. Ginger Baker*

      At ours, they actually do have modifications to address some concerns – for instance, any meditation time (we get a free Headspace subscription) is counted the same as an hour of yoga (all non-walking physical activities can be logged as well). We also don’t have individual winners, just office winners (Chicago vs Austin, for example). There’s no real pressure to participate (and they provide the tracker) but I def appreciate the meditation option (there may be some other supported “alternate” activities, I am not sure but would not be surprised).

    12. Disordered Eater*

      I’m in treatment for an eating disorder. I counted calories to eat a very restricted diet. That type of extreme health monitoring and tracking really damaged my relationship with food, made me feel awful and guilty, and destroyed my ability to follow my own body cues around eating.

      Step counting hits the same psychological pathways in me, even though I never used excessive exercise as part of my eating disorder. It makes me feel guilty around movement and exercise, and it conditions me to see movement as a moral imperative that is a duty instead of something to enjoy. Which ultimately damages my relationship to exercise.

      Both diet and exercise are so caught up in diet culture in general that I find that I need to block out all the external discourse around them and listen only to my doctors.

      I also have no problems advocating for myself to skip out on this kind of thing. But obviously not everyone has the same experiences or ability to refuse.

    13. Space Needlepoint*

      Weight loss challenges are worse as far as I’m concerned. I worked in an office that had a Weight Watchers group and they did *group weigh-ins.* This meant if someone knew they had lost weight, but the group’s weight increased they could shame someone, even though they didn’t know who it was.

      Nobody was forced to participate, but it gave me the creeps how many people were into it. It felt like there was a cult in the office.

    14. kiki*

      On the scale of workplace health initiatives, which I’d define the boundaries of as an explicit weight loss challenge on one end and the office bringing in folks to give free flu shots during the work day, I’d put a step challenges on the more lowkey or benign side. But as with any sort of challenge, things can get too competitive and make things uncomfortable. So I tread with caution.

    15. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      People who have struggled with an eating disorder have to use caution with any of the trappings of the diet mentality. Anything that requires or encourages tracking, goal setting, counting, hyperfocus, ignoring one’s own body in favor of “good day” vs. “bad day” can be problematic.

      Also, it is almost inevitable in challenges like this that while weight loss is not the purported goal, if this is an office that really “gets in to it” there will be a side effect of increased diet and weight talk in the office. Our culture is too diet-centric to avoid it.

  14. niknik*

    So 3 of 5 stories, the real problem is their respective managers completely dropping the ball. All together now, “Your manager sucks, and …”

    1. TPS reporter*

      exactly! I hope some of these OPs have options out there and start looking. these managers are not likely to improve

  15. Green great dragon*

    I don’t have a step counter, and don’t plan to buy one just to join my work’s step challenge. I could get one on my phone, but that’d miss all the steps I do at home.

    1. Space Needlepoint*

      My watch has various measurements like steps and heart rate and stress level, and I refuse to upload my information to anyone in my office or to an insurance company. I don’t know who sees it and it’s nobody’s business.

  16. Grim*

    Must be something in the air, because my workplace is also about to start up a steps challenge. Luckily it seems pretty voluntary, but I also think it’s pretty misguided, because my workplace is a hospital! I’m a nurse, I’m already on my feet all day, as are many of the staff in other roles. Not gonna quote a number, but trust me, I get more than enough steps in. If we absolutely must have some kind of workplace wellness initiative, I wish it was focused on the things that are actually problems for most of us (like shift work related sleep disturbances, or repetitive strain injuries).

    1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Can’t you wear a step counter at work? OP says the cleaning staff had great scores because of that!

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        (not that your employer should be pressuring anyone anyway of course!
        It is possible to have a non-intrusive scheme: I mentioned my son’s employer above, where the insurance company gives incentives but the employer doesn’t know who is doing what, only that X number of people have signed up at the gym, and attended Y number of classes, and Z number of people are hitting more than 10,000 steps a day etc.

    2. Toledo Mudhen*

      We had a hydration event last August with various samplings of infused waters. That was one that people enjoyed and nobody’s privacy was violated.

    3. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      This! I think offices do health initiative as a way to pretend to care without actually doing anything meaningful. “In order to reduce stress we are adding a steps challenge!” How about instead you staff fully?

  17. Katz*

    LW2: I’m betting that the letter writer is female and most of the other players are male which is why she got reprimanded and the sales guy did not.

    1. WellRed*

      No doubt. The big problem: they see OP as standing between them and their money. How lengthy and complicated is this process for everyone to follow?

      1. theletter*

        I was curious about that as well – do the salespeople have to go through OP to complete the sale? If so, can salespeople make sales outside of OP’s hours, but are then forced to wait for OP to send the contract? B/c if that’s the case, it’s a coverage problem. Sales People are freaking out because they have to make their customer wait, and they should have someone in OP’s position available for a 2nd shift.

        On the other hand, if it’s really just about getting the commission, the next question is are the sales people working completely on commission? Is the panic around not getting paid that income by the end of the week? Can any of this be automated so that last-minute sales are counted?

    2. Lacey*

      Doesn’t have to be that. It’s just that the LW’s department isn’t valued and sales is.

      I’ve never had such awful coworkers, but I’ve worked in multiple companies where I even though I create the product they sell, I was told my department didn’t generate any income for the company and that’s why we all needed to do whatever sales wanted.

      And to a lesser degree in the company I’m at. Processes are established, they’re explained to everyone. And sales completely ignores them. We’re encouraged to let their manager know, but she makes excuses for them every time.

      Only one of these companies had a majority male sales staff and even then – the other people who were expected to cower before their greatness were a 50/50 gender split.

    3. Statler von Waldorf*

      Look, I’m a male bookkeeper in an industry that is 87% women. I will happily admit that there have been many, many situations over the decades where I’ve had an easier time of things because I’m a dude and sexism is still a real problem in 2024.

      Sales people being jerks to the admin staff is not one of those things. In my experience, the jerkish sales people were even worse to me than the girls because as a dude, I was expected to have a thicker skin and just roll with the abuse.

  18. Six Feldspar*

    Letter 2 is worded to give me the impression that OP2 is the only person in the company working on this critical and time sensitive job. That’s a rough position to be in even with supportive managers, let alone ones who let other staff push and push until OP2 snaps and then chastise them for it, I would start looking…

    In the meantime, is it possible to set a cut off time during the day for work processing that Maura and the other managers will back? Eg anything received before 3pm gets done the same day, anything after 3pm gets done the next working day.

  19. Velomont*

    For #5, can someone please explain to me what a “service” trip is? I’ve never heard that term before.

    1. Nonsense*

      Rebranded mission trips. Travel to somewhere else that can supposedly “benefit” from the participants’ “labor,” spend a week doing some feel-good thing that won’t actually be done well and should have gone to locals anyway, and come home preening about how you all made suuuuch a difference in people’s lives and you’re all suuuuch wonderful people for sacrificing your time and energy “helping” the underserved.

      1. Insert Clever Name Here*

        They are often like that, but there are service trips that are much less exploitative due to actually being planned in partnerships with the residents in order to provide services they need that are either prohibitively expensive for them to access or just not existent. I know people who have: gone with a group of licensed speech pathologists to do screenings for speech delays (because while services existed once you were shown to have a delay, accessing screenings was prohibitively expensive); lawyers who have provided legal advice; and in one case a business consultant who visited a few times (at the residents’ request) to help them make improvements to their community business, and hasn’t visited again* because now one of the community members has gotten their country’s equivalent of an MBA and now not only helps his own community keep their thriving business on track but does the same type of consulting for other communities in their area.

        *the last visit was actually an invitation to the opening of the new office/school the community built because of how well the business was doing. No pictures were shared on social media of this trip ;)

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Yeah, or like…Veterinarians travel to place without a local vet within a 200 mile radius, set up a temporary clinic in a rec center or other large space, locals know way in advance it’s happening and make appointments, and they see as many patients as possible for 2 days straight. Or something.

          I do agree that many “service trips” are the exploitative/”for show” version. But sometimes they’re not.

          1. Avery*

            Yep. I once worked in a peripheral role assisting a service trip where hand surgeons were going to a place where… there were few to no trained hand surgeons, and a fair few locals in need. They went, they did the hand surgeries (free of cost, I believe, too), and then they left having used their expertise to change lives. That kind of service trip, I can totally get behind.

      2. Massive Dynamic*

        Yup, aka White Savior Tourism. I’m sure that Sue and so many other folks who do these are coming from a genuine place of good; there’s just not enough discussion in the communities that organize these trips about how inappropriate they are in this day and age.

    2. Chapeau*

      Participants travel to a place, generally one that is considered to be underprivileged or less developed, and build or repair houses, dig wells, provide medical or dental care, etc. Often, the trips are affiliated with churches or religious organizations, college service groups, or medical charities. Generally they aren’t dangerous, at least in terms of war or impending/recent natural disasters, and can have a tourist element, such as three or five days of working and a couple days of sightseeing.
      The purpose of the travel is to be of service to the residents of that area.

      1. I Have RBF*

        They have some that are not religious based. Think “Doctors Without Borders”, not “Salvation Army”.

        Across the street there is a “Dignity” shower and laundry trailer that comes by once a week. That’s a service, IIRC not religious.

  20. George Sand*

    Arrrrgghhh Sue’s manager!

    This is so common and so exasperating.

    I deal with a lot of anxiety. I work so hard to train myself out of this, so that I am NOT always anxiously wondering if people are secretly annoyed at me about things they have told me are fine.

    But I often hear examples of this. “You only need to come into the office once a week, don’t worry if you don’t though, it’s very flexible and no-one minds.” “Hmm, Sandra is never is the office, is she? She isn’t very good about coming in.”

    “Yes, finish at 5.” “I notice Sandra is straight out the door at 5.”

    If you are the manager, you are responsible for giving people the information you need them to have.

    Even if it means, shock horror, they might not all think you’re a super chill boss.

    You don’t get to prioritise your own desire not to be awkward or to be a people pleaser or whatever and then complain that people aren’t psychic.

    I don’t know if this manager is a people pleaser or if they just have had judgement.

    But either deny the request and take the consequences or take responsibility for allowing it.

    You can even communicate to Sue “this is really inconvenient, I’d rather you don’t go.”

  21. like_to_be_beside_the_seaside*

    OP 2:
    You are meeting turnaround times -is the turnover process/timeline policy in writing? If not, I would advise trying to getting it so, even if it’s writing it yourself and emailing it to Maura for approval. And ideally, someone higher up then emailing it to the sales team to remind them of the policy, and then you can signpost people to it if needed.

    The person in the job before you may have been very (over) responsive, but that doesn’t mean you have to be, but it may take time for sales team to understand (and some never will!) You may be able to have a auto-reply for sales team, that says ‘If you are emailing about x, it will be processed with x time as per company policy.’ and/or ‘If you are emailing to request prioritisation for your approval, that needs to be agreed with X’

    You can also put a note under your signature saying, ‘My working hours are x, Any out of hours requests will be seen when I return to work.’

    Also, block/mute any work chats on your phones out of hours. Allow them to shout at the wind, and then respond with Alison’s scripts when you return.

    But mainly, you’ve been told you can ignore out of hour responses. That means it is not rude to do so, despite what the sales team may try to make you feel (as they want their money asap). If it helps, think of them like demanding toddlers! Just because they want it know doesn’t mean they get it. You keep doing your job as expected by your manager.

  22. Churu*

    “but she notoriously hates one-on-ones and has asked her team not to schedule them with her”

    LOL, okay. I don’t want to do an integral part of being a manager but I sure want to keep cashing that manager paycheck each week. Must be nice.

    1. TPS reporter*

      right?? as a manager I feel like my number one priority is to meet with my team, to help them with micro day to day and macro development over time. even what my own boss needs is secondary, and third is internal office relations

      1. Coffee Protein Drink*

        Bingo! How are you supposed to get roadblocks out of your team’s way if you don’t know about them.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        Same. I don’t even know how I would do my job without regular check-ins with my team. We certainly communicate when issues come up, but having the time set aside to discuss non-urgent and strategy-related things is beneficial to both of us. They are also always welcome to schedule a meeting when they need some one-on-one time to talk through an idea or a problem.

  23. Zarniwoop*

    It sounds like you’re allowed to ignore unreasonable requests from salespeople, but you’re not allowed to tell them they’re being unreasonable.
    So just silently ignore all out of hours requests, while rolling your eyes internally.

    1. PotsPansTeapots*

      My read exactly. Which, honestly, there are plenty of sales-y workplaces where you would be expected to obsequiously do the unreasonable tasks, so this job isn’t as bad as it could be. It still isn’t an environment where I’d be happy and it sounds like OP needs to start hunting.

  24. Dinwar*

    LW 2: What you were just told is that the company is going to allow the sales people to harass you. And let’s be clear, that’s what they are doing–harassing you. And if you so much as speak up, the company will attack you, not your harasser. Your company, including your boss, is on the sales team’s side here, and they’ve made that very clear.

    Maybe this job is worth it, but you’ll need to be vary clear in your own mind about that. Because it’s not going to get any better, and will in all probability get much worse.

  25. Katie*

    OP2 – don’t let the pushy jerks phase you. Don’t look at messages after hours to phase you. You are in the right. When you do respond the next day, stick to the facts even they loop in hire ups. I figure higher ups roll their eyes when they get escalated stuff when the escalator is in the wrong.

    1. TPS reporter*

      their tactics are similar to sales- bother someone enough so that person does what you want. OP don’t give them the satisfaction. the more they learn their behavior gets a response the more they will keep doing that behavior.

  26. Emily*

    Regarding #5, the OP said they do NOT report to Sue’s manager, the one who confided.

    Alison, does this change your answer? It seems like an extra complication to revisit to conversation with someone you don’t even report to.

  27. Llellayena*

    #3 The number of times I’ve had a conversation with a choir director asking them to remind people not to wear perfumed products during rehearsal or performance due to allergies is very far from zero. Just ask the director to remind the choir that perfumes and strong smells can trigger allergies and make it difficult to breathe to sing and that smoking of any kind (I’m highly sensitive to cigarette smoke too) is part of that. They can directly ask that no one wear perfumes or smoke immediately before rehearsal.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      They can directly ask that no one wear perfumes or smoke immediately before rehearsal.

      This part is important. If you’re accustomed to the smell of smoke, you often don’t notice it and might not realize that a warning about strong smells could apply to you.

    2. OP3*

      Amazingly, it’s just never been an issue before this with my group. I don’t know if I’m just lucky with my seating, but I’ve never noticed smells (perfumed or otherwise) from other choristers, and can only remember one “please don’t wear fragrances” announcement/reminder in my almost-decade of time with this group.

  28. PropJoe*

    LW2 has my sympathies. Anecdotally speaking it seems like sales people can get away with a lot. At the last place I worked that had dedicated B2B sales, those employees were seemingly exempted from most rules. They could have snorted cocaine in public view in the office midday and not gotten in a bit of trouble over it. Who needs to read emails? That’s why they have secretaries to read their email for them.

  29. HigherEd Boundaries*

    LW2 – I don’t know if this has already been said, but when I had issues with this involving a now former supervisor, I set up the personal time feature on my phone which allows me to select who can contact me during that time period (think family, friends, etc.). You can schedule it to start and end automatically, so I had mine set for 5:30pm – 7:45am M-F and then 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday. It did wonders.

  30. Guest*

    IME even community choruses have strict rules about scents, whether cologne, fragranced grooming products, and eating smelly foods before rehearsals or performances. Things like alcohol and weed that leave an odor and can also intoxicate someone are definitely forbidden. Talk to the director or chorus manager – if Jessica uses pot for medical reasons, she can do edibles on choir days.

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

    OP 2…

    Now I feel crazy — if I ignore I’m going to be publicly shamed, but if I don’t ignore I’m in trouble with my boss.

    If I were a cynic, I might suspect a malicious setup.

    Since I’m not, I will simply suggest you set an after-hours auto-reply (e.g. ”My hours are X:00 AM to Y:00 PM. Messages received outside of those hours will be answered the following business day.”) to officially establish the boundary — and then enforce the boundary by following it to the letter.

  32. Trout 'Waver*

    In response to OP#1’s question “Why do offices keep doing challenges as a team engagement activity like this that may exclude people?”

    One thing I’ve learned from the comments here over the years is that there is no way to include everyone. There’s no universal team activity that everyone can do and everyone likes. I think the best thing to do is to try to include as many people as possible, don’t pressure people who opt-out, and make sure inclusion/opt-out status isn’t tied to job status.

    1. Coffee Protein Drink*

      and make sure inclusion/opt-out status isn’t tied to job status.

      or insurance premiums.

    2. Lily Potter*

      Amen! There is no way to please everyone, except to cease all team activities – at which point people would complain about not feeling engaged with their co-workers!

    3. I don't even WORK there!*

      And also, mix it up! Do a physical challenge, then a book club, then an food thing, etc. Changing up the activities means different people will engage with each one. But if every activity is physical, the same people get left out every time. If every activity is food, the same people get left out every time, etc.

  33. Kesnit*

    Two things jumped out at me about the step challenge (beyond what several people said above).

    The first is that there has to be a way to measure steps. Obviously if someone has a smart watch, that solves that problem. But those things are not cheap (as someone who wears ones can attest). Or what if someone just does not want to wear a smart watch? (One of my coworkers is a bit of a watch geek and likes buying himself expensive, nice looking watches that he proudly shows off at work.)

    The second is that it limits what “counts.” A former co-worker of mine was an avid biker. He talked about doing long rides. I participate in duathlons and am training for a triathlon. I do workouts most days, but only my running days would count. I can spend an hour in the pool, but my “step total” would be less than someone who walked up and down the hall a few times.

    1. Ink*

      Pre-smartwatch these programs used dinky little pedometers you can clip to a belt loop or your shoe. Something inside shakes up and down when you move and move the counter up. They’re dollar-store-level tech now, I assume most workplaces are still using them- even a “high end” one is pretty cheap. They’re very noisy :/

    2. WellRed*

      My company allowed for biking and swimming as well. It wasn’t a literal pedometer thing. You should suggest it.

  34. HonorBox*

    OP2 – Maura and HR suck in this situation. You have had boundaries stepped on. You were called out in a very public way. Even though you’d done your job, you were still called out, and the sales person didn’t receive any blowback for their lack of attention to detail and for treating you poorly. Then your flippant comment (which was NOT BAD) got you a talking to. You’re being held to a different standard…

    I think you need to have a conversation with Maura and HR. Let them know how often salespeople are reaching out to you. Because someone above you needs to help put a stop to it. It is one thing to tell you that you don’t have to respond. But it another thing to be on the receiving end of many, many messages. It needs to be clarified from above you and above the salespeople that outside of work messages like this are unnecessary and will not be tolerated. If there’s an issue related to timing for approval of the information, that needs to be addressed above you, too.

    I’ve read enough of the comments to know that others are suggesting that you just ignore them. Don’t check your messages and you won’t see that you’re getting all these messages. But it isn’t that easy all the time. If you are getting as many as it seems like you are, and they’re escalating enough that people are trying to embarrass you, that’s crappy. If you aren’t checking and then open up your phone the next morning and see a bunch of messages, that can create anxiety and anger, and you don’t need that either. You’re allowed to have boundaries, and if people aren’t respecting the boundaries that you’ve been approved by Maura to set, it is now her job to clearly communicate with salespeople or their manager that the approval they need will come during regular business hours only, and they’re not to send you messages outside of those hours.

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

      You make a good point. Do Maura and HR realize how often they are contacting the OP and that its constant? It’s not once but multiple times after hours, and it sounds like it’s almost daily. If I was OP I would forward every communication to Maura when it happens to show her how bad it is.
      Also, I would have a private conversation with HR explaining that when you follow Maura’s advice and ignore messages you get called out publicly by the sales team and they escalate to the grandboss.

    2. Ozzie Gal*

      Even though I’m from a different country, the business I work for is American-owned and all of our mandatory compliance training comes straight out of the US head office (minus a few slides that are unneeded due to differences in IR legislation between our two countries).
      Reading LW2’s letter, the most immediate word that came to my mind was “harassment”. Due to being on the receiving multiple aggressive and intimidating emails (cc’ing in more and more senior management definitely comes under trying to intimidate you!), followed up after your answer by a reply that is basically public embarrassment and an attempt to humiliate you. This harassment is allowed to continue unfettered and all you’re told is “you can ignore emails sent after hours..” – well, that doesn’t stop them, nor would it stop the increasingly snarky and abusive follow-ups, cc’d of course to senior management. All for our LW to wake up to the following business morning. And when LW pushes back mildly, they are the one who gets punished.. Should you have that conversation with Maura and HR, I’d definitely include the word “harassment,” heck, even “I feel I am being subjected to a hostile work environment” if it gets that bad. At the very least it should have HR (if they’re in any way competent) going “oh, sh**”..
      And, polish your resume, because if your boss is going to throw you under a bus for a mild push-back, you know for sure she doesn’t have your back when things get tough.

  35. Third Party*

    I’m curious as to how LW 2 is receiving the after hours messages. If it’s through a work channel then 100% ignore them and direct all concerns with this to your boss. If it’s a work phone turn it off when you leave, if it’s emails just don’t check them.

    I am wondering if it’s something linked to a personal device though because I’ve been caught in that myself where people got my personal number (either because I gave it to them for social reasons early on in my career, a mistake I have very much learned from, or because they got it from someone else) and would call or text me about work whenever they wanted. There’s nothing quite like lying in bed reading before you go to sleep only to get a question about the Smith account because your coworker is going to be late to their deadline. You can ignore those types of messages, but they don’t leave you easily. Like I could have been 2 minutes from falling asleep, but I would have been up for another 2 hours thinking about the Smith account.

    1. SarahKay*

      But even if OP#2 ignores them at the time these messages are still all waiting for them when they get in. And certainly from my point of view that’s pretty stressful.
      Especially if some of the messages have been escalated to grand-bosses over-night :-(

      1. HonorBox*

        That is what I was thinking too. In theory – like it is on a work only device – they can be ignored in the moment, but getting bombarded with messages when you turn that device on can be extremely stressful. And the anticipation of what you might walk into when you turn on your device can cause great anxiety. This is a situation where in theory, ignoring them or dismissing them is good on print, but in reality, it isn’t that easy. Leadership needs to jump in to assist, because it seems like the salespeople are pushing boundaries that don’t need to be pushed, and aren’t at all understanding that OP doesn’t have to be responsive to their every need every second of the day.

        1. Myrin*

          Okay, but that’s no reason for OP to have her boundaries regularly trampled. The end goal is for the salespeople to be so unsatisfied by OP’s lack of immediate reaction that they will stop their outside-of-work-hours pestering altogether.

          (Nevermind that it’s possible that if OP doesn’t see the messages at all, she wouldn’t be particularly stressed. I know that I wouldn’t; it’s just how I’m wired.)

          But I definitely agree that OP needs strong support from her higher-ups no matter what.

        2. I should really pick a name*

          Leadership needs to jump in to assist

          I think leadership has already shown that they’re not going to do that, so the LW is really choosing between reading these messages after hours, or reading them on the clock.

  36. CommanderBanana*

    Managers who hate one-on-ones shouldn’t be managers.

    Managers who approve someone’s leave and then trash them behind their back about it shouldn’t be managers.

    1. WellRed*

      You forgot managers who tell employees one thing and then don’t back them up or throw them under the bus shouldn’t be managers.

    2. Garblesnark*

      Yeah, a lot of managers mentioned here should be referred to last week’s “why don’t managers realize that if they treat people poorly, they’ll leave?” post.

  37. Petty Petty*

    Oof #2 hit me hard. The way I would handle it is to:

    1: not reply after hours and wait until the following morning.

    2: reply to sales with the following:

    Hi Sales Rep,

    Here’s a screenshot showing your request was completed yesterday at 4:13 pm. I have completed your request per the company guidelines which I have provided here for your reference (provide a link or copy/paste). As a reminder, I do not reply to messages or emails outside of my working hours which are 9-5 M-F. Thank you.

    3: tag your boss and the sales reps boss at the end of the message with “For your reference. Please let me know if you have any questions.”

    Good luck!

  38. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW2, one thing I have learned is that I’m not responsible for how other people feel about me enforcing a reasonable boundary. If they’re upset with me, that cannot be my problem. Alison’s scripts are bang on – repeat factual statements that your hours are X to Y and you’re not available outside those times. If someone tries to act as though you were late on something when you weren’t, “I e-mailed [document] to you at 3:12PM, did you receive it?”

    It sucks you’re in this situation. If the timelines are a problem for the sales staff, they should start pressuring leadership to hire more people in your role to speed things up.

  39. Don't step to it*

    I completely emphasize with LW1. WHY do companies feel the need to do things like this?!

    I work for a very large company and every month they send out a calendar with a different healthy tip for each day, plus challenges like walking more or increasing your water intake. As someone recovering from an almond mom and years of body dysmorphia who’s still trying to heal their relationship with food and exercise, I hate it. But as far as I can tell there’s no way to opt out since it’s sent to all employees.

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

      I’m sorry, that must really be rough. Could you set your mail up so those go directly to a folder that you don’t read?

  40. MrsPookie*

    For the weed smoker I think your response is wrong. This person is an acquaintance and I would definitely mention it to her in private (news flash- most cannabis smokers dont realize how strong it smells to others). A simple “Hey Jessica, you really smell like weed right now- didnt know if you realized how strong it smells’ (in private and away from others) She will probably thank you for it- In a church atmosphere I think the choir head may be judgy IMO. Just because its now legal there doesnt mean the stigma is gone -even if it is used for medicinal purposes.

    1. OP3*

      Well, the reasons I am hesitant to approach her directly is the health issues she has that are (I assume based on things she has said) what she’s treating with marijuana. As a nonprofit arts organization, I didn’t want to run afoul of ADA compliance, and that’s why I wrote to Alison. Generally I’m an empathetic person who also believes in being direct and kind – I would have no problem saying to her “Hey, I don’t think you realize this but you smell really strongly of smoke and it’s impacting the people around you.”

      We aren’t connected with any religious institution. We rehearse and perform in a school/academic venue.

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

      It’s not a church choir. There is no evidence that the choir head would be judgy. They probably have smelled it too, but didn’t realize it bothered anyone.

  41. Marta*

    Nobody should berate or be rude to anyone, but I wonder if in #2 something about the policy should be adjusted. If this is happening with regularity maybe there does need to be some after hours availability

    Not that it’s OPs issue to solve but the whole thing sounds unpleasant…And why did your manager turn so quickly? Lame

    1. ArtK*

      The salesperson is going to get their commission at the same time, whether the OP responds overnight or in the morning. This is all about salespeople being impatient for their money and being pushy.

    2. WellRed*

      If anything, maybe the company process is too onerous or lengthy but that’s not on OP to solve. If the company wants to keep its salespeople happy, it should take a look at this.

  42. RagingADHD*

    LW2, in your position I would set an OOO message every evening with one of the statements suggested, and direct people to Maura if they need “an urgent exception to the normal payment processing procedure”.

  43. Karma is My Boyfriend and so is Travis Kelce*

    Pushing back on health challenges at work is easy enough if you “look” healthy and able bodied. It’s another challenge when you’re fat or not outwardly disabled and you don’t want to do it/can’t do it because people look at you like *of course* the fatty would be participating! So when you don’t, in my mind, I imagine them thinking that I need this health challenge the most and that I’m too lazy to care about my health.

    1. Ana Maus*


      I’m fat. I’ve noticed a major difference in how people treat me if I’m performing the “good fatty” role and making everything in my life about weight loss.

  44. WellRed*

    If the smoker knew it was a problem, she could take some simple Mitigating steps so that the smell (and yes, all smokers smell) is much less overwhelming. Throw on a “smoking jacket,” tie back long hair while smoking, allow a time buffer, if possible, etc. it’s not perfect but it’s not difficult to try.

  45. TarquinOnTheShelf*

    Regarding #2, I have been in a similar situation, with the sales critters whining to the C-suite, with negative repercussions for me, even though I followed policy. When they try to embarrass you like that, I have found the best answer is to embarrass THEM back (in your case, a group message of “This has been sitting in your inbox. Please exercise better attention to detail. I am disappointed that you do not seem to understand the process.” would be fitting.)

    I did something similar, along with emphasizing to the offending salescritters (there were more than one) that if their getting their commission depended on me, they might not want to cause me problems. In my case, I could refuse to approve their closing documentation for pretty much any error they made, including extremely trivial ones. With the worst problem child, I once delayed a substantial commission of his by a month because, in some of the internal documentation, he had typed the opportunity as “Cooper and Sons” (not the real customer, obviously), when the legal name of the customer was “Cooper & Sons”. I kicked the whole documentation set back to him, and he couldn’t fix it until the first day of the next month, which meant he didn’t get paid until the month after.

    After I did this a couple of times, and had a chat with the sales AVP about how following the process and being nice to me helps things work well, the problems stopped. The sales critter hated me forever, but as long as he didn’t cause me any active trouble, (and I could always tank his numbers whenever I wanted to….there were ALWAYS trivial mistakes I could kick a packet back for), I didn’t care.

    When people don’t listen to reason, sometimes they listen to the “find out” part of “****around and find out”.

  46. Overthinking it*

    #4, I disagree with Allison. Please, no “I’d like to talk with you about. . . ” that is scary and will put her on the defensjve (in fact to most people in most types of relationships, “we need to talk” announcements are counter productive, because they are so ominous.) I’d say make it completely casual, and be prepared for it to be one-sided. Just catch your boss on the fly and tell her you are glad to be back, that “the environment” seems to have improved and you yourself are in a better place, and you appreciate her not allowing anything you said – however sincere – at the time of your leaving being an issue in your eirking relationship. Then you can gush (just a little!) and say how much you like the team and her. You want to thank her, but avoid reopening the issues OR backing down from what you said, right?

    1. Moussesauce*

      “We need to talk” or “can we talk?” with your direct manager should not put them on the defensive unless they are weird or you phrase in a confrontationally direct way. It’s weirder not to talk, IMO.

    2. RagingADHD*

      Completely disagree.

      1) This is a work relationship, not dating. Different types of relationships have different norms and parameters. It is not all the same.

      2) This is not a manager approaching an employee saying “we need to talk,” which could potentially sound ominous, especially if the topic were not included. The power dynamic is the other way around – it’s the employee asking to get on the manager’s calendar for routine managerial feedback.

      3) “Hi, I need to talk to you about [insert topic], can we schedule time for that?” is a completely normal work request and anyone who gets defensive about it needs to find a way to manage their own emotions instead of expecting their coworkers or employees to stage elaborate scenes pretending they aren’t trying to schedule an ordinary, standard meeting.

    3. Moths*

      I agree about telling the boss that OP is glad to be back and that you appreciate how smoothly things are going, etc. I think it doesn’t need to be a big thing (set up a meeting or not — either is probably fine, but I wouldn’t make the whole meeting about it), but if it will ease a little of OP’s anxiety, I think the best approach is to just proactively address it by saying some positive things about boss and the company as a whole. Then if OP has any concerns about if boss thinks they’re still upset, that will hopefully ease the concerns.

  47. ReallyBadPerson*

    Regarding the steps challenge, I would ask if there are any actual, peer-reviewed studies demonstrating the beneficial effects of such programs on productivity. I’m guessing the “benefits” of this sort of thing are only perceived. They really need to stop.

  48. Anon for This Comment*

    LW1: I am on my company’s wellness committee, they are currently sponsoring a walking challenge. I walk 3-4 miles a day, 4-5 days a week, and I will not be participating in the challenge. This isn’t because I’m worried about stats, or because as a committee member “I don’t count”, but simply because I think they’re silly and no nothing to foster actual wellness.

    1. Penuche Panache*

      Walking is wellness. It’s easy on the body, great for mental stimulation and stress reduction. Many studies have proven that walking is one of the easiest ways to start a fitness and wellness lifestyle. Perhaps you have lofty goals that require complicated implementation thus you believe are more wellness-focused?

  49. CrazyCatLady*

    For OP#2, I feel your pain. I worked in mortgage operations. it was an unwritten rule that sales was allowed to do and act any way they wanted because they brought in the revenue. Managers said they had our back and told me us to (a) push back, or (b) being it to their attention if someone was rude, hostile or inappropriate.

    Guess what…the first time we did that, sales whined and we got in trouble for not being part of the team. At the end before I retired it was overt .. managers told us to make sure the loan officer was happy because if we didn’t we were taking money out of their wallet. I was tempted to ask my manager “if the loan officer tells me to go outside and click like a chicken, do I need to do that”.

    So glad that I retired!!!

    1. CrazyCatLady*

      I did not proofread before I posted. Two obvious typos

      1) bring it to their attention
      2) Cluck like a chicken

  50. CatPerson*

    For what it’s worth, those steps challenges are hogwash. Walk to the bathroom? 100 steps! Pedometer falls off you belt? Ten free steps! Unless you’re getting meaningful cardio exercise, your steps don’t mean a thing. And your exercise plan is no one’s business but your own. I used to quietly go home and do 40 minutes of cardio 4 days a week and I never walked around bragging about it, but I can tell you that I got better exercise than most people I knew. Don’t apologize.

    1. LB33*

      Walking is exercise – not hogwash. Not everyone doing a challenge is obsessed with it.

      It’s great that you are in such amazing shape but if others are walking to get their exercise no. need to look down on it

      1. CatPerson*

        Yeah, you’re wrong. The kind of walking that steps programs measures provides no information as to the quality of the walking. Strolling to the bathroom and counting those steps as exercise is completely meaningless. There is good walking and there is nothing walking and steps programs do not inform your view of health.

        1. LB33*

          Yes if all your steps consist of a few walks back and forth to the bathroom then sure you probably aren’t getting much exercise. But who’s saying that and what does that even have do with anything

          I don’t think anyone doing a steps challenge is claiming to be the next Usain Bolt or that it’s good training for a triathalon so I guess I don’t really get your overall point

  51. Mike Engle*

    Writer #1: Two of my favorite stories of malicious compliance on steps challenges come from this blog! One person put their Fitbit on their hyperactive German shepherd and won the contest. Another person put their Fitbit among some clean sheets, threw all that in the laundry dryer, placed them in a “spin only, no heat” cycle, and racked up all the steps in the dryer! The correct answer is to not have to play, but hell, if you have to “play,” might as well put the air-quotes around “play!”

  52. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    OP2 -You can not make them stop contacting you after hours. Do not fight them at the source.

    Which means you need to cut off your access so you do not see it. Turn off notifications after hours 100%. If they are texting you then it is time to request a work phone that you turn off at 5 pm or put your phone in the mode that only allows specific people to contact you during quiet hours.

    When you log on in the morning treat all messages as if they came in at the start of your day. If this sort of item is the bulk of your job an autoreply that states something along the lines of “Business hours are 8-5. Sales processing requests take 3-4 business hours to complete are are processed in the order they are received”

    If there are disparaging messages I have found better luck with the “oblivious” answer. I do not apologize EVER for not working off the clock. I will however reply matter of factly along the lines of – Expected turn around time is 3-4 business hours so I am happy to report that this was completed in 2.5 business hours. Have a great day! The sarcasm is obvious and completely non-actionable.

    Honestly, Maura has let you know she will never have your back. Start job hunting.

    1. BellyButton*

      Exactly, I do not apologize for doing my job. They don’t have to like the way I do my job, but if I am following processes, rules, standards, etc. I reply back just as you stated. They can say whatever, but I have the proof that they are the ones being unreasonable!

  53. BellyButton*

    #2 -set an out of office message setup to run automatically every day- “If this message is received outside of (hours including time zone), I will respond and process your request within (standard/approved turn around time).”

  54. Sled Dog Mama*

    My professional organization has a fitness challenge as part of it’s annual meeting. (Pre-Covid we had an annual fun walk/run) Two years ago was the last time I participated, I thought the way they went about being inclusive was good. You counted minutes of “healthy activity” so any type of exercise counted and you were allowed to count things like preparing meals at home, stretching, attending physical therapy, walking from the conference to your hotel, etc. (It ran from 1 week before the meeting until 1 week after) The amount of time people were logging was absolutely insane. People were logging 6+ hours of meal prep on consecutive days (once a week I could see but not daily for a string of days) and 6+ hours of exercise, daily for multiple days in a row.
    I was so mad because I though hey this will be a fun a thing and they really tried to make it inclusive some people were clearly logging unreasonable amounts of time. The thing that made me really mad though was that this was all for nothing, no prizes, no participation medals, it was literally supposed to be “make people more conscious of how much they actually exercise” and people had to go cheating

  55. PotsPansTeapots*

    Can I propose that we have a “Sales People Behaving Badly” reader story post?

    My contribution: My first job out of college, a sales rep’s intervention allowed a customer to submit POs without any pricing listed. Which lead to the person entering the POs (me) to be blamed when the customer was charged at prices they didn’t like. Calls to the sales rep to help me out were, of course, never returned.

  56. Head sheep counter*

    For #2… if you are using your own personal device after hours for notifications, stop. Remove work email and/or software.

    If its a work device – can you leave it at work? Seeing that you are cleared to not respond after hours?

  57. Aitch Arr*

    Wonders if #3 is in my chorus, though we do not require auditions.

    (And no, I’m not Jessica.)

    1. OP3*

      *insert multiple shifty eye emojis*

      Just joking. If you definitely aren’t auditioned, then no.

  58. Sad Desk Salad*

    Our new CLO has suggested a steps contest a few times now. For the record, none of us (as far as we know) have any physical disabilities that would prevent us from being able to participate. And I like steps contests, but I won’t be participating. And not just because I lost my Apple watch (it’s either tucked away in my luggage somewhere or it lives in Aotearoa now), but because I’m in the midst of marathon training. I’ve gotten people mad at me in steps contests before. How can you compete with someone who completes 20,000 steps before breakfast when you struggle to make 10,000? It’s not fair and it’ll kill the fun for everyone else. I’d planned on telling the truth on why I won’t participate if they actually make the contest happen, but is that a bad idea?

  59. fhqwhgads*

    #5 I question how integral someone could possibly be if they’ve only worked there a month. Sue’s boss seems unreasonable in more than one way.

  60. Raida*

    2. Coworkers pressure me to respond after hours

    How are they contacting you?
    If it’s via email, set working hours on your app so it doesn’t notify you.
    If it’s via personal phone, get a digital number and send that around for work and get your personal one recorded only for HR and your manager.

    For me personally, this wouldn’t be an issue because I’d simply… not care. But you do. And salespeople often get a lot more free reign in businesses because ‘they bring in the money’ – which is short sighted and just trains them to be more and more tools. I feel for you, this sucks.

    So, sit down with your manager, write a few standard responses, get them to agree to the wording, and just copy and paste one when needed.
    “Emails sent after Xpm are attended to the next business day, if this is an urgent message you are welcome to discuss with Manager.”
    “Manager has confirmed my working hours are Y-X, if you feel these are inaccurate you are welcome to discuss with Manager.”
    and, I doubt it would fly with your manager but definitely have it on the list, “Pissing off My Role is hardly how I’d approach getting paid faster, mate. I get my work done within reasonable and expected and transparent timeframes, poking me doesn’t make it go faster.”

  61. Therapist-on-Deck*

    I don’t know if this has been addressed before, but as a passionate boundary-keeper, I feel like this needs to be said, especially for LW2.

    Boundaries are NOT what you’re expecting someone else to do. That’s a rule. It is all about what YOU will do in a situation. The whole point of a boundary is to take back power in a situation where you feel powerless. It can have a side effect of changing someone’s behavior (since boundaries can also often be consequences to someone breaking a rule), but that usually depends on A) sticking to it forever and B) how well the other people want to care/respect it.

    In the case of LW2, you have laid down a rule that people should not contact you after hours. The boundary, in this case, is if they send you an email after hours…you ignore it.

    Now, it’s pretty clear these salespeople are purposely and cruelly hounding you, but they aren’t going to care about your boundary unless you stone-cold commit to it. And that might mean forever receiving rude emails about it. Your job is to ignore them, no matter what.

    (I also have some mixed feelings about calling LW4’s boss’s refusal to do 1-on-1’s a “boundary” but that’s just semantics lol)

  62. Oldsbone*

    To #3, I direct a community choir (not auditioned but it is part of a nonprofit organization). If yours is like ours, we have a protocol in place to deal with member conflicts. We have an elected choir representative to our board of directors and part of her job is mediation between members or if a member has a problem with me as a director. We also have the chairwoman of the orchestra and choir committee singing in the choir. Ideally your organization would have someone with that responsibility, but if not I’d start with taking to the director. S/he may be able to point you to the correct person if there is one.
    You’re right that reeking of smoke (of any kind) isn’t conducive to a good rehearsal. Maybe a solution would be that if she needs marijuana for medical reasons she takes an edible before rehearsal instead of smokes.

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