Their Body, Their Choice of Undergarments

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Too Many Free Nipples

The young ones tend to never wear a bra and come to the office in cropped tops and braless (sometimes sheer tops). What is with the hate on bras? Is this a generational preference? I am very happy to wear a comfortable bra every day and I am uncomfortable not wearing one. I find this new generation of braless ladies rude and unprofessional. These young ladies do not seem to mind the stares from others and more so when the office gets a little chilly. I have nothing against “free the nipple” but why impose this on others in a professional environment?

— Anonymous

Women are not imposing their nipples on you by existing, braless, in public spaces. You are imposing your judgment on their bodies. Why does this preoccupy so? It could be useful to interrogate the judgments you place on other people’s bodies and why those bodies, in their natural state, make you so uncomfortable.

Most work environments have professional dress standards, and it may well be that the “young ones” are flouting those standards, but that’s not really something you need to vex yourself over. That’s an H.R. issue that is none of your business. Try to let this go. Nipples exist. Sometimes, they are erect beneath clothing. The human body is not shameful. It’s a perfectly natural thing.

Moving Forward From a Step Back

I took a lower-level job than my previous work because of good benefits. The job is restrictive in that it’s part of a union; also, there are mandatory deductions from my paycheck for retirement, which is really cutting into my budget. It was supposed to be a hybrid position but I’ve ended up going into the office most of the time. The head of the department is a micromanager and everyone kowtows to him. I need to find a new job. Do I include this lower-level job on my résumé or skip it? I’m afraid this position will taint my prospects of getting a role for which I’m qualified as well as for a salary commensurate with my experience.

— Anonymous, San Diego

People accept demotions all the time, for all kinds of reasons. In an interview, you can explain why — though of course you must first get that interview. To do that, you need a strong résumé. If you’re comfortable with a work gap on your résumé, you could omit the lower-level job, but then you have to answer questions about what you’ve been doing. You can include this position on your résumé, but think carefully about how you word your responsibilities in your current position, highlighting the skills and tasks that most reflect what potential employers are seeking.

Take the same care in highlighting the experience you gained in your previous position that qualifies you for the more senior jobs to which you are applying. I’m sure readers will have plenty of advice for this particular question, so if you have insights on how to address a demotion on a résumé, share them in the comments.

How Do I Move On?

I was hired hastily for a job I’d had years before by a manager who already had one foot out the door. I then applied for her spot but did not get it. Still, I was happy to be back in my field after some time away.

The woman who replaced my manager was pregnant, with another young child at home. In the subsequent three years, we all have made it through the pandemic and its work-from-home challenges. I am not only older but also more experienced than my manager, and I routinely do many parts of her job, back her up with reminders, find alternate solutions to last-minute gaffes and step in with work support when child care falters.

She is a kind if always overwhelmed person and, I should add, we all work well together. Although I have made the case in annual reviews, I have not received a promotion or title change. Do I belabor the point? Closing in on retirement, shall I just coast? Her own manager protects her and is the one who brought her back to the company for this position.

— Anonymous, New York City

It seems like you work well with your colleagues, so I can’t really guess why you’ve encountered this promotion ceiling. Is it ageism? Are there budgetary issues? If you’re doing the work of a senior position without the commensurate salary and title, you have every right to advocate for yourself. Continue making your case without throwing your manager under the bus. If she has a senior supporter, it would be unwise, politically, to undermine her. And, it’s unkind.

You can make a case for yourself without tearing someone else down, not that I get the impression you’re interested in doing that. You’re closing in on retirement, but that doesn’t mean you should spend what remains of your career feeling frustrated and unappreciated. Coasting is an option, certainly, but so is looking for a different position where you can be more valued.

Good Time to Leave, Bad Timing

I have been at my job for 15 months. I started in a fellowship role and then was hired. My boss subsequently received a diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer. Over time, that has meant absences for endless appointments and treatments, including surgery and radiation. I don’t mind covering during these periods; my boss is respectful and the situation has given me much more opportunity.

However, I instinctively know it’s time to move on. I can’t move up in the company. I am not paid well, and the industry doesn’t interest me. I’m very loyal and I know it’s just work, but I worry that my leaving will cause my boss added stress during an ever-worsening situation, and that colleagues and associates will view my leaving badly. It’s a tiny organization. Another employee and I do the vast majority of the work. I’m emotionally exhausted. Advice?

— Anonymous, California

I commend you for trying to care for your own well-being while being considerate about the impact of your taking a new position. Though we always have the right to leave a job that is no longer a good fit, we are also leaving people behind. Given the unfortunate circumstances you’ve outlined, there is no good time to leave. Whether you stay or go, your boss will still have cancer, and your leaving will be a challenge for the colleagues who remain.

What you can do is plan your exit with care and consideration. Once you secure a new position, give plenty of notice, and create a transition document for your successor outlining everything they need to know to succeed in your position. Work with your boss and colleagues, once you’ve announced your departure, to redistribute your responsibilities and complete any projects you can complete before your last day. With open communication and some professional generosity, you can make this difficult transition with as little collateral damage as possible.

Write to Roxane Gay at [email protected].

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