manager wants to match outfits, in trouble for a text sent outside of work, and more

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

1. Does my manager want to match outfits with me?

I know this is almost definitely a joke, but it’s a reoccurring and oddly specific one.

I’ve been at my current office job for about a year and a half. When I was a few months in, I wore a red plaid dress and thought nothing of it, until the next day when my boss (who I hadn’t seen the day I wore the dress) told me she was also wearing red plaid and joked we matched. At the time I thought nothing of it, but every few weeks or months similar things happen. One day I wore what I thought was a plain black and white striped cardigan, and my boss immediately said she had to have one, and asked where and when I bought it and how much it cost. It seemed like a lot of details for a joke, then she mentioned matching again.

She’s made a few more comments and then today I was wearing a green skirt and an autumn orange shirt, and she said she loved those colors and needed to start wearing them again soon. I said something like, “I hope you’re not talking about matching again” and she started saying how funny it would be if we did match, and I said, “If you start copying my outfits, I’m going to start wearing crop tops.” My boss laughed for a good while and I left. I don’t think I’m in trouble as we work in a casual small office and joking is a quite common. I’ve also been told I’m funny and friendly, and I kept my tone friendly as I said it, so I think it was fine.

But all the comments about matching are starting to bother me and I don’t know what to do. I’m turning 30 this year and my boss is about the same age as my mother. The only explanation I can think of for this is that this is my first office job and my taste in clothes is very girly and vintage, so sometimes I’ve asked my boss if certain outfits are OK to wear to work. My boss has approved of all my outfits — again, we’re very casual — so maybe this is just her way of saying what I’m wearing to work is fine? Also, I don’t usually wear heels or make up to work or do my hair, but today when she made the comment I was wearing make up. Is she trying to tell me to dress more fancy or is she just trying to be funny? What, if anything, should I say the next time she brings up matching outfits?

You are reading way too much into it. Your boss is just joking around and maybe likes your fashion sense. You’ve talked with her about clothes before, so she might figure you have a camaraderie on the topic or that it’s a shared interest. It’s very unlikely that she actually wants to wearing matching clothes; she’s just being friendly. (It’s also not uncommon for people, usually women, in an office to joke about accidentally matching. She may have just latched on to this as a point of connection.)

is it weird to start dressing like my boss?

2. How can I tell the new owner of my company how crucial I am?

I work in an office of a family-operated business with less than 10 employees. I am the only one not related to the family. I love my job and am really good at it. I am involved in or manage all aspects of it. The owner has decided to sell the business and I am the only one that has been asked to move to the new business.

I recently met with the person who will be buying the business and, while they are in the same field, they have less experience than me. It was very apparent that I would have to train them on multiple aspects of the business, including products and systems. To say I am concerned is an understatement. While I thought it was a meet and greet, they used it more as a new employee interview. It became apparent to me while speaking that they did not understand the extent that I run the business day to day and the work that I do. To be frank, if I didn’t move to the new business, I don’t think it would stay afloat. Though comments they made, it became apparent they were trying to justify my wage.

I guess my questions is how to navigate this big change and make sure that I am not coming across as arrogant or demanding but also make sure that they know that my wage and hours are really not negotiable and that while I have no interest in purchasing the business from the owner, I basically run it. Any insights or advice would be helpful.

It makes sense that they treated the meeting more as an interview than a meet and greet; most people in their shoes would want to assess the person in your position before they start working with you. But it’s reasonable for you to assess them right back and figure out if you want to work for them and whatever their vision is for your position. If you’re getting vibes that they might be skeptical of your pay, hours, or role, that’s something you should try to explicitly hash out now — unless you’re willing to just take it as it comes after the ownership change, even you turn out to be really unaligned. (To that point: are you sure you want to stay on?)

Meanwhile, can you talk to the current owner and ask what conversations they’ve had about you, and how much the new owner has been told about what you do? They’re better positioned than you are to explain that you’re crucial — and if they don’t think the business would stay afloat without you, they should tell the incoming owner that. But it would also be smart for you to prepare a detailed description of what you handle and the amount of time involved in each piece. In other words, don’t tell the new owner that you’re crucial — show it.

3. I got in trouble for a text I sent to a coworker/friend outside of work

I was venting to a coworker who I thought was a friend and said that sometimes my other coworker made me want to high five her in the face. She took a screenshot and sent it to our manager. Can my employer write me up for something I said in text to a friend while I was off the clock and off job premises?

Yes. You were talking to a coworker (friend or not) about another coworker and you said, basically, that you wanted to slap her in the face. It doesn’t matter that it was outside of work hours or off work premises; things you say to and about coworkers are fair game for your employer to take action on if they consider it a problem for your workplace.

That said, writing you up is silly. Your manager should have just talked to you, said it’s not acceptable to talk about colleagues that way, and asked what’s going on that was behind it.

4. I don’t know whether I’m going on a trip or not

I’m trying to figure out whether to follow up on an exciting work opportunity that was hinted at and then just sort of … dropped.

In the last six months, I began a new role that I absolutely love and have gotten great feedback about my work and abilities. I feel that I’m proving myself, and when my boss suggested that the organization might like to send me on a trip to provide logistical/operational support for an upcoming event with an exciting international partner, it was validating! However, that conversation was a month ago and I have heard nothing since. One part of me wants to ask whether our shop is still in need of my help and whether I should plan my tasks and meetings around this (soon approaching) event or not. Another part of me thinks that it would be gauche and presumptuous for me, a brand-new and low-ranked employee, to follow up about participating in a glamorous international work trip. I’m still trying to establish myself as a reliable, effective, and grounded team member, so should I ask, or should I just assume that it was not a serious suggestion, and leave it alone?

It’s not gauche or presumptuous to ask about it. They mentioned it! It’s reasonable to go back to your boss now and say, “You’d mentioned last month that you might want to send me to X for Y purpose. Since the event is getting closer, I wanted to check back with you and see what you’re thinking about it.”

5. My doctor won’t sign off on an accommodation

I have chronic neck pain that I have never solved. Sitting or standing at a desk is the worst thing for it, and I have considered changing careers because of it (but this hasn’t been financially possible). My MRI shows arthritis and bulging discs, but I know some people have those and feel no or less pain (or probably more, for some). I manage it with a combination of yoga, physical therapy, muscle relaxers/painkillers and frequent medical massage. I’m probably in pain eight days out of 10. Recently I’ve decided to be more proactive and sought an accommodation from my company, who is a large employer known for being good about this. An HR person immediately set up a meeting and gave me the paperwork for my doctor to sign. Yay! Right?

Except … my doctor won’t sign it, writing me back to say she’s “not sure this qualifies.” And now I feel foolish in front of my boss, who knew I was seeking this accommodation. The accommodation is to work 1-2 days in office instead of 3+ (being able to take breaks to lie down/stretch helps me). I already have an ergonomic setup at home and at my office, so that won’t help.

I feel that the root of the problem is that I appear fit and healthy, and I’m youngish. But it’s a very real problem that often has me in tears by the end of the day. What should I do, other than changing careers or trying to find a new doctor, I guess? Am I being unreasonable in requesting this accommodation? I know a lot of people have neck pain. Is that why it isn’t seen as a condition to accommodate? I’m just so frustrated.

Your doctor’s role isn’t to say whether your condition qualifies for accommodation under the law; her role is to say what you need to perform your job safely and comfortably. If she believes that’s less in-office work, it’s appropriate for her to say that.

But is she telling you that she doesn’t believe less in-office work is necessary? I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s dealing with a lot of patients seeking her sign-off on work-from-home accommodations in cases where she doesn’t actually think it’s necessary, and that might be what’s going on here. In that case, you could have a conversation with her to try to better understand her perspective and share yours (specifically, the relief you’ve found from being able to lie down and stretch throughout the day). If you’ve otherwise found her to be a caring and responsive doctor, that conversation is worth having. But if she’s not taking your pain seriously, you’re better off finding someone who will.

{ 354 comments… read them below }

    1. JPalmer*


      #2 also should be ready to ask for a raise “As I am heavily involved in the day to day of the business and a necessary component of keeping the business afloat, I think it would be sensible to talk about an increase in compensation. Once you assume ownership I will be covering additional responsibilities of getting you up to speed on . I want your business to do well, I like working here, but that will be an increase in responsibilities. The alternative to all of this is bringing me in as a paid consultant in X months when my expertise is more apparent.”

      Id vary the amount of hardball based on leverage/how much you don’t want to train an unaware owner.

      1. ShinyGoldHat*

        This was my thought too (the raise)… if they stay, they’ll have significantly more work load bringing the new owner up to speed. LW doesn’t need to justify their salary, they need to expect more.

      2. Flossie Bobbsey*

        OP2 should start seriously assessing (1) whether they even want to stay with the business and (2) what they will do if they are not retained post-acquisition. Mid-transaction is not the time to start demanding a higher salary. The reality is that the new owner probably has their own ideas for the business, so it’s not necessarily relevant how essential OP2 is/was to the current owner. I don’t think OP2 is in a position to play hardball whatsoever.

      3. Snap, Crackle, Flop*

        I may have first-hand relevant experience as I deal with the sale of businesses, and the issue of key employees comes up all the time. A couple of things could be going on here.

        My first question is where this Buyer is at in the process. Have they already gotten underwriting approval and has a Business Asset Agreement been approved? Typically, a Buyer won’t meet with any employees until these benchmarks have been met.

        Also, if it’s gone through underwriting, the loan should have been approved without reducing your salary. In that case, the Buyer shouldn’t be beyond trying to inflate the cash flow. Most underwriters aren’t going to look at that as an “extraordinary expense” but as a normal cost of doing business. The only exception would be if one of the Buyers (say it’s a couple) plans on taking over some of your role, and they feel it can be normalized to the perceived market rate. If you’re the only employees who is conveying with the business, and multiple family members are working in the business whose roles will need to be covered, that seems unlikely.

        However, of this is an equity investor or a private investment group, they may have the personnel resources already in place to cover some of these jobs. Personally, I am very reluctant to work with such buyers. Not always, but frequently their ultimate goal is to resell the business in a couple of years for a profit. To accomplish this, they look for ways to cut costs in order to inflate cash flow.

        The SBA also changed some of its underwriting rules about six months ago. Since then, some shadier players – in terms of lenders – entered the market. They pull questionable tricks to get financially unqualified buyers through the approval process. I did one deal with one of these non-bank lenders, and that will be my last.

        Note that most Sellers typically will provide up to four weeks of training, and if more is needed, they are available to consult thereafter for a fee. If true in this situation as well, this should lessen the training burden put on you.

        It’s the Buyer’s burden to do their due diligence, and that includes understanding the operations. If they know in advance that you are hesitant to stay on, that may crater the deal. Most reasonably intelligent business buyers will do their best to minimize any changes and maintain goodwill with employees. The Training & Transition phase is typically a bit hectic as they are coming up to speed. No one understands all the ins-and-outs until they actually assume the helm.

        When we run into a key employee situation, we often advise the Buyer to put that employee under a one-year contract and incentivize them with a bonus or profit-sharing plan to ensure continuity and minimize disruptions. Some do, most don’t. Regardless, you can ask if they plan to put together an employee contract and ask for the opportunity to review it before you commit. This would give you the chance to review your job description for accuracy, make sure that it allows you a reasonable out, and see if there will be any alterations to your compensation and benefits.

        1. Captain Janeway*

          Not LW but this is really interesting insight! My spouse acquired a company last year and kept on all the existing employees, plus raises. (It was around raise time anyway, but didn’t hurt as a retention tool.) The previous owner was also contracted to stay on as a consultant for a period of time. In a small business, so much depends on the perspective of the owner — LW’s job or pay could be at risk, even if they’re right that they are essential to the business, if the new owner simply doesn’t see it the same way. I would be looking at other options, and talk to the boss/old owner to get their insight.

      4. MK*

        OP says the meeting with the new owner felt like an interview and that they were trying to figure out the extent they were involved in running the company. I doubt this is the right time to demand a raise, especially from someone who doesn’t really know OP’s perfrormance.

        Also. it’s more than possible that the new owner isn’t interested in an employee who “basically runs the company”; presumably they want to run it themselves, since they bought it.

    2. TheErstwhileLibrarian*

      In response to LW #2, it would probably be worthwhile to check in with your current boss/retiring company owner and get a sense of whether *they* view you as critical to the day-to-day business operations. Even if you’re a loyal, respected, and well-compensated employee of the business, if they don’t view you as essential, then they’re not going to tell the new owner you’re essential.

      Earlier in my career, I was stymied (twice) by direct managers who only viewed my role as a catch-all position (something of a glorified department admin) rather than someone who was efficient and actually quite good at managing operations. I found it grimly satisfying that both of those jobs ended up needing to hire multiple people to replace me after I left–when I really would have stayed if they had just given me a dang raise.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yeah. My previous boss gave the new boss a highly negative appraisal of my work despite stats showing that I put in more work in less time than my colleagues. This was basically my punishment for standing up to him and refusing to stay late because I had kids to fetch from school (he just left his at the childminder’s place all night).
        According to French law I had to be kept on at the same salary or made redundant with a fair whack of severance pay, so they kept me on. A few months later, the boss came to see me and have a little chat, she was very pleasantly surprised to see just how productive I was, with far fewer complaints about my work too.

    3. ILoveLllamas*

      #2, now would be the time to also request a retention bonus for you to stay on during the transition. I got one last year during a big restructuring — half paid immediately and half paid a year later. Maybe do 1/2 now and 1/2 in 6 months…. Don’t under-estimate your worth!! Good luck!

      1. Hannah Lee*

        This is a good idea.

        IMO first LW should spend some time figuring out whether they are actually interested in staying, both with the business and with the new owners vs just staying out of inertia. (note, they may be 80/20 or 40/60 one way or the other, so won’t have a definitive YES! / NO! answer, plus IMO the lack of hassle of just staying on for now vs ramping up a job search is one of the valid criteria to weigh, but the process of thinking it through will inform their next steps and how they respond to whatever offers/options come up)

        But if LW is actively looking to stay, or even mostly open to the idea of staying, a retention bonus is very common in these situations and very much a thing to ask about in early discussions. LW does not need to present a firm ask, even just a feeler of “are you planning on offering any retention bonuses if I (or vaguely any employees) agree to stay on?” Their response will tell you a lot about where they are at.

  1. ChimesatMidnight*

    Re: #5…..LW states her physician wrote back to her. I’d strongly advise a face to face appointment to discuss your request. When you look someone in the eye and explain the accommodations to alleviate pain, it’s much harder for them to say no.

    I’ve been in rehabilitation medicine my entire career. Many providers have no background in work related accommodations. If your provider continues to be unable to provide you support, ask for a referral to a physiatrist which is a rehabilitation medicine specialist.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I had Issues trying to get doctors to sign off on accommodations. So much stuff about how they won’t suggest anything, want you to be at work, and all they will do at BEST is list your medical issues for the paperwork. Sometimes I was told to go to some kind of workman’s comp related rehab office, but I didn’t qualify for that since I didn’t get a physical injury at work. It was a mess.

      I don’t know what your HR requires (is there any disability specialist around?), but getting a list of medical issues may be as good as you can get.

    2. RW*

      Yeah, honestly, as a GP I think it’s best to be seeing someone in person for this kind of request anyway, but especially if you’ve had pushback. If they’re not helpful, the person you want is probably an occupational health physician, or a nurse, physio or OT who have specialised in the area. Because my own experience is limited to “that seems reasonable” or “that seems… kinda weird maybe idk?” and I freely admit that work accommodations are not my area of expertise! There’s a whole specialty for that!

      Tl;dr I wouldn’t necessarily sign something over an email but I would be absolutely happy to talk through options and what you’ve tried, if you’ve generally had a reasonable experience with this doctor otherwise I’d start there

      1. Myrin*

        My thoughts went in a similar direction and I want to point two things out in particular:

        1. Unless her doctor sees OP very frequently for these issues and/or she’s seen her just the week before, it’s not unlikely that she might, in a sense, have “forgotten” the severity of OP’s issues. She can look up her files, of course, but a face-to-face conversation is an easy and personal way of going “let me remind you in my own words what exactly is going on with my neck”.

        2. The company provided paperwork for the doctor to sign, so she didn’t get to write anything regarding OP’s condition in her own words. It’s entirely possible that the wording in the company-provided documents is at odds with OP’s issues and their treatment and possible accommodations. OP says her doctor said she’s “not sure this qualifies” but if the paperwork phrased it as “patient will literally drop dead if they aren’t accommodated in X way” (exaggerated for effect, of course), well, OP’s condition indeed wouldn’t qualify. So for that reason, too, it seems best to me for OP to have a real conversation with her doctor where they can go back-and-forth easily and suss out what exactly the problem is.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I doubt anyone who has gotten so far as to create a form for accommodations would put something so…illegal…on it. Accommodation is an iterative process so anything that excluded possibilities from the start would be a no-go. I googled a form and it asked things like what is the condition, what is the frequency and severity, what life activities are limited (sitting and standing were options) and similar things. Saying “she’s not sure this qualifies” seems way outside the doctor’s lane.

          1. bamcheeks*

            Saying “she’s not sure this qualifies” seems way outside the doctor’s lane.

            If it’s not the doctor’s job to look at what they are signing and make an active decision about whether or not they can sign it, nobody should be asking for their signature. Any time you’re asked to sign something off in your professional role, that should be an active and critical decision, not just an automatic process with no questions asked.

            There are a bunch of things that could be going on here from “doctor is dismissing patient’s pain and LW needs a new doctor” to “doctor is happy to support an application for an accommodation, but not worded like this”, to “doctor doesn’t think she’s the right person to sign this off, but can refer you to the right person”. It’s definitely worth a conversation with the doctor to find out more, and there’s every chance that LW can access the accommodations she’s asked for but just through a slightly different process.

            1. Lydia*

              The employer doesn’t/shouldn’t write out the condition; they don’t even write down what the employee is asking for as an accommodation. That should all be done by the physician with the input of the patient.

        2. Aerin*

          I went to my therapist for an accommodation related to my anxiety (getting an assigned desk so I don’t have to worry about our horrible hoteling system) and she kinda freaked out when she saw the form my office sent, which apparently includes language about being asked to defend it in court or something. My psychiatrist ended up filling it out for me.

          OP, does the paperwork have to come from your GP/PCP, or could it be another doctor? If you’re already getting physical therapy, perhaps that office can submit the paperwork for you. You might also see if there are any reputable pain management clinics in your area.

          1. Java*

            which apparently includes language about being asked to defend it in court or something
            Yea I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of that paperwork includes certain liability disclosures to protect companies. More of CYA language than “be prepared for this” – but I can understand why it would make a doc hesitant to sign.

      2. Aerin*

        When I had a full-time WFH accommodation for my long covid fatigue, I contacted my doctor about extending the period and was told I needed an appointment. At said appointment, I had to push pretty hard to get that extension. (My doctor didn’t want me to “get in a rut” and thought my symptoms might actually improve by being in the office. In general the best treatment they could provide for my LC issues was just to cross their fingers and hope it got better. :| )

        1. Lysandra*

          Sadly, I have heard this kind of thing from too many people.

          Doctors are just people like everyone else, with their own subjective opinions and biases. They may have ideas about what “true” disability is. They may have bought into the “COVID is a cold, we need to be in the office to save the economy” mindset and believe in people returning to the office. They have to work in person, and may resent others who work from home (something I have heard from a couple of health care workers I am acquainted with).

          It’s just really sad. People go to them at the most vulnerable points in their lives, and this is what people find far too often.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            Yeah, my doctor dismissed my full-blown panic attacks over being made to move to an office that was a long commute away when previously I had been working at an office that was close enough for me to ride my bike to. I had started riding my bike to avoid public transport because of claustrophobia (not that I admitted as much to anyone, none of their business). He gave me a couple of weeks sick leave, but made it clear he wouldn’t extend that, because I had to face up to my problems.

            Luckily I was able to find a psychiatrist who did extend my sick leave, and also, once she was convinced I wasn’t just putting on an act, wrote to say I was not fit to work at that company any more. The boss then had the choice of paying me to not work, or making me redundant with full severance pay.

            1. Rosemary*

              I am curious what country you are in where they would pay you not to work and/or give you full severance. In the US, pretty sure they best you could get would be to go on disability. Not sure why it is the company’s responsibility to pay someone who could not work at all.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        It’s unclear from the letter if the doctor in question is a GP or an ortho. If it is a GP, I’d say go to an ortho and have the conversation with them (plus – having just been through a similar thing – ortho needs to look at this). However since they did get an MRI, possibly they already have an ortho and it’s the ortho who’s not helping.

      4. Gemma*

        GP and was going to say the same. Blessedly, in our office any paperwork like this is automatically diverted to a visit. Healthcare providers can’t do this work for free and as we see here, often don’t do it well when asked to do it on the fly. Schedule a visit, discuss, make a plan together (and don’t bring up 3 other issues you’ve been saving up, please. Maybe we can do one. Maybe).

    3. JSPA*

      I have had some luck with,

      “I am taking the maximum safe doses for long-term use of [OTC painkiller #1] and [OTC painkiller #2] and am still in pain, despite a professionally-optimized ergonomic setup at work and at home. So, what do you suggest I do, if accomodations are not indicated? I distrust [habituating prescription meds 1, 2 and 3] especially when communting to work. I have tried [intervention 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5]. The only thing that works is [describe what you do at home] plus [other things mentioned in the letter].

      “If you can think of accomodations other than WFH, medications that are not [whatever side effects and risks you’re unwilling to take on] or medical interventions that I have not already tried, including specialists who might be able to re-diagnose the MRI and determine if there are [subtle factors that make one person’s decayed disk far more painful than another person’s, based on subtle differences in position, stance and nerve root routing], I am eager to find any solution to the essentially-constant pain.”

      If you can get to a specialist, you have a second chance to get a letter of acommodation. Or a doctor may be willing to say that you must be given the chance to lie flat, on an appropriate surface, multiple times throughout the day (whether at work or at home). Then work can decide if they want to provide you with a couch/mat and space for that couch/mat, or if it’s simpler to approve the WFH.

      But focusing on, “I need the health problem fixed” will generally go further, given current presumptions and biases, than “I fixed the problem OK, all I need is WFH to make it work.”

      To be clear, this should not be the case. Doctors should not penalize patients for having put in often heroic levels of effort to solve their own problems and create their own treatment plan. But too often, “I used my considerable analytical skills and dogged determination to test out options and piece together a solution” is processed as, “eh, sounds like this isn’t a problem worthy of medical intervention.” (Which is BS.)

      1. Runner up*

        I think the 4th paragraph (re: a doctor saying that you need to be given a chance to lie flat, etc.) may be the key. As Allison noted, a *lot* of people are looking for reasons to work remotely, some with somewhat-dubious medical reasons (and some with completely legitimate medical reasons! I’m not intending to doubt OP, just explain the context!). Employers generally want to see – and doctors probably should be more comfortable providing – something stating your limitations (in the example, need to lie flat multiple times per day, can’t sit for more than x minutes in a row, etc.) rather than the conclusion (must WFH). Best of luck.

      2. OP5*

        I appreciate everyone’s responses, especially this one. I do think there can be some gray area (can I technically work at a desk for eight hours? I mean, yeah, but then I’ll take muscle relaxers and painkillers and my neck will still hurt when they wear off).

        As to why I asked my PCP to sign it … I did debate that, but ended up going to her because she’d been my main point of contact over the years. I’ve seen various doctors and PTs but many of them I’d seen once or twice and then didn’t see them again because they didn’t really have anything else to offer me if I wasn’t going to do surgery. Or, with physical therapy, I’d graduated a year beforehand and it seemed odd to go back with the request (even though the pain was back). It just seemed like since I’d had convos with my doc that went like “yeah, my neck hurts all the time and has for like a decade,” and since she’d recently written me a painkillers prescription, that she would sign a form saying I could WFH 4x a week instead of 2x a week. I also think my tendency to downplay the severity of my issue played a role, but I was frustrated because I’d finally gotten to a point to really try to take steps to help myself and was met with resistance. (And yeah, people are probably right that an in-person convo with her would have helped, buy I was sort of despairing over the entire situation and had a mini meltdown at her response … not my finest hour.)

        BUT, all that said, I do have a happy update. I asked the HR liaison if it had to be an MD and she said no. So my chiropractor, who has seen me way more frequently, signed it for me, and it went through! I now have my accommodation. Plus, in a way, my convo with my doctor (in which she implied that if my pain was really that bad I should be taking more medical steps to address it) nudged me in that direction, and I saw a different specialist for a treatment I hadn’t had before. It seems to be helping a lot! Whether or not it’s a long-term solution is another issue, but I feel like I’m heading in the right direction.

        I’m going to get a different PCP, though. I don’t think she’s terrible for that single response, but she hasn’t been terrific, either, so … bye.

      3. FunctionThroughPain*

        It’s pretty common for people to be in pain some or all of the time. Doctors will only go so far to try to alleviate pain then it just becomes something you have to learn to live with. It sucks, but it’s pretty consistent across different types of doctors/different locations, especially in today’s environment of limited treatment for fear of addiction.

    4. Washi*

      I agree. If you have mostly been managing your condition yourself and just sent the paperwork off through the patient portal it doesn’t surprise me the provider had some questions (but in my experience usually that would prompt them to tell you they need to schedule an office visit.)

      Doctors dismissing women’s pain is a VERY real thing. Also a real thing, as a social worker who helps people (almost exclusively working class/low income) apply for disability is that for all the stereotypes out there of people playing up conditions to get SSDI, I have found the opposite. The people I work with really struggle to describe in detail the pain they are experiencing even to their doctors. I’ve been surprised by how much coaching my patients need to not even advocate for themselves, but just lay out clearly what they are experiencing, even in case where they are not able to work at all and are facing homelessness etc.

      Something Social Security does on one of their forms is asks people to describe their day and how their disability affects them going about their regular lives, and you might consider writing that out for yourself to bring to the appointment. Note down when you have to stop and rest, stretch, etc just to get through the day. I find that doctors don’t always ask a lot beyond “what’s bothering you?” and having this level of detail may help inform the conversation.

      1. aqua*

        Sorry to go very off topic but Washi – you may find “Digital Pain Drawings Can Improve Doctors’ Understanding of Acute Pain Patients: Survey and Pain Drawing Analysis” by Shaballout et al interesting. They discuss pain manikins as a communication tool and if it’s not something you’re already aware of may be worth looking into!

        1. Washi*

          Thank you! I will have to check that out.

          Also I want to be clear that I’m not knocking doctors – as a social worker I have a caseload of 25 and I can spend 60+ minutes teasing out how someone’s conditions affect them whereas sometimes these appointments with providers are literally 15-20 mins and they see literally hundreds of patients. That doesn’t excuse not taking pain seriously, so if you feel that is happening find another doc, though.

      2. ferrina*

        Great advice.

        The stigma around pain management is very, very real, even in the healthcare profession. Doctors are not immune from prejudice, assumptions and ignorance. There are all kinds of studies showing healthcare practitioners’ difference in care based on gender, race, age, weight, etc.

        Quantifying your symptoms is a good way to go- I love the idea of a running journal of symptoms and symptom management. I recommend documenting symptom and severity as well as what you are doing to manage the symptoms (whether it’s OTC pain relievers, stretching, etc.)
        But be prepared to find another doctors. Your healthcare provider should take your symptoms seriously, and you really aren’t asking a lot.

      3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Yes you put your finger on it. OP has mostly been managing their condition themselves, with yoga etc. This is admirable, and the best way, rather than just swallowing loads of pills that each have their own long list of undesirable side effects and that may not work after a while. But it does mean that the doctor is not aware of just how bad it is when OP doesn’t do all of that.

    5. Sunbeam Hunter*

      I 100% agree with scheduling an appointment to discuss this with your doctor. Explain what you think will work for you and why, and ask your doctor for ideas (tell her about the Job Accommodation Network website if she doesn’t already know about it). It’s not for her to say whether you need an accommodation, but you should work together to solve the problem of why you’re currently in pain at work and how to get you what you need to work comfortably and safely. I used to work in a medical-legal partnership where we (lawyers) trained doctors on how to advocate for their patients. Many were initially (and understandably) uncomfortable signing forms that might have legal effect. It was important to make sure they understood that their role was not to make legal representations but to explain what their patients needed and why. By just coming up with an accommodation yourself and asking your doctor to sign off on it, you’ve skipped an important part of the process and it’s not surprising she doesn’t want to just sign your employer’s form. Engaging her in a more collaborative way should help.

      1. Dek*

        “Explain what you think will work for you and why, and ask your doctor for ideas”

        All of this, but also don’t forget one of the key things when it comes to disability accommodations — explain exactly how your condition impacts your life. On days when you don’t have a chance to lay down/stretch out, do you get home too exhausted and in pain to do anything else? Does the commute aggravate the issue? Are you unable to focus at work because of the pain, that could be potentially alleviated if you had access to your ergonomic set-up at home?

        Sometimes just “I hurt” isn’t enough. “I hurt and therefore I am unable to ___” (usually some variation of “be productive”) puts it into a context that makes accommodation the most reasonable action for you and your employer.

        Best of luck!

        1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

          Yeah. My problem was the commute: I don’t drive and public transport can give me claustrophobia. I had to go and see a vocational health doctor, and had a panic attack at the railway station on the way to see her. She saw the state I was in and decided immediately that she would accommodate me in every way possible.

        2. Kella*

          Yes, naming the specific ways it’s impacting your functionality is important. While pain brining you to the point of tears *should* be listened to, it’s often not. Doctors are much more likely to listen to “I get X hours less sleep” or “I’m unable to cook dinner/do basic chores/do my workout routine/go out to visit with a friend” or “I have to [insert extra pain management steps here] for X [amount of time] before I can [basic functionality of life].”

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

      Yeah, I’m wondering if they are thinking that this isn’t a “disability” so therefore it doesn’t require accommodations. Which is BS because just about anything can require accommodations. The doctor doesn’t need to police what the OP can and cannot do at work.

      1. GythaOgden*

        They’re being asked for their professional opinion, though, and it’s not out of line for that to be that they’re not qualified to sign off on the specific request for WFH.

      2. ferrina*

        If OP is a woman, then it can go farther than that. Multiple studies show that doctors are more likely to assume that women are exaggerating or making up symptoms of pain (and women of color are believed even less often). This is why it is important to find a doctor that believes your symptoms and takes them seriously.

    7. Arts&Letters*

      My physical therapist was very helpful with not only filling out the paperwork for workplace accommodations, but also for giving me better ideas of what would help me. I don’t think a PCP is the best person to see about this. Also a PT or occupational therapist is likely to be spending more time with you.

      1. MDRequired*

        My workplaces have all required a doctor to fill out the paperwork. PT, despite being the most familiar with actual mobility and limitations, is not sufficient.

    8. Petty Betty*

      As someone with chronic pain conditions (one condition from birth, some for 20+years after a car accident), I wouldn’t be seeing a GP for this in general. I hope OP is seeing a specialist. And yes, a face-to-face appointment is absolutely necessary.

  2. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

    #5 I am so angry at your doctor on your behalf.
    If you decide to switch doctors to a pain management doctor, a good point to make to the pain doc is that these accomodations will reduce the amount of medication you need to take. Medication management is a big focus of their work, and they prescribe what you need to function and be in less pain, but they are always happy when patients can take less narcotics.

    1. MK*

      It’s entirely possible that the doctor reasonable objects to signing something that isn’t within her purview or goes against her professional opinion. I notice that the company didn’t ask for a recommendation from the doctor in her own words but for her to sign documents that they had given OP; maybe there is something in there she isn’t willing to put her name to for liability reason.

      Companies do sometimes do this as a CYA measure, basically deflected responsibility to a third party. When I was buying my flat, the bank I was getting my home loan from required the civil engineer I hired to inspect the property to sign a document attesting all sorts of things he had no way of verifying; he refused and it was a whole issue to come to an agreement.

      1. ShinyGoldHat*

        I just went through the accommodation process at work. The “form” they asked my doctor for was super long and involved. FWIW, I doubt it’s as simple as signing your name to something.

      2. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        If she didn’t have enough info to sign the form, then she should have said so and not “I’m not sure this qualifies.”

        1. MK*

          Are those things necessarily different? I can read it as “your condition does not qualify under the standard the company sets on these documents”, not “your condition does not qualify for the accommodation”.

        2. Gyne*

          I think without seeing the full text of the exchange it’s impossible to nitpick what was meant by “I’m not sure this qualifies.”

    2. WhatNotWhere*

      Depends. Pain doctors here explicitly don’t prescribe narcotics; they centralize them to primary care so they have one responsible party. This is true at every major provider organization in the major city I live in.

      I have had some doctors say things like working at home are outside of their purview; they can specify certain types of conditions but not comment on whether those can be achieved in an office setting or not, so OP5 may be encountering that if the specific request is to medically verify the need to work at home.

      In this particular case, the doctor might say patient needs option to lie down periodically throughout the day. It would them be up to employer and employee to negotiate whether that can be achieved in office or require work at home.

      Hope this helps.

      1. I'm the Phoebe in Any Group*

        Are you in the US? I am and the system I am used to is primary docs not wanting to prescribe narcotics because that is not their area of expertide. They refer to board certified pain management doctors. The PM docs presribe and supervise pain meds. Many of them are double board certified in pain management and anesthesia and perform epidurals, nerve blocks and other pain relief procedures. There are a lot of regulations for prescribing narcotics, which I think vary by state, and pain management doctors know the laws very well.

        1. Cj*

          this has been exactly my experience. primary care providers in my area absolutely won’t prescribe narcotics anymore for a chronic conditions.

          there is coordination in that they communicate with each other so both know what medications you are taking, but your primary won’t prescribe them.

        2. RagingADHD*

          One reason many primary care doctors have stopped managing long-term controlled substance prescriptions like narcotics and stimulants is the required frequency of follow-up appointments. For example, my PCP referred out all her adult ADHD med management several years ago because she didn’t have enough appointment slots in her day / week to get patients with acute illnesses in for timely care.

        3. Eldritch Office Worker*

          In my (US) experience the tension between “your PCP doesn’t want to do this because it’s not their area of expertise” and “your specialist wants to kick ongoing management to your PCP because their time is valuable” is constant and maddening

        4. RunShaker*

          exactly. my dad’s PM doctor prescribes his pain meds, including narcotics. His primary will not and refers you back to PM doctor. My dad explained to me every one of those narcotic pain pills have to be accounted for when prescribed. Even in my own experience, its always been a “specialty” doctor that has prescribed my pain meds as well.

        5. PCPOnly*

          Yes, in Boston. Only PCPs will prescribe narcotics in all of the major systems. You usually have to sign a contract regarding how you will fill and take them. Orthopedic, pain management, spine clinics, etc explicitly won’t prescribe them. They post signs and make you sign forms that you won’t ask for them. The pain management, orthopedic, etc do the cortisone and other shots and will prescribe muscle relaxants and nerve-related pain pills but narcotics have to go through your primary care.

          1. another fed*

            I’m a disability attorney, and PCPs doing narcotics prescribing for chronic conditions is no longer widely done in the West, Midwest, and most of the South. The larger, more organized PM specialists are doing pill counts monthly or quarterly, UDS at least quarterly and will do so at if any suspected abuse including thinking the person isn’t using the meds and passing them off, among other requirements as part of the Pain Contracts patients sign. Psych meds are a bit more mixed bag, especially in rural places, and PCPs are far more likely to do so if the symptoms and meds are stable, or if someone only asks for something like a 30 pill scrip for anxiety meds used PRN, which they only ask to be refilled once or twice a year. Fortunately, prescribing PAs and APRNs are doing more psych fellowships, and are taking up a lot of that slack in underresourced medical communities.

      2. Lightbulb moment*

        Yes, thank you! This is exactly what I was thinking. “Reasonable accommodations” from a medical standpoint with a doctor sighing off on them is not “must work from home every day.” It’s “must have reasonable breaks to relieve pressure in neck [by doing ____].” My job absolutely cannot be done 4-5 days a week, so a reasonable accommodation is absolutely not working off site as it would prevent the work from being done, period. But we’d happy to accommodate x, y, z on-site to allow the necessary neck-relief breaks.

      3. Dog momma*

        Nobody is prescribing narcotics unless absolutely necessary. There’s been a huge opioid crisis for yrs. and eventually they don’t work..RN here that worked with post op patients years ago when there was limitations in managing pain. Pain management specialists is the way to go. They use multiple modalities.

      4. Gyne*

        Thirding this. Schedule an appointment, be ready with what you’re requesting with the accomodations worded as specific as it can possibly be. Make it easy to say yes.

        Also agree “work from home” from a medical standpoint is not specific enough, at all. It’s a crap punt from your management/HR team to say you need to go to the doctor to get that signed off, honestly. I’m not going to say someone needs to work from home, I’m going to say they have a condition that flares up unpredictably 2-3 times a day on average and requires 20 minutes of laying prone to resolve. (for example.)

    3. Boof*

      before you go getting mad at a doctor you don’t know, understand that there can be a LOT of ongoing paperwork, detailed questions about what OP can and can’t do and for how long, and who knows what else attached to these requests. I’m not saying that their doctor shouldn’t be willing to explore it, but there’s probably some reasons they’re hesitant to just sign their name on the dotted line, if you will. OP should 1) talk to their doctor about their concerns and 2) possibly might be served by going to a spine specialist or chronic pain specialist who might be more willing to vouch for ongoing accommodations like this. Their PCP (if that’s who they asked) might be willing to ask around ahead to check if this is a reasonable use of a consult (unless LW5 has already seen them).
      Yes I’m a doc and yes I’ve signed these sorts of accommodations but it can be a lot of work and it can start getting weird after a while and sometimes folks start getting really demanding like “I need this 10 page form filled out by the end of the day today or I lose all my benefits and I didn’t fill out any of it and it barely has anything to do with what you’re seeing me for usually” etc etc. Folks, your doctors care and want to help but paperwork is a huge burden on us all!

      1. Gyne*

        Also to add, this paperwork is unpaid labor that doctors do outside of their normal hours seeing patients in the clinic or the hospital. It adds up.

      2. I'm an NP now*

        Amen. Also (NP here) a lot of these paperwork situations have questions that *even if I already see you for this condition and I know what’s going on* I don’t necessarily know the answers to. Make the appointment, BRING THE PAPERWORK WITH YOU, and don’t expect to take it home with you when you leave that day. We should make sure we’re on the same page, but yes work forms are a lot of extra time and you’re probably only scheduled for 15 or 20 minutes.

      3. Kella*

        Speaking as a chronic illness patient, something I’ve noticed when I hear from the perspective of medical health professionals on issues like this is often their complaints boil down to the patient not understanding the system that the doctors and nurses are having to work around. It’s fair that you have your own set of obstacles and priorities that you have to juggle and that it’s not just smooth sailing for you to fill out the paperwork the moment you get it and have it back to them 20 minutes later.

        But the thing these complaints often seem to leave out is the fact that the patient has *no idea* what your system is, and rarely do they have this system explained to them in a way that would enable the patient to help the doctor tackle the issue more effectively.

        So, “I’m not sure this qualifies” does not tell the OP that the doctor needs more time, needs more information, needs a one-on-one conversation with the OP, or that perhaps a specialist would be better suited to handle things. “I’m not sure this qualifies” is a conversation ender, from the patient’s perspective, and that puts the burden on the patient to *guess* what the best path forward is for a system they know nothing about (which they are doing while they are sick and in pain.)

        You are overburdened and overworked and you have to make your decisions based on the resources you have available. But it’s entirely fair for someone to be really frustrated when they ask a doctor for help and get back the equivalent of “I’m not going to help you” and no further information about next steps.

        1. Anon for this discussion*

          That’s a good point. I’m reasonably good at researching this kind of stuff from the patient side. To do that though in the middle of a flare up, with brainfog? I wouldn’t call it my favourite activity and could definitely use the time for much-needed rest.

        2. Boof*

          I don’t disagree – the doc should say “We really need a visit to discuss this further” instead of “I don’t know I can sign off on this”. (or “you should really go to [this pain specialist] to figure out what accommodations you need” or whatever).
          But since the LW is writing in not the doc; there’s the system. Keep asking politely but persistently (and keep saying how much the pain is impacting your life) until your needs are met, or ask to see someone else if they aren’t. Basically.

  3. Pseudoacademic*

    I admit, I laughed out loud at #3’s “high five her in the face.” I don’t condone the action! And it was an instructive lesson on careless venting! But 10/10 phrasing.

    Anyway, it’s not totally clear if the employer is actually writing up LW3, but if they do, it’s probably a precautionary documentation in case something goes seriously south between these coworkers later. I’d be very surprised if they took that statement at face (lol) value.

      1. Buffalo*

        Yeah, I assumed the concept of “high-five her in the face” was borrowed from an absolutely ubiquitous meme I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone here make reference to, about wanting to “high-five (someone)”…”in the face”…”with a chair”. I mean, if that’s what this is a reference to, the OP actually made it less violent, but still, that’s where my mind went.

        1. ferrina*

          I heard the phrase back in the early 2000s, so it’s not a new one and it’s not as subtle as OP thinks it is.

          Rule of thumb- don’t advocate violence of any kind against coworkers. It’s really that simple.

          1. Monkey Princess*

            Yeah, neither new nor subtle and I’m side eyeing everyone who thinks telling a coworker they want to slap someone is cute or clever in any wording. This absolutely deserves a write up.

    1. Jellybean*

      The problem here is all context is missing.

      This could be a case of a woman with a perfect employment record who has never so much raised her voice before, mildly snapping and making an ill-worded joke to a co-worker.

      Equally, it could be a man with a history of aggression towards female co-workers sending a text to a woman threatening violence against another woman.

      Both these things are equally likely. Or it could be in between. Without that context, it’s impossible to tell — but it does feel significant that two separate people felt this “threat” is serious enough to take action on.

      And yes I do think gender is relevant here. I know commentators often assume that LWs are female, and it may well be that this LW is female, but we have no way of knowing. If LW is a man then that inherently changes the situation.

      1. Antilles*

        The other missing context is what else was part of the text conversation before this.

        If we’re *both* venting about work and expressing our frustrations, it can feel like just a joke that you took a step too far. On the other side, if it’s just you sending me 10 straight messages about how much work sucks then ending with wanting to high-five her in the face it would very much come across as alarmingly wow, you’re really pissed about this.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Zero tolerance policies exist for a reason. If things were to escalate here, I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the employer who knew about this rant but didn’t document it or didn’t take any kind of corrective measures about it.

      1. Olive*

        I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of the employee who had someone texting other employees that they wanted to slap me and then seeing them get a gentle warning and not have it documented.

        I’m the one who’s gobsmacked that so much of the advice to the LW is “coworkers aren’t your friends”. If I said I’d like to high five someone in my social circles in the face (and I am thinking of someone specific!), I’d absolutely expect to get a negative reaction and very likely find myself on the outside of the group. LW’s coworker can’t just socially pull away from her since they have to keep working together.

      2. Greg*

        Right. The suggestion of violence is something I consider a bit of a line in the sand; I am a little surprised at the guidance that a write-up was over the top. That’s something that I consider and immediate write-up at the least, depending on the credibility and severity of the threat.

        1. Zelda*

          I think there’s an important distinction to be made between an *impulse* towards a violent act and a *threat* of a violent act. As quoted, LW reported having had a few separate moments of extreme frustration, not an intention to track someone down and hit them, or even an ongoing inclination toward violence.

          Jellybean’s comment above is on point about needing more context to know whether this is a hyperbole that LW now knows was inappropriate, a literal impulse well-controlled, or a dangerous tendency for actual action.

          1. Lydia*

            This. You want to be clear on expectations, but treating a bad idea said out loud as the same as a threat is not the way to make good management decisions.

    3. Not on board*

      Also a lesson, that coworkers aren’t really your friends, no matter how much you get along. If this was a case of venting with no serious threat of violence, you’re better off to vent to someone who’s not a coworker. Also, high fiving her face is hilarious.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Doing your venting by text or email is not a good idea. Threatening violence while venting is usually not a good idea even if you’re saying it, not writing it.

    4. Suzie the Doozie*

      For OP #3 – I’m sorry that you have learned an expensive lesson. Co-workers are not always your friends. Be very cautious in confiding to anyone at work your real feelings about management, co-workers, big changes, etc. This is especially true if you are looking for a new job!

      Hate to be Debbie Downer, but when you get laid off, you learn who your real friends are. It’s a rude wake up call! Be polite and friendly but don’t confide in anyone at work.

      There are great friends to be made at work – I have long-lasting friendships with folks I worked with from 30-plus years ago! Just use caution at your current place of employment. Good luck!

      1. Cmdrshprd*

        “I’m sorry that you have learned an expensive lesson. Co-workers are not always your friends. Be very cautious in confiding to anyone at work your real feelings about management, co-workers, big changes, etc.”

        I want to second this, another thing is co-worker can still be their friend and feel a need to report the comment, to protect themselves. If something ends up happening and OP had some kind of altercation and it later came out that co-worker “knew” about the threat that could come back on the co-worker.

        If I were in a similar situation even if I felt pretty confident say 98% that the person was joking/exaggerating/venting, I would not want to take the risk, I would report the comment just to cover myself at work. Being friends does not mean you have to put your own job/life at risk for a friend/co-worker.

    5. Observer*

      I’d be very surprised if they took that statement at face (lol) value.

      I disagree. It doesn’t matter how “cute” or “funny” the phrasing is. What matters is the *intent*. If they have any reason to believe that the LW actually wants to slap someone they *have* to take it seriously. And the fact that this desire is phrased in a clever manner does not change that one bit.

      1. Gritter*

        Oh come on. No reasonable person could read that txt and see any serious intent of violence.

        1. spiriferida*

          No, probably not. But it still isn’t a healthy and productive way to talk about a coworker you’re having problems with, and I think most managers who overheard a comment like this or learned that it happened would give the person who said it some kind of reprimand, even if gentle and informal.

        2. Elbe*

          I’m not sure about that. The friend/coworker reported it, which means that they thought it was a significant problem that should be addressed.

          It’s possible that the coworker is intentionally trying to get LW #3 in trouble for something they know is harmless, but it’s also possible that it seemed more threatening that the LW intended it to be.

        3. Monkey Princess*

          The coworker reported it AND the manager took it seriously. Thats two people who actually know the people in question who took this as “something that could happen.”

          I know we’re supposed to take OPs at face value, but they may not even realize how they come across.

          1. Lydia*

            That is not a given. They didn’t take it seriously so much as approach as an inappropriate way to talk about a coworker. If they actually thought the OP could do harm to the coworker, then they’ve done a bad job of taking it seriously because they shouldn’t still be employed.

  4. JS*

    Re: #1 – I’m the junior manager of one half of a management team for a small charity. The senior manager is male, I’m gender fluid (afab). I have found that when I’m dressing more masculine, me and my boss do unintentionally match quite a lot, to the extent where, for example, I have a smart jumper very similar to one he owns, and I have second guessed, sometimes, before putting it on for the day, whether he would likely to be wearing his too, if I think he will be I won’t wear it. I’ve come to the conclusion that as I’m a new manager, he has, for me, unconsciously influenced how I present myself, including clothes, he’s a role model I look up to, but as I’ve been aware of the ‘matching’ I have got a little self conscious about it. With #1, I would honestly take it as a compliment, if you’re in a small team, spend a lot of time together, you’re going to be influencing the people around you.

    1. Everdene*

      When I was managing a small team at a charity one of my reports and I frequently matched – particularly if we were going to an event which caused some amusement. However this happened enough that if we had an event or visitor coming in we started to plan our outfits to ensure we neither matched nor clashed!

      I now longer manage the team and we have stayed in touch to become friends rather than friendly so I don’t think the jokes caused her too much stress.

      1. ILoveLllamas*

        I had a coworker and we bought EXACTLY the same outfit (matching pants & top). We both loved it so much. She was smart — we had different assigned days that we could wear it, so that way we never matched. Worked out great and we always laughed about telling the other how great they looked on the day they wore our outfit. :-)

    2. Smithy*

      At two large nonprofits where I’ve worked, and I think that our version of “business casual” does often trend to many people owning very similar items of clothing – even if not the exact same pieces. That may just be similar prints (i.e. white and black horizontal stripped top) or cuts of clothing (specific to skirts or dresses).

      This is so common that a few times a year staff will “twin” or match – and it is seen as lightly amusing that it will be photographed and shared around team chats.

      Just putting this out there as being so common that if the OP is really bothered by this or sees this as intrusive, that at least where I work, this behavior is seen as generically friendly and commonplace. I’m in fundraising, and a few years ago when Barbie came out with a Fundraising Barbie as part of a political campaign set – I found it to be hilariously trolling because most fundraisers I know “have that outfit”. Even if not a 100% copy, they have it in another color or a similar but different cut.

      All to say, I recommend finding the humor in how often so many of us coalesce around a similar style of dress or style. I also really like vintage clothing, and can still end up matching my colleagues wearing modern pieces. So I do hope the OP learns to find the chuckle in this.

      1. Sparkles and Chaos*

        Fairly recently, my workplace had 5 people show up in matching outfits on the same day, unplanned. We snapped a picture of them and one of them ended up turning the photo into a sticker, which is now displayed next to my desk, because it makes me giggle.

        1. Kit*

          At my old workplace, several times a month, the accounting department would have incidents like this – the A/P and A/R people didn’t coordinate in advance, but would end up in matching outfits. Sometimes their manager would complete the set, too! It was a running joke because all three of them had long-established senses of personal style, and there was just enough overlap in their closets that it was basically an inevitability.

          I was most tickled by the time I showed up at my parents’ house after Valentine’s one year, to find that my sister and mum had received the same psychic memo about our outfits: black tops and khakis. We’re a very festive family…

          1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

            I used to work at the same company as my mom and one day we both showed up wearing matching outfits (black and white houndstooth plaid skirt, white blouse, red blazer). This was long after I’d gotten married and moved out of my parents’ house, so there were just a lot of jokes about the family hive mind.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      I just want to reassure LW 1 that people often say things like this and they don’t mean anything by it! Okay, she liked something of yours and asked where you got it, and noticed a similarity in a couple of outfits and commented on it. But just because she remarked on something doesn’t mean she is trying to hint that something is DEEPLY HUGELY WRONG (or, as here, that she’s serious about her little matching joke). Sometimes people just say something just to have something to say, or by way of greeting, or as an acknowledgement, or to compliment you, and it doesn’t mean anything else beyond face value. They think it’s just a harmless little joke.

      Probably a few times a year, I will be somewhere with colleagues, and one of us will notice that we all have on all black, or four of the five of us have on pink tops, or whatever, and someone will say, “I see we all got the memo to wear black!” or “I guess on Wednesdays, we wear pink!” or “Look at us all coordinated!” That’s really all there is to it. There’s no further depth to it or effort to send a secret message or intention to wear all black everything always. Since you mentioned you tend to wear vintage-style clothing, it sounds like she has noted that you have a look, and she likes your taste, but that still doesn’t have to mean anything more than that she … likes your taste.

      People sometimes do hint around to try to say that someone’s clothing is inappropriately revealing or casual, but that does not sound like the case here. If your boss really was odd enough to expect you to match, or actually was trying to send a message about your clothing, she would need to be WAY more explicit than just occasionally complimenting your clothing or noting that she owns a similar item (and note that the hinters also need to not hint and just say what they mean). But I’m certain all she’s doing is making a little joke. You can relax.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, while people do hint, I very much doubt a boss would say “I love the colours of your clothes” in order to hint “it’s good you’re wearing make-up for a change. I expect you to do that more often.” If she did want to hint that, she might say something like “it’s nice to see you wearing make-up,” which would still be pretty ineffectual and I wouldn’t take “you should wear make-up” from that, but I could see somebody doing it if they didn’t want to be direct about it, but commenting on the colours somebody is wearing would be a pretty unlikely way to hint it.

        And given that the boss has made comments on the LW’s clothes before, it’s more likely that either the boss is just into clothes and talks about them a lot or it’s a small talk topic she uses when she’s stuck for something to say. I have a colleague who uses the length of daylight that way. If you see him in the autumn or early winter, he’ll say, “it’s getting very dark, isn’t it? It was dark at such an hour last night” and if you see him in spring, he’ll say “the evenings are getting very bright now. It was bright until such an hour last night.” I think it was just a topic he used with people he didn’t know well and didn’t have much to say to. Your boss might be using clothes the same way.

        Alternatively, she might be big into fashion and pay a good bit of attention to it.

        And honestly, mentioning something every few weeks or months isn’t that often at all. If she were commenting multiple times a day, I’d find it odder. But I’ve no interest in fashion at all and yet, I’d probably say once every few weeks to somebody that I like something they are wearing. Admittedly, I wouldn’t go into much detail, but that’s because I have no interest in fashion.

        Given the context, I doubt there are any hidden meanings at all. I suspect the boss just means she likes the LW’s clothes on those days.

        (Not all of this is in directly reply to you, Gammagirl. I was just agreeing with your point and then figured I’d say everything I wanted to, rather than making another comment as well.)

      2. Cj*

        if somebody has saw me in the sweater they liked and said “now I want one like that”, that would be one thing. but asking where you got it and how much it cost is taking a little too far in my opinion, even if it was meant to be a joke.

        am I taking it too far I don’t mean it was a horrible thing to say, I just mean it would make me wonder if they were serious.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            ‘…but asking where you got it and how much it cost is taking a little too far in my opinion, even if it was meant to be a joke.’

            I’ve been asked this question by colleagues and supervisors before, and never thought it was an overstep. Sometimes I was wearing something that just happened to catch their eye, like a scarf. Other times I was wearing an item they were trying to find, like a blazer or pair of boots. They simply responded in the moment, no big deal.

            Also, I don’t love it when people ask about the cost of something I own, but hey. Budgets differ.

            1. bamcheeks*

              yeah, I think this is a completely normal conversation between two people who like clothes! Like, it doesn’t necessarily mean, “so I can go and get an identical one”, it can just as easily be headed in the direction of, “Oh yes, I love their stuff! Have you seen that long green and pink patterned dress they’ve got in at the moment? Goorgeous! I got one of their midi dresses last year and I wear it all the time.” It’s just a point of connection.

              Agree that I wouldn’t ask a colleague how much something cost, unless it was a really specific thing that I needed and then I would caveat it with, “I hope you don’t mind me asking but…” It’s very normal to volunteer the cost of something, though, especially if you got it sale or secondhand.

              1. Irish Teacher.*

                Yeah, my guess is that the boss really likes clothes whereas the LW doesn’t really sound that interested in them, so their ideas of what is a normal conversation about clothes is misaligned

            2. Emmy Noether*

              I also think this is normal conversation. Just recently I witnessed a conversation where one person asked another if they got their coat at [store], because it looked like the one they were thinking of getting. Turned out that yes, and that the person who already has it would indeed recommend it. They then commiserated for a bit about how hard it is to find a good coat, and talked pricing.

              I’ve had variants of this conversation before, and I don’t mind sharing my sources, because I’d just find it hilarious to match (at least in everyday situations. If I am ever invited to a red carpet, I probably wouldn’t want to match. It could also look weird at a big public presentation or something of the sort).

              1. amoeba*

                Yeah, honestly, if I see somebody with a really great cardigan that I like, it’s a very, very normal thing to me to ask them where it’s from (and whether it’s current), so that, yeah, I might actually buy the same one! Like, it’s not a wedding dress or whatever, it’s… a cardigan. As long as they’re not asking which days I’m planning to wear mine to coordinate, that wouldn’t even raise any eyebrows for me at all. (And that’s in case they actually do want to buy the same one – maybe they just want to look for things in a similar style!)

        1. Lark*

          I think it really varies between people whether it bothers them if someone buys the same sweater that they have or not. It would bother me if someone always bought the same clothes I had and wore them the exact same way, but if they really liked a sweater I had and wanted the exact same one, I’d think that was pretty neat – I bought the sweater because I like it, after all! It’s pretty unlikely that we’d wear it the same way or look similar in it. Also, the more demand there is for things I like, the more things I like will be produced.

          I know that people vary on this point and don’t usually ask where people got something (unless it’s a random chat on the subway and I’m never going to see them again – that has happened) but it doesn’t bother everyone.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        OP, I think manager may just be mildly pleased that her wardrobe choices are showing up on a young person with a sense of fashion–that can be mildly validating. And connecting about shared clothes is like connecting about a shared lunch choice, or shared book to read at lunch.

        1. MsM*

          One of the places I worked kept a “wall of twins” for photos of days when people had inadvertently managed to match. It was fun.

          1. DannyG*

            Back in the day before scrubs became the standard uniform in the hospital my colleagues and I typically wore dress shirts, ties, and khakis. Surprising the number of times we matched, eliciting the standard comment about having gotten the memo.

          2. FricketyFrack*

            They have a similar thing at my mom’s job – everyone is in scrubs, but they can wear whatever colors/patterns they want, so matching is less common than you’d expect. Occasionally they all match on purpose for some reason or another. It’s cute.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Just as long as they aren’t celebrating women’s history month by having all the women wear pink scrubs….

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          This was my take, as well.

          I noticed that the OP seemed upset that her boss was her mother’s age and was making comments about dressing similarly and, to me, this seemed to be a lot of the issue. OP, are you upset a 60ish year old woman has the same taste in clothes as you? If so, why? Or is it because boss-lady is your mother’s age that you’re reading criticism and negativity into her comments? You’re also specifically asking her about clothing, so her interest in what you’re wearing doesn’t seem out of line. You’re already asking her opinion. Be careful about ageism creeping into your thoughts and actions. Just because someone is older doesn’t mean they stop appreciating things that the youths today also like.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            At OP’s age, I expect I would have been amazed if a woman my mother’s age were trying to dress like me.
            Like when my teenage daughter started stealing my clothes, I was amazed that she thought them worthy of being stolen. I hadn’t realised I was that cool.

            My finest fashion moment was when I was wearing a shapeless old Nike-spoof T-shirt with an upside-down swoosh and the words “Just don’t!”. My teenage daughter pointed it out to a friend saying “see, I told you, my Mum’s a rebel!”

          2. JustaTech*

            The OP also said her style is “vintage” which could align with what her boss wore when she was young (or what the boss’ mother wore when *she* was young), and therefore have more emotional resonance with the boss.

          3. Lydia*

            Yeah. My response to the OP saying her boss is of a similar age to her mother was, “So?” The concern about being interested in the same styles because of the age of your boss is not a good look, OP. Take some time to examine where that’s coming from.

      4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I once walked into a meeting room of eight people and literally everyone but me was wearing black or grey pants and a black top of some sort – and here’s me in a bright teal/orange/red paisley skirt with a red top. I absolutely stopped in the doorway and went “Well, clearly I missed a memo.”

    4. Dek*

      “I’ve come to the conclusion that as I’m a new manager, he has, for me, unconsciously influenced how I present myself, including clothes, he’s a role model I look up to”

      Awww, I think that’s kinda sweet!

      I feel like style of dress for GNC folks can be such an emotional thing that being considered an influence on someone’s style is kind of…an honor sounds too pretentious. But just…sweet, I guess.

    5. Anon Today*

      In the sciences/engineering there seems to be a thing among guys/masc presenting people that they will all, inevitably, wear a “graph paper” shirt.
      It’s just a light-colored button-down shirt with a fine-line check pattern to it that looks like graph paper. But there were days (when there were guys in my department) when like 6 out of 8 of them would be wearing a shirt you could plot a quadratic equation on.

      Often none of them would notice until someone else would point it out.

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        I was going to say “Thats a fairly common shirt pattern, Im pretty sure my dad has shirts like that.” Unfortunately, hes a retired engineer, so im proving your point.

  5. Betty*

    As someone who is relatively young and fairly fit but has chronic pain due to a genetic syndrome that a lot of doctors don’t understand well, I agree that getting a new doctor may be what you need. You can try try meeting your doctor face-to-face first if you have a good relationship, but otherwise I would find someone who sees you for who you are, not who they think you should be.

  6. Joron Twiner*

    #3 Sounds like you thought your coworker was a friend and feel betrayed that they showed your message to your manager. Have you talked to them about it? I can see how in their shoes, they thought YOU were THEIR friend, and joking about hitting another coworker crossed the line and made them uncomfortable.

    You have to be careful about joking about physical violence with coworkers because you never know how they’ll take it. Save that kind of ranting for people who don’t work with you.

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I don’t think it is a good idea for OP#3 to speak with their coworker about this – other than to apologize and admit that their comment was out of line. If they’re not willing/ready to do that, any comments they make to the coworker will simply be self-justification or argumentative, and it’s likely the coworker will come out of the conversation feeling retaliated against. Which may very well prompt another conversation with management/HR about how not to behave at work.

      In the OP’s shoes, I would either leave it alone, or apologize for making the coworker uncomfortable.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, I definitely wouldn’t think it’s a good idea to speak to the coworker if the LW is feeling betrayed or defensive, because that could well come across as “how dare you report what I said?” And if the coworker took the text message more seriously than was intended and was worried the LW might be an aggressive person, asking them why they reported it could increase their concerns.

        An “I’m sorry for that text. I meant it to be funny, but I can see now that it could have come across as more aggressive than I intended and I shouldn’t have been criticising other colleagues to you anyway,” might be fair enough.

        Even without the threat of physical violence, however joking, it’s generally best not to criticise people to others who know them. I was going to add “unless you are 100% sure they agree with you,” but then there is another reason not to, the possibility of them basically saying “and LW says so too,” when arguing with them. If they don’t agree, it puts them in sort of a difficult position. A few years back, two of the colleagues I was closest to really disliked each other and I remain grateful to them for never saying anything negative about the other to me.

      2. Antilles*

        other than to apologize and admit that their comment was out of line.
        I don’t think OP can even do that. Even if OP was truly apologetic and recognized they did something wrong, it just runs too much risk of the co-worker interpreting it negatively.
        Much better to just not bring it up and just take it as a lesson learned.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I don’t think there’s that much risk of an apology being taken badly, as long as the OP is sincere and truly regrets what they said.

      3. Observer*

        I don’t think it is a good idea for OP#3 to speak with their coworker about this – other than to apologize and admit that their comment was out of line.

        Totally agree with this.

        Outside of a straight up apology, there is nothing good that can come out of a conversation about the matter.

      4. Joron Twiner*

        I agree. I didn’t mean to encourage LW to discuss this in depth with their coworker, instead I was curious if they had discussed it already. LW is first concerned with their own feelings of betrayal and doesn’t seem to have considered the possibility that they made their coworker uncomfortable too.

    2. ChattyDelle*

      LW3 – please take this as a sign your co worker is not the friend you thought they were & find a non-work friend to vent to. the fact the co worker went to your boss, rather than telling you you comment was over the line is a warning to you. speaking from experience, unfortunately

      1. Mike*

        If you’re going to make comments like that not suitable for the workplace, coworkers shouldn’t be considered a friend at least until they’ve, oh, saved your life from a demon on some adventure. At least the coworker went to a boss and had it handled appropriately; there are much worse coworkers you could have. I remember once, about 35 years ago in my job from hell, one of my female coworkers came to work in a nicely tailored suit that she rightly really liked. One of my male coworkers, whom I considered a friend, mentioned it and I said something perfectly normal like “Yes, it really suits her. She looks good in it.” By the time it got upstairs to the personnel manager (who was friends with her father), it had transmogrified into extremely offensive comments about the sexual acts I wanted to do with her; I was only not fired because the coworker with the new suit said there was no way in hell I’d say something like that, so no, she was not going to cooperate in letting me go. It’s possible that someone else heard me and spread the word (it was a nest of vipers there, both upstairs and downstairs) to start a game of telephone, but it is quite likely the coworker I said it to embroidered it, as people he cosied up to had a history, I later learned, of not lasting very long at the job and leaving under a cloud. In my case, I made the mistake of running across him and one of the other coworkers, a married woman, doing the deed on company property, and within two days they had gotten me forced to quit. (I gather the woman didn’t last long after that; the guy, last I heard, had used his special set of people skills to move up to supervisor eventually.) Looking at this post, I’m really not sure what the lesson is here–there’s no point watching what you say when they’ll just make stuff up, but then again, it’s best not to say anything that could give them ideas about how to stab you in the back. But then yet again, there probably aren’t too many places like that workplace (I hope).

      2. Lightbulb moment*

        I don’t think that is fair to the reporter. We don’t know the backstory here. Is it a male who has a history of being over the top with his emotions? Is there bad blood there and the coworker “friend” was worried that this crossed a line and it might actually happen? Is the coworker feeling desperately caught in the middle of an ongoing feud and this is the straw the broke the camel’s back? So much of the story missing. But it’s never fair to blame a whistleblower because they handled something in the manner they felt best in the moment.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          And if they did read the tone of the text as threatening (even if the LW didn’t intend it as anything more than a joke, which I’m sure they didn’t, it is very easy to misinterpret tone in a text, which is why those kind of jokes are better avoided), I don’t think it’s really fair to expect somebody who fears a person might be aggressive to go to that person and say, “your text message was out of line and aggressive and I’m now worried about the safety of the person you said you would hit.”

          If they think the LW is likely to hit people who they dislike then they may well fear going to them and saying something critical.

          Now perhaps they just thought it an inappropriate joke; we don’t know. But there is a real possibility that they took it seriously and thought the LW was really considering assaulting a colleague. This could be because they are somebody who takes language very literally or because English is not their first language or because the LW has shown signs of being threatening in the past or because the LW belongs to some minority that the coworker stereotypes as being violent (obviously, the last would put the coworker firmly in the wrong, but the first two would mean nobody was wrong and the third could mean the LW was).

      3. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        No, this colleague is NOT your friend! Be courteous and professional towards her from now on, but don’t tell her anything that you don’t want reported to HR/your manager. In fact, I’d recommend not even getting coffee or lunch with her anymore; you don’t know what you might let slip that will set her off.

        Mentally change her status from workplace friend to colleague, make no further comments about violence towards anyone, and you should be okay.

      4. Lacey*

        Yeah, this LW has misread the relationship.

        I have work friends I’ve vented to.
        They’ve vented to me.
        We are kinda playing with fire to be that candid, but there’s a mutually assured destruction aspect to it.

        I have to assume that was not occurring in the LW’s situation.

          1. Lacey*

            Yeah. That’s part of the problem, but I also think if they were actually friends it wouldn’t matter, since it’s not super uncommon for people to say, “Oh I could strangle her!” or “I wanted to slap her” and not actually have desired anything of the kind.

            1. Statler von Waldorf*

              It’s not super uncommon for women to say stuff like that. In my experience, men often don’t, especially in the workplace, because threats of violence from men are taken very differently than threats of violence from women.

              My female 4 foot seven co-worker with a voice like Minnie Mouse has threatened to beat a contractor to death with his tools and everyone thought it was cute. If I said the exact same thing with the exact same tone, I’d be talking to the cops while they escorted me from the building.

              And if you don’t believe me, just look in this comments section. I’ve seen multiple comments that state that the situation that LW#3 is facing should be handled differently depending on their gender.

              1. Parakeet*

                Yeah. On one hand, I get that people do engage in hyperbole, especially when they’re venting, which I think is where the comments about the distinction between coworkers and friends are coming from. As in, “coworkers are not appropriate people for hyperbolic venting.” And that we need more context to know whether the company’s actions were appropriate here, On the other hand, I think it’s a real problem that violent talk from women is taken less seriously than violent talk from men (and with nonbinary people it’s usually about how we’re “read”). Not that violent talk from men shouldn’t be taken seriously, but violent talk from women more so than it is. I used to work for an LGBTQ+ DV org, and the way society often treats violent language from women as cute or at least harmless is a problem.

      5. Gritter*

        I agree. The ‘friend’ sounds like a snake and a snitch. Clearly someone not to be trusted.

        1. Joron Twiner*

          A snake and snitch? That goes against the point I was trying to make. Instead of focusing on the betrayal of confidence, instead LW/readers should consider that a line was crossed, and coworker felt they HAD to report the conversation.

          If you’re texting a coworker and they escalate to inappropriate topics, it doesn’t make you a snitch to report it.

  7. tommy*

    #5: i agree with the commenters saying to meet with your doctor face to face about this topic. even if you’ve done that already, do it again and be specific about what material aspects of wfh lessen your pain.

    I feel that the root of the problem is that I appear fit and healthy, and I’m youngish

    looking or being old, disabled, chronically ill, and/or fat are not usually things that help people get accommodations. often it works the opposite way, in the sense that looking healthy/thin/young make doctors and employers believe people more. just so you know.

    you’re in a rough situation and i hope things improve.

    1. LGP*

      “often it works the opposite way, in the sense that looking healthy/thin/young make doctors and employers believe people more. just so you know.”

      I’m sure that is the case sometimes, but it is also definitely a real thing that looking “healthy/thin/young” can make it harder for doctors to take your pain seriously. Because they’ll say “but you look fine!” Or “you’re too young for that!” That’s the problem with invisible disabilities and chronic illnesses: you can’t necessarily tell just by looking at someone what condition they’re in.

      1. Kyrielle*

        YUP. Heck, I got “you’re too young for that!” that in a disbelieving tone from the (younger than me) cardiologist I was seeing as follow-up to a heart attack. (Which was caused by a pulmonary embolism, which was caused by a blood clot from knee surgery, because I’d broken my knee…none of which gives a crap about your age. And that’s not even getting into chronic illness and pain, which for some reason we want to think only happens to the elderly.)

    2. Marvel*

      “often it works the opposite way, in the sense that looking healthy/thin/young make doctors and employers believe people more. just so you know.”

      That’s true in a general sense, but not when you’re talking about things like chronic pain. We get “but you’re too young to be suffering like that” a LOT.

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

      Actually, for many people being young and fit and healthy looking has the opposite affect. There is a reason why people with chronic illnesses have to “dress the part” and put in a lot of effort. You want to be put together well so that they take you seriously. But you can’t look too good or else they will say you are not ill. It’s a whole thing!

    4. Problem!*

      I’ve found the opposite to be true. I am young/fit/healthy appearing and my problems get dismissed with a “you’re too young to have XYZ condition/symptoms just wait till you’re my age!!”

      I keep a screenshot of the MRI of my mangled spinal cord on my phone now to show people to shut them up. I shouldn’t have to, but it’s effective.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        I keep a screenshot of my spine MRI too! But fortunately, I haven’t had to use it to shut people up. More like, they’re genuinely asking “wait, you have what?” and then I just say “it looked like this” show the picture and then they’re like “oh, even I can tell that ain’t right”.
        Luckily my boss is also the most accommodating human in the world. I didn’t need WFH as an accommodation because we already are wfh, but I sent him my list of activity restrictions and he was like “do whatever you need to do”.

    5. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      Lets not fight over who is not believed. It sounds like it is a problem with doctors just not believing in pain – especially from women.

      I was a thin young fit athlete when I started having chronic abdominal and back pain that nobody could diagnose. I was too young for that.

      It was exacerbated by exercise and fiber.
      After they ruled out the obvious stuff they told me that it was probably “stress”.

      5 years in I had gained significant weight because of the inability to eat fiber or exercise and resulting depression and still seeking a diagnosis. Suddenly they had the diagnosis. My pain was caused by my weight and any insistence on my part that the symptoms started well before the weight gain was labeled as combative and drug seeking. I gave up at that point.

      I did eventually get a diagnosis by an ER doc and a surgery that fixed it.

      1. Adultiest Adult*

        I’m sorry you had this experience. I identify with this so hard. Fat bias is a real thing. I have a chronic, congenital (that means born-with, for the people in the back!) orthopedic condition that affects my knees, ankles, and feet. It’s extremely likely to be hereditary based upon others in my family. Needless to say, being in significant joint pain most of the time from age 7 to present has not helped my weight and activity level. Some days everything hurts. But I cannot count the number of “helpful” people who say, “It’s because you’re overweight, lose weight and you won’t be in pain anymore!” Uh, that’s not how chronic or congenital conditions work! Unfortunately, this has included more than one doctor over the years. Sending solidarity and support. Glad you got the answer you needed.

  8. Dani*

    For the writer of letter #5

    It is sadly quite common for doctors to downplay women’s pain. What I have found most helpful in these situations is to describe the pain I experience as detailed as possible (I’ve gotten as specific as it feels like my muscle is being sliced off the bone with a burning hot knife) and how the pain reduces my functional capacity. As far as functional capacity, you should take a look at what is considered a major life activity under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as the ADA defines a person with a disability as a person who as has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Regardless of whether you have a diagnosis that matches the pain level you experience, if you are experiencing pain then that is a physical impairment. If that pain is substantially limiting major life activities — such as working, sleeping, washing your hair, cooking, grocery shopping or putting away groceries, or things like thinking and concentrating — then you likely have a disability under the ADA.

    You can advocate for yourself with your doctor and explain how your pain does qualify as a disability. A benefit of this is that there has been a shift by many doctors from assessing pain based on things like the pain scale and instead by assessing patient function. The idea being that they are trying to treat patients to the point where they have higher functionality rather than lower pain. Explaining how your pain limits major life activities is a way of explaining how it limits your function.

    If she still refuses, you can find another doctor. I know that will take some time if you are looking for long term treatment, but you may be able to get into someone more quickly who is likely to sign the form for you. If this doctor is not your primary care provider, then you can try seeing if your primary care provider will sign the form for you.

    Finally, I suggest looking into cervical instability or TMJ disorder as a possible causes of your neck pain. I am not working at the moment because of my cervical instability, but had set up a workspace I could use laying on my back with my laptop on a tray that held it above me so I could just look straight up. I can’t otherwise use a computer regularly, even with an ergonomic set up.

    1. GythaOgden*

      OP has been put through a lot of diagnostic processes already, though. They’re not treating the pain as just phantom or hysteria — they’re just not signing off on a request by OP that doesn’t match their opinion as a doctor. (And can we stop assuming that doctors are all men? A lot of doctors are women and can still separate out what’s treatable and what’s not, like when I asked for help with the way my body feels temperature due to dyspraxia skewing it and it being explained that it was up to me to manage what I wore and my own hygiene as a result of it rather than being fixed with medical intervention or a pill. I work with a lot of decent doctors who will nevertheless sometimes disagree with their patients’ positions and it’s their professional judgement on the line if they sign off on something that is expedient for the patient but not something they would simply sign off on without a deeper discussion about what would help.)

      Pain is, as you say, very difficult to diagnose and treat. I’m in chronic pain from an injury and while I am getting physiotherapy for the ankle and foot movement — from a woman, by the way, who takes it seriously and has done amazing things in terms of trying to help the foot sit in the right position and for me not to limp any more, but who can’t unfortunately stop the pain — it’s not doing anything to relieve that discomfort from the metal inside my leg holding everything together. Taking even mild painkillers every day is dangerous for your liver, so I just put up with it and make sure I exercise enough to stave off any exacerbation of the issue like arthritis. But yeah, it’s depressing as all get out.

      The issue I see here is not that the medical profession doesn’t believe her — she’s got a lot of diagnostic proof of what’s going on. It’s more that she’s asking them just to sign off on what she believes she needs, rather than discuss with them what might be a good way of working within an office otherwise. Add to that a doctor probably seeing dozens of similar requests now that mass WFH is a thing but with companies generally needing people back in the office to achieve the softer productivity they get from a more collaborative atmosphere, and this may actually explain the problem here rather than jumping straight to the conclusion that she’s a woman and therefore been underserved by the medical profession.

      So yeah, I know what you’re thinking but OP has been tested for this condition. It’s just the doctor doesn’t agree on the proposed solution and is not willing to stake their professional reputation on it just for the OP’s asking.

      1. Kate, short for Bob*

        I agree with everything you say, but with a tiny but – OP says she’s been managing her condition herself for a while, and doing things which require minimal doctor involvement. It’s worth making sure that the doctor hasn’t forgotten the extent of OP’s pain, and the extent and rigour of the day to day self-care that keeps her functioning. Because they can tend to assume that if they don’t see you regularly you got better, even if not all the way better.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I say this because I have several relatives who see their doctors only sporadically but then expect the doctors to have everything memorized and to do a tremendous amount of reading between the lines. Mom, they can’t help you if you only give them 60% of the information:

          Or, conversely, that the OP hasn’t under-communicated her situation because she hasn’t had enough contact with her doctor. (And it’s not unreasonable for a doctor to think that if you don’t come back, you don’t need them any more. Or, even if you do need them, there isn’t much they can do for you if they don’t see you.)

        2. Dani*

          You are reading A LOT of things into my comment that I didn’t says.

          I didn’t assume that all doctors are men. In fact, I used a female pronoun to refer to OP’s doctor.

          I didn’t say that anybody didn’t believe OP.

          If you read what I wrote, it was advice on how to present the facts to OP’s doctor in a way that the doctor may better recognize the need for the accommodation. The doctor may still say no and the doctor doesn’t have to agree and sign the form.

          Gender may not have anything to do with this — while I mentioned it, it was one sentence in a pretty darn long comment. I mentioned it because it is true. There have been many, many studies finding women receive less adequate pain care than men for the same conditions — from female and male doctors.

      2. Katie A*

        Nothing in this comment assumed the doctor is a man (in fact, Dani used “she” to refer to the doctor). Doctors of all genders downplay women’s pain.

        1. aqua*

          Yeah, as I mentioned in another comment I am doing a PhD in pain measurement and it is extremely accepted within the field that women and black people’s pain is underestimated and undertreated. It’s very strange to treat this as Dani somehow assuming all doctors are men.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          That confused me too.

          The assertion that doctors don’t treating women’s pain the same as men’s pain isn’t some myth that men don’t believe women; it’s a measurable difference in the treatments prescribed for men vs women who are suffering pain. Women’s pain is far more likely to be treated as psychosomatic and treated with lifestyle changes rather than medication; women are also more likely to be sent home without additional testing to determine the cause of the pain because it’s assumed to have something to do with hormones.

          Note that this same issue is extremely evident with how the medical establishment undertreats black people’s pain in the US; an alarming number of our physicians actually believe that black people physiologically feel less pain that white people (WTF). They’re also far more likely to be presumed “drug-seeking” rather than treated for their symptoms. If the LW is black, they are likely getting a double-dose of undertreatment.

      3. ShinyGoldHat*

        Not that it matters even a little, but after reading your comment about assuming doctors are men, I realized that I assumed their doctor was a woman.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          That seems more than fair, as the LW used female pronouns, as did Dani. I’m not actually sure what GythaOgden was referring to about assuming the doctor was a woman.

      4. ferrina*

        They’re not treating the pain as just phantom or hysteria — they’re just not signing off on a request by OP that doesn’t match their opinion as a doctor.

        I didn’t see anything in OP’s letter about how the doctor usually treats the pain. It’s not clear that the doctor has done anything? And just because a doctor doesn’t say “you’re hysterical” doesn’t mean that they are taking the pain seriously- there are studies that show that doctors take women’s complaint of pain less seriously than men’s (and women of color are least likely to be believed). And it’s not always that doctors believe there is no pain, but rather that they don’t believe the severity of the pain.

        I think it’s reasonable that OP request and in-person meeting with the doctor, but if at the end of the day you feel like your doctor isn’t listening to you, get another doctor. It is vital to your health that your doctor listens to you. There’s studies that show that, but I’ve also seen that in my life- a doctor listened to me and my 6yo kid and caught the kid’s pneumonia after other doctors had ruled it out (it was hiding deep in the lungs). The other doctors wrote me off as “parent with too much WebMD” and wrote of my kid as “kid who doesn’t know as much as doctors”. You need a doctor who will treat you as a collaborator on your health- not deferring to you as a medical authority, but treating you as the authority on your own experience.

        1. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

          Even believing the pain exist doesn’t mean they think it is as bad as it is.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            Or they take the first diagnosis that presents itself, rather than doing all the tests they would do on a male patient. For example, it’s extremely common for pain symptoms to be assumed a normal part of menstruation, menopause, post-menopause, etc. Or it sounds like pain from stress/anxiety, have you talked with a therapist? You’re a few pounds overweight, maybe the pain will go away if you lose weight.

            I’m not saying those *aren’t* the correct diagnoses a lot of the time, but there are a lot of other possible diagnoses they did nothing to rule out, and a lot of women have to shop doctors for years before they can get a real diagnosis such as endometriosis.

      5. Hrodvitnir*

        Nothing in that comment assumes all doctors are men – just that doctors, measurably when taken as a group, underestimate and undertreat women’s pain (as well as Black patients – and Māori here in Aotearoa). This is true regardless of the gender or race of the doctor.

        I have a fantastic doctor, but when it comes to complex health issues it’s a struggle to find someone who hasn’t got so distracted by the tickbox style of medicine that they forget their goal should be to help you (even when your symptoms are messy and confusing).

    2. hurt does not equal harm*

      “feels like my muscle is being sliced off the bone with a burning hot knife”
      Recommending phrasing pain like this is dangerous advice. Pain is caused by the brain, and when you’re associating this kind of imagery with it, it is almost guaranteed to get worse. See Explain Pain by Butler and Mosley

      1. allathian*

        Fair enough, but since we don’t have the means of experiencing another person’s pain as if it were our own, it’s pretty much the best we can do.

        It’s also very dangerous advice to tell someone that if only they stopped thinking about their pain, it’d get better.

      2. aqua*

        “Pain is caused by the brain, and when you’re associating this kind of imagery with it, it is almost guaranteed to get worse.”
        I’m doing a PhD in pain measurement and I don’t believe this is anywhere near as definitive as you’re presenting it. I haven’t read the particular book you’re referencing, but I have read a lot of research about pain and in particular measuring and communicating pain levels effectively. Pain mechanisms are extremely complex, and there is also a lot of conflicting research of varying qualities on the level of effect thinking about pain can have. In particular, a lot of research on the relationship between attention and pain relies on the “Pain Catastrophizing Scale” (PCS). The PCS is purported to measure the degree to which someone is exaggerated in their thinking about how severe their pain is, but was criticised (in my opinion very correctly) by Crombez et al in 2020. Crombez et al’s paper “Let’s talk about pain catastrophizing measures: an item content analysis” discusses how pain “catastrophizing” as currently measured may more accurately be described as “pain-related worrying”, i.e. people reasonably worrying about pain they are actually experiencing.
        I don’t think it’s helpful to tell someone that a method they find helpful for communicating their pain is making their pain worse when that absolutely isn’t something that you can say definitively, particularly to someone you’ve never even met.

        1. Anon for this discussion*

          Thank you aqua for your science-backed as well as compassionate additions to this thread!
          What makes my pain noticably worse? Sudden change in weather, the wrong food sometimes, lack of sleep, dehydration, too sudden movement, not enough or too much exercise among other things. Worrying adds to the pain only inasmuch as it might lead me to neglect the various things I try to stay on top of things, e.g. going to the bed later than ideal because I’m stressed out can add to the pain, but it does so rather straightforwardly by the sleep I miss.
          Now if I ever have the energy to check the book you refer to myself, I’d be interested to see how they engage with the fallacy around the mind-body duality that underlies a lot of Western medical science around pain (though that seems to be changing according to aqua). All in all too many pain patience are dismissed with “it’s all in your head” and no intervention regarding there symptoms.

          1. Anon for this discussion*

            pain patients instead of “pain patience” and their instead of “there”

      3. Cj*

        yes, pain is caused by your brain, but you still the pain in your neck or muscles or whatever the case, not in your head.

        I see a pain specialist for chronic pain, and they actually want me to describe it in the terms used, like shooting, sharp, or burning. and they would appreciate it if I was able to put it in even more descriptive terms like Feels Like a Knife is cutting my muscle to the bone. in fact, those might be the words I use when I see them next week, as describes what my trapezius muscle feels like when I’m working so many hours during tax season.

        a few months ago I told them that pain in my lower back felt like I was leaning against a baseball with it pushing into my back muscles when I sat down. they appreciated that description, because it helped them decide that I could be helped by an injection directly into that area.

      4. Boof*

        I think I know what you’re saying but these kind of descriptions are actually very helpful for a doctor to hear. So I do recommend telling their doctor they’re seeing for this exactly that.
        I’m a lot more skeptical of “all over pain” (outside of a very few conditions) vs pain that exactly lines up and is consistent over time and consistent with the accommodations being requested is different than 5 different pain syndromes that migrate, don’t seem to line up, etc. Not saying the later can’t happen but it’s a lot harder for me to tell what the problem is (yes, including psychosomatic; which doesn’t mean the pain isn’t “real” just means the treatment is different than if the pain is due to a pinched nerve, or a tumor, etc)

      5. Dani*

        I appreciate what you are saying, but patients need to be able to describe their pain to their medical providers in a way that gets the medical providers to understand the intensity. I have found it very helpful to get into detail as I suggested to get the care I need. Although not applicable in this instance, I have found it particularly helpful in getting a proper diagnosis and figuring out the cause as I have a lot of different types of pain.

        In the imagery example I gave, I don’t have that pain anymore after we were able to identify its cause, calm the inflammation and stabilize the joint.

  9. Severance Please*

    Oooof LW #2 I hope that you are prepared to not have this job because I guessing the new owner will think they know best, not want to pay you what you’re making, and will get frustrated by how much they have to learn and take it on on you aka let you go. Just a guess.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes, agreed! Dust off the resume. I really don’t think they plan to keep OP on once the transition is done and they have their feet under them.

    2. Annony*

      Even if they aren’t frustrated and overall end up being a reasonable boss, they may feel uncomfortable having one person be that important to the business and actively work towards changing that, which could result in them not wanting to continue to pay the “indispensable” price once they have enough redundancy built in that they can weather OP leaving. They also may want to take the business in a different direction in which case they don’t actually need OP.

      1. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I would caution LW2 against feeling too invested in what ultimately is just a day job. LW2 has no stake in the company other than continued employment. If they think the new owner will fail, they should spend their time and effort looking for other employment rather than trying to convince or force the new owner to do things differently. If the company fails, it fails. That’s a risk the new owner took when they bought this company. Business owners are allowed to make bad decisions.

        I think if LW2 is completely committed to staying in this job, they should also keep an open mind to the possibility that the new owner might do things *better* than the old owner even if they don’t know the day-to-day business yet.

    3. Greg*

      This is bit of a jump with the information we have available to us. The business owner is selling a business that has supported approximately 9 family members for a pretty decent amount of time so it theoretically has a pretty decent cash flow and I’d imagine want to keep that flowing as seamlessly as possible. If OP is a mission critical to that as they suggest, the new owner will be working as hard as they can to keep them around.

      1. linger*

        The fact that the business was previously used to support a large family through profit and/or employment is not necessarily that comforting for OP, because the new owner either may not need as much profit initially, or may already have specific staff (family or otherwise) in mind.

  10. Belle Astre*

    LW2, are you quite sure you want to stay on? If the new owner is inexperienced they might be willing to step up and learn, but they also might not be. Wouldn’t be the first time a business that goes well changes ownership and is then destroyed in a couple of months.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      See, I thought the LW sounded a bit possessive of the job and might end up being the kind of employee who doesn’t want to share how indispensible they are, even though it’s far better business practice not to put all your eggs in one human basket.

      1. Greg*

        Right. I could see this devolving into OP leaving because of changes. The company I work for has acquired quite a few businesses over the years and long term employees tend to fall into two camps (generally speaking): open, and sometimes eager, to change. Or resistant to all change and, “This isn’t the way to do things.” With the limited info available OP sounds like the latter. Maybe they are as critical to the success of the business. And maybe the new owner, though inexperienced, has some pretty good systems and processes to bring in that will improve performance of the asset they are purchasing.

  11. Adam*

    LW#1, at my old company we had so many cases of people accidentally matching each other that we had a dedicated Slack channel for it. It was never a big deal. As long as your boss isn’t spying on you to pick what to wear in the morning, occasionally ending up with the same thing on seems like it’ll be a nonevent (or, for people who really pay attention to these things, will read as your boss copying you rather than the other way around).

    1. Smithy*

      One place I worked had a “twinning wall” – where they’d print out photos of folks matching. Ultimately it was a lot of matching tops with black pants. Or two people had an external meeting and both wore mid length black dresses, black tights and black shoes – but finding the amusement in this is so office place common.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        I remember a place that had “The Wall of Same.” Every time people came in wearing matching outfits, someone took a picture and added it. More than anything, I loved the pun in the name.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      One day at my old job, I was the only woman in the office not wearing pink. Then we had two sales reps come in, both of whom were also wearing pink. I don’t even own any pink!

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Especially since this is happening infrequently. I might feel differently if it was happening all the time, but this seems pretty innocuous.

    4. Mid*

      One time, 4 of the 5 of us in the office that day (2 women, 1 man, 1 enby) wore dark wash jeans, a deep green v-neck sweater, and a white collared shirt underneath. We all joked about it, and the 5th coworker changed to a green sweater at lunch to be silly. It was all in good fun.

      I’ve also seen coworkers adjust their style over time, consciously or not, to match other people in the office (sometimes it’s dressing nicer when someone starts dressing nicer, sometimes it’s dressing more fun and colorfully when someone starts dressing more fun.) I’ve never seen it done in a malicious way, and I’m guessing it’s rarely even a conscious choice of “Mary dresses like this so I should do” but rather “oh, I’m seeing someone dress in a way that feels more like how I want to dress, but haven’t wanted to push the envelope/have been in a style rut, and this is inspiring me to change things up.”

    1. ILoveLllamas*

      We did that one year — 6+ of us dressed up like one of our bossess, who had a distinctive look. He LOVED it! We all had a great laugh.

      1. JustaTech*

        A whole department at my work did that and it took the boss *forever* to notice that everyone was dressed up exactly like him – it wasn’t a far stretch for some people but one gal had a very feminine style and had to borrow all of the clothes from other people, and even then it was only when his whole department stood together that he realized what they were wearing.

        He thought it was hilarious, and the best Halloween we’d had in ages.

  12. Lorikeet*

    Re #1 – my office jokes about “getting the memo” when we inadvertently dress similarly and people who aren’t wearing, say plaid or stripes or navy will say “”nope, didn’t get the memo that you guys did!”

    1. Lady Lessa*

      We do that some also. For us, it tends to be color schemes, and also involves some of the men.

      1. Lightbulb moment*

        LW #1 you are being way too uptight about this. I think there are a lot of comments that talk about this, but I’ll just add one more. One time 6 of 7 people on a team at my workplace showed up with the same matching pattern on. A mix of both men and women. So now, once a week, they purposely match. It’s even extended beyond the team and some other people also participate. It’s silly and people have fun with it. Relax!

        1. Ali + Nino*

          That’s fun y. I remember one day at my first office job post-college a few people were wearing black and white stripes, which a visitor pointed out. One workers responded: “That’s because we’re in jail!”

          OP 1, don’t sweat it!

    2. Janne*

      Same here — a colleague and I had matching plaid shirts on, then said “This is our team uniform from now on, did you miss the memo?”

      Then 3 weeks later we had the same shirts again — apparently she and I have the same clothing/laundry rotation XD

  13. English Rose*

    LW #2 In the UK, the new owner would have to take you on, at the same terms and conditions including salary that you are currently getting. I’m assuming that isn’t the case where you are.

    You should update your resume and start looking around, for two reasons: 1) the new owner may decide not to keep you on, 2) you’ve been lucky working at a family business you love, you may not enjoy it under the new owner.

    1. londonedit*

      Would they? I’m not sure that’s necessarily the case – I know when the company I was working for several years ago was bought out by a larger company we all had to effectively interview for our own roles, because the new owner needed to see who would fit in with their company’s structure and who would be surplus to requirements. Of course it was all done properly according to UK law with notice of possible redundancies, etc, but there was definitely no requirement for anyone to be kept on.

      1. Ferret*

        I believe English Rose is thinking about TUPE regulations which aren’t really relevant to this situation even if it was in the UK (or anywhere else similar rules apply. They cover situations when a business changes suppliers or takes over another business, e.g. if your office changes cleaning company the new supplier may have to take on the same cleaners and keep them on the same pay and conditions.

        Not really applicable to someone selling their business to another person as far as I know. It also doesn’t make much sense in a US contract given how many workers there don’t have an employment contract anyway and employers have a lot more leeway to change pay and conditions (as long as it isn’t retrospective)

        1. doreen*

          Even if the person has a contract in the US , it’s going to depend on what “selling the business” means. It could mean that someone bought the corporation that operates my business, with all the assets and liabilities. Or it could mean that someone bought only the assets ( building, equipment and so on) to operate a completely separate business.

  14. English Rose*

    #3 and anyone else who believes co-workers are their friends: they are not. It’s a particularly strange kind of symbiotic relationship arising out of shared teamwork and/or frustrations which rarely survives either party leaving the workplace.
    I have a (real life) friend who has several Facebook ‘friends’ who are also co-workers. He regularly shares negative rants on FB about his employer, and it usually gets back to his boss, who calls him out over it. My friend gets all hurt and defensive that someone would ‘betray’ him. Then he keeps those co-workers as friends on FB and carries on sharing rants!
    (All of which I appreciate is a bit of a rant of mine, but I just spend half an hour this weekend listening to him complain about it!)

    1. allathian*

      Ugh, I hope he’s a good friend otherwise because I wouldn’t listen to complaints like that for more than five minutes.

      He deserves to get fired for this sort of behavior at least once. Do you know if he’s limiting those posts to his friends or if he’s posting in public? If the latter, it’s almost certainly going to bite him where it hurts at some point.

      Some people need serious consequences to learn their life lessons.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      And honestly, if he had any sense, he’d set those posts so his coworkers couldn’t see them. I have a lot of my coworkers as friends, but a) I don’t post rants about work and b) if I do post anything sensitive, I change the audience and ensure that certain people can’t see it. It’s easy to change the audience of a post to “friends except.”

      1. English Rose*

        @allathian and @Irish Teacher – exactly, if he was going to do it, why not set those posts to limited audience. But he doesn’t… it sounds like a serious life lesson is in the works this time, boss’s tone has apparently turned very frosty!

    3. Scientist*

      Your coworker sounds wild and out of touch, but just want to say that coworkers can absolutely be real friends! I have people who are still my friends (we visit each other, go on walks, text each other, go to each others’ weddings) from three of the four jobs I held over the last 14 years (the last time I worked with any of them was five years ago.)

      1. English Rose*

        Yes I also have friends who I used to work with, but only after we no longer worked together. Then it can be great!

        1. Scientist*

          But we were good friends when we still work together too! Although I will grant you that it’s possible for the friendship to get better and deeper when you no longer work together.

    4. Nancy*

      Of course coworkers can be friends. That doesn’t mean you can joke about hitting other coworkers to them, or post negative rants about your employer online for all to see.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        And, it’s worth being conscious that friendly coworkers need to retain a professional relationship with you, so they may not want to give you their refreshingly honest opinion about how your rants are coming across. They don’t actually have the option of ghosting you, drifting back, etc.

      1. JustaTech*

        To me there are “friends”, “friends I met at work”, “work friends”, and “people I am friendly with at work”.

        I had a coworker who didn’t make those distinctions and was *extremely* frosty with me for about a week after I explained this to her (and it wasn’t even about her, it was about a mutual coworker!).

        As for social media: I never friend current coworkers, keep my FB private, and keep my “work sucks” rants to “today was terrible” rather than “X company sucks in Y Z and B ways”.

        (I was also once chastised by a friend for posting that I was very frustrated with a classmate for not getting back to me on our group project and I hoped he was OK. My friend was all “but what if your classmate reads this?” “OK, first, we’re not FB friends, second, I said pretty much the exact same thing in my email to him.”)

    5. Samwise*

      And something they are actively NOT your friend.

      We had a coworker once who was known as The Snake. The Snake is why I severed all connections to coworkers from my social media.

  15. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #5 I’d ask your doctor to specify that you need to be able to lie down for xx minutes yy times per day, rather than try to get them to state this can only be done at home.
    Your employer would then decide whether it is better to allow more wfh or to allocate a separate quiet room with bed/couch at work.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      Yeah, I’m guessing the doctor is uncomfortable signing off on “LW5 needs to work from home 3 days a week in order to accommodate their condition” but would be fine with “LW5 needs [time] breaks a day of at least 10′ in order to stretch/lie down in order to manage [condition] for optimal ability to work”. The doc doesn’t want a situation where in 6 months the LW is saying “But my DOCTOR says I HAVE to work at home as my accommodation” if there’s an issue with things getting done on time. The doctor probably doesn’t care how often you work at home! They just are responsible for telling HR what, medically, is going to help LW, and then it’s up to LW and HR to figure out how to make it work.

    2. kiki*

      Yeah, I think breaking down the need this way is more likely to get the doctor to understand why LW is reaching out to them and why they need the accommodation. It might seem obvious to LW– “working from home will allow me to periodically lie down and position myself more comfortably than I can realistically do in my office”– but I can see this not occurring to the doc, especially if they’re busy/ have a lot of accommodation requests to sort through, etc.

    3. One HR Opinion*

      Thank you for suggesting this. I agree it is a good idea. Since ADA requires a dialog, it’s always best to have a clear idea what the need is in order to brainstorm solutions.

  16. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    if you know there are no suitable spare rooms then this means by default wfh

    1. Oy with the poodles already*

      That really depends on the type of role the LW has. If this is a role that requires in person coverage and the employer has been able to create a rotation amongst staff, then 100% remote may not be possible. As someone who manages a staff member with similar issues, I wouldn’t be able to change them to wfh all the time because of their role. Step 1 is getting the doctor to agree but that doesn’t guarantee the accommodation will be agreed to by the employer.

      1. WellRed*

        In this case, OP isn’t looking for 100% remote and the company sounds amenable to accommodations. I do think OP should consider a way to lie down or whatever at work, if this doesn’t go through.

    2. doreen*

      That depends on the specifics , not only of the job (can it be done from home) but of the work location. At my last job there were no spare rooms. But there my individual office had a couch that converted to a bed by taking off the cushions – someone who needed to lie down throughout the day could have been assigned to that office. At another job, there was a cot in the file room so employees (one at a time) could nap on breaks. It wouldn’t be default for those jobs or for others were there actually is somewhere to lay down ( which are probably more than you expect – if a hospital has space for doctors to sleep during their shift , there’s no reason they can’t allow a clerk who needs to lay down during his workday to use it)

    3. Dust Bunny*

      That assumes that a space couldn’t be made, and right now nobody knows that that’s the case. Anyway, it’s not the doctor’s place to make decisions about the employer’s facilities or the specifics of how the LW’s needs are accommodated.

  17. bamcheeks*

    LW2, it’s not really unusual or shocking to have to make a case for your role to a new owner — I get how weird it feels when you’ve been doing the job and it seems self-evident to you, but if you think about it from the point of the view of the owner, “who is this person and what do they do” is a very obvious and sensible question to ask, whether it’s with the subtext of “and do we really need them” or just to understand the business and be able to manage you effectively.

    You might find it easier to prepare for this as if you WERE leaving and writing a job description for the next person– not in the expectation that you will be, but in that it’s a kind of useful mental exercise to get you to think about everything that you do dispassionately and get it down on paper. That can be a really useful document to start a conversation with the owners about whether they expect your role to stay intact or whether they would want to restructure any processes or roles. These are normal things to talk about as part of a handover process, and it should be something you are actively engaged in so that you can make a clear decision about whether you want to stay in post.

    Obviously you love your job and don’t want to leave, but I would definitely assume that *some* things will change. New owners will almost certainly mean change, and it is completely possible that the role and the company will change in ways that mean it doesn’t make as much sense for you as it previous has done. That’s hard and it sucks! But the more you can engage in conversations about the future and your role with the new owners positively and productively, the more opportunity you have to shape the future — or to get early warning signs that the new direction isn’t going to suit you as well so you can start looking for something else.

    1. Which Susan are you?*

      Does the LW have performance reviews and a completely updated job description? If not, they should absolutely work with their current employer to get both, especially a very clear job description that the owner signs off on. It should be granular: The person in this position is responsible for managing llama trainers, billing llama clients, auditing all llama-related accounts, sourcing and ordering llama food, providing routine tooth inspections for all llamas. LW does not want something as vague as “this position manages the llama department.”

  18. Michigander*

    LW1 – One thing you’ll find the longer you work in offices, if you haven’t noticed already, is that there’s a fairly limited pool of topics that are both relatively safe and easy to joke about. Coworkers accidentally matching is one of them. If it seems to come up frequently it’s probably just because “Oh look, we’re twins!” and “I love that shirt! Better watch out or we’ll be matching again!” are fairly innocuous office jokes for most people.

    1. Michigander*

      Related: I’ve been listening to the Office Ladies podcast, which is about The Office. In one episode they talked about how the wardrobe department would arrange all of the cast’s outfits to complement each other but not be the same colors or too matchy, the way you would on most TV shows, and then they’d have to go through and mess it up so that it was more realistic. In the real world you do get coworkers accidentally wearing very similar colors or outfits on the same day, so they tried to replicate that.

    2. allathian*

      Indeed. My employer has a business casual dress code, with the emphasis on casual. Pretty much anything goes as long as the clothes are clean, don’t look as if you’ve slept in them, and don’t have visible holes, and don’t show too much skin (sleeveless is fine, a skirt or shorts that cover more of the thigh than they show have passed without comment, sneakers are fine). I usually wear jeans and a long-sleeved, patterned top, and I add a cardigan if I need one. My boss and grandboss prefer to dress a bit more formally, so they generally wear button-downs. Both of them have dark shoulder-length straight hair with bangs and wear glasses. Both of them are also slim and about the same height. In a meeting last week they looked like virtual twins because they also used the same Teams backgrounds and wore almost identical button down shirts, and this was the subject of some good-natured ribbing at the start of our weekly meeting.

      Obviously the situation would be different if someone intentionally appeared to copy another person’s style, including attempting to buy identical shoes and purses, etc.

      1. JustaTech*

        I’ll admit that I ended up deciding not to buy a sweater I’d seen on Instagram because a new coworker showed up wearing it her first week and it’s a pretty distinctive sweater (though it is from a national department store chain). I just didn’t want to make it weird (and also I have enough sweaters I’m not wearing).

  19. Chocolate Teapot*

    There were several occasions when 3 or 4 of us in the same team all turned up for work in the same colour top. We just all had a good laugh about it.

    1. Panda (she/her)*

      We used to joke about Thursdays being “wear purple day” because so many of us would randomly end up wearing that colour. Guess we got through our clean laundry at a consistent rate from week to week?

    2. EmmaPoet*

      Same here. We’ll joke that the person not wearing plaid/green/cat print top must have missed the secret memo.

  20. Varthema*

    Regarding LW1, I think there’s a common assumption (I know I’m guilty of it) that other people are in great control of their speech and expression, so that everything they do or say is on purpose. The reality is that other people can be bad at human-ing too!

    And as a neurodivergent person who is usually pretty good at masking/passing for neurotypical, I know that sometimes I get stuck in “loops” with someone. I can absolutely see myself admiring someone else’s fashion/color choices, remembering “compliments help make happy social interactions” and “this person was pleased last time I complimented her on her dress!” and “haha matching clothes by accident is a funny thing coworkers can connect over!” then… spamming that personal interaction button combo too often. I’m not saying that this is the case with the boss, just a PSA that every individual is a rich and chaotic tapestry and not everything has an agenda or meaning.

  21. Yup*

    #3: I think we need to know the power/privilege dynamics here for a fuller picture. Woman talking about woman? Man about woman? White person about Black person? Straight about LGBTQ+? It was still not a great move but the dynamics behind it can turn “not great” into very, very problematic that needs further education/consequences.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I legit can’t tell if this is a warning about reporting the comment, or about making the comment.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think it could apply either way, tbh. That said, it only really matters from the sense of wanting to say Who Is Right and Who Is Wrong, which is not actually actionable advice for LW. The actionable advice here is, a) that co-worker clearly doesn’t see you as a friend, regardless of whether they are legitimately freaked out by LW talking about striking a co-worker or are acting maliciously in reporting them, so don’t vent to them. and b) don’t talk about being violent even to co-workers you consider friends.

        1. Yup*

          It’s less about right/wrong than about power dynamics and who causes more damage. A man threatening to slap a woman, or a white person threatening to slap a POC, comes off as far more harmful that a person saying that about someone of the same power dynamic.

  22. MAOM7*

    For letter writer number 3, I’ve been in the workforce a long time, and one thing I learned early on was that work “friends” are not friends. Work is always competition, and your fellow workers are in it to get ahead. I don’t make friends with the people I work with. They will use things against you to get ahead.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      This is…not a universal experience. (I am in my 40s and have never had this happen.)

    2. bamcheeks*

      Oof, then you work in a super dysfunctional industry. Me and my colleagues are in it to work collaboratively and help people.

    3. Marvel*


      That is… NOT a universal experience. Honestly, the fact that you think that way prooobably says more about you than it does about anyone else.

    4. Also-ADHD*

      That can happen but isn’t necessarily relevant here. The person couldn’t been their friend but been upset at the violence suggested in the message. Or maybe also friendly with the other person. I don’t immediately see any suggestion that it was for that person’s competitive benefit.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I think it makes more sense to view it as these people are not associating with you purely from fondness. If something you do strikes them as very off, they are more likely to quietly roll with it because they are stuck with you. Right up until you push it so far they don’t quietly roll any more.

    6. Future*

      It’s not my experience either. Perhaps it depends a lot on the industry or company. Most of the friends I’ve made since I finished university have been colleagues first.

    7. AngryOctopus*

      I am really sorry that is your experience. Work people aren’t always going to be friends, but the majority of my career I’ve at the very least gotten along with everyone. I do even have good friends I made at my last long-term job.
      In this particular case, the kind of venting the LW wants to do is better suited to an outside friend. I certainly had frustrating experiences with coworkers and I could vent to my coworker friends, but it was still more “Ugh, X wanted me to let her use machine Y that I signed up for, instead of just running the 10′ calibration on machine Z herself, it’s so annoying”, not threats of any kind of violence.

    8. Lacey*

      Ooh, no. That’s not true.

      Most of my coworkers are collaborators.


      I’m pretty careful to match tone. I’m not complaining about anything to my bubbly upbeat coworker. I will to the coworker who brings it up with me first.

      But even then. I’m not wishing to be even mildly violent with anyone. The most I might hope for in writing is that they find a lovely new career at a company we don’t do business with.

    9. Irish Teacher.*

      I don’t think this situation has anything to do with getting ahead. It is far more likely the coworker misinterpreted the tone of the text and took it as a threat against the coworker they were texting about rather than a joking vent and figured they should report it, in case the LW actually planned to assault somebody.

      And I wouldn’t agree that work is always competition or that people are in it to get ahead. It probably does depend to some extent on the industry but most people are in work to get their weekly wage packet. There are plenty of jobs where there isn’t really an “ahead” or where getting ahead means doing a very different role that only a small number of people would be interested in. My job is kind of one of those. There are “middle management” roles but not everybody is interested in them (I’d say it’s about 50/50) and it’s really hard to find principals. The majority of teachers do not want to do that as it is a very different role, most like business management and if we wanted that, we’d have chosen a career that involves it.

      I’m not in competition with anybody at work. I’m not looking for promotions and my job is prety secure.

      Yeah, there are people who are aiming for high level positions at work, but I would say they are a minority. There are plenty of people who are happy to coast and others in jobs like mine where my plans don’t compete with anybody else’s.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think this situation has anything to do with getting ahead


        It is far more likely the coworker misinterpreted the tone of the text and took it as a threat against the coworker they were texting about rather than a joking vent and figured they should report it, in case the LW actually planned to assault somebody.

        Either that, or they were *not* mistaken to take it seriously. Even if the CW didn’t think that the LW actually *planned* to assault someone, if she thought that the LW was being serious (despite the cutesy language), then it makes sense to report. And based on the letter it’s hard to say whether the LW was serious or not.

    10. Jan Levinson Gould*

      In my 20+ year career, I’ve been burned by one colleague I thought was a friend. However, I’ve lost track of the number of colleagues who got through tough times at work with me. Sometimes joking and venting with colleagues when things got bad was the only way I maintained my sanity. Sure I keep certain things out of the conversation (never even jokingly threatening violence), but the good from camaraderie has far outweighed the bad.

      I’ve lost touch with people from previous jobs that went through the tough times with me, but I still look back with high opinions. I wouldn’t hesitate to help them out if they reached out to me for professional assistance such as a job search or reference and they would probably do the same for me. That’s how networks are built. Tough to build a network if one is closing out all colleagues.

  23. Seashell*

    LW#1, a black and white cardigan doesn’t seem like it’s outside of the realm of what an average woman in her 50’s or 60’s would wear, so I think she did want to get that or something like it if she was asking for specifics. For the rest, it sounds more like a joke or that she admires your style but doesn’t think she could pull it off.

  24. DJ Abbott*

    #1, it is so hard to find decent quality clothes now, and even harder if you’re at one end or the other of the size spectrum, to find ones that fit.
    If there was someone around who wore clothes I like and was about my size, I’d be asking questions too. Not to copy them, to find a source. I’m small and the XS in a lot of stores is too big for me. I know of one store with my size and I managed to get some blouses and a sweater. Otherwise, the things I bought resale before the pandemic have been carrying me.
    I remember when I could go to Kmart and buy a good quality nightgown or blouse. (or cooking pan, or spray bottle.) I miss those days!

  25. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Yikes, words matter and if I saw a “joke” about one co-worker striking another one, I would hope that some kind of disciplinary action against the “joker” ensues. Writing someone up by putting a note in their file is absolutely appropriate, and also their manager should have a talk with them.

  26. Engineer*

    I have to disagree with Alison’s second point on LW3. A write up is documentation of an event that violated the rules of the workplace but doesn’t quite reach the need for more immediate disciplinary measures. If more incidents occur with this employee, there’s a paper trail that HR and management can refer back to that doesn’t rely on the same manager still being employed there and remembering if they had a conversation about it. Lack of such documentation helps repeat offenders – of all kinds – continue to get away it.

    1. Buffalo*

      As Alison says in the post she linked to, there’s a difference between documenting issues (100% necessary for the reasons you list) and “write up” culture, which tends to be more in the spirit of “you were five minutes late to your job at McDonald’s, your 19-year-old assistant manager is punishing you for being naughty”. Some people do use “write up” casually to mean the former, but the latter is simply never good management, in my opinion.

  27. Dinwar*

    #3: I would take this as a signal of the culture of this workplace.

    I’ve worked in many environments where saying “I’d love to smack that stupid look off his face” would have been considered a fairly normal sort of statement–the work is hard and dangerous, and venting is expected. Plus, most of the people are blue-collar or started out blue-collar. Not that this would excuse violence, to be clear! It’s just that there’s a world of difference between violence and a statement that includes violent language. It’s a matter of jargon. I’ve walked in on a conversation where my staff was debating which excavator operator they could most easily bribe to burry me alive; it was mostly good-natured, so I treated it as venting. There was a problem, sure, but it was NOT that they were talking about killing me.

    On the other hand, I’ve worked in environments where saying “I think Joe crossed a line here” would have been taken as a tremendous insult and been seen as something worth running to the boss about. Communications were fairly highly regulated and everyone was super-sensitive about perceived insults.

    For my part, I don’t think your statement would have warranted any disciplinary action. It indicates there’s a problem that needs to be solved, but that problem is what the boss should be focused on, NOT the language in which you choose to express the issue. In the example I gave above, I realized that my team was over-worked and thought I was expecting them to work the same hours I did (I was going through a rough patch and overworking myself was a way to cope). So I made it VERY clear that I expected them to take frequent breaks, including spending some of my own money to bring in some pretty nice snacks for the breaks. I also made a point of discussing why I was over-working myself and emphasizing that this was a personal thing, NOT something I expected from anyone else. Tensions eased fairly significantly after that (though honestly they were never that high to begin with).

    If the boss wants to look at this as an incident, they should do a 5 Why investigation. Right now they’re dealing with the absolute most shallow aspect of the problem–akin to a doctor dealing with an extremely ill patient by saying “The fever is making your skin flushed, you should wear makeup to hide it” rather than dealing with the disease.

    1. Also-ADHD*

      I mean, writing LW3 up does absolutely nothing to solve the issues, but I do think it seems a little cavalier to think telling other coworkers you’d like to slap someone at work is okay. I would be deeply uncomfortable if someone said that to me/texted that, and that’s probably what happened with the friend. I am trying to imagine a non broken work culture where that would be okay, not that writing it up suggests the best work culture either. Whatever the culture of the work/team, I feel like it’s likely not great here.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        I’ve worked on the engineering side of manufacturing, and the culture difference between the office and the floor is dramatic.

        On the floor, it was perfectly normal for someone to yell and call someone an asshole, and then they’d be joking around over coffee 15 minutes later.

      2. Dinwar*

        “…but I do think it seems a little cavalier to think telling other coworkers you’d like to slap someone at work is okay.”

        It depends on whether you think someone saying they’d like to do something means they intend to actually do it. 9 times out of 10, such people would be horrified to actually do the thing–I’ve actually given a few people the opportunity to hit me (I engaged in full-contact martial arts at the time; I could take anything they dished out), and most looked absolutely horrified at the prospect. It’s amazing how reluctant people in our society actually are to engage in violence. The news makes it appear that we’re in a constant state of war in the USA, but the reality is that those things are newsworthy because they’re rare.

        The issue is that English, especially lower-class English, is a highly poetic language (see G. K. Chesterton on this). Slapping someone in the face is a metaphor, NOT a statement of intent–the intent is to emphasize displeasure, not to threaten the person. It is, as a paleontologist once told me, a representation of the thing, not the thing itself.

        “I am trying to imagine a non broken work culture where that would be okay…”

        Go to any welding shop, pipe fitting shop, carpenter’s guild hall, ironworker’s guild hall, laborer’s guild hall, concrete pour, or the like. While things are changing and such language is less common than it once was, such language is still commonplace in the trades. I’ve seen much harsher language used on fire scenes, by men who were closer than brothers. Again, the language is poetic, not literal (well, most of the time). They didn’t actually mean “I will set you on fire if you don’t do X”; they meant “X is extremely important and needs to be done immediately”, but given the nature of the events and the people communicating the former provided more immediate results and clearer communication than the latter.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I think there’s a weird thing with joke violence where sometimes more mild violence imagery is MORE alarming because it’s just about plausible. “ugh, I’d like to push X off a cliff” is kind of Wile E. Coyote territory. “I’d like to slap X” is, uh– you aren’t really going to slap X, are you?

          1. Dinwar*

            I used to do jobs that included free-climbing in mountains in the Desert Southwest. There was more than one point where being tossed off a cliff was something I was pretty worried about. (These are fond memories, FYI.)

            For my part, jokes about slapping someone, punching them, hitting them with a rolling pin, and the like were a commonplace growing up and in my early career. The number of people actually struck in a non-consensual way is vanishingly small (boxing, wrestling, and sparring happened fairly regularly). Everyone took the joke to be an expression of frustration that no one would act on.

            To be clear, I’m not saying you’re wrong. My point is, culture matters here. In some parts of the country, in some career fields, and in some socio-economic levels the statement “I’d love to slap that stupid look off his face” would be seen as an actionable threat; in others it’d be seen as merely a common metaphor indicating frustration.

          2. Irish Teacher.*

            I agree. I was listening to this song once that was talking about stuff like wanting to push a particular British politician off a mountain and while it was a bit mean, I guess, I found it funny. Until there was a line about wishing an actual thing that had happened to this politican had killed them at which point it became utterly creepy. OK, the real threat there was equally or more serious, but it was far more realistic.

            “I wish somebody would blast that politician off to Mars” is funny. “I wish they’d died of coronavirus” is not.

          3. JustaTech*

            This is why I’ve spent years trying to come up with verbal ways of expression frustration that aren’t violent or obscene – or the “threat” is just too impossible and weird to be real. Like “I’ll sew your underpants shut” – this is only a plausible threat to the people who live in my house, who know I would not. Or “I hope a thousand insects nest in your bed!” – I have no power to make this happen.
            “I hope all the elastic in your socks dies!” isn’t as satisfying to shout at the person who cut you off in traffic as a swear, but it is funnier.

        2. Antilles*

          Yeah, I’ve heard similar sorts of phrases often enough and it’s always pretty clear that it’s being used as a metaphorical expression.

          The guy saying he can “bust some skulls” very isn’t actually planning to pull out a baseball bat, the person who says “I’ll show them where to shove their new policy” isn’t actually going to insert a binder up someone’s y’know, etc.

          That said, I don’t think I’ve ever had these sorts of expressions via text, so it’s possible that OP’s phrase came across *much* differently without the obvious tonal clues of “just venting” or “lighthearted joke”.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          (It’s) a metaphor, NOT a statement of intent–the intent is to emphasize displeasure.
          Reminds me of the discussion about song lyrics, which land quite differently with and without a melody. One person is like “Wow, that is some disturbing imagery” and another is like “Hum, hum de hum hum… what imagery?”

          1. JustaTech*

            Oh my goodness, yes with the songs!
            My husband just doesn’t seem to hear the lyrics at all, and so when I’ve said things like “hey, can we not listen to this song” he’s always confused when I say things like “it uses a slur in the chorus” or “its super violent against women”. Then he’ll *actually* listen an go “ohh, yeah, taking that off the playlist”.

        4. Irish Teacher.*

          I think part of the problem is that this was texted. Yeah, it’s highly unlikely the LW meant it literally, but the coworker may not have known that. Some people do take language very literally (we’ve had quite a few posts and comments here complaining about people saying something that wasn’t literally true and “why do they need to hint like that? Why won’t they just say what they mean?”) and it’s particularly difficult to gauge tone in a text message. So somebody who is very literal, for whatever reason or somebody who does not have English as their first language or somebody who has experienced violence or stalking in a previous job might well read that text message which isn’t accompanied by tone or body language or even by a larger amount of text to give it context as literally meaning “I want to hit our coworker,” which would be alarming.

          Slapping someone in the face is a metaphor, NOT a statement of intent–the intent is to emphasize displeasure, not to threaten the person. It is, as a paleontologist once told me, a representation of the thing, not the thing itself.
          This is almost certainly the case, but not everybody understands metaphor and some people have had some alarming experiences that have taught them to assume the worst because in the past they have taken something as a joke or a metaphor and it’s turned out to be a genuine threat.

          I wouldn’t have taken that text as anything other than a metaphor but I think we do have to be extra-careful with written communication because it’s harder to make it clear when something is a joke and when it’s serious.

          1. Dinwar*

            This illustrates a fundamental difference in how to interpret communication.

            From my perspective, the job of the listener is to make a good-faith attempt to understand the intent of the speaker. I’m a hard-core Descriptivist; I care not a whit what grunts, squeaks, whistles, and gestures you use to convey your message, I only care that your message is conveyed. The speaker’s obligation is of course to craft their diction so as to facilitate the listener’s attempt as much as possible.

            In contrast, the way you’re addressing communication the speaker’s intent is completely irrelevant; the only relevant criteria is what the listener choose to interpret. Moreover, the harshest interpretation can be assumed to be the speaker’s intent.

            I for one would not fit into such a culture at all. Not that I routinely make threats–I rarely if ever do, and they’re always things that I am legally and morally permitted to do (“Smoke in a non-smoking area again and you’ll never work on this site again”, that sort of thing). It’s more an issue of what it says about the culture. In a culture where communication is a joint activity, people generally trust one another and are honest with one another. In a culture where authorial intent is deemed irrelevant, and worst-case interpretations are the norm, trust is gone. My job’s too dangerous; those people who discussed how to kill me also saved my life (and I theirs) multiple times that job. As a matter of safety I simply cannot work with people who are unwilling or unable to attempt to understand intent in communication.

    2. Observer*

      I’ve walked in on a conversation where my staff was debating which excavator operator they could most easily bribe to burry me alive; it was mostly good-natured, so I treated it as venting.

      So, as you note, this *was* a reflection of a real problem. But also, the fact that it was a group discussion and SOOO out there makes it a lot *less* serious. Because in most cases it’s just not reasonable to think that a whole group of coworkers want to actually murder someone but would also be seriously planning it in public that way. On the other hand a single person “venting” to another person about smacking someone sounds like a very real world issue.

      If the boss wants to look at this as an incident, they should do a 5 Why investigation

      We don’t know what else the boss did or is doing. We also don’t know the background of this. But regardless, telling someone that it’s absolutely not OK to make threats of violence is a perfectly reasonable action to take. So is *documenting* the event and the fact that the employee was warned that their behavior is out of line.

      1. Dinwar*

        I do not think that the use of metaphorical language to describe one’s feelings constitutes a threat of violence. Nor do I think that the the lower scale of the threat necessarily makes it more actionable.

        For most people the act of striking another person in anger is as outlandish as the act of burring someone alive would have been to the group in my example (most of them had studied taphonomy and most had macerated roadkill; it’s part of the job). Unless the speaker has a history of violence or makes a threat that’s a LOT more specific than “I want to slap them”, I simply don’t register it as a threat.

  28. Also-ADHD*

    Is the doctor signing off on the accommodation or providing evidence of the condition? That part confused me, though the process can be fuzzy. The MRI results and presumably other interactions should have been establishing of the issue, definitively, prior, so why the doctor is uncomfortable needs to be addressed. How is the accommodation written? Did your doctor ever suggest accommodation, treatment, etc?

  29. sunshine*

    LW 1 – joking or chatting about matching clothes is an extremely common piece of office small-talk in my experience. Almost every meeting could have two or three guys commenting that they were all wearing blue plaid shirts, or several people wearing similar shades of red etc.

  30. Pink Candyfloss*

    LW5 – your doctor may have only given a cursory glance to the form and be confusing an HR job accommodation for a legal disability claim. Make sure they understand the difference. I have seen that happen more than once.

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Yeah, my mother’s ophthalmologist told her that she was going blind (glaucoma) and had to retire from her job as a librarian. When she brought him the disability forms, he refused to sign because “she could still scrub floors.”
      A) That’s not how disability works.
      B) Would you want a cleaner who couldn’t see the dirt?
      C) He was actually causing the vision loss by his prescribing error, and she recovered all her sight when she switched doctors. But it was too late to retract her retirement.

  31. Just Me*

    I’m with the doctor – work from home is not an accommodation you need; it’s the accommodation you want. The accommodation you think you need is opportunities to lay down and stretch. As a health care professional I also quotidian refuse to sign papers stating you must work from home. It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to your pain- I also have chronic pain that is often severe – but that my ethics will not allow me to sign off on something I know is false.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      This. The doctor can say “LW5 needs X breaks per day of at least [time] in order to lay down and stretch in order to manage [condition].”. Now it’s a negotiation between the LW and HR on *how* that accommodation can be best implemented. Maybe it is more WFH days. Maybe they provide a locking room well equipped for the stretching needed (mat, chair, etc.). But it’s not on the doctor to say “LW5 must work from home for X days a week”.

    2. SometimesMaybe*

      Thank you. I am surprised by the number of people saying the doctor should automatically sign-off on a WFH request.

  32. The Other Dawn*

    LW 5: My physical issues and work needs almost exactly mirror yours, except my pain is in my hips, back, and legs. I, too, seriously contemplated quitting my job since it’s a desk job and the sitting is the worst thing for me. My ergonomic setup at home and in the office don’t help all that much. I’m in pain management and take pain meds, as well as get procedures from time to time to manage the nerve pain in my legs.

    I recently requested an accommodation to be able to WFH and only come in when I feel up to it. Basically, I go in for important meetings or training that can’t be done remotely, and things like that. It amounts to a few days a month. In order to get an accommodation to do that, I had to do an in-person appointment to have the doctor complete the paperwork with me. I had my pain management doctor do the paperwork, since he’s the one I see regularly (every 30 days by law) and also the one who knows how I’m feeling from day to day the best. He asked me, “What do you need to work your best while maintaining a minimum level of pain?” I told him: driving no more than 20 minutes (it’s about 35-40 minutes to work and I need pain meds by the time I get there); static standing no more than 10 minutes; sitting no more than 15 minutes; and to be able to take as many breaks to stretch, lay down, or walk as I need (which I can’t really do at my office).

    My recommendation is to set up an in-person appointment with whatever doctor manages your pain and lay out exatly what you need in order to do your best at work. I don’t know if you’re in the US, but if so, that would likely be your pain management doctor since primary doctors generally won’t prescribe narcotic pain meds anymore. Most doctors I know of won’t complete accommodation request paperwork without seeing you in person. It’s annoying, but I get why they do it.

    1. Boof*

      Thank you! I know it seems like docs should just do whatever and “know” what someone needs, but telling your workplace what needs to happen for a chronic condition is a big deal with a lot of ongoing paperwork that’s probably going to be regularly repeated, and most doctors won’t take it lightly. Ideally it is a setup just as you described where it’s very clear who/what/why/how and needs to be updated regularly.
      And I know everyone hates this but in the USA at least docs eventually get dinged if we don’t justify our salary/support staff with the RVUs (relative value units) so if we/our staff/etc spend hours on paperwork with no actual visit we basically don’t get paid for that (or rather, we get talking to about where are we spending all our time and maybe eventually lose said support staff). Sad but true. So just scheduling a visit specifically for the accommodation request helps everyone out in a lot of ways.

  33. Michelle Smith*

    LW4: Get a new doctor ASAP. I have needed similar accommodations and I literally wrote the letter myself for my doctor to sign (which he did) because I was concerned that he doesn’t really understand all the details of what my company was looking for. He was thinking about things from a different perspective. Your doctor may be doing that too, not really fully understanding or appreciating what the documentation needs to say and why it’s so critically important. If they aren’t willing to listen to reason, find a new doctor who listens to you.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      My doctor’s office required an in-person appointment for the paperwork. They asked that I complete all the paperwork prior to my appointment. When I got there, the doctor’s PA sat with me and read through it, comparing what I wrote to my chart to make sure it was accurate and that I hadn’t missed anything. He also read through the physical limitations I listed as I explained why I have those limitations: office setup, the length of the drive to the office, how much sitting I need to do, etc. Obviously he has no idea what my job entails or what my office looks like, so it makes sense to have the patient do the paperwork and then have the doctor or PA check it over before signing it.

    2. Gyne*

      The problem with showing up in a brand new doctor’s office with a pile of paperwork for them to do that your previous doctor “refused” is that it will ping every scam alarm the doctor has. You’re also (best case) asking them to either review all the previous imaging and treatment records and either come to the same conclusion, suggest additional treatment, or delay the process while they request records etc.

      It is a good way to filter for a doctor who doesn’t care and will sign off on whatever, so sometimes be careful what you wish for.

  34. ShinyGoldHat*

    #3 when I was a young professional I got myself into trouble not once but TWICE (two different companies/individuals) by being more open/relaxed with a “trusted” coworker who then went and reported my venting, creating a really uncomfortable situation.
    I was young and I quickly learned- except for some important exceptions, coworkers are NOT your friends and shouldn’t be assumed as such. Now (15+ years later) I do have a few folks I trust to interact with outside of work, but that list is small and very carefully curated. Less said, soonest mended.

    1. Suzie the Doozie*

      Strongly agree – I also had a few experiences when I was younger over my own role in office gossip. Lesson learned. I have great friends from all of the places I’ve worked over the last 30 years – but it’s a carefully curated list.

      If you are around office gossip – cultivate a confused look and excuse yourself. It’s not worth your job.

  35. Dread Pirate Roberts*

    For LW1, I agree that you are likely reading too much into the comments, and I’d also suggest you consider whether some unconscious ageism is creeping into your feelings about it. The information that your boss is “old enough to be my mother” seems irrelevant unless you are bothered that a woman of another generation likes your clothes or would wear something similar.

    1. Liz the Snackbrarian*

      To me the fact that LW jokes about wearing crop tops, something society would typically shame an older woman for wearing, speaks to inadvernt/internalized misogyny and ageism.

  36. HonorBox*

    OP4 – Jumped right to the comments to tell you that you should definitely ask. Because this isn’t something that is way down the road, I think it is worth the follow up. You have logistics to consider, both from the work side – setting up what you’d need to do – and from the personal side. Because it was brought up to you, you’re not out of line following up. It might be that it was mentioned to you and someone else was supposed to follow up.

  37. Ms. Norbury*

    Maybe there’s a cultural element that I’m missing, but I’m a little baffled by the overall response to LW3 and I’m not sure I fully agree with Alison’s answer either. Not saying that LW’s answer should not have been reported at all, but unless we’re missing any context that indicates that LW is at all prone to violence, it feels like an overreaction. I’ve had colleagues say similarly “violent” things about people with whom they were at BEC stage, and it never even crossed my mind that they would actually act on it – I took it more as a joke to express the level of their annoyance, and part of the joke is the absurdity of resorting to physical violence over work issues. That been said, the joke only worked because I was absolutely positive that my coworkers had zero intention of doing anything remotely close to what they were describing.

    So I will emphasize, LW3, that if you have given your boss and coworkers any reason to believe you’re unable to control your temper (including yelling, swearing loudly, hitting objects, banging doors, etc.) then they’re certainly not wrong to take you joke quite seriously.

  38. Kristin*

    OP#1 – I think your boss is being girly and vintage. Sorry, but I actually don’t run into twins/matching comments at work, so this sounds gendered and unnecessary. I would just roll my eyes next time and not answer. I mean, enough.

    1. Bella Ridley*

      You know I don’t believe the correct response to most things a manager says is ever going to be an eyeroll and a refusal to answer.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Seconding. Do not roll your eyes. Do not fume in raging silence.

        A great deal of work chitchat is unnecessary. “Quite windy today.” “Do you think Accounting has those lemon crullers again?” “Oh hey that’s a neat jacket, I have one like that.” “My dog did this cute thing this morning.” “How’d your kid’s play go?”

        1. UKDancer*

          This so much. I mean workplace chat isn’t original, innovative or often hugely varied. Rolling your eyes would be considered excessively weird and unfriendly everywhere I worked.

          1. myfanwy*

            Yeah, it’s office small talk. It serves the purpose of signalling ‘I am friendly! We broadly wish one another well and aim to get along!’ without distracting from the work or taking the conversation into heavily personal areas that are likely to increase tension. So yes, it’s repetitive and not super deep. LW is not going to benefit from copping an attitude, rolling eyes and refusing to engage over something as inoffensive as this.

            I had a phase of accidentally matching shoe colours with my boss. At one point she joked that she wished she had my boots because they’d look better with her outfit than her own shoes did. I did not consider this problematically gendered, and I was not concerned that she genuinely planned to steal my footwear. I laughed and carried on working.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      The comment section is full of people who have had matching convos and its generally considered funny coincidences not stalking someone’s closet so they intentionally match.

      There’s absolutely nothing gendered going on here.

      Not unkindly but much like OP, youre reading into things that aren’t there and simply arent a big deal.

      Rolling your eyes and in general copping an attitude with your boss or even colleagues is pretty universally bad work advice.

  39. Spicy Tuna*

    #1, I have zero fashion sense (and have even been spoken to at different jobs about how I dress) so when I see a co-worker that is dressed well, I ALWAYS ask where they shop! I’m asking because I like their look and need help in that department.

  40. Skoobles*

    I’m gonna be honest, the number of people replying about LW#3 acting like this is some surprising revelation or a betrayal or like it’s normal to vent by threatening violence is wild to me.

    I work with blue-collar operations folks and even there threatening physical violence in text is stupid and guaranteed to get your supervisor’s attention if they’re aware of it; there’s a huge difference between that and calling people assholes or otherwise getting heated/frustrated.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I can think of a lot of contexts in which a comment about high-fiving someone in the face would be hyperbole and not at all a real threat, anymore than describing someone as having a “punchable face” or saying they could use “a swift kick where the sun don’t shine,” or that they should “take a long walk off a short pier,” would be an actual threat of violence.

      That doesn’t make it appropriate to discuss your coworkers in those terms. It’s reasonable for an employer to have a zero-tolerance policy on this type of talk. But to call it a threat of violence seems very much over the top.

      1. Saturday*

        Yes, the phrasing seems more important to me than to a lot of commenters. I don’t think someone who says “high five her in the face” is really any more likely to be violent than someone who expresses a lot of anger in other words, and maybe even less so in some cases.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yeah, focusing on the friend versus not-friend aspect of this question is really odd to me, too.

    3. Wintermute*

      I think the surprise is that very very many people use this language in private and nothing ever comes of it.

      I personally find it distasteful but lets not pretend it’s not very normal to use violent language in ranting or venting, it just doesn’t normally get back to someone who cares because most people choose their venting partner better than that.

      1. Irish Teacher.*

        I think a text message is different from in conversation though, because of the lack of tone and body language. I would still take this as a joke, but while in conversation it’s usually pretty easy to tell the difference between somebody who is laughingly venting and somebody who sounds genuinely angry and aggressive whereas in a text message, the distinction isn’t necessarily as clear.

        And as others have said, the specific people involved make a difference too. I would react differently to a 40 year old man who works out making that comment about an 18 year old 5 foot 2 girl than I would to two people who are pretty similar in age and apparent strength doing so. I wouldn’t (probably) take either seriously, unless it was said with real venom or something, but I would find it very distasteful for somebody to joke about hitting a teenager (yeah, I think I would feel the same if it were about hitting a teenage boy, but a small, slight teenage girl in particular would seem distasteful to me, assuming the speaker were significantly older; one 18 year old girl saying it about another would not cause the same reaction in me).

        And it would also depend on what they actually complaining about. Making the joke about the workplace bully lands a lot differently than making it about somebody who turned down the speaker for a date, for example. And yeah, those are extremes, but to give a more realistic one that would bother me: making the joke about a brand new employee who was slower than most in their role due to nervousness and unfamiliarity. I woudn’t think the person genuinely meant to hit them but still even joking about hitting somebody for not being experienced would strike me as problematic.

      2. Skoobles*

        I’m not pretending. I basically never hear anybody describe violence against people as part of their venting process, at least not for people they directly interact with, and would find it extremely offputting if somebody did that.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I’ll take your word for it, but I think it’s very likely that there are a lot of phrases of one type or another that you hear and use on a regular basis, and don’t even consciously parse, that you might be surprised to see someone else take literally.

          1. Skoobles*

            Nope, and all of the examples you gave would absolutely be the kind of thing that would make me think somebody’s got serious anger management problems. The worst I can think of is hearing “got their ass chewed out”, which… honestly sounds more sexual when you think about it too deeply rather than violent.

    4. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      Also there’s often a big difference between how in-person indiscretions are regarded & treated and many people don’t realise that writing something that the wider world can see often escalates far more:

      Someone might say in frustration “I could throttle him” without meaning it and body language etc and those around knowing they are just venting would make it more likely to be ignored, or at most a quiet warning to tone down the language;
      in contrast, anything written whether on paper, twitter, EMail, FB etc is far more widely distributed, potentially going viral, is on record and could be more easily forwarded up the HR/management chain if someone wants to make a big thing of it.

    5. Saturday*

      Is there really a huge difference though? Someone using a phrase like “high five her in the face” does not seem more aggressive to me than calling people names or getting heated/frustrated. I think it’s odd that people are taking the words at face value. Context is everything.

      Totally in agreement that this is not the kind of talk to use at work though, even with friendly coworkers.

  41. SuprisinglyADHD*

    #5: I found a free template that I use before my various doctor appointments. It has questions you can fill in for each visit, like “what is your goal for this visit?” and “what have you not been able to get doctors to understand?” and charts where you can fill in your medications, family history, and conditions/diagnoses. It’s from Pictal Health, and they also offer a timeline and symptom worksheet to organize your info. They can be found at pictalhealth (dot) com/free-tools
    Sometimes just having all the information in one place helps me explain things more thoroughly in the moment, and the summary has been very useful to keep me from leaving things out.

  42. Potato*

    LW #5, I’ve been in a similar-ish situation. I have an autoimmune disease, but I’m young and otherwise healthy, and I asked my doctor to sign off on paperwork for a disability program that specifically covered autoimmune diseases. My doctor’s response was similar—she said she wasn’t sure I qualified and that I wasn’t “disabled enough.” (eye roll)

    In the end, she did sign the paperwork, but she (unbeknownst to me until I had to take it up with the program) put a lesser version of my diagnosis that got me disqualified. I wound up letting it go, but looking back, I wish I had advocated for myself and switched to a more supportive doctor. It’s not your doctor’s job to make the decision here, just to provide accurate medical information.

  43. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    LW1, a red plaid dress and plain black and white cardigan are very common wardrobe pieces. If your boss’s comments were, say, mulitple times a week I think that would be a little weird, but let it go.

  44. K8T*

    There’s a recent meme that I love that’s Jemima Kirke (Jessa from Girls) answering an “ask” on Instagram where she says “I think you guys might be thinking about yourselves too much” and it’s immediately what I thought of after reading #1.
    To be fair to the LW, I think this is helpful advice for the majority of people including myself. Your boss means absolutely nothing negative by it and getting this bothered seems like an overreaction.

  45. Prof Ma'am*

    I’m a civilian working in at a military institution. One of my colleagues (military) used to take pictures of the civilians when we accidentally matched. The running joke was “Civilians in Uniform”. We all thought it was hilarious! I got caught once as a set of three, all wearing blue sweaters and black pants (two women, one man).

  46. migra*

    L#1 I work in a small place with casual attire, under 20 employees, and mostly women. Some days, more than half of us will come in wearing the same color. We also have a few who do dress pretty similarly often. We all joke about it, razz the people who aren’t matching, and then carry on with our days.


    If you are in the USA, the second leading cause of workplace death is violence. OSHA is starting to place a greater emphasis on this topic, and employers are following up on potential threats. There are currently no specific OSHA standards for workplace violence, but employers are encouraged to take all threats seriously. If #3 was my employee, we might be looking at termination depending on the context. Not doing so would place our workers comp insurance coverage at risk.

    1. Wintermute*

      Not doing so could also place you at legal risk.

      I came here to warn people of just this. The moment you know or reasonably should have known someone is a risk of violence you have a duty to get them off your premises and never allow them back. If they hurt someone when you reasonably should have known this was a risk you could be found liable for negligent hiring.

      Obviously like any legal case it’s a “could” not a “will”– it depends on a lot, including if it gets that far which of you is more sympathetic to a jury and all the things that entails.

      But why take a risk, why make keeping a potentially violent person who openly talks about battering people employed your hill to die on

    2. Czhorat*

      If this is the only incident then firing might be an overreaction, but I overall don’t disagree. There are a few things here:

      1) jokes about violence – even mild violence – towards ones coworkers are not acceptable.
      2) The office door is not a line beyond which the company cannot discipline you. In the US there are relatively few worker protections. I’m not a lawyer, but so far as I know you can *legally* be fired for putting a campaign sign for the wrong candidate on your lawn. You can be fired for social media posts. A text message with a fellow employee is certainly something a company CAN look at.

      Overall, we all need to treat any interaction with co-workers, vendors, or customers with the same professionalism we would on the clock.

    3. Pescadero*

      “If you are in the USA, the second leading cause of workplace death is violence.”

      Tied for 3rd actually… and includes workplace violence AND any other injuries by people or animals.

      1) Transportation incidents – 38%
      2) Falls, slips, and trips – 16%
      3t) Exposure to harmful substances or environments – 15%
      3t) Workplace violence and other injuries by people or animals – 15%
      5) Contact with objects and equipment – 14%

      1. Wintermute*

        thank you for this.

        I also feel compelled to point out that employee-on-employee is a very very tiny portion of that. Some jobs assault by the public is practically expected (police, psych ward, teachers) and is included in that statistic.

  48. mango chiffon*

    LW1 – My office has an “accidental twins” slack channel where we post photos of staff who are wearing the same/similar outfits. I have a colleague I work closely with who wore the exact same sweater the day after I wore it and I joked around saying we’d have to coordinate so we don’t wear it on the same day and have to take a photo for the slack channel (we’re both introverts). Even if you and your boss end up wearing the same, I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal. She seems to just be acting friendly and likes your taste in clothing.

  49. Irish Teacher.*

    Actually, I think Letter 1 is a good indication as to why the text sent by LW3 was really not a good idea. Letter 1 shows how much thought we often put into interpreting what our coworkers say and how we often put different meanings on it than the other person intended. Obviously, I don’t know what LW1’s boss meant, but given the sheer number of interpretations suggested both by the LW (is she joking or does she intend to copy me or is she trying to tell me what I’m wearing is fine or trying to suggest I should dress more formally) and those of us in the comments (it sounds like small talk/like a joke/like the boss is really into clothes and likes talking about them), they can’t all be correct.

    I’m guessing it’s possible that LW3’s coworker reacted to the text message in the same way that LW1 reacted to the boss’s comments, by thinking through all the possible interpretations and some of the possibilities as to how it could be interpreted were alarming enough that they felt somebody should be aware of it.

  50. Fluffy Fish*

    #3 i know this comes up a lot in comment sections with people on both sides, but this is an excellent example of why colleagues are not friends.

    or at least remembering they are ALWAYS colleagues first.

    you can be friendly. you can even spend time outside of work. but as long as you are employed in the same space, there’s a lot to be said for keeping a more professional boundary with the people you work with than with your non-work friends. especially “joking” and most definitely “venting”. it’s helpful to take a step back and consider just this – if the person you were talking to found out or if others at work found out – how would you feel about that?

    when things go well its great – but when they dont…..

  51. Chalant AF*

    LW5’s doctor is clearly ignorant about disability law and that’s disqualifying IMO. She needs to find a new practitioner who understands their true role in this as well as LW’s conditions, and isn’t blinded by the fact that she’s young and looks outwardly healthy. Social media/Reddit etc. can be good resources for finding a practitioner who understands chronic pain, including “invisible” conditions.

    When I was in my early 30s I was driving (for work) about 1,500 miles per week. It caused significant back issues but the doctor I saw basically said “oh yeah, you now have a twisted vertebrae and scoliosis. Stop at the front desk on your way out to pay your bill.” No referral to a specialist, no “let’s get on this while you’re young and fit so it doesn’t progress…” Now 20 years later I have a worsening curvature in my spine that causes pain and may require surgery. Don’t settle for a doctor who is dismissive of your condition, or as in this case, openly ignorant about their role in getting you accommodations. Young women (and people of color) are far more likely to be harmed by medical bias.

  52. HannahS*

    OP5, I’m both a person with chronic pain who has received accommodations related to it and a physician, so I have some relevant experience. There’s the caveat that I don’t know what’s been said between you and your doctor previously, and (a big one) I don’t work in the US. But some thoughts:

    -If something isn’t written down in your chart, it doesn’t legally exist. If the last thing that was written down by your doctor is “Intermittent neck pain, self-managing with massage, over-the-counter meds,” then it would be really hard for your doctor to defend a statement that you’re in a disabling amount of pain that requires a significant accommodation, even though it’s true. This can be addressed by meeting with her in person and explaining in more detail what your current symptoms are and how they affect you (with a focus on functional impairment.)

    -I rarely sign requests for work-from-home as an accommodation, because when I do, I’m putting my license on the line to say that there is no other possible accommodation that will work. It’s rare that I can definitively say that. I usually say something , like “Needs to take breaks of X minutes every Y hours; needs space to [walk around or lie down.]” Or, “needs an individualized ergonomic work set-up, (e.g. blah blah blah)” Once I provide the information this person does indeed have X diagnosis or Y symptoms, they need to enter into a collaborative process with their workplace to address the issue. It’s not really my place to by-pass that, unless what I’m saying is that the person cannot work, period.

    -I am sometimes uncomfortable signing company forms. They often use much stronger language than I can use (and often stronger than the government forms) and demand a lot of information about the patient. I don’t know how the information will be used and disclosed; often my patients don’t read the forms themselves and don’t realize how much is being disclosed and haven’t consented to it. My practice is that my patients book an appointment with me to go through the form together and that we agree on what is being shared. Again, I suggest meeting with your doctor in person to go through the form together.

    1. Observer*

      his can be addressed by meeting with her in person and explaining in more detail what your current symptoms are and how they affect you (with a focus on functional impairment.)

      The LW should absolutely ask for that appointment. But it’s a problem that the doctor did not suggest it herself.

      -I rarely sign requests for work-from-home as an accommodation, because when I do, I’m putting my license on the line to say that there is no other possible accommodation that will work.

      That’s absolutely not the case in the US. That’s what the whole interactive process is about. The Dr. says “I think that this is an appropriate accommodation” and then the employer either says “Great, let’s do it” or they say “Hm, that’s going to be a problem because of X. Is there something else we can do?” At which point the Dr. can respond appropriately.

      I usually say something , like “Needs to take breaks of X minutes every Y hours; needs space to [walk around or lie down.]”

      This probably would have worked for the LW. It’s a problem that she didn’t offer that.

      1. HannahS*

        Yes, that’s why my advice is that the OP should meet with her doctor. In an ideal world, her doctor would have said, “Why don’t you book an appointment with me to talk about it more,” but she didn’t. Did she forget, was she in a rush, was she being thoughtless, was she being dismissive–we don’t know. But the OP won’t know more until she talks to her provider.

  53. Statler von Waldorf*

    LW#2 – I’ve been in your exact situation about ten years ago. I knew I was essential, so I was completely blindsided when I was fired because the new owner already had his own people in mind for my job. Yes, he was a moron who ran that business into the ground in under two years, but that didn’t change the fact that I needed a new job.

    Based on that experience, I would strongly suggest that you start job hunting now.

  54. Alan*

    For #2, if the new owner doesn’t understand the business well enough to recognize that you’re important (i.e., doesn’t understand the tasks that need to be done and doesn’t understand how they’re getting done now), I don’t see this business lasting long whether they keep you or not. I think this ship is going down, the only question is whether you will have a lifeboat ready when it does.

  55. Maisonneuve*

    LW 1, I agree with Alison’s response, but I feel you pain. I was an intern at a place that provided housing. There was another intern who’s room was next to mine. Probably about half the time we’d walk out of our rooms in the morning, look at each other and one of us would go back and change because wore basically the same thing. It was funny at first but super annoying by the end of the six months. Maybe you and your manager just have the same sense of style like me and the other intern (who I was friends with for years despite the twinsies thing :) ).

    Also, remember that office clothes are kind of like uniforms even if they’re not uniforms. Most everyone has a pencil skirt, black pants and black and white cardigan. Matching unintentionally is really easy regardless of age or gender. Just look up the post about the ‘wall of same’. In one place, three of us once owned the same dress on a team of 20. (Have to add it was a great dress because it looked fab on 3 body types. So sad it no longer fits.)

  56. NotARealManager*


    Find another doctor. I dealt with herniated discs and significant pain for years before someone finally agreed to surgery (which was successful!). I was also a young woman and a collegiate athlete so my pain wasn’t taken seriously until I couldn’t walk. When it flared up again seven years later, I pushed hard for an immediate resolution and it was granted because I wasn’t waiting around again until it got so bad I couldn’t sit or walk more than five feet.

    (For the curious, I’m now 8 years since that second surgery and there have been no major problems. I have had to adjust my lifestyle as to not aggravate my back, and it’s likely I’ll need another surgery again in the future, but I’m managing it so far!)

  57. Overit*

    #2: In my experience, staff should always prepare for a job search when a company is sold. More often than not, the change ends up poorly for staff in one or more ways. Sometimes deliberate in a new broomw ay amd sometimes the new owners do not see or value extant staff contributions.
    And BTW, contracts mean nothing. I know 2 people who were the top performers at their companies who were let go with no severance after ownership change even with a clause in the sales contract prohibiting staff terminations for a slecified period of time. (Neither person was able to find a lawyer to take their case.)
    So my advice when a company is sold is to polish your resume.

  58. Bopper*

    crucial employee:

    I would start talking about a retention bonus for you to stay on…the company would collapse without you

  59. Dark Macadamia*

    LW1… it sounds like she hasn’t actually copied you or even showed up in similar clothes on purpose? You both wore red plaid coincidentally on the same day and then a couple times she complimented you.

    The “very girly and vintage” paired with checking on multiple occasions if your clothes are appropriate for work sounds like you put a lot of focus on your appearance and specifically on being unique with your style. There’s nothing wrong with that but the most likely explanation here is that she comments on your clothing because it stands out and/or she knows it’s something you put a lot of thought into, not because she’s trying to steal your look. The responses you’ve made about copying sound kind of defensive, like you’re afraid you won’t be the only Vintage Girly in the office anymore.

  60. Mango Freak*

    I would also have wanted to steal LW1’s work wardrobe tbh.

    Putting together office outfits that feel non-blah can be such a challenge. “Green skirt with autumn orange shirt” was such a nice description. I want to own that outfit, and a red plaid dress, and a b&w striped cardigan.

    (Does the dress have pockets??)

  61. The Gnome*

    I think the advice to LW3 is on point, although I disagree with the idea that work friends can’t actually become your friends. One of my closest friends is a gent I befriended at my first Real Grown Up job, and I’ve been happily serving as Unofficial Aunt for years to his child who was born while we worked together.

    That being said, vent about coworkers to your family or non-coworker friends. It’s safer that way because those are folks that have known you longer and a hyperbolic statement won’t get misinterpreted as cause for concern.

  62. Mx Burnout*

    I’m not sure I understand what LW1’s boss being old enough to be her mother has to do with a handful of comments about workwear over 18 months, but it seemed like a weird detail to include.

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