my boss wants us to work late for no reason, inviting spouses to team-building events, and more

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

1. My boss wants people to work late for no reason

My boss has told my two salaried coworkers on more than one occasion that she wants to see them working late more often (like she does), even while admitting that they get everything done on time and their work is excellent. The other day she said to me that she believes as a matter of principle that salaried employees should work more than 40 hours a week. I didn’t know how to respond. What would you say to that?

“What I’m concerned about is what results people are getting. I’d hate to think staying late mattered more than my actual contributions. My impression was that you’re happy with the results I’m getting. Am I mistaken? Do you have concerns about my work?”

That said, if she really believes this as a matter of principle, you might always be fighting against that bias in her. You’d want to watch carefully to see how it plays out: Does she just say annoying things about it, or are you actually penalized for it? If it’s the latter, you’d need to decide whether to accept that you’ll be paying that penalty, or occasionally play along to humor her, or go somewhere that doesn’t feel that way.

2. International team-building events where spouses aren’t invited

What is your feeling on out-of-country “team building” where spouses are not invited? Especially all inclusive resorts.

My feeling is that most team-building events are lame, but if you’re going to have them at all, it definitely makes sense not to have spouses there. If you’re team-buildling, you want everyone’s focus on the team, not on people who don’t work there.

3. My manager shares people’s personal medical info at our daily meetings

Our small company has a daily meeting that lasts for about 20 to 30 minutes. My manager has a habit of informing everyone in attendance who has called to say they would not be in for the day and why. Sometimes the reasons are medical. I find this disturbing. I had an accident that had me out of work for 2 days and was told by some in attendance that the reason for my absence was divulged. Is this legal? Does this fall under HIPAA?

It’s going to be legal in the majority of cases. HIPAA restricts what info health care workers can share; it doesn’t apply to employers. That said, sharing employees’ medical info without their permission still isn’t a good idea.

I’d say this to your manager: “I’m uncomfortable having people’s medical info shared with everyone else without their explicit okay. I can imagine a situation where someone really might not appreciate that being shared with the whole group. Do you think we could simply share who will be out without getting into details that might be personal?”

4. Interviewing when covered in skateboarding scrapes

I skateboard recreationally and was recently involved in a minor accident. No serious injuries, just superficial scrapes. However, some of these scrapes are on the palms of my hands and (as luck would have it) my forehead. They are impossible to cover with makeup or carefully styled bangs, and I have a promising interview approaching rapidly. I would reschedule, but these scratches will take a couple weeks to fully disappear, and I fear the worst that comes with postponing an interview longer than a few days. There really isn’t any way to get around having these scrapes.

What do you think would be the best way to reassure my interviewers about my appearance? Should I make the nature of my injuries clear to my interviewers upfront (or risk letting them draw their own conclusions)? Should I slap some large bandages on and hope for the best? The scrapes will be immediately apparent to my interviewers, both when I first greet them and when we shake hands, so I feel it would be most appropriate to address them in some way, though I’m not sure how or at what point.

I’d just address it head-on (ha ha ha) right when you meet them, saying something like, “Excuse these scrapes! I had a skating tumble recently — I’m normally not covered in scratches!”

It’s weird if you don’t address it (because then they’re likely to be sitting there wondering about it), but if you just explain it, it shouldn’t be a big deal at all.

5. Filling out job applications when all my past employers have shut down

I’ve been self-employed for 10 years. Before that, every job I had was with companies that no longer exist (Blockbuster Video, Montgomery Ward). I literally have no background that can be checked. And, yes, potential employers do ask that you go past 10 years. How do I fill out applications that want this non-existent information? And remember, these are all done online. No one will take an application in-person anymore.

You fill it out exactly the same way you would if they still existed. Your job history doesn’t stop counting just because it can’t be verified (and it’s pretty unlikely that most employers will care about verifying employment from 10+ years ago anyway). That said, do whatever you can to track down former managers (on LinkedIn, etc.) who might remember you, just in case you do end up needing them.

{ 420 comments… read them below }

  1. Steve G*

    I can’t believe I’m still up…anyways… per #1

    I am wondering what the atmosphere is there. I worked for years in a start-up division on a larger corp, and many people “got their jobs done” between 9-5, but at the same time, never stuck out as exemplary employees. At that job, there was both unlimited problems to solve, but also so much untapped potential of opportunity of new work to do…and also lots of administrative stuff to catch up (data integrity in Salesforce, etc. falls by the wayside in startups)……if you are in a growing or new org, then your boss may have some sort of point, which is why I am asking……

    1. Mike C.*

      On the other hand, I know plenty of great employees who are able to maintain that drive and excellence specifically because they don’t make a habit of working overtime.

    2. OP1*

      We work at a university, and a lot of our office’s work involves working with other offices that would not be open after hours, which is why it doesn’t make a lot of sense to stay late most days.

      In case it wasn’t clear, I’m an hourly employee, but my two coworkers are salaried, so I didn’t know what an appropriate response was to essentially saying, “Your coworkers should be working more hours, just because.”

      1. Stephanie*

        Hrm. So then what does your boss expect your coworkers to do then? Just play catch up on other things?

        I did have a job where you could work all hours into the night if you didn’t force a cutoff. I had a coworker who did this and everyone admired her dedication. Our boss was the only one in management who’d be like “Persephone…go home.”

        1. LBK*

          Ugh, I hate that. We have someone here who’s worked until 9PM before but it’s because she’s horrifically inefficient. It’s not like the team comes in the next day to find every last bit of outstanding work completed due to her immense dedication – she just barely finishes her own work in that timeframe.

          1. Newhouse*

            Which, judging from the other comments, seems to be the norm. Yet many bosses seem to get that and it makes me wonder why. Like, surely they must see that these kinds of late-leavers don’t achieve more than the others?

            1. esra*

              Keeping up on someone’s actual work and achievements, and quality of said work, is pretty tough to do. Seeing if someone is there late is easy. I think (some) upper management falls into the trap of judging on very superficial things just because they’re busy with their own workload.

              1. BananaPants*

                Yes. Management notices when an employee is responding to emails on a Saturday night or Sunday morning, but don’t seem to notice that said employee spends half of his workday surfing the Internet and playing fantasy sports!

        2. azvlr*

          I take issue at my teacher colleagues (former, as I am in a different field now) who work long hours. From some perspectives, it looks like extreme dedication to “the kids” and the vocation of teaching. From my perspective, it sets the expectations that this is what teachers can and should do. I see (many) teachers give up their entire weekend, every weekend to grade papers and do lesson plans. Teachers already don’t get paid enough, and working extra hours on a regular basis make sense intuitively, it is actually counter-productive. Policy-makers know they can get cheap labor so have little incentive to make compensation for teachers on par with other professionals.

          Note, that I’m not against teachers staying late to work closely with students (tutoring, extra-curricular, special events, etc), but administrative work shouldn’t be possible only by giving up the rest of your life.

          Staying late just because sets a bad precedent. I would push back!

      2. Elkay*

        Is she trying to give you a head’s up that you shouldn’t be working overtime (which they have to pay you for) but instead your co-workers should be picking that stuff up?

        1. OP1*

          No, I’m super careful about protecting my hours. I have to remind her often that if she expects me to come to an event outside of work hours that I will need to leave early or come in late another day that week.

          1. AMG*

            Do you use Outlook? schedule your emails to go out after 5pm so that she gets that warm fuzzy and you aren’t being penalized for being efficient. *sarcasm font*

      3. AnotherHRPro*

        As you boss is not talking about you, I think it is best to stay out of it. If your boss thinks your coworkers should be working more hours, that is between them. If she continues to make comments to you, I would tell her that if she has concerns about your workers hours, she should discuss it with them.

      4. Not telling*

        The statement may actually be ‘your coworkers should be working more hours, just because [of a confidential reason that I can discuss with your coworkers but not with you]. In other words, the manager is telling you to mind your own business.

        And it seems to me that simply ‘seeing’ how much other work the manager or other staff are doing after hours is a perfectly legitimate reason to ask salaried people to stay late. Almost every company has a few slackers who do the minimum to-the-letter work, and argue they are doing their jobs by pointing out that they do exactly what they are asked. But they don’t know all the things they are never asked to do because managers have already figured out they won’t do it. Or something else will slip as a result. Bare-minimum workers are great at arguing that they are doing a great job when really they are doing ‘just enough to not get fired’. And for a while that approach can work. In fact it can work for a real long time.

        And then eventually there’s a breaking point, at which management just says that the bare minimum doesn’t cut it any more. Your coworkers can push back and refuse to stay late if they want, but I suspect that come review time, their performance evaluations won’t be so sunny this year. And the repercussions may not stop at simply a poor performance review.

        Remember, the job description can change at the employer’s discretion unless you are a contract worker. They can also change the metric by which they measure ‘meeting performance expectations’.

    3. Artemesia*

      Over my long work life, there were times when we really had to work round the clock to achieve a goal e.g. the big rush to get a proposal in by a deadline, or a manuscript in by deadline, or meet a client need. But day in and day out, my observation was that most of the people who worked very long hours were inefficient people who dicked around all day and then ‘had to work late’ or on weekends — and who seemed to be doing it to avoid their family or because they had no other life. Lots of ‘busy’ is not about productivity. I’d want to see the achievements that follow, not just rate people by time served.

      1. Just Tea For Me Thanks*

        I totally agree with your point about busy vs productive, Artemesia! Very recognisable, as I have mentioned in my post below. Working late for deadlines: more than fine. But to work late every day? That is just bad planning imho. :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I agree. If the workload is well balanced, the employees should not have to stay late all the time. If not, there is most likely a bigger problem that becomes a manager’s responsibility, such as inadequate staffing, delegation issues, etc.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I have also seen people who got a lot of work done, working all hours. But…big but…they burnt out. Every one of them. Even the ones who were doing it “because they love the work” and against their manager’s advice.

        1. sunny-dee*

          This was very much me, actually. I had anywhere from 7-9 projects that I was the sole owner of (where everyone else in the department had 1 project with at least two people assigned). I worked regularly 75 hours a week and hit a six-month period where I was working 95+ hours a week. Rockstar steam engine! Until I had one project that was causing me problems, and I went to my manager, explained my workload and the issues this one project was causing, and made a couple of proposals on ways to alter the deliverables so it would be more realistic — and he said he didn’t care, if I had to work over 100 hours all the time to do X, that’s what I would do.

          It was like all the burnout hit at once. I just could not muster up the strength to care, to push myself from 7am to midnight six days a week. That was two years ago, and it’s still hard to care about work. I just … don’t.

          1. sstabeler*

            just in case nobody realises- a week has 168 hours, and you’re ideally supposed to sleep for 56 of those hours. For sunny-dee to work over 100 hours/week all the time would mean that they would have 18 hours per week they aren’t either working or asleep. Assume there is a commute to get to work (assume 1/2 an hour each way) and that lunch isn’t included and you end up with 4 hours a week to do anything else. ( including eating dinner, shopping for food, checking your bank balance ( although admittedly I doubt you would have time to spend most of your money) in other words- it’s almost certain that sunny-dee would be missing substantial amounts of sleep. ( assuming a day off per week, that translates into 2-3 hours of sleep lost a night. It’s a very quick way to hit burnout.

      3. Not telling*

        I have a totally different perspective. I work in a billable-hour world–every 10-minute increment in every worker’s week is billed to one client or another. And clients notice if one employee spends an hour writing a report and another spends three hours doing the same thing. They notice, and they don’t pay for inefficiency.
        And in a billable-hour model, managers know exactly how much profitability each employee is producing. The high earners AREN’T the ones who put in zero overtime.

        What I have noticed is that the low-producers actually think they are much more productive than they are. Even when their performance evaluations are ‘average’ they brag about it, as if they got an incredibly high evaluation. They truly think that ‘meets expectations’ is the pinnacle of their career, even though there’s a chart right in front of them saying otherwise. Even when coworkers get promoted and they don’t, even when others receive bonuses and they don’t, they still bounce around the office as if they are MVP.

        There’s a lot of reasons why these people stay, many of which have been the subject of AAM posts, but none of them are that these people are inherently ‘better’ workers or that other people are simple ‘d!cking around’ and are unloved by their families.

    4. Artemesia*

      Frequently when I try to post, nothing happens unless I click submit twice. About half the time, it then posts. About half the time, it says ‘duplicate post’ and then never posts either one. What am I doing wrong or is this a common bug?

      1. Artemesia*

        okay — this just happened with that post — it only posted when I clicked twice. The one previously said ‘duplicate detected’ and it never posted?

        1. Windchime*

          This sometimes happens with me. I’m on a Mac, and I noticed that it happens when I have the text enlarged (I have old-lady eyes). It’s like the Submit button kind of jumps or moves or something. It doesn’t happen often and I’ve just kind of learned to be OK with it.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Not sure. Will you email me with details (device, browser, etc.)?

        (For everyone else: That’s always the best way to report issues to me since I may not see them if they’re left in a comment. Thank you!)

          1. Alma*

            No problem with my Chromebook, but on my Android notepad I have to hit enter twice, and often get the “you already posted that” message.

        1. Marzipan*

          I find (on Chrome on my tablet) that the first tap on ‘submit’ doesn’t register if I don’t tap outside the comment text box first.

        2. Jen RO*

          I think so – it happens to me on my phone (Opera) which opens the page zoomed in by default. It doesn’t happen on my PC, where I never need to zoom in.

        1. afiendishthingy*

          I was just able to submit mine with one click. Chrome at 110%. Didn’t occur to me it was a glitch before, thought I was just impatient

    5. voluptuousfire*

      @Steve G…a start up environment can be very stressful. Just because someone leaves at 5 doesn’t mean they’re not an exemplary employee. By the EOD, if their work is completed and their brain may be fried and they’re literally done for the day. Staying on later to handle tasks like data integrity in Salesforce (something that’s fairly detail oriented) may not be the best task completed after hours, especially when you’re so frazzled and all you want to do is go home and eat and go to bed.

  2. Mike C.*

    With regards to OP1, what in the heck is the “principle”, value, tradition, ethic, whatever of staying late at work for the sake of staying late that this boss is obsessed with?

    I thought the whole point of exempt status was an understanding that one was being paid for the job, not the hours. Yet I see this boss insisting that her employees stay at work longer simply because they are exempt and she doesn’t have to pay them for that time. It’s one thing to abuse these labor classifications by always working folks insane hours, but to ask that they just stick around for nothing?


    1. LBK*

      Totally agree. That logic flies directly in the face of the purpose of exempt status – if you’re paying someone to basically be a body in the building, I can almost guarantee that person should be non-exempt.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      For some people, the number of hours you put in is regarded as some kind of badge of honor. I’ve really noticed it in Finance type jobs. I spent a good part of my career doing that kind of work, and it’s one of the reasons I made a switch to IT. For what I do now, the hours ebb and flow. The closer you get to launching a project, the more hours you put in, but then once you get it off the ground, things settle down for awhile.

      I will admit that there are days here and there where I’m not as productive as I could have been, and end up working from home in the evening so I can stay on top of things. But I never refer to that as “working late,” because it’s not. It’s finishing up what needs to get done at a later time, because it didn’t get done during the day, because I’ve gotten distracted for some reason. Sometimes the distraction is work related, and my whole day gets derailed. And sometimes it’s because I dinked around too much during the day and the time got away from me.

    3. The IT Manager*

      I get the impression that the LW’s boss thinks the reason to have exempt employees is to get more than 40 hours of work out of them. I do agree that its very odd that it sounds like the boss thinks they complete all of their work excellently – so that he wants them their to twiddle their thumbs at their desks just tomake him feel better.

      1. Burlington*

        Yeah, I think it’s related to this. The employer probably figures that if they’re never going to work more than 40 hours a week, the company is better off paying them the equivalent hourly wage, but saving money on sick and vacation days (which they then would have the option of not paying) and not having to pay them hours they don’t work if they leave early.

      2. esra*

        I had a very candid conversation with a manager like this once. He was happy with the work everyone was doing, but irritated that people would take their breaks/full lunches/leave on time. If they got that much done in normal hours, imagine if they just worked themselves silly every day!

        I told him the only reason I was able to produce at a high level was because I took breaks and left on time. Otherwise I’d be burning out.

        1. long time reader first time poster*

          Yes, I had a boss that told us that if we weren’t working “110%” at all times, we weren’t working enough. As in, working to the agreed-upon hours meant you were shirking and would be viewed as such. He was completely and utterly serious.

        2. Jazzy Red*

          I once had a boss who said that if we were able to finish our work (ever!), we don’t have enough to do.

      3. Persephone Mulberry*

        “I get the impression that the LW’s boss thinks the reason to have exempt employees is to get more than 40 hours of work out of them.”

        This, exactly. It’s not about busyness vs productivity or dedication to the job, it’s about perceived value. If I get to pay you the same whether you work 40 hours or 60, aren’t I getting better value for my money if you’re working 60?

      4. Three Thousand*

        But in most cases you don’t just get to decide to make employees hourly or salaried based on what would be cheaper for you. It depends on the nature of the work they do. Not that I would expect a boss this dimwitted to know that.

    4. Cordelia Naismith*

      This stood out for me, too. What principle could possibly be involved here? The principle of not having a life?

      If you need to stay late because of a deadline or something like that, that’s one thing. Routinely staying late because you’re salaried and your employer won’t have to pay you overtime, so they want to make sure they get their money’s worth (which is what this sounds like to me) is just silly.

      The OP said they work at a university. So do I, and in my experience, staff leave pretty much right at 5:00. Faculty come and go for all kinds of hours, as do grad students, but staff are 8-5 and tend not to stick around after hours. If your job involves working with other offices, you’re not going to get any response from them until the next day. Other universities might have different cultural expectations, I guess, but this is my experience.

      1. LibrarianJ*

        I’d say the one exception with universities might be if you have student contact (and what that student contact is). Working in a college library, technically on most days I’m here normal business hours, 8:30-4:30 (longer if I take lunch), but realistically, that often doesn’t happen. At least here, students don’t seem to conduct their business during normal hours. I might be getting ready to leave at 5:30 and a student walks in who has an assignment due tomorrow and needs help right now! and my day gets an hour longer. Not because I’m required to, but because the nature of my job means that’s the ‘right’ thing to do usually. I also get e-mails at all hours of the night, although I don’t always answer them depending on urgency and how late they are sent. Not sure this is applicable to the OP’s office, though.

        1. OP1*

          No, our office closes at a set time every day. Our boss says she often gets more done after the office closes, so maybe she thinks the other employees don’t get anything done during the day?

          1. afiendishthingy*

            Yeah, your boss sucks. I also often get more done when I’m the last one in the office, so I’ll stay later if my billable hours for the day are significantly below target, or if I’m behind on a project with a looming deadline – but that’s just my own less-than-spectacular time management skills screwing me over. (Nobody tracks our butt-in-chair time, just billable time, which is great in some ways but comes back to bite me sometimes.) Your boss says that your coworkers are turning in excellent work on time, so what more does she want? Even excellent-er work two weeks early? Then they’ll be all done with everything for the year and just be sitting in the office at 8 pm working on level 754 of Candy Crush. Ridiculous.

    5. Sascha*

      At my last job (at a university), the director of my department once told the staff that she wanted us to stay a little bit late each day because it “made her feel bad” that we left right at 5pm, like we didn’t want to be there. Well of course we didn’t want to be there, it was the end of the day and we wanted to go home. She instituted a rule that we weren’t allowed to “rush out the door” at 5pm, we had to stay a few minutes over so she could feel better about herself. We were all exempt.

      She frequently left before 5pm and took long lunches; I don’t know if she worked off-hours but I got the sense she didn’t. Even if she did, making rules just to satisfy one’s ego, or some vague notion like “all exempt workers should stay late,” is ridiculous.

        1. Sascha*

          I wish it weren’t true, but she was a piece of work. She was the reason I left that job. I loved everyone else there and enjoyed my work, but she made life hell.

        2. NacSacJack*

          Hello Captain! Wondered when World of Barrayar would wander in here along with Games of Thrones and such. :)

            1. Cordelia Naismith*

              Hi! LMB is awesome; she’s one of my go-to reads when I need to get lost in a good book for a while. *waves back to you both*

      1. Jennifer*

        Oh brother. *eye-roll* Could you all “rush out the door” at 5 when she was gone already, or did you still have to stay late?

        Hah, we pretty much do stampede out the door, though (especially since we’re no longer allowed to leave before 5 p.m. on the dot even if we are out of things to do at 4:57). One of my coworkers very loudly proclaims to half the office when she is leaving and pretty much puts on a show about it. “Let’s go home girls. Let’s go home girls. Let’s go home and BE somebody. I’m gonna be (fill in name) tonight. Let’s go home. Let’s go home. So-and-so, let’s go home.”

    6. INTP*

      The only point of exempt status to some employers seems to be not having to pay overtime. Hence the attitude that if you’re receiving exempt benefits (if there even are any) you should be working more than 40 hours so your employer gets the better end of the deal.

    7. BananaPants*

      As a summer intern in an engineering organization, the (exempt) engineers were on a “mandatory overtime” condition where they were expected/required to work at least 1 extra hour every day (a nominal 45+ hour workweek rather than the 40+ that was standard). This had been going on for at least 6 months when I started my internship. Non-exempt, non-union employees (technicians, machinists, etc.) were able to work voluntary overtime and get paid for it, but the exempt engineers were informed that those who elected not to work the extra hour every day would be terminated. Not all of the engineers actually had additional work to do and many spent the time IMing, checking personal email, surfing the internet, etc. (this was 15 years ago).

      I carpooled with an engineer for the 45+ minute commute to the facility, so I sat and read a book in the lobby while she worked her extra hour. I felt bad for her; she was in her 3rd trimester of pregnancy and exhausted and had to work extra with absolutely no additional pay. She was looking forward to maternity leave just to get the heck out of that environment for a while. As a non-exempt employee who was not authorized to work overtime I was expected to leave the lab where I worked as soon as I hit my 8 hours. Sometimes if the engineers in the lab were doing something really interesting I’d clock out and go back to voluntarily observe, and no one told HR on me.

      1. Suzanne*

        I had a similar job once. We had mandatory OT but most of us had nothing to do. I checked Facebook, looked up recipes, etc. I was hourly, so it wasn’t too bad for me, but still silly. Why were we even there if there was nothing to do?

    8. Katieinthemountains*

      Bosses like this just see things differently. On an early performance review, my workaholic Bossman said he felt that sometimes I was leaving just because it was 5:00. I swallowed an enthusiastically affirmative response just in time and countered with, “If you knew that I usually eat at my desk and therefore have been here an hour longer than other people by five, would that make a difference?” He said no. So I went back to slipping out early so I could run before it got dark. My workload didn’t justify staying late except on rare occasions, and the company’s size and structure meant that I couldn’t earn a promotion and raises sort of were what they were. So I took the sure thing – my time.

  3. Jessica*

    Re #1 – In my very first job, I had a coworker that would stay really, obscenely late for a job that shouldn’t have needed a person to and our manager would always praise this person for their dedication and hard work. Funny thing, though, was that their projects were not done any earlier or even better than other workers. I’m pretty sure they were either goofing off all day and needed to stay late so they wouldn’t be caught or just were not as capable of getting the job done efficiently. Why that behavior was considered praiseworthy, I’ll never know. I feel like those that got their work done efficiently should have been praised. It seemed like such an ingrained, but unfounded, metric for judging dedication. Kind of reminds me of how some managers view morning people as more dedicated workers. My most recent boss was like that.

    1. Just Tea For Me Thanks*

      Here here! Don’t get it either. There is such a weird idea about working late being praize worthy. I think if I would have walked in at 11am and left at 5:30pm, my boss would have been delighted for working late(!) Despite not making my hours. Why, I’ll never know?!

      1. Helen*

        At my last job, the office hours were 8-4:30, but the owners got there around 9:30. As a result most of the salaried employees got there at 9 (or later) so that they would be there right before the owners got there and be seen “working late” when the owners left.

        1. AB*

          Did you work in my current office, only minus the fact that the salaried employees stay late? They all leave between 4 and 4:30. I stay late because it’s easier to do certain tasks when they’re not here.

    2. MissM*

      I had a co-worker like that, too. I sat right next to her, so I know she spent most of the day on personal phone calls or walking around to chit-chat with other co-workers. I think she just couldn’t concentrate when there were a lot of people around, so she waited until everyone left the office to do most of her work. And, yes, senior management loved her because they could see her still at her desk when they left at the end of the day.

      1. Jessica*

        Yup, that was pretty much how she acted during the day. And I know from my own experience that any time I had to stay extremely late, it was because I had goofed off during the day, taking a lazy long lunch or not being able to find my groove in concentrating. Despite the fact that I almost exclusively worked standard hours and got the job done efficiently, I would be effusively praised when I was there late. Kind of like, “Good, she is finally getting it that she needs to stay late to REALLY succeed in this job.” Bah, so irritating. I could see how my coworker would catch on to that, though, and milk it for all the praise she could get. They really laid it on thick whenever people “went the extra mile”

      2. LBK*

        I have a coworker like this. Fortunately my department isn’t too heavy on overly praising people just for their hours, but he certainly doesn’t mind bitching all the time about how he works such long hours and doesn’t even get to take a lunch. Okay, I suppose it’s technically true that you eat at your desk instead of going to the cafeteria, but only after you’ve spent an hour and a half at the gym, an hour on the phone with your wife, an hour watching CNN/YouTube videos…I want to shake him and say “You could leave at 5 if you actually did work all day!”

    3. Felicia*

      My predecessor did that…hardly did anything during the day and then worked late (also regularly came in 45 minutes late when she was supposed to cover phones) . Well i moved up to her job after she left, and i’m on time, and leave on time pretty much every day and accomplishing more, and doing it more quickly, than she ever did. And my work quality is the same, and often a little better.

      1. Artemesia*

        There becomes a perception management issue around this. Somehow efficient people need to be able to demonstrate to the bosses that they are productive, perhaps more so, than high face time people or else be ranked down because of it. I have told the story of my daughter’s experience of being chided by the editor of the college paper for leaving at 7 while ‘poor Susie stayed till midnight getting the paper laid out.’ My daughter had laid out 6 pages while poor Susie got 2 done. Being productive in many situations is not as important as ‘being busy’ unfortunately, so productive people need to figure out how to raise the focus on metrics.

        1. Iro*

          Yes. This is something I had to actively manage with my supervisors at my previous company — even the good ones!

          I’m crazy effecient. My current record is taking a report that took my predecessor 24 hours (3 BD) of work and cutting it down to 1/2 hour.

          I’ve run into people who won’t bend on this, saying things like – if you are so effecient, imagine how effective you would be if you also put in the extra effort and stayed late!

          One metaphor I have found that resonates on this subject is to think of your highly effecient workers as sprinters. You would not go to Usain Bolt and say “That’s a great pace, but what I need from you is to go that speed for a marathon”

          There’s an energy cost of being effecient. Typically the more effecient workers are: chatting less, highly organized, good at prioritizing, and strategic thinkers. There’s a stress cost of being assigned the most time sensitive projects because they know you will get it done.

          1. Jessica*

            I have literally worked myself out of two jobs. I work crazy fast too, and I’m a person that reaches optimum performance when the pressure is on, so I set short deadlines for myself. Believe me, I’ve questioned whether my quality has suffered due to speed but I almost always get rave reviews on my work. But it still bites me. At an internship in college, I got done with all my work way faster and just as accurately as the other intern, but she was hired on because she “still had projects to complete”. And at my most recent job, I was able to complete a month’s worth of client projects in one week. Got laid off because there wasn’t enough work for me. It’s like they didn’t know how to handle this situation. I don’t mean this in a braggy sense at all… it’s very frustrating to be bored at work. I don’t know if this is my issue or the company’s issue for not knowing what to do with me when I finished my projects. And in both these cases, I got along with everyone and never had any complaints, so I do feel like it was really just the lack of work. UGH. Rant over.

            1. AnonAnalyst*

              I can relate, as I’ve run into this problem in a few jobs. In my last job, I ended up with some weird frankenjob because I had so much free time. The job I was originally hired for took my predecessor about 50 hours a week and I could complete all of it in about 10. On the plus side, I was able to save the company some money because they were able to bring in several tasks they had outsourced to various vendors/independent contractors and assign them to me, but most of them didn’t go together at all. I still have trouble explaining what I did at that job in interviews because it was so all over the place.

              My current job was a newly created position in the organization, and I spent my first six months here wondering if I was going to be laid off once they decided they didn’t need to hire someone specifically for the work and eliminated the role. I blew through every project they gave me, so I had a ton of free time. I hadn’t been laid off from my last job, but the organization had undergone a layoff shortly before I left so the concern and experience was still pretty fresh in my mind. At my six month review, I ended up asking my manager about it, and she seemed shocked that I would even wonder since apparently the work I was doing was taking several weeks longer before I came onboard.

            2. Clever Name*

              I’ve (voluntarily) left two jobs because I didn’t have enough to do and was bored. I work as a consultant and there is always more work. Even though I work half time, I’m still the person people go to when they need work done fast.

            3. AVP*

              My company is running into this now in terms of larger projects. Last year our biggest client threw a huge load of work at us, that would normally have taken a month, and gave us about a week and a half to do. We nearly killed ourselves but we got it done and it worked out.

              This year, they gave us 4 days “because we got it done so well last year they didn’t see the need to plan it out ahead of time like the used to!”

              I think we’re getting it done okay, but argghh. Next year they’ll want us to reserve it in a time machine.

              1. Jessica*

                Ahh, I tried, but it can be so painful! I generally move fast in all aspects of my life, so I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. And my work suffers so badly when I slow it down…I become way more forgetful and sloppy.

          2. LBK*

            I love this. And as someone who tried to make myself run a marathon at a sprint pace – it’s the perfect recipe for burning out.

          3. AnonAnalyst*

            THIS. I could have written #1. I have excellent time management and planning skills, and usually come in early, so most of the time I can get all my work done within regular working hours. Many of my coworkers, on the other hand, spend at least half the day chatting with each other (non-work related) and surfing the internet, so they usually aren’t as productive and have to work late or on weekends to actually finish their work.

            At my current job, I’ve gotten feedback from my manager that I should work late, like my coworkers. When I’ve tried to match the work hours of my coworkers for an extended period (as in, not just to finish off a specific time-sensitive task or project but just because), I’ve pretty quickly become exhausted and burnt out, and it’s hard to recover and return to my usual level. I’m really, really bad at working that way because I don’t really know how to take that sustained less efficient approach to work, so I’ll try and fail epically.

            I love your analogy! I will have to try this in the future. (Somewhat) fortunately, I’ve been working in my current job for long enough that my manager now better understands my style as she’s seen the burnout and subsequent loss of efficiency when I’ve attempted to extend my work hours in response to this type of feedback. I feel like we’re finally in a place where the quality and efficiency of my work matter slightly more than the amount of time I spend in the office, but it’s been frustrating to get here and I feel like it’s still an issue.

          4. Connie-Lynne*

            I’ve used similar analogies; a friend gave me a great phrase, “Nobody wants to do a ‘sprintathon!’l

          5. ReanaZ*

            I really like this metaphor as well. It’s my general observation that I can work 6-7 hours at an accelerated pace or 8-9 hours at a more leisurely pace and produce the same amount of work. Both of these options are sustainable for me, although I prefer faster/shorter if I’m in a workplace where I have that flexibility.

            However, I cannot work 8-9 hours at an accelerated pace for more than a few days without getting horribly burnt out, having a negative effect on my physical and mental health, my ability to sustain any sort of life outside of work, and my ability to give any sort of fucks at all ever. I can do it, occasionally, to pull through on a big project or oversee a system go-live or cover for a sick colleague. But if you want me to continue producing at my current rate (sustainable-high-performer), you have to let me work sustainable hours.

        2. Judy*

          Sometimes it seems futile to try to explain that just because I can get my projects done in my 40-45 hours a week, doesn’t mean that my projects are easier than Jane’s project.

          I’ve been on projects that I’ve been amazed at what we’ve accomplished, but it wasn’t a state of whirlwind, and nothing was noticed. The projects that have gotten the most corporate praise are the ones that got away from me due to scope creep. They weren’t intrinsically harder, and in fact several were much simpler than others that just flew under the radar.

        3. INTP*

          And sometimes you can’t combat that perception at all because, as Iro mentioned, there are always those people who will still think you could do even more if you just worked longer. And those people are VERY numerous. You can demonstrate conclusively that you produce 150% of your average coworker’s output and you’ll still be “That person who could produce 200% if she cared enough about her coworkers not to sprint out the door at 5pm.”

          I blame this partly on the fact that the insanely inefficient, late-staying workers tend to be VERY vocal about how busy and stressed they are at all times while the efficient people are busy working. I used to sit next to one of them. All day long he was either grunting about how busy he was or laughing at something his buddy posted on facebook.

          1. Jessica*

            YES! They are so vocal about it, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. That’s why I always feel like they are overcompensating for goofing off during the day. I am so sick of hearing how busy and stressed people are. As many people have said, if you are ALWAYS busy and stressed, it’s time to take a look at your time management skills.

    4. Allison*

      Truth. At firstob, any time someone won “employee of the month” and their boss would introduce them, talking about what they did to earn the award, they’d always say something along the lines of “Shirley was always here late working diligently on this project, sometimes staying until 6 or 7 to get the job done!”

      1. Jessica*

        Oh man, that’s just painful. No wonder people continue this stupid practice; they’re getting actual awards!! There are certainly some jobs that require these crazy hours, but I would say far less than people, and specifically managers, think. I have never managed people in a traditional sense, but if I do and someone is routinely staying later than others, I’m going to be looking at why they aren’t getting the job done in the workday, not automatically praising them for dedication and giving them awards.

    5. Becca*

      My previous boss actually told me that my hours were really suggestions and she expected me to always work overtime because I was salaried. She always left around 3/4 and I would goof off for a couple hours after she left and then complete my work so I could be “working late”. I remember one time I HAD to leave on time at 5 and I got all my work done, the next morning she called me into her office to ask why I left early. Not because I left work undone, just why I left early.

  4. Weasel007*

    I had a jackass of a boss once that insisted that if you weren’t working 55+ hours a week you weren’t doing your job. He was in addition to being a jackass, he was morally corrupt and fired for cause at a minimum of 3 jobs since 2008 (he was a thought leader in his industry but a very risky hire).

    1. Jessica*

      Wait, how do you know my former boss???

      Actually, my boss was most definitely not a thought leader in anything. He was a jackass though. He would claim that he was working 12-14 hour days and no one worked harder than him. Literally half of that time was him playing a golf game on his computer. I could hear the stupid putting noise continuously through my wall. He also spent a great deal of time taking pleasure in yelling at customer service people and keeping track of his business partner’s comings and goings. All combined, I would say he worked a solid three hours a day, tops. I always felt like he was playing at running a business, but really had no idea what it entailed, so he just did the most stereotypical thing that he thought a boss should do. Also seemed to me like he was really just trying to avoid family life and I think they felt likewise given the awkward conversations he had over speakerphone. Cringe. Kind of sad, but given how he acted, not unexpected.

      1. Steve G*

        If you said the person did these things, but only was in the office 7-9 hours a day, then we’d a had the same boss:-). It’s amazing how some people get promoted

        1. Jessica*

          Mine never got promoted! I found out that he clashed with people so much at every job that he typically was asked to leave or was fired. He eventually had to open his own business because he just couldn’t function under anyone else, but was routinely fired by clients instead. Thought it odd that, in a client-oriented business, he thought he wouldn’t be doing what others wanted him to. He was laughably awful at it. I always thought, “If this jackass can have his own business, then I definitely can succeed.” Fantastic learning experience. He’s like a caricature.

          1. I'm a Little Teapot*

            I think a lot of people who own businesses started their own business because they were such jerks that they could never work for anyone else.

    2. Mike C.*

      I love Silicon Valley corporate-speak.

      I mean really, “thought leader”!? I thought rockstar/ninja/guru/sherpa was bad enough!

  5. A Non*

    #4 – If your hands are damaged enough that you don’t want to shake hands, that’s a natural point to explain it. “I’d shake your hand, but I’m scraped up from falling while I was skating. I haven’t been this beat up since I was a kid!”

    Personally, I’d be highly amused if a candidate showed up with visible scrapes. I’d take it as a sign that you’re an adventurous and lively person, and confident too if you can laugh it off as no big deal.

    1. BeenThere*

      Op 4, I agree with advice from both Alison and A Non, address this ‘head’ on and with a little humor.

      As an aside, if you interviewed with me I would feel like I found a kindred spirit! I skated all the time in my late teens and I briefly held a job around 6 months ago where I could bring my board in and ollie around the parking lot. Sadly I have since returned to big corporate. It’s been for the better but I really miss wearing jeans and working on my kick flip when I needed a break.

      1. SaintPaulGal*

        Personally, I’d probably stick with something a bit more neutral, referring to the visible contusions as the result of a “sports injury” rather than specifically due to skateboarding. Unfair though it may be, a large portion of the population still thinks of skateboarding as something that belongs exclusively to punk teenagers. Those people may have trouble dismissing their (conscious or subconscious) prejudices and seeing you as an adult professional if the very first thing they hear from you is that you took a header off your skateboard recently. Being a little vague could really come in handy.

        1. Natalie*

          I think “skating” is probably broad enough that people wouldn’t leap immediately to Bart Simpson on a skateboard. There’s roller-, ice-, and rollerblading which lots of people call “skating”.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yeah, I assumed that’s why Alison worded it that way in the first place. The interviewers can fill in their own assumptions about what skating means.

    2. Brian_A*

      I agree with how A Non and Alison suggest approaching it – saying something up front, and with good humour. You may also be in the clear by the time you interview, at least with any facial injuries – I have crashed (bike racing) many times, and the last time I landed on my face, I found it to heal much faster than any other scrapes! :)

  6. Just Visiting*

    I would NOT be comfortable going on an overseas “team building” trip without my spouse. Nope, nope, nope. I really hope that this isn’t a required event for the OP because to me it pushes way past the boundaries (unless you already have a job where overseas travel is required, then you know what you’re getting into, I guess).

      1. Just Visiting*

        Neither of us has ever traveled overseas, and I think I’d feel very lonely and isolated being in a strange location without someone I trust. I also prefer to travel to new cities or states with people I know or have a friend waiting for me there. Luckily this is never a situation that will ever happen to me considering the kind of jobs I have.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I can certainly understand that being your preference, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable of an office to expect it anyway in a situation like this (and don’t think it’s something that’s going to be commonly agreed to be a boundary-pusher). Again, I totally understand it your preferences here, but I think it’s the kind of thing where acting too put out by it would come across strangely.

        2. LBK*

          I think you’re thinking about this too much like if you were forced to go on vacation with your company. Presumably if it’s a teambuilding event you wouldn’t just be left to your own devices for a week – you’d have planned activities pretty much all day every day. I doubt you would even have time to feel lonely or isolated because you’d be with your work group 12 hours a day.

            1. LBK*

              If anything that’s what would make it miserable for me – particularly when I’m traveling, I have to carve out time to sit by myself and recoup or I get really unmotivated and irritable, even when I’m on a trip with my boyfriend or other friends.

              1. Steve G*

                I like the camaraderie of group travel and the occasional team building, my only issue is the late night activities. They inevitably end up drinking 1+ days during the week and if you really want to steer clear of alcohol for health reasons or to lose weight or because you’ve had alcohol abuse issues in the past, the fun part of the week really gets sucked out with the constant “come have a drink” “how can you not drink” “just have one” stuff…..

                1. leave your body at the door*

                  Yes, this. I simply do not like the way alcohol makes me feel. I’m not an alcoholic (on rare occasions I’ll drink, like my last night in South Korea) but turning down a drink, or worse yet, saying “I don’t drink”, seems to make many people instantly suspicious that you’re an alcoholic. I’ve had people look at me knowingly and say, in a low voice “I’m a friend of Bill W.” Too much information, dude! I’ll usually order a coke or sometimes a Virgin Mary w/ a bottle of Tabasco on the side.

                  The only problem is that it’s usually not much fun to be sober amidst a crowd of people who are getting drunk.

                  In general, I’ve found that if you’re with a group of people who want to get high somehow, saying “no” will sometimes get you labeled as a big buzz-kill. So saying nothing and having a “decoy” drink is sometimes a good strategy.

                  Oh – I’m also reminded of a strategy for avoiding marijuana. I’m perfectly okay with people wanting to smoke marijuana – it’s just not for me, tho. Long ago I was at a party and I was standing in a loose circle of folks who were talking and passing around a joint, and when they passed it to me I was like “oh, no thank you” (ie, buzzkill, maybe in narc-anon), but I saw a guy in the circle who had it figured out: he didn’t want to smoke any, but when the joint came to him, he’d just hold it for a short while, as if he was about to toke off of it – but he never did. He’d talk, other people would talk. And then he’d pass it on to the next person in the circle. I approached him privately later and asked him about it. He kinda blushed and told me I was apparently the first person who noticed him doing this. I just told him thanks, and that his secret was safe with me.

              2. AVP*

                I’m in LA for work this week and have a day off with a very clingy co-worker – I literally just drove across the city so I could drop him off where he wanted to go and then take the car and go ANYWHERE else. I might Uber a car for him to get back to the hotel just so I can have more alone time. So underrated.

        3. Sunshine DC*

          To Just Visiting: I can certainly understand, and it’s not unreasonable, that you would prefer not to travel on *vacation* without your spouse or friends, but this is a BUSINESS trip for you JOB—not a vacation. Sure it’s nice, especially if one is on the road away from home alot for work, to have one’s spouse join on a trip. I’ve done this on occasion (not for a team-building thing, but because of 2 weeks of client site visits in another city my boyfriend wanted to visit (and promised to stay out of the way while I did my job during the day.)

          Otherwise, traveling for work on business trips is normally done alone—you may be accompanied by others of your company/organization, but it’s not within professional norms to expect to usually have your family or friends join you. (But again, I’m sympathetic to missing ones love one while away, of course!)

        4. INTP*

          I totally understand preferring to bring your spouse, and finding work trips to be intimidating (in my case, the social aspect rather than traveling abroad). But if a trip is sufficiently intimidating or stressful to make it reasonable to refuse to go without your spouse, then it’s unreasonable of the employer to expect anyone to go in the first place, because there are other people who will have no choice but to go alone (no spouse or spouse can’t go). A “team building” trip to an all inclusive will most likely involve no language barriers or anything else to make it reasonable to refuse to go alone, though. You’ll be with coworkers and the whole point is to learn to trust them.

    1. Noah*

      Is there any particular reason why? Periodic work travel (even international) seems like a reasonable request. Significant others are a distraction on most work trips but especially on team building trips.

      1. Just Visiting*

        Anxiety at being in a place I’ve never been before without someone I trust. I like my coworkers but I don’t trust them like I trust my spouse or friends. I’d never take a job where travel was part of the deal, so if this was sprung on me (especially as “team building” and not an actual work trip) I’d be really unhappy and would try to weasel out of it. Also neither of us has ever been overseas, and that’s an experience we want to share with each other for the first time.

        1. Dynamic Beige*

          “Also neither of us has ever been overseas, and that’s an experience we want to share with each other for the first time.”

          Well, first of all, it’s highly doubtful that a corporate retreat/team building session would go overseas. Occasionally, yes but as a rule companies do not like to spend a lot of money on these kind of things. If you are a high performing sales person who has won a trip as your prize for performance, those often are trips for 2 and those aren’t team building but an actual vacation — but it may happen at the same time as the other people in your division who won the same trip, I don’t think you get to choose when to go. Also, what other people have said about being scheduled almost from sun up to sun down. There would be breakfast buffet in Room X, then meetings, then lunch in Room X(or Y, check the schedule in the pouch of the lanyard around your neck! If in doubt be sure to stop by the hospitality desk and ask someone there!) Then more meetings, then dinner/Awards show and dinner/Dine Around. Which may or may not be followed by a hospitality lounge. If you did get a free afternoon, one company I work for arranges optional activities to sign up for in advance which vary from golf to spa treatments. In other words, odds are you will not go off property without supervision unless you really want to.

          I used to do jobs in Europe, which was fantastic because I had never had the opportunity to do that whole backpacking thing in college and had always wanted to travel there. One year, there was a guy on the job who had never been to Europe and we were in Paris. Paris! It’s awesome. So I asked him how long he was going to stay afterwards because it was accepted practice that you could request a different time to return and pay your own way around for a bit of a vacation after the job was done. I did that all the time because I never knew if I was ever going to be going back and I was going to take up that opportunity to see things (especially since I couldn’t afford the airfare + all other stuff). He said he wasn’t staying and I was agog. I was all “but you’re an artist, and the museums and the…” He said that his wife had also never been to Paris and she didn’t want him to be there without him/it wasn’t fair that she couldn’t go too and they had two small kids at home. OK, the two small kids, I get that. You want your husband to come back and give you a break… but would two days in Paris seeing some sites really burn her up that bad? I felt bad for him that he couldn’t even stay an extra day to go to the Louvre.

    2. SR*

      I think the more relevant factor is length of the trip – to me, and I’d guess to others, “international” implies a lengthy trip. I can see being annoyed at being expected to spend, say, a week away from home without my (hypothetical) spouse, regardless of whether or not I crossed a border (especially just for the purpose of team-building – if it was a more concrete work purpose, it would be different). So my guess is there’s some conflation going on between the trip’s duration and its location.

      1. Marzipan*

        The duration thing probably does depend a lot on location, though. I could go on an international trip right now and be back in time for tea, if I put my mind to it (though my boss might be a tad surprised when I told her I’d decided to nip off for lunch in France instead of coming to work…)

        1. Windchime*

          Yeah, “international” could mean something different for me, too. It could mean flying 10 hours to London, or it could mean driving a couple hours north into Canada.

      2. the gold digger*

        being expected to spend, say, a week away from home

        That’s pretty much standard for the trips my husband used to take(before he became the golddigger, thus sending Sly and Doris into a tailspin from which they have yet to recover) and for some of the trips I take. It’s not worth it to fly someone to England or Germany for just a day or two. Both times I went to Dubai, it was for a week. I would be really surprised at an international trip that is shorter than a week and even some domestic trips.

        1. SR*

          I agree that it’s not worth it to fly overseas for a short period of time – but I’m guessing those weren’t purely team building trips. I mean, maybe I’m wrong (and either way, I’d personally love to jet off to Dubai or England or Germany no matter the purpose!) but it seems like an odd and extravagant choice to send the whole team overseas just for team building, unless maybe it’s a very specific industry. (I guess I’m trying to play devil’s advocate here a little bit – since the OP didn’t give many details, I’m saying that I can see some specific circumstances in which it’d be reasonable for her to be a little annoyed, even though either way I agree with AAM’s advice.)

          1. the gold digger*

            Yes, I am talking about business trips in general, not team building.

            May I recommend, based on two trips to Dubai, that you try to go anywhere else but there? :) Unless of course you like seeing nothing but shopping malls filled with stores you can visit in the US or Europe. Go to Morocco instead. It’s more interesting and it’s a shorter flight. Nobody wants 16 hours in the middle seat in coach trapped next to a man who is sprawling his legs and who started the flight by yelling into his phone, “Well f*** you, Rene’!” slamming it down, then picking it up to call Rene’ back and yell at her again.

    3. Marzipan*

      I, on the other hand, would be uncomfortable going on an international team building event with other people’s spouses (I don’t have one). It would immediately take the focus away from, well, building the team, and turn it into something more social – which I would find very hard over a prolonged period (i.e. I can deal with, say, a dinner with a group of people I don’t know well, but having to spend a couple of days with or around them would wipe me out) – that’s actually really not about the team at all, because many of those present don’t actually work there in the first place. In the nicest possible way, I don’t want to go on a work-mandated holiday with your husband/wife, though I’m sure s/he is lovely.

      Unless you see ‘team building’ and read it as something along the lines of ‘holiday’ or ‘break from work’, I don’t understand why spouses would be there, whether the event is held domestically or abroad. I don’t see what the value to the company would be? I would read the non-inviting of spouses as a sign that yes, this really is work, even though it may be taking place in a resort somewhere abroad.

      I can see how people might not want to be separated from family for prolonged periods (although logistically, if that were the case, I’d imagine it would be difficult for spouses to attend a lengthy event if, for example, there were children or pets to take into account) but the OP doesn’t mention the duration of such a trip, so I’m not sure that’s an issue here. (I’d certainly question the value and focus of a looooooooong team building event).

      1. Cheesecake*

        This! I have a spouse, but i will be uncomfortable spending time getting to know spouses of my colleagues.On a corporate team building. WHY?

        Another thing, i find it really selfish to drag my husband to these teambuildings. He needs to drop everything to spend time with people he doesn’t know that will keep talking about stuff he doesn’t understand.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          This. I have a spouse, but I wouldn’t want the “world’s colliding” effect of dragging him on a retreat with my coworkers (I like to keep work and personal separate). Also, an opportunity for me to have a little independence from my family for a short time (short being anything up to about a week, give or take a day or two) — hell yeah! I love my family, but I also enjoy the rare times when I can get away and be just me.

          1. Cheesecake*

            Absolutely yes to “have a little independence”. It is actually good to take a break from family from time to time. A weekend spent separately is a good thing, also work-related. I have my “mehs” about a whole week, but that is also because i don’t want to spend a whole week away with my colleagues that i see more than my husband sometimes :) But ok, i won’t die. There is skype/facetime/you name it

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Yeah, I don’t really wasn’t to spend that much time with coworkers, either. My ideal work-related escape is a 3 – 4 day conference with independendence from family *and* coworkers, but with coworkers around for lunches/dinners for when I wish to socialize.

      2. SJP*

        Yea im with you marzipan. I don’t have a spouse either so to spend a prolonged period of time with everyone else’s would just be an absolute bore for me!
        Spending the week with colleagues, fine. I get on with them well and we’re friends outside of work but to do that and have to make small talk with spouses. Ick!

      3. Elkay*

        I totally mis-read this and thought you wouldn’t want to go away with any of your married work colleagues (i.e. other people’s spouses).

      4. Sunflower*

        I agree. To me, if spouse comes, he needs to stay away and do their own thing the whole time. Basically I only plan on seeing him when we are sleeping. This is something that totally makes sense to me but maybe it’s because I frequently travel alone for work.

      5. INTP*

        I agree. I’m single and based on experience, this setup would lead to a double standard scenario where people with spouses are allowed some down time to tend to the spouse, but if the single people chose to eat dinner alone or stay in the room watching Netflix it would be A Thing. It’s exhausting to be on for your coworkers for days on end and the expectation should be on everyone equally. If the spouses attend events, it makes them significantly more comfortable for people with guests (having someone to talk to at all times, support) and less comfortable for people without them (meeting total strangers, more difficult to make conversation than when everyone is in the same boat of not knowing anyone there very well). Granted I’m not too fond of the idea of an officially or unofficially mandatory overseas team building trip but if you’re going to have one, it should be equally challenging for everyone.

        If it’s a party or something where only spouses are allowed as plus ones I’ll deal because it’s just one night, but if we’re forced to go overseas to team build, we should be in it as a team.

    4. Artemesia*

      I have taken my spouse on several overseas work trips, but a team building trip would be exactly the trip I would not expect to take him on. Usually my trips have been invitations to speak where I would have a lot of free time. When the trip has been very business focused and I would be covered up all day and have to meet with colleagues in the evening to plan the next day’s events or work, then he didn’t go. If the trip were a reward trip for high sales or something like that then yes, spouses should be included, but for a very work focused trip it seems odd to expect that.

    5. JC*

      I get your preferences, Just Visiting, even if I don’t necessarily share them. I’ve had to travel internationally for work alone before—to a conference where I didn’t know anyone, and my husband couldn’t join me because of his own schedule—and it was definitely less preferable than having a companion to join me for after the work hours ended, especially since I stayed in the foreign country as a tourist for a few days after the meeting. I’d feel a lot better about traveling sans spouse with my immediate team, though, and in fact would find having my husband around to be a distraction when I was traveling with a bunch of colleagues I know well. If he had to attend an international team-building trip without me, well, I’d probably be jealous I couldn’t go, but would channel that jealously into planning a vacation for us :).

      1. A Cita*

        Yes, this. As someone who has done a lot of foreign extensive travel and living solo (heck, the first time I ever traveled overseas, I did so solo and found myself hitchhiking in Burma alone), I don’t see this as the same thing. You’re not really traveling alone. It will be all organized for you. You know exactly where you’re going when you deplane and may even have a ride arranged for you. You’re probably flying with a coworker. You’re spending all your time with coworkers. Any sight seeing will be arranged as a group trip. Otherwise there may not be any time for it; so you’re not really experiencing your first trip overseas without your spouse since it would be so different than any normal trip. I’ve done work trips abroad; I may as well have not even left the country because of how little I got to see of of the place.

        1. INTP*

          Yup. And the single people on the trip are going to manage it alone. If a trip is so intimidating that it would be unreasonable to expect someone to go without their spouse, no one should be expected to go on it.

    6. VintageLydia USA*

      Usually team building will be held at something like an all-inclusive resort. There would be very little (if any) site seeing and honestly the only reason you know you’re in a foreign country instead of, say, a beach in Florida, is the flight is extra long and you need your passport (I’m on the east coast so most of my friends who’ve gone on this type of trip went somewhere in the Caribbean.) It’s not like a regular business trip where your schedule is less rigid and it’s nothing like a vacation. It can still be FUN if you like your coworkers enough and you tend toward extroversion, but not a vacation. Your poor spouse would be bored to tears unless they really like chilling by the pool with a book and drinks by themselves.

    1. katamia*

      Maybe the OP is in Europe? Or very close to the US/Canada or US/Mexico border? Now I’m envisioning teambuilding in Tijuana….

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Ha! At least after three tequilas, one is very likely to not feel the trust fall (should it turn out that one’s trust was misplaced).

      1. A Cita*

        I was thinking the Caribbean. If they’re in a cold area in the U.S., a Caribbean trip could be a nice diversion without being too expensive (depending).

        1. BRR*

          My dad’s company does this for its top clients. Not the same as team building but it’s not far. They’ve also done Canada.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yeah, I used to work for a company that held sales retreats in Puerto Rico. Not totally “international”, but requires a flight and takes you someplace warm where the primary language isn’t English.

          1. en pointe*

            My company has several clients who do their team building in Fiji. It’s really close and when their employees are spread out across the country, it would be just as (more?) expensive to convene them in any big Australian city, (where the cost of living is insane).

        3. INTP*

          Caribbean and Mexico (for west coasters) can also work out to be a lot cheaper than the equivalent resorts in, say, south Florida, with equal or shorter flight times.

      2. Matt*

        I’m in Europe, in a small country where I could be in the nearest neighboring country by a two-hour drive, but for me even here the idea of team building events abroad seems quite exotic ;)

    2. ZSD*

      I’m pretty amazed by this, too. Personally, I’d view it as a perk, not a burden, so I’m wondering how one finds a company with so much money to spend on perks…

      1. Al Lo*

        Me too! I do get to do some fun international travel, but there’s still work to it…

        Now, my company [i]does[/i] do international trips every year, which my husband is more than welcome to come on (performing arts organization, taking 60+ student singers on tour, and we open it up to non-singing travelers – parents, etc. – to come along for the fun stuff and not perform. Staff spouses are welcome to pay for and take one of those slots). As the company’s tour manager, my trip entails producing our shows and being the go-to point person for running a lot of the details, but there’s still a lot of opportunity for tourist activities and sights, even for me — it’s not the kind of work trip that entails sitting in a conference room that could be in any city, but it’s not a team-building trip, per se, so it’s a bit different.

        1. Al Lo*

          (It’s one of the best perks of my non-profit, low-paying job. There are a lot of extra things that aren’t provided, but in my particular position as tour manager, my costs are rolled into the overall budget of the tour [singers and extra travelers pay, plus fundraising and grants]. Even better, my husband is one of our contract technical staff for these tours, so his costs are also covered. We get to spend 3 weeks in China this summer, and while we’ll both be working, it’ll be an incredible experience for both of us, and it’s fully paid for!)

      2. jag*

        “so I’m wondering how one finds a company with so much money to spend on perks…”

        In my organization we have a gathering of all staff once every year or 18 months. It is extremely valuable. And it always involves international travel for half the participants. It has to – we’re not all in the same country. It’s not a perk. It’s work.

    3. Stephanie*

      No! That seems like a crazy level of team building. But maybe the team is international and the boss is trying to do some summit? Maybe it’s a mixture of work and team building? I’m hoping passports aren’t being brought out solely for trust falls.

      1. The RO-Cat*

        Actually, I’m kinda sad to see how an honorable, honest, time-proven activity (when performed as it should be) is turned into laughingstock because of the moronic facilitators who (I tend to think) do not understand its essence and (I guess) just go through the moves.

        For the record, I’ve had several international teambuilding sessions that gave very good results. One repaired a quite deep chasm between Sales and Marketing in one company, for example. Another helped field workforce (mainly Sales) and HQ folks get along, and the company owner told me about a year later that he felt it the most in sales figures and personnel turnover. Teambuilding works – when properly prepared, delivered and followed-up inside the company with appropriate changes.

        Spouses are, IME, a different thing altogether. The only times I’ve seen spouses being invited were company events, like company celebrations or the yearly Company Day. But that’s *not* teambuilding (it’s what I call “team drinking”). Cementing team spirit need focus on the team, not on SOs.

        But I’m in Europe and international teambuilding is no biggie, due to distance. Often times it is even cheaper to move everybody abroad. So, nothing unusual for me.

        1. Cheesecake*

          I am also in Europe and i don’t consider an event in other European (more like central and western) country “international” because you hop on a plane and you are in another country in an hour. But in all inclusive resort? Well, i don’t know a lot of companies that do it anymore just because it is so expensive. And if they do, it makes perfect sense why spouses are not invited: it is darn expensive.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Thank you for chiming in here, I can now better see why this may be happening.

          My initial thought was a US based company going to Europe to do team building exercises. Uh? That can’t be done in the US?
          My second thought was what a waste of time and resources. But, okay, if some of this team building stuff can be worthwhile, that makes a little more sense. Unfortunately, it is very easy to be skeptical, people lost in skepticism are more apt to miss the worth that actually does exist.

          1. The RO-Cat*

            people lost in skepticism are more apt to miss the worth that actually does exist

            Word. You reminded me of John Gottman and his research on couples. He says spouses in happy couples tend to seek the positives in their SO and downplay the negatives or work together for workarounds. Unhappy spouses tend to overlook a whopping 50% of the good things their SO did (and that they would appreciate in strangers). Losing a half of good things in couple life? Yep.

            Just a tangent. But worth some thinking.

            1. fposte*

              Oh, I love Gottman’s work and also apply it to work situations–in fact, that’s what got me into it in the first place.

              1. The RO-Cat*

                Yes, I love me some Gottman, too. To my delight, some time ago I went to a conference where one of the guest speakers (the main one, IIRC) was Marcial Losada. He’s friends with Gottman and their research results support each other nicely. Losada worked with Barbara Fredrikson (if I’m not mistaken) on team dynamics and his take on the issue is veeery interesting, albeit controversial. Later on Fredrikson came up with a theory about the evolutionary advantages of positive emotions… it’s all extremely interesting (and I bet you can tell I’m passionate!). And their theories lend themselves to real life application quite nicely!

          2. Sunshine DC*

            It may be very important if you work for an international organization, with offices in 5 (often many more) different countries. Often in that scenario, one must work closely (in terms of integration of activities and sharing outcomes) with colleagues among the global offices, and yet without having opportunities to build the kind of helpful professional comeradery and team spirit you’d have if you saw each other regularly. So it’s smart business (i.e. good for productivity and a sound investment) to make sure that occasionally professional staff in some sectors—say, for example, from the San Francisco Singapore and Sao Paolo offices—all meet in one place.

      2. Elysian*

        Yeah, getting my first passport was a pain, I hope the company gave enough notice (I think mine took 6 months or more to arrive?) and paid the cost for people who didn’t already have them. I can definitely see why the OP would find this inconvenient and be bothered by it.

          1. fposte*

            Website says 4-6 weeks currently; you can pay extra to get a 3-week turnaround. If you need to travel in under 2 weeks, you can physically go to a Passport Agency location (which could be a schlepp–my nearest one is 120 miles away, and I can see bigger gaps than that); you need to make an appointment and bring proof of travel.

            1. Jen RO*

              So wait, you can do it online? You don’t have to get your picture taken there? I probably wouldn’t mind waiting a month or two if I could avoid making a trip in person to the passport office!

          2. Elysian*

            I’ve gotten renewals pretty quickly but the initial one took a while. I might be overestimating in my memory, or (its been a few years) now they’re doing them faster. Or maybe there was a hiccup with mine? I just remember filing the paperwork what I felt was like an obscene amount of time before my travel, and cutting it pretty close with the actual receiving of my passport.

    4. Jessica*

      Maybe they are a company that has offices in multiple countries and are trying to build rapport that way, in a place where everyone can meet… but it did make it seem like they were all just going to a resort. Seems very forced fun to me, with potential for many uncomfortable excursions (as a person that is afraid of heights, all I can think of is being peer pressured into ziplining or rock climbing).

    5. AussieManager*

      We do an international conference once a year that is also a team builder. It is expensive but my company finds it beneficial.

    6. JW*

      I once interviewed for a job. If I had gotten it they were going on a trip to Brazil about two weeks after I started. It was actually a key reason why I took myself out of the application running- I didn’t want to spend a month (yes a month!) in Brazil getting to know new coworkers.

      I could see some people loving the opportunity, but it just wasn’t for me. I guess it helped me learn early on that the culture wasn’t a good fit.

    7. Elysian*

      I’m less baffled by the fact that it is international than by the fact that is at an all-inclusive resort. Is that a common place to do team building? Aren’t most resorts set up for either family fun or romance? Wouldn’t having a company-team building event at an all-inclusive be disruptive to the other guests of the resort? I can’t imagine being with my husband or family/kids at say, a Sandals, and watching awkward coworker interactions on the beach. Not to mention, most all-inclusive have a beach component… please don’t make me hang out with my coworkers in my swimsuit. I will just wear my jeans and t-shirt onto the beach okthankyouthatsfine.

      So I’m less concerned with is being international than it being at an all-inclusive. I think that is really weird. I can’t imagine that that is a common thing. Please tell me this isn’t a common thing.

      1. Regular Commenter but not for this*

        I’m not sure about all inclusive resorts, but my husband was part of a industry standards group, that had members from 10-20 different companies across the US. They usually met in resorts, because off season resorts were the best deals. They would go to ski resorts in the summer, and warm weather (but not warm enough for people to want to go there) resorts in the winter. They met face to face one week every 6 months and had conference calls between.

      2. KerryOwl*

        I’ve been to all-inclusives a few times, always with a big group of friends (that is, neither as “family” or as something romantic). I can see the hesitation about being seen in one’s bathing clothes, but aside from that, it seems like a pretty good idea. It’s all very relaxing! I don’t see how it would be “disruptive” to anyone . . . there are probably conference/meeting rooms for the meetings/power point parts of the trip, and when those are over and the people are outside, people would just be . . . hanging out? Drinking all day? Eating jerk chicken? Sounds pretty good to me, actually. That is to say, I’d rather be on vacation with my friends than my co-workers, but I’d rather be on vacation with my co-workers than at work with then.

      3. LBK*

        Almost all large hotels have conference/meeting rooms specifically for this purpose. In fact, we used to hold our division meetings at the hotel next door to our office because we didn’t have a presentation hall or other large room in our building. It’s extremely common and I don’t think it would be weird/disruptive for the other guests at all – there have probably been ongoing conferences and events at hotels you’ve stayed at and you didn’t even realize it.

        1. Elysian*

          I can imagine it being in a general large hotel – I’ve been to lots of hotel conferences. Maybe its just the all inclusive resorts I’ve been to – I don’t think any had a conference room, they were all spas and swim-up bars. Maybe you could hold a meeting-type event in a restaurant during off hours? I’ve been to a few and I just don’t think any of them were set up for business in any way at all.

            1. Elysian*

              I guess resorts I haven’t been might have them. Perhaps it won’t be as odd as I envision, then, if they’re set up for it. I double checked some of the places I’ve been, and none of them advertise business facilities – most didn’t even have wifi in the rooms (we really like to get away). So I guess there are different all-inclusives.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I’m laughing at that last line because I spent my weekend at a nerdcon and the other guests definitely noticed people walking around dressed like Loki, the Eleventh Doctor, Predators, Groot, etc. But honestly, those are GREAT places to network, especially for writers. :)

          1. LBK*

            Ha! I suppose it depends on the event. I’ve been at the Prudential Center while Anime Boston is happening and the cosplay is definitely hard to miss.

    8. Sadsack*

      Perhaps it is a global company with, for example, offices in North America and in Europe. If you want to get the whole team together, someone has to travel.

    9. Sunflower*

      Using the term ‘all-inclusive’ leads me to believe it could be the Caribbean? The Caribbean is huge for company events, at least near me. Almost all my friends who have sales retreats or company trips go to the Caribbean (I’m in the northeast USA). If you go at the right time, it’s pretty cheap and SUPER easy since you don’t have to handle individual meals, drinks etc.

    10. Z*

      This is common for global consulting firms (your McKinseys and whatnots) and I’m sure it happens in other large industries where teams can be spread across the globe. Alternatively, this could be a large company that finds it easier to book an entire hotel in a neighboring country rather than their own.

  7. Brooke*

    #4 – I play womens rugby and interviewed with a huge, colorful black eye once. I said something about it right away. As the interview went on and they got more comfortable with me they ribbed me about it a bit and I joked right back. In the end, it was a good ice breaker and I got the job offer.

    1. Artemesia*

      As a woman you really do have to clarify that quickly and casually. I remember how horrified I was once when a superior took me aside because he was convinced I was being battered, because of a bruise from a similar event. I was horrified because I am a woman who would not tolerate that for an instant and am married to a man who would never ever hit me or any other woman.

      1. JW*

        Hi Artemisia, I totally understand your sentiment here. Just remember, no woman thinks she is the type of woman that would “tolerate” being battered.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think what Artemesia was reacting to is that OTHER people think some women chose to tolerate being battered. Which is an over-simplification of that whole issue, kind of narrow thinking, and a little too long to discuss here. I took the comment as less about her and more about how people jump to the wrong conclusion very quickly. People make assumptions about many things and we do have to step in immediately and clear up erroneous assumptions. Being a victim of abuse is one example of the types of assumptions people make.

          I was talking (below here)about how I bruised easily when I was younger. Well, when I was a baby, my parents took me to a doctor because of my bruising issues. The doctor shrugged and said “Stop beating her and the bruises will clear up.” One small problem: My parents weren’t beating me.

          1. Helen*

            That’s awful. Doctors are mandatory reporters and if he actually thought there was abuse he had an obligation to see if that really might be the case, and if so, to report it. Not only that but he didn’t provide any guidance on the issue you were actually having. I hope your parents starting taking you to a different pediatrician.

            1. fposte*

              Mandatory reporter is a pretty recent thing. Many of us here were young enough to have been children before it was enacted.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Right- this was early 60s. My parents would sit in the waiting room up to 5-6 hours to see the doctor. Which was normal in my area at that time. To say they were weary does not fully describe.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              He was serious.

              For some reason, my mother got the guy to make a house call. I was too sick to transport and he agreed saying an ambulance ride would probably kill me. Then he informed my mother not to call him, but rather call a coroner the next time.

              I have no clue why my parents keep calling this dude. There was something so wrong there.

        2. Artemesia*

          And yet many do tolerate it. I would walk the first time it happened early in a relationship and if it happened now after 40 plus years, I would have him into and MRI before the week was out for some sort of brain disorder. But many make an entirely different choice.

          1. Sadsack*

            I don’t think that abused women just decide to tolerate abuse. There is a whole psychological thing there that is way too deep to get into here, but there’s more to it than “tolerating” it.

            1. Zillah*

              That’s very, very true. However, I also think it’s fair to say that women run the gamut in how they would react to abuse, which is why abusers tend to target people who don’t react to their initial boundary pushing.

            2. LBK*

              This is a semantic argument, I think you’re overparsing based on word choice. Yes, the reasons people stay in abusive situations are deep and complex, but that doesn’t mean Artemesia is wrong to believe that she wouldn’t do it.

              1. Kelly L.*

                But I think pretty much everybody believes that, until they’re actually there. There’s a whole long process of psychological undermining that generally happens before the physical abuse happens.

              2. Sadsack*

                You are correct that I was focusing on the word choice. I am not arguing about what Artemesia would or would not do.

              3. en pointe*

                I think what people are reacting to is that the second comment came off as a bit critical of women who do stay. Obviously, Artemesia’s original post was just a passing comment about what she believes she’d do in that situation and meant no harm. She wasn’t addressing abuse victims, nor is this a forum for that.

                But I do think the word choice was a bit problematic and in terms of broader conversations about domestic violence, I think word choice really matters. Telling victims what they should do or what we would do in their position serves to judge and criticise more than it supports or empowers. And it puts a level of responsibility on the victim that doesn’t really belong there (but rather on their abuser). Not to mention contributing to the stigma and shame many victims battle when trying to break their silence. I think Artemesia got dangerously close to the whole ‘why doesn’t she just leave’ bullcrap, and that’s what people are reacting to.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I get what you are saying. I used to bruise fairly easily. When I first got married my husband was convinced that people who did not know him, thought he was beating me. He joked about it, but I could kind of see that he was having some adjustment problems going on. So, I took the bull by the horns and I would preemptively tell people, “No, my husband does not beat me, I just bruise easy.” It was not long, coworkers could see that I had gained a few small bruises just going through the work day. (It was a very physical job.) They learned to ignore the bruising, as they saw I was ignoring it also.

        1. Windchime*

          On of my children, when he was a toddler, was constantly running into and falling off of things. He went to the doctor for stitches a couple of times and for small cuts and nasty bruises other times. I was always afraid they would think that he was being abused, but he wasn’t. He was just the kid who would jump off the swing when it was at its apex, or run into the coffee table, or fall off the springy horse into the toy box.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Ugh, that happened to me too! I came in with two black eyes and the president’s EA took me aside all “concerned” for my “domestic situation”. She wasn’t actually concerned for me- she was a gossipy busybody looking for new dirt. I told her a family member did it and watched her eyes get wide. Then I got to see her deflate when I told her that my sister’s baby headbutted me in the nose. I hated her – she’s the same person who told everyone I only got promoted because of my looks. Grrrrrrr.

      4. ism*

        My thought was “aww.” I’m glad your superior showed concern instead of just ignoring a black eye on a woman, like many people would.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Yeah, when I got a black eye from being stupid with a crowbar, I joked about it and didn’t give the real reason. When a co-worker showed concern, just in case it was from abuse, I was touched that she cared that much about me and would take the chance to speak up.

      5. the gold digger*

        I fell once and gave myself a black eye. What was shocking to me was how many of my co-workers- I had been at this company for years – said nothing! Only the realtor, whom I had never met, said something: (PS I did not capitalize “realtor” on purpose because I think it is so dumb that they trademarked that word and said it has to be capitalized. Sue me.)

        I also gave myself a black eye last summer, shortly after starting my new job. I had to go to HQ with my boss. I warned him not to mess with me or I would flinch every time he stood next to me.

  8. Stephanie*

    #5 – I wouldn’t worry too much about this. One, Blockbuster still (sort of) exists as a subsidiary of Dish, so employment verification may be possible that way. If they do need to check that stuff, someone at the company (or the firm the company hires) will dig for it.

    Back in college, I worked at Foley’s. The company that owns Macy’s acquired the company that owned Foley’s and all the Foley’s stores became Macy’s stores. I haven’t listed that job in a long time, but I submitted something like “Foley’s (now Macy’s)” and the background checker just did employment verification via Macy’s Corporate.

    1. Tenley*

      There is sometimes evidence anyway of employment history at certain locations through credit checks, and there certainly are jobs checking creditworthiness whether the jobs really call for it.

    2. JW*

      For #5- I’m thinking if you’ve been self employed for a while you could also provide a client as a reference, right?

    3. Kelly O*

      You can also provide W-2s or pay stubs as a way of proving your employment.
      I worked for a company that was purchased by another company. The only employees who show up in the new company’s database are those who received any pay or severance; those of us who left at any time before that can’t have employment with our original company verified.

      So I have pay stubs for each year, and income tax statements on-hand, so I can send them to those who are doing background checks and employment verifications. I also have former coworkers and managers who can vouch for my work – both duration and quality. It’s not easy, but it can be done.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        I’ve often wondered do you even get a chance to explain something like this? When something doesn’t match in your background check?

  9. Just Tea For Me Thanks*

    #1 I had a manager like that. I left at 5:55pm. Why? I started earlier ( around 8:15) and made my hours. This way I could go to the gym without there being a sea of people. I have to mention, it was an office with flexible hours. Apparently on paper only. She told me “I know you start at 8…” (not entirely true, but I’ll take it) meaning she knew full well that I wasn’t skiving off, but still had a problem with it. I think the reason was that she was very unorganised and a bad planner: she always had to work late herself in order to finish her work. She worked parttime, I was the only ft employee in that department. The work I delivered was done well, on time and precise. My point is: managers who care about these kinds of things when employees are delivering good work aren’ t the best managers. Especially when they cannot provide a good reason/explanation for their request. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do about it. As Alison has said already: either work late occasionally to please your manager or you’ll have to look for employment where this isn’t an issue.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      How frustrating. I agree there’s a perception that someone is leaving early if they have earlier set hours. I work 8:30 – 4:30. I usually get here earlier than that and leave a few minutes before 5pm. And work through lunch. But I still get those “must be nice” comments from people when they see me walking out the door. Now I just say “Yeah, just like it must be nice for you to come in at 11am when I’ve already been here for 3 hours”.

      1. Windchime*

        I used to work with a couple of people who worked four days a week, 10 hours a day. The rest of us worked five days a week for 8 hours. They would always do the raised eyebrow thing when we got up and left at 5:00; apparently we were not nearly as dedicated as they were. They both had selective amnesia about how many days we worked, apparently. It’s frustrating to be told, “Oh! Leaving already?” by people who aren’t even *here* one full day of the week.

  10. Rich*

    #1 gave me hives. Working late for the sake of working late is at the top of my “Most Hated Pointless Corporate Things” list. I definitely think it’s a good idea to have a conversation. You never know. This could be the one person that has gained sense and realized the error of his/her managerial ways.

    I also like trying to solve the issue before quitting. Comes in handy when dealing with a savvy recruiter or interviewer that digs about why you really left your last job.

  11. Matt*

    #1: is your boss tracking and counting hours or is she just looking where the lights are on in the offices late at night? If the latter is the case and your private schedules allow for it, maybe it would be an option to come later and leave later to avoid piling up those ridiculous hours …

    1. Judy*

      I worked in a place once where there were 3 guys that were praised for working so much. The boss didn’t seem to notice that they would come in early, go golfing at lunchtime (3 hrs) and leave late. I didn’t clock watch, but I wasn’t sure if they were actually putting in 40 hours a week.

    2. OP1*

      She’s looking to see if either of them are still there at 6 or 7. She also gets in at 9 so I don’t think coming in late is an option. Again, I’m the hourly one who actually records hours, so I’m lucky, because it’s clear she’d squeeze more hours out of me if she could. But I don’t know if there’s a way to say on behalf of my colleagues, “Actually, your philosophy is totally bizarre.” (Also keeping this in mind for if I ever move into a salaried position.)

      1. LBK*

        I think if she says something about it again, you could ask her why she feels that way, just as a point of philosophical discussion instead of trying to position it as “you’re treating my coworkers poorly”. Keep your response general – “I’ve always thought that the quality of the work was the most important thing; as long as work is being done and being done well I’ve never really seen the benefit to working extra hours” – and maybe you can at least get her to consider her position.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        For your own protection, you might not want to say too much to her. But you could arm your cohorts with well-chosen talking points that they could use on their own.

  12. Rayner*

    #2 I do not get this. Why is every other question (or so it feels like) regarding team building ‘Can I bring along a spouse?’ Are people afraid to separate? Do they always want a free/partly paid for holiday?

    After eight hours with my colleagues, here or in Paris, plus obligatory meals etc, there’s just no time to go out and have a romantic dinner or explore the streets. That would be essentially a solo holiday for the partner, while I worked.

    I am genuinely baffled, not sarcastic, but I do not get it.

    1. Cheesecake*

      I am with you on this. I don’t get it either. I never dragged my husband to any corp event, where spouses were not welcome. I once did bring him to xmas event where spouses were very invited and hugely regretted. I couldn’t network and he couldn’t enjoy himself around 100 new people.

      Anyway, what i don’t get is why is it considered nice and thoughtful to even think about bringing your spouse to these corporate events? I find it utterly selfish towards colleague (i don’t want to be alone with you guys) and towards the spouse (drop everything to keep me entertained)

      1. The RO-Cat*

        Only once have I been in a one-week corporate event where spouses were invited. It was international and there were in fact two programs: one with (mostly, but not exclusively) work for us and one with site-seeing, museum visits etc for our partners. And they even sneaked in some time where we were reunited for some touristy stuff. But this is the only occurrence for me so far.

        1. Cheesecake*

          One word: wow! It never happened to me ever and i work(ed) in big multinationals that can afford this. But as Europe is in cost-saving mode, we can’t even think about such team building out loud. And a section to accommodate spouses? Do you work for a hedge fund :) ?

          Having said “wow”, i find a week away with colleagues too much (though i like them), even when spouses are there and you can hide. But again, such trip never happened to me. I bet it was fun.

          1. The RO-Cat*

            That was waaaay back, before 2000. Mind you, it wasn’t a multinational behemoth, though it was quite international in its reach (think Eurasia + Africa). Their HQ were in Spain, so we got to fill up our eyes quite a bit! I still regret I was in conference when my spouse got to see Sagrada Familia (though the company-sponsored one-day trip at a recreational park almost made up for that. Almost).

            But I never saw this kind of generosity again.

      2. Artemesia*

        When I was working all day in China my husband quite happily roamed the streets, took the subway to distant parts of the city, ate street food and shopped. If he were tied up at a conference or work in say Paris, I would have no trouble at all filling the day with wonderful things. My SIL won an award that included a trip to Paris for him and his wife, but was essentially a networking professional event for him — my daughter managed to think of things to do in Paris.

        I don’t think in a heavily work focused event and certainly if team building is the goal (and I am going to assume it isn’t trust falls and sack races on the beach but working with colleagues from other values or working on important team projects) then that is probably a trip where spouses don’t belong at all.

        1. ReanaZ*

          Yeah, I read this question as coming from the left-behind spouse who saw their partner going to a Tijuana resort without her and assumed out of country “team building” was all hookers and blow.

    2. Helen*

      Well, isn’t team building basically social? I wouldn’t like for my husband to go on a week-long social getaway with coworkers without me, or vice versa. Plus, since there’s dinners and socializing at night, there’s not even much time to talk on the phone.

      And, maybe I’m making too big of an assumption, but I think most people think of “team building” as basically a waste of time anyway, and not worth the time away (as opposed to a regular business trip).

      1. Judy*

        Team building can have some social elements to it, but in my experience, the days are one long meeting after another.

        Usually set up in a hotel, breakfast at 7:30 or so, then meetings from 8-12, lunch brought to the conference room, more meetings from 1-6, and daily evening outings to “interesting places” – meaning restaurants and bars. Maybe one day the afternoon breaks early for an outing. And then I have to go back to my hotel room to answer the emails that came after lunch.

      2. Sadsack*

        What are your reservations with being apart for a week? Aside from missing the person, which is understandable, is there a reason that you are uncomfortable with your partner going away for work?

      3. LBK*

        Even if there are social-ish events involved in teambuilding, usually no one is going to be invited to them except for employees. You’d still be stuck sitting in the hotel or entertaining yourself while your spouse was with their work group.

        1. Ann*

          Yes, this is the key part. I understand not wanting to be apart from your spouse (well, not really, but let’s assume that I do), but even if you attend, you’re going to be apart from your spouse almost the whole time anyway. The largest amount of time you’d spend together would be when you were sleeping!

          1. A Cita*

            Yeah, the only reason I can see why being apart from an SO for week would be a hardship is a the lack of bow bow chicka chicka bow bow. Otherwise? Bed is ALL MINE! *starfish*

        2. Helen*

          I wouldn’t want to come with him (or for him to come to mine if it were my trip). I just think asking someone to be away from home for a week for “team building” is ridiculous.

          1. LBK*

            Why, though? Is it because you don’t see the value in that kind of activity? Most of these extended “team building” events consisnte of meetings, presentations and trainings. It’s not like you spend 5 days sitting in a circle singing kumbaya.

            1. simonthegrey*

              Although if you know you DO work in a place where it will be five days singing kumbaya, I can see it would be annoying and feel ridiculous.

      4. Colette*

        I can understand being annoyed that you have to go, but it doesn’t really matter whether the average person thinks team building is a waste of time – if it’s part of the job, it’s part of the job. If the company is paying for their employees to travel to a different location and stay in an all-inclusive resort, it’s likely that they have specific plans for those days, it’s not a social getaway. Someone who brought a spouse would be pretty out of touch with the event and would likely face repercussions (which might be as subtle as being passed over for promotions).

        1. fposte*

          As usual, I join you on the pragmatic take. We have to do stupid stuff for jobs all the time, and there’s rarely an opt-out clause that allows you to bail if you personally consider something ridiculous.

          I think it’s also not fair to consider it ridiculous without ever having done it. Some team-building stuff is stupid, no doubt, and those make the best stories so we hear a lot about them; however, some of it works well and is genuinely advantageous. And whether you personally would preferred that advantageous experience in the Marriott down the road isn’t enough to render the office’s decision to do it farther away a silly one and give yourself an out.

    3. jag*

      Can we open our minds a little? I don’t want my spouse travelling with me, but it’s not hard to imagine why someone wants that or would be worried about that. Just try to think about it. If you really can’t understand it, try harder.

      Sorry to be snarky, but their is so much flaunting of not understanding different people’s points of views or experiences here. It’s one thing to not feel the same way or not agree with the other person’s point of view. That’s normal (and I agree with Rayner that bringing a spouse on a work trip is generally not appropriate). But to literally not be able to conceive of why someone would not feel that way is not good. Try harder.

        1. Artemesia*

          Exactly. The reasons I see are things like ‘he is having fun and that’s not fair’ or ‘I don’t trust her out of my sight’.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, that’s pretty much all I can think of, too. There are other reasons why it might be a pain to have a spouse away (e.g. childcare issues), but those other issues would made worse (instead of being fixed) by both spouses going on the trip.

            1. fposte*

              I think somebody upthread has been pretty clear–travel in general is a huge, anxiety-provoking deal for her, and she’d never willingly choose to do it. For her, going without her spouse is essentially going alone.

              That being said, I think people who are finding it a huge obstacle aren’t likely to be working in the culture where these things happen, so there’s a shock element to it as well here that there isn’t likely to be in reality. At such an organization, the concept will have its way paved by hearing about how things have happened when they’ve done these before, who in your colleagues knew their way around the hotel within an hour, etc.–it makes it a different prospect than if you’re just encountering the concept out of nowhere.

              1. LBK*

                I suppose it’s about your general expectations for working life – I expect that at any job I could ever potentially take, I could be asked to travel at some point, even if the company or the role doesn’t regularly require it. If it were a serious problem for me to have to travel, I’d consider that on me to make clear at the start of my employment.

              2. Colette*

                Agreed, others have pointed there are some specific situations (i.e. physical and mental illnesses) where it is actually a hardship to travel without your spouse. I do think that a most of the time, the issue simply is that they don’t want to be apart (because they don’t trust each other, or because they don’t want the other one to go on “vacation” without them).

              3. A Cita*

                Yeah, I get that, but as LBK points out, it’s a general expectation of working life, especially in this more global age.

                1. fposte*

                  That’s an interesting point–have we moved toward a place where the travel assumption should be the default? I hadn’t thought about that, but maybe we have. In that case somebody with a travel block really is going to be pretty limited on employment and will have to choose jobs carefully.

                  Either way, I do think that there is no right *not* to have to travel for work, so it’s definitely something whose career cost a firm non-traveler is going to need to assess.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  I don’t think it really is a general expectation in every career. I think it depends pretty widely on the field.

                3. LBK*

                  I think it should be – as we outsource more and the prevalence of remote working increases, so does the potential for having to go visit those other locations more often. My job involves no travel for its normal responsibilities, but my team flew up to Canada for a day to meet with the other half of our team that works up there.

                  Plus, to an extent, I think travel is viewed as a perk by many companies. The price point has dropped enough over the past few decades that it’s not something you attempt to avoid unless it’s an absolutely necessary business expense – it’s more feasible for companies to pay for 20 people to fly out of the country, and it’s presumed that for most people that kind of expense being picked up by your employer is a benefit instead of an imposition. I know I’m by far in the minority on AAM, but I’d love having a paid trip for work, especially to an all inclusive resort. Sign me up!

                4. LBK*

                  In what fields would you say it shouldn’t be assumed? Even when I was in retail, new store/general managers would get flown out to corporate for a week for training.

                5. A Cita*

                  I’m betting it’s going to change for a lot of professional fields that don’t normally do it now. It may not be a regular thing, but a one-off trip (once in a year/in 3 years) will become least nationally, if not internationally. Think an important conference, working on a project with a team located elsewhere, a relevant event, or, as in this case, a team building event. Even if it’s nationally, it’s still all the same issues of traveling for work abroad (sans a passport).

                6. fposte*

                  I wonder if this might be an interesting post or Friday post topic in its own right–what field are you in, and how much travel do people tend to have to do in it?

                7. Kelly L.*

                  @LBK, using myself as an example, I’ve been an administrative assistant for roughly ten years and have never traveled for work. Before and during that, I’ve also worked in retail and food service, and never traveled for work there either. Maybe it’s only for higher-up positions that it’s mandatory? IDK.

                8. A Cita*

                  @fposte–yes that would be interesting! (If I ever read the open posts :)
                  @Kelly L.–our admin goes on our trips too. It may just be a matter of time until you’re required to go on one. Or you may never go on one. But I wouldn’t count on it never being a requirement for you (or other admins) because of your position. That’s the bigger unrealistic expectation. There will be individuals who will never be required to go, but I’m betting the law of probability states you should expect to be asked at some point.

                9. A Cita*

                  I’ll give a personal example. I have never owned a car. I don’t drive. I do have a driving license, but trust me, no one wants me behind the wheel (hint: I felt very comfortable driving in India). I’ve managed to make sure I live in big urban areas where I don’t need to drive and have taken jobs that don’t require me to. But I know that’s an unrealistic expectation. I know the law of probability means that at some point, I may very well find myself in a situation where I will have to drive. That scares the crap out of me, but I’ll suck it up when/if the time comes (cue: accidental freeway scene from Clueless).

                10. LBK*

                  I wonder if business size should be included in that conversation as well – I’d guess small businesses have a lower instance of required travel than large, multi-location/multi-national companies.

              4. Observer*

                The person with anxiety, though, does not seem to be expressing a typical issue AND is clearly misunderstanding the purpose of team-building exercises. The latter does seem to be popping up a lot in the discussion. But, to be honest, I still don’t see why most of the posters are having a problem with “spouse going away without me.” In fact, the way many of them are putting it, it really does sound like “Not fair for spouse to enjoy without me” or “I don’t trust spouse out of my sight” vs “I need some support here.” As others have pointed out, as well, all of the logistical problems would seem to be exacerbated by spouses / SO’s coming along.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Well, as I said below, I’m coming at it from the other side–that I might feel bad going without him. Not because I’m worried about what he’ll do at home by himself, but just because I’d be off in some gorgeous spot while he was stuck here, and I’d feel bad. That’s not so say I wouldn’t do it; I would. And he wouldn’t object. But I would think it was a little unfair to him! :)

                2. Colette*

                  @Kelly L. – I went on a trip to California one January. When I came back, the customs agent said “How was the weather?” My response was “It looked nice”. I was in a nice location, but I was in meetings from 8 am to 8 pm every day. I suspect the teambuilding activity the OP was asking about is also not a vacation.

                3. fposte*

                  It hasn’t been articulated this way yet, but I think some of this is also related to the issues in post #1–that a week of dawn-to-bed expectations of an employee’s time really is a lot, and that jobs that regularly expect people to sacrifice their home life and free time for their work are tough on everybody involved. If I were at #1’s job and was then told we were going away for a week for team-building, I’d be pretty unhappy at what would seem to be an exacerbation of the time issues.

                  But I don’t think that can be assumed as the norm, and I’d treat it more like a conference–it’s weird-hours travel and business stuff that happens occasionally, not a creeping encroachment onto my free time.

                4. Stranger than fiction*

                  Yes anxiety disorder can be a valid reason. And Kelly L I’m and Admi and I occasionally travel overnight with my two managers to our vendor/provider

          2. HeyNonnyNonny*

            How about someone just loves their spouse and wants to be with them– even if it’s only sleeping and snatching a few moments here and there?

            1. LBK*

              I know this probably wasn’t your intention, but I’m not a fan of the implication that you don’t love your spouse if you don’t want to spend every possible second with them.

              1. HeyNonnyNonny*

                No, that wasn’t my intention! I was responding to the comment that the only reasons could be mistrust or ‘it’s not fair’– that some people might have positive reasons for wanting to come along on a trip like this.

            2. Colette*

              You can love your spouse and want to be with them while recognizing that it’s OK for you to be separated for several days when there’s a good reason.

          3. ThursdaysGeek*

            Another reason is that he would enjoy it too. I’ve gone on business trips (not team building!) with my spouse, and it was because 1) I can find things to enjoy while he is working, 2) I know some of his co-workers and it was ok to hang out with them, and 3) I was willing to meet and to be pleasant to people I didn’t know yet.

            It’s been ok for one of us to travel and have fun without the other, but when the opportunity presents itself for us to travel together, we are also quite capable of having fun while the other works.

        2. jag*

          There have be several posts here about reasons (worry about travel alone, not wanting to be away from family, wanting spouse to experience things with you). They don’t apply to me and I don’t think they make the request to have a spouse go on the trip appropriate, but they are not that hard to conceive.

          My point isn’t about this topic – the OP is off-base it seems to me. It’s about the lack of willingness or ability to recognize that people think differently, and to at least try to imagine their motivations rather than being “amazed” that they are different.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          I have to chuckle, some work groups I have been with just going across town to a restaurant was a huge deal. NO way would I consider going to a foreign country with these people. They would mess with your stuff, give you the wrong info, etc. Trust falls would not work here as they would just let others hit the floor. And that would be considered very funny.
          So if I had to go somewhere with a group like this, I would have discretely tried to find out if I could bring my husband. Call it being desperate for a friendly face.

          Less extreme but still viable-if I felt I did not have a friend at work. Even if people were fairly cordial but stand-offish. I would want to have someone around. I can see here that saying husband is handy because it’s a marriage. To ask to bring a BFF would really be weird. Not saying I would act on it- but I know the thought would go through my head. So I can see how other people would think of that, too.

      1. Cheesecake*

        Why don’t we have a right to express our “i don’t get it” moments?
        There is a difference between “imagining” and “understanding”. I can imagine that it sucks to be away from my husband; i sometimes imagine i come back to my lonely business trip hotel room and find him there, complaining about a mess i left in the bathroom :) But i don’t understand why it is such a huge deal. My mind is open, i don’t judge or accuse anyone of anything here. Just sayin.

      2. LBK*

        I can conceive of reasons why someone might not like it. I can’t conceive of any good reasons why someone might not like it, or at least not any that are remotely appropriate to bring up in the workplace.

        1. fposte*

          I’m going to split hairs a little and say that you can have personal good reasons that aren’t good work-culture reasons; I think the issue we’re really discussing is whether your reason for declining/spouse-bringing will be acceptable to your work.

    4. Allison*

      Sometimes I wonder if there are trust issues, people are either worried their spouse will cheat while they’re separated by a business trip. They might worry about what a lot of business travel could do to their marriage. Maybe they think that by going ~together~ they’ll get to strengthen their marriage rather than worry about infidelity.

      Or maybe in some cases people worry they won’t be able to function while being away from their spouse.

      Or they know being with their co-workers that long will drive them insane unless they have their spouse staying with them.

      1. Nashira*

        Your middle idea could be due to the spouse being a disabled person’s support person. My husband helps me handle my multiple overlapping chronic illnesses, sometimes in ways I’m embarrassed to tell other people about. (No one wants to admit to needing a minder since flying causes pain so severe that between it and meds, you’re barely able to walk. See also: reasons I hope to be able to avoid business travel…)

        1. LBK*

          I totally understand being embarrassed by it and not wanting to tell people, but I would hope a good manager would a) create a welcoming environment where you could tell them if needed in a situation like this, and b) be able to give a firm but vague statement to others who questioned why you couldn’t go/got to bring a spouse so that the question was deflected without violating your privacy.

          1. Nashira*

            Good point. I think I’ve worked too long in an office that’s hostile towards people with disabilities, especially those of us who deal with flare/fade patterns. I don’t know what good management would look like, I don’t think, so I’m assuming most places are Dens of Awfulness and Sad Makers.

        2. A Cita*

          I can understand this. But I think that’s generally not the most common reason for the middle idea. I think it generally has more to do with dependence in a different, possibly not emotionally healthy way.

          And I would hope any good manager would allow one to bring their care-giver/support person in that situation without getting into too much detail (though they would have to explain a little, as uncomfortable as that would be).

    5. Iro*

      The one thing I can see is; I’m going to an international coprorate event that lasts W, Th, F, but I’ve decided to extend my stay until W of next week. I pay for the additional hotel days, but essentially I’m getting a free ride to and from this country. Thus I add my spouse, paying for his ticket, he stays in the room as well, but he’s on his own W, Th, F while I’m at corporate event.

      In this way you can add an affordable vacation for your spouse onto the event. It’s a really common set up for scientist going to international conferences. My lab does this stuff all the time.

    6. Sunflower*

      How OP asked the question is a little confusing. I think it’s totally normal to not have spouses invited on any work trip, team building or not. This isn’t something anyone should get mad over.

      However, I also do not think it’s strange for a spouse or someone to come along on the trip. I’m someone who likes to travel and do stuff my own thing alone but I don’t particularly enjoy staying in a hotel room alone (although I do it for work all the time). If someone had a work trip somewhere I was interested in traveling, to me it would actually be the perfect trip to go on. Do my own stuff during the day, don’t have to sleep in a room alone at night.

      Maybe because I travel a lot for work it’s common sense to me that traveling for work is far from a party. I wouldn’t expect tagging along on a trip with someone to be a trip for us together.

      1. fposte*

        I think this is where a team-building trip might be different, though. Spouses often come along at conferences, for instance, where the work schedule is free-form and self-created, and where you’re not under direct supervision by your boss. A team-building trip is just moving your workplace to a different location, and you’re under supervision and company-generated scheduling the whole time. To me it would be like bringing your spouse to an evening where you were working late.

        Probably they’re not all like that, but I think it’s worth being attuned to the differences in business travel, especially if an employee is considering asking if a spouse could attend.

      2. BananaPants*

        My company’s travel policy says that a spouse may accompany an employee on a business trip as long as the spouse’s travel, meals, entertainment, etc. is paid for by the employee (only the employee’s expenses are covered by the company). It’s very common among coworkers whose kids are grown and out of the house and whose spouses do not work themselves. If we could afford the airfare I’d absolutely get a babysitter and bring my husband along once or twice; it’s unlikely that we’d ever be able to afford true leisure travel to many of the destinations that I could go on a business trip!

    7. Elizabeth West*

      Same here; when my colleagues travel overseas to meet with clients, they don’t have time to do anything unless they add extra PTO days on the back end of the trip and cover their own expenses for those days. And even then, the spouses would have to sit around and entertain themselves while they were working.

  13. Matt*

    I think it’s more about the forced separation from your partner or your family. In everyday working life, there are those 8 hours or whatever your work day is, plus the commute, and the rest of the day belongs to your private life and your family. If you have to go on business travel, suddenly the other 16 hours of the day are taken from you too. I understand that it’s reasonable to expect business travel in many jobs, but I also understand that for different people it could mean a different degree of a personal hardship. I would not be enthusiastic if told by my boss that I wouldn’t be able to see my girlfriend for one or two weeks, regardless of what a great holiday this would otherwise be.

    1. Cheesecake*

      I highly doubt we are talking about one, let alone two-weeks team building. That is just ridiculous. It is understandable for a business trip or long training, but not for a corporate “get together”.

      1. Judy*

        I’ve been on several week long teambuilding trips. When you are creating a team for a new project, you need to get to know the teammates from other locations and come away with concrete plans on how to interact.

        My last one was in Chicago. There were 7 people from within the US, 3 people from Europe, 2 from Asia, and 2 from South America. Our meeting started at 1 pm on a Monday, and ended at 11 am on Friday. One day we ended the meeting early, at about 3 pm and went on the architectural boat tour. The rest of the days we were meeting from 8 – 6 with evening restaurants and bar visits planned. I usually had less than 8 hours in my room to answer emails, shower and sleep at night. There would be no reason for my husband to come, beyond the fact that he wouldn’t want to spend one week of his vacation time to go somewhere and not see me.

        1. Cheesecake*

          I am confused by the word “meeting” that is used along with “team building”. For me, if you spend time discussing or working on a project (is that why you need a “meeting”?), that is not really a team building, it is a business trip with some fun in between. What i mean by a team building is strictly no work: it can be some outdoorsy activities or indoor team building games or hanging by the pool so colleagues take a note of each others amazing physique, or whatever, but NO work. That is why i can’t imagine doing..well..nothing with colleagues for a whole week.

          1. Colette*

            I’ve done teambuilding activities that included things like personality types, talking about trust, etc. – i.e. true activities meant to help people work together better, not simply relaxing or doing fun things.

          2. Judy*

            I guess I’ve never been on a team building that is a general “Let’s build a team”, that is not “Let’s build a team to accomplish X”.

            All of the team building I’ve been at included:
            * Introductions
            * Personality and cultural discussions
            * Project summary
            * Issue discussion – where we see the risks based on past projects
            * Discussion of project roles and responsibilities
            * Lots of brainstorming

            We usually exit with a document or two plus a power point to document results to upper management. Engineers don’t usually go for trust falls.

            1. Doreen*

              That really depends on the job. My job is not project based and the team we are all on is the one with the goal of fufilling the mission of our agency. About 6 years ago we had a weeklong trip to a resort in the off season. Much of the time was spent in meetings and training, but the actual team building activities weren’t things like hanging out at the pool or trust falls. The activities involved separating into teams comprised of people from different functional and geographic areas ( a lawyer from NYC , someone from HR in Albany and someone from operations in Buffalo, for example) working toward a goal that was totally unrelated to anyone’s actual job.

          3. LBK*

            I think we’re talking about two different forms of team building. One is usually no more than 2 days long, and that’s a lot of non-work activities like games, group puzzles, getting to know you stuff, etc. The other is more like a working retreat, where you all get out of the office together but you’re still doing work-related stuff. My boyfriend’s company has every January to kick off the year, and they call it a team-building event even though it is basically all meetings and presentations and not trust falls and rope courses.

            1. Cheesecake*

              I guess it is just a name thing. Whenever there were clear work activities, like get to know the project team, brainstorming a project etc – that was called a workshop. And team building was games, puzzles, get to know your colleagues by trying not to drink too much – that stuff and it was indeed 2 days.

          4. The RO-Cat*

            it can be some outdoorsy activities or indoor team building games or hanging by the pool so colleagues take a note of each others amazing physique, or whatever

            Well, probably that’s why teambuilding got this bad image. A good TB program is far from leisurely (or awkwardly) oudoor-ing.

            A TB request starts with studying both the participants *and* the issues inside the company. Based on that, a sequence of activities is designed, to help them find their own solutions to the specific problems (mis-communication? a certain TB design; conflicts? a different one). There may be outdoor activities and maybe some indoor ones (rarely will you find an outdoor-only TB program, leaving aside Team Adventure ones which are a different animal completely), but a good TB is anything *but* leisurely wasting time. There are metrics used to gauge the effects, impact and so on.

            All in all, good TB is as energy-intensive as any good soft-skills program, just with a very clear desired outcome.

            1. Cheesecake*

              I had a team building event that Judy is describing bellow. We had activities to choose from (upfront) and obviously we did them in a small groups.I must say it was not done as you describe (and as it is supposed to be done). It was more like “you work unpaid overtime – here, have some fun with colleagues”. My husband recently had a team building where they did “laughing yoga”, basically you stand all together and just laugh. His industry is quite an old-school male one, and i’d join just to see this outrage.

          5. fposte*

            I’ve never heard of a team-building trip that would just turn people loose to hang by the pool, though. There might be team-building exercises (which I still count as work because you’re doing them with colleagues), but there would also be facilitated discussions about the organization, meetings, etc.

            1. Judy*

              The only ones that I’ve heard of that are almost like that are 11 am for the rest of the day “company picnic” type. Catered lunch at a park, then arranged list of activities like softball, basketball, volleyball, cornhole tourney, euchre tourney in the shelter house, etc. Everyone was expected to be interacting with co-workers. It’s not unusual where I have worked to have something like that during the summer months, but it’s generally for an entire site, rather than just a team.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, I’ve known a few of those. But those are mostly pretty clearly labeled as such, I think, and they don’t generally stray very far from home. (At least I hope not. It’d be really annoying to have to brave the TSA for basketball and barbecue for a day.)

    2. MJH*

      Yep, I like my husband. He’s my favorite person to be around, and if I am going somewhere awesome (like an international resort!), I’d like him to be with me for the fun of it. But…I would not ask or expect to bring him on a team-building exercise, nor would I be *too* upset if I had to go, because I understand sometimes jobs require things like this. But I would be bummed about leaving. I have no worries about his fidelity or his inability to manage without me. I just want to be with him!

      1. Kelly L.*

        This–and I would feel kind of bad if I got to go to some awesome resort destination and my SO didn’t, especially if it was somewhere he’d always wanted to go. I could go without him, and would if that was the norm, but I would feel a bit like a heel!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I understand this! But I think it would motivate me to save up/earn PTO/whatever so we could go somewhere equally awesome together (not the same place, so we would have an experience that was all our own).

  14. Wayner*

    I had an interview 10 years ago immediately after returning from Antarctica. I had frostbite on my nose that was very obvious. It made quite an impression. I had a great story to open the interview with! I was even offered the job.

  15. Hannah*

    #3: I think the boss should be discrete if you ask them to.
    But I find it weird when people take long absences and the boss doesn’t tell anyone why. I had a coworker go AWOL with no warning and my boss told us nothing. Come to find out months later, through the grapevine, that his wife died! I just felt terrible that he’s been going through that and I’ve never acknowledged it or given my condolences because I don’t know if he asked the boss for privacy or if the boss decided on his own to keep it a secret. At this point, everyone knows around the office but it was handled in such an awkward way as a rumor. I guess it depends on the situation, but it just seems like, unless it’s something private, your boss might let people know you got hurt so that they can act like human beings and ask how you’re doing when you get back?

    1. esra*

      My bosses did that. I asked them to tell people not to give cards/flowers after my father passed away, and they just didn’t tell anyone anything! So of course when I got back everyone wanted to know where I was + had questions and I was like, thanks guys. This is exactly what I didn’t want.

    2. AnotherHRPro*

      This is always a difficult balance. Generally, it is best to follow the employee’s lead. I find that if in doubt, just ask the employee.

      I did have an unpleasant experience back when I was in my 20’s. I had a family member die in a very unexpected and violent way. The organization I worked at (Catholic University) send a prayer request out to all employees that included a description of what happened. When I returned to work I got to see the email and then have everyone want to talk to me about it. It made a difficult and heart wrenching situation even harder. I share this to explain that not everyone wants their personal business shared openly.

  16. BRR*

    #1 My coworker mentioned at their previous employer there was a culture of working late. Except that people stayed until 8 but played around on facebook.

    1. De Minimis*

      I used to have the opposite issue, there’d be nothing to do all day then some client info would come in around 4 or 5 o’clock and I’d end up having to stay another 5 or 6 hours.

  17. Sabrina*

    The company might still exist in some form. The Titanic was owned by the White Star Line, through various sales through the years, it’s now owned by Carnival. My husband used to work at Pamida Corporate (bonus points if you know what that is) and we had to direct our mortgage officer to ShopKo. So, it might still be possible.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I had to google Pamida; we didn’t have those here. :)

      You’re right that it can get complicated. As I understand it, Carnival owns Cunard, which took over the White Star Line. RMS Titanic Inc. still has salvor-in-possession rights to the ship, along with its owner Premier Exhibitions (has rights to the personal property onboard). The ship is in international, public waters and therefore no claim can be made as to ownership of the actual wreck. It’s absolutely nuts how that works. (Off-off topic: I think the reason for most of the artifact controversy is that we can remember Titanic survivors; nobody squawks about plundering a Roman shipwreck for amphorae to exhibit, and yet we do that all the time.)

      It’s easier when a company is taken over like we were at Exjob–that was simple. A large worldwide conglomerate bought out my company and it became something like Exjob, a Global Giant Company. It’s still open, but if it were to close, I would have to refer to Global Giant’s contacts on my resume.

  18. shellbell*

    “I had an accident that had me out of work for 2 days and was told by some in attendance that the reason for my absence was divulged.”

    I would it totally normal to say so and so was in a minor car accident, but is ok and will be out for a few days. Or so and so has the nasty cold that’s going around so is working from home. I think that is a far cry different from disclosing cancer or surgery if the person hasn’t ok’d it. Obviously if people want things like the first two examples keep secret that should be respected, but assume they are upset about it or that it violates a law seems…overblown.

    1. Nerd Girl*

      I don’t give any information beyond “I am ill and won’t be coming in to work today” when I call out. It’s not necessary for someone at work to know the reasons beyond that. If my absence is going to be extended then I would expect some manner of privacy regarding my reasons. If I found out my manager had told my co-workers I was out for an extended time due to my recent case of explosive diarrhea I would feel that the manager had crossed a line. It’s okay to expect “Nerd Girl will be out for several days. She is still not feeling well.” Anything beyond that is not okay.

      1. Colette*

        I’d find it weird to say “I’m ill and won’t be coming to work today” in a lot of situations (like, for example, getting your wisdom teeth out or breaking your leg or having a medical test). You certainly can be as vague as you want, but it comes across as a little cold. I usually get along well with my coworkers, and would be concerned if they were suddenly absent without explanation. (I wouldn’t ask, but I’d wonder.) From a business perspective, it’s also important to know whether you’ll be gone for a day or two or a week or two – there’s a difference with respect to how to arrange coverage.

        Having said that, if the manager is sharing personal details, I’d be as vague as possible. For example, “I’ve come down with a bug and will be out today” or “I am having a medical procedure and will be out for two weeks”.

    2. Robin*

      Maybe I am a bit more sensitive because I did have cancer and parts of my treatment were revealed to people that I would never speak to about such personal business. This time, he trivialized my injury and since I have returned to work, with a doctor’s note, he has questioned me like a police interrogation as if to see if my “story” is consistent. Other than time off for treatment for 6 weeks, my only time out of work was for the 2 days for this injury.

      1. Sadsack*

        Wow, your sensitivity here is completely understandable. Your manager should have just said, “Robin is out for a procedure for the next few weeks. Here’s how I’d like to handle her absence…” You probably ended up telling him details because it is hard not to when you have an extended absence like yours, but he never should have shared it.

      2. fposte*

        Your manager sounds like an ass.

        With non-ass managers, I think it can be helpful to let them know what information you’re okay with them sharing; I suspect that one reason why extra stuff gets disclosed sometimes is that the manager hasn’t been given an Official Message and starts winging it. I know I’ve talked with employees about that when they’ve had health stuff more complicated than being out for a bug or a procedure, and since it’s in the employee’s interest, it might be worth taking a lead on that if the manager doesn’t seem to be thinking about the topic that way.

    3. PuppyPetter*

      I had a problem that required emergency surgery and called 3 people at the office (My CFO/HR, my assistant, and a friend) that I was on the way to the ER and would be out for the next 10+ days. Unfortunately, this was less than 24 hours after I had been laid off from my position there and some how the reason for my going to the ER got, um, corrupted…
      I got some interesting texts about how I had a lot of people supporting me and who cared about me.
      Despite my telling her that it was not an unexpected ER visit, my friend thought it was because of the layoffs and told several people in a way that made them think the worst.

  19. Allison*

    I wonder if OP1’s boss is worried about apperances, more specifically how they’re perceived as a manager. They want to be able to say “look how passionate and dedicated my team is to this project! look how hard they’re working! look how they’re going above and beyond every day!” (which translates to “look how good I am at motivating them!”) If other managers’ teams work late and OP1’s team doesn’t, maybe their manager is afraid they’ll look bad. Maybe this manager has upper management breathing down his/her neck.

    1. OP1*

      From being concerned (obsessed?) about appearances to having an overly involved upper management, your guesses are on point about some of the factors in this situation.

  20. Michele*

    For the skateboarder–I have a somewhat adventurous streak with hobbies such as mountain biking and white water kayaking that have left me a bruised and battered mess. I wear the marks with confidence, like badges of honor. If you look like you are trying to cover them up, it looks like you are apologizing for them and for doing something wrong. If you wear them with confidence, people will just take it in stride.

    1. LBK*

      Eh…I don’t know if that’s 100% true. I’d still be curious about a huge cut on someone’s forehead, enough so that it would distract me during an interview if they just pretended it wasn’t there. It’s not about trying to hide it or thinking that you did something wrong – I don’t think most people would jump to “gang fight” or something else potentially nefarious.

      1. fposte*

        I don’t see Michele as saying “don’t mention it,” though–she’s just saying don’t bother to try to cover them up.

    2. Colette*

      There are probably specific injuries where it makes sense to cover them up, though – not because you’re apologizing for them, but because they may distract your interviewer.

  21. Nerd Girl*

    #4 – my husband recently interviewed with a company. Between the first and second interviews -a time span of about a week- he got kicked in the face while at work and got a pretty good black eye. He was very nervous about this but basically explained what happened and the interview moved on. He ended up getting the job, even with the black eye.
    Just explain and rock that interview! Good Luck!!

      1. Nashira*

        Oh, I could see it happening a lot of ways. If you work with kids; prisoners; adults with intellectual disabilities, in substance abuse treatment, or with mental illnesses*; or you’re doing something on the floor and someone accidentally kicks you… man, I’ve worked in work comp too long!

        *Mentally ill people are not inherently violent, and I do not mean to make them sound that way. But if a person is put in a manual hold, to prevent self-harming behavior, sometimes they struggle and an accident can happen.

        1. Cheesecake*

          Oh yes, seems legit. As I sit in the office,”kicked in the face at work” implies a juicy fight between employees :D

      2. BT Keeney*

        Tee hee! OTJ injuries are *really* common when you work around livestock. Show me a horse person who hasn’t been kicked or stepped on, and I’ll eat my paddock boots. However, being injured by a human would be very upsetting.

    1. PuppyPetter*

      TeeHee – as a martial artist, I’ve had to explain to many people, including my Pastor, that no, I was not in an abusive relationship and no, I did not need mental counseling.
      People get hurt in all sorts of ways, explain it briefly if it’s obvious and carry on.

  22. Lia*

    I actually have traveled with my spouse on business, and we hardly saw each other. We used to work in the same field and would attend the same conferences together — but we attended different sessions and basically just saw each other in the evenings in our room (which we shared because my employer at the time refused to reimburse me for travel). We now work in different fields, but the expectations on business travel in both fields are meetings/sessions from breakfast through dinner, and often evening events or meetings, so any spousal time would be minimal, at best.

    If I had to share a room, yes, I would prefer it to be with a spouse rather than a random co-worker, but I think that goes without saying!

    I had a conference last year in Orlando and numerous people who attended *did* bring their families but almost all sent them home before the sessions started — they just got there a couple of days early and did some sightseeing, then the spouse and kids went back home. The conference hotel gave us a cheap rate for up to 3 days on either end of the 5 day conference, probably to encourage that.

  23. ism*

    #4 / OP4 :
    I once interviewed for a job when I was recovering from a bicycle accident. I had a broken rib, bruised liver, and bruises all over my body including my forehead and a black eye. I couldn’t reschedule!

    I recommend you acknowledge it immediately like I did, and like others recommend here. “Hi, great to meet you, I’m OP4! Please excuse my apppearance; I’m sure you noticed I was in an accident recently, but I’m recovering well and really excited to be here today!”

    In my case, I looked so terrible I think the interviewers felt sorry for me. I was asked about my accident in more detail and I wisely left off the fact that I didn’t have a helmet. I didn’t get the job, but it wasn’t because of my appearance or my accident story. And here is where you want to be careful if they ask about your accident in more detail than you give them (it’s my opinion that all but the most sticklers of managers WILL ask out of sheer curiosity). You don’t want to sound TOO risky and adventurous and give them the impression you get in this kind of trouble frequently – maybe mention something about wearing skating safety gear and you do this regularly and this is the first time you’ve ever had an accident, etc – but it is a good idea to put a positive spin on why you skate – fun, health, and so on.

    1. Cheesecake*

      I think this is a very valid point: do tell, but don’t sound like you want to cast for jackass. Otherwise, saying “oh yes, not a big deal, happens often” will make interviewer question how dangerous it is and how many days you will skip by being in the hospital.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      My friend was doing his hobby- let’s call it Dangerous Activity. But he was good at it after doing it for decades. One day he landed in the ER. He was out of work for 11 weeks. The boss said “If you do Dangerous Activity again, you can consider yourself automatically FIRED.”

      Yep. It’s legal.

      The clue I took from that is what you are saying here, it’s not a good idea to come across as being too big a risk taker. It’s not just using the insurance, it’s also the down time that you are not available to work.

      It took a while to unfold but my friend kept the Dangerous Activity and ditched the job. The next employer did not care about Dangerous Activity.

  24. Gobrightbrand*


    I had this problem at my last job. My review went something like this, “We’ve never had anyone who go the work done faster with so much accuracy …. the perception is you clock in and out and leave a 5:30 on the dot”. It was infuriating. Most days I finished all my work by 3pm, would go around asking people if they needed help and the traffic manager. So being told I needed to stay late once in a while for perception reasons really rubbed me the wrong way. Most of the people who stayed late goofed off all day, took 2 hours lunches etc…

    So what I started doing was twice a week I would sit at my computer and what an episode of TV show I liked. Nobody could tell and it appeared I was staying late. Because this was a show I would have watched at home anyway . After I started doing that I no longer got feedback that I “clocked in and clocked out”.

    It was ridiculous.

  25. ITChick*

    #3 made me cringe, but that’s probably because I work in risk and compliance for healthcare. It can be a HIPAA violation if the person is on FMLA as a result of whatever is keeping them from work, even if it’s intermittent FMLA. It is not always, but if someone is on FMLA bosses and HR people should tread very carefully. Just because you aren’t directly in healthcare does not mean HIPAA doesn’t apply to you.

    1. fposte*

      It kind of does, though–to be a covered entity under HIPAA as an employer, it looks like you either have to be a health care provider or a provider of a self-insured health care plan. But you’re probably right that the latter aren’t necessarily training their people as well as they might on this.

      1. A Cita*

        Yes, it’s about if your work requires you to have access to patient health information (identifying medical records). And your work has to be involved in healthcare in some way. For instance, if you’re a researcher at a university’s medical school whose research involves human subjects (even if just interviewing them, no clinical trials) and the research requires you to have access to identifying health information, then that falls under HIPAA (although you can get a waiver in some instances). However, the exact same research done in the sociology or anthropology department of a university would not fall under HIPAA. (It would fall under IRB, but that’s a different thing and only for researchers, not employers, journalists, etc.)

          1. A Cita*

            Oh absolutely. I have to work both under HIPAA and go through IRB, and the IRB process is so much more work and intense (but necessary and valuable to protect participants!). I also have to do it for each hospital I recruit from and I wish there was just one standardized form! Standardization, people!!!!!

    2. LBK*

      I don’t think that’s really accurate. HIPAA is meant to protect someone’s medical information from being disclosed by a person who wouldn’t have access to that information otherwise. So, for example, even if Jane works in a doctor’s office and tells her manager that she’s out sick with the flu, that information isn’t protected by HIPAA. It would only be protected by HIPAA if Jane were being treated at that office and her manager found out she had the flu by reading her chart. I don’t know if this changes whether the leave is just regular sick time vs. FMLA, but I suspect it doesn’t because the nature of how Jane’s manager knows that information is still the same.

      I suspect as a matter of risk aversion and avoiding unverifiable he said/she said situations those conversations are discouraged anyway, but it’s not the letter of the law.

      1. LBK*

        Oops – I rewrote that second sentence and apparently cut out some nouns. HIPAA is meant to protect someone’s medical information from being disclosed by a person *with access to their medical records* who wouldn’t otherwise have that info.

  26. Macedon*

    #1. I’m going to let my green ears peer and ask the inevitable: what kind of activities are generally undertaken during team-building events? (Other than Alison’s collection of anecdote horrors, which I’m going to optimistically hope doesn’t reflect the norm.) I’m in an industry that doesn’t really bother with these kind of activities, and I’ll admit I’ve ignorantly assumed they were more along the lines of… social events? Low-key co-worker parties?

    1. fposte*

      Oh, I bet “green ears peer” is a non-English idiom–I hadn’t heard that, and it’s delightful.

      I can’t speak to the longer ones, but the versions I’ve encountered are mostly talking about goals, writing stuff on flip charts, doing the occasional written exercise to identify team dynamics, etc. It was actually a good experience, and the facilitators clearly knew their audience–we did a few things that were a little non-linear and slightly out of our comfort zone, but nothing silly.

      1. Macedon*

        I’m afraid that was just my questionable word play on ‘green behind the ears’ and ‘letting your ignorance’ show, all wrapped up in the myth that producing coherent copy is, in fact, physically possible before your third cup of coffee of the day!

          1. De (Germany)*

            German has “Grünschnabel” for people new to stuff – literal translation “green beak”

        1. A Cita*

          Even better. Love made up and random sounding idioms. Pre-third-cup time is clearly creative writing time!

    2. Judy*

      As I said above, most of the team building events I’ve been involved in are “Let’s build the team for this project” and involve things like:
      * Introductions
      * Project description and statements
      * Brainstorming, especially about failure and risk
      * Presentations or reviews of similar past project postmortems
      * Discussion of project roles and responsibilites
      * Maybe one late afternoon excursion to gokarts or local attraction
      * Evening restaurant and bar plans
      * Usually there’s prework and everyone has been assigned topics to cover about the technical challenges of the project.

      We were expected to end the meeting with documented notes and an executive summary of the outcomes.

      I’ve also been to “Company Picnic” type events that were much larger (100-500 people) that was basically a catered lunch at a park and then sports and card game tourneys, and everyone left about 2-3 pm. But those are usually just 4 hours and are everyone in the design division.

      1. Macedon*

        Thanks for the insight – I think a lot of that would be covered during team meetings at most workplaces I’m familiar with. (This may or may not include the go karts.) Is the atmosphere more relaxed, or in any way different from that of a typical work meeting?

        1. Judy*

          It might be more relaxed, but not always. The idea, even with a local only team (rare in corporate environments these days), is to take everyone out of their daily environment, so there will be fewer interruptions. The last 5-10 years or so, we’ve rarely ended up with teams in the same building much less on the same continent.

          1. Alma*

            Especially if this event is going to be out of the country, the topic of medical coverage if needed MUST be researched before plans are made. If there are team members who have a history of anything, or need an appendectomy, or injure themselves, what will happen, and who will pay the out of pocket costs that may need to be paid before treatment, or before you get on an air ambulance to haul you back to the States?

            An acquaintance went to a team building day whitewater rafting, when the river was especially swift. He was seriously injured in his shoulder, required extensive surgery (more than just rotator cuff stuff), and then told “it didn’t happen at work so it is not covered by worker’s compensation.” He was told he was there voluntarily – he said there was no option about whether one could choose to not attend. And this was close to excellent hospitals and doctors in the US. What if this happens in another country?

            Just saying. Cover your bases.

  27. RVA Cat*

    # 3 – I think Allison’s answer is spot on.
    What you don’t want is to set an (awkward) norm where the details of someone’s illness will be shared, setting up a situation where at the times it *isn’t* shared, the rumor mill will take off, with people’s wild assumptions going to the catastrophic (cancer) or embarrassing (protology, STDs, etc.).

  28. Cupcake*

    My husband, who travelled for business often, also had an annual company meeting in a fun, touristy place (different every year). Yeah, it was supposed to be a bit of a perk for the sales staff, but it was still staff only. However, he always asked to extend his flight through the weekend. Then, I hopped a flight out there on Friday and we enjoyed a fun weekend before flying home together. Bonus, his boss always picked up the tab for the hotel while we stayed, although that was never expected or assumed.
    If this might be an option for you, don’t forget to ask about it before the airline tickets are purchased. Changing itineraries can be expensive, and it would make sense for the company to not want to pay that fee.
    To be fair to the OP, though, there were always one or two employees who used the time away to pretend they were single. If you feel your spouse is one of these, it would make more sense to reexamine your marriage than the workplace. Opportunities are always going to exist, whether it is at an all-inclusive or your own backyard and your spouse’s workplace should not have to concern themselves with that aspect of their employee’s lives.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. My husband’s industry has an annual conference that he gets to attend every other year. It worked out well for us to turn it into a vacation – though maybe it wasn’t such a great idea the time it was in Vegas and I was losing money gambling while he was in meetings. ;)
      Unfortunately he will have to go alone this year, though I am ticked because it is in New Orleans. However we have an infant and I can’t exactly push a stroller down Bourbon Street with a Hurricane in my hand….

      1. Cupcake*

        Or COURSE you can! There is much to see in NOLA that can be family friendly. The beautiful churches, the restaurants, a “stroll” in the Garden District to view the beautiful and unique architecture of old New Orleans. Don’t let your infant keep you tied to home and miss this wonderful opportunity.

        1. RVA Cat*

          Thanks all. Yes there is a lot to do that is family friendly. If we were near enough to not have to fly, I would go. Alas much of my vacation time is already spoken for by a beach trip later this summer.

        2. Stephanie*

          My parents had a party and I remember my neighbor walking home with a stroller in one hand and a beer in the other.

  29. Serin*

    The other problem with company cultures that punish people for not staying late is that it gives the numbers people a false idea of staffing requirements. On paper, “This department is fully staffed with four full-time people.” … in reality, every single week that department’s work is requiring 220 hours of salaried people’s work time.

    1. catsAreCool*

      I have the theory that people’s brains don’t work so well after a certain amount of hours worked. I can work extra, but after a certain point, my critical thought process isn’t as sharp as it was.

  30. SloppyLips*

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I’ve shaken my head many times at the lack of protections employees have in the US. But I just had to comment after reading #3.

    Wow, just wow. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read that letter. Are there no privacy laws in the United States? I’m surprised that this practice would be accepted or even seen as acceptable! What’s the added value to the company when divulging the reason an employee is absent from the office? I understand that there are a major differences between the US and Canadian employment laws…but this, I’m flabbergasted. The manager has a need to know, which is fine and understandable. But other employees? If managers are worried about rumours in the office, that’s a totally separate problem that should be dealt with accordingly without infringing on a person’s privacy. Other than knowing that a certain person won’t be in the office for X amount of time…I don’t see the need to share this information with employees.

    Then again, I work in Access to Information and the Protection of Privacy field, so I’m sensitive to such things, which was why my mind = blown and I just had to post.

    1. LBK*

      I mean, I guess it depends on your relationships with your coworkers, but if someone I worked with was in a car accident I’d want to know just on a personal level because I would be concerned for their health. Why do you want to know when your friends or family members have medical issues? That’s not technically any of your business either.

      1. LBK*

        Oh, and also it obviously depends on the nature of the information that’s being divulged. It’s definitely not a manager’s place to tell everyone an employee has a serious illness like cancer, nor do they need to go into the gory details, but I don’t see what’s outrageous about a manager saying “Jane’s out with the flu”.

        1. SloppyLips*

          Just because a person wants to know, doesn’t give them the right to know. With family and friends, they might feel comfortable sharing this information with you because they feel they can trust you. If they don’t, they won’t tell you. Since it’s their own personal information, they can do as they see fit. But having someone else give that information out without that person’s consent is breaching a person’s privacy. Course, the “over sharer” might not care, but the “reserved and reclusive one” might.

          I don’t see a problem telling the office someone is out sick (keeping it vague). But telling the office that they have the flu or a cold shouldn’t be allowed to happen but it’s common place and is…acceptable. But indeed, informing the office about a serious illness should never, ever happen.

          1. Colette*

            I don’t think the manager should provide details about a serious illness, but they will need to explain that their employee is dealing with a serious illness. There are very few jobs where no one will notice if you don’t show up for a few weeks or months.

            1. LBK*

              Totally agreed that they need to say something. One of the sales reps was out for over 2 months on what we eventually found out was medical leave (from her when she came back), but there was never anything said by management the entire time. It was super weird. Literally all they had to do was say “Jane will be out until further notice due to a medical issue” and it would’ve avoided a ton of rumors and the overall confusion of someone just vanishing off the face of the earth.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I have worked in several places where people just let it all hang out and no one seemed to mind.

      There was a general concern mostly, it came from a good place.
      However, individuals could chose not to discuss their medical matter, it wasn’t like anyone who wanted privacy was deprived of it.

      But yes, conversations could get very candid. One place my boss knew I had x problem. My coworker was chatting with Boss about her most recent doctor visit. My coworker was pretty rattled. My boss sent the coworker over to me to talk about my experience. My boss knew I would explain to her that it’s not that big a deal reasons a, b, c and d. And that is what I did.

      I am grateful to the people who have shared their stories with me because I have learned so much that I would probably not have learned otherwise.
      The extreme violations that people talk about here, I have not seen. Most of the time, I see people respecting others’ requests for privacy. I am thinking that is why it gets discussed here, because it’s not happening in every workplace, nor is it happening all the time. Yet, there are plenty of people who have no discretion and no sense of boundaries.

  31. LawBee*

    Man, I miss Blockbuster Video. I’m telling you now, this “everything is streaming forever!” is going to BACKFIRE, and there I’ll be, renting out my Hannibal dvds and cackling.

  32. ThursdaysGeek*

    #1 – I had a boss who wanted all of us to work a minimum of 50 hours a week to be considered adequate. He told a energizing story about a boy who spent all day mowing a lawn and making it absolutely perfect, instead of just spending a few hours and doing a good enough job. His rah-rah ended with something about choosing our priorities.

    At the time, my mother-in-law was dying and there were other things going on in my life. When I worked 42 hours, I finished everything on my plate. And I knew that when I get too tired, I work poorly, so if I’d added 10 hours a week, I’d be getting less done and the extra time would be spent fixing what I messed up. I looked at my priorities, realized that I could never reach ‘adequate’ by his measure, and left that job.

    1. the gold digger*

      The only reason to spend extra time making a lawn absolutely perfect is if you are being paid by the hour or if you have figured out how to keep the grass and weeds from ever growing again.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        He called it “the five dollar lawn mowing job” where $3 was normal pay, $4 was for an excellent job, and $5 was essentially impossible, it was so perfect. I made up a story in my head about his little sister, who while the boy was earning his $5, mowed three lawns for pay, then mowed another for free, and then took her $9 to go out for swimming and ice-cream with her friends.

        1. Calliope*

          I would absolutely hire that little girl to mow my lawn. Not only does she have a better understanding of time management and making money, which should be cultivated, but I also wouldn’t have to listen to the sound of the lawn mower for 8+ hours if I’d hired her brother.

    2. Mephyle*

      I remember that lawn-mowing story from when it was printed the Reader’s Digest. It must have been the 1960’s. Who knows how long it was around before then!

  33. ivy*

    #4, have you tried makeup that’s specifically designed to cover scars or tattoos? Right before I got married, I stuck my hands and wrists in the middle of a dog fight (I’m a genius), and I covered those rather dramatic scabs with Kat Von D.’s line of makeup that is sold to hide tattoos.

  34. Former Professional Computer Geek*

    Re: #3 – I’m amazed that nobody pointed out that while HIPAA doesn’t apply here, the Americans (or Canadians) with Disabilities Act might.

    The A/CDA wouldn’t cover “I was out with the flu,” but it sure might cover, “I had an accident and couldn’t walk until my cast/crutches/surgery/whatever was complete and I was safe to work.”

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