I don’t want to tell coworkers about my weight loss surgery, client called me “beloved,” and more


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

1. I don’t want to tell coworkers about my weight loss surgery

I’m considering going in for bariatric surgery next year, and I don’t want to tell anyone at work. I plan to take a week off for vacation right after the surgery, and because I work a lot from home I can easily extend my recovery time.

What do I do when the weight loss becomes too noticeable? People who have the procedure I’m planning drop a lot of weight in a very short time, and I know my coworkers will notice. I’ve contemplated faking stomach trouble, but I don’t think that excuse will work for long. I’ve also thought about telling my manager that I’m going in for surgery due to severe ulcers or maybe a gallbladder problem and just passing off the weight loss as a side effect.

To complicate matters, I work in an extremely health-conscious workplace. Nearly all of my coworkers are very fit and exercise regularly, and are just generally buff. I stick out like the proverbial sore thumb. It’s extremely likely there’d be strong backlash if news of my surgery leaked out. I’m a very private person anyway and never discuss my health with anyone at work. It’s no one’s business and I’m not on the company health plan, either, so no way would HR know. What’s the best way to conceal my situation?

I don’t think you should outright lie, but you also don’t owe anyone any details about medical stuff, beyond just letting them know that you’re okay if they’re worried. If someone comments on your rapid weight loss, I’d go with something vague that only responds to the possibility that they’re worried about you, like “yes, it’s been a real change but it’s nothing to worry about” or “I’ve been treating a medical condition and this is a side effect, but there’s nothing to worry about” (which is true). If someone asks you what your weight loss secret is or something like that, you could say, “It’s been the side effect of a medical condition.”

If pressed, you could say, “Well, it’s medical so I don’t really want to discuss it. Thanks for understanding!”

2. Paying for a team birthday lunch

My colleague has arranged a team lunch to celebrate two teammates’ birthdays. Our manager didn’t set this up, and is sort of thing is usually buy your own. Would it be ok for me to anonymously (or not?) pay for everyone? It’s a small team, and I earn more an the others. I just wonder if it would be awkward for anyone, including my manager.

Don’t do it unless you’re also going to pay for everyone else’s birthdays in the future; otherwise it will look like favoritism.

3. My client called me “beloved”

I’m a freelance Torah scribe, and part of my work is visiting communities whose scrolls I’m working on, to drum up enthusiasm.

In my new project, my contact person has just introduced me to community leaders (by email) as “Our beloved Torah scribe.”

I’m not exactly surprised; I often get a lot of emotional input from client communities. People have very intense feelings about their Torah scrolls, and sometimes they project those feelings onto me, since I’m the one working with their scrolls.

I don’t want to be churlish, but I want to put a stop to this “beloved” business now, at the start of the project. I just don’t exactly know what to say. My job involves being warm and professional and welcoming and inspiring, but “beloved” is taking it WAY too far. Please help!

I can definitely see why it feels overly personal too you, but unless it’s part of a pattern of boundary-crossing, I don’t think it’s particularly outrageous. If there is a pattern of boundary-crossing, you’d of course want to address that broader pattern … but if this is the only thing that feels off to you, I’d chalk it up to different personal styles and let it go.

If you absolutely want to address it, you could frame it as “I’ve found that keeping more of a boundary with the communities I’m working in leads to a better experience for everyone; it makes it easier to talk about problems and (fill in other reasons).” But if it’s just this one thing, I think it’s better to let it go.

4. Should I give my boss a heads-up that my grandparents are very sick?

My grandparents (both over 92!) are starting to be very sick, and as such, they’ve spent a lot of time in the hospital recently. Based on their conditions, they will never fully recover, and will probably pass away soon.

I was thinking that I would give my boss the heads-up that they are very sick, but that I would not need time off unless they passed away. Is this overshare with my boss? Or is this information they would want to know?

If they were your parents, siblings, or children, I’d say yes, definitely give your boss a heads-up. With grandparents, there’s generally not as much of a need to, since the assumption with grandparents is usually that you’ll only be taking off a day or two for travel and attendance at the funeral (whereas with parents, etc., there’s an assumption that you’ll need more time). If that assumption is wrong in this case and you’re likely to take off more time, then yes, I’d give your boss a heads-up about what’s going on. (And ugh, this sounds so coldly transactional, and I wish it didn’t.)

I’m sorry about your grandparents.

5. When should college seniors start applying to jobs for after graduation?

I’m going to be graduating college in May of 2017 and am in the awkward limbo of wanting to begin applying for jobs but unsure of how to proceed (along with other soon to be grads). I am fully aware the hiring process can be long and arduous, and I want to get a jump start, but I’m not sure how early is too early to apply.

I’m compiling postings with closing dates in January and onward. On my resume I have “expected graduation May 2017,” but how should I address this in cover letters, etc.? Is something like this an immediate disqualifier in your managerial eyes?

It depends on your industry. Most places hire for 1-3 months out, but there are also industries where it’s normal to start applying now for jobs in May. This is something where you really just need to know how your field works. If you don’t, try talking to a handful of people who can tell you firsthand. And if it turns out you’re not in a field where hiring happens far, far in advance, then I’d start applying around March.

When you apply, definitely do say something in your cover letter like, “I’ll be graduating and available for full-time work in mid-May.”

I don’t want to tell coworkers about my weight loss surgery, client called me “beloved,” and more was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.


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November 28, 2016 at 03:06PM