we’re asked to share our bra and underwear sizes with the team, crawling at work, and more

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

1. We’re asked to share our bra and underwear sizes with the whole team

I work in a clothing-related company where the entire team often receives clothing from our clients that’s sometimes optional and sometimes required. It’s all kinds of clothing — sometimes a t-shirt, but can get as intimate as bras and underwear. We are a small team, entirely women. Whenever we get one of these orders, the team who is in charge of coordinating them (she is lateral to me, we are both entry-level, but we have different managers) always sends a big message to the Slack channel asking for everyone’s size. Everyone will then put their size in the Slack channel.

I am fat with quite a large bra size and I wear XL or larger in almost everything. Everyone else on my team is quite skinny and wears S or XS everything. I always feel very uncomfortable sending my clothing size (especially for bras and underwear) to this large group chat of my coworkers. I have approached the coworker explaining my discomfort and asking if sizes could instead be submitted through a private Google form. Her response was that I was welcome to message her my size privately if I was uncomfortable sharing it publicly. However, since we are a small team, it will be very obvious if I’m the only one who’s messaging my size privately, and that makes me feel quite uncomfortable as well.

Is it reasonable to think this sort of thing should not be done in a public Slack channel, or am I overreacting? Does it rise to the level of something I should approach a manager about, and what would be the best way to do that if so?

You’re not overreacting; it’s really invasive to expect people to share their bra and underwear sizes publicly, regardless of body size. Your coworker should have realized that as soon as you asked the first time. If you want, you could try again with her one more time, really spelling it out this time: “For privacy reasons, I don’t think it’s appropriate to ask people to share their bra and underwear sizes publicly with the whole team. Can we please switch to a system where everyone emails you privately?”

If she still refuses, it’s perfectly reasonable to escalate it to a manager, using similar language and explaining that you asked the coordinator directly and she declined to change anything.

2. Crawling on the floor at work

What are your thoughts about crawling in the office? I get migraines that occasionally cause muscle weakness and/or dizziness bad enough that I can’t walk. I am able to sit at my desk and continue working during such a spell. This is generally the first or one of the first symptoms, so I cannot predict it. I walk with a typical gait when I am not having a spell and do not use any mobility aids. I work almost exclusively at my desk, but do need to go to meetings sometimes, as well as to get up from my desk for typical non-work reasons, like using the restroom. My entire team is working from home due to the pandemic but will return to the office in the fall.

If a migraine were to catch me at a location away from my desk and I was unable to walk, how would it affect me to be seen crawling back to my desk on my hands and knees? Would it be a somewhat eccentric thing, or the kind of unprofessional behavior that a manager or HR would need to address? Is this something I should address ahead of time, and if so how?

I work in a very large (thousands of people) office building of a U.S. corporation. The dress code is business casual. There is no in-person customer contact for my team, or even in the building at all that I am aware of. The company has a strong diversity and inclusion focus, including diverse abilities.

Don’t crawl around your office if it’s at all avoidable. Do what you need to do in the moment, of course, but it sounds like you’re talking about making a plan in advance, and ideally an advance plan wouldn’t rely on crawling.

If people see you crawling, it’s going to be alarming! Anyone who sees it will be concerned and ask if you’re okay or if you need help, and if you explain why it’s happening, people are likely to conclude that if the migraine is making you sick enough that you need to crawl, you should be taking care of yourself at home (or at least sitting still in a quiet room at the office). Rightly or wrongly, if you’re crawling back to your desk to work, it’s likely to come across as martyr-ish (in a “I’m so ill that I’m crawling but I’m going to keep working” kind of way).

Instead, can you talk to your manager about what alternate accommodations could work? For example, would having someone help you get into a quiet room (even if that meant rolling you there in a chair) be an option? Or is there another plan the two of you can come up with ahead of time?

3. People keep asking me to set up their meetings

I am a senior project manager at a Fortune 500 company. I run cross-functional programs — many have upwards of 15 working teams coming together to achieve a common goal. I lead multiple large, cross-functional meetings each week. I also lead several of the afore-mentioned working team meetings. I schedule all of those meetings and send follow-up notes after every one.

Here’s my challenge. Oftentimes, team members will email me, asking me to set up off-shoot meetings on their behalf. These are in-the-weeds meetings that I don’t need to attend or be involved in (the information should bubble up to my larger forums). It’s not always clear to me who should set up the meeting, but I know it’s not me!

Do you have any suggestions on how I can reply to these requests when it’s not clear to me who the coordinator should be? I usually just set them up (while glaring at the screen) because I want to be a good team member, but then I’m stuck in a meeting that is way too detailed for the level that I need to manage the project.

Definitely don’t keep setting up these meetings. By doing that, you’re training people that it’s reasonable to ask you and they’ll keep doing it (and you’re letting them put you in an assistant role!). Instead, when you get one of these requests, just explain matter-of-factly, “I only set meetings when I’m leading them. If you’re organizing this one, please go ahead and set it up yourself.”

4. Correcting another team’s typo

I work as an executive assistant at a small company owned by a far larger company. I also have some responsibilities in another operational area, which means I often deal with colleagues from the larger company in a capacity where I am not their admin. Colleagues in a particular area share an email signature template, but the name of their team is misspelled in it and has been for a few months now. It says “Heatlth and Environment.” Should I let them know, or should I just leave it?

Let them know! They’re sending that out all over the place, which is mildly embarrassing.

It doesn’t need a big deal — just a matter-of-fact email reply saying, “I noticed y’all have ‘health’ misspelled in your email signature template!” Say it to the most action-oriented person you’re in contact with there, done.

5. I have no way to use my vacation time and my boss is no help

I contacted you back in March about not being able to use up my vacation time and my boss’s hesitancy to approve it to roll over to the next school year (I work in administration at a school). I approached my boss about it again today. I told her that between the inability to take time off during instructional periods, being required to keep my department open during all school breaks except winter vacation, and the various pressing work matters that inevitably come up during breaks, it is impossible to use up the vacation time in my contract. Her reply was that I should have planned better. I asked whether I should have taken vacation time during my first month of work in order to use up the time (I started July 1 and the most reliable time to take vacation is late July/early August) and she said, “If you had come to me and said that it was the only way you could use up your vacation time, then I wouldn’t have been able to say no.” And apparently I should have counseled my direct report to do the same when she started last year. That’s ridiculous, right? What sane new employee would think to take an impromptu vacation during their first month of work?

I’m at a loss. At the end of the conversation, she said she would talk to HR about what possible options were, but only because of the uniqueness of the pandemic and not because her normal parameters around our vacation time are completely unreasonable. So even if she approves the time to roll over, my employee and I will just find ourselves in the same situation next year. Do we have any other recourse?

This is indeed ridiculous. I’m guessing your coworkers are in a similar boat, so this could be prime pushing-back-as-a-group territory. The other options are to talk with HR yourself (rather than letting your manager be the go-between, since who knows how she’ll represent your concerns) or have a lawyer take a look at your contract to see if your employer is in violation of it or if they can recommend any other recourse. [Also, I’m assuming you’re not in a state that bans “use it or lose it” policies, but it’s worth checking that to be sure. You can find out by googling the name of your state and “employee vacation laws” (no quotes).]