updates: how do I navigate being naked around employees in a locker room, and more

It’s a special “where are you now?” season at Ask a Manager and I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

There will be more posts than usual this week, so keep checking back throughout the day — there’s more to come today.

1. How do I navigate being naked around employees in a locker room?

It’s been almost a year since I wrote in and I’m happy with how things have gone.

While not an official policy, I did speak to my team about better “reading the room.” Team member in a towel? Probably not the best person to help you fix that piece of equipment. Sometimes common sense is not so common, I guess? But it’s worked.

I also appreciated everyone’s comments around how to personally cover up while using the locker room. While it may sound super obvious (again, common sense isn’t always so common), I started wearing my clothes into the shower stall, hanging my gym bag on the outside door/hook, and just changing there before and after my showers. Easy fix, and it’s saving me time.

I also took some of Jeff Main’s advice by finding allies in the workplace, as HR didn’t feel like the safe space I needed at the time. And, coincidentally, several more queer people have joined the leadership team within the past year, so I’m no longer the only out gay person. Having a diverse team feels good!

And finally, as for that homophobic team member, he applied for the exact same role at another one of our locations a few months after being let go. Unsurprisingly, the answer was no.

2. Negotiating an offer when you haven’t talked salary at all

Thanks for your response, and to the commenters who were so supportive! I wasn’t able to engage the day of your post because I was too busy at my new job!

I’m happy to report this ended well. The call where I thought they would make an offer turned out to be the conversation we should have had initially, in which they shared their compensation structure for the position and asked about my expectations. As I suspected, my ask of $130s was at the top of their range. I received an offer a couple days later that came close, asked for a bit more and was able to get $130K.

Of course, I should have just asked earlier. I’m not early career, I wasn’t desperate for a job, and I know this is fine to ask! But there was no recruiter, just the hiring team, and I think I was in a mindset where I was so relieved that each interview was ending well that I kept kicking the question down the road. Fortunately, I love this job so far. Once I’ve been here a minute, I’ll recommend that we include ranges in the postings.

3. Can I regularly take PTO for a crafting social group?

My boss had no problems with me taking the time and was actually happy that I was finally going to be taking time off regularly for something I enjoy (I told him what it was for and after a five-year run I might have a different costume than Rapunzel for Halloween). For a variety of reasons (time blindness, snoozing the alarm to leave one too many times, busy workload, emergencies popping up and I was the only person on my team in the office, etc.) I ended up never going beyond the first time. I would get delayed to the point I figured the group would be leaving by the time I got there so I just did not go.

I guess technically I did take the advice about keeping it flexible… After several weeks, the reminders just made me feel bad so I removed the requests but am hoping to try again this summer as things slow down for a bit. Hoping that building it in as part of my schedule during a time I can make it happen helps it stick when the application cycle/term start ramps up again.

4. Telling a recruiter I don’t want to change jobs right now (#4 at the link)

I had written last summer regarding a script for a (I believe I referred to her as) recruiter that I had been working with. She was being helpful, but at the same time, my father was dying and I was having trouble telling her, “Not right now.”

Using your advice, I wrote to the recruiter and explained what was happening. She sent me a kind note back and encouraged me to reach back out when I was in a better position to change jobs. My intuition to stay where I was had been accurate; my father’s condition deteriorated quickly, and I had flexibility to help that I would have not had otherwise.

Unfortunately, my father passed away at the end of September. In the aftermath, I chose to be patient with myself as I focused on my personal goals. When I felt well enough, I started to send out my resume. Again, using your advice, I was able to land a better job than the one I had interviewed with and was able to negotiate a better benefit package. I had my first performance evaluation with my new bosses today and, while of course there is room to improve, overall, it was a very positive conversation. I’ve read enough AAM to know this could change, but right now, I feel strongly that this an employer I could grow in.

Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I know it was low stakes question, but in a summer of so much turmoil, I really appreciated your kind, direct response.

Also, to everyone, if something doesn’t feel right/look right, please it get it checked. There is no cure for ALS (what my father passed from), but he wasn’t feeling well for about a year before the diagnosis. Earlier intervention could have kept him with us a little longer.

{ 26 comments… read them below }

    1. No touchy!*

      That’s an unusually adversarial way to look at HR.

      Yes, they’re there to protect the company. Turns out that’s best done by protecting employees.

      I don’t know what hellholes you worked in but they’ve definitely warped your perception of normal.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Eh…. I wouldn’t say it an unusual take.

        I’ve never worked somewhere with HR that protected employees, and I’ve worked a range of places.

        1. No touchy!*

          I think there we’re going to run into what we define as “protecting employees” – there’s only so much HR can do as long as things are legal.

          Either that, or your area is just a hellhole in which case I am deeply sorry.

      2. Anonythis*

        …yeah I’ve worked in a place where the HR lead was aware of, and cool with, one of her staff sleeping with a (married) C-suite member and leveraging that connection to constructively dismiss a colleague the HR staffer had a personal gripe with.
        That was also the place where people were ‘made redundant’ a suspiciously short time after they’d said the word ‘unionize’ out loud.
        Like any other professional specialty, HR are human and some of them are spectacularly incompetent humans.

        1. Nica*

          LOL – yep. At my last company, an associate manager in HR was sleeping with a person in another department and 75% of the company knew about it, and this was in spite of “fraternization” rules that applied to HR and ALL company department.

          Same HR department had to “think about” firing and employee who called another employee of color a “a n****r, total diversity hire” to the person’s face, in the presence of about 10 other employees. Yes, the employee did end up getting fired, but the fact that anyone had to “think about” it is deeply troubling.

          Finally, same HR department hassled a long-time employee about using PTO to recover after a partial miscarriage where she was carrying twins and lost one of them. They wanted her to use FMLA (unpaid) when she had plenty of paid time off to handle the situation.

          Needless to say, we were certain that HR certainly did not have the employee’s bests interests at heart. Actions speak louder than words.

      3. anon for this*

        That’s an unusually optimistic generalisation.

        Yes, protecting employees is quite often in the company’s interests. But there are also plenty of times when it’s not, or when HR decides to protect a guilty employee over an innocent one.

        In my first real job, the boss made homophobic cracks about me, tried to bully me into signing my name to some shady stuff that could’ve destroyed my career, and when I refused he eventually fired me on bogus grounds.

        There were two reasons I didn’t go to HR about any of this. One is that when you see the head of an organisation behaving like this (blatantly, often in front of witnesses, not just to me) and he’s still the head of the organisation, it’s probably because the corporate culture (including HR) is okay with this, not that they are unaware.

        The other reason is that the head of HR was his son.

        1. No touchy!*

          I’m not saying all HR departments are good, just that they’re not all bad as Monsoon claims and getting ahead of the argument Monsoon was most likely to use if pressed.

    1. Goldenrod*

      Came here to say this. So sorry about your dad’s ALS. :(

      And good job – it sounds like you juggled a lot of challenges very gracefully, and practiced good self-care.

    2. Ally McBeal*

      I lost a friend in his early 40s to ALS a couple years back and it was just awful from start to finish. He was able to use eye-sensor tech to continue working remotely until the end, which was tragically required because of our broken healthcare system. He and his wife regularly posted on social media about the awful experiences he had with poorly trained and/or unreliable home health aides – he almost died several times simply because they did something stupid or stopped paying attention. As if the disease weren’t bad enough on its own! I hope to see a cure in my lifetime.

  1. Mrs. Pommeroy*

    Thank you to all LW! I am happy to read you are all in a better place – at work and in your private lives.
    And LW4 wonderfully shows why this blog is such a help: it might be a low stakes question that is being answered, but we as readers never fully know what is going on in a LW’s life and how important that low stakes question might be for them.

  2. Quality Girl*

    LW 4: I am so sorry for your loss. My dad passed in February from some related diseases. It was so hard to watch and the grief aftermath has been way more difficult than I ever imagined. This internet stranger is so proud of you for taking care of yourself and for reaching out for help. Anticipatory grief is no joke and I’m glad AAM was able to ease your burdens just a little.

    Best of luck in your new position!

    1. Tisserande d'Encre*

      Me too! I was worried it would end up being a waste of time for all parties.

  3. Annette Weston*

    LW 4, I’m sorry about your loss. My story is so close to the same. My mom died of ALS in March 2023, six months after diagnosis but had been misdiagnosed for more than three years. So, I’d add to your plea to get something check out if it it seems off – if the many things your doctor is trying aren’t helping, get a second or third or 20th opinion. Sadly, the day my mom was diagnosed was also the very first day on the job she always dreamed I would have. Also in a sad commentary on the workplace, I am a state employee and learned when she died that I (and the rest of the state’s employees) have no bereavement leave.

  4. College Career Counselor*

    HR is there to protect and serve the *organization’s* needs. If an individual employee’s needs are aligned with those of the organization, great. Once they diverge, HR (as an office/function of the orgnaization) is no longer your ally, whether or not individuals within HR are decent, friendly, helpful people.

    For example, if a manager wants you gone, HR will not help you build a case for why you should stay (beyond what you may have to resort to legal means to get them to provide). Their job is to get you out as quickly and painlessly [to the organization] as possible. You should of course be decently treated during this process (YMMV), but they’re not going to willingly provide you with documentation/assistance to delay or reverse that decision.

    1. Lisa*

      “For example, if a manager wants you gone, HR will not help you build a case for why you should stay (beyond what you may have to resort to legal means to get them to provide).”

      I don’t disagree with what you say, except in this example if the manager’s behavior opens the company up to legal issues you may find them more on your side. That falls under what you said at the start, that “HR is there to protect and serve the *organization’s* needs” since not getting sued is in the organization’s best interests.

  5. MissMeghan*

    LW3 I’m sad you weren’t able to make the crafting group but don’t give up! It takes time and effort, but it is worth it to create space for your personal joys. My boss (who has a calendar no one would envy) regularly takes PTO for her hobbies, and everyone supports it. Work will always try to take up all the space it can fill, and you shouldn’t feel bad about trying again to make space for yourself. I bet the craft group would be happy to hear from you if you gave it another go!

  6. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    Another thing to consider – if there’s legal action being brought against the company for something they did that was wrong/illegal/unethical, etc. and you are ordered to give a deposition…. who do you talk to first for advice?

    “The company’s lawyer!” NO, STUPID.

    YOUR OWN LAWYER. If it’s advantageous for the company to get YOU to take the fall, they will. The organization’s attorney is obligated to protect the organization, not necessarily YOU.

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