The pandemic has brought about a “new normal” for the workplace. Many offices have found that work from home solutions and more relaxed rules can really help employee morale without reducing productivity.
But that’s not the case everywhere, and as some companies try to return to the office, they’re finding that not everyone is on the same page.
Redditor toebeansandrices experienced this schism when one of his employees had to come back into the office after a very relaxed work-from-home environment. Now they’re asking the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit if they handled it well.
The original poster (OP) asks:
“AITA for handing an employee a lint roller and telling her to use it before heading into a meeting?”
The story goes:
“I supervise 15 employees. Annie got too comfortable WFH. We gave a wide berth for everyone to try to cope, but Annie took a mile.”
“She’d attend meetings in her unmade bed with bed head, let her dogs bark & insist she couldn’t put them in another room, etc. We let it slide because this was an adjustment for all, but did remind her that despite us being on Zoom, we needed to still act and try to look professional.”
“After coming back, it got worse. We don’t expect everyone to be runway ready, but she’ll wear hoodies that have obviously been worn for days, leggings, ratty shoes, hair in a very messy bun, old makeup, etc.”
“Annie came in with a black fleece absolutely covered in dog hair. I pulled her aside, asked if she had a change of clothes for our 11AM meeting. She said no. I asked ‘Then do you have a lint roller?’ She again said no and looked down and asked what was wrong with what she was wearing.”
“At this point I’d had enough and said ‘Dude, you’re covered in dog hair.’”
“She giggled and said ‘I gave the doggies extra snuggles before work.’”
“I tried my best to be gentle, saying she had to either change or take off the jacket. 11 comes around, I’m greeting clients, she comes in, still covered in nasty dog hair. I pulled her out of the room saying we forgot her USB, went to my office and handed her a lint brush. “
“I told her to get as much of the dog hair off her jacket as she could, and we’d have a talk later.”
“Annie stomped off instead and said she was using her sick time for the rest of the day. I handled the meeting.”
“She threw a fit all over social media about her Oppressive Employer who just doesn’t understand what depression or anxiety are, how hard she worked just to get out of bed, etc.”
“She said I shamed her publicly, made her feel lower than low, all because she was experiencing separation anxiety from her dogs while she was at work and was struggling with depression dealing with everything. I have an outdated idea of being ‘office-ready.’”
“The comments were what made me come here to post. Pretty much everyone siding with her on our archaic ideas of working in offices, how we obviously don’t care about our employees’ mental health, etc.”
“I know we’re facing ‘a new normal’ kind of situation where things are rapidly changing. We are not the kind of business where everything can be done remotely forever, and I don’t think that it’s a stretch to request someone use a f***ing lint roller before a meeting.”
“But that’s why I’m here. AITA?”
OP also added some context for how they came across the social media posts, and why they didn’t go to their human resources.
“Edited to add: Thanks for the feedback, everyone. A few notes as they have come up in comments: I don’t follow her on social media, others do, and I had another employee show me her breakdown because she was concerned.”
“We don’t use HR to police employees/use them as ‘school principals’ in that sense. ‘Going to HR’ is a last-ditch thing here.”
“Finally, I did not post this so people could gatekeep how depression presents in people. Please stop telling me what people with depression are ‘really’ like because it comes in many shapes and forms.”
It was then the job of the AITA board to pass judgement on OP and their actions.
This is done with one of the following comments:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
For asking their employee to lint roller their sweater and follow basic dress code rules, OP was judge NTA.
“NTA. Annie is unprofessional on so many different levels. If she’s truly at the point where she’s so depressed she can’t follow dress code, she needs to talk to someone about a leave of absence and get her mental health in check.” – delli_e
“NTA – it doesn’t take much for an employee to be presentable and i dont think its asking much for an employee to not be covered in dog hair at a client meeting. Work has dress codes that are agreed to and adhered to by all other staff, why should she be treated any different?” – Interstellar_Nebula
“NTA. Unless you were aware of her mental health issues prior to this incident, how were you supposed to know she was having issues dealing with depression and anxiety? It isn’t unreasonable to ask your employees to dress appropriately.”
“It’s not like you were asking her to come in a full business suit, you just wanted her to not be covered in dog fur.” – Virulencer
“It’s likely OP won’t see this, but it’s still important. You’re talking about someone who has it in their head that it’s okay to attend meetings in bed and show up to work unwashed and covered in dog hair.”
“Depression and anxiety aside, this isn’t a normal thought pattern. I’ve certainly done my share of showing up to work looking like death because I Just Couldn’t that day, but I also knew that wasn’t okay, tried not to do it, would never do that if I had an important meeting, and pretty much kept to myself as much as possible.”
“Thinking that there’s nothing wrong with it isn’t depression and anxiety, it’s something else entirely and I hope she gets the help she needs.” – lunameow
However not everyone agreed. Some felt that Annie was wrong to come to work covered in dog hair, but thought OP was giving too wide a berth.
They said OP needs to put their foot down on this situation and were enabling it by not doing so.
“ESH. Annie needs to be work ready, but you don’t sound like you’re handling this very well as her manager.
“You are tip toeing around the actual issue instead of dealing with it head on. Stop giving way to these ‘new normal’ excuses, and start taking some actual action to address the issue.”
“Get your concerns in writing, have a meeting with her (and preferably someone from HR), have her sign something at the end of the meeting that she understands what was discussed. How is she supposed to know her behavior is an issue when her own manager treats it like it’s no big deal?” – 0biterdicta
“I’m going against the grain as I feel this is absolutely an ESH situation. Annie sucks for multiple reasons that many others have pointed out, including rampant unprofessionalism and insubordination.”
“The OP sucks because they are being a sh** manager who is letting their employees publicly slander the company and is allowing their employees to storm off like a cranky toddler, apparently with no consequences.”
“Instead of going straight to HR to write up an employee that’s refusing to comply with management instructions, you go to Reddit to ask if you’re being mean? That’s some spectacularly bad management, and if I was your boss and I found this thread, I’d fire both of you.” – Mithrander_Grey
Considering everything going on the last year, it’s understandable if Annie isn’t handling it well. And OP is giving a lot of slack since there is so much going on.
But that doesn’t entitle someone to go this far without consequence. Annie needs help, and that doesn’t involve wearing dog fur to work.