how to handle a creep at someone else’s workplace, should I return to the office if I’m immunocompromised, and more

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

1. How to handle a creep at someone else’s workplace

My chiropractor’s office has an admin assistant who sits at the front desk. She checks people in, sets up appointments, etc. The staff is all still wearing masks.

The other day as I was checking in, a man at the other side of the front desk was talking to the admin assistant. I was caught off guard when he said “You have such beautiful eyes, it’ll be good to see the rest of your face once these masks are gone.”

The only other people around were a mom and two kids, also in the waiting room. As the man left, they turned out to be his family (!).

I (a man) almost jumped in and said something along the lines of “That’s suuuper creepy dude, leave her alone,” but backed off and didn’t say anything. I guess I didn’t want to make it more awkward for the admin assistant.

I have played this scene out over and over in my mind since it happened and really wish I had said something. What are your thoughts? Should I have spoken up? If so, what should I have said?

Agggh, these situations can be hard because while you don’t want the creepy behavior to stand with no pushback, you’re right that you don’t know whether saying something would have made a bigger deal out of it than the admin assistant would want to have to deal with. One approach is to keep it really short — like a disgusted snort or a quietly muttered “eeww,” either of which might rightly embarrass this guy without being a more direct confrontation, which the assistant might not have wanted to deal with at work (particularly when she’s got to navigate the weird emotional labor expectations of customer service).

But while those responses feel right to me, maybe they downplay it too much. They’re also less assertive than your own proposed line, and I wonder if that reflects some gendered socialization (on my part) too. I’m interested to hear from readers … not fantasy responses of what we all like to imagine saying to guys like this, but real responses that you’d really use in this situation and which respect the position the employee is in.

2. Should I return to the office if I’m immunocompromised?

I am immunocompromised and can’t decide if I should return to the office now that my company is pressing for everyone to come back, or press for more work-from-home time.

My company was very slow to allow any work-from-home at the beginning of the pandemic (the official attitude seems to be one of “if you’re not in the office, you can’t possibly be working”) and their initial attitude towards employees at high risk was bad enough to make the news. Once they decided to send everyone home, however, everything went pretty well, and the group I work in even pulled off some better-than-normal productivity. Now they want everyone back in the office (after a couple months of varying forms of some folks in, some folks WFH).

The option for WFH with a doctor’s note is still in place for now, and my immediate bosses are awesome and will back me up whatever I decide. I know my doc will give me a note if I want it (they’ve previously said to go with whatever I feel comfortable with). On the one hand, I’d love to get out of the house and see people again, and I know my immediate coworkers will be very conscientious about helping me avoid the plague (they’re awesome during cold and flu season). On the other, I don’t trust the company to be on the ball if we see another surge this fall, or if someone working in a nearby desk tests positive. Everyone I know will support me whatever I choose to do, but I don’t know what to do!

Talk to your doctor. I know she’s previously said to go with whatever you’re comfortable with, but you’re trying to make a specific decision based on health info, and your doctor is better positioned to guide you on that than anyone else is.

If she says you’re at risk, I wouldn’t rely on coworkers’ good intentions to keep safe, especially if you don’t trust your company itself to be on the ball.

But if your doctor says you’re low-risk for returning to the office (which might be what “go with whatever you’re comfortable with” means, but verify that), at that point I’d decide based on your sense of (a) how effectively you’ll be able to do your job from home, (b) how effectively your company will think you’re doing your job from home (not always the same thing), and (c) how effectively you think they’ll deal with remote people once most employees are back in the office (for example, will they maintain systems that keep you in the loop, will they have the right technology at meetings so you can actually hear what’s being said once no one else needs it but you, etc.).

3. Why don’t recruiters name the employer in job postings?

I feel like I see job postings that list the employer as a “growing local bank” or “top international bank,” but isn’t it better for everyone if the candidate knows the company and can do research on the employer before investing time in applying? And what’s preventing me from accidentally applying for a job at my current company?

Most of the time, those ads are from external recruiters, who aren’t naming the company because they want you to apply through them rather than directly through the company … because that’s how they get paid. If you apply directly with the company and get hired, that recruiter won’t get a commission — so it doesn’t make sense for them to spend money advertising the position but then make it easy for you to go around them.

That said, often if you google distinctive phrases from the job description, you’ll find the job posting on the employer’s own site and can apply directly if you want to, or at least know what company it is.

You’re right, though, that not knowing the company introduces the possibility that you could unknowingly apply for a job at your own employer. No ethical recruiter would tip your employer off if that happens (it’s just not a thing that’s done), but obviously that’s not a guarantee and googling the job description is one way to lower the chances of that.

4. Should I mention that I’d love to live in the city where the job I’m applying to is?

I’m fresh out of grad school and looking for a job in my field. I found a job listing that I’m 100% qualified for in a city that I have visited, loved, and would love to move to. Is that something I could briefly mention in my cover letter? For example: “Pleasantville, USA is a city I fell in love with when visiting and I would be thrilled to make it my home.” Or is that just too personal for a cover letter?

Mention it! It’s not too personal at all. In fact, when you’re applying for non-local jobs, employers usually appreciate you addressing up-front that you do want to move to their area and why, so they know that you’re not just applying on a whim/going to ask to do the job remotely once they make you an offer/etc. (Here’s more advice on applying long-distance.)