boss keeps asking for rides home, I’m not allowed to have any personal items on my desk, and more

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

1. My boss keeps asking for rides home

I work in my company’s marketing department. There are only five of us, including our boss (an executive president at the company). He knows that out of all of us, I live the closest to him. His truck is in the shop and he has asked me two days in a row “what are you doing after work/could you take me home?” He also asked a couple weeks ago when his truck was in the shop again. I have said no each time. Am I wrong in saying no?

Some things to note: 1) I am a 29-year-old woman and he is a 50-something man. I am not worried that he’s creepy or would try something, but it just feels uncomfortable to me. 2) I have a one-year-old I have to pick up after work. I do not have time to take my boss home before getting my son and going home. It would add 20-30 minutes to my evening, which eats away into time home with my son and husband. I am not at his disposal after working hours. 3) I am not his assistant, so I don’t feel like I owe him this favor.

I don’t want to seem like I am not being a team player by doing this. But like I said, it eats away at my evening and quite frankly, I just don’t WANT to. His wife could easily come get him. He makes enough money that he can afford a rental car. He has been bumming rides these last couple days and every other time his vehicle has been in the shop. He makes it everyone else’s problem. One time he asked me to drive him to the shop “just to see” if his truck was ready (it wasn’t, btw). I just see it as a “not my problem” situation. Am I wrong for that?

Nope, you’re not wrong for declining to give your boss rides, and it’s good that you don’t feel pressured into saying yes.

He’s asking for a personal favor, not assigning you a work task — which means that you are free to say no. If you weren’t free to say no, then he would be inappropriately using his position to get personal favors — and that would be wrong.

You’d also be on solid ground in saying no even if you didn’t have a kid to pick up. But since you do, “I can’t be late to pick up my kid” is a very easy way to decline without awkwardness. So is, “Sorry, I’ve got to get straight home” and “Sorry, I’ve got plans” (even if those plans are to simply drive home alone).

Also, it’s one thing for someone to ask this once as a favor in unusual circumstances. It’s not at all cool for him to be asking repeatedly. He’s a grown man who needs to figure out his own transportation. (He also needs to figure out that he can just call the shop to find out if his truck is ready; he doesn’t need to drive there in someone else’s car “just to see.”)

my employee pressures coworkers for rides everywhere

2. My boss won’t let me have any personal items on my desk — but other people can

Is it normal for some people in a work environment to not be allowed any personal items at all? I have been told by my boss that anything that is not issued by the company needs to go home. Period. Others (including people right next to me) have water bottles, family photos, etc., but those are fine and they have never been told anything. I have even been told I must take home my pens and only use the ones provided by the company (I’m a lefty and have hyper mobile hands/wrists, so this is not an option for me in any way). Is it time for a new job or to get legal counsel?

Well, there’s the legal answer and then there’s the more practical answer. Legally, yes, your boss can tell you that you can’t have any personal items on your desk even if the rule is only for you — as long as it’s not based on your sex, race, religion, national origin, disability, or other protected characteristic. (And if it were, your boss wouldn’t need to say that explicitly. If you were, let’s say, the only person of race X and the rule only applied to you and if there had been other forms of harassment/discrimination/hostility toward you, a lawyer could argue that it was part of a pattern of race-based discrimination.) In general, employers steer managers away from having rules that only apply to one person because they don’t want to open themselves up to that form of legal liability, unless the manager can cite a clear need for the rule (like if your desk was always a trash heap and repeated conversations hadn’t worked, your manager might be able to defend the rule on that grounds).

The more practical answer, though, is: What’s going on with your boss? Does your boss treat you differently in other ways too? Appear to dislike you? Not value your work? What’s behind this different rule for you versus everyone else? This is such a weird one-person policy — particularly the pens, unless the pens you brought in from home had, like, naked ladies on them — that I’ve got to think it reflects bigger issues.

As for what to do: HR if it’s a big company and especially if transferring is a possibility (because even if HR strikes down this rule, it’s not in your interests to work for someone who dislikes you). Lawyer if you think it is a pattern of hostility based on a protected characteristic. New job either way, probably.

3. As an interviewer, (how much) should I dress up?

I’m running my first ever interviews next week, and I’m unsure about what I should wear!

Our office is a mixture of casual to business casual, and I’m one of the most informally dressed in the office (for example I wore shorts, hoodie, and a baseball cap to work today). This is all good with everyone as far as I know, and I’m not a massive fan of dressing formally— the only time I’ve really ever worn a suit has been at weddings.

But I don’t feel like I should dress that casually when I’m running an interview— it’s true to the office “dress code” but I feel like if any of the interviewees turn up dressed more formally, which they probably will, their interviewer being dressed super casually would make them feel uncomfortable and overdressed!

How much should I dress up? Would jeans and a button-up shirt be okay? Or trousers and a t-shirt? Or should I go for jeans and a t-shirt as it’s more accurate to what I wear daily? I’m a guy living in London and working in a creative industry, in case it’s relevant.

Ideally you’d share your dress code with the candidates beforehand, saying something like, “Our dress code is casual — people wear everything from shorts and hoodies to khakis and button-downs, so there’s no need to wear a suit.”

But if for some reason that’s not possible, dress how you normally dress, just not the most casual extreme of it (so not shorts and a hoodie). You want candidates to see what the culture is actually like (but you also don’t want them to feel massively overdressed, which is why you’re avoiding the shorts/hoodie end of your personal spectrum).

4. My manager came to my house unannounced

My manager showed up at my house unannounced to deliver treats for our virtual Christmas party. We work remotely and she asked for my address the prior year to send a contest prize I won from a virtual event. While I appreciate the gesture, I never expected her to use my address this way. I don’t consider colleagues my friends and prefer to keep work and personal life separate. Sharing this with loved ones raised concerns. They felt it was inappropriate for her to hold onto my address, especially for a personal visit.

Your manager shouldn’t have shown up at your house unannounced and uninvited — and that goes triple if she rang the bell and hoped to see you in person.

For what it’s worth, this varies heavily by region. People who live in countries with strong data privacy laws tend to be much more shocked by the “she used your address in a way you hadn’t intended” aspect of this sort of thing than most Americans are. And Americans who live in small towns where everyone knows where everyone lives see it as much less of a problem than those who don’t. There also are American companies where she wouldn’t have even needed to have asked you for your address the previous year because she could have gotten it straight from your employee file, and using it to drop off work gifts would have been considered lovely and thoughtful. There are others where that would be considered an invasion of privacy. So there’s a huge regional and cultural component to this.

All that said, unless it’s part of a pattern of oversteps by your boss, I would let it go.

{ 435 comments… read them below }

    1. KateM*

      Mine went to what AAM has mentioned, “how messy does OP’s table look like compared to others?”.

      1. Tiger Snake*

        *beholds her own desk*

        I don’t appreciate what you’re insinuating. j/k lol

        (Well, ‘mostly lol’. I fall into the “You can tell who works hard by the state of their desk” camp despite all my best desk efforts.)

          1. Tiger Snake*

            As a matter of fact, I vacuumed it to the ‘grandma’ standard just yesterday!

            (Now if only we knew how to fix that gas-film that gets on the inside of windscreens when the sun hits a dashboard for years on end)

      2. AlsoADHD*

        For personal items, including pens, mine went to anti-LGBTQ discrimination (totally unfounded) because I have seen employers try to skirt weird rules by suggesting certain team members can’t post personal items of various kinds to either show LGBTQ solidarity (rainbows etc) or because they were LGBTQ. But that’s 100% unfounded here, though something feels like it is going on.

        Innocuously, it could also be desk location (i.e. if LW is more in reception/sits outside boss’s office) or role (if LW is coordinator, does assistant work/is more the assistant for boss), but the lefty/wrist-need pens should be a reasonable accommodation if specific ones are provided they want LW to use.

        1. Simona*

          I was thinking reception area is different, but OP does mention people RIGHT next to them.
          And also, any reasonable person would allow for ergonomic pens! So that stood out to me a lot.

          1. SunriseRuby*

            Lefties are, of course, the spawn of the devil. It’s possible the OP has a case to bring to a lawyer because their employer is discriminating against them because of their ancestry/ethnicity, being rooted in Hell and all.

            (My tongue was pressed very firmly in my cheek as I wrote that.)

          2. Miette*

            I wonder if OP’s boss is the boss of the person next to her–could that explain the different treatment?

            1. MigraineMonth*

              That was unclear to me. Does the boss have different rules for OP than their other reports, or does the boss enforce this bizarre no-personal-items rule on all their reports?

              Either way, ergonomic pens should be an exception.

          3. Ellie*

            I thought ‘different boss’, and maybe, ‘new boss’. How many other people does your supervisor oversee OP? Have a look at what they are allowed to bring in on their desks, rather than the people you sit next to who might report to someone else.

            If you’re going to push back, then I’d start with the pens, since you really need to use those, and see where it gets you.

    2. Adam*

      Yeah, this feels like either this boss is being super weird and is trying to drive this person out of the company or the LW has been bringing in inappropriate items so consistently that the boss has had to institute a total ban on personal items for them. Mostly it feels like there’s some additional context needed.

        1. KateM*

          And the fact that there’s no mention of “my table has the exact same amount of family photos” or any comparison at all makes me feel like OP was doing to AAM that the OP who “was fired for taking initiative (and undermining my manager)” to Veronica.

        2. Nodramalama*

          Adding my voice to this chorus. It’s always a bit odd to me that OP doesn’t appear to have asked their boss why others are allowed to have personal things on their desks

          1. ferrina*

            If the boss is odd in other ways (seems to be targeting LW in a way that LW can’t quite describe or a series of things that would be normal if it was just one, but it’s one after another after another), LW might not feel safe asking the boss.

            Having been there/done that, when someone is targeting you for reasons beyond your control, asking them to clarify is likely to get a bad reaction. You are asking for reasons from an unreasonable person. It’s a losing game.

        3. Venus*

          My first reaction is to wonder if the boss manages those other people. Is the LW treated differently because they are the only person managed by this boss, and others have less ridiculous managers?

          1. Frankly, Mr. Shankly*

            This is me- I’m the only one who reports to my manager, I’m a team of one. So when I made a typo (on an internal email that didn’t change the meaning) that it was because my phone was in my pocket. Then two months later a letter we sent was returned (I sent it to the address on file) and it was because I had one earbud in. Meanwhile, other people, from the top person to the interns, have cell phones on the desk (we even make branded easels!) or large over ear headphones on all day. There’s also constant comments on my clothes and the length of my hair and nails (we’re a very casual office, I’m probably on the dressier side). Been applying for almost a year now with no luck.

            1. Chauncy Gardener*

              Sheesh. I’m sorry! This sounds very strange. Are you able to somehow seek some clarity from Boss on the differences? Do you hear any scuttlebutt on how Boss is weird at all?
              Good luck with your job search!

            2. Insert Clever Name Here*

              OP2* here for those who search

              Wow, that is ridiculous. Is there anyone above your boss that you have a good rapport with that could help? Either way, I hope your job search is successful in the very near future.

            3. Lydia*

              If they’re commenting on your clothing, hair length, nails, etc., that sounds remarkably like gender-based discrimination. Is a conversation with HR possible?

          2. fidget spinner*

            Ohhh I wonder if this is the case. It seems like the most likely answer, honestly. Maybe it’s a company policy or whatever but everyone else is lenient about it, except for this guy?

      1. Nah*

        Or alternatively, “inappropriate” items, like a picture of their (same sex) partner or small rainbow tchachki, etc. That’s where my mind went when they mentioned desk neighbors being allowed pictures of their families but they were not to have any, at least.

        1. Nodramalama*

          The issue is the lack of context, right? We have no details at all which makes the whole thing very odd. It’s also not mentioned what, if any conversation has happened with their boss. It’s gone straight to, is this legal do I look for a new job?

          1. Simona*

            Right, it would have been helpful for OP to clarify…I had religious stuff or I had rainbows or even a specific college or something else that may give us a clue. All we are assuming is that they had the exact same things as the people sitting next to them and were told could not have.

            But also, its the pen that really does it for me too. Especially if OP said, hey I use this pen due to ergonomic issues and that was denied that’s…really bad.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Honestly, given the hypermobility, in the OP’s case I would go to HR and ask to be provided with appropriate ergonomic pens as an accommodation. Since, you know, OP needs them and is not allowed to bring in personal ones, obviously the company must supply them. (And I can’t think of a world in which supplying those pens would *not* be a reasonable accommodation, even if OP *were* allowed to bring in pens and just didn’t choose to. But certainly when the boss is trying to ban OP from doing so.)

              1. Dramatic Intent To Flounce*

                Yeah, and given OP2 is both left-handed and needs ergonomic pens – and from experience, they can be pretty specific ergonomic needs when you’re dealing with hypermobility – there probably aren’t a huge variety of pens that DO work for them. And I’ve never seen an ergonomic pen that could be construed as inappropriate… though I suppose there could be some out there, who knows.

                I’ll be honest, my first assumption with that line was that the boss wants them using company-branded pens, not just blank ones or the like, in which case I can’t imagine that would be at all easy to arrange.

        2. kalli*

          Whereas my mind went to those people have personal items on their desks so maybe everyone’s getting a personal conversation about it and nobody’s discussed it in the break room yet.

        3. kalli*

          Whereas my mind went to ‘these are personal items so everyone’s getting a personal conversation’ and word hasn’t disseminated via the break room yet.

          Someone breaking a policy doesn’t mean the policy is not there or expected to be equally adhered to. In this case, people might well be getting ‘you can’t have ten photos of your kids’ just not in front of someone who might think they’re fine because they have eight photos of their dog, or someone else who might burst into tears if they have to take their ouija mousepad home.

      2. Hyaline*

        Missing so much context—I even wondered if boss shared the rule, LW has been following it, and it’s just that others aren’t and he doesn’t actually care. Has LW asked for clarification or had a conversation about the pen situation, framing it as a physical need not a preference?

        Jumping to “get legal counsel” is bizarre here.

        1. blah*

          Alison didn’t just say get legal counsel, she said get legal counsel if this appears to be a part of a pattern of singling out LW for any possibly discriminatory reasons. For some talking about missing context, you sure are missing some yourself!

          1. jojo*

            Whoa, there. My reading of Hyaline’s comment was “it’s bizarre that OP’s letter goes straight to asking whether to get a lawyer instead of asking ‘how do I approach this with my boss’ or ‘is this something HR can help with.'”

            I did not read it as characterizing Alison’s advice as bizarre.

            1. Hyaline*

              Yeah I was responding to the LW’s quick jump to legal recourse, not anything in the answer.

        2. Missing missing reasons*

          Yeah there is something missing and i wonder if it is a missing missing reason type situation where LW is purposefully leaving out the context. Like the answer changes based on so many factors.

          If those employees are not boss’s reports then you could just be dealing with a control freak. If LW is a protected class and the this boss is being a bigot. Alternatively it could be all the decorum was something very political such as “let’s go Brandon” merch and boss just banned just political stuff and LW thinks their freeze peach is being repressed.

          1. TeaCoziesRUs*

            This is my thought, too. An innocuous water bottle with no stickers or anything can’t sit on your desk?? Uhh, how are you supposed to drink water? Obviously, left-handed pens are a GOOD thing… unless they say something like “white people are the best people.” In that case, you’d never be allowed to bring them anywhere close to me. I doubt OP’s messaging is that stark, but I can see them being told to cut it out if all of their family photos are at drag shows or Trump rallies, for instance.

            All that being said, this also seems like a “but what was she wearing?” kind of argument, in which case Alison’s advice to seek a broader pattern is accurate.

            More context needed, and I hope the OP responds with more context soon.

            1. Oregonbird*

              Up a ways, the OP nites she us also harassed about her hair and the length of her nails.

      3. Astronaut Barbie*

        It could even be something not controversial, but immature, like pink fizzy pens and glitter covered items.

        1. nutella fitzgerald*

          This comment + your username has me looking for a pink space pen to keep in my work bag

    3. Hrodvitnir*

      Considering the LW mentions their pens helping with hypermobility in their hands, it seems highly unlikely they have any weird messaging – adaptive or even just nice to hold pens and printed messaging are generally mutually exclusive IME.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah. For the pens at least, I feel the LW should request an ADA accommodation. They already have the pens, so it wouldn’t even cost anything.

        1. Erin the Brit*

          I was surprised that Alison didn’t mention the ADA.
          LW has a specific need due to their biology, and not allowing them to use the appropriate equipment is likely to interfere in them being able to perform their tasks, or even cause them harm in the conduct of their duties.

        2. Lucia Pacciola*

          An ADA accommodation requires a diagnosis from a medical professional. After that, the employee can start an interactive process with the employer, to figure out a reasonable accommodation that would allow the employee to fulfill their job duties.

          Which, from the sound of it, would probably be just letting LW use their own pens. But ADA is a formal thing. You can’t just “declare disability” to HR, and then they give you whatever you think you need.

          1. not nice, don't care*

            Yes, ADA is a formal thing, but many bosses/HR departments are perfectly willing to work out accommodations that don’t require burdensome documentation.

          2. Michelle Smith*

            I’m disabled and have secured accommodations from almost every employer I’ve ever had. It is not usually as big of a lift as you seem to be suggesting here. Yes, you may be required to provide a letter from a doctor to justify the request (but not always). For me, in most cases, it has been as simple as calling my primary care doctor’s office, telling him what I was asking for, and then receiving a letter I could forward to HR. If they have a condition with their hands, all it would take is them demonstrating this to a doctor, nurse practitioner, or PA and getting them to scribble a note recommending they use ergonomic pens. Providing the exact diagnosis isn’t even necessary.

            1. Also-ADHD*

              There is a formal process, but ergonomically appropriate work equipment would be pretty low bar and may not even need much of a doctor’s note. (It may also not be ADA but accommodations process can include OSHA and other stuff depending on org.)

            2. MCMonkeybean*

              Yeah, I can’t imagine a *competent* HR would demand a doctor’s not to prove that you are left-handed for an accommodation where they don’t have to do anything other than say you are allowed to continue using the pens that you have already purchased and brought in.

              1. Orora*

                This was my thought as an HR Director. I’m not gonna take the time and energy to ask for documentation of an accommodation that is this easy and absolutely free to the company. I might make a note in the employee’s file that they are allowed to use the ergonomic pens that they buy and bring in (in case I get hit by a bus and someone makes a stink), but asking for a doctor’s note and initiating the interactive process? We all have better tasks to accomplish with our time.

                1. Also-ADHD*

                  You also don’t (by law) need to request a doctor’s note in the interactive process anyway. You can request medical documentation but it’s not a legal requirement per se (though it’s a common way to establish disability and other accommodation needs).

              2. linger*

                The act of writing is not symmetrical (simplifying a little, RHers pull while LHers push), so nibs do need to be specially designed for lefties … but who still uses those?
                By contrast, ballpoint or gel pens are laterally symmetrical, so there’s not really a “LH” design solution (beyond the fact that a faster-drying gel ink is better than slower-drying ballpoint ink when your pen hand is passing over your writing).
                So it’s the hypermobility diagnosis that would be most decisive here on pushing back on a company-issued standard design.

                1. Dusty Facsimile*

                  As a right handed overwriter, I do need quick drying inks, but I’ve never needed a special nib for day to day use. (If I were doing calligraphy with stub nibs, I’m sure that’d be different, but regular cursive works fine with rounded tipping).

            3. Quill*

              Yeah, granted my work has not been in places where it would be unreasonable, but I’ve had luck with may workplaces in the past regarding their dress codes vs. my shoes, which are medically necessary hiking boots.

              (Most labs don’t care to begin with as long as your shoes are reasonably clean. But places that wanted no obvious hiking / athletic shoes have also been fine about hey, we hired Quill to be able to walk around and do lab work, the shoes are part of that.)

            4. ItDepends*

              This varies a lot. I have never gotten a formal accommodation without disclosing a significant amount of medical information. Some employers require use of their own request forms.

              Informal accommodations from a boss are less onerous, but they also aren’t using any type of actual ADA process.

          3. Yorick*

            You can do a less formal accommodation process though, by explaining your wrists hurt when you use the company pens all day and asking if you could use these other pens.

          4. Mo*

            There’s also a threshold a condition has to meet to be considered a disability. It’s unclear whether the LW would meet that standard or not. However, it’s reasonable to ask HR for permission to use ergonomic pens.

          5. jojo*

            It’s pretty common in my experience for managers/employers to be perfectly fine with not going through a formal process. They *can* require medical documentation and a formal process if they want to, but they aren’t required to.

            When I was an adjunct professor, we got a new department chair who decided adjuncts should automatically be assigned to big shared offices* with 4-5 desks in them, and only the graduate student TAs (whose wellbeing the chair actually cared about) could have smaller offices where they’d have a snowball’s chance of getting some quiet solo time to actually get work done. I have ADHD and sensory processing issues, and the constant distraction of other adjuncts chatting around/at me meant I couldn’t get anything done in that office, and I really needed that time to be productive. So I asked my program assistant director whether I could be in a smaller office. I mentioned having ADHD and needing a distraction-free space. She said, “you just gave me all the justification I need to grant your request.” Boom, quiet office for me.

            *I realize a lot of adjuncts don’t get any sort of office at all. My institution and my program were a lot better in many ways than what most adjuncts are subjected to. It was still the hardest job I’ve ever had.

          6. Garblesnark*

            Just a note, the ADA does not require a *diagnosis,* it just requires a *note.* A medical professional who is a pal can write you a note without diagnosing you.

            1. Project Maniac-ger*

              Good distinction. I’m left-handed and I don’t know how my doctor would diagnose me with left-handedness, but he’d probably write:

              To whom it may concern,
              Project Maniac-ger is left-handed. This is a permanent condition.
              Sincerely, Dr. Smith

                1. Erin the Brit*

                  agreed, I thought the *hypermobility* was the ADA issue, as joint pain and stiffness in wrists and fingers (among other spots) is very common.

      2. ChurchOfDietCoke*

        Is it an ‘avoiding jealousy’ thing? The company purchases Crapola Brand pens but OP has ‘nice office supplies’ and others don’t realise she has purchased them herself?

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          This seems plausible.

          If I were trying to drive someone out of the company, I don’t think I would hyper-focus on desk decor as the sole field of our battle.

            1. Rob aka Mediancat*

              Tangentially, you’re one of the only other people I’ve seen using the awesome phrase “nibbled to death by ducks.” My mother taught it to me and it’s quite useful.

          1. Hannah Lee*

            I worked with a manager who was super lenient with the 2 men in the department, but would pick on petty ish with the one woman who held the same position as the 2 men. Desk decor and office supplies were absolutely fields of battle he’d launch attacks in.

            One day he scolded her for buying 1 purple pen when he asked her to stop at Staples on the way back from a client meeting to … get pens and other office supplies for the department. He made her reimburse petty cash for it (like $3?)
            She was only going to use the purple pen for her rough notes, draft stuff, so no “output” would be in purple. And it cost the same as the 10 or so blue pens, same brand, type she also bought. (one of the guys would often grab the pen on her desk next to his, when he couldn’t find his instead of walking 10′ to the office supply cabinet, and deny it when asked. Hard to do if he’s holding a purple pen. Plus, writing in purple made her happy)

            She gave her notice the next week, because the pen scolding was just the tip of his treating her worse than her peers. And the straw that broke the camel’s back for her (she was the most productive, skilled person in that role, and the easiest to get along with … plus, she never pilfered my lunch for a snack when peckish, which can’t be said about the guy who would steal pens from her desk … I was poor, and sometimes the bag of popcorn or cheese and crackers I’d brought from home was all I could afford, I couldn’t afford going out to buy a replacement lunch, so I’d just go hungry) I (the one woman remaining in the department) left not long after her.

            I could never tell if driving her out was the manager’s plan, or if he missed having her to single out for petty power trips.

            1. Nah*

              LW2 has popped in up-thread that manager also heavily criticizes their hair and nails, so this very well might be the case.

      3. Not on board*

        yeah, this was my thought. Also, wouldn’t the pens be a medical accomodation? Shouldn’t the business be purchasing these pens for the OP – they should probably be thankful the OP brings their own pens.

        1. Petty Betty*

          Most people in the US aren’t aware of the fact that companies should be paying for the supplies employees work with when they are for medical accommodations. This is by design, in my opinion.

      4. what was my username??*

        As someone who is disabled and runs a disability advocacy group we find a lot of othering and random overreactions happens with people who need simple, easy accommodations that makes managers swing way too far in the wrong direction. They may have adaptive pens and the manager doesn’t like the fact they have disabilities that are *gasp* visible. It’s unfortunate but it happens a lot.

        I once had a manager dig in his heels because someone who was a left hand amputee moved their personal work printer that they use every few minutes to the right side of their desk, rather than the left, so they could reach for the papers without standing up and turning around. It went up to HR, to the union and then all the way to the CEO who ended up firing the manager after over two years of back and forth and increasingly escalating harassment and explict threats to personal violence. All over a printer.

        It was a ridiculous, petty complaint, in fact, half of the people in the office had printers on the right side! He didn’t say anything about that, but he apparently felt that the disabled employee should try to be less disabled and obvious about it.

        1. nutella fitzgerald*

          Am I overreacting, or is the really insidious thing about this story that the employee standing up and turning around every time he printed a document MAKE his disability more visible in an office where nobody else had to do that? This just seems especially gross of the manager in a punitive and shaming way, someone please tell me I’m reading too much into it!

    4. JSPA*

      Mine was, “maybe they only bring in pens when everyone else has more stuff, and this was a (running) joke that didn’t land right? Or the LW has been (understandably) protective of the pens, but boss doesn’t understand the issue, and thinks they are solving “workplace drama” by banning fancy pens?

      1. Petty Betty*

        I could totally see that aspect if it were just about the pens.

        I have nerve damage and can’t hold skinny pens/pencils. I drop them too much to be an effective writer. I buy nicer quality writing supplies. Always have. When I worked in nonprofit, I bought my own pens because the agency couldn’t afford my pens. I didn’t mind because if I bought my own pens nobody could “borrow” them, and I could write in whatever color I wanted for my calendar and personal notes. Oh the agony, the anarchy, the very gall of me having *different* pens from the rest of the staff! It became such A Thing. I never mentioned it, but somebody noticed it. Then my new BOSS noticed it. Then the complaints started. Then I was told I wasn’t allowed to have my own pens anymore, so either I share with the staff or use the company-provided pens. HR gets involved and that got shut down. Then magically the company had money for my boss to also have the blue version of the same pens so my boss would quit complaining, and then the c-suite all started using the same pens and she wasn’t special any longer.

        But the fact that this LW can’t have personal items at all says it’s more than the pens. If nobody else is being told this, there’s something else going on. The underlying messaging says “don’t get too comfortable here, you won’t be here long”.

        1. MigraineMonth*


          I cannot imagine getting jealous over a colleague receiving something from the company that costs less than $10. Particularly if it *isn’t from the company*!

      2. JustMe*

        I’m in a profession where it’s an inside joke that someone is always walking away with someone else’s pen. (It’s not malicious, or even intentional, it’s just–we were on the go and needed a pen.)

        So if I needed ergonomic pens I would be putting them in a drawer, in a container labelled “personal,” during the day– and possibly tucking them in my locker for nights and weekends. I would NOT be leaving them in the penholder on top of the desk where they could “walk away.” (There might be an accidental setting down of the pen when in a hurry, but that’s why you keep a stash.)

        So, yeah, the example of the pens probably not the best illustration of the point here; it just leaves me scratching my head.

        LW, we need more info!

    5. Snow Globe*

      The LW mentions co-workers who have photos and water bottles, but the *only* thing of their own that they mention not being allowed to have is the pens. I wonder if this is not really about personal items, but about office supplies – the manager wants all the pens, notepads, staplers, etc. to be things issued by the company.

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

        I took it to mean she isn’t allowed those things including her own pens. after all what boss is going to care that much about pens, especially if she needs them.

    6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I went to front desk/more customer facing so they want it to look neat and professional. but that doesn’t make sense with the pens. No customer is really going to notice the person is not using the same pen as everybody else.

      1. Lucia Pacciola*

        Same here. But ADA accommodations are still a formal process, that includes a medical diagnosis and an interactive discussion with HR about what will work and what won’t. You can’t just show up to work and tell your boss, “these pens are an accommodation, you have to let me use them”.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          While that’s true, any reasonable manager who hears “I’m hypermobile and left handed and so need to use these pens” will let them use the pens. I’m a manager and it’s part of our training to let easy issues be easy. There is the human decency option.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yup. Number of times I have had to follow ADA process to get my disability accommodated: 0. Why? Because I need my boss to be understanding if I have to dart out of a meeting briefly, and I want my office to be as close to the restroom as reasonably possible. (IBS-D.) None of my bosses have wanted to have to do paperwork to give me something that’s just common sense. No more than the guy with the bad back needed paperwork to be allowed to stand up in meetings without anyone making a big deal about it.

            You need the company to supply an ergonomic desk or chair? Some places, that’s a whole procedure. But if it’s easy and cheap or free, most of the time the answer is going to be “sure” and no paperwork.

          2. Emikyu*

            Exactly. I work for a business too small for the ADA to even apply, and I’ve never had an issue getting accommodations that required minimal effort/expense on my employer’s part. I can literally just say, “Hey, I’m having this problem and I think this item/process/whatever would solve it”, and the boss says “Sounds good, go ahead and order that/do the thing”. That’s what it’s like working for humans.

            I also brought in my own pens from home for no other reason than that I like them (I guess you could argue that they’re an accommodation for my ADHD, since color-coding things seems to help, but that feels like a stretch to me). I doubt anyone noticed, much less cared.

          3. MigraineMonth*

            There’s also the “let’s use common sense to avoid a worker’s comp claim” motivation. If a $200 ergonomic keyboard prevents the need for a couple of months of PT, that’s a great deal. If an employee says “these pens I’ve already bought prevent injury to my hands”, LET THEM HAVE THEM.

        2. Ace in the Hole*

          Sure, that’s technically true.

          But on a practical level, if you say “using the pens you provide is painful because of my medical condition, can I just keep using my own pens from home?” the odds are very good they’ll agree. It’s an incredibly easy accommodation that costs them less than nothing… why would they want to do all the extra work for a formal accommodation process if they don’t have to?

        3. Garblesnark*

          Yeah, technically… but someone who doesn’t let you use the pens you brought that don’t cause you pain is a bully, especially if they don’t immediately couple that with a real, legitimate reason for it. (Assuming such a reason exists.)

    7. Dust Bunny*

      The LW doesn’t say that they are all the same job position, so I wonder if that’s the difference. One of my friends is the receptionist-ish person at her job and since she’s the front line, she has to keep her desk cleaner and more anonymous than the people in the back (although none of them have a lot of stuff, anyway).

      If they’re all the same job and level of public-facing, then, yeah, this is weird. Or there is something going on that wasn’t included in the letter.

      1. borealis*

        LW2 included more context in a reply above, with the user name Frankly, Mr. Shankly.

  1. Educator*

    Being told to dress casually for an interview is my nightmare! I totally get why some companies do this, but also, vague advice to dress casually feels to me like “here is one more variable on which we will arbitrarily judge you.” It’s easy to figure out an appropriate spot on the casual spectrum when you are an employee and able to see what your colleagues are wearing, but it is so hard to guess what is actually appropriate for any given office without context and find the right clothes for those parameters. Just let me rock my blazer rather than trying to guess what might be appropriate. I’ll look around while I am there, see that my interviewer is in a t-shirt, and dress accordingly on my first day.

    I also feel like this is harder for women, because there is so much more subjectivity in what is appropriate for us. I’ve had so many people tell me to wear “something like kakis and a polo,” which covers a whole spectrum of female clothes, from skirts and blouses, to a sweater and jeans. Land mines everywhere!

    1. Allonge*

      One could argue that having more corresponding options is better, not worse :). Also, you left out dresses, which can cover huge swathes of casual-formal spectrum (I know not everyone wears them though).

      Anyway, having a blazer on is not necessarily business formal, so I would not worry in your place – if you wear it with jeans instead of more formal pants or a more relaxed top, that should take care of it.

      Back to OP: also don’t worry about this too much. Sure, don’t go for your most relaxed outfit, but many people will want to dress up a bit for their interviews – the best you can do is to ignore what they wear, (as you should anyway). It’s nice of you to think about this though!

      1. KateM*

        No it is not. It just means it is not clear-cut wherther this option belongs to this or that. Dressing for any kind of dress code is my nightmare, I may google it to death and still not be sure if anything of what I have suits it.

        1. Allonge*

          Every situation has a dress code, even if it’s casual. I am sorry it causes such distress; for what it’s wirth, it’s hypercritical people, not the dress code that is an issue.

          I am not sure this helps, but just a reassurance that a lot of workplaces have normal people with the attitude that as long as you are not wildly out of norm (no wetsuits or ball gowns), nobody cares or comments on what you are wearing.

        2. amoeba*

          Well, if people take the pains to write “dress as you feel comfortable”, one option would be to simply take them at their word? I for one would appreciate the heads up that there’s no need for me to go all formal, because that actually requires a lot of effort and can also be pretty uncomfortable depending on the weather (blazer at 30 °C+ is no fun!)

          It’s not a code of any kind. They simply don’t care what you wear. They’re not telling you that there’s a specific dresscode, it’s actually the opposite – they’re telling you that there’s no need for you to follow the “classic interview dress code”!

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            Yeah, if an interviewer told me to dress the way I felt comfortable, I would assume that anything reasonably neat/without holes/not horribly revealing was fine. (Though I might pass on the dress with the tardigrades. Maybe on a second interview, depending on the vibe I got from the group.)

            If the interviewer explicitly tells me that there’s no dress code and I can dress casually, and THEN judges me because I wore slacks and a turtleneck, that’s actually a good thing, because it would be an office where I could never take people at their word. Which I could probably figure out the unwritten code eventually, I would find it unpleasant and stressful, and it’s better for everyone if we figure out that that’s not a good fit up front.

            Certainly as an interviewer, if I explicitly told the candidate to not worry about clothes, I wouldn’t judge their clothing choices unless it was in some way very alarming.

            (If I were absolutely desperate for a new job I might err on the side of slightly more formal than I would otherwise, but any place where “just dress casually” is some kind of secret code that you have to parse correctly just sounds like a nightmare to me.)

            1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

              I wore my tardigrades shirt (button-down) to a job interview recently on the principle that (1) the print is subtle enough most people won’t notice (2) if they did notice and don’t hire me because I’m wearing a tardigrades shirt, I don’t want to work for them anyway.

              Normally I’d wear a solid silk or cotton button-down or tunic top, black slacks and black Mary Janes, either with or without a blazer or topper depending on the season. (I have basically one pair of Interview Slacks.)

              I got the job.

                1. Seven If You Count Bad John*

                  It’s from an internet company called Svaha who do clothing in STEAM themes. Unfortunately the particular tardigrades print I have is out of stock, but I have several items of theirs.

            2. Elitist Semicolon*

              I’d consider a tardigrade dress a point in your favor! Especially if it is a giant tardigrade-shaped dress. (I’m kidding, but not much.)

              1. TeaCoziesRUs*

                Finally! A pretty, and sweet, use for a body-con dress and a flabby body!!

                That being said, I’m so grateful to Wild Kratts for introducing me to those glorious little beings!

          2. DoInterviewersKnow*

            You’re assuming the people doing the interviewing are privy to what the folks being interviewed were told. I have interviewed people many dozens of times and have never seen their instructions.

        3. Shakti*

          Same and it’s really difficult to gage which level of casual business things lie on especially as an outsider! The more formal the more regulated albeit more annoying and expensive the clothes, but it’s usually clear what to wear. There are some companies that say business casual and you’re never allowed to wear jeans and there are some companies where if you even wear a blazer and skirt to an interview you look incredibly stuffy. Because there are so many options with “women’s” clothes it makes it especially easy to fail the cultural clothes vibe test

        4. Hats Are Great*

          If you have a background in law or banking, you can overdress for interviews and people will just assume it’s because of your background, and I am glad for this because navigating workwear as a woman is a nightmare. I prefer being overdressed to underdressed for interviews (if I know I’m likely to overshoot one way or the other) and that lets me be “overdressed, but with a good excuse that everyone immediately understands.”

      2. Chirpy*

        re: more options:
        no, it means a guy can show up in khakis and a polo with basically only having to decide on color and how many of the 3 buttons to do up on the shirt. Absolutely no one will question his choices (unless maybe he finds some skintight khakis, which I’ve never seen.)

        A woman has to choose number of buttons (or no buttons), masculine or feminine polo, amount of potential cleavage, tucked in, loose, does it fit tight, loose, overall shape (is it fitted enough to not look like a bag/is it too tight in the chest), probably made in a cheaper thinner fabric for the shirt…and for khakis- jeggings, skinny, straight, tapered, boot cut, flare, wide leg…and then you get to shoes, accessories, makeup, etc, ALL of which will be judged.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Yup. I personally don’t like polos, so I go with a button-up shirt and khakis. This serves in any business casual context. I might find myself at the upper end of the range, but that is fine. Basically nobody cares what I wear, within broad limits. Women are treated differently.

        2. amoeba*

          Hm, I know that can be a thing, but I do think it’s very strongly dependent on field and people involved! Like, I am 120% sure that none of my (male or female) coworkers would even notice any of these details, so I’m lucky enough to just wear whatever fits my personal style and isn’t overtly inappropriate. (So, fitted and oversize and straight or whatever are all fine, all my colleagues will probably register is “she is wearing a red/blue/green top”!)

          I really don’t doubt that there are (too many) places where women are in fact judged like that but wouldn’t recommend assuming that’s the case everywhere. Getting into one’s head to that amount is rarely helpful, and anyway, in case there are indeed judgy people present – well, can’t please them anyway, so it’s probably still best to wear whatever you like within the boundaries of professionalism and not try to play their game!

          1. doreen*

            It doesn’t even really have to be about judging – if my male coworkers all wear suits everyday, I know how to dress. I wear a suit or possibly a dress with a matching jacket. If the men are wearing jeans and T shirts everyday, I can do the same. It’s the in-between that gets a little confusing – if the men are wearing dress shirts and slacks I can wear slacks , but will a skirt seem overdressed ? How about ankle-length or shorter pants ? Do I have to wear a button-up shirt or will a silk T shirt or a sweater be OK ? And I’m 100% not talking about other people judging – I’m talking about my own comfort. Imagine showing up someplace wearing a suit when everyone else is wearing jeans or vice-versa. That’s the sort of feeling I want to avoid and more options absolutely makes it harder. Because it’s not “more corresponding options” – it’s “more options from which I have to decide which is the one that corresponds”

          2. Yorick*

            Sometimes people aren’t explicitly trying to judge you on your clothes, but they subconsciously notice that you seem stuffy or too casual or unprofessional or what have you. This is especially true for women and can be even more true because there are more clothes options that don’t always correspond neatly to men’s options (which are considered the standards in professional wear).

          3. Star Trek Nutcase*

            I spent decades in various offices jobs requiring I interview candidates – so literally a couple hundred. Business casual was always the standard, and 95% were female. IME the real requirements were clean, no holes, coverage of chest.

            Candidates’ choices varied from very casual (t-shirt & shorts to a 3-piece suit). Other than clarifying what the job’s definition/requirements of business casual meant, I didn’t care enough to even remember what the wore.

            Only once was I (F) overly concerned what an applicant wore – only because she chose “stripper casual” (see-through blouse, micro skirt, 5″ heels). I suspect she felt she looked her best. Even then, I simply told her what she was wearing was inappropriate for that office. She was hired & always dressed appropriately.

            I think interviewers need to *not* focus on what an applicant wears and simply provide requirements, especially for entry level or new to work force people.

        3. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

          And then I can dress smartly, wear smart shoes, and do my hair in a neat bun, and they’ll still inevitably notice the aspects of expected feminine grooming that I can’t stand. I can’t bear the feel of makeup, nails or nail varnish, or brow or lash grooming. Fortunately I now work in an industry with a casual dress code, but I wonder how much that arbitrarily went against me, even subconsciously, in the corporate world.

      3. nutella fitzgerald*

        Sure, one could argue that. But I’m not sure why someone would. Especially as a counterpoint to someone observing from their own experience.

        1. Allonge*

          Fair: I, a woman, prefer to have choices in clothes beyond those that fit into 3 neat categories with nothing in-between.

    2. scandi*

      everyone should read the essay “there are no unmarked women” by deborah tannen. we might technicaly have more options for clothes but they correspond to more ways to go wrong, not more relatively neutral choices.

      1. MissMaple*

        Thanks for pointing to that essay, I’d never read it but it really gets at something that was bothering me just this week when I was trying to decide if I could wear a (perfectly appropriate neutral color) dress to work with out getting…comments.

      2. hereforthecomments*

        Great essay. Made me think of “Man Made Language” by Dale Spender. Opened my eyes to all the ways language is influenced by gender. A good read.

      3. BlueScrubs*

        Thank you for sharing this article. (I love all the stuff I learn on this site from readers!) It perfectly explains issues I’ve had with “female clothing” my entire life. I just want my clothes to be functional and comfortable – but as a woman, that sends a message. I’m grateful in my current role that I can wear gender neutral blue scrubs; it’s honestly one of my favorite things about my job. But I’m sick of wasting time and brain space on apparel, and that article explains why it’s unavoidable in our culture.

        1. 1LFTW*

          Same. At least since my current job is basically on a shop floor, *everyone* dresses for safety and practicality: t-shirts, pants with lots of pockets, and flat shoes with a closed toe. Makeup would just get sweated off and smeared by PPE.

          It’s especially aggravating because women’s apparel isn’t just “marked”, it’s flimsier *and* more expensive. Thanks, patriarchy!

      4. Janeric*

        I do love that Derek Guy on twitter has made it so that — at least for me — there is no unmarked man.

      5. No Cute Name*

        Thanks so much for sharing that article. It was a brilliant read and gave me a vocabulary for things I’d thought about vaguely but couldn’t put into words.

    3. Earlk*

      I just always wear a black dress that goes to my knees for interviews. Long-sleeved in the winter, short in the summer. Tends to at least come close to most dress codes, although, I’m not working in anything like banking which can be far stricter.

    4. Cabbagepants*

      my company once sent out examples of the dress code for an event including a visual guide and examples for men and women, as well as examples of the more formal and less formal ends of the spectrum. it was really helpful.

      1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Ugh. As a butch woman I HATE those super gendered takes! Why not just examples of people? Are they going to ding me for wearing something that’s on the men’s side of the page? This isn’t 1950!

        1. scandi*

          explicitly including women is because documents/things produced for people in general have a tendency to be produced exclusively for the default person – men. this goes for everything from very serious things like women having to wear worse fitting ppe because it’s designed for the average man, to less serious things like clothing guides which only show appropriate menswear and provides no guidance for womenswear. i tend towards androgynous myself, but womenswear is explicitly there for a reason. in an ideal world this stuff wouldn’t be gendered, but we live in a world where ungendered = male (or a world where men are human and women are other, to paraphrase simone de beauvoir).

          1. Lydia*

            Exactly this. Slightly off topic, but just recently I was reading comments about Latine vs Latinx as non-gendered forms for nouns in Spanish and very explicitly one comment said, essentially, Spanish doesn’t need a non-gendered form for nouns. It already has one! The masculine covers both. Thanks, guy, for both missing the point by miles and very clearly making the point at the same time. That takes talent.

        2. TeaCoziesRUs*

          I think it’s convenient and considerate, because men have FAR fewer levels of formality and women’s levels can be heavily regional and far more ambiguous.

          If I’m invited to a garden wedding by a Southern bride, I’m going to dress up a bit more than for her Yankee friend. I love and respect both equally, but a Southern bride? Especially one who was in a sorority? Yeah…. I’m dressing up more for her. (Yes, this is an example from my own life in the last few years.)

          Honoring the reality of 27 levels of dress for women is a kindness – especially when that’s an average between the 10 levels in the suburbs and 32 levels in downtown.

          If you’re dressing more androgynous / masculine, I think no less of you or that you’re failing at some femininity quiz. If anything, I’m likely to enjoy your sartorial choices. Especially if tardigrades are involved.

          (All said with a light heart and tongue lightly in cheek. Happy Friday!)

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I worked for a company that had a super-casual dress code 50 weeks out of the year (pajamas were common, we had periodic reminders that shoes were required in the cafeteria); the other two weeks we hosted an industry conference and were supposed to dress business casual.

        We had posters with visual guides. We had lists of appropriate and not-appropriate clothing. We had explanations of what “unsoiled”, “not ripped”, and “fitted” meant in those descriptions.

        Yet every single conference, a good quarter of the company showed up in oversized suits, tottering on heels they didn’t wear the rest of the year, or in coats or skirts with the tailor’s stitch intact. At some point the company dropped the dress shoe requirement entirely; I’m not sure if that was due to the number of injuries or the wasted time it took someone in non-sneakers to cross the campus.

    5. Nicoslanica*

      To me, a hyper -casually dressed interviewer comes across as slightly disrespecful. This is a very important meeting (to me as the candidate, at least) and you look like you rolled in off the basketball court two seconds ago? I certainly don’t need a suit, just nice jeans at least and ideally a polo or button shirt to show you appreciate the significance of the meeting. It’s not that I’ll feel uncomfortable being overdressed. However, if the environment truly is that casual 99.9% of the time I guess I just need a heads up. Some people do stay casual even if big investors, the media, or the King was coming by.

      1. Hats Are Great*

        We’re a casual office — jeans and Ts — but I always try to wear a dressier top (and nicer jeans) when interviewing people, like the sort of thing that you could wear to a nice restaurant if paired with dressier pants. One day I got pulled in last-minute to interview a candidate (when a colleague was out sick) and I was in a T-shirt, and I felt guilty for HOURS afterwards that the candidate might think I was disrespectful of their time!

    6. bamcheeks*

      I think on some level you’ve got to accept that interviews are inherently stressful and have a power imbalance, and there is no instruction you can give that someone won’t over-interpret and worry about. But I promise that some people genuinely mean “wear what you will be comfortable in and which will enable you to focus on the interview itself” and are not judging you either way!

      1. djx*

        Good point.

        Adding I’d take what they say at face value AND err a little more formal. Like one small step up in formality for what they way.

        And even if very casual, keep it sharp. If they wear t-shirts I’d probably be in a polo (one step up), but if I did to a t-shirt it would be plain, clean and fit very very well.

      2. jasmine*

        I think “wear whatever you’re comfortable with” is ideal here. “Dress casual” sounds like an instruction but them telling you they don’t care is much more clear.

        1. Uranus Wars*

          I agree with this. And I have worked places where casual is true casual – jeans, shorts, whatever. And places where casual was really business casual – no jeans or tennies, but you could wear a top that wasn’t a blouse or button-down and be ok.

    7. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      They are telling you that you don’t have to wear a suit. But you can if you want. Its okay. If it makes it easier on you to wear a suit, then wear one.

      But a blazer is not a suit. It goes with business casual. A nice shirt, nice slacks/skirt and a blazer is the perfect interview outfit for business casual. It might be dressier than the actual dress code, but its kind of expected the candidate will be more dressed up than someone already an employee.

      1. Nicosloanica*

        Although this is going to be an odd match if the interviewer literally shows up in cargo shorts and an old hoodie. With a heads up, I could cut the blazer and just do a nice shirt and pants to better match that level of informality.

    8. AlsoADHD*

      I think there’s a difference between, “Our office dress code is pretty casual. In fact, depending on the day, I might be in jeans, T-shirts, a hoodie if it’s cold, just to give you a head’s up so you don’t feel surprised at the interview” and “please dress casually”. For one, context, but also it’s about LW presenting their authentic self and how they dress, within their company’s policy, rather than stating how to dress.

      Even places that are pretty casual, there is a wide span, for women particularly. You might feel off-culture and worry a tiny bit if you’re overdressed truly — and I have heard tech managers disinclined to hire, at least in development roles, people who show up in suit & tie if tipped off to a casual workplace, but I’ve not heard the same for dresses, nice sweaters, etc. so I’d think a woman in anything but a dark suit or evening gown would avoid that. I would say I’d usually err a little dressier in an interview for any industry than I would on the day-to-day, having worked in varied dress settings but mostly casual. But I think it’s good for the interviewer to signal that they may not be that dressed up and also represent the day to day clothes accurately.

    9. Hannah Lee*

      “… but also, vague advice to dress casually feels to me like “here is one more variable on which we will arbitrarily judge you”

      When faced with that there have been times where I’ve gone and lurked outside of the place I would be interviewing to scope out what people were wearing, just to try to get in the ballpark and relieve some of my anxiety over it (though it wouldn’t always work – next day interviews and companies with a wide range of acceptable work wear depending on role and department)

    10. Momma Bear*

      If I am running an interview, I am not normally in a suit, but I’ll take more care that day when choosing an outfit. I might opt for a button down blouse instead of a polo. I would expect an interviewee to be dressed nicely. When I interviewed here I wore a suit, even though my interviewer (and now boss) was a little less formal (no jacket or tie). I figure if I am interviewing them, I am representing the company and should not look like I rolled out of bed.

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*


        Glad you can wear scruffy stuff to work… but if you know someone is dressing nicely for you, you can make an effort to look vaguely professional as well. :)

    11. Kara*

      I guess this is one more reason i default to men’s clothing: you can tell me khakis and a polo and i can rock up wearing khakis and a polo. No further thought needed. (Granted, I’m also in a much more casual industry)

      Also, POCKETS!!!

      1. TeaCoziesRUs*

        One reason I make my own clothing… and modify the jeans I buy because I’m a coward about making them… is to add (or extend) the pockets!

        I just need to figure out a way to add in a pocket that can handle the weight of a phone without dragging down the dress due to weight. I have a few maxi dresses that have a 1/4 inch elastic to create a waistband, which is not nearly enough stability for a decent pocket. I’ll either have to pick out the elastic and add in a thicker elastic, then tack the existing pocket to it, or simply have unusable pockets. :(

    12. TeaCoziesRUs*

      For fun-sies…. if you are told, “We are a pretty casual office, and most people here (assuming summer) are wearing shorts and a t-shirt to work,” what would you wear to an interview? I’m curious for answers all over the gender spectrum, although I’d assume a man would think khakis and a nice Polo.

      My answer would be a cotton-blend maxi dress (New enough not to show too much wear) with a summer-weight shrug and nice flip-flop sandals, hair up in a braid or bun, light makeup (which for me is a lip ink and white or shimmery pink eyeliner), and fun earrings. I wear that outfit to church most weekends, and it’s comfortable, too! It’s not as casual as the yoga pants and tee-shirt I’m in now, but it’s too relaxed to look formal or stuffy. I’d feel pulled together and pretty, but still feel comfy and a bit more relaxed than I would in a sheath dress or more structured outfit. :)

      1. I Have RBF*

        I’m enby, but regularly get clocked as female because of boobs.

        If they say “We are a pretty casual office, and most people here (assuming summer) are wearing shorts and a t-shirt to work,” I would wear black jeans and a polo to the interview. It’s slightly more dressed up than t-shirt and shorts, but not so much that I look out of place or that I am a clothes horse or fashion snob.

      2. CandidatesAlwaysDressUp*

        I would wear a suit or a nice blouse and nice skirt from slick materials (i.e. not sheeted or woven). I would also make a big deal about wanting to work in a casual dress environment (my favorite dress code is you have to get dressed).

        I once got a job in a very casual dress environment in part because I wore a suit to the interview and the boss found many of the other candidates dress too casual to the point of being disrespectful. This was at a job where I regularly work tank tops and athletic shorts to the office.

      3. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

        I’d probably do a swing dress with flats or sandals, light makeup (if any at all). Maybe casual pants (like the Old Navy Pixie pants that used to be popular) with a shell or short-sleeved sweater. Even in my everyday life, I rarely wear shorts and am more comfortable wearing dresses or casual skirts. Understated jewelry, but only to avoid any jingling or light refraction that might be distracting.

      4. RW*

        I’m female, and I’d wear a dress, but a specific vibe of dress; I live in rayon dresses that are relatively high neck, cap sleeve, just above or just below the knee, and straight cut/no waist seam. I feel comfortable in it, the fabric is nice enough that I feel like I’m presenting myself well, but it’s also just what I wear in my life so it wouldn’t feel to ME like I was dressing up. I think I’m also aiming for more relaxed but to me maxi feels less office based, in a way that I can’t define! Sandals or flats and maybe earrings if I remember to finish it off.
        Otherwise, a woven tee (again the fabric makes it just a little nicer than a knit tee) with culottes or pants (or maybe a skirt, but none of the skirts that I currently own).
        This is all what I wear in my every day as a doctor in a relatively casual community – so my goal is “look put together enough to be trustworthy but not so smart you come out the other side and start seeming unrelatable”, a tricky balance when my patient population includes both very traditional 80 year olds and surfer bros

    13. fidget spinner*

      This!!! And it’s something that’s only become more confusing as I’ve gotten older or maybe just more aware.

      Dress codes seem to always have a super obvious male outfit… and then there are so many different options for women, and we have to just try to match the formality level of the male outfit. But it’s so subjective, and there are rules I had no idea about.

      The most recent one I’ve discovered is that whether or not your toes show is a HUGE DEAL and I never knew it. I thought open-toed pumps and closed-toed pumps were essentially the same level of formality but I was wrong!

  2. Bilateralrope*

    #2 Hyper mobile joints like that sound like a medical issue requiring accommodation. Since you’re currently bringing in your own pens, all you’ll be asking for is to make that official.

    Which will help next time you’re told to use company provided pens, since your boss is now trying to interfere with a documented medical accommodation.

    Or maybe the company starts issuing you suitable pens.

    1. Poly Anna*

      This! It’s probably covered under the ‘disability’ characteristic but I feel like the answer could have gone into that a bit more.

    2. Seashell*

      Yeah, I would stick to that being the issue, rather than being a lefty. All the lefties I know use the same pens as everyone else, so I have my doubts it would hold much water as compared to a medical problem.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I’m left handed when it comes to writing. The only pens I’ve found that work better in the right hand were ones where the ink took some time to dry, because my hand would often rub across the writing just after I put it on the page.

        Modern inks dry nearly instantly so the only way I can see being a lefty mattering is if the LW’s job requires specific inks for some reason.

      2. Lady Lessa*

        I am thinking the same thing. First try would be to just submit the request to purchasing. And then, if there is push back, go the medical route.

      3. Salsa Your Face*

        As a lefty, I find ballpoint pens difficult to use for anything more than just jotting down a word or two. Since we write from left to right, righties get to pull a pen across the paper, while lefties have to push it. The added friction from a ballpoint pen makes it more difficult to push, so fatigue sets in more quickly. Having a roller ball or gel pen is essential for me if I’m expected to hand write anything of length, otherwise my hand will cramp up before I’m done.

        1. Kyrielle*

          …and hypermobility would probably make that have a worse impact, too. I hadn’t thought about that, thank you!

        2. linger*

          As a child, my own solution to that physics problem was to hold the pen between middle and index fingers, which changes the angle of contact with the paper by about 30 degrees, reducing friction just enough to allow writing at a reasonable speed without constant cramping. I had a few teachers who freaked out about it and tried to force me to use the “standard” grip, but they were unsuccessful.
          (The only completely energetically equivalent solutions are inverting the page to write upside-down, or mirror-writing right-to-left. Neither of those appealed to me, and they probably wouldn’t have appeased those teachers either.)

          1. 1LFTW*

            I’m a righty, but back in middle school I learned that I could write somewhat fluently with my left hand if I used mirror writing.

      4. Mimmy*

        I posted below about requesting to use their own pens as a reasonable accommodation – thanks for clarifying about focusing on the hypermobile joints. Yes, most things are designed for right-handed people, but lefties can use regular pens.

    3. Not on board*

      Yeah, this is where my mind went immediately. These pens are a medical accomodation and either the boss needs to get some for the OP, or let the OP bring their own pens in.
      The rest…. well, there’s a lot of missing context so I couldn’t say one way or another.

  3. Pottery Yarn*

    When I interviewed at my current job, the recruiter told me that the office dress code was casual, but that I should dress business professional for my interview. When I interviewed with the woman who would become my supervisor, she wore a t-shirt, casual shirt, and ripped stockings while I was in a suit, and it felt awkwarddddd. I later interviewed with the woman who would become my grandboss, and she wore a suit, which definitely helped everything feel more like an interview. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to interview candidates, and I typically opt for either a business professional dress or slacks and a blouse, which I feel strikes a nice balance of looking polished and put together without being too stuffy.

    1. DJ*

      I make video games. Interview days for me remotely now are plain T-shirts, whichever side of the table I’m on. Back in the office days, it was that, plus khaki shorts and sneakers.

      It was slightly awkward interviewing the guy who came in a suit and tie. But hey, he turned out to be an awkward guy after we hired him anyways, so it matched the interview experience.

      1. run mad; don't faint*

        That reminds me of my son who went off to his first interview for a full time job in his only suit and tie. It was a small business and I knew he was overdressed. And he was! But he got the job. When he interviewed for his next jobs couple of years later, he wore khakis and a polo shirt which were completely appropriate.

        1. Chas*

          My first job was at a small science startup (about 10 people) and I also went for the interview in my only suit and was overdressed compared to everyone else, too. Fortunately they told me I could just wear normal clothes when they asked me to go back the next day for a practical test, so I didn’t have to wear a labcoat over my suit blazer!

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I bought a couple suits when I was starting out in the job world, but quickly learned that isn’t necessary for 1-science lab jobs and 2-science lab jobs in academia. People tend to dress casually, not the least reason of which is that you could spill bleach or some other clothing damaging thing on yourself at any time, so you shouldn’t wear your nice clothes in the lab!
            On a totally unrelated note, brown leather turns pink when you spill bleach on it.

            1. I Have RBF*

              Yeah, when I worked in labs I would pretty regularly get something on my jeans under my lab coat. It only took me ruining one pair of nicer pants for me to not wear anything but jeans and t-shirts under my lab coat.

    2. WeirdChemist*

      My office is casually dressed (jeans/t-shirt are typical), and when we did a round of internal interviews for promotions everyone involved dressed up a bit (to the level of slacks/dress pants and a nice top/button up). The candidates dressed up a bit more than the interviewers. For external interviews, we often see candidates in full suits with the interviewers in nicer than normal but not super formal wear, and no one’s thinking “ugh why is this candidate overdressed!”

      Personally I like dressing up a bit for interviews (from either side), it puts me in a mindset of “we’re on our best behavior today” and gives me a bit of confidence!

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, for me it’s pretty normal that the interviewers wear whatever they typically wear at work and I dress up. Because, well, for me it’s a “special occasion”, for them, not quite so much. (We do full day panel interviews so there might be as many as 10-20 people you meet during the day… I really don’t expect all of them to dress up same as myself!)
        I have done interviews in a full on business professional suit and did feel a bit overdressed, but nothing problematic. Nowadays, I go for a little more casual, so slacks, nice colourful blazer, white T-shirt… nothing I wouldn’t also wear to work if I feel like it, but definitely a step up from what I typically wear every day.

        1. Venus*

          This is where I land. I expect interviewers to wear a normal day’s clothing, and in LW’s case I’d think of it as the average for one’s workplace (LW mentioned that they are often on the more casual end, so for interviews they might wear jeans or slacks and a shirt).

          1. OP3*

            OP3 here – yeah, I feel like jeans and a shirt is probably the way to go! At my company, management usually goes with some combination of jeans/trousers/t-shirts/shirts, so dressing up just to that level feels right.

            There’s also the complication that I look around 10 years younger than I actually am, so it would be good to borrow a bit of age via clothing haha

    3. Snow Globe*

      I agree with Alison that ideally the candidate would be told the dress code and encouraged to dress at the same level of formality as the interviewer. Why tell the candidate to dress business professional if the interviewer will be in a t-shirt?

      1. ConsistencyHelps*

        because this is a total landmine for the interviewee. were all of the interviewers told to expect more casual dress? are they all on board with it? but once told to be more casual then you become the one who potentially didn’t listen, plus the instructions are usually hopeless when it comes to figuring out how much to dress up/down. Total nightmare for a candidate.

    4. Mouse named Anon*

      I think interview conventions are changing. I am an elder millennial. In college in the early 2000s it was drilled into our heads to wear a suit to an interview. It better only be black or navy blue, too! I always wore a suit, sometimes a blazer over a professional looking dress.

      I worked briefly in a company that employed alot of college grads and people under 25. Most of them came to interviews looking nice but not in suits. Honestly it was kind of nice. Our dress code at that company was so lax anyway. Having someone show up in slacks and sweater felt less intimidating than a suit.

    5. AlsoADHD*

      I think the issue there was the disconnect between candidate and company culture expectations. If the company is like “Suits don’t matter…but wear one to your interview”, I am a little confused/surprised/put off, personally. I think expecting anything of candidates you don’t from employees is odd.

    6. Elizabeth West*

      On my second interview with the team for Exjob, they told me everyone was very casual and not to dress up. When I showed up, both women were wearing jeans and sweatshirts. I opted for jeans but with a nice shirt, a brown blazer, and nice shoes. They said “So you wore a jacket,” and I said well it’s still an interview! They laughed and it went well after that.

      I ended up wearing jeans and t-shirts to work the entire time I was there and I’m currently struggling to build back an actual work wardrobe. After the pandemic, nothing I had before fits now.

  4. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – You should dress however formally (or informally) you normally do at your office. ie. Wear your regular work-day clothing.

    If your office is particularly informal, advise candidates that they also can dress down for the interview. (I remember interviewing in a suit when the president was in shorts and flip flops – got the job in part, I think, because when asked if I would be too formal for them, I told them that I was absolutely delighted at the idea of wearing flip flops to work, and that the only reason I wore a suit was that it was an interview and didn’t know I could get away with shorts.)

    Anyway, you as the interviewer don’t need to dress up more than you normally would. The interviewee is supposed to get an impression of your office culture from you, and part of that entails being as formal/informal as your office normally is.

    1. Nodramalama*

      Hmm I’m not sure if I entirely agree with that. I think many (most? ) people have a day to day work wardrobe and then a wardrobe for when they have to attend a conference, meet with stakeholders, attend a meeting with the President/head/etc. I’d put attending interviews in that category.

      When I interview for a job I will dress more nicely than I do if I’m just going into work, and I think a lot of interviewers would do the similar.

      1. Allonge*

        This. Also, for some places there is no way for a single person, or an interviewing board of three people to adequately reflect on a single day what people wear in the office.

        We interviewed IT support people all wearing the business end of business casual, and in a month we meet them to set up an event in jeans and t-shirts because we are moving things around, then show up to the event in businesswear and to the lessons learnt meeting in business casual-casual.

        Of course if it’s business all day every day, then you wear a suit; if there is a uniform, you wear that, but other than that, dress codes are a bit more complex than can be shown in a single outfit.

      2. YesImTheAskewPolice*

        I agree, plus in an interview one also represents the company in general, not just oneself. It sounds like LW3 dresses a lot more casual than almost everyone in his office, which might give off a wrong impression. I would love to go to work in shorts, but not if it were only me as a newcomer and the one established person who doesn’t care or who has accumulated enough capital or goodwill to get away with it.

      3. djx*


        An alternate or complementary approach would be to dress one level of formality up from what people in the office wear on a typical work day.

      4. MissMeghan*

        100% agree. I think it shows respect to the interviewee to wear the stakeholder/client/president wardrobe during interviews. You’re presenting your company to the interviewee as well as interviewing them, and you’re both putting on your stepped-up outfits for the occasion. Maybe this is because of my profession still being more formal but I would be a bit taken aback if my interviewer was super casual, like they didn’t value the importance of the interview or my time. That said I’ve also gotten that impression when an interview was wearing a suit but checked his phone constantly, so I suppose it’s attitude + wardrobe.

      5. AlsoADHD*

        I think wearing what you’d wear to present/have a big day is fine, but that also still may be a T-shirt and hoodie, depending on industry, location, function, etc.

          1. Also-ADHD*

            Sure, but we don’t know that LW doesn’t wear a hoodie for presentations I guess was my point, based on the other comment above yours, and you comments interaction. Maybe it’s a hoodie with nicer jeans etc. but still what LW described, and people here don’t all (not just you) seem familiar with that idea in general so it’s worth pointing out that not everyone wears any particular level of nice even on their nice day vs normal. Nice might be “T shirt and jeans have no wrinkles today and I wore my best sneakers”.

        1. Annie*

          I think as an interviewer you should dress on the more special event side of your daily wardrobe. I wouldn’t have any problems with a nice t-shirt and jeans if you normally wear any random t-shirt and shorts and flip flops. I think that’s reasonable, and then if the interviewer is in khakis and a button up shirt or they don’t feel too out of place.

      6. Saturday*

        I dress more nicely too. I know the person being interviewed is likely to be dressed more formally than they normally would, and it seems polite to me to match that to a degree (I don’t put on a suit though).

  5. Nodramalama*

    For LW5 I agree that the manager shouldn’t show up at someone’s house unannounced. But I’m a bit confused by the part of the letter where it characterised the visit as a “personal” one. Weren’t they delivering things for a work event? That doesn’t seem to me like a personal visit.

    1. Fikly*

      I think the distinction is meant to be showing up in person versus using the address to mail something? But I’m not positive.

      1. Nodramalama*

        Ohhhh. So not a personal visit as in, for personal reasons but a literally in person visit. I think it was particuarly confusing because they also mentioned keeping their work and PERSONAL life seperate.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Yes, this is how I would interpret it in this instance. You could swap “in person” for “personally” and not change the meaning.

    2. Happy meal with extra happy*

      “Treats for a Christmas party” can definitely fall on the more personal, less business necessity side of the scale, especially depending on how they were framed by the boss.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Which could have been mailed. Having your boss turn up on your doorstep can be unsettling.

    3. Reality.Bites*

      I wouldn’t want actual friends or relatives showing up uninvited and unexpected. So that goes double for work colleagues, whether boss, peer or someone who reports to me.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        This is where I am. The turning up unannounced is unwelcome and bizarre. But it’s perfectly logical that your office would know where you live. Maybe this is very different in other countries, but don’t you include your address on your hiring paperwork? Doesn’t where you live influence your tax paperwork? There is nothing odd to me about your home address being information accessible to your supervisor, and that’s before you consider that you often can search online for people’s addresses.

        But Boss should ask before just turning up on your doorstep.

  6. Awkwardness*

    Good for #3 too give a thought about this!
    And an insightful answer, as I had never considered this aspect:

    You want candidates to see what the culture is actually like (but you also don’t want them to feel massively overdressed, which is why you’re avoiding the shorts/hoodie end of your personal spectrum).

  7. Cordelia*

    When conducting interviews, I would try to mirror the level of formality of dress that I would expect the candidates to turn up in – I don’t mean what I think they ought to wear, but what I know is the kind of thing they are likely to wear. I don’t want clothes to be a factor at all, and think that if I am dressed either much more casually, or much more formally, than the candidate I might be increasing their anxiety from the outset by making them think they have misjudged something. I think dressing on the smarter end of what you would normally wear for work is the way to go, so for OP3 this sounds like jeans and a buttoned shirt would be a good option.

    1. amoeba*

      I find that interesting because I’m actually so used to being more sharply dressed than my interviewers (who generally always wore whatever the wear every day, as far as I can tell) that I’d probably assume that’s what their everyday standard looks like – and be slightly put off/worried, as that wouldn’t really be my thing for every day!

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, my concern would be that you hire someone, they go out and buy a bunch of clothes to match what they think the norm is, and when they show up, it’s completely different.

  8. Agent Diane*

    For OP5, you’re not wrong; dropping by unannounced is off.

    For context, I work in the UK public sector where we loves our GDPR rules. As a manager, every HR system I’ve used has let me look up my team members’ addresses.

    The theory is managers have access so if someone doesn’t show for work, doesn’t call in sick, and doesn’t respond to calls, the manager can arrange a wellbeing check. It’s also available so that if someone out having a heap of appointments doesn’t check in then the manager can give the address to the police. (Link to the historic reason UK firms have check-ins in next comment)

    Using the address to send a greeting card from the team is informally fine (get well, sympathy, new baby etc). If the person is quite a private person, I’d ask them if it’s OK to send them something first though.

    Rocking up in person unless it’s a wellbeing check is not OK.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        That was interesting and awful but I don’t see the article discussing check-ins? It says that the woman had an appointment at 12:45, her colleagues were concerned at 3:30, went to her home themselves at 4:30, and contacted the police at 5:30. I kept reading because I thought there might be something in the article to show how this all resulted in check-ins, but I don’t see anything?

          1. Agent Diane*

            In one role I was managing in, HR would be clocked out before the last check-in of our field staff. As senior officer, I was able to call the missing person’s personal mobile (they were fine). If I’d had to scare up someone from HR so they could call that person, but couldn’t because HR were all logged off and not picking up my calls? Not fine.

            The business need access to the data came with a “don’t use it for non-business needs” expectation.

      1. Curious*

        I’m not so sure about that. I’ve seen far too many stories of well-being checks by police going horribly wrong.

        1. Martin Blackwood*

          At the same time, i think theres a letter on this site along the lines of “my manager showed up to my house and started beating on the walls” so.

        2. BestBet*

          100% – probably different outside America, but in the US I’d be extremely hesitant to send police to someone who I just wanted to check up on. And I’d much, much prefer a manager or HR person check up on me than call the police.

          In my state, just this month police killed a man in his own home after responding to a call for help that the man himself had made. Sending police isn’t a neutral action in the US.

          1. Agent Diane*

            Calling the police was the last step on my checklist as the duty officer: calling the work mobile, then any number held on file, then seeing if one of us could check their home address (and with one repeat offender, their local pub as they’d head off for a drink leaving us to track them down!). Then I’d need to raise with the regional head, who would make the decision on calling the police.

    1. An eke*

      I’m in New Zealand, and our privacy laws were recently updated. The organisation had to stop giving birthday cards to staff members because they got the birthdays from the payroll system, and under the updated law you can’t use personal information for any purpose other than the one it was collected for. This manager’s actions would definitely fall foul of that.

      Just as a note, within my department we have a shared calendar where people can add their own birthday if they want to, which also gives people who aren’t comfortable with that to opt out.

    2. Earlk*

      I also work in public sector in the UK and even though I can look up someone’s address to send a card, I always ask them for their address and say it’s to send a card before sending anything. Just a bit safer if people value their privacy.

    3. amoeba*

      I would have assumed that the address the LW gave for the delivery would fall into a different category than looking up the employee info, no? The latter would also be a serious breach of privacy here for sure. For the former, well, they did give it to receive a present, so with a bit of a stretch I can see the manager thinking it’d be OK for a similar kind of delivery….

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, while I would not want my manager randomly showing up at my house I actually think there’s definitely an argument for “the employee gave me the address to deliver things to her house, and I just decided to do that myself instead of paying UPS to deliver it.”

        If I were the OP I would feel uncomfortable with it, but I also don’t think the manager necessarily did anything objectively obviously wrong–depending on what kind of interaction if any was had when she was at the house.

        1. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

          If the manager put it in the letterbox/on the doorstep that might make sense (but then how would OP know that manager delivered it themselves?) but if they rang and spoke in person that feels pretty different.

    4. Thomas*

      Personally, if it was JUST a delivery, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid. Any annoyance would be more about an unexpected parcel than about who’s delivering it. It seems natural that my employer might send a work-related parcel if I’m remote, and not too surprising if it’s hand delivered to save on shipping costs or worries about fragility.

      If the manager wants to stick around or come in, that’s when I might get irked.

    5. AnonyOne*

      I don’t fully understand this. I don’t have access to my employees’ addresses. In the incredibly rare situation where I felt a welfare check was needed, I would speak to HR (who hold the personal information for employees). I have never had to do that and I struggle to see how that would be a reasonable basis to provide managers with general access to employees’ personal information for most jobs (in a context where there are strict privacy protections – I am not a GDPR expert, but struggle to see this would be compliant).
      I also don’t think the Suzy Lamplugh case, as awful as it was, supports generally giving managers this information- she disappeared after going to show a property, her coworkers went to the property to look for her when she did not return, and notified the police that afternoon. I don’t think there was any connection between her home address and her disappearance, or any point at which her manager would have needed it (and been unable to ask HR, assuming the had HR, obviously if there is no HR that changes things as someone does need the information).

      1. Agent Diane*

        All I can say is that every system I have worked in has given managers access to the information, that I have as officer in charge, needed to use it when people have failed to check in, and that access comes with a “don’t share it, or abuse it” expectation. The check-in safety at both a job where I was a solo woman in the field, and once I became a duty officer, were both built around advice from the Suzy Lamplugh case. It’s all tied to the organisation’s duty of care when sending people to solo meetings at properties, and I’ve never encountered anyone saying it breaches GDPR (and I was involved in rolling out GDPR at one of the organisations). If the latest check-in point of people in the field is 6pm, but HR all log off by 5pm, only HR having access risks an alarm not being raised for hours.

        Oh, and that showing up in person and unannounced with some cake or whatever would be a violation of all the policies around access to the data.

        1. Tag You're Next*

          I’m a Data Protection Officer in the UK coming out of long time lurking for my first ever post to clarify the data protection/GDPR related position. I think that both Agent Diane and AnonyOne are right here and it relates to something that An Eke said higher up the thread. UK (and EU, and it would appear New Zealand) data protection law says that organisations can only use personal data for the purposes for which it was collected. It’s the organisation that determines that purpose though – so in Agent Diane’s sector it seems to be a common purpose that Managers need to be able to access basic personal data to check up on people in certain circumstances. In AnonyOne’s sector, the need to do that isn’t so great and so the organisation doesn’t need to use the personal data in that way. It links to another part of UK and EU data protection law about needing to have an appropriate legal basis, but I won’t bore on about that here.

          Really it comes down to whether it’s something that organisations are telling staff might happen – if staff know that Managers might access their address data to drop off goodies then it’s broadly ok, although I’d hope the manager would give a warning in advance. If they don’t know it could happen, it’s not ok.

          It sounds as though LW5 had no expectation that this would happen and that’s not ok.

        2. Beth**

          I’m a manager in the UK public sector and our HR system does not give me access to my team’s home addresses. I tend to know in broad terms where they live because of discussions about who is affected by various public transport strikes. But that’s based on information they disclose voluntarily to me.

          Our HR system definitely collects this information because I have to keep mine up to date as an employee, but I would never expect to have access to personal data about my team members.

          Years ago, I worked on a team here where one of the new grads just didn’t turn up one day. We all knew she had a long commute and a tendency to fall asleep. Eventually we got HR to phone her at home and it turned out that she was just ill and didn’t realise that you had to let your boss know if you were going to be off sick from work.

    6. Nancy*

      It is weird to many people in the US as well. Regardless of what our privacy laws are, Americans don’t like people using info as it wasn’t attended to be used or people showing up unannounced to their home. I don’t know why the response makes it sound otherwise.

      If anything, I’d assume someone died.

      1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        From the middle of the USA here, Its weird to me too. If the manager had said “Hey can I stop by to drop off something?” But popping by unannounced was a social no no that Grandma would turn over in her grave if we committed. My work has a union and also non union people. I am non union. Once had 2 union people drop by my house after dark unannounced. As a single woman who lived in a sketchy neighbourhood this was Just No category. I actually raised the issue with my boss the next day asking how the union got my address. Unannounced is a no no, unannounced after dark is a complete just no!! Add into the fear of anyone who has ever had a stalker and it gets even worse.

      2. Yorick*

        I’d be delighted if my manager or unit director visited me in person to give me a gift. I’d prefer a heads up but I’d also be fine if they just showed up. But I really like both of them, and they’re not the type of people/mangers to overstep and bother me. So that’s probably why it would seem like a nice surprise and not like crossing a boundary. If my manager from my previous job had showed up at my house, it would have felt creepy and unwelcome.

        I’m in the US (from the South, now live in Midwest).

        1. Little My*

          On my last birthday, a coworker showed up in person with surprise treats for me from the office. People know my address because they’ve given me rides home and mailed me treats before. We’re a small nonprofit and very friendly, so it doesn’t feel weird or unwelcome (we’re in the US Northeast). I think it probably varies by workplace!

    7. Sharpie*

      I’m currently doing a course to (maybe) become a teaching assistant, and I just completed the module on the GDPR the other day. There are only a few very specific occasions when it’s ok to go handing someone’s details to another party… And making use of them yourself in this kind of way is a big no-no unless you’re concerned about someone’s safety.

      I seem to recall another letter here where a manager or someone showed up at their employee’s or colleague’s home unannounced, I believe they were fired for it.

    8. veebee*

      I’m in the US, and I had a coworker do the exact same thing as LW’s boss (show up at my home during a virtual party to deliver a gift). It was so awkward! I was literally unable to get the door due to being ON CAMERA at a work party, and I was the only one that didn’t get a gift on my team ahead of time.
      Honestly, if she had just dropped it and left (like a delivery service) I wouldn’t have thought of it as that weird. What made it weird is that (presumably) she wanted to hang out, which would have involved me inviting her inside.

  9. lilly*

    For OP#2, it could be a situation where the boss just happened to visit OP’s desk at some point (to give some instructions etc), but simply never paid attention to the desks of others (e.g. he doesn’t frequently come to the area where his subordinates are). Something similar happened to me: we got a new office and had just settled in. I took off my sweater and put it over my chair. We don’t have any clients or other third parties coming in, so I didn’t think it would be a problem. My grand boss dropped by to see what the new space looks like, he saw my sweater and said to all of us that we should not put jackets/sweaters on our chairs, pointing at my chair as an example. From that moment on, I never put anything on my chair, whereas nearly everyone else always kept their jackets on their chairs. The grand boss never came by again so he didn’t see that his rule was not being followed.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I thought something similar – that it was a rule people get informed about randomly, and it isn’t really enforced. I’ve been in lots of situations like that where the others are all: “Eh, whatever” or they genuinely forgot the minor rule they were told about. Whereas I am all BUT RULES THO. However it does sound a bit like the boss is on OP’s case in particular if they have even vetoed OP’s pens!

    2. WellRed*

      I guess grandboss has an office perfectly calibrated to his personal body temperature needs?

    3. Dek*

      “we should not put jackets/sweaters on our chairs”


      I’m assuming that the company provided nice coat racks with hangers?

    4. lilsheba*

      Whenever a company has a “no personal items” rule it’s just a way to treat people like numbers and devalue them. It serves no other purpose.

      1. I Have RBF*

        One place I worked had a “clean desk” policy, and even tried to specify “one photo, no stuffies/mascots, one drinking vessel, one pen, one pencil, no tape or staplers, no books, only one notepad, no files,” ad nauseum. I did not obey this. I was in a lousy open plan, not public facing, and if I was going to spend 9 hours a day there, I was going to have what I needed, including multiple drinking vessels (coffee cup, water bottle, tea bottle), reference books, file folders, notebooks, plush mascots, and pens in different colors.

        No one ever said anything, because they knew the rule was nuts and just intended to make it look “uniform” and unused by living people.

  10. K*

    3 – dressing up as an interviewer
    I also recently started interviewing job candidates and had the same question a few month ago. For the context, I am a woman, in Greater London area, in an industry with rather casual dress code (dry lab scientist in biotech), and I am a recent immigrant so may not have the best understanding of cultural norms. It is worth asking your manager or more experienced coworkers about this; the norms may vary in depending on industry, company culture and seniority level. I usually wear jeans, trainers and sweaters/tshirts to work; on the days when I have interviews I dress a bit more formally, like tailored trousers, button down shirt and nicer shoes. That was an advice from my boss – it is nice to match the candadate’s level of formality and show candidates that we take interviewing process seriously. However, when I was job searching myself, I always wore a suit to interviews, but had some interviewers show up in ultra-casual clothes. It did not make me feel uncomfortable at all; if anything, it allows to get a glimpse of company culture and it is a useful piece of data.

    1. kalli*

      My usual standard is ‘what would I wear if I knew the CEO/some famous person is coming to an event at my workplace’, which is usually at the higher end of business casual generally seen in the workplace.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Also UK, public sector in the north and yes, I’d agree with this. I also think you can go good-quality, not-faded versions of casual wear— I have a colleague who is absolutely wedded to the 2014 hipster uniform of dark skinny jeans, desert boots, checked shirt, shacket, but he always has his fade done perfectly and his beard trimmed to the millimetre, so it always looks smart even though it’s technically jeans and a shirt, and I don’t think anyone coming into an interview wearing a suit would feel weird because it’s obviously “made an effort” wear. Wear what you’d wear for a first date on a Saturday afternoon, I say. :D

      (Also it’s really funny to me how much “Khakis and a buttondown” or “khakis and a poloshirt” is an absolute staple of US business casual dress codes, but just doesn’t translate! I can picture it, and Gap tried reeeeally hard to try and make “khakis” a thing in the early 00s, but we don’t really have the clothing category “khakis” and I’ve never seen anyone use it outside of marketing. Poloshirts are strictly for staff uniforms, unless they’re a specific brand like Fred Perry and then they’re more likely to be called “a Fred Perry shirt”. Button downs are just shirts because we use “tops” generically, and shirts almost always means long-sleeved with buttons unless otherwise specified. There is almost not a single word for clothing that translates directly between UK and US — maybe just socks, coats and bra?)

        1. bamcheeks*

          Skirt is. Dress is as a broad category, but as soon as you get into specifics I think it goes wrong. There’s no crossover between a jumper dress in the UK and a jumper dress in the US!

        2. Semantics are cool*

          No, a dress is a one piece garment. A skirt is what you wear on your lower half with a blouse.

          1. londonedit*

            I think Michigander meant that ‘dress’ and ‘skirt’ mean the same thing in both UK/US English, unlike shirt/tank top/vest/jumper etc etc.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Mmmm slight disagree on the polo shirt and khakis – I see them worn a lot in my partner’s industry even though the khakis are more likely to be called chinos. A “Fred Perry” shirt is a useable phrase because FP only makes polos but with other labels, it isn’t a thing… (not here in Liverpool anyway) you would just call it a polo shirt, or a because some designers (Ralph Lauren) make buttoned shirts too. I agree that we don’t say “button down” in the UK which is weird if you think about because casual shirts with buttoned collars are worn more casually and look very different to the sort of “button up” shirt you would wear with a suit. Yet we don’t have distinguishing words. “Suit-shirt” is one phrase I have heard said.

      2. nutella fitzgerald*

        I too still cling to my 2014 work wardrobe! I told myself those pencil skirts and cardigans were an investment when I bought them, and they still need to be amortized!!

    3. londonedit*

      I’m a woman so my advice might not fully apply to the OP, but I work in London in a creative industry (book publishing) and for everyday office attire people are on the casual/smart-casual spectrum. When I have a meeting with an author, or when I’m interviewing people, I take the smartness up a notch – I might wear a casual dress and trainers for everyday work, but on a day when I’ve got a meeting I’ll wear a smarter dress (like a shirt dress, or something that just looks a bit smarter) with clean white trainers or maybe ballet flats.

      My male colleagues, who would usually wear jeans and t-shirts, will take the smartness level up for a meeting/interview by wearing smart jeans and a shirt (usually long-sleeved with sleeves rolled up to the elbow).

      (Also echoing bamcheeks in saying that ‘khakis and a button-down’ or ‘khakis and a polo shirt’ aren’t particularly helpful here because I don’t really think anyone knows what ‘khakis’ are, and assuming they’re the sort of chino trousers you used to see in Gap, they’re not really standard workwear unless it’s a company uniform – no one really wears polo shirts to work unless they’re branded ones, and that’s usually only retail.)

      1. Sharpie*

        I always picture khakis as being light sandy or beige chinos or sy, but (having worn uniform in several different workplaces) I’ve never associated chinos with uniform. Polo shirts yes, which is annoying because I like wearing polo shirts and chinos in summer!

  11. aqua*

    I would be much more upset about the police showing up unexpectedly than my manager

    1. Paige*

      Agreed. Not sure how it rolls in other countries, but I am Elder Millennial enough to remember when nearly ever house in the US possessed a phone book, in which nearly everyone’s address was listed. So while it would be unusual for a colleague to show up unannounced, it would not be unreasonable.

      1. kalli*

        Good luck knowing which Targaryen, R is Rhaegar and which is Rhaenyra though – especially in larger books for big cities or that cover a whole region.

        There are literally no other people with my first and last name in the world, but there’s three of me in the phone book. Or there was, until I started paying $2.50 a month for a private number.

        But people also used to answer wrong number calls and be polite instead of assuming you were a telemarketer or scammer or spoofer or all three, so anyone dedicated to calling every Smith, J & M looking for the one with the wooden leg would get there if they started at the top and used a public library to get older entries to narrow it down or double-check.

        Doesn’t mean randomly showing up was ever ok.

      2. Morning Reading*

        Back in phone book days, you could opt out of having your number or address listed. Also, everyone wasn’t in the book. The primary resident, usually the male householder, was listed. Women tended to list only their first initial so they didn’t get so many harassing calls. And, you had to know your friend’s father’s name to find their number. More difficult if they didn’t have the same last name.
        I don’t know how this is relevant to boss showing up unexpectedly, but in the old sitcoms, someone’s boss was always coming to dinner, hijinks ensued. If this was ever a common practice, I’m glad it’s over now.

        1. Random Bystander*

          I now have memories from my childhood, when we went on family vacations and stopped in motels in various places. One of the things I would always do is look at the phone book in the room “How many [same last name] people live here?” … Now, I did not have a super-common name like Jones, Johnson, Smith, or the like–but there could be sometimes 4 *pages* of people with the same last name, and sometimes even half a column of people with the same first name as my father in that group (and his name wasn’t super, super common either).

      3. I should really pick a name*

        Having access to a colleague’s address doesn’t make showing up at their door unannounced okay. (And yes, I’m old enough that I used the phonebook).

      4. Catherine*

        Now that most people have cell phones, I actually do think it’s fairly unreasonable to show up unannounced. At least text first!

      5. Dek*

        I was just thinking about how even in the 90s it wasn’t all that odd to just drop in and see if someone was home if you were in the neighborhood. Pre cell-phone era.

        That said, showing up to someone’s home without warning having gotten their address from the phonebook would’ve still been creepy.

        1. djx*

          Depends where you live. My mother live in a small town and this is still common. It even happens, I think a little, in the big city in which I live among very close friends AND within neighbors in a single building.

          But even then (and in the 90s) it was never appropriate for someone who has not visited a home to come by unannounced. Beyond how the information was obtained, that’s part of the issue.

          I hang out with my buddy regularly at his apartments? Yeah, I might knock on the door or ring his bell if I’m passing by.

          I’ve never been to a coworkers home? Would never go without asking head of time.

      6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Just because we had people’s address doesn’t mean we just dropped by willy nilly. Sometime you would just happen to be nearby and want to stop in. But mostly you checked first.

        Even then bosses just popping by was not done. Unless your name was Darren Stevens.

        1. Pie Fight*

          Now that’s funny. :-) I never thought of how often Larry showed up, but he did pop by frequently.

      7. Observer*

        o remember when nearly ever house in the US possessed a phone book, in which nearly everyone’s address was listed

        And that information is still very easily available in most cases, so all of the hand-wringing about how the boss got the LW’s address is a bit much.

        while it would be unusual for a colleague to show up unannounced, it would not be unreasonable.

        Absolutely not the case. Showing up to your friend’s home unannounced would have been one thing, although very culture dependent. Showing up at the home of an *employee*, though? Really out of bounds in the vast majority of cases.

        1. Rose*

          I’m not seeing any handwringing about how the boss got her address. She says it in the letter.

          My family address was never in the phone book and I think it’s very creepy you can google that info so easily. Just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s somehow ok.

          1. Observer*

            I’m not seeing any handwringing about how the boss got her address.

            A lot of people are going on about how inappropriate it is that the manager has the address, and how HR should never give out this information etc.

            Just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s somehow ok.

            Agreed! Just because you can find / have someone’s address does not mean you should roll up to their house unannounced.

            I just think we should separate out the fact of people having and being easily able to find employee addresses (which is not an especially bigger deal than finding anyone else’s address) from what someone does with that information.

      8. Rose*

        What? I also remember when everyone had phone books. Having access to someone’s address doesn’t make your boss showing up at your joshes unannounced less weird.

        I’m confused why so many people are assuming because something can easily be done it’s not weird or creepy or annoying.

      1. Snow Globe*

        I think this is a reply to comments upthread about needing an address for a wellness check if an employee doesn’t come to work. Someone commented that it should be the police that do the wellness check.

    2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      Absolutely agreed. I have to assume that the people advocating police are not from the USA, because “She didn’t come to work today, send in people with guns” seems really weird. Presumably in most countries police wellness checks don’t get people killed.

      1. melissa*

        I’m sorry to be off topic but that is a little bit of hyperbole too. I work in mental health, and I have often called police for wellness checks (if a patient says something suicidal and then turns off their phone for example.). Of course that could go horribly wrong— it gets in the news and we are all aware of it— but it is a critical service that the police provide.

        1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          That’s a little bit different from “she didn’t show up at work today”.

          1. Seashell*

            I think the police would typically be a last resort after contacting the person’s emergency contact(s), but even so, they’re not going to go in with guns drawn for someone who didn’t show up to work. Things can go wrong, but the police are not being sent into this situation because they have guns. They’re sent because they are the local authorities and routinely deal with emergencies.

            I don’t know if there are statistics on this topic, but I’m guessing that there are thousands upon thousands of welfare checks across the nation every year where no one is harmed in the slightest.

            1. BestBet*

              Unfortunately there are also a lot of situations where police ARE going in guns drawn though. That’s the issue.

          2. Dahlia*

            It’s more like “she hasn’t shown up for work in three days, her emergency contact hasn’t heard from her, she’s not answering her texts, phone calls or email, and no one can get ahold of her”.

        2. djx*

          Maybe patients relationships are part of your world and you have expertise in that, but with other instances such as coworkers or other acquaintances, please please do not call police. At least in the US. Police have guns. They beat and kill people. Find other ways.

        3. it’s gonna be bye bye bye*

          Police regularly show up at a wellness check and then panickedly spray bullets at whoever they see. It’s not a great resource, to say the least.

        4. MigraineMonth*

          It is a critical service that should be provided by an agency trained to respond to mental health crisis situations. Unless the patient is armed and considered a threat to others, there really isn’t a good reason to send an armed person who is either not trained or poorly trained to deal with mental health crises.

          Also, these situations only rarely turn violent after a non-police emergency mental health service arrives. For example, take the Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets (CAHOOTS) program in Eugene, Oregon. Out of the estimated 17,700 calls they took in 2019, they only requested police backup 311 times.

          If the saved lives and people diverted from jail aren’t compelling, it’s also incredibly cost effective. The program costs $2 million, and saves $14 million in ambulance/ER costs, plus approximately $8.5 million in public safety costs.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        I’m in Ireland where most of our police don’t even carry guns and there are good historical reasons why our police force was formed with the aim of carrying out its duties by gaining the trust of the public and I would still prefer that if my principal had concerns about my safety, he’d ask a colleague to call on me rather than calling the police. I wouldn’t have any fears for my safety if the police called to my house but it would be very embarrassing and potentially worrying (if a police car called to the door, I’d be wondering if they were bringing bad news or if somebody I knew had been a victim of a crime and they thought I might have information or something).

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, our police don’t routinely have guns either and I wouldn’t personally feel in danger if the police turned up at my door, but I think calling the police would seem to me to be a huge overreaction unless it was a last resort and all other options had been exhausted. I don’t even know whether the police would be willing to attend unless it was a ‘We can’t get hold of this person, we’ve been trying all day, someone’s gone to their house and can’t get a response, can you come and break the door down’ situation. I’m not sure the police here do ‘wellness checks’? Maybe they do, but I’ve never heard of it and it’s not the first thing most people would think of unless it seemed like an actual emergency.

          Where I work, HR don’t give out employees’ contact details, even to their line managers, unless it’s an emergency and they need to get hold of someone’s next of kin or whatever. Not sure whether that’s because of GDPR or whether it’s a company policy that goes over and above GDPR requirements, but I know when I first started working for my boss and they wanted to send me a bottle of wine at Christmas, they had to ask me for my address because they couldn’t get it from HR even though it’s on file.

          1. RW*

            another non-american here, and yeah, the only time I’ve ever heard of police doing a wellness check was when I was on call at the hospital and we desperately needed a specialist who wasn’t answering his phone – and even then, we absolutely would have sent someone ourselves except it was 3am, everyone who was awake and at the hospital was needed for the emergency, and we’d already tried calling his head of department who wasn’t answering either (I don’t blame HIM though, he wasn’t the one supposed to be on call)

  12. WetDogBossBaby*

    At my office someone was leaving on maternity leave and happened to be working from home on her last day. One of the Big Bosses drove to her house to surprise her with doughnuts, and then we were all eating doughnuts in the office on Teams or whatever. I get that it was a nice thought, but I couldn’t help thinking how horrified I would be if one of my grandbosses just rolled up to my house with no notice … I wouldn’t necesssarily see it as a huge violation of privacy but definitely highly socially awkward.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      Omg, especially when nine months pregnant. You expect me to roll down the stairs to get the door? And have actual clothes on?

      1. Mouse named Anon*

        Omg yes! That or my big 110lb dog (who think everyone on earth is her BFF), would come bounding down the stairs and slobber all over my boss!

        1. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          This! if you tell me you are coming over I can put the barking puppies into their crates. If you just show up there is going to be barking and you are going to get jumped on.

    2. forthebirds086*

      I had my second baby on March 19, 2020. When I was four days postpartum at the fresh start of a global pandemic, my grandboss’s wife showed up on my doorstep with a baby gift, knocking until we came to the door to have a little chat. She proceeded to ask me several questions about my recovery (!), as I held my newborn on my chest. This is now a funny story, but a good reminder to please…don’t show up on an employee’s doorstep.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        The knocking until someone answers makes it even worse

        Some of the neighbors in my sister’s condo do this … the may have heard someone inside so they knock, even more insistently than Sheldon Cooper. Sometimes banging loud enough that it sounds like they’re trying to break in the door. No consideration that someone might be indisposed or meditating or napping or on a muted Zoom call or just not up for unplanned visitors.

        You are there and MUST!!! answer them
        Very presumptuous and self-centered

        1. Resentful Oreos*

          Ugh. I once ordered DoorDash from a restaurant during the pandemic, and the instructions were to “just leave at the door” and then text me. The stupid delivery person BANGED on my door *insistently* until I got up and answered. Needless to say I never ordered from that restaurant ever again. (And left a very small tip.) What a colossal sphincter.

          1. Sydney Ellen Wade*

            “Needless to say I never ordered from that restaurant ever again.”

            With DoorDash, the driver isn’t connected to the restaurant, so you’re punishing the restaurant for a bad delivery person.

  13. Annie*

    For #5, could fears that the gift wouldn’t arrive on time and intact or be received by the employee factor into why the manager delivered the gift in person?

    I’m thinking of stuff like a food gift that might not be safe to eat after it’s gone through the mail, someone’s package being delayed by postal service issues or even stolen, employee (or employee’s spouse/kid/pet/other third party) opening the package too early or discarding it not realizing it’s for the work event, etc.

    1. Salsa Verde*

      Yeah, if “showed up unannounced” means the boss handed them a package, like any delivery person who needs a signature might, then I think it’s not out of bounds. If the boss expected to come in and have a chat, that’s a different story and inappropriate.

      1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

        I still think a call ahead to say “I’m coming by to drop something off” is warranted. Just showing up isn’t cool.

  14. Turingtested*

    This isn’t exactly advice but when will bosses/managers learn that you absolutely cannot ask employees for personal favors? However nice you are, no matter how much you don’t mind if they say no, the employee will likely feel pressured to comply.

    I suspect a lot of managers forget that employees are kind and accommodating because of the power differential not because you have a personal relationship.

    1. DJ Abbott*

      I think you’re right, and I think it’s because everyone wants to feel liked and as if they’re among friends.
      That’s certainly the case with my boss. Her social needs are her priority. She thinks she can dismiss any concerns I bring and give me a bad review with one hand, and be buddies with the other. That’s why I’ve decided to look around for a better job.
      OP’s boss may have actually forgotten his employees are not his friend group or family. Even in my friend group I would not repeatedly ask for favors because we’re all grown-ups, and my friends have their own families to take care of.

      1. Turingtested*

        There’s no problem with keeping things friendly but it’s hard to remember that’s not being friends. And let’s face it, we all know someone who was punished at work for not being “sociable” enough.

    2. kiki*

      I do think it’s largely because managers/ bosses have the luxury of not thinking about the power differential. I think it’s also easy for managers to think, “Oh, I’m not an intimidating or scary boss, I’m just me! My employee will totally feel okay saying no!”

      But there are also some leaders who love moving up the chain precisely because it means they have more power over folks that they can leverage. I don’t know which is the more likely case for LW’s boss.

    3. Claire*

      I think about this A LOT as a manager. I don’t always have access to a vehicle and walk or take the bus to work. This is not the norm in my office or city but it works for me because of where I live.

      I will sometimes catch a ride with a staff member but ONLY if they offer first. And I make sure not to accept each time that they offer so they don’t start thinking I expect the offer (also, I enjoy my walk).

      I will try to arrange carpooling to offsite meetings with staff but only when it’s something where they will charge mileage and I’m not out of the way to pick up.

      It’s a weird thing to navigate but I hope I thread the needle pretty well.

  15. Seashell*

    For letter #2, are you someone who has to deal with the public and your nearby co-workers don’t or at least aren’t meant to be the first point of contact with the public? I could see the boss treating your desks differently in that case.

    1. mlem*

      That’s a good point — rules for reception desks (for example) are often very different from rules for back-of-house.

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

      but it seems the boss has a extreme view. she can’t use her own pens or have a water bottle!

      1. Seashell*

        Maybe the extreme view happened because the desk was embarrassingly full or messy.

        Not having a water bottle on the top of your desk doesn’t mean you can’t have it. If the desk has drawers, stick it in there.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      This was my thought: If she’s whoever clients see as soon as they walk in, they might want her desk to be particularly neat and blank.

  16. Womanaroundtown*

    #4 reminded me of an issue I had with a supervisor at the place where I volunteer. The situation here is absolutely legitimate to me and I understand the discomfort, but Alison’s response about data privacy made me think about the way people can abuse those laws.

    The volunteer coordinator at this shop gave a different volunteer my supervisor’s number to coordinate a shift time, and because we are in the UK, this supervisor basically flipped out and argued that giving out his private information was illegal and the volunteer coordinator should be fired and maybe even have legal charges pressed against him. This same supervisor had given me his number for personal reasons when we first met, and when I didn’t use it within two hours of meeting, he got my number from the volunteer coordinator and used it to message me asking me out. But I certainly didn’t get upset with him about data privacy… just frustrated that I would be working with a creepy dude who never understood that no meant no when asking me to hang out. Or explicitly asking me out, or explicitly telling me that as adults we don’t need to be emotionally involved to be physically involved when my reasoning for explicitly turning him down on a date was to “soften the blow” by claiming I wasn’t in an emotional space for a relationship (this also came after months during which he’d asked me about dating generally and I had told him repeatedly that I wasn’t interested in dating at all, because it was very obvious what he was doing). Anyway, all that to say, “interesting” for some people who data privacy laws apply to.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      OMG you were so restrained. I wouldn’t have been able to help saying “Oh I think I remember you doing this with my phone number? What did you need my number for again?”

  17. Hiring Mgr*

    As a candidate I think we realize that we may be dressing more formally for an interview than the office culture is normally. I don’t see why it would be awkward – it’s par for the course

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      One step up is pretty normal. A full suit when your interviewer is in shorts and a hoodie? I’d feel awkward.

  18. Tradd*

    #2 – I can’t imagine being forced to the pens my office supplies. They buy the cheapest stick ballpoints. The ink is crap and they’re uncomfortable to write with. Once in a while they buy a box of Sharpie brand gel pens and everyone gets ONE. I buy my own Pilot brand gel pens. People have tried to take mine, so I keep one one on my desk and some refills in my drawer. I have a spare in my purse. No one tries to take mine now when they see I don’t have spares!

    Either LW 2’s boss has it out for them or there’s missing info. I don’t have personal stuff on my desk like photos or knickknacks, but I do keep a water bottle on my desk. I don’t have a ton of personal stuff at work. A drawer has office supplies I bring for my own use, tea, and a few other food items. I can understand if a company said no personal decorative items, but your own pens and a water bottle? Makes no sense.

    1. Paint N Drip*

      I am admittedly on the maximalist side of receptionist-acceptable in terms of my desk choices (which is fine in my environment) but PENS?? A nice pen is one of the few small pleasures of an office worker, controlling that seems SO petty from the angle we’re given

  19. Thomas*

    #1, I would just point out it’s a 20-30 minute detour. That’s about as long as my whole commute / my commute is long enough as it is (delete as appropriate).

    1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      Seriously, that’s a lot of gas money if you have to do it more than once.

  20. Thomas*

    #2, how about requesting the specialist pens from HR as a disability accommodation, and casually mention you used to use your own but your manager said you couldn’t. That way HR know but you’re not explicitly complaining about your manager just yet.

    1. Dek*

      I like this approach. Comes as sort of solution-oriented, and focused on the practical outcome, rather than the feeling of unfairness (which is justified, but tricky to bring up to HR)

  21. Hyaline*

    LW2– I am unclear from the letter if the people next to LW are managed by the same boss or if they just happen to sit near one another. (The letter is careful to say “people who sit next to me” not other direct reports.) So this could be a question not of the boss singling out this person, but of this particular manager being a real jerk about desks and not in line with the general tone of the office overall. In that case, not sure that I would jump to this guy hates you, get out now, but rather, do you wanna work for such a hard nose.

    1. Heidi*

      I was also going to ask if the neighbors with personal items had the same boss as the OP; for all we know, those people could be senior to the boss. I’m also wondering if the boss has any personal items on their desk.

    2. londonedit*

      I think there’s lot of information missing that would be helpful for context. If it was a situation like the OP is new, and the boss has said ‘the rule is no personal items on desks, and you’ll need to use the branded pens and water bottle we provide rather than bringing your own’, and meanwhile the people around them who have been there for ages know that actually no one really cares and you can get away with having a couple of photos and a non-branded water bottle, that’s one thing. But if it’s a situation where the OP has been there for some time, everyone else seems to be allowed to bring in things from home, and the boss is being weirdly hard-line about the OP not being allowed to do the same, then that’s another thing. Or, as you say, it could be that the OP’s boss doesn’t manage the other people sitting nearby, and it’s a ‘well their manager might say it’s OK, but it’s against policy according to the company handbook so my staff aren’t allowed to have anything non-branded on their desks’ situation, then that’s another thing again. Or maybe the OP actually works on the reception desk, or is the boss’s assistant, and that’s why the boss doesn’t want stuff all over their desk, because they’re client-facing and the rule is they want everything company-branded for when clients come in. We have no idea which scenario it is.

  22. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

    LW3, anyone applying for a creative job in London would probably be shocked if they turned up and saw you in a suit. My advice would be smart jeans (no rips/stains) and a T-shirt. If your company has branded clothing, maybe a T-shirt with the brand.

  23. Hyaline*

    This is a minor detail but I’m curious—why would it matter if the LW1 was the boss’s assistant (her point #3 of why she says no)? I wouldn’t think that would make her any more obliged to give him rides; in fact, the dynamic makes it even yackier of a request IMO.

    1. Annony*

      If she were his personal assistant and her job duties included things like running personal errands for him, I can see it being a work task. But it should occur during working hours. And most assistants are not that type of assistant and are there strictly to help with work tasks.

    2. MicroManagered*

      An assistant means your job *is* whatever random tasks your boss needs done. I think she’s saying a random task like this doesn’t fall under the kind of job she has.

    3. Nodramalama*

      Because duties of a personal assistant will often, depending on the work place, extend to running errands for their boss and doing things that would otherwise be a favour.

    4. Hyaline*

      Ok I can see if someone was a personal assistant—from the brief description I read their workplace as probably having admin assistants and that being the meaning here and thought “ick what a terrible position to put an admin assistant in, asking personal favors that aren’t part of their job!”

  24. Don't You Call Me Lady*

    For #2, are you a new employee and maybe this is a weird practical joke, or “hazing”? Because I can’t think of any good explanation otherwise (not that this would be a “good” reason either) other than your boss is a lunatic

  25. I should really pick a name*

    Did you tell your boss that the pens were a requirement?
    If so, what was their response?

  26. aubrey*

    for #3, as an interviewer at a very casual to business casual place, I wore jeans and a tshirt – but nice ones, black or darkwash jeans and more dressy cut tshirt in a solid colour or professional looking pattern, not a graphic t etc. I did not mention anything to candidates, but this was in tech, so nobody turned up in a suit and many candidates went for the jeans and blazer or khakis and buttonup kind of look.

  27. Andi*

    LW2 has to be using a hotel desk, right? That’s the only way this makes any kind of sense. Like they were switched to hoteling if they don’t come in a certain number of days a week, and LW conveniently left that detail out. That’s the only way it makes any sense for some people to have desks with their stuff and others to not.

    1. jane's nemesis*

      well, unless their boss and workplace are bees. There’s lots of explanations for this unreasonable rule that sound unreasonable to people who aren’t full of bees.

    2. Ginger Baker*

      My best guess is there’s something Noticeably Different about what LW2 has previously brought in (all religious icons? scantily clad women on the calendar? Very Political swag? I can think of any number of “ummm could you please not have this out in the office” type things not limited by the above!) and this detail was left out in hopes of getting “yes, see, Authority said I should be able to have my things here in the office!!” …but that’s pure speculation. There’s just not enough detail to really venture a guess on why LW2 has been told they cannot bring in personal items.

      1. Dek*

        I don’t have family photos up in my cubicle, but I do have some nerdy things. I could see someone deciding that a little desktop figure was too childish or something, compared to Normal Family Photos.

      2. doreen*

        Or even that it’s not so much noticeably different so much as a vastly different amount. I’ve known people who took days to set up their cubicles/offices because of the number of action figures ( yes) or framed photos they had and others who just kept a vast amount of clutter in their cubicle ( to the point where they couldn’t get their legs under the desk ) and I’m sure at some point it’s just easier to say ” no personal items” that to try to figure out the precise number of framed photos that is permitted.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Is this autocarrot for hotdesk, or another term I’m not familiar with?

      1. kiki*

        I think hotel desking is very similar to hotdesking, but in hotel desking you reserve the desk you’d like in advance. In hotdesking, you just grab whatever workspace is open. But I think a lot of folks end up using the terms somewhat interchangeably.

  28. Mark*

    #2. Why not ask you boss directly. “I feel as if I am being held to a different standard than my co-workers. Can you explain your reasoning to me please? And “I have a medical issue with my hands and find the pens I bring from home help my work, can I have a concession to continue to use them?

    If you feel unable to ask your boss these reasonable questions, perhaps the boss is a very unreasonable person and this is just a sign of weird things to come.

  29. ReallyBadPerson*

    The boss in letter #1 reads a bit creepy to me. He’s a 50-year-old man bumming rides from a 29-year-old woman so that he can see if his truck is ready? Not buying it. He could just call the shop. I think he wants to spend out of office time with her. Also, the dude needs a new truck, if his breaks down that often.

    1. AngryOctopus*

      He asks others as well, so I get less of a “creepy old man” vibe and more of a “Hello fellow kids! Can someone help me out today??” vibe.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I’m sure the commenters will disagree with me, but the whole adult women should be uncomfortable around men that are 20 years older in the workplace does a real disservice to women. The workforce usually spans a 50 year age range from early 20s to early 70s workers. Being uncomfortable around a different gender coworker because of age gives the impression that men and women can’t work together, that women need to be protected, and that men are untrustworthy.

      These ideas historically set women back significantly and give excuses for the need for same-sex out of office events (we have to have men only golf trips otherwise Jane is uncomfortable around men). This also really starts to get into age discrimination territory.

      The real world consequences of this mindset shouldn’t be glossed over -especially since this blog is read by many young employees without a lot of work experience.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Ciswoman here and I agree totally. LW herself says the boss doesn’t strike her as creepy. We women need to be able to trust our instincts when it comes to being able to tell “harmless, but annoying” from “possible threat”. Men and women have to interact in every facet of daily life. Being told to assume the worst of every man who’s older, or superior to you, or whatever, messes up that calibration.

        It’s important to remember that people only write to advice blogs about the jackasses, and not to start seeing zebras instead.

      2. amoeba*

        Yeah, I’d be annoyed by the boss repeatedly asking favours, but don’t really see how the age/gender thing comes into it. As long is the boss isn’t creepy, they should be able to have the same kind of friendly professional relationship as any other constellation! I’m in my 30s and a woman and my male boss is in his 50s, and I’d never, ever feel uncomfortable alone in a car with him. Same for all my non-creepy (luckily, that’s all of them) male colleagues!

        And if they are in fact creepy – well, that’s a whole different and worse problem, car ride or no.

      3. Observer*

        but the whole adult women should be uncomfortable around men that are 20 years older in the workplace does a real disservice to women.

        In general, you are right. In this case thought, that is only one piece of the picture. The other piece is that the guy is asking for something that glaringly unreasonable. So it’s reasonable to question what is going on. Being a creeper is a reasonable possibility, although not the only one.

        And the thing is that none of the possible reasons I can think of reflect well on the boss.

      4. bleh*

        It’s also agist. My (male) spouse is highly aware that younger women automatically read him as suspect merely because he is older. Our culture treats older people (men and women) like they have broken a moral code by not being young and hot.

      5. Sharpie*

        Totally agree. Just because they’re different genders and ages doesn’t necessarily mean it’s creepy or he’s a dirty old man type. It should be perfectly fine and natural for people of all ages and genders to be able to interact, even to sharing rides, without anyone considering it creepy.

        This particular man needs to sort his own transport out, though. Cadging lifts off people more than once or twice because his own vehicle is off the road should be a signal that maybe he needs to get a hire car, or a new car.

    3. Juicebox Hero*

      Sounds more like an entitled mooch to me. He’s trying to bum rides from LW because she lives closest to him, but is settling for bumming rides from the other employees when she says no.

      I had an uncle like that. He was also the kind who’d want to go to the mechanic in person to see if the truck was ready rather than call, because what if they lie to him and say it’s fixed and then it isn’t? (No decent mechanic do that, but you couldn’t convince him of that.)

      1. Sacred Ground*

        And if a shop does that then what? He’d have wasted the trip, going to pick up his car when it’s not ready. So instead he pre-emptively wastes the trip by not calling and just going to pick it up when it’s not ready?

        Seriously, though. OP’s boss makes the most of anyone in the office, probably multiples of what the OP makes. He can’t, I don’t know, buy a reliable truck that isn’t in the shop every few months? Or rent a car when it is?

        Ok, so he’s attached to the truck. Plenty of folks who don’t earn an upper management income still manage to keep a “doorslammer” car for daily use so their cool ride doesn’t get abused.

        I really do get it, I’m a lifelong car freak myself. But as with any other personal hobby, he has to deal with the hassles and expenses of it himself and not make his choices someone else’s problem.

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        I know people like this too: they spend an hour trying not to spend ten dollars and have a totally broken “cost/time” meter. To this guy it’s “smart and money saving” to spend half his work day trying to wring rides out of his staff instead of just renting a car, getting an Uber, arranging for his spouse to pick him up, or any other normal work around.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          And for me the fact that he’s fifty? And still trying to bum rides as a way of handling his problem rather than anything a grown adult should come up with? Is why the age thing rings for me.

          I totally believe the LW in that he’s not hitting on anyone, but he’s still treating them as “a bunch of kids” who have no time or gas money or familial issues that they consider more important than being his personal taxi service. That kind of blind entitlement is damaging as well.

    4. Devious Planner*

      This is a stretch. A 29-year-old woman is a fully formed adult. It is 11 years after becoming a legal adult, 8 years after being able to drink. It is the average age of marriage in the United States and many people have children of their own by then. There is absolutely no reason to treat this like some sort of creepy harassment thing, just because the man in 50. It does a disservice to women by acting like they are perpetually unable to manage any social relationship with anybody slightly older. Also, 50 is not that old!

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That last part, that he wanted her to drive him over there INSTEAD OF CALLING the shop set off huge alarm bells for me. At the very least, he gives absolutely zero thought to the impact his actions have on others, which is bad enough in a coworker but really awful in a manager.

      1. Baby Yoda*

        I read that as the boss just wanting to be a squeakeer wheel so his truck would get attention faster?

        1. Observer*

          Still a massive red flag. That’s still hugely disrespectful of everyone’s time and resources.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I mean, the OP explicitly said he’s not creepy (probably because they know there have been times for a lot of us when a detail like this has been part of a creepy vibe, but they say that’s not the case here). It’s awkward being out of work with someone who’s not your peer; I don’t think it’s necessarily just an age thing, as they’re aren’t equals because he’s her boss. I agree he should learn how to use the phone, but we have to believe women when they say something isn’t creepy, just like when they say it is.

  30. Ruby Soho*

    Re: OP#3, I don’t dress up much for interviews anymore. I had one interview about 10 years ago where I was wearing a suit and the hiring mgr had on jeans and an ill-fitting polo shirt. It was a bit awkward, and I felt kind of stupid. But I did love being able to wear leggings and Uggs as my winter uniform while I was working there lol
    When I interviewed at my current job, I wore a printed jumpsuit, a white denim jacket, and nice sandals (it was June and hot!). I’d say it was business casual. The hiring mgr, now my boss, was dressed at about the same level than I was, which I appreciated. She tends to dress more casually, so I appreciated that she dressed up a little more than usual. It just sort of seems like a respect thing, like wanting to make a good first impression, project more professionally. Stuff like that.
    FWIW, I am definitely the most overdressed person in this office (not weirdly so, I hope). I think I’m probably the only one who wears make-up too. So take my opinion with a grain of salt! It’s pretty much anything goes as long as it’s safe, since we have labs and mfg spaces.

  31. Trout 'Waver*


    Be the most authentic version of yourself. Wear what you normally were. Show the candidate who you are. Mismatched attire levels is perfectly normal during recruitment processes.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      *wear. How tf did I misspell the word in the same sentence I spelled it correctly?

    2. WellRed*

      I think showing an interviewee that you are an 8th grade skateboarder is a little too casual. At least lose the baseball hat.

    3. Nodramalama*

      I have never heard anyone being their most authentic self in an interview, for either the interviewee or interviewer.

      I’d say get rid of the cap.

  32. ZSD*

    #1 Even if you WERE your boss’s assistant, you still wouldn’t need to give him rides home. That isn’t (or shouldn’t be) part of an assistant’s job description.

  33. Travis + Taylor = 5EVA*

    “People who live in countries with strong data privacy laws tend to be much more shocked by the “she used your address in a way you hadn’t intended” aspect of this sort of thing than most Americans are. And Americans who live in small towns where everyone knows where everyone lives see it as much less of a problem than those who don’t. There also are American companies where she wouldn’t have even needed to have asked you for your address the previous year because she could have gotten it straight from your employee file, and using it to drop off work gifts would have been considered lovely and thoughtful.”

    This seems like a weird take, personally speaking. There have been several different letters involving people showing up at their coworker’s house unannounced (from both sides of the door), without specifying the country or size of the town and the response was less “ehh it depends” and more “uhhh that’s weird.”

    There was a letter from someone whose boss was driving through the neighborhood and the consensus from everyone seemed to be “that is really weird and boundary-violating!!!”

    IDK, the “Americans would be weirded out but others wouldn’t” just seems to be a weird take, is all

    1. Ginger Baker*

      I think it was the opposite: Some American locales (especially smaller towns where everyone knows everyone else) this is not really seen as a big issue (and American privacy laws are not even close to GDPR levels/concerns for most Americans I think), whereas “places that follow GPDR” are more likely to think this is a Big Problem (and that was what AAM meant to imply in the response I think).

      1. Rocket Raccoon*

        I live in the US in a town with 500 people. We absolutely go to peoples’ houses all the time without warning. Often you text someone to make sure they are home, but “I’ll just leave this on the porch if nobody’s home” is ok too.

    2. Joana*

      There’s also the fact that most of the letters I remember about this before weren’t just to drop off a Christmas card or something (although I personally think that if employees work remote and you can’t give them something in the office, just mailing it to them or waiting until they do come in the office is a lot better). They were managers going to a report’s house when they called out sick to demand they go into work anyway and/or to do a “Gotcha!” moment to prove they weren’t really sick. That’s weird and invasive no matter where you live.

    3. doreen*

      It’s not that Americans would be weirded out and others wouldn’t. It’s that even though Americans might be shocked at the reason someone shows up at their home, they usually aren’t shocked at someone using the address for a purpose other than the one it was collected for. Years ago, I got hurt at work and ended up in the ER. I had some equipment that I didn’t want to keep with me in the ER, so I gave it to the coworker who came to the ER with me and a couple of days later my manager stopped by my house to return it to me. I wasn’t shocked that he used the address that was on my records to do that – but I would have been shocked if he had used my address to stop by and see if I needed anything from the supermarket.

      1. Starbuck*

        We’re also not that far out from the days of getting phonebooks delivered to your doorstep that had pretty much everyone’s address and phone number in them! Not so long ago (I’m barely 30 and I remember) it was the custom and people who were unlisted were the small exception.

  34. Travis + Taylor = 5EVA*

    Did letter 2 ask the boss WHY they can’t have items on their desk like other people??? Or their own pens???

    There’s just… a lot missing here. Walk me through this.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      Yeah, there’s so much missing in context from letter 2 that it’s hard to know what’s going on or what the LW’s best path of action would be. Is their desk in a different/more visible place than their coworkers’ desks, like, are they are in a reception area? Is the demand to remove all personal stuff part of a larger pattern of singling the LW out/penalizing them more than their coworkers? Is this an out-of-the-blue demand after the LW has had stuff at their desk for a long time, or has the boss been talking to them and trying to get them to clean up their desk for ages? Is there stuff on their desk that is out of keeping with professional norms in general, or office norms in particular? About the only thing I could say for sure is that if they require different pens than are usually bought for the office because of a medical reason, they need to discuss them as an accommodation. If the office will purchase some for them that work for their needs and also fit the boss’s restrictions on what constitutes acceptable desk stuff, cool. If not, they should be allowed to keep the ones they brought in.

  35. House On The Rock*

    LW 1, I am glad that you feel comfortable refusing your boss’s requests for rides and you should continue to do so.

    I don’t want to read too much into it, but since LW specifically brought up the age and gender difference and the potential for it feeling creepy/inappropriate, the request to drive him to the shop to “check” on his car seems like a yellow flag. It’s quite possible he had some reason to believe that showing up in person would be better than calling (e.g. they’d finish the work quickly and give him his car back if he was standing there). But it could also be a ploy to spend more time alone with LW and potentially push/cross boundaries. Even if he’s just being clueless about how to navigate auto repair, it’s a huge waste of time and not something to indulge.

  36. Joana*

    Like others, I feel like #2 is lacking some context either about the other workers who are allowed to have personal items on their desk, or of something the OP has done to make the ban happen. It’s entirely possible the boss is just unreasonable, and this wouldn’t even be the worst random malice we’ve seen here.

    But has OP even actually talked about it with the boss? Did it come up because they had put something non-work on their desk and boss swung by and vetoed it, or were they told it when they started working without the context of things like needing accommodation for hypermobility? We’re supposed to trust the OP and I’m not automatically going to ‘OP is lying and not having personal stuff is completely reasonable’ but you can’t give much more than generic advice without knowing some things that are left out.

  37. Prorata*

    #2: This sounds so much like what happened to me some time ago….company went on a 5S binge – came in one morning after having removed most personal items from workspace to find boss had boxed every personal item remaining. Had I been smart, I’d have gotten the message and left then. As it turned out, 6 months later, department “reorganized” and my position was eliminated.

    Your boss is sending a message. It’s time for you to send a short and simple response – “My last day is X, good bye.”

    #4: As far as I’m concerned, no one should just show up uninvited, a boss, especially. Just showing up on someone’s doorstep is presumptuous and rude, and worthy of a rude response based on the words “Leave, now!” That will likely elicit unhappy repercussions, so keep that in mind.

    1. I Have RBF*

      #2: … Your boss is sending a message. It’s time for you to send a short and simple response – “My last day is X, good bye.”

      That fits with what my gut says. That kind of nitpicking/micromanaging of what is on my desk is what I call an RGE – Resume Generating Event. To me it says your boss is either a micromanager or a bully, and my paranoid brain says “bully”.

  38. Melonhead*

    My first experience with porn was seeing my friend’s father’s naked lady pen. I forgot all about that!

  39. NMitford*

    #2 — at one of my first jobs right out of college (so, a million years ago now), the department head had a rule that she was the only person who was allowed to have any personal items on her desk. In that case, it was a total power trip, as in, “I’m in charge now, and I can have whatever arbitrary rules I want.” I didn’t last very long there. She was awful in so many ways.

  40. Juicebox Hero*

    For my birthday a few years ago, my coworkers gave me a pen with a plastic version of the poop emoji on top, and when you push it, it makes a variety of disgusting sounds. I use it to sign letters going to people I don’t like.

    I’d love to be able to lend it to LW2 to express their feelings about their boss.

  41. HannahS*

    OP1, sometimes I find it easier to refuse requests like that with a sincere-sounding apology…and subtle reminder that it’s actually fairly burdensome. So, “I’m really sorry, I can’t–it would make me half an hour late to pick up my son.”

    I live in a very urban environment where a lot of people don’t have cars. Most get that the associated cost of NOT owning a car means that you have to pay more here and there for taxis/ride share/car rentals. And yet, there’s always that ONE person, that person who definitely makes more money than you, who’s always asking you to drive 20 minutes here and there to pick them up…except it’s 40 minutes, because you have to get there AND back! (Can you tell I took this letter personally?) It’s fine to say no.

    1. goddessoftransitory*

      It’s like when customers ask us if our drivers can stop at the store on the way to buy them ice, groceries, alcohol (all real requests) or refuse to see why driving “just fifteen minutes more” to an out of area spot is a problem

      Because they are not your personal assistants, and fifteen minutes out means fifteen minutes back as well. That’s half an hour where they can’t deliver for other paying customers.

    2. Part time lab tech*

      My husband doesn’t get this. Yes, it’s easier for YOU if I come and pick you up from the train station a 20 min walk from our house because you don’t want to wait for the bus. With two kids at home, it’s 30mins lost for me and the kids and at the time they were too young to leave at home. Why are you getting upset when I say no. (In fairness he often offers to pick me up. He really does consider it a burden to walk or wait:/)

  42. Sneaky Squirrel*

    #1 – Not only are you right for saying no, it’s inappropriate for him to ask because there is a power differential at play here.

    #2 – It feels like there is missing context here. Has the boss previously suggested that your personal effects were inappropriate for some reason? The pens sound harmless enough and likely would meet some kind of reasonable accommodation need, but it sounds like pens aren’t the only issue here. If you felt safe around your boss, you could ask in a non-confrontational manner to explain why others seem permitted to have items that you are not permitted.

    #3 – As the interviewer, you’re modeling the company’s expectations of its employees. If this is truly a casual environment where hoodies and sweatshirts are the norms for external facing meetings, then wear that. Dress up enough to set an example of what you would expect employees to wear if they were working with clients.

  43. Sleepiest Girl Out Here*

    OP #3 – I’ve actually found there is value in dressing closer to the norm when interviewing people because it will give a better sense for your interviewee to see what they’ll be expected to wear day to day.

    I happen to naturally dress up more than others in my office just because I don’t like wearing pants, especially jeans. When I started hiring I found my employees thought our department couldn’t wear jeans because they were modeling me for first few months. Now I explicitly call out to new hires that they can wear jeans and sneakers!

  44. Tobias Funke*

    This is my own stuff and I know it. BUT folks who want to arrive in person and be a pain in the ass “just to check” are the worst. Do you really think they are…hanging onto your truck for funsies? If it were done, wouldn’t they want to collect your payment and get your truck off their property? They aren’t going to forget they have your truck and need your money!

    They are the same people inching ever closer into the kitchen at Whataburger while they wait for their order because they think if they stand in the kitchen it will happen faster even though there are 20 orders ahead of them.

    1. Sacred Ground*

      When I worked in an auto repair shop, those people confused me as well. Like, we really, REALLY don’t want to keep your car on the property any longer than we have to. We will call you when it’s ready. Calling the shop just interrupts the work.

      And watching over the shoulder of the tech or rushing them to get it done NOW is a great way to cause mistakes. If you want it done right, let them work without distraction.

      And I can’t tell how many times we’d have a customer call us hourly for updates, then when the car was done, wait several days to pick it up.

      1. aqua*

        I’ve very often had a garage tell me they’ll call me by x time, I call them at x+ several hours, and they’re like “oh yeah it’s ready”
        Also sometimes I’m calling for an estimate of when it’s ready so I can plan the rest of my day around it.

    2. Albatross*

      Yeah. That’s valuable lift space, or parking space while waiting for parts to arrive, that my car is using! The mechanics want that dealt with so they can move on to the next car! The folks changing my car’s tires yesterday did three tires in half an hour on the lift, and then it was out into one of the pickup spaces and someone was pulling the next car in.

      They texted me when it was ready and had me get the keys from the payment counter. Much less annoyance all around that way.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      ARRRGH I despise these types! They’re the “leap into the aisle the second the plane lands and block up the aisle” people roaming at large.

  45. Mike*

    LW1: Dude is an executive president. He can afford to rent a car for a few days while his personal vehicle is being worked on.

  46. Observer*

    #2 – No personal items.

    Are you the only person in your area who reports to your boss, or is this actually your boss treating people differently. Because if it’s the latter, any competent HR department is going to want to know about this.

    Also, ask HR in explicit terms for a formal ADA accommodation. That’s stupid and should be utterly unnecessary. But it’s a way to force your HR to give a look at your boss’ behavior. It’s not illegal to be a jerk and bad manager. And a lot of HR departments will let stuff slip when it seems like “a little thing.” But the minute you make a credible ADA request, they *have* to look at it. Now, they might just tell your boss “LW needs to be allowed to use the pens that work for her.” or “You need to order the correct pens for LW.” But they might also decide that they need to do some more digging because they don’t want to be blindsided by the guy’s idiocy led to something that’s harder to recover from.

  47. Observer*

    #1 – Rides home

    Is your boss generally a bully or incompetent? The reason I ask is because it is *extremely* odd to me that he wanted to go to the dealership “just to see”
    if his truck is ready. That’s a huge waste of your time, but his time also.

    So if you don’t think he’s trying to creep on you, it means he’s either terribly incompetent and doesn’t realize how to manage basic stuff like dealing with his auto repairs. Or he’s a bully and either decided that whoever he spoke to on the phone was not telling the truth or he wants to intimidate them into speeding things up.

    I suppose there could be other reasons. But nothing that makes any sense for a reasonable and competent person.

    1. metadata minion*

      “The reason I ask is because it is *extremely* odd to me that he wanted to go to the dealership “just to see””

      Eh…it’s obnoxious, but at least to me this is a relatively common type of obnoxious that isn’t in itself a major red flag. Some people think that if they show up in person and/or call every 5 minutes “just to check”, this will make the business give them priority. And this gets reinforced by the businesses that will then prioritize them either out of a misplaced idea of good customer service or out of frustration to get them to go the @$%$ away already. Pushy and annoying, but not on its own something that would make me assume the person would be a bully or someone whose inappropriateness goes beyond things like calling you three seconds after he sends an email to make sure you’ve gotten it.

      1. Observer*

        Pushy and annoying, but not on its own something that would make me assume the person would be a bully or someone whose inappropriateness goes beyond things like calling you three seconds after he sends an email to make sure you’ve gotten it.

        Hard disagree – people who do that tend to be pretty unreasonable (at best) with anyone they think they can bully. Especially given that he’s not just calling, but taking the time to go there.

  48. HonorBox*

    OP1 – My boss and I are close. We have worked together for more than 10 years, and I’ve actually followed him to a new business. We live about 5 minutes from one another. I’ve given him rides, and vice versa, from time to time when need has arisen. But the request is always just a request, not a demand. And in 10 years, it has probably happened on average once per year. When it is inconvenient, another option is the option we go with. You have standing to say no. Full stop. And because you have childcare responsibilities, you have more than enough reason to say no. If dropping off is on the way, or might add a couple minutes to your commute, that’s one thing. But if it is 20-30 minutes and you need to consider the additional responsibility of picking up your child, definitely say no. He can find a way to make this work, especially because it seems like this is more often than once in a great while.

  49. Mimmy*

    #2 – Maybe you could ask that, as a reasonable accommodation, you be allowed to use your own pens since you need them to write comfortably.

  50. Database Developer Dude*

    Why on earth do we need context? No personal items at all when others can have them is a clear power trip. My civilian jobs since I left active duty 23 years ago have all been office jobs. I’ve had exactly ONE boss try that. The boss got ignored.

      1. Nodramalama*

        Or, just like Database developer Dude, they approach workplace issues based on their own experiences.

        I have experienced a manager who took a clean desk policy much stronger than the rest of the branch and told his team they should have limited personal items at their desks that should be able to be packed up at the end of the day. Those people don’t all sit together, so it looks to the outside that one person is being singled out rather than it was the managers rule for his team.

    1. Observer*

      No personal items at all when others can have them is a clear power trip.

      Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. And also, it may or may not be disparate treatment.

      Just because you have never experienced a situation where it might make sense does not mean that it does not happen.

    2. Nodramalama*

      We have no idea why LWs boss has this rule because they haven’t included any reason in the letter. The boss could be a despot that has some issue with LW. Or LW has something specific on their desk the boss has an issue with (wrongly or rightly we don’t know). LWs boss might not be in charge of the people near them, and so cannot tell what should be on the desk. There might be something about LWs role or desk that the boss wants clear.

      We don’t know!

    3. Zanzibar Buck-Buck McFate*

      Or maybe the LW is the receptionist, whose desk is a public space in a way others nearby aren’t, or maybe the supplies were hot pink and bedazzled… It would be very helpful to know not merely that the nearby coworkers are nearby but that they are in the same role (or not), or that the supplies and decorations are completely normal (or not). We’re meant to take commenters at their word, but if the words are missing we have to make assumptions one way or the other.

    4. RagingADHD*

      Because anyone who jumps straight to “should I get legal counsel over being told to take down my desk decor” with no background or reasons sounds like they are deliberately leaving out very important information.

      The pens were offered as just one example. So I think it is only reasonable to wonder what exactly they were being told to take home, and why the manager said it was necessary.

      If the manager was just barking orders with no context, that would be a different question entirely. So what did they say to explain it?

      Could have been any number of reasonable policy issues. Could have been the nature of the items. Could be a lot of things

  51. Ink*

    The real solution to 1 the guy buying a better truck. Why is it in the shop so often? What kind of lemon did this guy buy??

    1. Annie*

      One reason for multiple trips to the repair shop in such quick succession is the truck might have had multiple issues that are each simple enough fixes but take multiple repairs to fully diagnose and resolve and be totally fine after that. There may even be an issue with repair parts availability depending on what’s wrong.

      Also, we only know about the two incidents (maybe more?) in the letter. We don’t have any other information that would allow us to infer how good or bad the truck actually is.

      Why put up with all that even if the incidents in the letter are indicative of the truck’s overall reliability and the owner could realistically do better? Well, money doesn’t buy sense, he might have needed or wanted a specific model truck for some odd reason, repairs might be covered under warranty or safety recall or maintenance contract, it’s his baby because of age/rarity/other characteristic that makes it special, etc.

  52. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    Regarding #2: As a new HR Manager for a toxic company (which hid it very well), I was once accused of telling people they could not have personal items on their desks, which was a 100% lie. They had purposefully moved my office to the Training Department to keep an eye on them, and let me tell you, they were as unhappy as anyone could get about the move. They had to *GASP* actually do their jobs because I could monitor their activities, something none of them were very fond of doing. The whining was intense, and they resorted to lying about me to try to get me moved back to the HR Area. It was amusing to hear the escalating complaints about myself from the HR Director. And then COVID. Because one of the Training Team was the girlfriend of someone who was a pet of the company’s President, guess who had their job eliminated as part of the RFI? It wasn’t anyone in Training… I hear they have cycled through at least three other HR Managers since that time, and it continues to be a highly Toxic Company.

  53. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: If you are covered by the ADA, I would submit a formal accommodations request to be allowed to use your pens and cite the fact that your boss has told you to take them home.

  54. Aspirational Yogurt*

    #3: One year, I spent a bunch of time and money to make a really fabulous Halloween skirt, only to end up on an interview panel ON HALLOWEEN. Needless to say, I wore my skirt with a work-appropriate black top, asked one of the other panelists if they could be the one to escort the interviewees to and from the room, and stayed seated the entire time. It was a public library and the interviews were for a children’s librarian position, so no one even blinked.

  55. Bloopbloop*

    #1 is weird. One ask isn’t, but multiple, including going to the shop to check the progress, is very weird. Next time he asks I’d say something like “what a bummer they didn’t give you a loaner! Unfortunately I have plans.”
    I wouldn’t be surprised if he was offered a loaner but thought “nah, people will drop everything to help me, I don’t need one!”

  56. Jazzy*

    #2, That’s so annoying, I’m also hypermobile and need felt-tip pens to save my wrist from the wear and tear of pushing into paper with a ballpoint. I use sharpies or a specific kind of drawing pen (Tombows, like $5 apiece) because it doesn’t smudge and doesn’t require any pressure on the page. I noticed though that other people perceive this as needing to be “fancy” or “special”, like a regular pen just isn’t good enough for me. They don’t realize that a ballpoint pen can actually be painful to use.

    Abled people generally have a tendency to view simple accommodations like this as “luxuries”, since they’re “nice to haves” for them rather than “need to have” as it can be for us. They see it as snobby and that makes them want to “humble” us… Definitely look into medical accommodations. And document document document.

  57. InterviewerDressCode*

    OP4, as someone who has interviewed fairly frequently, it would be strange for an interviewer to dress up and also potentially misleading to the candidates who are judging you just as much as you are judging them. I have worn suits to an interview as an interviewee and been interviewed by people wearing shorts and a t-shirt and thought nothing of it (beyond noting acceptable dress for the office).

    Frankly, if I showed up for an interview and my interviewers were dressed up I’d be asking a lot of questions about the work environment and asking for a tour of the office to make sure others were dressed more casually.

  58. NotARealManager*

    LW3, In my experience, most interviewees will dress up a notch higher than you tell them. (If you tell them the dress code is casual, they’ll probably show up in slacks and a polo, or a dress with a cardigan, for example). I’d just be aware of that and like others said, it probably shouldn’t be a shorts and baseball cap day for you, but nice jeans and good quality t-shirt or blouse should be a good way to set the tone without making the candidate feel overdressed.

  59. ThistlePig*

    In regards to LW 4, I really appreciate that Allison included context that in some places this wouldn’t be that unusual. I live in a rural area where most people know where you live because you live in “Frank Smith’s old house” and people deliver pasta salad to your door when your aunt dies. It wasn’t that long ago that everyone had a phone book that told you everyone’s address. Would I prefer my boss text me before they stopped by my house? Absolutely. But it wouldn’t be alarming if they stopped by. I recognize it isn’t the case for everyone, people have different privacy expectations, but they vary SO much regionally. If someone had this reaction where I live, they would be viewed as standoffish.

  60. Happy*

    Casual dress can be a great perk. I’m thrilled to see an interviewer dressed informally.

  61. Starbuck*

    I wouldn’t think twice if my manager mailed something to me, or even dropped something off during the workday or in any time/way where it was clear there was zero expectation of face to face interaction at that moment. But also most of the employees where I work own their homes, and in my state property ownership records are all publicly searchable online so getting someone’s address is trivially easy.

    It’s interesting how much the general opinion has changed, I’m only in my 30s but that’s old enough to remember when everyone’s name and address was in the phonebook that was dropped off on your doorstep!

    1. Always Tired*

      I used to be in charge of sending the occasional “get well/condolences/grats on the kid” arrangements at my old company and we ran the gamut of European transplants to southern grandmas, and the reactions were just as different. Even the city born and raised here would mostly just send a polite thank you, but I quickly learned that despite my boss wanting it to be a surprise I should call the Europeans, tell them the plan, and get permission to send anything.

  62. Always Tired*

    OP1, I was just kindly turning down an employee’s offer to help fix my bathroom sink because of the potential appearance of impropriety. I can’t even imagine asking for personal favors once, much less multiple times after being rejected. If you have any control over an employee’s pay or promotion chances, you have no business asking for favors like that.

    He should not be still asking. Keep holding the line. Are you a big enough company to have HR, and are they competent enough to have a casual “bestie, no, don’t do that” with him? Or a small enough company with a competent executive? Because it’s probably not formal complaint worthy, but someone needs to let him know he’s off base.

  63. Kindred Spirit*

    To the LW whose boss keeps asking for a ride— that’s so awkward. I would *not* want to do it, and I would feel a little guilty saying no (that’s a me problem, not that you should feel that way).

    Saying that you can’t be late to pick up your child could backfire. I can imagine him coming back with… “Oh, that’s okay, we’ll just leave work a little earlier today.” I would just tell him you have a commitment right after work and leave it vague.

  64. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    Wow, you’re right about the culture split on the last letter! I’m British, and the idea of my boss turning up at my house unannounced (or at all) is appalling to me.

    I don’t want my personal life to be shared with my boss at all. It would be such an unhinged thing to do here. Maybe even more so to me as I live in London, so it’s big and anonymous, with everyone living miles apart. But it feels so, so invasive to me.

    I mean, an otherwise lovely boss who clearly meant well would be forgivable, but I’d still be absolutely horrified.

  65. Safely Retired*

    #2: It was not explicit that the other desks with personal items reported to the same manager.

  66. cat*

    When I showed up for my second interview for the job I have now and the department head who sat in on the interview was just wearing a regular t-shirt with some kind of nerdy picture on it, I was actually a little excited. I was all dressed up in my fancy interview clothes, but I do not like dressing up so I was very glad to see that aspect of the company culture. And I was too excited and anxious to do well in the interview and get the job to spare any anxiety worrying about whether I was overdressed or not.

  67. Addison DeWitt*

    I’d give him a ride, then go to pick up your kid and take him to baseball practice, then swing by Costco to pick up a few things for dinner. Maybe load the car with some old clothes to drop off at Goodwill, too. Drag it out long enough that he calls for an Uber at Costco to get the heck out of there. He’ll never ask again.

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