I’m in training with a much slower coworker, contacting my boyfriend’s boss, and more

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

1. I’m in training with a much slower coworker

I am training for a position as a quality assurance agent for a surveying company, and it is me and another woman training with a trainer. Today, I’ve been sitting here for more than half the day while the other woman is painstakingly going through her case slowly. I got through four cases in two hours, and she’s gone through one and a half. Is it absurd that I am just sitting here while I have obviously gotten the grasp of the work?

Probably. I’d check with the trainer and say something like, “I feel like I’ve got a good grasp of this. Is there something else I can move on to?” If she tells you there’s nothing more left to learn, then you could ask, “In that case, would it be possible for me to get started on work?” But if she tells you that there’s more training to be done but she can’t move you on until your coworker is caught up, then ask if she minds if you read the news or something else while you wait.

Also, if the training is weeks, this is worth addressing more assertively than if it’s just a day. If it’s just a day, it might just be something to suck up. (But either way, if you have the opportunity to give feedback on the training later, this is a reasonable thing to mention.)

2. Should I contact my boyfriend’s boss?

I have been planning a surprise trip to New York for my boyfriend of five year’s birthday in November. I had him ask for a total of three days off work. He is fairly new at his job, having only been there for four months, but he is given so many vacation days that he is to use by year’s end. When he mentioned the vacation days to his boss, they stated, “It should be fine, it’s your vacation days.” My boyfriend was specific about the dates I told him, but still told them that he’d confirm the days via email.

I am now only a month away, so since they told him that he should be okay to take off, I purchased flight, hotel, and tickets for a Broadway show (about $1700) without insurance. And of course, a few days afterwards, the bosses told my boyfriend that those dates are not good dates. Once he told me, I explained (without telling him where the trip was) that I have already made the purchases and to try to see if he can do anything else about it. He mentioned it right away to his boss, who then stated that we should not have jumped the gun but that he would ask anther manager for their opinion. It’s been a week and they have not brought it back up yet and since my boyfriend is still so new, he does not want to bring it up himself.

This situation needs to be figured out soon so that I can figure out what I need to do to try to get some money back. Would it be unprofessional for me to email his boss and explain the situation and that it was my fault for making purchases and whatnot?

Whoa, definitely do not contact his manager yourself. This is his to handle and you risk making him look bad by interjecting yourself into his own work situation. If they had given him approval (real approval, not tentative “email us the dates and we’ll confirm” approval), then he should talk to them and point out that nonrefundable tickets were purchased based on their okay. But if there’s any chance that their okaying the dates was tentative, he may need to let it go. Either way, though, you’ve got to leave this to his judgment to handle, since it’s his job and his relationship with his boss, and he’s the one who can best judge how to approach this.

3. Should I let my friends know I’m on the hiring committee that will be evaluating their spouses?

I was asked to be on the hiring committee for an open position in my division. These committees are a new strategy, and sometimes word gets around as to who’s been asked to participate, but there’s no real announcement of any sort. I just got the packet of applications to review, and it turns out that two of my coworkers’ spouses have applied for the position. I’m friendly with both coworkers in and outside work, but don’t know the spouses. My instructions say to keep the candidates’ names confidential, but should I mention something to my work friends out of courtesy or in the interest of full disclosure?

I wouldn’t. They don’t really have a stake in knowing, and you risk making things awkward if you end up thinking the spouses should be rejected. It’s hard to see any good that comes from letting them know, and there’s no assumed obligation to alert them. If you’re asked directly, that’s one thing — but I don’t see a reason to go out of your way to announce it to them.

4. When is it appropriate to update LinkedIn with a new job?

At what point in time after receiving and accepting an offer at a new employer is it appropriate to update your LinkedIn page (to the new employer and title)? I am within my last two weeks at my current employer, but am generally wondering if there’s a protocol for this.

I’d wait until you start, since before that it wouldn’t technically be accurate to list the new job as your current employment. But any time from your first day onward seems reasonable to me.

5. Can an employer forbid employees from talking to each other?

My husband is in an extremely hostile work environment. He just told me that the supervisor forbade the 50+ employees from talking to each other. On top of being horrible for morale and utterly dumb, I am wondering if this is even legal.

Yep, it’s legal, as long as they’re being forbidden from talking across the board. It could be illegal if the employer is only banning certain topics, and those topics are, for instance, wages and working conditions. The ability to discuss those topics is protected under federal law. But they can certainly ban social chit chat if they want to. It’s a silly thing to do, and pretty much guaranteed to create a highly disgruntled workforce and drive away good people, but they can do it if they want to.

{ 124 comments… read them below }

  1. neverjaunty

    Not understanding how that would be legal, since a ban on all talking by definition would also prevent employees from talking about wages, work conditions or union organizing.

    OP #2, yes, you jumped the gun. What do you think would be gained by talking to the employer? They’re not going to refund your money, and you would be sending the message that your boyfriend can’t be relied on to handle his own work issues.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It comes down to whether they ban all non-work conversation or not. Employers are allowed to ban all non-work-related conversation. What they can’t do is single out discussions about wages/working conditions while allowing other type of conversations unrelated to work. It’s similar to leaflet policies; they’re allowed to ban all leafleting if they want, but if they allow some, they can’t ban union leafletting. The issue is singling out those types of discussions for special treatment — but if they’re prohibiting all non-work talk, then it’s generally allowed. (But they can’t ban them from discussing wages/working conditions on unpaid breaks or outside of work.)

      1. GreatLakesGal

        Re: Talking at work

        We recently lost our sales director, a real-go-getter, and our entire workplace is in a slump– there isn’t enough work! Partially due to a combo of that plus an influx of new hires, we are not making targets.

        My boss has decided that his solution to missing targets is to police talking at work, even work-related topics, and is micro-managing that issue. To the point of, ‘ You turned away from the computer to answer Joe’s question.’

        It’s really miserable, and has turned a previously collaborative environment into drudgery.

        The company is on-boarding a new sales director next week, so I have hopes that this will resolve itself, but gosh, the whole thing makes me feel like I’m in elementary school.

        And failing.

      2. neverjaunty

        Also depends on where the ban it, which is not clear from the letter. If it’s “no talking to each other while you’re on the sales floor working”, that’s different from “you may not speak to each other even in the break room or while you’re off the clock”.

  2. Mike

    Hmmm, time for a general rule?
    “Should I contact [some other person]’s boss about blah blah issue?”
    “Are they ill, hospitalized, or otherwise incapacitated and unable to speak or write?”

    1. UKAnon

      Broadly, yes.

      I am wondering, however, whether it’s ok to contact them to say “I am booking a holiday about which he as yet knows nothing – I don’t want him to know until birthday/anniversary/Christmas/whatever. Will X time of year be ok?” I think most reasonable bosses are going to understand the context of that request as being a surprise – particularly if you’re leaving it open for partner to officially book holiday, you’re just checking it won’t be turned down for any reason.

      But I am still dithering about whether it’s ok or not!

      1. MK

        I really think it depends on the relationship, if any, that the partner/spouce has with the manager. If we are talking about a) a long-time (as in two years and over) employee and b) the boss and the partner/spouce have met occasionally at social events and c) the partner/spouce knows the boss well enough to think it won’t be taken as overstepping, then maybe it would be fine. But to contact a total stranger out of the blue and start discussing your anniversary plans? Someone who, for all you know, will thinking you are being presumptious for doing so and be annoyed at his employee for it? Especially if the employee if a new-comer? Terrible idea.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        It’s, uncomfortable.

        Outside of having a personal relationship with all parties and knowing that the spouse/partner is on the up and up, it’s uncomfortable. We’re not supposed to be giving information to anybody who isn’t the employee.

        Say Gertrude didn’t want to go on vacation with her boyfriend and told him, “nope, can’t get off”. And then BF took it upon himself to snoop using the surprise as a ruse. Boss says “that time of year is fine”. What happens next?

        We’re really not supposed to do that kind of thing.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Reminds me of the time that an employee’s girlfriend contacted somebody who wasn’t me to ask for permission to surprise him at work for his birthday. The somebody who wasn’t me gave a cautious yes, but not yes to what happened next.

          She came in and ***hid under his desk** for the hour that he was at lunch, popping out to surprise him when he got back. Our work place is open enough that the “hey, who is hiding under George’s desk, what the heck is going” conversation took up most of that hour wait. And then yelling and balloons and confetti.

          What. The. Eff.

          And the way my mind works, What if she was a stalker? What if they had broken up the week before and we didn’t know about it?

          So no more surprise girlfriends under the desk. You’d think I would have thought to put that in the manual before.

          1. Chloe Silverado

            Was the employee mortified, or did he think this was a great surprise? I would absolutely die if a significant other pulled that stunt at work.

          2. Isabelle

            what O_O
            If I was in his shoes, that surprise would probably be the end of the relationship. I wouldn’t want to date someone with so little common sense.
            At least OP #2 thought about whether to contact their SO’s boss or not, but the fact that they had to even think about it is a bit worrying. Respecting boundaries is essential in any relationship.

              1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

                That is hilarious. And awful. I would only talk to someone about an employee in veeeery limited circumstances. I did once help an employee’s mother with a birthday surprise, but it was just about making sure some flowers got to the employee with a delivered gift. And I knew for sure the employee and her mom we’re very close. That’s nothing significant…and about my limit. Anything involving any sort of conflict is a no.

          3. B

            Maybe she saw Ross doing it in Friends and didn’t understand how horribly inappropriate it was? *shudder*

          4. Case of the Mondays

            I’ll one up that. We planned a surprise reunion for a west coast friend with the help of his boss and gf. When friend got back from lunch, 6 of his bffs from his overseas high school were in his cube or pretending to work in the neighboring cubes. The whole office was in on it and he was so surprised. They work in the entertainment sector so it’s already a fun office environment.

            A former coworkers spouse sent her a traveling barber shop quartet to serenade her at her cube in the middle of a busy law firm right outside grumpiest partners door. Meanest but funniest gift ever.

      3. GrumpyBoss

        I’m putting on my manager hat here and wondering if any of my employees’ significant others tried to enlist me in the surprise, would I be ok with it?

        And I keep coming back to “no”.

        I’m not friends with my employees. Other than brief interactions at company parties, I have no relationship with their significant others. I am not interested in a significant other sharing a personal and potentially intimate plan, like a surprise. Fair or not, I think I’d be annoyed with the employee for the conversation happening.

        Tell your significant other to take time off from X to Y for a surprise. Unless you have some sort of relationship with his/her boss, you really shouldn’t be involving them.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          Okay, but just to be clear: if I want to hide under my boyfriend’s desk for an hour, is that okay?

          You can have some cake. I’ll help you pull the confetti out of your hair.

          1. GrumpyBoss

            If he gets his work done and doesn’t bug me, you can do anything you want under his desk.

        2. fposte

          I agree with this, and that’s even though I tend to know many of their significant others fairly well. I still would find it weird and offputting to have a spouse discuss their vacation days with me. (Though I don’t think I’d be that annoyed with the employee, unless it was clear the employee knew the discussion was going to happen.)

          1. Sara M

            Thinking it through… there is only one boss I would have felt comfortable doing this with, and he’s the guy we’ve known for 10 years and invited to our wedding. That would have been okay.

            Any other boss, I’d be too embarrassed and awkward about it. And it wouldn’t seem right.

        3. Melissa

          Yeah, I’m not a manager but I’m thinking I would simply have to make the holiday less of a surprise. It sucks but if your husband has kind of inflexible or difficult time-off policies, you’ll need to work it out ahead of time. You can still make the destination a surprise, just not the time of year.

      4. ella

        I’ve done it, and the manager seemed okay with it (though in retrospect the trip I booked was probably too long). It was really specific circumstances, though–the person I was booking for was my mother, and we both worked for the same organization (but completely different sections), and I was sending her to see her mother/my grandmother who had had one of those “unsure if she will last out the year” health issues. I emailed her boss before I booked anything, and because my boss knew what sort of year my mom had been having, the answer was, “Yes, that is a wonderful idea, book the trip and I’ll figure out coverage.” I don’t think I’d do anything like that for anyone less than immediate family, though.

      5. BRR

        The weird thing about this is turn the situation around, pretend you’re the manager. I would not feel right approving vacation days for anybody but my employee. The days are my employee’s, not anybody else’s. Depending on the industry I might also feel weird discussing workload with a non-employee.

        Also don’t book your trip until your time is approved.

        1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

          Yes. What if the person had other plans? It sounds like your intentions and understanding of you mom were perfect, Ella, but as a manager I wouldn’t know that for sure.

          Wakeen, your point about the restraining order is really important. Employees are often embarrassed to share these sorts of things, and that would be terrible to find you we’re accidentally colluding with a stalker!

        2. Traveler

          This is what I was thinking. Not saying the OP is this way at all – but you could run into issues with a controlling spouse here as well.

      6. CAA

        UKAnon — I’ve only had this happen once, and it was a wife “taking my husband to Vegas for his birthday as a surprise, so can he have two days off?” He was fairly new and I’d never met her, so it was kind of awkward. I said yes though, and the employee really enjoyed the surprise.

      7. The Other Dawn

        At my former company my husband wouldn’t have hesitated to call up my CEO and tell him he’s planning a surprise, can Dawn have the days off, etc. It was a small company, I was there 17 years, and our office was like an extended family. At my new job, though? Hell no. I’ve been there for 8 months, my boss is a very anal, uptight kind of guy, and it just wouldn’t go over well.

      8. Episkey

        Well, my husband did this once. He wanted to surprise me for something, I think maybe Valentine’s Day? Can’t even remember at this point.

        Anyway, he contacted my manager to ask her if I could have a PTO day and then the night before he was all, “Surprise! You don’t have to go to work tomorrow!”

        But some caveats:

        My husband knew my manager personally. We had both worked at the sam company for a number of years before my husband left for another job.

        My manager was very low-key and friendly — we weren’t exactly “friends” but we had socialized outside of work on a few occasions.

        I was still rather angry at my husband when he foisted this surprise on me. I felt badly, because he WAS trying to do something sweet, but I felt like they are my PTO days, I want to decide how to use them.

        1. Kyrielle

          Yeah, the way my job works I plan out my workload – missing a day might mean missing things I scheduled in ignorance, or not getting something done. It happens, of course – but I don’t enjoy taking sick days, and taking an unexpected day off “for fun” wouldn’t be fun.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Exactly — in addition to everything else people have raised, it could end up really messing up your work planning. If I’m assuming I have Wednesday to complete something time-sensitive and then SURPRISE I’m off on Wednesday, maybe I now have to work 15 hours on Thursday to get everything done. Or all kinds of other ways in which my planning could be disrupted.

            It comes from a well-intentioned place, of course, but it’s not especially thoughtful about the impact.

            1. Mabel

              This is why I don’t like these kinds of “surprises.” I’d rather the surprise be that my partner/friend/whatever tells me she wants to plan something fun with me!

        2. EngineerGirl

          I had a BF that did the same thing. I was furious:
          * Those are MY vacation days to do with I want. We may negotiate the use of them together, but they are mine, mine, mine!
          * I hate, hate, hate surprises
          * I couldn’t enjoy a surprise trip because I’d be worrying about coverage at work. I couldn’t prepare ahead of time since it was a surprise.

          1. Kyrielle

            Yes. Although the OP on this thread did it just right – “I want to plan a surprise, I’m hoping for this many days, can you get them off?”

            But surprises in collusion with the boss without the involvement of the person whose boss it is? Those are really risky.

            1. Mabel

              In the OP’s case, it was a little different than what we’ve been discussing here. The boss told the BF that he couldn’t have the days off, and the OP wanted to email the boss to try to get him to change his mind. That’s different (and much worse, in my opinion) than asking the boss to help you plan a surprise.

      9. Zillah

        I think that it really depends on the situation and how well the boss and employee know each other, as well as how much the person is asking for. So, for example, if your significant other has worked at the company for 25 years, their supervisor knows them well and is familiar with you (through social gatherings, company events, whatever), and you’re asking for two vacation days when they have four months stockpiled… sure, I can see it not being a huge deal.

        But, in general, I think that something about their tenure at their company has to be truly exceptional for it to even be considered. Their tenure at the company, their performance over an extended period of time, their relationship with their supervisor… whatever. Something’s got to stand out a lot for this to maybe be okay. (IMO.)

      10. Long time lurker!

        Data point: I did this with my husband’s boss to organize a half day on a Friday for him because I organized a surprise weekend away. It went very well and the boss was totally amused when my husband was confused by why I came to pick him up halfway through the day. The context, though, is crucial: my husband is the top performer on his team, his boss loves me, and his boss also likes my dad, who is very senior at the organization where he and my husband both work.

      11. Lisa

        I would hate this. Your sig other really needs to know you and whether you would be mortified that they do this AND know your direct boss well enough to do this. Even if both are ok, sig others often have no concept of what is going on at work. A person may have a slammed schedule the week after a vacation meaning a vacation during what would be a heavy prep week would make me hate my sig other and resentful that I was forced on a vacation by my bf / boss (who also wouldn’t be looking at the following week of work.

        So while it sounds amazing. It isn’t a good idea. Instead – surprise the location, never the timing. Talk to your sig other about a week off, and get them to get if off. Then do your planning.

        Oh and this advice is for men – planning a surprise trip to the bahamas for tomorrow when you haven’t cleaned the house, done any preparatory laundry, made sure the bathing suit fits, or scheduled a hair / waxing appt for your sig other is just mean. Just saying. This happened to my friend, and I am the one that convinced her husband to tell her a week in advance even tho he cleared it with her boss. Women as well as men do have vacation stuff to do beforehand. Know your sig other is my advice for this kind of stuff.

        1. Melissa

          I don’t think the advice is really gender-related, more like “know your SO.” I, a woman, would totally leave for the Bahamas tomorrow with my apartment a mess, as long as I could take out the trash and not leave dishes in the sink. I can use a depilatory and/or razor after I get there on the relevant areas, I don’t go to the hair salon, and I have bathing suits that fit already. I’m sure that I have some clean clothes left over and if not, I’d buy a pack of underwear at Target or whatever and make it work. In fact, this would be amazing to me. I wish I was there right now, lol.

          My husband, on the other hand, would freak out. He definitely needs to clean the apt before he leaves (which is funny to me because his apt is never not clean anyway) and plan in advance; he hates leaving the apt a mess and would need to do the preparatory laundry and procure certain cosmetics and such ahead of time. Plus, he HATES last-minute changes in plans, even if his original plan was simply “play video games Saturday, sleep and eat Sunday.”

    2. Mister Pickle

      I’ve seen occasional reality TV shows[1] where apparently the show producer contacted someone’s boss to set up something (a surprise, an extra vacation day, etc). I’ve always wondered how that’s done.

      [1] at a friend’s house. Please don’t ask me which shows, I don’t know.

      1. A Non

        Presumably the employee already had to take time off to be on a reality TV show, so the boss is already aware of what’s going on and that it’ll impact the employee’s work. Plus the company would have to approve having cameras on premise and/or employees on screen, if the filming involves the office at all. I assume reality TV shows coordinate stuff pretty tightly.

    3. Artemesia

      No kidding. I can’t imagine a bigger kiss of death to a man’s job (or a woman’s) than having a girl or boyfriend calling the boss. Well maybe having mom do it. This is on the boyfriend who dropped the ball apparently. Airline tickets can be rescheduled at ridiculous cost; that is what you will have to do if the boyfriend can’t get this managed. Think twice in the future before relying on him to follow through on things that are important.

      #3 Wow. What good is served by telling friends you are on a hiring committee that affects their spouses. It implies you will put the thumb on the scale for them and will make it very awkward when as is likely they are not the one hired. The response to ‘I just heard you are on Alonzo’s hiring committee is “all our work is confidential so I can’t say anything about that.”‘

      1. Not So NewReader

        Agreeing with both these responses.

        Regarding calling the boss, I just don’t get this. We have seen this a few times on AAM and I am wondering is this a thing now? I would be hugely embarrassed if my husband did this. There are so many other ways to work around this and still maintain some element of surprise.

        I remember one place I worked a woman received a dozen long stem roses from her husband at work. It was very awkward, because gifting at work was just not in the company culture. Something must have been said, because no more flowers appeared after that. Just no. No surprises at work, please.

        For #3 I went the opposite way on that one. I would say nothing to my friends but disclose to the committee that I was friends with the spouses of two candidates. Then I would ask if any one felt I needed to take a step back from this decision making process. Perhaps the committee would decide that I should proceed, but that is their decision not mine to make.

        1. some1

          Wouldn’t a non-gifting culture imply no gifts from colleagues, vendors or clients? I think that’s apples and oranges compared to getting flowers delivered at work from a loved one, and certainly having flowers delivered to your wife’s workplace is going to be assumed to be much more appropriate than calling the boss to get vacation time.

          1. Jamie

            Right – No gifts is always ime about customers, vendors, work stuff, etc – not getting personal flowers delivered to work.

            I would t want to work in any office where it was frowned upon to get flowers at work.

            1. Aam Admi

              Our work site (hospital) forbids live flowers & plants – event patients are not allowed to receive them from visitors.

              1. Diet Coke Addict

                I would assume a hospital environment would have a much different outlook on flowers than your ordinary office. Same goes for labs, I would imagine.

            2. Lisa

              It depends on how often it happens. Miss Holly would get them from random match.com dates at our place all the time. Weekly from her parents as well as when she was having a bad day. And the kicker? She would show up with them herself sometimes cause she was having a bad day. She cried a lot at work. It was weird. But, she was put in an impossible job with no guidance and constantly changing job descriptions. The boss would change her job description depending on what meeting he went to with her. Telling them what she would be doing for them. I would cry too if my boss was constantly announcing responsibilities that had nothing to do with what I was hired for.

          2. Not So NewReader

            Sorry, poor word choice.
            It was not a formal policy- it was cultural.
            The nature of the environment was such that anything like that from one’s personal life was universally frowned upon. The flowers were an inappropriate spill over from her personal life.

            I did not explain it well. She got flowers and people were ticked off.
            I cannot imagine what would have happened if her spouse tried to have say in her vacation time. I think the ceiling would have fallen down before the day was over.

        2. Long time lurker!

          Yeah, I think anyone who looks down on a spouse receiving flowers from another spouse at work is kind of a grinch at best.

          1. Marcy

            I have a co-worker who has to go home sick when someone who sits near us gets flowers. I am also very sensitive to smell and certain flowers (gardenias, stargazer lilies for example) give me headaches on day two in the office, day one is ok but take them home. So there are some people who aren’t happy about flowers in the office.

        3. Episkey

          I agree, being upset at a co-worker getting flowers from a loved one is pretty harsh. I think having flowers delivered to someone’s work is pretty normal. I’ve done it for my mom for Mother’s Day a few times myself.

          1. Not So NewReader

            I agree. But I also see that spouses have to listen to each other. If one says no, do not do X, the other spouse needs to respect that. Some work places are not of this earth. Maybe Mars?

        4. Mister Pickle

          Re #3: I wholeheartedly concur. It’s not difficult to see how this entire situation could become extremely unpleasant. The LW may need to / want to recuse themself from the committee during discussions on the two spouses.

      2. azvlr

        My ex-husband did this to me, but not for any kind of nice surprise. He insisted on being in on a meeting my manager wanted to have with me. All I was told was that it what rather serious, so my ex wanted to know what the hell was going at work. My boss allowed it, out of morbid curiosity, I think. I was mortified, to say the least.

        This was the beginning of the end for the marriage. I think the encounter answered a lot of questions about my circumstances for my boss. My work life improved after that, and the job outlived the marriage by a long shot.

    4. Kate

      Yes, we have only gotten involved in each other’s calling out when I was having migraines where even thinking about using a phone caused me to be sick and when he was in surgery/hospitalized unexpectedly.

  3. Sharm

    #4 – I always wait a couple of months to do this, probably so as not to jinx it. I’m in a position now where I kind of regret taking the job I did, and I haven’t made the change on LinkedIn because I don’t want to announce it publicly. Even if it were a slam dunk, though, I’d wait a month or two before making the change. You never really know what it’s going to be like until you actually start, after all.

    1. Audiophile

      I agree. When I changed jobs briefly, a few months ago, everyone and his brother said “update LinkedIn”. Well that job didn’t work out, I had “announced” it publicly and was wishing I had held off.

      In the future, I’ll be waiting a bit longer.

  4. Sandrine (France)

    #2 : Please don’t. You’ll only ruin his reputation if you do so. If it was a family style company where you know the boss personally and get along well, I might let it slide (even if I’d find this weird) , but in this context, it’s a big and a huge NO.

    Let your boyfriend handle it on his own. And if he can’t do it, just nudge him a bit.

    As for the tickets and all… well, you DID get them without a firm answer (and without insurance!), and that is the biggest mistake you can do, I would say. If the answer was firm when your boyfriend first asked and then you bought the tickets, then no problem, you can defend yourself. But they just said “it should be fine” and your OP doesn’t confirm whether your BF sent an e-mail to confirm or not.

    I wish you the best of luck, it would suck to lose a lot of money like that. But keep in mind the “worst” could happen.

    #3 Don’t say a word. Because when/if the spouses don’t get hired, your friends will resent you even if you don’t have anything to do with the decision.

    1. Mister Pickle

      I agree that #2 should not contact the boss(es), but I red-flagged on this:

      When he mentioned the vacation days to his boss, they stated, “It should be fine, it’s your vacation days.”

      [buys tickets]

      He mentioned it right away to his boss, who then stated that we should not have jumped the gun

      The LW is a bit vague on some details, but if I was the boss, and a new-hire came to me asking about vacation days, with specific dates, and I was aware that there was even a small chance that those days wouldn’t work, I would not say “It should be fine”. I’d say “It should be fine, but hold off on any plans until we verify.” Then again – the boss said this to the boyfriend, the boyfriend then relayed it to the girlfriend, who relayed it to us. God knows what was really said.

      If I was the LW, I’d immediately commence a 2-fold course of action:

      Find out the details on how much you can get refunded, and
      Kick boyfriend in the butt and get him to talk to (or email) his boss. I’m not seeing why it’s difficult to say “Mr. Bossman, any word on those vacation days? I don’t want to make a big deal out of it but my GF dropped $1700 on tickets.”

      1. Not So NewReader

        Maybe I have been burned too many times or maybe I am just a cynic. I hear “that SHOULD be fine” in response to anything, I wait for confirmation. In my mind, “that should be fine” is an optimistic statement but it is not the same as confirmation.

        Just recently, I asked for a new computer monitor at work. I was told “that should be fine”. When I actually see the new monitor, I will believe that I am getting a new monitor. Until then bets are off.

      2. neverjaunty

        “It should be fine” != “yes, definitely”. Things happen, other people get sick, emergencies come up.

      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        If the boyfriend is newer to the workforce, I could totally see thinking “it should be fine” means “it will be fine.” It takes some experience to know to follow that up with, “When do you think we’ll know for sure, since we need to buy airline tickets?” I could definitely see someone less experienced thinking “it should be fine” was as solid a confirmation as they needed.

        1. Mister Pickle

          This. This summer I was tasked to work with a team of Interns, and they were awesome and it was a great project. But every so often there would be an obvious ‘experience gap’ (and “you need to follow up” is an entire class of such situations) and I’d have to play “Kevin Costner” to their “Tim Robbins” (alas, there was no “Susan Sarandon”).

    1. BRR

      I just had a coworker say this about her previous employer (we are in the states). I was totally prepared and informed her it was legal and why it was legal. For how often we see this I wonder how there are so many misinformed HR people out there. I guess they’re the same ones who misclassify employees.

    2. Aam Admi

      That wouldn’t work here. We have public sector compensation disclosure. Some provinces also have information (who made what since 2007) in a public data base.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      If you’re in the U.S., it’s illegal for them to ban that (except in a handful of circumstances, like in some cases if you’re management). But it’s one of the most commonly violated workplace laws — most employers don’t even realize it’s illegal.

      1. Aunt Vixen

        It was in my employee handbook that I was supposed to acknowledge having read and agreeing to abide by all the rules in it. There was a space for comments, so I noted that I think that particular requirement violates the Fair Labor Standards Act but with that caveat in place I’d agree to the rest of the book. No repercussions so far (though we’re also not in the habit of talking about pay grades, trying to organize, etc. – not that this makes such a “rule” okay, but in our case it doesn’t matter much).

        1. Aunt Vixen

          (Or the National Labor Relations Act. I don’t know what the Fair Labor Standards Act is supposed to be, in my head. Need some coffee.)

    4. Artemesia

      The motive for these non discuss clauses (which as everyone has noted are not legally enforceable) is to underpay people. This is how Lilly Ledbetter went for years not knowing that women in her workplace were compensated grossly under what the men doing the same work were. It is designed to prevent workers from having any leverage.

  5. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    My understanding is that they can ask you, they can even tell you, but they can’t enforce it. If they tried to enforce it, by penalizing you for discussing salary, that’s when they get in trouble.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      and…that was meant as a reply to Jane. I am apparently getting dumber about replying to posts.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I don’t think they can even tell you — if it’s thought to have a chilling effect on employee discussions of wages, it’s in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

        1. EngineerGirl

          It would be hard to prove without penalty. It becomes he said / she said unless you have a lot of people willing to testify that the employer said that. Good luck with getting lots of people to confess what the employer told you – it has to be pretty egregious for that to happen.

  6. Grey

    #5 Brings back memories of a job I held after high school. Our boss had a “no talking” rule. If you even said “good morning” to a coworker who had already punched in, you’d get screamed at. He even had us make a 3″ x 6″ sign to hang on the wall that said “no talking”. It was a miserable place to work.

    Of course, whenever he’d leave the building, we’d all stop working and talk to each other. So I think his idea was a bit flawed.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      What I can’t understand about stuff like this is why the BOSS himself is willing to work in such a tense and unpleasant environment. I really don’t want to work somewhere that’s always tense and unhappy…so why would I exercise my power in a way that leads to a crappy environment for me and everyone else? How unnecessarily stressful.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        Exactly! These are the things that puzzle me!

        I think some people get confused and think that because management many times requires you to do unpleasant things therefore management=suffering, for everybody.

        Probably the same thing as parents who yell all the time or something. I virtually never yelled at my children if for no other reason than I didn’t want to live in a house with yelling.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Fear. Fear that things won’t run well if he doesn’t operate this way, that things will be chaos. (And of course, that fear is necessarily coupled with an ignorance of how he could actually manage differently and still get things done. So fear and ignorance both.)

    2. Melissa

      I don’t get what bosses like this think they are getting out of work environments like this.

  7. Mister Pickle

    #3: I’d definitely keep that to myself. There’s a lot of downsides (getting pressured to help someone’s spouse, to provide inside information, getting the cold shoulder if someone doesn’t get the job, etc) and no real upside that I can think of. Yeesh, imagine if you told one of your co-workers you were on the committee, plus you told them some inside info on their spouse’s chances for employment – and then the spouse doesn’t get the job, and the co-worker starts telling people “I don’t understand, #3 said ….” That would not be a good place to be.

  8. INTP

    #1: Definitely be assertive about pursuing your training if it’s anything lengthy, especially if you have a probationary period (though all at-will jobs have an unofficial probationary period). It’s not just about your boredom. It’s not unheard of for the employee to be thrown under the bus when they didn’t meet the 90-day-evaluation expectations, even if the employee was just trying to be cooperative – the trainer or supervisor may not be too eager to admit that they did not use the training time efficiently.

  9. AnonyMouse

    #1: Unfortunately, sitting around waiting for another task can definitely be a feature of first days/weeks in some work environments. But if there’s more training to be done and the only thing holding you back from moving on is waiting on your coworker, I’d ask the trainer if you can move to the next step. It doesn’t make much sense to have you sit and wait, and it might be making your new coworker uncomfortable too, if she knows you’re waiting on her and ready to move on while she’s still working.

    #2: Definitely not, for the reasons others are saying. It seems like you’re saying you want to explain that you made the reservations so your boyfriend doesn’t get blamed for “jumping the gun” but unfortunately there’s really no way to contact his boss yourself that wouldn’t make the situation worse. I think the only way you could do something like that is that your boyfriend could tell his boss “I just wanted to apologise for the issue with my vacation plans – I had unfortunately misunderstood you and thought the dates were confirmed, so my girlfriend went ahead and made the reservations. We’re both sorry for the misunderstanding.” But even that might be weird in some offices.

    #3: I wouldn’t mention it. If their spouses are applying and these hiring committees are a known strategy, presumably they know at least some of their coworkers will be involved in the process. It’s not particularly useful to them to know specifically who on top of that.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec

      #1 is why I always leave new people a list of “things you can do/read/learn independently when you are done early/I’m in meeting/another priority is keeping me from training you right this minute. It saves me stress, and they get trained faster. Also, it’s really tiring for some people to just listen to a trainer for 40 hours a week, and a little time to work autonomously is usually a welcome break.

      1. AnonyMouse

        This is a really great approach! I wish more employers would do this. Obviously it’s really important to have training before you get going in a lot of jobs, but it’s so helpful for new employees to feel like there are things they can be doing on their own and not have to continuously bother the people who are supposed to be showing you the ropes (but also have other work of their own) with requests for more training/tasks/etc.

  10. some1

    #2 I totally empathize with your frustration, but no, don’t email your BF’s boss. Not only is it inappropriate for all the reasons previously mentioned, it could very well anger the boss if your BF has already been told no, I think even more so than if your BF were the one to push back on this.

    #3 It’s pretty likely your coworkers will find out you’re on the hiring committee if they get an interview and you are on the panel, since it would seem natural for the coworkers to ask their spouses who they interviewed with out of a pool of people they know, but I definitely wouldn’t volunteer the info. First, you were asked to keep it confidential. Secondly, it could be awkward if/when they get passed over. Even if the decision isn’t ultimately yours, it’d be pretty awkward to say, for instance, “Well, *I*wanted to hire your wife, but Big Boss wanted someone else”.

  11. vox de causa

    Letter Number 2 sounds so familiar, but I don’t think it’s something I read somewhere else recently.

  12. Sunny

    We had a spouse call and demand to know why he didn’t get offered a promotion. Needless to say, fair or no, it reflected poorly upon him.

    1. Artemesia

      I had a spouse come in one time and complain about the steps I had taken to discipline her husband who had been causing problems in a division I had been called in to fix — the fix meant cross training and taking him out of the position of office bully who hoarded information and sparked insubordination against the new manager. This was one of the factors that nudged me from ‘keep working with this jerk so he can be a productive member of the team’ to ‘move towards firing this guy.’

    2. straws

      I’ve never understood what the spouse thinks they’re accomplishing by jumping in. We had a spouse call and yell at my boss for not hiring his wife. Needless to say, he didn’t change his mind & hire her.

      1. Going anon for this one

        Early in our marriage, I wanted to be very helpful to my husband. There were times I wanted to talk to his boss about issues, although I ended up not doing that. I did know his co-workers and supervisors because of work social events.

        My urge to help came because I’m more assertive AND because my father was a veterinarian and my mother did his books. We lived in a farming community and very few people had jobs at corporate employers. So I just thought couples worked together to deal with each others’ work problems. In my small, rural community, the lawyer’s wife was his secretary, the grocery store owner and his wife worked together, the drug store pharmacist owned the business and his wife ran the soda fountain/lunch bar, the school principal’s sister was a teacher and one of his in-laws (not that sister’s husband) was the gym teacher and basketball coach, the local gas station manager’s wife kept his books, and so on.

        I was pretty clueless about work boundaries. Even in rural areas, I don’t think people are as oblivious to the corporate culture now (I’m in my 60s).

  13. matcha123

    I worked at a library for close to 10 years. When my original supervisor was moved to a different branch, I immediately felt that the woman that came to replace her was bad news.

    The first two years or so she was there were somewhat uneventful, but she had a falling out with a coworker and told him he was not to speak to other staff. Then she told us all we were not to speak to each other due to “productivity issues.” That of course didn’t apply to her or her boss who would spend hours standing around making idle chit-chat. (They all had their own cubicles or private offices, standing in the hallway the lower level staff used to talk about TV shows and cooking methods while telling us to work harder was unnecessary, imo.)

    Of course moral plummeted and there was just so much resentment.

    The crappy part was that we were all pretty good at policing ourselves when it came to chatting.

  14. Weasel007

    #1-I have a bit of a different perspective here. Think very hard about whether or not you are really caught up and understand the material. Why? I’ve met people that cruised through training and they thought they knew what they were doing but really they didn’t. They rushed through and made so many mistakes they were let go. Maybe this other person is just being diligent? As a manager I’d rather have a careful high quality employee with good habits vs. A rushing employee that costs me money in rework. I find it easier to say “Hey Jane, really appreciate your diligence. What can we do to make you more comfortable and decrease the case time?” Than saying “Bill..you’re making mistakes and need to slow down”. Just my two cents. If this other associate is really behind, take advantage if that and ask for feedback from the trainer. Better safe than sorry.

    1. T

      I second this. Hopefully what is happening is that you really do understand the material and the other trainee is particularly fastidious in order to ensure that she is comfortable doing the job properly later. However, it could be that you think you understand better than you do or that the other trainee really is slow (or both). Will there be any kind of evaluation before you begin working in earnest? I suggest asking the trainer about this, because maybe you can do parts of the eval ahead of time or get more sample problems to work through. That way you know and can show your ability to do the work (assuming moving faster through training isn’t an option).

  15. Lisa

    OP#2 – Go get travel guard, but make sure you pay for the ‘any reason’ one and that your reason really is covered. You have to read the fine print as sick means a registered letter from a doctor or hospital. You’ll get your money back, if your trip is far enough out depending on package. Talk to someone there. And explain that your trip you booked might get canceled due to work revoking time off, there may be a package for that. Might require a letter from a boss, if your employer would write the letter vs going thru your bf’s – it is better than making your bf look bad by adding more drama to the situation. Flights can be changed with a fee to be usable with 1 year. The hotel will prob allow a refund within so many days, if not will at least be ok with switching dates. If none of these work, eat the $1700 – your bf’s job and how his managers perceive is worth more than that.

    1. Heather

      No, “cancel for any reason” policies usually need to be purchased within a certain number of days from the date the initial trip deposit was made. If she booked more than 15 days ago or so, she’s probably SOL.

  16. voluptuousfire

    OOh, #2, always, ALWAYS get travel insurance in case! A few years ago I had a trip to London scheduled and paid for but due to a family emergency I had to cancel it and didn’t get travel insurance like I usually did. The site had some tech issues and I meant to come back later and get it but I got the call about my family emergency and it slipped my mind. Two days later I was supposed to leave and I had to cancel. I had to eat $600 I paid for my hotel and I got a flight credit which I didn’t end up using because for any flight I had booked, I would have doubled what I paid originally due to fees.

  17. Nobody

    #5 – Many people have misconceptions about the meaning of “hostile work environment.” Hostility in the workplace is not illegal, per se. In the legal sense, “hostile work environment” has a very specific definition, and the key is that it is illegal only if based on discrimination against a protected class (race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability or genetic information).

    If the boss were to forbid women from talking, but allow men to talk, that could constitute illegal discriminatory harassment, contributing to a hostile work environment. But if the boss is just a hostile person, or generally a jerk, and applies his asinine rules equally to everyone, it may be a crappy place to work, but it’s not illegal.

  18. Emily

    It sounds like poster #2 needs to consider going to New York & the show alone or having a new person tag along instead of their boyfriend. If you don’t want the money to be a complete waste. Airline tickets often can’t be transferred to a new person but I’d think Broadway tickets can be. At the very least, if you want to stay home and celebrate your boyfriend’s birthday with him after he comes home from work those days, you could try seeing if you can scalp the tickets – sell them online some way that is legal? I don’t know. There should maybe be some way to get at least a percentage of the money back.

    1. Joe

      StubHub is a good site for selling tickets of all kinds, and people often use it for Broadway tickets. Depending on the show and how popular it is (and thus how likely it is to be sold out), you might need to eat some of the cost of the tickets and only get some of your money back, but that’s better than losing out entirely.

  19. Brett

    #1 Curious if the OP and the co-worker are working the exact same cases. One problem with surveying cases is that some can be resolved in a couple of minutes, while some can take days, even weeks. Also makes a huge difference if you already understand some of the fundamental concepts like projections, datums, and spheroids, as well as having a solid understanding of the math involved.
    If you don’t have those concepts, you are going to be much slower than others. If you have those concepts (especially projections), you are going to be a lot faster.

  20. Awkward

    #2 … I have an awkward situation where I am close friends with my employee’s wife. I recently learned about his upcoming vacation plans from her. She volunteers him to work so I don’t have to (although I usually turn her down). And once in a while she’ll share information about their financial and relational difficulties. I just listen to her and the information goes no further, but that whole situation is beyond uncomfortable.

  21. Cucumber

    As far as the hostile work environment, the best thing is for your husband to just move on. It is excruciatingly dumb, and it might have nothing to do with unionizing or the very specific description of “hostile” given above.

    I worked, early in my career, in a hospital office of 12 people, where two coworkers had become friends and then fallen out. As a result, none of us were supposed to chat or communicate with each other, whether it was chatting in person or speaking to your coworker by phone. No friendships were allowed. Period. When you came on your shift, you were to get materials from the person you were taking over for, and they were supposed to leave without talking to you. Oh, a work related sentence here or there might have been OK, but everyone felt too terrorized to risk even a “Hello” or “Goodbye”. If you came early for your shift, you were not to go in the office but to sit quietly in the lobby until it was your time.

    The atmosphere this created was poisonous and fearful. One of my coworkers (another woman) offered me a ride home at the end of my first late-night shift. She then mentioned it to the head of the department, who called me the next day in a seething rage: How DARE I ask my coworker to do something for me that was my responsibility; apparently this coworker, under the guise of being “helpful”, had complained about not wanting to be responsible for me. It wasn’t a surprise for me to learn that this coworker was the shit-stirrer who had caused the ban on friendships to begin with. After 8 years, though, she was not going anywhere.

    So, when I hear that an entire company is being told they can’t communicate, I don’t assume that it’s unionizing. This particular workplace installed a camera in the office so we could be watched at all times; we could only use the bathroom at a scheduled time; there were ridiculous dress code rules; we were only allowed to take a lunch break in the room next door; a special mandatory meeting was called for us, with people expected to come on their day off for no pay – where we were told how to *vote* in the next election. It was routine to have one of the supervisors call and berate us nastily for minor mistakes (breaking the draconian dress code, arriving a minute late, taking a bathroom break at the wrong time). Needless to say, morale was not only bad, but I think most of the people in the office suffered from anxiety or depression. It is one of the only jobs I left before lining something else up first.

    This dictate is a signal of a power trip, and whether it’s a trip against unionizing or something even more insidious (a bid to control workers’ every thought and move) doesn’t matter. Your husband needs to start looking now, before it impacts his state of mind and wellness.

    1. Nobody

      That is a good point — just because it’s not illegal doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. Unfortunately, in a situation like this, sometimes the only thing you can do is leave. And in a bad job market, a lot of people don’t feel that this is an option.

      I recently left a job in a toxic workplace, where there has been so much turnover in recent years due to the unbearable management practices they use that they are having a hard time hiring enough people to replace those who are leaving. New hires often quit before they complete their training. Word has gotten out that it is a terrible place to work, so they are scraping the bottom of the barrel to get employees. They have dropped below the minimum required staffing level, and they STILL haven’t gotten the picture that they can’t treat people like that and expect them to stick around. (This is not a call center or retail job, either — it is a fairly high-paying job with specific educational requirements.)

  22. Kelly O

    I don’t think anyone said this, but regarding #4 – LinkedIn will not let you project an end date to employment. I tried changing my end date at my last job before I left and was unable to do so. So you’ll have to wait until you start the new position (and the date itself arrives) before you can add it.

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