“girl boss” artwork in the women’s bathrooms, interview focused on conflict with coworkers, and more

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

1. “Girl boss” artwork appeared in the women’s bathrooms

A few days ago, new artwork appeared in all of the women’s bathrooms in our building (and we’ve confirmed that it’s only the women’s bathrooms). This artwork is of the inspirational “girl boss” variety, with phrases like “I am motivated to achieve my goals!” and “Work hard to achieve your dreams!” and “Stay focused!” There are also some quotes that feel religious-adjacent with words like “blessed” and “miracles” in them.

Because they appear to be officially installed by facilities, I strongly suspect a somewhat new admin is to blame since she’s the one who puts in orders for things like furniture and decorations. I think this was her misguided attempt at making the bathrooms more cheerful. Except every person who uses the women’s bathrooms is cringing at the result. It comes across as totally patronizing and out-of-touch (most people in this building work in technical roles). It’s been a bit of a running joke the past few days.

Do you have any suggestions for raising the issue without hurting anyone’s feelings? The last thing I want to do is get on the admin’s bad side (assuming I’m right and this was her project).

Can you take it to someone who’s not the admin? Her boss, or a facilities person, or whoever manages admin stuff?

You could simply say: “Some new artwork has showed up in the women’s bathrooms — and apparently only the women’s — that’s rubbing a lot of us the wrong way. It’s got religious terminology like ‘blessed’ and ‘miracles’ and some ‘girl boss’ themes that feel patronizing. Can that be removed?”

I can’t guarantee the admin’s feelings won’t be hurt (if indeed it was her), but there are other factors in play here that matter more — and it’ll be useful for whoever was behind the posters to learn why they weren’t universally embraced.

2. Interviewers seemed focused on conflict with coworkers

Years ago, during an extremely demoralizing job search, I was interviewing for a job in academia for which I had direct, extensive experience. It was one of those panel interviews where the interviewers take turns asking scripted questions. There was one pretty typical question asking me to share a time I dealt with conflict with a coworker. I gave a relevant example, emphasizing how I navigated the situation and preserved the relationship with the colleague.

So far, so good, and the panel asked me a couple other questions on other topics. But the following scripted question went back to conflicts with colleagues: “Tell us about a time you dealt with mistrust in a situation with a coworker.”

I managed to come up with a different story, but by this point, I was wondering about the culture of that department, even though everyone I was interviewing with was pleasant and at least seemed collegial. Part of me wanted to ask about colleague interactions and what was behind their second question about mistrust. But I couldn’t think of a respectful way to ask and, truth be told, I was so desperate to get a new job that I’m not sure concerns about a toxic culture would have dissuaded me from taking the job if I’d been offered it. (Spoiler alert – I did not get the job. Rather, they hired an internal candidate from an adjacent department).

In the end, I got hired at a completely different company with wonderful coworkers, so the university job was probably a bullet dodged. But I still wonder about a way I could have addressed what the panel’s questions seemed to imply.

If you ever notice a theme in interview questions that makes you uneasy or even just curious, you absolutely can ask about it! The basic formula is “you’ve asked a few times about X — is there anything I should know about that?”

So in this case: “You’ve asked a couple of times about conflict with coworkers. Has that been something that’s come up a lot in this role?” Or maybe, “You’ve asked a couple of times about conflict with coworkers. Is that something the person in this role is likely to have particular challenges around?

3. My old job forgot to remove my social media access — can I use this to get a new job with them?

It turns out I happen to know about a security issue at a large tech company. It’s not deep company secrets or anything, but I’ve realized I still have complete admin permissions on several of their social accounts. When I left this role in 2022, I emailed no fewer than five people two different times to tell them to remove me from these pages, but apparently they never did. (I only found out when checking an email folder that is normally just junk.) Technically, I can remove my own permissions (at least I used to be able to) since I’m an admin, but I didn’t because back when I still worked there I updated my own permissions once and when I let that team know they freaked out and said it should go through them. Clearly, they have not kept on top of it.

Can I do anything with this? I’m currently job hunting, so part of me wants to send a letter to the manager of this team letting them know about this problem and how I have the perfect experience to manage their audits, but I have no idea if that is a bonkers idea or would come across like a threat. I can do that anyway, just to let them know without any request or expectation, I guess. Or part of me thinks that this information should be worth something (even though it’s just stupidity on their part).

I’m not sure what I’m asking, maybe going on 15 months without a job has made me desperate, but if you have any thoughts for me I would appreciate it!

You can’t use it to get a job. It’s just a slip-up their side, and noticing it isn’t really a qualification on your side, or at least not enough of one that it wouldn’t look weird to try to use it that way.

Email the manager of the team and explain you noticed that you still have admin permissions, despite reminding them to remove you two years ago, and so your current plan is to remove yourself if they haven’t done so by (date) and you wanted to alert her so it doesn’t raise any alarms if they see you do that, and also so she’s aware there’s a security hole they might need to plug with other people too. Then, if that date comes and they haven’t removed you, remove yourself.

If that email provides an opening for you to mention you’re job searching and would love to talk about working with them again, you can use that — but that’s about the relationship you already have, not any kind of “gotcha” from their mistake.

4. Manager says we can only speak English at work

I work with a very diverse group of coworkers; more than half speak English as their second language. I’d say about half speak language A as their first language, a quarter speak language B as their first language, and a quarter speak English only.)

During a recent meeting, our manager reminded everyone that English is the only language we should be speaking at work. I know that insisting people speak English only is wrong, but are the rules different at work? Does it make a difference if it’s in front of other employees versus in front of clients? What about two employees speaking privately versus five employees speaking in a shared language in front of one employee who doesn’t?

I’m one of the few English-only employees so I didn’t feel comfortable judging and am planning on leaving soon for unrelated reasons, so I’m not planning on doing anything. I’m just curious about your take.

(I don’t know if it makes a difference, but my manager speaks English as a second language but does not speak language A.)

Employers can’t legally prohibit employees from speaking in another language unless if it’s justified by a business necessity, like when they’re waiting on English-speaking customers or doing team projects where an English-only rule will promote efficiency, or to allow a manager who only speaks English to monitor the performance of employees whose job involves communicating with others. So your manager’s blanket edict violates federal law.

5. Should I leave a short job off my resume?

I am in my late 50s, nowhere near able to afford retirement, and I can’t pay insurance out of pocket forever. After a short career in IT, I switched to nursing where I stayed 30+ years at one large university hospital. I stepped away in 2022 for complicated reasons, and now I’m trying to get back to work.

I am curious what you think of a late-career job seeker leaving a short-term position off the resume. Which is worse, a two-year gap, or the same gap with a two-month job in the middle of it? Or does it even matter at this point?

Since leaving the long-term job, I’ve submitted hundreds of applications and had maybe 10-15 that made it to screening calls or were forwarded for department consideration, a handful of actual interviews, and two job offers. One I turned down because when shadowing at the facility, I found it so far out of reasonable regulatory compliance, I ran far away.

With the second one, the job I wish to omit, there was a disconnect between what I was hired for and what they expected me to do. There was also a lot of information withholding in the department, a weird hazing vibe, leadership was rarely available by any means, and the final straw: I witnessed my supervisor-ish unofficial trainer verbally and physically assault another newish coworker over a made-up mistake. The coworker begged me not to report it because they were in the middle of trying to transfer to another department and didn’t want anything to mess that up. I resigned the next day. Total time there including notice: 8 weeks. I left eligible for rehire, good terms, I was able to bite my tongue and cite a reasonable explanation.

I’m keeping my resume as current and relevant as possible. I’ve had an outside resume expert review it. I pull out specific accomplishments from my tenure at the long-term job and tailor to fit each application. I’ve followed some suggestions to utilize AI to glean key words from job descriptions and further refine each application when needed. And I of course don’t cite the above toxic explanation when recruiters or applications ask for a reason for leaving – I say that I left to focus on the care of an ill family member. This, coincidentally, was true enough, and the reason I cited in my resignation.

Since including this eight-week-long position, interest in my applications seems down. This could be coincidence. I am considering taking it off the resume/applications. Any advice?

Take it off. Leaving after eight weeks raises a lot of questions, and you weren’t there long enough to have had accomplishments that would strengthen your resume enough to overcome those questions. Even with your explanation that you left to take care of an ill family member, the job is a weird blip that’s not helping you and is probably hurting.

You’ve either got a two-year gap or a nearly-two-year gap with an eight-week stint that abruptly ended. The gap on its own is better.

{ 604 comments… read them below }

  1. Ashley Armbruster*

    LW #1) Have you ever seen “Election”? Could you pull a Tracy Flick?
    *looks around* I didn’t say anything!

    1. coffee*

      For anyone else who hasn’t seen Election, I googled and it sounds like Tracy Flick secretly pulled down a bunch of posters to remove them. (This is a terrible summary of the film haha but a good summary of why it’s relevant to LW1.)

    2. MigraineMonth*

      I was thinking of all those stories about people subtly switching out motivational posters with demotivational posters from despair.com.

      1. Bumblebee*

        I thought of despair.com too and wondered if they had “man boss” or “boy boss” artwork to put up in the men’s rooms as a prank!

    3. Petty Crocker*

      Or…. take them down and put them back up in the men’s bathroom and see what happens.

  2. Pink Sprite*

    For OP 1: Someone’s feelings might get hurt. However, the content of this “artwork” ought to be the focus of any discussions, not on the person’s feelings. The art simply isn’t appropriate for a business. Especially when it’s gendered language and only put it the womens’ room

    Of course, no one (mostly- as we’ve occasionally read here) wants to hurt someone else, but it might happen.
    It happens to everyone. Removing the art is where the focus should be.

    1. Overthinking it*

      What said the language was gendered? I think the better writer described it as “girl boss” but doesn’t say those words (or any other gendered language) appeared on the posters. sounds like just regular motivational stuff, like you used to see in many workplaces in the 80s. So hokey, maybe. Dated, perhaps. But from what actually described not inappropriate. This is just a matter of taste; let it go!

      1. I'm the Pboebe in any Group*

        The Letter Writer said they confirmed it was only in the women’s bathrooms. Blessed is a very religious term. So is miracles. And when a large group of people find something offensive, it doesn’t matter if other people understand why. But if you want a clue, the assumption that women but not men are in need of this encouragement and affirmations is a good place to start.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          “Miracle” can be religious, but often simply means a desirable low-probability event. We see this in sports a lot: the 1969 Miracle Mets, the 1980 Miracle on Ice, and so forth. “Blessed” has stronger religious overtones, but even that is not always operative. A non-religious person might say something like they are blessed with good eyesight. The religious origin is visible, but can be in the background.

          That being said, in both cases it depends on the precise usage. It is entirely plausible that these posters are religious.

          By the way, why is a junior admin in charge of office decorations? That seems to me very odd.

          1. MsM*

            Admins are often in charge of buying office supplies. It’s possible she decided that extended to decoration. Or the boss signed off on it thinking it would make the task more appealing, and didn’t realize more direction was needed. (Of course, it’s also possible this actually was a higher-up’s idea, in which case…good luck, LW.)

          2. Venus*

            No – miracles by definition are events so low probability that they are due to divine intervention. Saying that miracles aren’t necessarily religious ignores what they are. Blessed by definition is to make holy. You might view some uses as non-religious, but fundamentally they are.

            1. Clisby*

              Originally, yes. In common usage (and Merriam-Webster), it can mean something highly unlikely (but desired).

              From M-W online:

              1 : an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
              the healing miracles described in the Gospels
              2: an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment
              The bridge is a miracle of engineering.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Yup. Saying that miracles by definition require divine intervention is a classic example of the etymological fallacy: the claim that a word can only mean what it originally meant. This does not stand up to even the most superficial examination.

          3. Elizabeth West*

            When used with “blessed,” miracle is absolutely a religious word in this context.

            I’m not bothered about hurting someone’s fee-fees when they’re trying to force anything on the rest of us. I’m kinda sensitive about that right now (although I wouldn’t be rude about it at work).

          4. Observer*

            That being said, in both cases it depends on the precise usage. It is entirely plausible that these posters are religious.

            And all things considered, I think we should take the LW’s word that these posters feel “religious adjacent.”

        1. Knope Knope Knope*

          I think what this poster is saying is that the letter writer doesn’t actually say the posters are gendered. She implies that this is what is underlying what makes them cringey, and Alison says there are other issues, but I was reading waiting to get your take on what exactly makes them cringey. Like now that I see the word gendered it’s like “yup! That’s it!”

          Anyway, I read this as more about editing where some readers would quickly take this away and others may not since it isn’t said explicitly, than disagreeing with LW or not taking her at her word.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          The LW didn’t say that the posters themselves said “girl” on them. She said of the inspirational “girl boss” variety to describe them in general.

          1. sparkle emoji*

            I think it’s reasonable to conclude that if LW1 is describing it as “girl boss” and it’s only in the women’s restrooms, there’s a gendered aspect to the art. If there isn’t, she can disregard that piece of the advice.

            1. Observer*

              I think it’s reasonable to conclude that if LW1 is describing it as “girl boss” and it’s only in the women’s restrooms, there’s a gendered aspect to the art.


              It’s very frustrating to me how much energy is being spent on telling the LW that she’s probably not seeing what she thinks she is seeing.

          2. Fluffy Fish*

            if it wasnt gendered she wouldnt have used the term “girl boss”

            the lw knows what it is as she’s seen it.

          3. Ellie*

            OP mentioned that most of the women are in technical roles. Engineers and techs can be very sensitive to ‘girl boss’ marketing material with patronising overtones. I was involved in a pilot training group at my work once, targeted exclusively at female engineers, which was about 90% useful content, and 10% image based, ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ kind of stuff. I sent them feedback telling them how poorly that module was going to go over with their target audience, but they didn’t believe me. Instead, it came out in the group meeting at the end of the course, where every woman there complained loudly about being judged on appearances, whether they wear makeup, etc. and they are sick of dealing with this sexist crap, etc. etc. It completely derailed the meeting, and they ended up cancelling the training.

            If OP says the posters are patronising, then I 100% believe that. Other fields may not see it the same way, but if the target audience is offended, then they’ve missed their mark.

        2. HailRobonia*

          And as many MANY people have noticed: why is it girl and not woman? It seems so infantilizing.

          1. Princess Sparklepony*

            I cringe anytime I see “girl boss,” it’s just creepy. And a lot of times it’s related to MLMs which is also creepy and a good way to lose money.

      2. Liz*

        When is the last time you saw things marketed to men telling them to believe in the beauty of their dreams or whatever

        1. anne of mean gables*

          Counterpoint: “solve” this problem by putting the same artwork in the men’s bathroom. Or, the exact same messaging but with ‘sports and beer’ iconography. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

          1. ferrina*

            Exact same artwork in the men’s room. It’s either an all-company vibe, or nothing. Otherwise it’s treating different employees differently based on gender.

            Men should get an equal opportunity to roll their eyes at this art.

          2. Phony Genius*

            For the sake of discussion, if the company had put these same posters in both bathrooms from the start (or responds to complaints by doing exactly this), would it be something worth pushing back on?

            1. Silver Robin*

              In the sense that it is having the opposite effect on morale than intended, it would probably be worth bringing up with the folks who could get it removed. But no, it would not be offensive in the same way.

          3. Petty Crocker*

            No, not even with sports and beer iconography. Put the exact same artwork in the men’s bathroom. EXACT SAME.

            Then pop some popcorn and watch the show.

          4. TeaCoziesRUs*

            Put the frilly, pretty one in the men’s bathroom and the sports and beer ones in the women’s bathroom. :)

    2. EA*

      I don’t really see why the artwork is that bad. It doesn’t sound like it actually says “girl boss”; it’s just some pretty corny Target art-type quotes. If it were me I wouldn’t spend too much energy on fighting cheesy bathroom decor.

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          It’s the implication that only women need motivating to achieve that is the troublesome part.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            No matter the actual intention it reads like “girls can achieve things when they have the right decor!” Like, I’m sure the admin is very sweet and well intentioned …. but she needs to know that however benign she thought this was, it’s problematic to give patronising messages to just one type of person in the office.

          2. Mongrel*

            That and it’s the same language pushed by the quagmire of MLM spam on social media.

          3. Spiders Everywhere*

            Announcement: We have heard concerns about gender equity in the workforce, and we believe we’ve narrowed in on the source of the problem: no one has told you little ladies that you should try to achieve things! We trust that some little-league-dad level advice under a picture of a sailboat that you can look at when you’re on your way to pee will put the matter to rest!

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              This sounds like a problem that could be solved by slowly replacing all the posters with demotivators.

              1. anne of mean gables*

                I can’t think of anything that would boost my personal office morale more than an organized caper with my colleagues to slowly replace the girl-boss artwork with demotivator posters and other nonsense.

                1. JustaTech*

                  Ooh, and some Effing Birds posters as well. They’re technically NSFW because most of them contain real swear words, but I think there might be one or two that could fly under the radar, as the bird illustrations are lovely and the fonts are really nice.

          4. ferrina*

            Oh, so that’s why men don’t hear my ideas in meetings, but hear the exact same ideas from a man! It’s because I haven’t been sufficiently surrounded by inspirational quotes!

            1. Salty Caramel*

              If I had eight-four cents for every time I had to say, “I just said that!” in a meeting where a man repeated my point, I could retire early.

              1. Office Crone*

                Now I’m thinking about having your comment put on a mug and “accidentally” leaving it in the work kitchen, where it will be mindlessly grabbed by so many unsuspecting young men (a large percentage of our employees are male and very recent college graduates) as they fumble for their morning caffeine. Perhaps one or two will even consider the sentiment!

                Your comment, and your name, are gold, and I am better for having seen this today.

          5. Oryx*

            It also has a tendency to move into the “toxic positivity” mindset. I had an old manager whose cube was covered with these posters and it definitely had an effect on her leadership and work style that turned a lot of people off.

        2. Dahlia*

          It’s incredibly condesending to direct things like that only at the women of your business.

          1. Awkwardness*

            These kind of motivational posters are mainly targeted towards women and there are a lot of women who find nothing offensive in them as they cannot see the gendered aspect of it. They like motivation, so they buy motivational posters, stickers or postcards as a reminder.
            I think it would be helpful if OP explained why the gendered aspect feels offensive, so the other person is likely to really understand it.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              I really agree with your first sentence. Young women are really vulnerable to passing on these messages that are literally being shovelled at them 24/7. I think the admin being told “It’s patronising to women” will be a bit like when you’re in your twenties and being told that a strappy top or short skirt which seems ubiquitous and unremarkable to you is “not for the office; it reads like you’re not experienced in professional norms”.

              1. Awkwardness*

                And even if you are a bit older.
                A female colleague in her 30s once asked me, when we had a discussion about this type of deco, why I felt the need to dissect it and if I was unable to “just enjoy it”.
                This did not come from a mean place, but from somebody who is mostly ok with gendered roles.
                It was a good reminder that not everybody has the same experience or awareness regarding gendered stuff.

                1. TooTiredToThink*

                  I’m glad some of you are commenting about this. I’m reading these comments and so many people area acting like the admin (if it is her) did this AT the other women, when, my experience is, some women just love these types of posters. She probably had a budget and wanted to spruce up the bathrooms in a way she liked and didn’t think a thing about it.

                2. sparkle emoji*

                  @TooTired I think you’re right about the intention, but it sounds like it’s not landing for a number of women at LW1 workplace. The admin can have her posters, but it’d be better if they stayed at her desk for the reasons LW wrote about.

            2. We’re Six*

              I see where you’re coming from in that last sentence. But I could also see that discussion coming off as very condescending towards the admin. Today’s discussion has already displayed the AAM readership’s usual disdain for admin roles and I’m getting a similar vibe from the LW.

              1. Myrin*

                Are you referring to a particular letter or just a general vibe? Because I honestly can’t say that I’ve ever encountered a “disdain for admin roles” on here, especially not happening regularly, not least of all because I know that a good chunk of readers are admins themselves and Alison is generally quick to nip stuff like that in the bud.

                I also didn’t get any disdainful vibes from the OP towards the admin at all – she seems neutral on her except for thinking these posters were a bad idea.

                (Apart from that, I agree that such an in-depth explanation can come across as condescending but doesn’t have to, especially not if the conversation sticks more closely to Alison’s wording instead of a full-on “Course in Basic Feminism: Today’s topic: Gendered Marketing”.)

              2. Ellis Bell*

                How is the honest reaction towards the decor, whoever put it up, patronising towards the admin? Unless you’re saying the admin can’t handle basic feedback?

              3. MigraineMonth*

                I think it’s the AAM readership’s usual disdain for being patronized and forced into gendered roles at work.

              4. AMH*

                I am an admin and I really don’t see that in the comments, nor do I get that vibe from the LW.

              5. ExAdmin*

                But admins are little fluffy bunnies who can’t see nuances that women in “technical” jobs understand.


            3. Dahlia*

              A lot of things are fine in your personal life. That doesn’t mean you do them in a business context.

          2. Overthinking it*

            but maybe the project the person was given wasn’t “let’s motivate the women” but “let’s brighten up the dull women’s bathrooms” and this just happens to be what she choose instead of picking watercolors of gardens, ot mountain scenes or pets, or acrylic abstracts.

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Not sure what your point is? Even if that was the assignment, they missed the mark by going in this direction and it’s okay to point that out. Also, why not brighten up the dull men’s bathroom?

              1. Princess Sparklepony*

                My guess is that they left the men’s room alone because somehow, some way, without anyone admitting to it… something icky would end up on the posters. Accidents happen.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  Do you think they would put them above the urinal or something? That line of thinking doesn’t really track.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              Her motivation doesn’t have to have been malicious to be misguided. My grandmother had a . . . stuffed doll of a certain stereotype, that she thought was adorable and cheerful, but it was still awful. Not as awful as some I’ve seen but still well beyond the pale for the modern era. She didn’t see it in the same way a lot of people born (over a hundred years ago at this point) didn’t have the same sensibilities about that kind of thing that most of us do now. I don’t know what happened to it after she died but I do know that none of her post-Civil Rights Era kids wanted it.

              1. Observer*

                Her motivation doesn’t have to have been malicious to be misguided.

                Exactly. Someone gave me a suvenire gift of a doll that was stereotypical in a way that neither of us realized. I had it sitting on my desk. One of my coworkers pointed out to me that it was supposed to be a depiction of X stereotype. I didn’t get mad and my feelings weren’t even hurt. I just took it off my desk.

                People make mistakes. This Admin is new. It’s OK for the LW assume good intentions while still pointing out the problem. And it would be a very good thing for the Admin to learn that “let’s brighten up” whatever should not lead to gendered or otherwise stereotypical decorations.

              2. a trans person*

                Oh mood. I loved my uncle and I grieved his passing, but (after a quick check with my father) I was delighted to be able to get rid of some of the “kitsch” he liked. Ugh.

        3. Allonge*

          Offensive is not the only potential wrong. Bad decoration is bad decoration: posters of cute baby animals or the decorators favorite band also would be inappropriate in an office setting, without any offense.

          And I disagree: the implication that all / most women need or appreciate this is offensive to me, on top of strange.

          1. Awkwardness*

            This was my main thought: this is bad because it’s stereotypical, gendered decoration (and some people like this nonetheless) not because of the messages themselves.
            So it is important to understand that not everybody will immediately get the “condescending” part of it.

            1. Ophelia*

              Though I will say that I absolutely think any reference to “blessed” is inappropriate for a professional context, full-stop.

          2. learnedthehardway*

            Agreeing – this sort of thing has a real impact on potential employees coming in to interview, as well as on clients. Being “twee”, patronizing, or inadvertently sexist sends A MESSAGE about the culture, that the company very likely does not want to send.

        4. Sharpie*

          With the caveat that I am a practising Christian… Motivational posters that use words like blessed and miracles have no place in any workplace other than a church or somewhere strongly affiliated with a church which I’m guessing LW’s workplace is not (she mentions most women there work in technical roles which more strongly indicates that it’s a STEM type workplace).

          1. Ann Onymous*

            Yes, this! Also, motivational messages (religious or otherwise) in a bathroom has always felt a bit off to me. The church my family attended when I was a teenager put up a sign in the women’s restroom that said, “Through God, all things are possible.” It always made me giggle to think about that message in the context of what people go to the bathroom to do.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              I just spent three days praying to (I don’t even know who since I’m not religious) that my stressed-out foster cat would p**p and I wouldn’t have to make an urgent vet trip over a holiday. She p**ped this morning. Crisis averted. But I, too, would giggle at a sign like that in the bathroom.

            2. MigraineMonth*

              Given some of the severe constipation I’ve had, I’ve been ready to make a deals with any deity that would answer my prayers.

              (God, Satan and fiber all failed me, but Miralax and prunes came through. I now have a shrine in my kitchen and make daily observances.)

              1. Ophelia*

                Please someone create a new poster, with miralax and prunes (preferably with a halo, or some sort of aura), for OP’s office bathroom :D

              2. coffee*

                Like that joke, “Why do they call it the restroom? I’m fighting for my life in here.”

        5. Myrin*

          I’m sure the OP hasn’t sent in an exhaustive list of every little thing/quote on these numerous posters but just some examples she thought might get the point across (“might” being the operative word here because apparently they don’t).

        6. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          The religious part – and “blessed” is religious to many people – is offensive to some.

        7. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          There is something offensive about it only being in the women’s restroom and not the men’s, unless you can roll them up and use them as tampons.

      1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        It’s more of the infantilization of the workplace. The signs remind me of a teenage girl’s bedroom rather than a professional work environment. Or an MLM because with lululemon you can be your own girl boss!!! And why is there never a ‘guy boss’?

        Plus my take for being in a male dominated field, which OP might be as they described the women as ‘technical’, it get’s annoying when people put emphasis on the fact that you are *female* because when gender is brought up it’s either ‘you’re good for a woman’ or ‘omg, it must be so hard to be woman in the workplace, here’s something super gendered we think will make you feel wanted instead of something useful.’ Idk, I guess it just reminds me of an article a previous job forwarded out about women in the workplace from some woman’s magazine about how to survive the workplace as a female that said things like ‘wear pearls to happy hours because they enhance your glow’ or the time all of the males in my office determined that women need mentors because they are *women*.

        Now that being said, would I personally push to have them removed? Nah, not worth it. But would I be in the corner making snarky remarks and jokes with my coworkers? YES.

        1. Aww, coffee, no*

          Surely the equivalent of ‘girl boss’ is ‘boy boss’… and boy boss, for sure, is not a phrase I ever see or hear

          1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            yeah its always girl boss — directed at women over the age of 18.

            If these posters were hung in the hallway, everyone would snark or just ignore them. But hung in the women’s bathroom only they are very much directed AT women.

            And as has been said here many times, it doesn’t matter that the admin was trying to be helpful. The end result is not helpful.

          2. Panicked*

            If you’re on Instagram or TikTok, check out Clarabelletoks. She does parody videos where she flips traditional gender roles and it’s hysterical. (Or should I say, testerical?)

          3. Princess Sparklepony*

            It’s never boy boss because the boss is assumed to be a man. That’s the whole ingrained sexism at work.

            The girl boss is new and not a man – how unique! Like a unicorn! Not the norm because men are bosses…

            That’s the whole problem with girl boss as a descriptor. IMHO.

      2. Observer*

        . It doesn’t sound like it actually says “girl boss”; it’s just some pretty corny Target art-type quotes

        Why are you assuming that when the LW says that it has gendered vibes, she is wrong? Why are you also ignoring the fact that this is only in the women’s bathroom?

      3. JFC*

        Same. Is this really where people are spending their workplace capital nowadays? They could make themselves more useful by ignoring the posters and focusing on, IDK, WORK???

        1. Allonge*

          Bad faith argument, much?

          Look, if you think this is a non-issue, why are you spending your precious time here commenting, instead of focusing on work?

        2. Le Sigh*

          Alternate thought: None of these problems happen in a vacuum and while these issues are on a spectrum, a real #girlboss who is motivated to achieve their goals can work on a smaller issues can also #stayfocused on the bigger issues. #blessed

        3. Bitte Meddler*

          “Look, little ladies, don’t fret your pretty heads about things that further misogyny and negative stereotypes about women in the workplace. Just ignore it and focus on your work.”

    3. Sloanicota*

      This one is a little tricky to me because I’m guessing OP doesn’t know that everyone dislikes the posters, she just knows the people in her circle that agree with her. While I also agree with her, I suspect if she complains she’ll learn some people love them (there’s always someone who loves this stuff). I guess it might need to be a wider discussion/vote. Or at least hang some rah rah crap in the men’s room.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I would find it much less annoying to stare at a loopy faux-cursive font telling me to “Work hard to achieve my dreams!” while pooping if I knew my male colleagues were doing the same.

        Still not work-appropriate, particularly the religious terminology, but at least it would be equitable.

        1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

          We need to give the guys comic sans font!

          Wasn’t there a story on here where someone’s boss ripped down signs/wrote ‘we are a fortune 500 company, not a lemonade stand’ because signs on the wall were in comic sans?

            1. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

              Really? Cool, I never knew! I thought it was just one of those whimsical fonts. The more you know!

              1. Katie A*

                It wasn’t created for that purpose, and there isn’t good scientific evidence that even fonts created specifically to help with dyslexia actually improve accessibility.

                But some people with dyslexia do find certain fonts helpful, and comic sans pops up a lot as an example of one of those fonts. So, for some people, it does help.

            2. But what to call me?*

              I’ve never understood the opposition to it. It’s not for professional writing, but it’s fine. For some reason, I’ve also found it extremely helpful to write in when either the words aren’t coming or they’re only coming in paragraph-long sentences.

      2. ferrina*

        There’s always someone who likes a thing (in this case, the admin who ordered the signs), but in a company with good culture, they know how to balance this.

        Leaving the gendered aspect out of it, 90-95% of employees don’t like platitudes. It’s the tried-and-tested way to make most employees dislike you. A good company culture doesn’t need platitudes, and a bad company culture uses platitudes to distract from real issues.

      3. Allonge*

        How many people like a thing v. how many people hate it is not the same consideration for all matters.

        Yes, some people like motivational or girlboss decor. Practically nobody can claim they need to have it in the workplace bathroom.

        The non-zero number of people who are annoyed by the very optional decor should have more of a say in this very optional thing in places that they cannot opt out of visiting.

      4. Analyst*

        It doesn’t actually matter if some people or even most people like something like this; in its very nature, it’s problematic and shouldn’t be up. I like a lot of things that aren’t work appropriate, but I don’t display/bring/whatever that stuff to work.

        I would absolutely try to report this issue anonymously because of this and people being unreasonable though.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        The fact that [subset of people like it] does not make the case that it belongs at work. I like Edward Gorey but I don’t think a cartoon of three women playing catch with a skull is the best choice for office decor.

    4. PrincessCharming*

      I think she just needs to sneak into the men’s room and put up some boy boss phrases. “Balls of steel baby blue!” Or “it’s not ‘I man’t’ but rather ‘I man’”

    5. No Tribble At All*

      I wonder if the “technical role” part is part of the disconnect. Many women engineers tend to be, for lack of a better word, less girly-girly than women in other industries. Some of that is that anything too feminine gets you taken less seriously. So it’s likely to not be our taste.

      I’d find it incredibly patronizing and off-putting to have posters like that put up.

  3. TheBunny*


    I agree with Alison.

    I’ve done a lot of recruiting and can only think of one instance where I told someone to leave a really short stint on his resume.

    The candidate left a job he’d had for 5 years to go into a different opportunity in hospitality. In February of 2020.

    You see where this is going.

    He was laid off in April. I told him I would keep the job on there as the abrupt end of a 5 year job in tech finance in February raises a ton more questions (or it should) than a 2 month stint in hospitality at the start of COVID.

    Aside from things like that where it’s stunningly obvious it was a world wide pandemic and not you, leave it off.

    1. RCB*

      That’s a fantastic example of a rare situation that doesn’t happen often but absolutely makes a huge difference, I completely agree with the advice you gave to this person about leaving the short stint on their resume.

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      COVID gaps make so much sense for so many jobs, and especially for LW since they were in nursing! LW quit that job two years ago and I’d have zero questions about that other than just assuming they got very burnt out and needed a well-earned break. LW may have left for unrelated reasons, but when taking a casual look at their resume, the gap wouldn’t clock me as odd in the slightest.

    3. Goldie*

      I’ve done a lot of hiring and don’t care at all about a “mistake” job. Tell me about your experience.

  4. Coyote River*

    For LW1, I wouldn’t get too hung up on the “religious” aspect, as those sort of poster often use phrases like miracles and blessed in a non-religious manner. Instead, I would focus on the fact it feels patronising and inappropriate, given it seems to be highly gendered.

    1. Min*

      They’re non-denominational, sure, but blessed and miracle are absolutely religious in nature.

      1. Jones*

        I see the use of “blessed” on about a hundred instagram posts a day from people who are most definitely not religious lol. I can’t imagine getting bent out of shape over “blessed” or “miracle” and I really can’t imagine starting work drama over it.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          blessed by whom?

          a miracle from whom?

          These things are definitely religious, whether you realize it or not. They imply a deity, and if the poster is a white woman, they typically imply a xtian perspective. You don’t have to view many of their posts to confirm that.

        2. Rincewind*

          They are ABSOLUTELY religious terms. The fact that American English is so steeped in them is because so many people in this country are Christian and the default religious assumption is Christian.
          Now, I wouldn’t use that as a reason to get the posters taken down. Again, it’s considered the default, so many people wouldn’t see why the posters could be offensive.
          As someone with Christian-based religious trauma, I cringe a little inside on phrases like “have a blessed day!” I take them as intended, and respond politely, but I still hate it.

        3. Carmina*

          As a European from a not very religious country – this absolutely sounds religious and is definitely not used lightly over here. America is just so religion-pilled that people don’t even notice anymore.

      1. Awkwardness*

        For me, this world not be about ignoring the religious aspect but choosing the argument that has more agreement and thus is more likely to get rid of the problem.

      2. Nodramalama*

        On the one hand, I understand that religious terminology seeps into every day speech. On the other hand, I doubt that the billions of people across the world who say “#blessed” means God has Blessed Me.

        1. BubbleTea*

          Perhaps not, just like the millions of people who put up Christmas trees don’t actually believe in a human manifestation of God, or the ones who eat chocolate at Easter don’t believe in Resurrection, but it still isn’t appropriate in a workplace.

          1. Nodramalama*

            Ok well we have different opinions then. Because I don’t blink when someone says bloody hell or oh my God in my workplace.

            1. Coyote River*

              Yes, this was what I was driving at in my original comment. Thank God it’s Friday, and the like.

            2. Irish Teacher.*

              And that’s kind of why things like “blessed” are not appropriate in the workplace. Because people do have different opinions and while some people might just see them as meaning good luck, others will see them as meaning a reward from God.

              I think “bloody hell” and “oh my God” are a bit different because those aren’t implying that God is behind everything good (though I guess they could be offensive to devout Christians).

              And honestly, a lot of those motivational quotes that use “blessed” or “miracle” are…sort of new agey, which is a form of belief system in and of itself and while I wouldn’t be really upset by it, it does mildly irritate me that people who believe in it seem to assume it is shared by everybody. “Oh, I don’t mean God will bless you/mean karma in a religious way. I’m talking about blessings/karma from the universe. You know, how we are all one and what you do comes back to you?”

              Well, that’s a belief system too and one I don’t share. I don’t have any problem with people holding it and after all, they are as likely to be right as I am, but I do find it annoying when they treat it as scientifc fact or something and “just true regardless of whether or not you believe in any religion.”

              I see a big difference between saying “oh my God” and saying “if you just believe, miracles will happen…oh, I’m not being religious. You don’t have to believe in God or anything. I’m talking about the energy you will bring into your life.”

              1. MigraineMonth*

                I’m not going to say this right, but there’s also something about New Age beliefs being considered universal and therefore non-religious that sort of… makes people invalidate its spiritual practices and in some cases the religions that it borrows them from?

                Like, “Christmas trees aren’t religious, they’re Pagan.” But Paganism *is* a religion. Or how sweat lodges, karma and Zen meditation have been completely disconnected from their original contexts.

                1. HailRobonia*

                  The fact that there is a brand of iced tea called “Zen” infuriates me. What’s next, “Episcopal Coffee”?

                2. Anax*

                  Yeah, it feels like the way we as a culture regard specifically-Christian spiritual traditions, when superficially divorced from Christianity itself, as “non-religious”.

                  (And heck, a lot of agnostic and atheist traditions, too. I read a book a few months ago arguing that “religion is anti-science”; the author was under the impression that MOST religious people don’t believe in evolution. Yes, he grew up Evangelical Christian in the US.)

                  I feel like many culturally-Christian folks assume that everyone has basically the same worldview and beliefs, and specific traditions like sweat lodges or meditation are just “set dressing.”

                  As a non-Christian, it’s… pretty exasperating.

              2. Armchair Analyst*

                I know but if I argue this then I’m the Devil’s advocate and not only am I not an advocate but there is no devil because…


              3. Irish Teacher.*

                And I should have said “that SOME people who believe in it seem to assume it is shared by everybody.” Just read over the comment and realise that I made it sound as if I think everybody with new age beliefs goes around pushing them on others, which is far from the truth.

              4. Hannah Lee*

                Whether or not a particular individual employee’s expression of frustration at the printer or relief that a client meeting went well is religion-free, appropriate in a workplace might be a valid discussion to have, in this case it is the company itself using religious phrases in workplace decor. (and I agree with much of what you said, that it can be irritating and inappropriate and even moreso if an individual employee is aiming it at someone, proselytizing as you describe)

                No matter who chose and put the artwork up, if it’s on the walls in multiple places and has not already been taken down, it’s “official” company messaging. THAT’s absolutely inappropriate outside specific faith/religion affiliated employers

              5. Nodramalama*

                To be clear, Im not saying motivational posters with blessed or miracles or whatever they are, are appropriate for a work place.

                My comment was really to do with how a lot of these words appear in the common parlance, and yes they have religious origins but over time more and more people use them without referring back to a religious context, to the point where it becomes a phrase like “bless you” which most people don’t even register as religious at all

              1. Nodramalama*

                Yes, and a poster saying be blessed or be thankful for small miracles or whatever the poster said, is very different to forcing people in a workplace to celebrate Christmas, which as the example tbe person I responded to used.

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              The only reason those work as profanity is that they are profane.

              If you replaced “Bloody hell!” with “By the casting of my shadow!” and “Oh my God!” with “Oh my glitter!” they would no longer work as exclamations.

              1. Nodramalama*

                I am quite confused by tbe relevance of this comment. And most people I know do not use oh my God as a profanity. Just an exclamation.

                1. MassMatt*

                  Most people do use it as an exclamation, little different from saying “holy mackerel”, but to some believers it is not simply profanity, but actual blasphemy. The third commandment is literally about this.

                  But this is far from talking about miracles and blessings at work, which is on a whole different level, as it is positing a divine power, and attributing success to it.

                  This whole campaign (I dislike the term “girl boss” also, for different reasons) was probably well-intentioned but executed terribly.

              2. SnowyRose*

                Ok, I really want to hear someone shout “Oh my glitter!” in frustration at work now.

                1. Athersgeo*

                  When I worked in corporate hospitality, I got into the habit of substituting obscenities with more innocent phrases so that if I DID find myself letting out an exclamation of shock in front of customers it was at least PG (if not G) rated. (I mean, I did try not to make that sort of exclamation in front of customers, period, but occasionally you do drop a tray of glasses where everyone can see or slam your hand in a cupboard door or drop a crystal ashtray on your foot…that sucker was heavy!) . Fishsticks was one that got quite a work out. As did flying toast.

                  Had I thought of glitter, I’d have definitely added it to my rotation!

                2. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

                  I am totally adopting “oh my glitter” and adding it to “shut the front door!” and “holy pickleballs, Batman” and all the other silly stuff I say to avoid cursing at the office.

                3. Anon Again... Naturally*

                  I’ve started using ‘what the falafel’. It works surprisingly well and is surface level work appropriate. I’m definitely adding ‘oh my glitter’. As a crafter that is an absolutely frightening phrase, as everyone knows that once you use glitter in an area all future work done in that area will have glitter traces.

                4. Hannah Lee*

                  My mother used to say “Son of Beech Nut Gum”. She had other sub phrases for the exclamations that include God references, but the Gum one is the one that stuck with me.

            4. MCMonkeybean*

              Neither of those are remotely on the same level as “blessed.” I also would not expect someone to hang a poster in the bathroom that says “bloody hell” or “oh my god” so I’m not sure how those phrases have literally anything to do with the topic at hand…

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          I’ve literally never seen anyone use that who didn’t 100% mean it as God has Blessed Me.

          1. Bella Ridley*

            That’s nice for you, cause there are a zillion examples on social media of people saying #blessed meaning it as an entirely, 100% tongue-in-cheek expression of “that sucked” or even “a good thing happened” without meaning it as a full-scale Baptist-style “I have been Blessed by the Lord this beautiful morning!”

          2. Ginger Cat Lady*

            You must not know any sarcastic people. #blessed is one I see used almost always in a sarcastic manner.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      They might be non denominational words but they’re definitely spiritual and faith based in tone; I wouldn’t say they’re guilty of forwarding one religion over another but I think people forget that having no faith at all is also important to some people. It’s not exactly professional language unless the work is in any way spiritual. I wouldn’t see a problem with a word like miracle being used lightly, in a verbal throwaway sense, but as the focus of a poster? To people who work in technical roles? The cluelessness is strong in this one.

      1. Nodramalama*

        It may also be an indicator how language is changing over time and how it’s creeping in from social media to other places.

        I can’t count how many times I’ve seen “pray for me” or just the pray hands emoji and not once would my immediate thought be that they’re actually spiritual or literally praying.

        1. Tinka Bella*

          That is bizarre to me, I would never assume anything else! And that language would make me instantly wary of anyone using it.

          1. Nodramalama*

            Maybe it’s age or geographics or just different demographics of what we’re seeing but I don’t know anyone who uses the pray hands emoji and is meaning an actual prayer.

            1. Jay (no, the other one)*

              I do, often in posts asking for “prayer warriors.” In my personal/social media life, I let it go if it’s not directed specifically to me. In my work life that language makes me deeply uncomfortable.

              I work in hospice care and we often start our meetings with a centering or inspiration reading – usually a poem or something like that. We are expressely and explicitly not a religious organization. Several weeks ago I went to a meeting of a team I hadn’t met before and they started with an explicitly Christian prayer. I asked them not to do that when I was there and then spoke to leadership to confirm that the org doesn’t condone this (I’m relatively new here). Headed there again today and I’m a bit apprehensive about it.

            2. amoeba*

              Huh, yeah, probably. I literally only ever see it to mean “thanks”. (I don’t really have any at all religious people in my bubble, so pretty sure it doesn’t have a hidden meaning I’m not getting!)

              1. UUnicornish*

                I have a lot of religious people in my bubble (I was raised in and live in the Bible Belt; I myself am Unitarian). I see the praying hands as religious, and never use it. The religious people in my circles use it to mean “praying for you” as well as “thanks,” but many people I know, including my agnostic husband and a couple of atheist friends, use it just to mean “thanks.”

                Of course, my husband also never saw that “servant leadership” is overtly religious until several people (besides me) told him how it sounded to them. I think people who have not been involved in Christian churches at some point in their life often don’t see these things as “religious” because they don’t know how much they are emphasized in that particular culture.

                1. Great Frogs of Literature*

                  All my coworkers use it to just mean “thanks,” and it’s so weird to me, because I’m Christian and see it as an inherently religious gesture (that doesn’t belong in the workplace). I don’t use it myself, but at this point I’ve mostly accepted it as a strange thing other people do. (One of the coworkers who uses it A LOT is Vietnamese-American and pretty young — both in age and work experience — and I suspect it’s hitting different cultural touchstones for him/it hasn’t occurred to him that it might be considered religious.)

                2. Householder*

                  It’s interesting how context dependent everything is. Buddhists texting or emailing other Buddhists use the “praying” hands emoji constantly to mean “gassho” (The little bow with hands together that means something like respect/gratitude/thank you.)

            3. doreen*

              I know plenty of people who are use it not to mean that they themselves will actually be praying but that they want to evoke the image of them praying while really meaning something more like “good luck”. Much like “you’re in my thoughts” doesn’t I’m actually thinking of you for longer that it took to say that.

            4. Coffee Protein Drink*

              The commentariat seems to be evenly split on experience here. Mine is I’ve never seen anyone who doesn’t mean it as either asking for prayers or praying for someone (usually unasked).

          2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

            The only people I know who are non-religious and using it are people who are seriously non-religious and using it in a profoundly sarcastic manner, which I doubt is workplace-friendly either.

            1. Irish Teacher.*

              Yeah, in Ireland, I’ve known people who use it in a clearly joking way, like “I’m getting my hair cut short after decades of long hair. Don’t know how this will end up working out. Pray for me,” but…even that is playing on the sort of idea of looking for divine help in a case where it is clearly not necessary and while I’m not sure whethere these people are themselves religious or not, they were certainly people who were raised as Catholic and often who were brought up with the idea of “pray for it” as the solution to problems.

              I suspect this may be just an Irish thing anyway, but it’s definitely not secular.

          3. OaDC*

            I use prayer hands as “hoping for this”. I use them alternately with crossed fingers, 2 of each. Feel free to be wary.

          4. Goldfeesh*

            Exactly- what else do portraying hands and asking people to pray for you even mean then?

          5. Clisby*

            Your and Nodramalama’s comments seem odd to me.

            I’ve definitely seen the praying hands emoji where it’s joking, sarcastic, or being over-the-top dramatic (The cat just threw up on my favorite quilt! .

            I’ve also seen it from people who genuinely want people to pray for them. It’s not hard to tell the difference.

            1. Annie*

              Eh, clearly just different uses in different age/cultural groups. This is one of those things where no one is wrong – usage just differs.

              For example, I’m a millennial in Canada. I use prayer hands all the time to mean something like “hoping so / good luck” and also something like “amazing, thanks”. I see similar usage in my circles.

              I don’t think I’ve seen anyone use it to mean actually literally praying, but I also don’t run in a particularly Christian milieu (other than vaguely culturally Christian).

        2. Autumn*

          It’s all about each person’s experience as well. When “inspirational” stuff comes across on my Facebook feed I’ll enjoy the beauty, or smile at the cute cat, the religious symbolism goes in one ear and out the other. If I had to face the same thing in my work place it would be another matter. Especially in the bathroom.

          Ultimately all such posters are a waste because you stop seeing them after a while. They become invisible.

        3. Hroethvitnir*

          Yeah, I live in overwhelmingly atheist/agnostic circles, so while I actively avoid references to praying the lack of easy equivalent (wish me luck isn’t as pithy) has lead to some people using “pray for me” areligiously – most often in a tongue in cheek way.

          It’s like using casual blasphemy; whatever is the traditionally dominant religion is is going to become the local turn of phrase to some degree.

          None of this is in favour of words like that on workplace posters btw, even if motivational posters weren’t universally patronising.

    3. Sharpie*

      As a practising Christian, ‘blessed’ and ‘miracles’ absolutely read as religious in nature. Specifically, Christian. (And I’m from the UK which is not known, these days, as being a strongly Christian nation – we don’t have anything remotely similar to the US Bible belt, for instance.)

      I would feel extremely uncomfortable at seeing posters like those anywhere other than a church or an openly Christian mission or charity.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The term “blessed” was also explicitly religious for a long-departed pagan friend.

    4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      As an atheist I totally get hung up on the religious aspect of anything. Maybe it doesn’t affect you but it does me.

      1. ReallyBadPerson*

        As a Christian, I find expressions like “blessed” and “miracles” in secular contexts off-putting at best and offensive at worst. So often, they’re just empty virtue-signalling. I mean, if you really feel blessed, then go and quietly demonstrate your gratitude by helping others. There is no need to broadcast it.

      2. Coffee Protein Drink*

        Exactly. I once went to a potluck where someone shouted, “Did someone bless the food?” until she got her way.

        I was new and didn’t want to make a fuss so I left the room for five minutes.

        When the same person started passing out literature about putting the Ten Commandments in schools, I went to HR. None of this has any place in workplace.

      1. Bella Ridley*

        Really? You never heard someone say “it was a miracle we were able to pull that off?” or “Jim rearranged his schedule! Wow, turns out he is capable of making a phone call, it’s a miracle!” and use it in figurative language? Because I work in an extremely secular, extremely non-AAM style workplace, and I’ve certainly heard stuff like that, and if someone honestly said that was use of “religious speech” they’d be openly mocked.

        1. Spencer Hastings*

          This. Or even:

          “We finally got X, Y, and Z from the client!”

          “Thank God — I was beginning to think we were going to miss the tax deadline.”

          (In fact, it strikes me that this is a thing that non-religious people are *more* likely to say, since religious people might have a taboo against using such phrases.)

        2. MsM*

          I’m guessing the posters have imagery like a beam of light streaming from a cloud or doves or some other tell that makes it less easy to dismiss as a non-religious figure of speech.

          1. Nodramalama*

            I mean we have absolutely no idea. For all we know the poster could say *be thankful for small miracles”

            1. Coffee Protein Drink*

              That phrasing, really being told to be grateful in any way, is a pet peeve of mine.

        3. Nodramalama*

          Yes this was the point I was also trying to make but then someone basically likened it to forcing people to celebrate Christmas

      2. Coyote River*

        Of course they are.

        “Thank God it’s Friday”

        “Jesus, don’t scare me like that”

        “That rain was a blessing in disguise”

        “It’s a miracle I got my assignment finished”

      3. SoloKid*

        I absolutely use both. I say “count your blessings”, and “we need a miracle to win this!” as an atheist.

      4. Moose*

        I was a sign language interpreter for over a decade. I heard “miracle” very often in non-religious contexts with no religious meaning attached. That one has very much entered the secular vernacular.

        “Blessed” has not unless someone is using it sarcastically.

    5. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      I don’t care how the poster or the person putting them up feels, “blessed” and especially “miracles” are religious to many people and have no place in office decor.

    6. Seashell*

      I think the religious aspect is the legitimate complaint here. I would probably agree with LW that the motivational stuff is not my thing, but that is more a matter of personal taste. Some people might actually like it. Keeping religion out of communal areas in a non-religious workplace seems like an appropriate rule of thumb to follow.

    7. Policy Wonk*

      I think you need to raise both issues or you risk the chance of only having the ones you complained about removed – management might seek a “split the baby” kind of solution.

      1. Nespresso Addict*

        >management might seek a “split the baby” kind of solution<

        I see what you did there…

    8. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

      I think it is actually that religion (Christianity) is so baked into our culture that many view “mildly” religious things as not religious at all. To me, “blessed” is definitely religious unless there is some VERY clear indication that it’s not. We need to start with the presumption that if something smacks of religion at all, some people will reasonably interpret it as religious and they have the right to be free from that.

    9. theletter*

      I think there’s a big difference between shouting OMG with surprise and using promotional art with ‘blessed’ and ‘miracles’, because those terms specifically speak to the toxic positive aspects of religion, and that has no place in a workplace. Client complaints cannot be resolved by reminding them they are blessed. Balance sheets do not miraculously go into the black.

    10. Observer*

      I wouldn’t get too hung up on the “religious” aspect, as those sort of poster often use phrases like miracles and blessed in a non-religious manner.

      That’s not really relevant, because those words are heavily used in religious contexts, even when the religion is supposedly non-denominational. And a lot of the “not religious” contexts *are* actually religious. The lack of a mention of specific deity (whether monotheistic, pagan, pantheistic, or other spiritual traditions or practices) does not change that reality.

      So, while it *is* possible that these particular posters really are not religion adjacent, there is nothing in the letter to lead me to accept the less likely explanation over what the LW is writing.

  5. Amanda123*

    LW5 is a great illustration of why even people who don’t want to retire early should save aggressively and live below their means. It is so sad to see somebody in their 50s who still can’t afford to walk away from a bad job.

    1. Hazelthyme*

      This really doesn’t seem helpful to the LW, and comes off as blaming them for a situation that they can’t change now.

      I’m the same age as the LW, and yes — I personally could change jobs or even retire if I wanted to or had to (albeit with some lifestyle changes). While I’d like to think my own choices and frugality played some role here, it’s also a lot of luck: I have a long term partner who’s also gainfully employed with a decent job, I’ve never gotten divorced, I’ve never been sued or faced a catastrophic illness that drained my savings, I don’t have a chronic medical condition that limits my ability to work, I’m not constantly spending money to support a special needs child or a struggling relative.

      I also had a career path that led me to a very well paid line of work almost by accident. 2 of my closest friends are at least as frugal & well educated as I am, but work in health care fields that pay maybe half of what I make, and have been through divorces. 1 of them is still single now and has a medical issue that will likely limit her ability to work in her physically demanding job in the next 5 years. My being more well off than they are is not strictly because I saved aggressively and lived below my means while they were spendthrifts who spent every cent they earned.

      1. notlucky*

        Thank you for saying that. I really appreciate it that there are at least some people in the world who understand that luck is at least part of the equation.

      2. totallyrad*

        Agree with @notlucky, thank you for saying that! I have taken a lot of the hits you mentioned you didn’t have, plus I have a liberal arts degree that (surprise!) wasn’t in hot demand the way my college career advice insisted it would be, and I also am late 50s and probably will never be able to retire despite saving all I can. My hope is to find a job I dislike less since I’m going to be working until I drop.

      3. ferrina*


        Most people I know who have limited retirement funds are not spendthrifts. They are people who have worked hard but have been limited by factors outside of their control. They worked in careers where they didn’t make much money; they were taking care of dependents and needed the funds to make ends meet; they had a catastrophic event; they had a medical event that insurance didn’t cover. Sometimes they did every single thing right and they got screwed over. They had good insurance and lived frugally, and when they had a medical event, they even called the hospital to make sure everything was in-network. But the anesthesiologist at the hospital was out of network and no one told them, and now the insurance won’t pay that portion and that’s several thousand dollars they didn’t have (I’m U.S.-based, as most readers have probably assumed). In one case it was a divorce from an abusive partner- the partner refused to pay child support and regularly took them to court over made-up issues. If you work a low-paying job, you’d need to save way past the age of 65 to get any kind of livable retirement. And low-paying job doesn’t mean that you aren’t working hard or doing valuable or skilled work- daycare workers watch the most vulnerable population and get paid peanuts (and they are on their feet all day). Or it could be impacted by outside factors- toxic families can cause serious issues. I have family members that will steal, that will divert funds, that will create disasters that put other family members in impossible situations (should you pay for someone else’s kids if the parent won’t care for them? what about the elderly parent who spent all their money but now can’t care for themselves? I have a friend that needed to uproot themself and move across the country to get away from a toxic family who was shortening this person’s life, but they didn’t have any support system to make the move and it took more than a decade to get on their feet)

        And it’s usually not a single factor- often there are compounding factors. Lack of money does not correspond with lack of intelligence or work ethic.

    2. Collaterlie Sisters*

      Saving aggressively is realistic for a minority of people. This seems like a bit of a tone deaf comment to make about someone who’s been a nurse for 30+ years.

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

        Agree. Plus you could be one bad accident away from having to spend your entire savings.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      Clearly, LW5 could afford to walk away from a bad job, because she did.

    4. Brain the Brian*

      What on earth? This is a bizarre tangent that no one asked for. I don’t like being rude to fellow commenters, but… grow up.

    5. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      So much judgment in your post. Do you think people in their fifties are past it already? I’m in my 60s and I’m in great shape both physically and mentally, perfectly capable of working and no intention of retiring because I happen to love my job and am proud of earning my own living.
      I could have saved more money, but what kind of life would I have lived if I had deprived myself of books and travel and exhibitions and meals at great restaurants and hobbies?

      1. amoeba*

        Yeah, also like – even here in Europe, late 50s isn’t usually retirement age and the vast majority of people cannot actually afford to retire at that age. That’s just… normal? And very definitely more so with low-paying jobs like healthcare. Apart from the fact that most people don’t even expect or wish to retire that early!

        1. Boof*

          As much as it would be nice to live in a world where work is optional, we’re not in a place where we’re so efficient and/or robots do everything or whatever and for the average person who will probably live to 80s, and maybe didn’t finish education/training until their 20s or so; retiring at 50 means working about 30 out of 80 years or about 37% of ones life (and ideally that work time is comfortable / around 40 hrs a week / with ample PTO, vacations, etc). I don’t see how that’d be sustainable for society unless folks were hella productive for that time. I know, work to live, not live to work, but ideally work is pleasant enough that it’s acceptable to do into a healthy old age. Maybe some might want to work their butt off and do nothing but save and life frugally and get to FIRE* if they’re lucky / nothing goes awry (financial independence retire early) but that’s hardly everyone’s goal and I’d rather enjoy the journey more my self and take it more leisurely (work hard, play hard, save for a retirement that will be close to my current standard of living hopefully but don’t stress about retiring early)

          1. bamcheeks*

            It’s not only not everyone’s goal, it doesn’t financially work if everyone does it! You can only live off investments if someone else is doing the work to make sure they continue to grow.

        2. Shandra*


          Yes. Around September 2020, the London Guardian opined that laid-off younger workers could find new jobs if older workers would retire. Several 50-somethings responded online that they were nowhere near financially able to retire yet.

          Early in pandemic lockdown, both France and Britain instituted benefit programs for laid-off workers.

          However, the French program applied to people in traditional employment. It didn’t include freelancers, the self-employed and contract workers.

          The British program applied to people who had been on the payroll by a certain date. New hires who hadn’t started their new jobs yet, were left in the unemployment cold.

    6. Earlk*

      Nothing indicates that they haven’t saved, it just mentions that they can’t retire early. They could live another 40+ years and even if they had saved aggressively that’s a long time to fund purely on savings. It’s not sad, it’s realistic.

      1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

        Yes. And technology has made it possible for adults to live a long time but at considerable expense. If you expect to live to 75 or 80 and be able to live independently for most of that time, retirement at 55 is more possible than if you expect to live to 95 and the last decade will require full-time caretaking.

    7. AGD*

      This comment is heartless. The people I know in their 50s who can’t afford to retire were all careful. Most of them are American and have dealt with health problems, legal bills, or plain old bad luck. I recommend reading up on how poverty works and stepping way back from assuming anyone ever deserves it!

      1. Goldie*

        Who retires in their 50’s? I’m in my 50’s and a the peak of my career. Also have two teenagers. It’s very helpful to be at my peak income too because they are expensive. As are two sets of aging parents and several family members who occasionally need help.

        1. Seashell*

          I don’t think it’s the norm, but some people do. I know police officers and firefighters who get a pension after 20 or 25 years of service, so that’s likely to put them in their 40’s or 50’s. I know someone who made a lot in the world of finance and has retired in his early 50’s. I saw a news report that mentioned the mandatory retirement age for FBI agents is 57. I have a friend who will probably have to retire for medical reasons in her 50’s.

          1. doreen*

            And while it’s true that firefighters/police etc who retire in their 40s and get a pension are likely to get another job (and therefore haven’t retired so much as changed jobs) , there are also people like me- I was eligible to collect my pension at 55 and actually retired at 58. But there was a lot of luck and some planning involved. Lucky that I got a job that provided both a pension and health insurance when I was 55 , lucky that neither my husband or I had medical problems , and I had my kids young enough that they moved out when I was about 50 but that involved some luck, too. I wouldn’t have been able to do it if I didn’t have a pension or even if I had the pension and no health insurance – and the LW has been living off whatever savings they had for the past two years.

          2. Sparkle Llama*

            I work in local government and while police and fire are able to receive full retirement at 55 if they worked for at least 10 years it is rare that they actually stop working. They are able to purchase health insurance through our pool, but the premiums are high so between retirement and Medicare and social security eligibility most need to do something to supplement their income.

            Also your pension is based on your top earning years so you especially want to make sure you work for five years after a promotion.

        2. Victoria, Please*

          I plan to at 55, at the peak of my career. While I’m still good at it, instead of deteriorating in it. I have an older spouse that I want to spend time with while they’re able.

        3. I can read anything except the room*

          Retiring in my 50s was the kind of notion I had in my mid-20s, when I was still grappling with the loss of a college student lifestyle and the idea that I was supposed to give over the better part of my time to work for more years than I had even been alive at that point.

        4. totallyrad*

          I worked with someone who retired in her early 50s. I asked her how she’d managed it – and the answer was that it was her intention from the day she started working and she had put a lot of resources into that goal, including never having children and also marrying a high earning partner! Nice work if you can get it, I guess.

        5. Caramel & Cheddar*

          I think it was more common when good union jobs with good pensions were still common. This is increasingly out of reach for most types of employment, so it seems unrealistic to assume most people are going to retire in their 50s, especially as you increasingly hear about people working into their 70s or 80s to make ends meet.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            Yes, and today a news article about remaining city pensions being underfunded made the little news summary in the elevator. And a few weeks ago, an article about raising property tax to fund pensions… They already raised the retirement age to 60 or 62. More changes will be necessary.

    8. mreasy*

      If only the majority of people without that type of financial security were irresponsible. That’s simply not reality. But it’s certainly easier for those with means to believe they are irresponsible, rather than to recognize that the system we are in fails more people than it succeeds – and that compassion and mutual aid are called for.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        Yes, that’s how elites justify taking most of the wealth for themselves and leaving many Americans to support families in (the many) areas where there are few or no jobs that pay a living wage, with the worst healthcare system in the developed world waiting to bankrupt them.
        Not to mention the educational system that does not teach anyone anything about managing their personal finances – thus facilitating credit card companies taking advantage – and insurance companies refusing to pay for healthcare – I am sure you get the idea and can find out the rest yourself.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          When I say “you” I mean the person who started this thread. Not the person I replied to. Sorry!

    9. Christine*

      I’m in my sixties and have more money than most, but I also have multiple medical issues and need to keep working for the medical insurance.

    10. Myrin*

      Are you mixing up this letter with another one? OP did walk away from the bad job (two bad jobs, in fact, if you count the offer at the shady facility she rejected).

    11. Nancy*

      LW5 did walk away from a bad job in 2022. Most people don’t retire in their 50s, regardless of how much they saved.

    12. MigraineMonth*

      What? You realize that in the US, Medicaid doesn’t kick in until you turn 65 and you aren’t eligible for the full Social Security payout until you’re 67?

      The large majority of Americans *with healthy retirement savings* still plan to keep working until 65 because paying out-of-pocket for health insurance in addition to living expenses is exorbitant.

    13. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

      LW5 is a great illustration of why we need a robust safety net and wages that meet the realities of life.

    14. metadata minion*

      There are already plenty of people for whom “below their means” would mean not being able to afford basic necessities, let alone those whose means already don’t stretch that far.

    15. Lisanthus*

      And it’s so sad to see posters like Amanda123 who are so completely ignorant of reality like…oh, divorce? Losing a spouse/partner to death? Chronic illness? Caretaking for family that precludes stable work at high-paying jobs? Physical/mental challenges? Wage discrimination? America’s lack of structural safety nets?

      Bless your heart, sweetie.

      1. actual cat herder*

        seriously, i’m barely 40 but have had to cash out my retirement twice – once due to chronic illness, once only a few years later when my partner left me for said illness. and i consider myself fairly lucky!!!

      2. DJ Abbott*

        Or, just trying to support children in one of the many US areas where there aren’t any jobs that pay enough. Areas where all the jobs are service, factory or warehouse, except for a few in banks and such- which also don’t pay big bucks, just more than the others.

    16. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      The economy has been a constant project of making sure most people can’t walk away from bad jobs for most of the time that a fifty-year-old has been in the workforce.

      As illustrated by the absolute panic that occurred recently amongst those setting economic policies when for less than a year people actually were mostly able to walk away from said jobs.

    17. ReallyBadPerson*

      I will pass along this helpful advice to the poor people I know who are working several jobs and are still struggling to make ends meet.

    18. A Simple Narwhal*

      Fwiw LW5 could be doing fantastically with their saving for retirement plans, but being almost 10 years out from retirement absolutely means they’re not near their goal, especially counting the extra hurdles/penalties you run into if you want to retire early.

      And paying out of pocket is super expensive, almost no one can afford to do that forever. None of what LW5 said in their letter indicates that they’ve made bad decisions or are even doing bad financially.

    19. No Tribble At All*

      Dude. You can’t save aggressively and live below your means if you’re paid minimum wage.

    20. Helewise*

      You’re getting a lot of pushback for this, but I generally agree – although I’m not reading the judgment into it that others see and wouldn’t agree with that. This would be difficult to impossible for a lot of people. But I think we forget sometimes that we have limited control over what choices we’re faced with especially as we get older and make financial decisions based on better-to-best-case scenarios rather than worst-case. My husband is in an industry that’s notorious for pushing people out in their fifties so that’s always been in the back of our minds.

    21. Lurker*

      I don’t think this comment is helpful. Many different factors affect when you can retire, and anyway LW5 didn’t ask for advice on their finances so I think it’s best to focus on the actual question asked.

  6. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

    Regrettably, saving aggressively and living below your means is just an impossible dream for many people now. The issues are systemic, not individual. And while we continue to act as if the issues are individual, they do not get fixed.

    1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

      And even for people who are able to save aggressively, retirement is off the table in the US for many for health insurance reasons.

    2. iglwif*

      This so much.

      If saving aggressively and living within your means requires picking up and moving hundreds or thousands of kilometres away from your family / friends / community / support system, that has a cost. (And pretty soon, the COL in your new area will start to approach COL in your old area because of all the people doing the same thing you are.)

      If it requires going without things you need, that has a cost. Even if it only requires going without things that make your life enjoyable, that has a cost.

      If it increases your baseline stress level and decreases your baseline contentment level, that has a cost.

      And of course also your means can change dramatically overnight when you or your partner gets laid off or an unexpected life event happens.

      1. In the provinces*

        A simple point about compound interest for Amanda 123. If you achieve a return on your retirement savings/investments of 7%/year, which is pretty good, more than half of your total retirement savings would accumulate in the 10 years before you retire. So someone in
        her late 50s, about 10 years from normal retirement age, would, even with good retirement savings, still be pretty far from retirement.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      “The personal is political.” It was ground-breaking back in the 1960’s and 1970’s and it’s still true.

      “And while we continue to act as if the issues are individual, they do not get fixed.” Also true then and now.

  7. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    How on earth could “miracle” and “blessed” NOT be religious? Seriously, I do not understand any other way those words could be used.

    1. I'm the Pboebe in any Group*

      Just like a December holiday party decorated in red and green with secret Santa activities is not a Christmas party.

    2. Nodramalama*

      Blessed is often used as a super general, kind of amorphous, new agey kind of sentiment that is basically just a synonym for fortunate

        1. Nodramalama*

          Ok well I’m just saying how many people intend to use it. Maybe there’s an unconscious religious element but many people who say “#blessed” are not intending for it to have a religious meaning.

          1. Stella*

            just because they didn’t intend that doesn’t mean I’m magically totally comfortable with those words – especially at work!

                1. Florence Reece*

                  How? Genuinely, how? What did Nodramalama say that that implies, in any way, that people should be comfortable with words that they aren’t, rather than just not being super shitty and discriminatory towards others that do use the word?

          2. I'm the Pboebe in any Group*

            And Christmas is not a religious holiday. It is an American holiday. So non-Christians have no right to be offended with Christmas trees and stockings and secret Santa at work.

            1. Nodramalama*

              That is a wild extrapolation of what I said. Literally all I did was give an example of what people can mean when they use blessed but are not intending it to be religious. I did not anywhere say, that means it’s fine to shove Christmas down people’s throats.

            2. Sharpie*

              Christmas is celebrated in the UK too as a non-religious holiday. Doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a Christian basis.

              Purely American holidays (speaking as a Brit and therefore looking at it from the outside) are the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving, neither of which are celebrated on this side of the Pond.

              1. metadata minion*

                I know plenty of people in the UK of non-Christian religions who very much do not consider Christmas non-religious.

              2. Rincewind*

                Even Thanksgiving is tricky because it’s very Christian in its traditions about “giving thanks” for your good fortune that year. You’re not thanking the person who made your year better, you’re just generally “giving thanks”. It feels like prayer, and most Thanksgiving meals/celebrations I’ve attended have included prayer in some capacity, even with family members who aren’t generally religious.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            You could argue that singing Christmas carols and putting up a nativity scene are not religious because some people do that due to fond memories of the tradition from their childhood.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Satan bless you.

              I’m an agnostic, don’t believe in Satan, and so totally don’t mean that in a religious way.

              1. ferrina*


                I feel non-religiously blessed in a totally agnostic and non-spiritual way. (said no one ever)

            2. Nodramalama*

              So everytime someone says “that’s a blessing in disguise” you think they’re religious?

              1. Usurper Cranberries*

                No, some of them just haven’t unpacked how the religious culture they were raised in is impacting their language.

                1. Florence Reece*

                  I was raised explicitly non-religious. (My mom is “spiritual” in the vague SoCal way that isn’t attached to any specific belief. My dad was disowned by his LDS family for his lack of servitude to the church, and took great delight in doing every possible act that Mormons condemn so he didn’t exactly instill that faithfulness in his children.) I’ve quite literally stepped foot in any kind of religious institution 3 times in the 30+ years I’ve been alive, once as an accident and twice to attend weddings for friends. I live in a huge city with a generally progressive and generally non-religious bent. I read the Bible as a young adult to understand references to the very strange culture that had essentially no impact on me growing up.

                  I don’t need to unpack how words that stemmed from Christianity, a culture that I have no connection to beyond recognizing its place in our history, impact my language any more than I need to unpack how other, similar descriptivist changes impact my language. I use the language that is common and understood by my communities, and I assume good faith from people doing the same. If they start pushing their historical or cultural definitions on me, I respond to *that*. But language evolves all the time. If you are stuck on how an offhand wish for your health and fortune is related to religion, maybe you’re the one who hasn’t unpacked the impact of that culture on you.

                1. Florence Reece*

                  Doesn’t that matter, though? Why are we honoring specifically the Christian faith so highly that language it uses can never, ever, ever be changed or used differently? What other culture do we give so much credence to?

          4. Aww, coffee, no*

            Good for them. I imagine the people who describe women calmly speaking up about a bad situation as ‘aggressive’ don’t intend to be sexist, and yet, and yet…..

            1. Nodramalama*

              And yet what. Seriously these analogies are too much for me. Do you also jump down people’s throat if they say “oh Jim finally responded to me, had a miracle”?

              1. Aww, coffee, no*

                And yet…: they are in fact still being sexist.

                You are telling us that people don’t *intend* to be religious by using blessed and miracle; I and other commenters are pointing out that intent is not everything and providing examples of such.

                I’m happy that you’re not bothered by the language, but OP#1 *is*, and has the right to be – just I have the right to find someone sexist, *regardless of their intent*, when they behave in a sexist way.

                1. Florence Reece*

                  The top comment in this thread is someone asking how those words can possibly be used in non-religious settings, and Nodramalama literally just provided examples. You are assigning so much hostile intent to someone who hasn’t done a thing to warrant it. Please try to consider that someone who doesn’t share your perspective isn’t necessarily AGAINST YOU. My goodness.

                2. Nodramalama*

                  I have no idea where you got all of that from my comment. Which was literally just a reply to “how can blessed and miracle not be used in a religious way”

                  But I guess because I say “bless you” after someone sneezes I’m a monster forcing my non existent belief system on you

            2. Florence Reece*

              That’s not even remotely the same thing. There’s no neutral meaning of “aggressive”.

              I’m not saying this would be appropriate *at work* but seriously y’all, have you not been on any other part of the internet in the last decade? “hashtag blessed” is not used to convey religious meaning at all for a lot of circles. It’s a meme. Literally a meme, like one that is found on Know Your Meme. It’s from a joke in Parks and Rec that Tom Haverford, resident heathen, tweets “Four green lights in a row #blessed” before crashing his car. It had a huge pop culture surge. The New York Times published an article in 2014 maligning how the word was being stripped of its religious context and used to humblebrag instead. This is not a new thing.

              Again, not necessarily appropriate at work, but the insistence that a word has not taken new meaning in pop culture is bizarre. And comparing it to sexist rhetoric? Why do we need to do that?

                1. Florence Reece*

                  Okay? And to others, they are using it in a non-religious way.

                  If intent doesn’t matter, as you and others keep saying, then many words become completely meaningless. “Literally” is used to mean “figuratively” all the time and we manage to parse that, somehow. There’s a user in this thread who is saying “blessed is not appropriate and is seeped in Christian culture” and their username is “Hastily Blessed Fritos”, but nobody seems confused about whether that’s a religious statement about corn chips or, as is implied by so many of these comments, is an attempt to push Christianity on the rest of the people in this comment section.

                  I explicitly said that I’m not advocating its usage in the office. But this thread is speculating about how those words could possibly not be religious, which has been answered. Yes, the language is based in a religious context, like so many of our words and idioms are. Yes, there’s room to push back if someone is pushing their religion on you in underhanded ways that seem neutral but aren’t. But we have no idea if that’s happening here and that wasn’t the context of *this thread*.

                  “A sign of the times” was popularized by a Pope in the 60s, directly referencing that language in the Bible. But it would be silly to say that intent doesn’t matter when someone comments on how recent events are a sign of the times, yeah? We can all understand that that’s used non-religiously more often than not? “Scapegoat” is also directly from the Bible — same deal there, yeah?

                  Intent does matter. If you don’t even try to understand someone’s intent, and can’t accept that they were not trying to offend or convert you, frankly you’re rejecting a basic tenet of community. I’m an atheist and I don’t love hearing the normalized Christian language in this country, but I can understand that people don’t have my exact experience and may not be thinking about it like that at all. A motivational poster saying someone is “blessed” is not my cup of tea in any way, but it’s bananas to me that the reaction here is SO hostile and so insistent that everyone using common language is secretly a christofascist trying to tear down feminism in the office.

                2. Florence Reece*

                  Like I just want to be really clear: if “intent doesn’t matter” is overused like this, we set a new normalized standard that is intolerant of all perspectives that do not match ours. We assume that everyone’s intent is built from the same, specifically Christian, building blocks. That is ridiculous and exclusionary. I don’t see how that’s any different than what is theoretically being pushed against. And that standard excludes people in a way that, let’s be real, we would *never* do if someone put up a “namaste” poster or responded to someone’s troubles with “inshallah”, both of which could arguably also be inappropriate in the office but would not be met with accusations like the ones flying around here.

                  Just give people some grace*. That’s all I’m saying. They probably are not trying to hurt you.

                  (*another word linked directly to Christianity! not intentional, just part of my normal vocabulary and completely distinct from what ‘grace’ means in a religious sense)

                3. metadata minion*

                  I’m not sure where this is going to end up with the level of threading, but replying the “people wouldn’t object to a namaste poster” — I would definitely object! Especially since unless I was working in an office that had some connection to South Asian culture, it’s probably going to be yet another example of white people appropriating something that sounds vaguely “spiritual” and robbing it of the original context. (To be clear, this is if it was in the bathroom or other shared areas as in the original question; if someone has it up in their own office, that’s different).

                4. Florence Reece*

                  @metadataminion – nah, I feel you! I would also object to that in shared spaces. I don’t want others’ beliefs to be part of my workplace in any way, and I understand where the OP was coming from. I also appreciate the appropriation aspect.

                  But do you think there would be multiple threads insisting that anyone who hangs a “namaste” poster in any personal context is a religious bigot? Or questioning if that word can ever be used in a non-religious context? We know very well that it is used in non-religious and actively appropriative contexts, all the time. The language changes, for better or worse.

                  I’m honestly just…upset that so many people are rejecting Christianity (fair, me too) but also placing it in a weird, sacrosanct place where if you use any language that was ever linked to it, you must actually secretly believe in it? I don’t. It’s offensive that the language I commonly use, in an explicitly non-religious way, is being painted as actually religious because some other folks use it that way. It’s SUPER offensive that non-religious uses of normalized language is being compared to explicit sexism. I don’t understand why folks can’t, or won’t, recognize that their own experiences are coloring their views here.

                5. Florence Reece*

                  I’ll shut up after this, but essentially: this entire line of questioning, from the comment OP all the way down, assumes that Christianity is the default. I know it doesn’t intend to, but it does. Every ‘rebuttal’ that says “but that’s based on Christianity!” thoughtlessly dismisses the cultural impact that imperial Christianity has had on the world. Yeah, a bunch of languages and cultures have adopted the religious language and ideals that were forced on them with violence. Wild! Who could imagine that! And now we feel free to blame people for benign references to bullshit that we spread? With no consideration of how those ideals may have evolved to detach from their religious roots? No matter what, those are always suspect and always attached to the culture that bore them? Rad!

          5. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            Intent is not everything. They may be so immersed in cultural Christianity that they don’t think of “blessed” as being religious, but I guarantee many people who hear it will.

          6. metadata minion*

            This is an eye-opener for me, since that’s not something really anyone I’m close to says, and I had absolutely assumed it was intended religiously!

          7. sparkle emoji*

            This seems regional to me. I’ve lived in areas that were very Christian where even #blessed was used in an explicitly Christian way. I can absolutely believe there are places where it’s used the new-agey way you describe, but that doesn’t mean LW1 can’t still object to seeing that message in her work bathroom.

      1. STLBlues*

        Rethink this, Nodramalama.

        This is analogous to someone using a bigoted word that their family says, and then claiming “oh, I didn’t mean it THAT way, we just always call those people that word.”

        It still means the same thing whether you’re consciously using it that way or not. Blessed is religious. Full stop.

        1. Nodramalama*

          I’m sorry but no, it’s not like that. These words occur in common parlance. You can have issues with that fact, but it is still common parlance. Everyone who uses the phrase “a blessing in disguise”, is not religious.

          1. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

            That’s a fossilized phrase, one step up from “Goodbye” (originally “God be with you”) and isn’t really evidence that something like “have a blessed day” isn’t religious.

            1. Nodramalama*

              I’m fairly sure I didn’t make any comment on whether have a blessed day is religious or not.

            2. Nancy*

              A lot of words have religious etymologies if you go back far enough. Language evolves.

            3. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

              You’ll need to also excise “noon” (comes from a term related to a timed prayer), “bigot” (comes from a word meaning “religious hypocrite,” from “by God”), “a capella” (means “from the chapel”), carnival (“the end to flesh,” a reference to Lent), “excruciating” (a reference to torture on a cross, from “crux”), holiday (from “holy day”), “short shrift” (shrift from a Catholic term meaning penance after confession), “bulletin” (from papal bulls), washing your hands of someone or something (from Pontius Pilate), and enthusiasm (from a word meaning possession by God).

        2. ferrina*

          I agree with this.

          Just because a term has been entrenched in mainstream colloquialisms doesn’t mean that the original intent has been completely divorced from it.
          And that’s assuming that there is no religious intent behind it. More often than not, when I have heard the word “blessing” in a work context, it has had religious intent. There have also been times when the original speaker had no religious intent and was just referencing the meme #blessed, but someone overheard it and took it as a signal that they could speak directly about their faith at work. There aren’t unified norms around this.

          Sorry Nodramalama, I usually agree with your comments, but this one I differ on.

          1. Nodramalama*

            Fair enough. But to be very clear, my comment had literally nothing to do with whether saying blessed is appropriate at work. It was just giving an example of the way some people used “blessed” that is not designed to be in a religious context. It was not designed to be a moral position on forcing peoples religions on other people.

            1. ferrina*

              Ah! I definitely assumed you meant in a work context, since I generally assume anything on AAM is in a work context unless it explicitly says otherwise.

              I agree, not every influencer that says #blessed is trying to convey religious intent. In some circles, it’s definitely shorthand for “humblebrag about how great my life is! Like and subscribe!” And in some social circles it means “I convey well-wishes to you” or “I’m taking time to smell the roses.” And if you play enough Dungeons and Dragons, it’s “I add a buff to your rolls.” I think the issue is that it really is context dependent and the interpretation is very specific to a social group. When you have a wide variety of social groups represented (like in a work context), you don’t know who will be using which connotation.

      2. Irish Teacher.*

        Yeah, and those new agey beliefs are…if not religions, at least belief systems and are no more appropriate to push on others than traditional religions.

        1. Nodramalama*

          I didn’t say they were?! I’m so confused how in giving an example of the way a lot of people use the word blessed not in a religious context is somehow being construed as me saying, whatever is on the posters is fine

          1. Observer*

            I’m so confused how in giving an example of the way a lot of people use the word blessed not in a religious context

            Except that that’s not what you are doing. “New Age” is absolutely a religious belief system.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      There was an interesting spin a while back where the Jewish person who wanted help with the phrasing to skip the Christmas party was in Japan… and so the Christmas party really did read more as “seasonal.” (And yet, for her, was still religious.)

      When religious imagery is used in a nonreligious context, it doesn’t become not religious. Madonna’s crosses didn’t lose their religious meaning when worn as fashion.

      1. Ariaflame*

        I have no idea if KFC is kosher. (apparently due to a particular marketing campaign that is what is associated with Christmas in Japan)

    4. Ellis Bell*

      As a pagan it’s always fun to hear that the word “blessed” (literally means to be made holy with blood) and things like the re-purposed yule tree “aren’t religious” simply because they aren’t Christian enough.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        That is indeed the etymology of the word “bless”, but it has had other meanings for literal centuries now, so that ship has kind of sailed.

        1. Smithy*

          Yes. I also think it’s very relevant in that etymology in how words from other languages and faiths have been translated into English as “bless” or “blessed” as the best fit. And so are used in English but stemming from other faith or cultural communities.

          I was raised in a religious tradition that isn’t Christianity, and currently do not practice. The word miracle was regularly used in my faith tradition and variations of bless/blessed/blessing were also used. And not stemming from the Christian faith, but rather being the best English translation. However, in a US workspace – while neither are terms that bother me, I grew up knowing that my mother had far more sensitivities with parts of it.

          I think this is one of those areas around DEI and HR where finding space to address those issues that seek to increase the comfort and inclusion of all staff is important. Like I get that miracle does have a religious history, but it is a cross-religious history and is a term heavily co-opted in secular language (i.e. getting to the airport in 20 minutes during rush hour is a miracle). However “bless” does not have an equivalent place for many.

          Ultimately those stickers make a coworker feel patronized and uncomfortable due to a combination of reasons that are all valid. And an inclusive workplace would want to know about that and address that. But I don’t think it helps to black and white what these terms do or don’t mean to everyone in any group.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Oh sure, and sometimes the context makes that clear like “bless you” when you sneeze. The context here is a bit vague and leans into the spiritual.

      1. Manders*

        But the root of saying “bless you” when people sneeze is religious. It was literally because people thought your soul was leaving your body. And the full term is “God bless you”.

      2. BikeWalkBarb*

        I say “Gesundheit” which means “good health” specifically because “bless you” has a religious connotation that I can’t express with sincerity.

        1. Salty Caramel*

          Same. Once I walked away from the Catholic Church I made a point of removing that and as many similar turns of phrase as I could.

    5. Clisby*

      “My kid finally slept through the night! It’s a miracle!”

      Nobody saying that means any divine intervention was required.

      1. Usurper Cranberries*

        There is absolutely a significant subgroup that 100% means their divine being caused their child to sleep through the night. You may not have run into them, but I have.

        1. Observer*

          That or that their Deity helped their efforts to be successful. Or, to use the kind of language that would be used in my community “Blessed our efforts with success”.

    6. Double A*

      As an atheist, when someone sneezes I will say, “Bless you” and I’m not actually invoking God to keep their soul inside their body. I’ve occasionally used “blessed” to mean something like “lucky” or fortunate.” “This late season rain is a blessing.” “It would be a blessing if we got an extension on that project.”

      I also have absolutely used “miracle” in a non religious way. “Wow, it’s a miracle they pulled that off.” Synonymous with “amazing” or “unlikely.”

      I mean I also celebrate Christmas so maybe I secretly actually believe in God or something. Nope! It’s just that like all people I live in a culture and historical context; mine is heavily influenced by Christianity, so words and practices shape that context. Doesn’t make me believe in God any more just because my ancestors did.

    7. Rooby*

      As slang. Words can have connotations different in nature from their origin or derivation. I agree with those terms not being appropriate for work, but I do feel like people are being willfully obtuse sometimes about how language works.

      1. Cranky Old Bat*

        Words being used differently from their origin does not negate the origin.

  8. Nodramalama*

    For LW1 don’t know if I would waste the social capital raising issues about these bathroom messages. Yeah they’re cringe but if the worst they’re saying is be blessed it doesn’t reeeeallly seem like something that rises to the level of being involved in getting them removed.

    1. Allonge*

      For me the issue is that the decor staying there can result in loss of social capital for all women, over time. There is no way it will remain a secret, and a few choice comments on ‘ohh, the wimmenz need their little pink motivational posters in the bathroom to function’ is pretty bad.

      It’s less personal loss of capital for sure.

      Up to LW of course, for me it would absolutely be worth it to raise it just so my blood pressure is not affected by walking into a bathroom.

      1. Nodramalama*

        To each their own I guess. To me this is kind of on par with having a “hang in there” poster with a cat hanging off it. Like I understand the implications and the readings that its condescending, I just would find it hard to work up the energy to be annoyed enough about some “you can do it!” posters in a bathroom to agitate over it.

        1. Two-Faced Big-Haired Food Critic*

          It reminds me of the letter from the person who came back to work in a wheelchair and got this big, ostentatious, mortifying welcome-back, including, but not limited to, her new parking space being marked with a cartoon of herself. That wasn’t much appreciated either.

        2. Brain the Brian*

          Honestly, same here. Admittedly, I’m a man, and the issue of “girlboss” language wouldn’t come into play in the men’s restroom… but I just can’t see myself getting worked up over rather innocuous bathroom artwork. I’ve seen weirder in hotel rooms.

          1. TechWorker*

            Okay? A hotel room is very different to your work bathroom, where you have to spend time every day… would it make you feel differently if the men’s had technical posters (that’s what’s up in our mixed gender bathrooms) & the women’s had cheesy motivational quotes? Even without the religious element this is icky to me. If you’ve never been a woman in a male dominated industry, then yea, probably difficult to understand fully.

            1. Brain the Brian*

              I’m just saying it wouldn’t rise to the level of something I felt I needed to complaint about. In a decade at my company, I’ve yet to convince maintenance to raise our hanging pendant lights so I don’t have to duck under them or fix the broken stall door in our men’s room or make a dent in our ongoing building wide cockroach infestation, and those — among many other things — seem like bigger issues than decorative posters. Other people can certainly decide differently, of course.

              1. Allonge*

                Maybe OP works in a place with better maintenance? Nobody said this needs to be the main priority of the whole building from now on.

              2. Need Coffee*

                I agree with Brain. How much time is one spending in the bathroom to be this bothered over posters? I would definitely not waste professional capital on this but to each their own I guess.

                1. Allonge*

                  How much time would it take to remove them?

                  Maybe this is also affected by the divide between people who need to make a conscious decision to read something and those (like me) who if they see the text, they read it? I go to the bathroom in the office at least three times a day. So I would be reading this three times a day, every working day. That is plenty of time to be annoyed for no reason at all.

                2. Brain the Brian*

                  It probably wouldn’t take much time to remove the posters (although patching the wall where the hangers were placed might take a bit), but you would risk alienating the new EA, who — depending on their connections — might be someone you want to keep in your corner. Do I think the posters were a waste of company funds? Yes, probably. Would I realistically care enough to complain about them? Probably not. Definitely to each their own, depending on their reserve of professional capital and the strength of their feelings on the issue.

                3. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  I’m also annoyed at stores that put advertisements in the stalls. But I can more easily choose to not go there–and tell the manager I’m annoyed enough to do so.

                4. Bella Ridley*

                  Seeing an ad for the store that you are currently in, while in their washroom, would bother you to the point of not going there any more? Or the presence of ads in general? Does it also bother you when you go to a restaurant and they have paper placemats with ads for local businesses on them?

                5. metadata minion*

                  @Bella Ridley — I’m not bothered by them enough to not shop there, but yes, it does bother me to see ads for the store I’m in when I’m in their bathroom, actually more than it would to see ads for a partner store or something like that. I’m already in your store! You have successfully marketed to me! Just let me pee in peace!

                  It’s like how airlines now plaster their little pedestrian plane-boarding tunnel things with ads for the plane I am about to board. I have made my decision already. I in fact can’t even change my mind at that point without causing a fuss. Why not at least advertise locations you fly to, that I might want to go to on my next trip?

                1. Myrin*

                  Hey now, that’s pretty mean towards a commenter who usually gives thoughtful and reasonable advice.
                  I agree that this is something men will have a much harder time comprehending and thus probably should refrain from weighing in on – although we can see that there are multiple women in this and other threads feeling the same way, which also shouldn’t be discounted as far as real-world attitudes go! – but I feel like this kind of sarcastic response would be better suited for someone who has a track record of being boorish and/or dismissive, not a thoughtful regular who might’ve misjudged one letter.

              3. Autumn*

                Brian I’m going to assume you are a white man, probably in a technical field. You are at the top of the social professional heap. You don’t have to worry that your career trajectory will be messed up by assumptions that have nothing to do with you personally.

                You don’t have to worry if that poster was aimed at you, almost nobody is looking down on you for being a cis het white male.

                Now imagine a poster in the men’s room, a little boy looks up at a star football player. The caption says “keep hustling for your dream”

                How would you feel about that.

                Most little boys will not grow up to be Josh Allen, hell they might have better hope of making a living out of MLM or winning the lottery. How does that poster feel now?

                Icky I hope.

                Nobody really likes these inspirational posters.

                Here’s another possibility, these posters are generally cheaper than the nature scenes and such that constitute hotel room art. Someone only had a certain amount of money and said “Oh look, half the price!”

                1. Myrin*

                  If I’m not mistaken, Brian has talked before about being gay. Doesn’t take out the “man” part of the equation – and indeed I concur that this is something men in general tend to have a much harder time understanding and probably should lay low in conversations about it – but it feels kind of iffy to read about not having to fear about career trajectories being messed up because of assumptions and nobody looking down on him in that context.

                2. I should really pick a name*

                  Now imagine a poster in the men’s room, a little boy looks up at a star football player. The caption says “keep hustling for your dream”

                  How would you feel about that.

                  I don’t think this analogy is illustrating what you would like it to.

                  For me, it probably wouldn’t even register, or at most would get an internal eyeroll.

                  Due to the different lived experiences of men and women, the “what if it happened to you” thought experiment often doesn’t get the idea across.

                3. Brain the Brian*

                  To clarify: I am a man; I am white I am gay in workplace where that’s a prickly topic; I do not work in a technical field; I do work in a fairly specialized role in my field — so take from that what you will about my place on the social and professional ladder. :)

                  FWIW, I did try to think of analogous example decor for a men’s room, and I decided that there really weren’t good ones that hit the same mark. The only thing I came up with were things like the posters you’ve described, Autumn; something about sticking to your guns / with your gut (annoyingly macho for my gay tastes); and posters encouraging men to remember to wash our hands with statistics about how few really do (ew) compared to women. I don’t think any of these would rise to the level of something I cared to raise — but again, I do recognize that the social dynamics are quite different around gendered motivational posters for men and women. I’m also weighing that the admin who ordered the decor is a woman and how strangely controlling it could look to be a non-management man asking to correct a low-stakes problem that was ultimately the result a woman’s work.

                  I did also think about what my mother — one of the first wave of female software engineers hired by a massive company in the 70s and working for decades surrounded by men — might advise, and I really think these posters are the sort of thing she would laughingly complain about to us at home (I can almost hear her saying “One of our clueless admins ordered this tacky decor for the ladies room”) but not bother raising at work. EAs handle so much, for so many people, that maintaining a good relationship with them is crucial, and I think she would say there’s no way to raise it without risking your reputation with the EA in question — and potentially with other EAs, as well.

                  It’s a tricky issue, for sure, and I don’t know the right answer for this LW — but I’m still sticking with saying that, for me, unless bathroom artwork is truly lewd, it’s just not worth the potential aggravation to raise it.

              4. Ellis Bell*

                Those issues in your workplace may be bathroom problems, but they are not the same as being patronised and stereotyped. Imagine instead that the men’s room was decorated with lots of stereotypes about men .. I dunno, posters about man flu jokes and lazy dad archetype while the women’s space was kept professional. Now, add in that you’re in a female dominated industry and you’re constantly getting undermined on the basis of those same stereotypes. I realise the decor in this letter doesn’t explicitly say anything about women but it is very easy to recognise this stuff when you have seen it before.

              5. Nancy*

                Agree, I really don’t care what’s in my work bathroom, as long as it’s clean.

                LW1 can start by asking her manager for advice.

            2. Ms. Elaneous*

              I got the feeling these were decals on the metal stall doors.
              (probably pealable.. being a nail file or tweezers)
              If they are posters on the wall, well, that would be easy for management to remove (as they should).
              Yes, I understand this is a luxury problem compared to dirty or non functioning bathrooms.
              But it also points up time misspent by management.. they had such a perfect office they were out of things to fix, so they went to decor.

              And really, they sound like posters one would hang in an alternative school for low self esteem at-risk girls 13- 17.

          2. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            You’re not affected by it because it isn’t in your bathrooom and you’re not a woman. No poster no opinion.

            1. Seashell*

              Except for LW, it isn’t in any of our bathrooms. Does that mean we shouldn’t comment?

          3. Observer*

            Admittedly, I’m a man, and the issue of “girlboss” language wouldn’t come into play in the men’s restroom

            Which puts you in a really bad position to tell people who *do* have to deal with it how they “should” feel about it, and how “over sensitive” they are being.

            rather innocuous bathroom artwork.

            To YOU they are “innocuous.” Because *you* are not the one being condescended to, and *you* are not the one who is frequently (or even constantly) on the receiving end of “encouragement” that is gendered and condescending to women who are “so good at ~~job~~ for a woman.”

            Please stop telling people that they are over-reacting to things that you have no experience of and don’t even have the faintest idea about.

        3. Allonge*

          Talking to maintenance is hardly agitating.

          I am not saying all people have to be overwhelmingly upset by this, but it seems to bother OP and her colleagues already.

          As there is zero need for any motivational posters in a bathroom, mild annoyance is enough to act upon and it should be easy enough to resolve.

          1. Nodramalama*

            I just don’t think we’re going to agree here, because I do think raising something I find cringey with maintence agitating

            1. Allonge*

              We obviously have very different definitions of agitation – for what it’s worth, I was operating under something like ‘to argue forcefully, especially in public, in order to achieve a particular type of change’.

              Telling maintenance that the new posters in the bathroom are annoying and I would appreciate it if they were removed certainly is above telling them to replace the toilet paper, but forceful would not come into it.

      2. We’re Six*

        “and a few choice comments on ‘ohh, the wimmenz need their little pink motivational posters in the bathroom to function’ is pretty bad”

        That’s some weird projection going on there but again that kind of sounds like more of a You problem TBH. I’m a woman who wouldn’t automatically go for these types of posters as my first choice when decorating either— but I’m also not having a weirdly outsized reaction like “ohh, the wimmenz and their little pink motivational posters!!”

        1. Allonge*

          Good for you. I am worried about people having that reaction, or similar.

          Just about every week we have here someone commenting that their contributions are ignored while the same thing said five minutes later by a man is hailed as great stuff, that women are pushed out of tech jobs, that they need to prove themselves a lot more than any man.

          If the posters would bring any real value otherwise being in the bathroom, maybe it’s worth the risk. But there is nothing on them that needs to be in that particular location: if someone finds them beneficial, they can put smaller versions on their desk or screen, tattoo the texts on their body or get regular text messages with them.

        2. L*

          I think it’s more concern about those types of comments coming from OTHER PEOPLE if they happened to find out about the posters. I luckily haven’t experienced it firsthand, but there can be a lot of misogyny in technical fields – especially directed toward women in technical positions.

          I totally get how the posters could feel like they’re undermining their ability to be taken seriously. They’re not a big deal until they are – like when the office asshole learns they exist and uses it as an excuse for why women couldn’t possibly be good at their jobs.

        3. Observer*

          but I’m also not having a weirdly outsized reaction like “ohh, the wimmenz and their little pink motivational posters!!”

          True. But the question is what will the men think? Or what do they already think?

          And even if the just think that this kind of encouragement is “so nice” because *women* need it, but (manly) men don’t, that’s really not good. It really reinforces negative stereotypes.

        4. Jack Straw from Wichita*

          As a woman, I one million percent had the immediate gut reaction that Allonge did – complete with the men in the office laughing about how the women need “little sayings” to help them get through the day. ESPECIALLY when the OP indicates they are in predominatly male field (tech) to begin with.

      3. Waffles*

        It’s not even just the posters. I think what some people maybe don’t realize is that it’s more about the constant reminders that women are not taken seriously in technical roles. We get this far too often already from colleagues, clients, etc. it would be nice not to have reminders all over in a private space like the bathroom too (small but related tangent – when working as an engineer, the bathroom is where I would go to cry when my jerk boss was especially bad).

        1. Great Frogs of Literature*

          it’s more about the constant reminders that women are not taken seriously in technical roles. We get this far too often already from colleagues, clients, etc. it would be nice not to have reminders all over in a private space like the bathroom too

          This is an excellent phrasing of why this bothers me. I’m already getting a lot of low-key messaging that I don’t *really* belong here the same way the men do*, and even though I know that it’s almost certainly not what was intended, I would absolutely read it as “Oh look, more evidence that I’m considered to not be as inherently capable of doing my job,” EVERY SINGLE TIME I went to the bathroom.

          *Example: within the past year, a colleague started a meeting with “Good morning, gentlemen!” There were two women in the meeting, which had eight or ten people in it. And my workplace is overall very progressive and strives to be welcoming. (For what it’s worth, he did apologize profusely when I dryly said, “But not the rest of us?”)

          And for folks saying, “It’s not a big deal, just brush it off!” — I don’t have studies to hand, but there is good scientific evidence that when people don’t feel that they really belong, or aren’t sure if they belong, they devote a certain amount of mental processing power to watching for cues and calculating the precise social vibe, and that constant cognitive load means that they have less energy and attention left over for doing their actual jobs.

          1. MsM*

            For what it’s worth, I work in a field with plenty of women in leadership, and I’d still find motivational messages in the women’s bathroom and only the women’s bathroom patronizing. If I’ve gone in there because I need encouragement and not just to do my business, there are problems going on that a poster’s not going to solve.

        2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

          It’s called stereotype threat and it’s been studied extensively, so it’s not just a matter of personal preference. Constant reminders that you’re part of a group that isn’t “supposed to” do well at a task lowers performance on that task by increasing cognitive load and stress.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

      My reaction would be ‘I’m removing those’ because frankly the idea that women need cutesy messages at work to prop us up is really offensive and highly othering.

      If they did it across the board, men, women, gender neutral bathrooms etc, then it’d be unprofessional but not as offensive.

      Want to put something useful in all the bathrooms? Sanitary supplies, details on how to contact people if you’re being abused or harassed. I don’t need a ‘girl boss, you can do it!’ mantra when I’m nearly 50 and been dealing with sexism my entire bloody career.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I *personally* wouldn’t bother because I’m a woman in tech and the micro-aggressions are so constant that I don’t have the energy to be really botthered about most of them. But I would definitely be annoyed and offended, and if someone else decided to try to fix it I would totally support their choice.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        As another woman in tech, it would really depend on how much social capital I had saved up. I think the most annoying thing is that someone went out of their way, spending effort and probably money to do this. Out of all the things that would actually make me feel appreciated or included (or at least benignly ignored), instead someone went out and bought a poster telling me, one of the two women in the entire 40-person department, to hustle harder and dream bigger?

    4. ferrina*

      Is the admin’s manager a man or woman?

      If the admin’s manager is a man, raise the issue. He probably doesn’t even know about the signs (since he’d never be in the women’s restroom to see them). You can raise the issue in a way that of course he would want to address the issue, and obviously he didn’t know but now he knows and will take care of it.

      If the admin’s manager is a woman, still raise the issue, but in a more “hey, I don’t think that this is having the intended impact, and may need an adjustment in approach.” I wouldn’t point out the issues with the content (since presumably the manager would have seen it and not had the same reaction), but rather on how people are seeing it and that it’s unintentionally backfiring.

      Definitely raise it as an issue, but if they start to argue back, just shrug and say “I thought you’d want to know and wanted to make sure you weren’t blindsided if it ever comes up.” Don’t argue back or waste political capital on this (unless you have a lot of political capital to burn).

      If the admin is early career and open to feedback, you could also raise it directly with her. Best case scenario, she may be mortified to learn how badly it’s backfiring. But I’m not hopeful for this- usually people who do the decorations stand behind their design choices. But if she generally takes feedback well and you have a good relationship with her, it could be worth a try.

      1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

        I think that in general, you should also prepare yourself for the possibility that the admin’s boss, or someone higher up, requested this.

    5. Salty Caramel*

      The letter isn’t about whether it’s appropriate to feel that the posters are cringey. That’s been established, and it isn’t just the OP finding them unpleasant.

      There is nothing wrong with spending some social capital to improve the atmosphere at work. Just because you wouldn’t do it, doesn’t mean it’s something the OP shouldn’t do.

    6. Jennifer Strange*

      If saying, “Hey, putting motivational posters in only the women’s bathroom comes across as patronizing” wastes social capital your organization has an issue.

    7. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

      I probably would just eye-roll unless they’re more offensive than we know (do they actually say “girl boss?” or more overtly religious) if these restrooms are really just for the staff. If any clients, vendors, or other external stakeholders are coming to the office, though, they’ve got to go. Even if it’s not overtly sexist or religious, it’s unprofessional.

    8. tabloidtained*

      Agreed. They spent money on this without consulting anyone–are they likely to care that it rubs people the wrong way?

      1. tabloidtained*

        FWIW, I read “artwork” as murals on the wall, rather than easily-removable posters. If it’s posters, sure, call it out!

  9. vombatus ursinus*

    LW4 was very interesting to read about from a US context! I wonder what the origin of that federal law is.

    (Alison, I want to share some of my personal experience here but please delete if the situations are so different as to be getting off-topic?)

    I’m in a somewhat similar position to LW4 in a non-US context — I’m an L1 English speaker living in a country where English is extremely widely and fluently spoken by the locals as L2, and my company’s workforce consists of nearly half locals and the rest of us from a mix of 25+ other nationalities. English is our working language at the office, being the language that *everybody* in the company understands and can make themselves understood in (and also the language that all external communications are in, as an international organisation). But of course with the locals being such a large contingent, they do often approach each other in their mother tongue, especially in 1:1 or informal conversations.

    It can be a bit of a tricky issue to balance at times. I’ve been learning the local language for two years and am now at a point where I can usually understand 70-80% of what my colleagues are saying in that language — but I would certainly not feel comfortable participating in meetings or even chiming in much with social conversations in that language. It’s famously difficult to master and native speakers can generally be pretty impatient with, or simply struggle to understand, non-native accents. A lot of other international employees may only be based here for 6 months or a year — it seems pretty reasonable for them not to learn much of the local language.

    At the same time, it seems silly to expect two local employees to always speak to each other in English when their mother tongue is right there, and I’m sure it’s more comfortable for them, which is also important!

    On the other hand, you never know who might have something useful to contribute to a work conversation and can’t because they don’t understand what is being spoken about. And it is definitely a bit miserable to end up on the outside of an office social conversation because a group of locals haven’t thought to switch to English when you’re around. I would never demand it or complain, but I can’t deny that it feels more inclusive to everyone in the office if we keep all communication in English — again, not because it’s *my* mother tongue, but because it’s the language that’s common to all.

    I guess all to say that LW4’s manager does seem to be in the wrong, but I don’t envy them the complexity of navigating these workplace language politics as a manager.

    1. Nina*

      I used to work in a lab in a country where almost all people born in that country had English as a first or very early second language. About half the lab staff were Punjabi. The other half were a mixture of English-speaking locals and people whose primary languages were respectively Korean, Hindi, Mandarin, Tagalog, Fijian, and Danish.
      A lot of the Punjabi staff would do things like have a long conversation in Punjabi and finishing up with ‘don’t you agree, [Danish-speaking coworker]’ in English, or speak directly to the Hindi-speaking Fijian Indian manager in Punjabi and then do an exaggerated ‘whoops I forgot, you look Indian so I forgot for a moment that you don’t speak Indian, you speak weird island Indian‘.
      In the end the big boss said ‘right, that’s it, only English is to be spoken in the lab’ and while that didn’t really fix the problem, it did give the manager solid ground to say ‘hey, you can’t be yelling important work information across the lab in Punjabi, we don’t all speak that’.

    2. Carmina*

      Same here – except that I am one of the locals. The working language is English, except for some legal requirements that have to be in the local language like public yearly reports and the like (but they’re always translated into English as well).

      Regardless of the legal aspect, it’s pretty rude to speak in a language half the office (or more) doesn’t understand, I feel. I do sometimes start in the local language in 1-on-1 conversations with another local, but we try to always switch if someone else even just approaches us, in case they’d like to follow.

      Only about a third of the office is local here, and significant other sub-groups will sometimes speak in their language as well, so I’ve been on both sides of it and it’s definitely uncomfortable not to know what’s going on!

    3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      I work a lot with ships. On most ships, English is the “working language of the vessel” (which must be clearly stated in the safety management system) even if no crewmember at all is a native English speaker. Most crews are multinational, and situational awareness is very important. A casual discussion may quickly evolve into a “watch out!” situation.
      Also, the bridge (and sometimes, other) crew listens in to radio communications all the time to know what’s going on around the ship. When river pilots talk to tugboat captains and/or the land-based traffic controllers in their local language, the captain lacks situational awareness; this frequently becomes the root cause of accidents and loss of life.

  10. Brain the Brian*

    We have at least five languages at my company. In theory, management does not insist that we use any one of them, but in practice, we usually use the language in which most people in a given communication are most proficient — which is usually, but not always, English. I think that’s an important distinction — the difference between what management can legally dictate and what they can advise as a common-sense best practice for efficiency.

    1. Craig*

      we had issues with that because the warehouse staff would use the language everyone in the floor could speak forgetting about the admins on the radio some of who could only speak English.

    2. ferrina*

      Exactly. Efficiency should dictate protocol around languages.
      If it’s a work matter, use the language that works for the necessary parties.
      If it’s a social chat? Use whatever you want!
      If it’s a pick-up soccer game? Use all the languages- we’ll figure it out! (I knew someone would swear in Hindi because he played soccer with someone that spoke Hindi that swore a lot. My friend spoke absolutely no Hindi except the profanities.)

      1. Brain the Brian*

        Lol, the thought of my coworkers involved in any sort of a pick-up sporting game is truly hilarious. Hah! But all good points. Most people who speak multiple languages are quite good at switching between them quickly when someone new joins a conversation.

    3. Aardvark*

      Sometimes it does need to be spelled out though. I worked in a location were a lot of senior and technical people were brought in from a parent company’s overseas site. All of them spoke English well, although some as a second language, while the local staff were predominately English only speakers, or did not speak the same second language.

      Leaving it to common sense resulted in meetings in which the main conversation was in English but side conversations may occur in non-english. It limited full participation, and started raising issues about whether the side conversation were deliberately not in English so that criticism of ideas or people were happening. Those of us who didn’t speak the second language were often not comfortable call them out on it in the moment as we didn’t want it to seem a cultural or even pseudo-racial problem, when it was mostly about the rudeness of excluding people. So it was a bit awkward.

      Ultimately the manager (who also spoke both languages) mandated that any business discussions were to be in English as it was the only way to give everyone full access to the conversations. It was not policed to the extent that two people in an office only talking to each other had to talk English, but it did help recognise that English was the one language we all had in common, so it needed to be the site’s ‘official’ langauge.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I’ve definitely been in meetings where I don’t speak a local language that several others share and dealt with this exact issue. I usually just say something like “Sorry — can you say that again in English, for my sake?” Tone of voice is usually enough to discern whether someone is using it as a deliberate tactic to hide something, and that’s thankfully very rare where I work.

  11. Ingrid*

    LW1: That is a type of art I can only imagine a teenage girl putting up in her own bedroom. Maybe a young woman in her first cubicle job. Why does the admin see a need for reassurance? Though it would be kinda funny if someone moved all the art from the women’s bathroom to the men’s. Funny in don’t do it because that would cause problems but to highlight if some sort of decor style isn’t appropriate in the men’s, why would it be in the women’s?

      1. Ingrid*

        Haha, maybe just half of the decor to make it equal. “Problem” is then you are leaving the reaction to the men and they might find it funny and not take it seriously. Better to start the conversation yourself and point out that it would be infantilizing to put this up in the men’s bathroom so why was it considered appropriate for the women’s?

        1. Ingrid*

          Another problem would be if the men did take it very seriously and became offended at the women instead of the one who chose the decor. It could potential start a passive-aggressive war with switching the decor back and forth and that would cause lots of drama which had to be resolved with a serious conversation/meeting between everyone. When the whole thing could be avoided with a serious conversation between a few people before lots of feelings have been involved. So yeah, it was not a serious suggestion, just a thought experiment to highlight why that decor was not the best choice.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            I don’t think it would cause that much drama, myself. I would totally talk to a male coworker with a good sense of humor and ask him to hang up a couple of the non-gendered and non-religious “Follow your dreams” posters in the men’s bathroom.

            I think it would be funny. I doubt there would be dramatic fallout, unless the admin got miffed that someone subverted her decorating/motivational scheme.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I, too, really want to see this. Let the men experience the motivation!

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      There was a past letter about an intern who had covered her cubical with motivational sayings. To summarize the discussion in the comments:
      • Many people found the messages innocuous background.
      • Many people found the messages offputting–like I’d take my new assignment to an intern who didn’t seem to need this much help dealing with the slings and arrows of life. (Interesting dichotomy of “You put these things up because you feel confident that you embody these messages!” and “You put these things up because you don’t feel confident that you embody these messages–that’s why you need constant reminding.”)
      • OP, AAM, and the commenters agreed that as OP wasn’t the intern’s manager, it wasn’t her place to comment.

      So if someone had decorated their cube with these posters, I’d only speak up if I were in a mentoring relationship with them. But when they come out to decorate the office–but only the lady parts of the office–then it makes sense for other people in that space to have some feelings about whether the decor makes them feel motivated or condescended to.

      1. Coffee Protein Drink*

        I agree. If I wasn’t the intern’s supervisor, I’d leave them alone about it as well. If I was a supervisor or mentor, I would ask them to tone it tone. Most interns do not know the office behavior a senior person takes for granted; it’s part of their learning experience.

    2. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

      When I was in college there was a bathroom scale in the student union women’s room. One day a bunch of us pulled it out onto the quad, stood on it while making short speeches (it was one of those big doctors-office type things that also measure height so at least the same size as a decent soapbox), then put it back – but in the men’s room. Shortly thereafter it went away entirely.

      1. Armchair Analyst*

        That is awesome
        You should have definitely put it in the middle of the bra bonfire

  12. Keymaster of Gozer (She/Her)*

    3. Immediately remove your admin privileges. If possible set a new password – a complex one – send it to the company via a secure method (I’ve used tracked paper mail to the company Security department before) and then promptly forget it. And tell them how to change it.

    I get being out of work for a long time is hard (I spent several years unemployed once) but don’t forget good data security ethics. A mail of ‘hey I noticed I still had access to this so I’ve removed myself and sent you the new details’ would create a good impression- a really good one actually. They’d remember you as a person of integrity.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Are you thinking that the LW has the only account access or something, and the company would lose access if they deleted the account? Otherwise, this seems overly complicated when they could just delete their account.

    2. Don't send yourself to jail*

      Assuming you are in US, under no circumstances access that computer system. You are no longer an employee of the company and so you are not authorized to do anything. You could be hit with computer trespass charges (at least) and end up in jail. Or sued.
      The only thing you can do is inform the company of the password problem. Tell the current head of that department, via email AND a phone call. Make sure you keep a record of both. Ask for a confirmation email that it has been fixed. If you don’t get a positive reply within a few days, do both to the CEO.
      They probably can dig up logs of you accessing that old email, so you’ll need to cover your bases on that. Tell a plausible story that minimizes your exposure.
      Knowledge of some basic computer law can only help when performing an audit.
      The only obvious opening for asking about job openings is to gush about how much you loved working there while making the phone call.

  13. dontbeadork*

    LW4: Is the manager perhaps feeling a little insecure in their position and thus concerned some of those conversations in language A might be about them? Are office politics just a bit hairy and your manager wants to be able to keep tabs on what’s going on?

    1. WellRed*

      I’d have rolled my eyes and moved on. They are cringe and problematic but yeah…

      1. Angstrom*

        Why put up with something uncomfortable if you don’t have to?

        There have been some interesting studies showing that getting rid of chronic small irritations can have a bigger effect on happiness than larger, more “significant” events.

    2. AMH*

      This is such a lazy argument. People can care about a lot of things at one time, and caring about this doesn’t make OP and their coworkers somehow blind towards other serious issues, or silly, or over-reacting. A majority of her coworkers find it patronizing, the posters are only in the woman’s restroom, and regardless of your personal feelings about the posters you’ve never seen, OP and her coworkers’ opinions are the ones that matter.

      1. I treated you like a son*

        I agree overall but in a work setting sometimes you have to decide what to spend your “capital” on.

        1. MsM*

          If “it’s weird these posters are just in the women’s room; can we not?” is too much capital to spend, I’d like to know that so I can get out instead of wasting my time trying to use my capital on bigger problems.

        2. AMH*

          Yes, and it’s fine if it’s not what you’d spend your capital on. It’s fine for people to say “depending on the content of the signs, raising this wouldn’t be worth it to me.” We’re Six’s comment isn’t that, though, it’s saying that OP shouldn’t care about small aggressions because there are bigger problems in the world. That’s not a reasonable or productive thing to say.

    3. Workerbee*

      Just as we’re sure you didn’t stop fighting the good fight when you took the time to leave your unkind comment, isn’t it fortunate that people besides yourself can also focus on and lend energy and time to more than one thing?

      It’s also worth remembering that it’s okay to focus on and talk about one topic at a time, for clarity, purpose, and effectiveness.

      And let’s not discount the inverse ratio of the impact a seemingly low-stakes issue has. Think about all the seemingly innocuous messaging we are inundated with since birth. All the edicts we’ve absorbed, the “preferences” that are dictated by people with agendas.

      People absorb words and their implied meanings, imagery and its wordless messages. LW is right to want to excise this crap from every corner it lurks.

      1. the Viking Diva*

        Now *that* is a girl boss answer.
        This is how you change a workplace culture: marshaling your allies, pushing back as a group, and explaining why the posters are problematic.

      2. Sparkles McFadden*

        Thank you Workerbee. This is so well stated.

        I got stuck on trying to figure out why someone felt the need to write a snarky comment regarding a question that someone wrote to a WORK advice columnist about something going on at WORK. The LW wrote in get advice on the best way to deal with this situation. An answer that amounts to “This isn’t an important enough question to ask” is not helpful advice.

        It’s also important to note that pushing back on the small stuff is how pushing back on the big stuff starts. It’s all related.

      3. Irish Teacher.*

        And there will always be a “bigger issue.” No matter what somebody chooses to spend capital on, there will be something more serious. There’s only one “most serious issue in the world” and that isn’t the only thing people can object to.

      4. Bitte Meddler*

        A local newspaper columnist from years ago started writing a series of columns on animal shelters, pet charities, local folks who were helping strays / wounded / abandoned animals, etc.

        A few readers took issue with this and wrote him letters similar to the deleted comment at the top of this thread. “What about the starving children??” “What about cancer??” “What about war??” “How dare you focus on *animals* when there are so many humans in need!! Shame on you!!”

        He wrote a column answering them. Paraphrasing, he said, “OK, every single person on earth will now focus solely on saving the children, curing cancer, and ending war. And, when all of those things are finally accomplished, there will be no animals for the children, cancer survivors, or war veterans to find companionship in or to derive joy from.”

        He then went on to point out that it’s a GOOD thing that different people focus on different issues.

        I remember that column any time someone pulls the same stunt as the OP of this thread: Minimizing issues the person doesn’t care about and trying to shame the people willing to put effort into resolving those issues.

    4. Jennifer Strange*

      You’re right, clearly the LW should single-handedly solve sexism instead of focusing on something she can actually fix.

    5. metadata minion*

      I don’t think this is worth going on a 6-month organized campaign over, but sending an email to Facilities or whoever asking for the decor to be removed/changed is a pretty minimal amount of time and energy.

      1. Sunflower*

        I was going to say the same thing. The OP doesn’t need to go on a rampage over it and ruin her reputation, but a one time polite email or something is informative but not a battle.

    6. spcepickle*

      One time there was a bathroom stall broken at my office. Which was understandable until it . . . backed up (I think someone tried to use it and it would not flush). It STANK for like a month until I finally said something to facilities – who knew it was broken but didn’t know about the other issue. After I told them about it was fix the next day.
      If nobody knows about an issue nobody can fix it. Raising an aggression (micro or not) so you can feel better in your workplace is 100% a place to spend your capital and 100% supporting the “bigger issues”.

      Plan B – just take them down, be the change you want to see and all that.

    7. Just me*

      I know a hell of a lot of women’s rights have been eroded lately, but what ones have involved the workplace exactly?

      1. Observer*

        Does it even matter? As others note, trying to fix small things doesn’t keep anyone from working on big things. In fact, often it’s the reverse.

      2. the Viking Diva*

        oh, just a global pandemic that
        1. disproportionately affected women’s employment and wages due to the employment sectors where women workers are clustered and the lower wages they receive
        2. placed the burden of unpaid care work on women
        3. increased gender-based violence in households
        to name a few. With bonus bad impact for women of color, women with disabilities, and other folks with less societal privilege.

        For a summary of pandemic effects that have lasting impacts, look up Aubrey Hirsch’s cartoon, “How the pandemic is forcing women out of the workforce, explained in a comic” on Vox.
        To quote sociologist Jessica Calarco, “Other countries have social safety nets. The U.S. has women.”

    8. theletter*

      a lot of those workplace problems have to do with the missing 33%, and the posters are clearly a symptom of that.

  14. Spicy Tuna*

    LW 4- I had a job on e at the Latin American/Caribbean HQ of a large, multinational company. Proficiency in the Spanish language was a requirement for my job. Only myself and one other person in our department were not native Spanish speakers. My Spanish speaking proficiency was fine for work (the other non-native speaker handled English language Caribbean accounts) but not great for social stuff when people spoke less formally (and much faster). I will admit, it did make me feel a little left out at lunch, etc, to only pick up half of the conversation, but in the end, my language skills improved.

  15. I treated you like a son*

    Motivational posters are so comically lame it hardly seems worth getting agitated about, but I can see the religious angle being an extra aggravating factor.

    I was thinking of that “Footprints” poster. “Yes my son, it was there in your lowest point that I did your TPS report for you”

  16. Tiredofit all*

    English only — I think that it is in violation of a regulation, not a law. Under the SCOTUS recent ruling that agency decisions are to be given less weight, I would not be surprised if this is questioned.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Interesting, you may be right — the regulation in question is 29 C.F.R. § 1606.7 and it doesn’t say that English-all-the-time rules are banned, only that they will be presumed to violate title VII and closely scrutinized.

      In practice, of course, this workplace is violating the current precedent / interpretation, nothing changes until someone sues to overturn it.

  17. frida*

    Ooh, #4 is interesting for me as a non-US reader and HR person. I’ve regularly dealt with HR issues that have included reminding employees to only speak Language A in the office, often because of perceived gossiping in Language B or better treatment between managers and direct reports who are native Language C speakers, so on and so forth. I had no idea it was illegal in the US to say you can only speak English at work!

    1. Gingham Altar*

      Likewise, I worked at a place (non-US) with 6 or 7 different languages, but we were expected to speak common work language A in social settings. This rule was especially important when our new director would speak language C with one of his reports at the lunch table, ignoring the other report, who “only” spoke A, B and D.

    2. Just me*

      what’s hilarious about this is my husband works in a warehouse full of vietnamese people who only speak their language and know absolutely no english whatsoever, even after almost 10 years. I am not sure how they ever hot hired to be honest, with no communication that I can figure out.

  18. Myrin*

    I have to say I’m somewhat astounded by the multiple threads discussion the validity of OP #1’s feelings regarding the posters when I feel like the most important thing in her letter is this part:

    [E]very person who uses the women’s bathrooms is cringing at the result. It comes across as totally patronizing and out-of-touch (most people in this building work in technical roles). It’s been a bit of a running joke the past few days.

    It really doesn’t matter what any given commenter on this site thinks about posters like the ones described – OP and her coworkers, the people actually having to deal with them, find them cringey, condescending, and have made jokes out of them, so it’s worthwhile to bring it up, fullstop.

    1. Irish Teacher.*

      Yeah, I’m surprised at the number of people essentially saying, “I personally wouldn’t be bothered by these; therefore those who are should just put up with them.”

      Like something doesn’t have to bother everybody to be inappropriate in the workplace.

    2. EA*

      I think there’s a difference between the believe the OP rule and expecting all comments to “validate” an OP’s feelings… And most of the comments you’re referring to aren’t questioning the OP1’s feelings but rather agreeing that the posters are cringe, but expressing that we (personal opinion) would not spend the time or social capital on trying to change bathroom art.

      1. Your Former Password Resetter*

        That’s still telling the LW they shouldn’t try to fix this problem. People don’t get to draw lines in the sand about this kinda stuff and then claim that it’s not also about the LW.

    3. Ms. Norbury*

      Exactly. I also got the impression that a lot of people are attributing far stronger feelings on the matter to OP#1 than her letter implies.

      Honestly, I got the impression that OP#1 wrote the letter exactly because she knows it’s a minor issue, but since it’s annoying and out of touch with her work environment, she’s wants to know if it’s worth it to bring it up with someone to try to remove the thing. Treating it as OP#1 having some wild overreaction to cheesy decor is a weird interpretation.

      1. sparkle emoji*

        Yeah, I think this is exactly what’s bothering me about some comments. They’re treating LW1 as hysterical(and I use that word intentionally) when her letter seems closer to rational, low-level annoyance that coworkers share. There’s a group of women who dislike the decor and one woman who likes it. The majority can ask that any girl boss posters be kept to a personal workspace rather than a shared bathroom, that’s not an over-sensitive request.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I think this is exactly it. The LW basically said, “Hey, this is an annoying thing and no one likes it. How can I pass that feedback along without hurting feelings?” and some folks are acting like she said, “This is the most horrible thing this person could have done and I want to wage a full war against her for it!”

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, the discourse on that letter has gotten pretty out of control given that none of us really have an idea of what is actually *on* the posters. We don’t know where they fall on the ridiculous scale, but we do know that multiple people that have actually seen them are not in favor and that’s really all that matters.

    5. Observer*

      I have to say I’m somewhat astounded by the multiple threads discussion the validity of OP #1’s feelings regarding the posters

      THANK YOU!!!

      I’ve been reading the comments and some of them a driving me up the wall.

      I am so glad that I’m not the only ticked off that so many people are blowing the LW because she’s probably wrong about what she’s seeing, and anyway she must be over-reacting, and even if she’s not it’s still not worth bringing up because that’s going to use up SO much social capital that needs to conserved for other things.

      But you put it much better than me.

  19. Nicosloanita*

    #3, honestly, I also blame the social media sites for this. I was very surprised upon starting my current role to discover that the *only* way to give me access to our works’ FB page was apparently to link it to my own, personal page. I hate this for a lot of reasons but one is that it means I can’t just walk away from the page and never deal with it again when I leave, the way I would with other one-time use programs that had a work account tied to my work email. I would have to be malicious to continue using those after I’m gone.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        Not just handy but probably the best practice TBH… a woman at my org was the admin for her college FB (CFB) page and it was linked to her personal account (PFB)… so when her PFB was banned (either hacked or she maybe posted something that got her banned IDK??) she, and the college/university, were locked out of the CFB account too. She appealed and appealed but never got back in so they had to create a new CFB from scratch… lost years of followers and posts etc.

    1. WellRed*

      I was so irritated when I had to do this for the same reason. Plus, I’ve always been careful to separate the personal and professional.

    2. Anna*

      My partner made a new personal page, under a fake (and work-relevant) name, and administers his work’s Facebook page from under that fake-person profile. I’m sure that’s against the Facebook rules, but it’s only a problem if you get caught. It’s worked for over ten years now for him.

      1. Nicosloanita*

        Yeah, but every day is a risk with this strategy. Accounts are deactivated willy-nilly and they will require you to show government id to get access back. Mine recently required me to add two-factor for basically no reason and refused to let me sign in until I did it.

  20. I treated you like a son*

    LW 1 knows her workplace, but would a new admin typically be authorized to order a bunch of office decor like this on their own? Mentioning this in case someone higher up was on board with this, it may change how you approach the situation

  21. Samwise*

    OP 2: it’s academia, the most likely explanation is that they don’t know how to write good interview questions.

    1. Policy Wonk*

      Or each member of the panel was asked to write their own and this type of question came up a lot in their Google searches!

    2. MCMonkeybean*

      Yeah, you can definitely ask if there’s something behind the questions but two really isn’t even enough to call it a pattern and my first assumption would be that they just didn’t coordinate their questions well.

    3. But maybe not*

      Honestly this question could have been about a search I did two years ago. We did have a terrible culture, and the rest of the department in fact wanted to ask those questions in hopes whoever joined the team would be the savior. The fact that they refused to look within themselves to find the answer is the reason I left.

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

        yeah, my take from that question is that…it’s academia, these questions are probably a really GOOD indication of how it will be to work there. 17 years in higher ed now and I do like it here mostly, but holy hell people — and I’m in one of the good departments from what I hear and see. When folks write in about bad managers/coworkers who can’t be fired… I think they MUST be talking about tenured professors.

    4. anonymous anteater*

      Since we don’t know what the actual job was like, this seems like a big assumption.

      I’ve definitely had an interview situation similar to the OP. A fixed list of behavioral questions, which, I later realized, kept coming back to a version of ‘how do you deal with difficult and disorganized scientists that make your job harder?’. I got the job, and in hindsight, those questions were absolutely there for a reason! In fact, for months, people would gingerly ask me in hushed tones: ‘So, how are you coping, working with Wakeen?’ As it turns out, we get along fine.

    5. OP #2*

      This never occurred to me! I always thought that it would be department higher-ups who determined the questions, versus the panel interviewers themselves.

      And if they each developed their own questions, but didn’t talk to each beforehand, that could further explain why two questions focused on the same topic.

      1. Michelle*

        Hi OP #2, I can confirm, having served on two search committees for contractual faculty in the last two years, both times the questions were developed at the very last minute from boilerplate old documents and during the first one there was some question overlap that I only noticed while we were mid-interview. I reviewed for this the second time around to avoid it.

    6. Butterfly Counter*

      I’ve been on academic hiring committees 4 times in the last 4 years. This is largely because our three most problematic professors, who seemed hellbent on gumming up any work being done to change anything about our department, finally retired. Suddenly, we’re making real progress in recruiting and retaining students, increasing research funding, and, you know, actually liking coming to work.

      You better bet a fair number of our questions are about the importance of collegiality and the ability to change when needed. I’d more bet that there was an issue before that they don’t want to repeat. It may be a red flag for current problems. Or it may be a green flag about making sure to fix past problems.

  22. Scott*

    Regarding comments on letter #1: It seems there are a number of people who need to read (or re-read) the commenting rules, especially Rule #1.

    My only comment on the letter and answer is to note that, once again, Alison’s advice is to use your voice and tell people who can do something the same things you wrote in your letter. Of course, there is also the validation of the LW’s feelings on the issue, which I think is what the vast majority of people are looking for here.

  23. cloudy*

    OP 2: I had an interview much like that – I wish I had thought to ask about it at the time but it was one of the first interviews I ever went to while I was still a student.

    It was in academia, in a department, and the interviewer kept asking increasingly detailed questions about all of the terrible ways someone might behave. Think “what would you do if you had a conflict with a professor?” which turned into “what would you do if someone is coming up to your desk and knocking everything off it just to annoy you?” and “what if they stop by every day just to tell you how bad you are at your job?” It felt like it went on and on.

    I was so weirded out by it I came out of it knowing I didn’t want the job even if I was offered it (I wasn’t offered the job and ended up taking one in a different department). That was 10 years ago and to this day I still wonder what on earth was going on in that department.

      1. But maybe not*

        I would accept the knocking things off my desk if a Cat At Work was the perpetrator.

      2. Hush42*

        I was wondering if cloudy was interviewing to work in an office full of cats… because that seems to fit the questions pretty well.

    1. anonymous anteater*

      Maybe someone kept bringing their ill behaved toddler to work, and nobody felt able to rein it in?

      1. JustaTech*

        Given that when I worked in academia I had an entire in-person off-site training on what to do if your colleague or boss reached across the conference room table, grabbed you by your jacket lapels and shook you, ill behaved toddler would be the nice option.

  24. H.Regalis*

    I’m smirking at the fact that the “Work hard to achieve your dreams!” and “Stay focused!” posters are in the can. I am focused on finishing up going to the bathroom, thanks, dumb sign!

      1. H.Regalis*

        I mean, if you have digestive problems going to the bathroom can sometimes be a blessing and/or a miracle XD

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          That just makes me think of the bathroom scene in Austin Powers. “Who does Number Two work for???”

  25. Boof*

    LW1: those posters sound like they are begging for some creative additions (much can be done with googly eyes and a few other stickers, I think?)
    But it’s probably worth a brief investigation into who thought this was a good idea, why, and if maybe they can not.

  26. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

    LW 3, I’m not sure this is the flex you think it is. The access has been there for two years and you’re just now noticing–and you only found out because you happened to be checking a folder marked ‘junk.’ If someone approached me with that information, I’d side-eye them pretty seriously.

    1. Myrin*

      I don’t think OP meant it as a flex but more in a “this kind of thing wouldn’t happen if I worked on your team” sort of way – the word “audit” in this context tripped me up but I think that’s what she meant by it?

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        You should generally be doing regular audits on who has access to things, I figured they were referring to something like that. It may not always be a formal process but it’s definitely something you should check on more often than they seem to be.

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

      That’s a weird take on the OP’s letter. I do not see them flexing this. And if the notifications went to their junk mail I can see why they didn’t notice.

      I had something similar happen to me, but it was a college club’s Facebook group. I didn’t know for 2 years, and only figured it our when I was updating something in my settings.

  27. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    TL/DR: Similar question to LW 5 with a different scenario. One job back I accepted a “settle job”, quickly regretted it, left after 6 months, and promptly landed a better job. Should I list the regrettable job, omit it leaving a 7 month gap, or list only the position and dates with no details?

    A couple years ago I was working as a senior manager for a pre-profitability tech startup. When the venture capital market tightened in the winter of 2021/2022, they were clearly headed for a mass layoff, so I negotiated a severance and left to focus on finding a new role.

    I interviewed for a leadership role with Public SaaS company, but at the very end of the process they decided to promote a late emerging internal candidate. They asked if I would be interested in backfilling that person.

    While I wasn’t interested in an individual contributor role, two other companies had told me to expect an offer, and I wanted to use Public SaaS Company’s offer as leverage. Unfortunately, one offer failed to materialize, and the other was significantly less total comp. Since the tech jobs market had become unstable, I decided to take the job with Public SaaS Company rather than risk long term unemployment.

    Initially, the role itself was unchallenging and narrowly focused, but the company culture overall was a good fit. However, after only a few months, the new manager left, they pushed out my counterpart, and planned headcount was cut. I was left covering 3+ jobs worth of workload for no extra incentive.

    While the job market was abysmal by the winter of 2023, my job situation was untenable so I left. Six weeks later I landed a senior manager role at a Fortune 200 with a referral from the former colleague Public SaaS Company pushed out.

    The case for keeping regrettable job my resume:
    – Avoid a gap from June 2022-February 2023
    – Company is a recognized and respected brand
    – Title was Senior Functional Manager which is sometimes misinterpreted as a senior manager
    – I had accomplishments despite the duration because I required almost no ramp time and covered multiple roles

    Case for removing it:
    – I was only there 6 months
    – I’m not interested in doing that type of work (presales) again
    – That role was 2 levels below my current job even though the company was much smaller

    1. Another Hiring Manager*

      Unfortunately, avoiding the gap is a big reason on its own. While I’ve tried to explain (multiple times at great length) that there are dozens of reasons why someone might have a resume gap, I constantly run into people that judge any gap as a mark against the candidate.

      Many of those reasons are private and should remain so.

    2. Your Former Password Resetter*

      I would keep it in for my own resume. It’s very recent and it would leave a very noticable gap. That shouldn’t be held against you (especially during COVID), but it might.

      On top of that, you have a good explanation for leaving (massive increase in workload with no raises) and you have a great track record within the job. So it should still reflect well on you with any reasonable hiring manager.

      OP5’s case is different because they have a 2-year gap either way and they don’t have much to show for it, so it can just be quietly folded into the existing gap.

    1. Transatlantic*

      I have one that I used to put in my office (back in the days when I had an office and not just an awkward hotdesk in a crowded room, but I digress). It said “Just because you’re necessary doesn’t mean you’re important.” And funnily enough, since then I’ve progressed enough in my career to be ‘important,’ but I don’t feel nearly as necessary as I was as a worker bee!

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      I once got moved to a floor where the decor consisted entirely of motivational posters and large posters that said “This is Stress-Free Zone” and “No Stress Allowed.” On the door of the office I shared with three of my colleagues, I put up one small card (4”x6”) that said “Stress. It weeds out the weak.”

      My joke was very much not appreciated by the stress-free crowd, and they called a meeting with: my boss, my grandboss and the head of building services. They insisted this meeting in the hallway, so everyone could behold the horror of my 4”x6” card. My boss and grand boss both laughed (and they rarely agreed on anything) and walked away. The building services guy said “No tape on the walls!” and instructed his staff to remove all of the posters. He sent someone by daily to check to be sure no one was taping anything to the walls. A few days later, building services put up some fairly nice framed photos of sunsets and flowers. They never touched my little card on the door, but I took it down after the pictures went up.

  28. Coffee Protein Drink*

    If someone asked more more than once about dealing with difficult co-workers, I would not accept the job. I might even leave the interview. The second time is a red flag for me.

    1. OP #2*

      Agreed! It definitely stood out as a concern for me, yet as I noted in my letter, I had already been searching for two years. My confidence and self-esteem were shot, frankly. I felt as an interviewee that the panels (I had to do *so many* panel interviews, during my job search) held *all* of the cards and I held *none* of the cards.

      I shudder to think of what my experience might have been like, if I’d been offered that job. Because I likely would have taken it, since I really needed to leave the work environment I was in.

      1. Coffee Protein Drink*

        Job hunting really saps a person’s resources, physical, mental, emotional, financial. It’s demoralizing as hell. I”m so glad you’re in a better place now.

      2. Rebecca*

        “I shudder to think of what my experience might have been like, if I’d been offered that job.”

        Your experience would have been that of a person who works at a place that tries to screen out toxic people. What do you think that would be like?

        Job searching is hard, and it messes with your perceptions. I think it is entirely possible that you had a strong negative reaction to unfamiliar questions, and you have interpreted a stress reaction as reality.

        1. allathian*

          I think that they were looking for an employee who was willing to deal with a missing stair employee or toxic management.

          One question about how you’ve dealth with a workplace conflict is fine, more than that is a red flag.

  29. ReallyBadPerson*

    As a Christian, I find expressions like “blessed” and “miracles” in secular contexts off-putting at best and offensive at worst. So often, they’re just empty virtue-signalling. I mean, if you really feel blessed, then go and quietly demonstrate your gratitude by helping others. There is no need to broadcast it.

  30. Trout 'Waver*

    OP#2: Bad interviewers are reactionary to the previous person in the role. They compensate by fixating on the issues they had with whomever had the job before. So the focus on conflict likely means they had interpersonal conflict with the previous person in the role.

    I’d do more digging, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe they did get rid of the source of conflict!

  31. CommanderBanana*

    I wonder what sort of motivational artwork the men’s bathroom would get. Maybe something about improving your aim or actually washing your hands.

    1. Angstrom*

      Seen these sold for airports:
      “Pilots with short pitot tubes or low manifold pressure, please taxi closer. The next pilot may not be on floats.”

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      In general, men’s washrooms get the same motivational posters that OP is describing here.

    3. But maybe not*

      the real question is why anyone needs or wants motivational posters in the bathroom

  32. ugh academia*

    Question 4 could have literally been written by me at my old job, the scenario matches pretty exactly. In my case, my boss’s first language was language B, and their motivation for telling everyone to speak in English was to a) improve collaboration between everyone, especially those with different first languages and b) for the ESL speakers to improve their English (this was in an academic setting and the English skills were arguably part of the point of them being there). I had no idea that this was illegal but honestly in my case it didn’t matter, everyone just ignored the rule whenever the boss wasn’t around.

  33. Armchair Analyst*

    For #2… I was once asked 3 or 4 times in a row about how I deal with difficult people at a job. I think it was 4 times.
    My answers were:
    – use authority
    – understand where the person is coming from, but express what has to be done
    – build consensus
    – at this point none of my answers were acceptable and I admitted to yelling when frustrated in my personal life. I pointed out that none of my answers seemed acceptable and it seemed like a difficult situation. I think my language was something like repeating what the interviewers said back to me: “wow, so I can’t appeal to authority because of the complex joint leadership involved, there’s no consensus because each person only represents their own company views, and team members aren’t listening to logic. You’re right – it does sound like these are very difficult people! Well in my personal life I have been accused of being a yeller, it’s something I’m always working on but I admit I might rely on that in this tough situation, since you’ve ruled out other options or explained why they wouldn’t work. But of course I’m always open to learn more effective or professional techniques. These people definitely sound really difficult!”

    Later the HR person called and said I was a strong candidate and was I interested in the position? I flatly told her no, it sounded like a really difficult team and that I’m pretty sure I gave the wrong answer to how to work with rhe them.

    Reader, I got the job and hated it and the people I worked with for almost 2 years until the HR person fired me.

  34. Marimba Queen*

    I can see how people might think the questions in letter 2 are a red flag (esp if someone once asked you what you would do if a person knocked things off your desk to be annoying, lolwtf), but I have a different perspective. I should lead by saying that I am in engineering, not academia. I’ve been on dozens of interviews in my 20+ year career, and I have noticed a real shift both in the work place and during interviews toward prioritizing soft skills, like conflict resolution and building trust. Engineering is a pretty high conflict field, with lots of egos, lots of people thinking their brilliant solution is beyond reproach, and lots of reproach for other people’s less brilliant solutions. Employers ask about conflict resolution and trust bc they recognize that conflict will happen, and they want to foster a workplace where these conflicts are handled respectfully and in a way that will not destroy trust. They want to make sure they are hiring someone who knows how to be constructive, and not the person who will go around knocking things off people’s desks.

    It was hard for me to understand what was going on when I first started getting questions like this, too. My internal reaction the first time someone asked me how I build trust was “wtf, don’t people trust each other here?” But after some time and more experiences with both other workplaces and other interview questions, I started to pick up on the shift from emphasis on technical performance to emphasis on soft skills. I’ve also started to understand how I need to work on my soft skills to continue being successful.

    I led by saying I am in engineering bc I don’t know whether this trend is occurring in academia or in other fields. Either way, those questions are not automatically a red flag. I recommend being more open in how you see them. If you receive an offer from a place where they ask a lot of questions about conflict and trust, you can always follow up afterward by asking them some similar questions about the workplace.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I think the reason it feels like a red flag in LW’s context is that it was essentially the same question twice. Conflict and mistrust aren’t exactly the same thing of course, but they’re similar enough that if you plug them into the same question formula, it comes off as “Do you know how to handle conflicts at work? No, seriously, do you know how to handle conflicts at work???”

      You mentioned questions about building trust, and I think that would come off very differently because it’s a materially different question. I also think giving an explanation like the one in your first paragraph would help put the questions in context.

      But of course, the reality is that even if they handled the questions in a way that seemed more competent and thoughtful, it would still be in the candidate’s best interest to ask about them — as you said, these questions are important because it’s a high-conflict culture. Is this focus on healthy conflict-resolution a new thing, with a lot of progress yet to be made (read: they still have a lot of jerks at their company), or is it a maintenance thing?

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

    #2 I really wish we knew what was behind the question. I don’t know if I could even think of a situation where I mistrusted a coworker.

    #3 this happened to me only it was the Facebook group for my college’s English club. I had been the treasure and I tried 2 times to have someone remove me. I finally got in touch with an English faculty member and transferred it to them.

    #4. I have another example for when it s ok for an employer to say you can only speak English. When I worked at a call center we were to only speak English to the customers. Sometimes someone who spoke Spanish would accidently get transferred to the English line. There were a few of my coworkers who Spanish was their first language or were otherwise proficient. Management had to tell these people that even though they could speak Spanish they had to transfer the person to the Spanish line or get an interpreter line. Mostly this was because management could not speak Spanish and so would not be able to review the call. I think there was also some sort of policy because there was some sort of contract with the interpreter line.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      That last bit makes a lot of sense. The interpreters probably get paid at a higher rate, and management wants to track that.

    2. JustaTech*

      Re: #2 I can think of several coworkers where I haven’t trusted their technical judgement, or their diplomatic skills, or (frustratingly) their ability to do the job safely.
      But I can’t think of anyone I had an *overall* mistrust of.

    3. Rebecca*

      #2 I think you are lucky, or maybe haven’t had as many jobs as I have, bc I can come up with examples with zero effort

  36. Sarah Fowler Wolfe*

    For OP #3: Forgetting to remove old employees’ social admin access is incredibly common. The professional thing to do once you notice it is to let them know, as you did; and then remove yourself as admin, which you can easily do on the platforms that use your personal account (Facebook and LinkedIn).

  37. PropJoe*

    Letter 4:

    Closest things I’ve personally experienced:
    – in the military, we were told English only in our shop. At the barracks, they didn’t care. At all. But in the shop you’d catch an ass chewing for using anything other than English. With the possible exception for “I don’t know the English word but I do know the language X word, can you tell me the translation?”
    – in a large industrial setting, there was no official language policy. However, in reality, because 10% of the plant workforce was bilingual (English & Spanish) and 85% was monolingual (Spanish only), if you wanted to be considered for a shift lead or supervisor position, you had to have both Spanish (talk to employees) and English (talk to management). Office jobs which interacted a lot with plant workforce also featured a lot of bilingualism – most lower-tier HR staff and all the corporate training staff were bilingual. On rare occasion they’d hire someone who had minimal proficiency in English or Spanish and idk how they’d cope.

  38. Observer*

    #3 – Admin permissions you are not supposed to have.

    so part of me wants to send a letter to the manager of this team letting them know about this problem and how I have the perfect experience to manage their audits, but I have no idea if that is a bonkers idea or would come across like a threat.

    Bonkers and threat. If you did this at our org, you would go on the Do Not Hire EVER list.

    Remove your permissions if you can and then send an email that says something like “I noticed that I still had access to X, Y, and Z social media accounts. I deleted myself but I thought you might want to check the rest of your accounts.”

    If you can’t delete yourself, send a similar email suggesting that they remove you and go on your way.

  39. Bebopolea*

    3. All academia jobs will involve some degree of absolutely bananas interactions with high level people who will not be held accountable in anyway, so they’re looking for your ability to accommodate that without losing your mind.

    1. lemon*

      Exactly this. When I read this, I thought, “it doesn’t surprise me at all that they’re asking so pointedly about conflict resolution in academia.” HR in higher ed is terrible, whether you’re faculty or staff, and anyone deemed “important” will never be held accountable for anything, so you’ll be expected to put up with a lot of bad behavior from people far above you in the hierarchy and will have very little recourse except your own ability to tolerate and deescalate abusive behavior.

  40. Czech Mate*

    LW 4 – I used to work at a company like that–everyone in the office was multilingual (related to the work we did) and everyone but me was an immigrant. We had a manager who once imposed an English-only rule because:

    -English was the only language we *all* had in common. Because we had an open office plan, the reasoning was that we should all be speaking English so that we could overhear each other and jump in to help if necessary. (“Oh, you’re having trouble with Quickbooks? Try this…”)
    -The work we were doing was related to helping immigrants, so while we would provide help and services in multiple languages, English was considered a safe neutral default in front of clients. For example, some Asian clients would overhear staff speaking Portuguese or Spanish and then tell me they believed those individuals favored clients from Latin America.

    You can’t discriminate against employees by prohibiting them from speaking other languages, but at the same time, having other languages spoken at work can open up a political quagmire that you need to be prepared to navigate.

    1. Czech Mate*

      Adding also that the English-only rule wasn’t an edict–it was more of a “Let’s all try to do this in these instances because…” rather than “No one can speak anything other than English and if you do you will be written up.”

      1. Observer*

        It also sounds like this would fall under the Law’s “business necessity” exception.

  41. We're BtWBH*

    #4 I had a manager who was not a native English speaker and one of the members of our team of 6 spoke the same language. During team meetings, with all of us present, said manager would start speaking to this team member in their shared language, effectively freezing everyone out. What were they saying? Were they discussing the weather? Company business? Or saying derogatory things about the other folks on the team? Who knew? Unfortunately we could not speak to our manager as they were the culprit.

  42. No Tribble At All*

    #4: Fun fact: English is the official language of Airbus. It would’ve indicated too much of a national preference to make it French or German.

    1. Lady_Lessa*

      I just confirmed what I thought, that English is the international standard for aviation. So it makes sense that Airbus would make it theirs as well.

    2. Nina*

      It also tends to be the standard language for outer-space companies and agencies in Europe – except ESA where you have to be able to speak French as well.

  43. Insert Pun Here*

    I think asking about how you handle conflict in the workplace is good and normal—all workplaces have conflict of some sort. Doesn’t have to be high drama, either—it can be something as simple as redesigning a form or process.
    “Mistrust” seems a little more red flaggy to me, as I don’t think it’s to be expected that there will be mistrust in a workplace. And even if there is, you’re definitely implicating someone (a coworker or yourself) as untrustworthy when you answer this question. I absolutely do not trust my boss, but I work in a small industry and so would never mention that in an interview, because whoever’s interviewing me probably knows him.

    1. Rebecca*

      I never expected there to be mistrust in a workplace, but then I worked with a couple of truly underhanded people. Trust is a larger subject than just people who steal the credit for your work, though. Trust is also a part of social capital, which we talk about a lot here. People trusting you is part of your social capital. If you screw something up, or use bad judgement, or behave badly, that all causes mistrust and erodes your social capital. I don’t see asking about mistrust as red flaggy in and of itself.

  44. Leenie*

    Without commenting on the religiosity, girl-boss-osity, or triteness of the choice of artwork, the funny thing about the first letter is that art (of any style) is probably only in the women’s room and not the men’s room because the new admin only goes into the women’s room and not the men’s room.

  45. DrSalty*

    For LW #1, if it were me, I’d probably start with confirming where the posters came from. You think it’s the admin (and you’re probably right), but personally I’d want to be sure I had the full picture before using the script Alison provides. Just something as simple as “What’s up with the new bathroom decorations?”

  46. Sometimes maybe*

    #1 also consider no one actively choose these posters, but rather they were around and someone mentioned artwork in the bathroom. I say that because almost that exact thing happened in my old job. We moved building and after cleaning out our storage place found cashes of old furnishings and decor which were used in the new building. Another similar thing happened at new job when a longtime employee retired and their office belongings were just distributed among the office. It is possible no thought was given to the posters other than “this goes on walls” – “bathroom has empty walls”. I think a lot of commentors are assigning motives to the decorator that might simply might not exist.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I don’t think anyone is assigning motives, just stating that the LW is in the right to push back on them. As far as “this goes on walls” – “bathroom has empty walls”, presumably the men’s bathroom has empty walls as well, so odd that they would only be put up in the women’s bathroom.

      1. Sometimes maybe*

        True, but it also just might be the person who put them up is just a women who gave no thought to the men’s room. So instead of which bathroom should these go in, she just thought about the empty walls in the bathroom she uses everyday. Or, as what happened in my office the women’s bathroom needed to be repainted and the men’s room didn’t so no one considered what should we put in each room. My point was it might not be a big deal or no one actually put any thought into it at all (because honestly who is giving any thought to the decor in an employee bathroom at a tech company)

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I agree it’s possible no one actually put thought into it, but that doesn’t mean the LW doesn’t have standing to push back on it.

          So instead of which bathroom should these go in, she just thought about the empty walls in the bathroom she uses everyday.

          To me it would be even worse if she just went rogue and put up posters without anyone asking her to. That feels like an overstep on her part.

          1. Sometimes maybe*

            If it was the admin, we don’t actually know who decided to put them up

            1. Jennifer Strange*

              Sure, but since your train of thought is laboring under the assumption that it was her that is what I was following.

        2. Allonge*

          Well, this just goes to show that most things work out better with some thought.

    2. JustaTech*

      Yes, but if it’s a directive from on-high, some consideration should still be made to the content of the posters.

      For example: I work in biotech. My VP told our head of facilities “put up posters”. Our head of facilities is a very nice, hardworking guy. But he’s not a scientist. So he didn’t know that, in a science context “poster” means “the poster of the results of a study that was presented at a conference” (basically the mini version of a scientific paper), and does not mean a poster you can buy online of “the parts of a cell” “the Krebs cycle” “the solar system”.
      Thankfully the facilities guy asked me what I thought he should buy before he bought anything so I could stop him and be like “no no no, VP means all these posters that have been rolled up in tubes for 8 years, help me flatten them out”.

      So if someone high up decided that the bathrooms (or just the women’s bathroom) needed posters/art, they still should have been more specific than “something”.

  47. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    LW5- In the past 2 years, aside from the 2 month job, have you worked at all? Seems like a silly question, but a surprising number of people characterize themselves as unemployed when they’re actually underemployed. Even volunteer work counts if you need to fill a gap.

    If you’ve done anything work related, gigs, freelancing, a side hustle, etc., group all of that including the short term job together in a single generic listing with dates that close the gap. Keep it vague and brief: “freelancing” or “consulting”. The goal is to get the recruiters and hiring managers who won’t consider someone with a long gap to scan down to your hospital job rather than discarding your resume.

    I was once underemployed for 3 years after leaving a toxic job with only 2 years of experience in a new field. Highlighting only my relevant freelance experience, which was a small portion of the mostly part-time gigs I did, helped me get interviews that eventually led to my first six figure job.

    Some people consider this unethical, but I needed to work to survive and wasn’t getting interviews until I changed my resume. I was promoted after only 6 months in my first role after underemployment, so my employer certainly wasn’t duped into a bad hire.

  48. warm smile in your voice*

    LW1 is assuming the admin put the posters up but honestly, it could have been someone else entirely and the admin was just the one who submitted the work order. So does the LW want to tell their boss or the CEO or whomever, “ugh I hate those ugly, dumb posters you had installed in the bathrooms, they’re so cringey and lame!” especially if that person is also a woman?

    The LW is giving off some “fun” NLOG* energy here, not gonna lie :-/

    *Not Like Other Girls

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      The LW is giving off some “fun” NLOG* energy here, not gonna lie :-/

      I’m not seeing that at all. I’m seeing someone who (rightfully) doesn’t like being patronized.

      1. MsM*

        They also say they’re far from alone in not liking the new addition, so if anything, they seem to be perfectly in step with the other “girls.”

    2. Usurper Cranberries*

      Considering that everyone else who uses those bathrooms also considers the signs cringe and it’s becoming an open joke among them… this is literally a “just like the other women” situation. (NLOG, incidentally, is a very misogynistic framing that I’d urge you to rethink using – it’s easy to fall into with how casually it’s used, but it’s toxic and hurts all women.)

      1. Seashell*

        It could be a small office or a small number of women, but I wonder if it’s really everyone cringing or just everyone that LW has spoken to about it.

  49. Garlic Microwaver*

    I consider myself a reasonably progressive person, but am failing to connect with the grievances of post 1. Maybe the “girl boss” artwork is obnoxious, but “blessed” and “miracle” do not sing religious to me. I am a lapsed Catholic and tend to balk at religious overtones, too, but this doesn’t raise any eyebrows. Respectfully, is this a hill to die on?

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      I’m an atheist and I try to view these things as neutrally as possible, but yeah, these bother me. Both “blessed” and “miracle” imply the existence of a deity.

      “Blessed” — blessed by whom?
      “Miracle” — implies something that humans can’t pull off so a deity must intervene.

      I am also a lapsed catholic (for a lot of reasons) and I find your username ironic, given your comment. Garlic, on its own, does not smell. You need to heat it up (like in a microwave) to smell it.

      Also, if you are on social media at all, there are just tons of white American women in their 20s-30s who say they are “blessed” for everything they have. And I have to constantly resist the urge to respond with “No, honey, a deity didn’t bless you. You just happened to be born to well-to-do parents and married a guy in finance. You’re not blessed. You’re just lucky.”

      1. allathian*

        To be fair to those women, in their circles blessed and lucky mean exactly the same thing. In their world, nothing happens without divine intervention, certainly nothing good.

  50. warm smile in your voice*

    “There are already plenty of people for whom “below their means” would mean not being able to afford basic necessities, let alone those whose means already don’t stretch that far.”

    Hi it’s me :-/
    (for the snotty comment about people not being able to retire early)
    I’ve tried to live below my means but thanks to low-paying jobs, inflation, medical expenses, unemployment, etc, “below my means” often meant not actually being able to pay my bills which creditors and landlords tend to frown on??? So uh, yeah. Gotta splurge on that “30 percent of your monthly pay” rent after all! (also does anyone else realize that “30 percent” is way too unrealistic a figure in today’s housing market????)

    1. Observer*

      According to a report by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies *over half of US renters* pay more than 30% of their income on rent.

      And sure, in some cases people could make better choices about housing. But the reality is that this is not true for the *vast* majority of renters. It’s so bad in cities like NY that when they opened up registration for Section 8 housing assistance (applications for assistance have not been accepted for over a decade) they got over 630,00 in *a week*, when applications were closed. And those people are going to go into a lottery for one of 200,000 slots on a *waiting list*. Every single one of these families is “rent burdened” (ie paying more than 30% of their income in rent) and living in an apartment that is considered too small, unsafe, and / or illegal. No one else is even eligible to apply.

      So you are in good company!

  51. Midwest Manager*

    Re interview questions with a theme
    Many years ago my husband (who’s a jeweler) had an interview and as maybe the 3rd or 4th question, was asked “So, do you drink much?” Weird. He said, well, I drink, but not to excess, you know, socially acceptable level at parties or dinners. Interviewer “good, good.” And then another couple questions later, “so, drinking—ever had an issue with it?” After the 4th question about drinking, my husband said “Geez, man—have you had a problem with drunk jewelers?” Turned out their last THREE jewelers had all had alcohol issues, showing up drunk, drinking on the clock, etc. Husband assured him it would not be an issue. They then went to continue the interview over lunch, and when the waiter came over, husband ordered and added “and I’ll take a double whiskey, neat.” Said the interviewer practically fell out of his chair until he realized husband was joking.

  52. RagingADHD*

    LW1, I think you want incompatible things and have to decide what to prioritize.

    If the admin is actually the one who picked out the bathroom decor, and you complain over her head to get it taken down, it’s not as if she’s not going to hear about it. Depending on what you say and what her boss’ temperament is like, she might even get reprimanded for wasting money or attracting complaints. If you don’t think it’s worth approaching her face to face because you don’t want to hurt her feelings or get on her bad side, how do you think she’s going to feel if her boss takes her to task or tells her people are complaining?

    Even if the boss doesn’t tell her you were the one who complained, she is (most likely) not an idiot and can figure out who has been participating in these “running jokes”.

    Assume that getting them taken down by any path will inevitably hurt her feelings. But it seems to me that talking to her face to face is likely to result in the least resentment from her, since you can explain your reasoning and avoid throwing her under the bus.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      This is an over-reaction of the situation. The LW can just say to someone “Hey, those posters come across as patronizing. Could they be replaced”. That’s not throwing anyone under the bus, and I doubt anyone would “take her to task” about it, they would likely just ask her to replace them.

      she is (most likely) not an idiot and can figure out who has been participating in these “running jokes”.

      It sounds like everyone has been, so it would be difficult to pin down who mentioned it to her boss?

      1. RagingADHD*

        I guess you’re very lucky in all your prior admin roles (if any) to have had really great bosses who never react unreasonably to complaints, and who always give negative feedback in a really constructive and supportive way! I’m happy for you.

        It may sound like an over-reaction to you, but based on a *lot* of my prior roles, the admin tends to get all the shit that rolls downhill, and complaining about them or their choices to their boss is (at best) going to make them feel terrible that people are discussing them behind their back, or (at worst) get them some measure of negative feedback from their manager.

        The “hurt feelings” is unavoidable. If the point here is to treat all the women in the office with respect and improve all of their experiences at work, then tell the admin to her face what you have a problem with instead of escalating to her manager. That’s all I’m saying.

        1. Six for the truth over solace in lies*

          Thank you for saying this. I agree that admins are often victims of shit rolling downhill, and especially as it’s frequently a low status, female-coded role. And often one where they’re blamed by somebody no matter what happens.

        2. Dahlia*

          It’s not LW1 or their coworker’s job to protect the admin. The decor is bad. They don’t like it. It makes them feel bad during their work day because it’s condescending. They have every right to speak up and say they don’t like it and it’s not their fault if the admin has an unreasonable boss.

  53. Moose*

    There was recently a pretty intense conversation on ASL Interpreter Social Media about how to interpret the word “miracle.” Today’s discussion has been really interesting to me in light of that.

  54. Goldenrod*

    For LW #2…I really wish I’d read Alison’s great advice before this happened to me! I was asked *numerous* times in the same interview about my five-year plan…and answered honestly that I’m a present-minded person who has never had one. It kept coming up and I didn’t have a better answer! I wish I’d asked more directly what their concern was…

    1. Seashell*

      Maybe their concern was that you never considered an answer to a very typical interview question?

  55. Marzipan Shepherdess*

    LW3: Alison is right! Do NOT use your former company’s lax “policy” of continuing to give you admin access in order to get a job with them; it will be perceived as very thinly disguised blackmail and will result in YOUR being blackballed with THEM! And, since word gets around in a field, chances are that other hiring managers and HR staff will hear about this as well, which will result in your being barred from other companies as well (who wants to hire a blackmailer?!)

    Delete your admin access and drop the subject – especially when it comes to job-searching!

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      LW3: I can feel your pain – I had full domain admin access to a histing platform of a major telco, with thousands of clients, way after my need for those had expired, and I had to go to quite some lengths to get that revoked.
      I would not delete my admin access in this case. This would constitute changing soemthing on a system you are not authorized for any more.
      I would send them another notice, clearly requesting to withdraw your admin access and stating that you cannot be held responsible afterwards (like if your computer is attacked by some malware). I would address this to their compliance officer; if you can’t find them, use the CFO. Do this in writing (I’d send a registered letter or, if at all possible, a fax – while outdated, a fax is good to prove not only that you sent *something’ but what that something actually was, and that they received it).
      I work in cyber security, and watertight documentation is paramount. We have our contracts for penetration tests vetted by our legal team and we make very, very sure we are staying exactly within the stated boundaries.

  56. Sometimes maybe*

    Can we just appreciate the current state of gender equality, where the complaint is there is gendered items in a room that is specifically segregated by gender.

    And yes I understand all the reasons why people are upset and I do not disagree with the complaint. Its just a little funny that the LW is upset about feminine styled artwork in a room specifically designated for feminine identifying individuals.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      It’s not that it’s “feminine”—there is nothing wrong with that. This issue is that it’s “girl” boss, which is infantilizing (and because this happens to women and not men, it also makes it sexist). Would you honestly hang up “boy boss” things in a men’s bathroom? No, you would not.

      Grown women are adults, not girls.

      1. Seashell*

        I don’t think the word “girl” was actually used in them. Just “girl boss” was the vibe LW was getting from them.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Can we just appreciate the current state of gender equality, where the complaint is there is gendered items in a room that is specifically segregated by gender.

      Filling a space with items stereotyped as being for a specific gender is the opposite of gender equality, so I’m not sure why we should appreciate it.

      Its just a little funny that the LW is upset about feminine styled artwork in a room specifically designated for feminine identifying individuals.

      The LW is upset about patronizing artwork being placed only in a room specifically designated for feminine identifying individuals.

      1. Sometimes maybe*

        Again I understand the argument, but the whole thing is a little funny. It’s ok to laugh at things even when you understand and agree with those your laughing with

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Seriously. The benchmark here should be “would this work in any bathroom?” not just “is this good enough for the womens’ bathroom?”

        As I said below, it’s not difficult to decorate a room in a way that is neither stereotyping or patronizing.

  57. Peanut Hamper*

    At my last job (where I was in charge of all the MRO stuff), the women asked me to find decorations for the two women’s bathrooms in the building, as they hated blank walls.

    I went out and found some very nice artwork that had paintings of landmarks from international cities. Think London and Big Ben, Paris and the Eiffel Tower, etc. The women who asked for it loved them. It was non-gendered, non-religious, and made people happy.

    Decorating in a way that does not discriminate or even seem to discriminate is not difficult.

  58. I Have No Recollection of That*

    Whenever I see a question here about job interviewing, and the question relates to “tell me about a time when [insert situation here]” I think to myself, “beats me.” Can anyone really recall that sort of thing? Lord knows I can’t remember who pissed me off yesterday. I’ve been self-employed for years so maybe that question wasn’t a thing back in my day. I could respond to what would you do under such-and-so hypothetical situation. I would be at a loss to recall some particular situation related to a “tell me about a time when.” What is the response if one has no specific recollection of a situation related to what is being asked?

    1. lion*

      These behavioral questions are common enough in interviews in my field (accounting) that I expect at least a few every time I interview. I usually prep some answers based on questions I’ve received in the past and that’s worked well for me, especially because the specific questions don’t tend to be all that different. I typically get asked something related to working in teams, how I’ve approached challenges, and how I prioritize and manage having multiple projects at once. That’s not to say that every example you’ve prepared will be relevant, but it at least gives you a starting point.

    2. bamcheeks*

      Prepare them! The person specification will tell you what skills/competencies they are looking for. We recommend the STAR technique:

      Situation – which job / context you were doing this in
      Task – what you needed to do
      Actions – what you did (should be the bulk of the response)
      Result – what was the outcome, how did you know this was successful
      Evaluation – optional, if you’re giving an example of something which wasn’t successful, what did you learn / do differently?

      The basis of competency-based interviewing is that your past performance is the best indicator of your future performance, so it’s very specifically NOT what you think you’d do (scenario questions) but what you actually did.

    3. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Alison’s interview guide (linked in the sidebar, third image) has a bunch of behavioural questions in it that are great for prepping answers to these sorts of questions in advance. You might still get one from left field where you’ll be stumped, but generally they tend to follow a very common template (“Tell me about a time when you had conflict with a coworker / disagreed with your boss / had to step up as a leader” etc.).

    4. Rebecca*

      I don’t know when your day was, but behavioral interviewing has been a solid thing since at least the 90s.

      I can remember lots of those sorts of things, more and more as I have more experiences to call upon. If you think you might start interviewing again, you should probably look up behavioral interview questions to practice.

  59. Fruitbird*

    My dad used to work at a union and one particularly interesting work story was the woman who called his union to try and stop her co-workers talking in their own language.

    Now, this was a nursing home, so using only english language when on the clock is one thing, as you might work with elderly people with dementia who might get confused. But she didn’t want them to have conversations in the break room unless it was in english. This lead to dad having to slowly and patiently explain to this woman that no. No he couldn’t actually do that and she really needed to mind her own business.

    As he said once, about a different person bringing up this old racist chestnut: “Why, are you worried they’re talking about you? You’re not that interesting.”

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      As someone who comes from a bilingual family, I can confirm that this is very much a thing. If I had a dollar for every time a white English-only speaking person said “how do I know they’re not talking about me?” I could buy a lot of bananas.

      There’s just this weird thing about white people always needing to be centered, and then worried that they are not being centered by people they can’t understand. It’s weird.

  60. I like big tubs and I cannot lie*

    Where is the line between the type of decor in the bathroom (which we’re assuming is hashtag GIRL POWER stuff but might actually not be?) and a poster featuring your friend and mine, Rosie the Riveter*??? Is the latter somehow not okay now?

    *if you’re unfamiliar with Rosie, then google is your friend. If you have some kind of “moral” or “oh my god how sexist!” hangup about her, then I don’t know what to tell you except to maybe seek therapy and touch grass. At the same time. And stop going on tumblr.

    1. Dahlia*

      If my workplace’s bathroom had a Rosie the Riveter poster, and had nothing to do with history or that kind of work, I would roll my eyes, frankly.

    2. Rebecca*

      Let’s just say that I might put a Rosie the Riveter poster in my bathroom to motivate me, but I don’t need my workplace putting up motivational posters in the bathrooms. Unless they put one in the men’s room. I would kind of love that.

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