update: my boss thinks I should share a hotel room with a stranger at a conference

Remember the letter-writer whose boss wanted her to share a hotel room with a stranger at conference, after she’d won a scholarship to attend that was actually saving her company significant money?

This is a two-part update: one update from a few days after her letter was published in January, and one from this past week.

Here’s the first update:

I had the follow-up discussion with my boss today, and in short, I won the battle but I started a war.

I entered the conversation, which happened unexpectedly this morning, armed with the poignant conversation points brought up here (thank you all!) He calmly stated his point of view, which is that the $74 for a private room was an unnecessary expense for the organization, and that myself and my colleagues could benefit from my sacrifice because we could enjoy other professional development opportunities in 2015.

I acknowledged his position, and again reiterated that I believe that it was indeed a necessary expense, because it is unacceptable to me to share a room with a stranger. I stated a variety of reasons to support this stance, but most notably because I was approved to attend this conference at the full cost before I won the scholarship.

He denied having stated to me that I was approved to attend a conference, thereby undermining my entire argument.

The conversation continued, with each of us declaring more examples to support our positions. He ultimately acquiesced to the private room, but essentially said that this is the last conference I will attend on behalf of the organization.

We avoided each other for the next several hours, until we had a one-on-one meeting after lunch, which was unrelated to this issue. But oddly, he spent our much of our 2.5 hours together telling me how valuable I am to the organization and how much he appreciates my work and my commitment, and that I deserve more recognition than he can provide.

I’m not sure if he was apologizing for his behavior, or if he was mocking me. It seemed like the former. But it also seemed strange, given everything else.

And here’s the more recent update:

I’m sorry to say that the war rages on. My relationship with my boss hasn’t recovered from this disagreement, unfortunately. Although I can’t quite articulate how, he’s treating me differently, and with a vague sense of contempt.

With the benefit of hindsight, I realize that I set myself up for failure from the beginning by applying for a “scholarship,” which for some may carry somewhat pejorative connotations of “student” and “needy.” (Although it should connotate “merit” and “achievement.”) In any event, I should’ve just let the organization pay for me to go and not fuss about subsidizing my way.

And one more frustrating thing is that another scholarship recipient ended up backing out, leaving an odd number winners. So the committee ended up paying for me to stay both nights in the hotel anyway. (I wanted to scream when they told me!)

No good deed goes unpunished, as they say.

Thanks again for your guidance and that of your readers, too.

Me again. Your boss is being an ass. But if you haven’t totally written him off, I’d sit down and try to talk to him about this. I’d say something like this: “I may be misinterpreting, but I have the sense that you’ve been unhappy with me since our discussion about conference expenses in January. Was there a different way you would have wanted me to handle that, or something about how I approached it that’s caused tension?”

This may or may not work, but it’s worth a try.

{ 163 comments… read them below }

  1. Sam*

    This would be so frustrating to me. One of my coworkers is a close friend. I’ve babysat her son, slept on her couch, and puked up white wine in her toilet. We still wouldn’t want to have to share a hotel room together for a week at a conference. You need your downtime and your private time.

    1. Dawn*

      “I’ve babysat her son, slept on her couch, and puked up white wine in her toilet. ”

      Hopefully not in the same night!

  2. Rhiannon*

    I can’t believe OP’s boss is willing to ruin an otherwise perfectly amicable working relationship over $148 (that he didn’t even end up spending!!!). I’ve worked for small businesses with tight budgets before but that’s a ridiculous sum of money to hold a grudge over. I’ve encountered train tickets to client meetings that cost more than that.

    Also, the best part of attending conferences is going back to the hotel and getting to jump on the bed and eat pizza in your pajamas while watching HGTV…or is that just me? :)

    1. Sam*

      No I totally do that too. I’m usually two burned out at the end of the day to go to dinner with strangers. I like to order takeout from the hotel bar and sprawl out :)

      1. anne*

        I can’t go out at night with the people I’ve spent all day with…unless it’s a political necessity. If the hotel has a bar or restaurant, I sit at the bar, have a sandwich or two appetizers and a glass of wine. If no bar or restaurant, I’ll got to Panera or someplace like that, get something to take out, and eat it in my room, watching TV, (don’t have to share the remote!) and unwinding from the day.

    2. mess*

      YES – although I like to find fun regional potato chips or candy and eat those in bed while watching cable television.

      1. stellanor*

        When I go on business trips longer than a few days I always have Pizza Hut And Reruns Night.

    3. Dawn*

      First conference I ever went to, at the end of the first day I stopped by Whole Foods (which was right next to the hotel), got myself some ridiculously fancy stuff with my $40 dinner budget, and then drew up a bath. It was *fantastic*.

    4. puddin*

      HGTV is a hotel staple for me as is take out and my travel jam jams. I love my travel rituals!

      1. Jessica (the celt)*

        Yes! We don’t have cable at home, so HGTV is my not-so-guilty pleasure when I stay at a hotel (although some of them showed up on Netflix a bit ago, so I was able to bring that home for a short period of time).

        1. Rhiannon*

          Same here, I don’t have cable at home, but I grew up watching HGTV with my mom (an interior decorator) and have a certain fondness for it.

    5. SystemsLady*

      I recently spent a hotel stay getting something orbiting in Kerbal Space Program while eating pizza and downing a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper, that was fun :).

      Though I didn’t get as much sleep as I should have…

    6. BananaPants*

      While I don’t really like business travel since having kids, it’s shockingly vacation-like to have a hotel room all to myself. At home it’s unheard-of that I get a relaxing evening WITHOUT needing to cook or wash the dishes or do laundry or shepherd the kids through bedtime or nurse a baby or deal with a preschooler having a nightmare.
      My business trips usually involve 10-12 hour days on my feet in factories or other industrial environments, often in a time zone completely different from my home. The last thing I want to do is sit there with the people I spent all day with and make pleasant conversation for another hour and a half or two hours for dinner. I’ll do it twice in a weeklong trip to be polite (usually the first evening and last evening I’ll be there) and then the rest of the time I’ll be on my own. If the hotel has a decent restaurant or bar with food I’ll eat there and have a beer or a glass of wine and read a book while I eat, or I’ll get room service and watch TV in my room.

    7. Jessica (the celt)*

      Regarding your last line: That is what I’m doing RIGHT NOW after a long day of conference-going. How did you know?! I just can’t get up enough gumption to go out of my hotel room, because I’ve used up all my “other people” reserves for today.

    8. Connie-Lynne*

      YES. I’m super social and love conferences, but I need my “hiding from other humans” time to be effective!

    9. Jim*

      I think the OP would appreciate my boss’ attitude to this – last week he asked me to spend a week at the client site, with a day’s notice:

      me: Er, you know that’s going to cost a lot of money, with this little notice… looks like it will be $1000 or something.
      him: Don’t care. We’ll pay whatever it costs. We just need you to do it.

  3. the_scientist*

    I’m really wondering what the boss’s endgame is here. Like, you originally budgeted $2000 for the conference fees, travel, per diem and accommodations, then refused to pay $148 so your (excellent, respected) employee could feel comfortable at an important professional opportunity. Great! Good for you, boss. You saved $148 at the expense of ALL of this employee’s goodwill and your good working relationship! And you are now exhibiting subtle resentment over money you didn’t even have to spend! Gold Star!

    I mean, I know nonprofits can operate on shoestring budgets, but if the OP was so valued that it was worth $2000 or whatever to send her to the conference, then it was surely worth <$200 to keep her happy?

    I have encountered people who are unable to see abstract costs, like employee loyalty and goodwill as dollar amounts. My father will spend six hours driving to 4 different grocery stores in another town to save like $20 total on groceries, not considering a) the cost of gas and b) what that time is worth. It's like his time doesn't have any value; it's so bizarre. Maybe the boss is like that too, but instead of "time" as the abstract cost, it's "happiness".

    1. Whippers*

      Yep, my manager is like this. She will fuss about $30 expense claims, even where the expense was completely justifiable and generated business for the company, thereby getting good employees’ backs up and making them unwilling to go out of their way to generate business. I just don’t know how she can’t see how counterproductive his behaviour is.
      Also, she will quite happily pay $10,000 on consultancy fees on something which doesn’t generate any business and is more like a vanity project.

      1. maggie*

        Isn’t it obvious? It’s the difference between THEM spending it versus HER spending it. Jeebus, I actually wrote soooo much more but had to dial it back when I realized that I was actually bitching about my old job and it was making me furious. The parallels between what you’re experiencing and the reason for my most recent employment departure would floor you. I’m sure we both have some stories….

    2. Ops Analyst*

      I used to work for a really small non-profit – 3 people on staff, the rest volunteers. The executive director split the cost of a conference with me and spent $500 on it. That was the entire budget of our summer programs, to add a bit of perspective on how much money that was for the organization. But then one summer I got a local symphony to volunteer their time to play at our biggest annual event. Typically it drew thousands of people and was the how they made their operating budget for the following year. The symphony provided everything, including their own set up and even brought the stage. They were also a big draw because they usually always sold out their events.

      For some reason the ED refused to let their families into the event for free (tickets were $5). I even suggested he limit it to two tickets per band member and he still refused. He could only see that if they didn’t pay that was revenue lost, rather than realizing that if they weren’t let in for free, they weren’t coming anyway. He lost the opportunity to generate business. Those families would have come with more than 2 people and bought tickets. They would have had a good time and come to other events and returned for the same one in following years. And they would have spread the word about the organization, which really needed that because it was so small. Instead the band members were annoyed and they werent inspired to offer their time the next summer or even come to other events. He just could not see the abstract benefits or costs associated with not thanking them for their time. He actually completely alienated them in the process. It was weird.

      1. Rand*

        I think I know this guy. Honestly he cut off his nose to spite his face. It blows my mind that people like this get into management positions, especially once you see people who can see the the bigger picture.

    3. The Toxic Avenger*

      Yeah. And, on top of all this stellar behavior, he denied OP was approved to attend the conference to begin with.


    4. maggie*

      You forget that to him he “never” approved the $2k expense in the first place.

      He sounds like such a baby.

    5. Jeanne*

      The endgame in my experience is to save all of the conference money in her salary. She now won’t qualify for a raise because she is argumentative and insubordinate. I’ve known bosses like this. I think they are jerks.

    6. Liz*

      Having been in this situation personally, I think the boss now sees the employee as “difficult.” Sometimes it doesn’t matter if what you’re asking for is completely reasonable. If you are seen as having an advantage – you’re attractive, you’ve recently been successful or rewarded, or like here you just won a scholarship that makes you look good – asking for consideration in addition to your other rewards just raises hackles. The boss probably intended the shared hotel room as a small, petty annoyance that would emphasize the employee is still someone he can boss. When she pushed back, he got angry.

      He isn’t going to calm down and he will punish her for a while. It’s like Hillary. She’s arrogant and unlikable when she’s up, and becomes a lot more popular when she’s down. In real life, people who feel this way will try to pull you down, and they will get REALLY upset if you fight them on your comeuppance.

  4. Joey*

    Ugh. It sounds like your boss may have felt like you were arguing with him and not accepting his decision until you got your way.

    Personally I don’t think you should have continued providing multiple examples after your boss didn’t buy your argument. once you finish laying out your case you should accept the answer with bosses that don’t like debate.

    1. Whippers*

      Yeah, as much as it pains me to say this, I think this is true. If your boss doesn’t want to see your point there is little point in pressing it, as at the end of the day it’s their call. Which is not to say that I don’t think your boss was a dick.

      1. erd*

        I third this. I hate to say it but I do think the “multiple examples” is where this got of the rails. And I’m guessing that after the boss denied he had approved the full cost originally, OP was probably ticked and that might have contributed to why she went that route.

        And I do still think OP’s boss is a dick. *If* that is even the reason he is annoyed, he should have addressed it clearly, (“OP, I understand you’re not happy, but when I make a decision I need you to get on board and stop arguing” or something, Alison has given good examples) OR just get over it, since she presumably doesn’t have a pattern of doing that.

        1. Mike C.*

          The problem is that the decision to make an employee share a room with a complete stranger is a completely unreasonable decision to make. The people who share your private space where you sleep, shower, dress and so on isn’t something one’s manager should get to regulate.

          1. MK*

            The decision wa not to “make” an employee share a room with a stranger; it was to refuse, after the OP had won a scholarship covering her conference expenses, to cover the expense for her to get a separate room. And that is very much something a manager is in a position to regulate.

          2. nof*

            I agree to a degree but even when your boss is wrong she’s still the boss. I think this boss was being unreasonable but I do think thee specifics of how it played out contributed to why the relationship is still frosty instead of blowing over.

          3. Joey*

            That’s great but telling the boss that repeatedly and not taking “no” isn’t the answer

            1. Liz*

              I agree. The employee should have stopped talking as soon as the boss lied. She also probably shouldn’t have approached him. Someone who tells you to share a room with a stranger isn’t someone who’s going to care about your reasons.

      2. Ruffingit*

        Agreed. This is why I don’t even bother to debate with my boss when he says something nasty or bitter to me or makes a stupid decision or whatever. I just say “OK” and keep on doing my work. It’s not worth the debate. I know he’s an idiot and deep down I think he knows it too. I don’t have to prove what we both already know.

        1. Whippers*

          I know he’s an idiot and deep down I think he knows it too. I don’t have to prove what we both already know.

          Ha, this made me laugh. I’ll think of this the next time my boss does something idiotic.

    2. Anna*

      Actually, no. I think instead of laying out more and more examples, she should have just said, “I’m sorry, I really can’t stay with a stranger. How would you like to proceed?” This is a non-negotiable for me. Ultimately your comfort is not their call.

      1. socrescentfresh*

        I dunno…what’s to stop the boss from retorting, “Well then we’re sending someone else to the conference?” (Scholarship aside, I guess. It sounds like this is more about chest-beating than money-saving.)

        Sometimes your comfort IS their call…we’re not allowed to have standing desks at work except for a medical need, and if I said “I’m sorry, I really can’t sit at my desk all day; this is non-negotiable for me” I’m pretty sure I’d be shown the door.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          IIRC, the OP said she’s the only person in her role at her organization. Even if there were someone else who could have gone, I do think saying “Well, I’m very sorry, but I am not able to share a room with a complete stranger,” would have been preferable to getting drawn into a long point by point debate.

        2. Anna*

          My comfort is NEVER someone else’s call. I get to decide what’s okay for me. Within reason. I’m going on a business trip and I’m not going to insist on first class because it would be more comfortable, but I’m sure as hell not sharing a room with someone else. It’s just how I approach things.

          1. MK*

            Your comfort is your call, but the way they do business is theirs. You can refuse to share a room, but they can also refuse to pay for you to have a separate one. If you say, ” I am not sharing a room, how do you want to handle it?”, you have to be prepared to hear that they are replacing you or foregoing the conference altogether. Or to have them turn the tables on you, by saying “This is how much we are covering, end of conversation, you choose if you will go on these terms, go and and pay the difference or not go at all”.

            1. Anna*

              My approach to employment has been, for years, that I work for a given company because both parties agree that I work there. If, at any time, either one of us decides that relationship doesn’t work anymore, then we are free to end the relationship. I’m pretty sure it’s why I didn’t lose my shit when I got laid off.

              1. MK*

                That’s good for you, but realistically most people cannot afford to lose/leave their jobs over something like this.

    3. Just Another Techie*

      Not only that, but it’s not clear to me from the wording whether the boss actually believes he never approved the original $2000 expense (some miscommunication between the two of them maybe? or forgetfulness on boss’s part?) or if he was just bullsh*tting that to save face in the moment. If he really believed he never approved the expense, I can see why he’d be really frustrated and angry at the long list of examples the OP presented. But that points to a big problem between the two of them with communication and alignment.

      1. Mike C.*

        That’s such a cowardly move too. If you make a decision, own it. If you have to change you mind, justify it. But don’t treat your underlings like they’re too stupid to know the difference – on top of everything else, that’s just insulting.

    4. Mike C.*

      Don’t you think at the very least this is a safety issue? What happens to you as a manager/owner (I’m not sure which you are in real life) if you make a similar decision and your employee is harmed in some way by this stranger?

      1. Dynamic Beige*

        Yes, this is a safety issue. IMO, this manager wouldn’t share a room if he was going to a conference because he is not a kid going away to camp. He wouldn’t want his adult daughter to share a room in a similar situation. It may not be a personal safety issue — I doubt that anyone at the conference is a serial killer or unstable enough to physically attack someone — but there are other kinds of safety. Would the LW be bringing a computer? Would she be required to keep up on some work while at this conference? Would there be things on that computer that would be specific to their organisation’s functioning that they wouldn’t want a total stranger to have access to? You don’t have to physically steal things these days to steal them where digital data is concerned.

        This whole thing smacks to me of the Manager not wanting the LW to go to the conference at all, from when it was first brought up. I would bet that after a period of time, the original funds promised would have been rescinded due to Reasons. But, the LW used initiative and gumption to save the org money and make it happen, now this is the only card Manager can play in an attempt to make it stop. Whether this is jealousy because he wanted to go but couldn’t find a way to do it or that he sees the LW as a threat to his job/position, only he knows.

        LW, go to the conference — yes even if you have to share a room (and leave all your valuables at home). Use the opportunity to network and find a new job. Even if you don’t manage to make those connections there, start looking for a new job. This may blow over, it may be that he will make you a personal project since you didn’t respect his authori-tay. A reasonable person would have been thrilled that you found a way to fund it so the org didn’t have to. His reaction is more of someone who didn’t get the toy on the playground than someone genuinely happy for your achievement and that IMO, does not bode well for the future.

        1. catsAreCool*

          Yes, start looking for a new job. Alison’s advice may help, but if it doesn’t, a new job is the best option.

    5. Outside*

      Surprising, but for once im in complete agreement with Joey :)

      Why on earth would you push the case till you made it bigger than it was that too with your boss…its not end of world to to share a room for couple of nights. In a perfect world you would be justified, but c’mon you know humans are messy.

  5. EM*

    GAHH, this is the worst: you approached an issue at work professionally and directly, and now you are suffering for it! This is totally the underlying fear that so many people have when not knowing how or whether to address something at work and I’m sorry that for you it’s happening.

  6. Green*

    Yeah, I am assertive but instead of pressing the point I would have: (a) paid the cost and written it off on my taxes (although I probably would let him know I had to pay it) or (b) skipped the conference. Actually, (c) none of the above. I would have asked for an accommodation for my anxiety.

  7. AE*

    Sharing a room at a conference with a stranger isn’t considered odd in many places. If I decided I wanted to do that I’d have to pay the other half of the room’s cost, and I would consider that fair. My professional colleagues are not scary people. They are just people I haven’t made friends with yet.

    1. Chocolate lover*

      I have not encountered strangers sharing rooms at any of the conferences I’ve gone to (and I just came back from a national one). Co-workers from your own organization/department, yes, strangers, no. After a long day with groups of strangers, I need a quiet place to find downtime to decompress, and the thought of going to my own room with yet another stranger is exhausting and stressful (it’s still exhausting with a co-worker, but not quite as uncomfortable). I was totally relieved when my boss told us that those of us going to the recent conference could get separate rooms.

      1. Ops Analyst*

        I have seen strangers share at conferences in exactly the situation OP is in, when it was being paid for through a scholarship. But I really have not seen strangers, even in the non profit world, share a room. It’s usually coworkers that are asked to do this.

        For me, its not even the fact that I’m exhausted and dont want to socialize after a long day. That’s part of it. But more so, I need my privacy. I don’t want to get changed in front of my coworkers, or poop in the room while they are in there, or deal with an especially heavy period, or any number of personal things that people arent comfortable doing around others that they arent close with. It’s just unreasonable to expect of people.

        1. Green*

          I volunteered to share with a coworker so both of us could got on a 2-night trip on a pro bono case (firm allotted a limited budget for cases where we deliberately don’t get paid!), but (1) we chose to and (2) we were outside-work friends. Even then it was a little weird… Since they gave us one king sized bed.

        2. Amy*

          Most hotels have bathrooms with doors, so you don’t have to change in front of your roommate, nor do you have to poop in front of them. Your imagination is a bit wild.

          It’s unreasonable to expect of people who aren’t used to it. For the rest of us it’s no big deal even if we have a health issue. Every woman has periods. Every attendee gets wiped out, even the extroverts. Unless you get stuck with a partier (unlikely in my field) you could probably get used to having a roommate if you had to.

      2. Amy*

        What’s “normal” depends on the field & the organization. Chances are your roommate also needs to unwind at the end of the day. If you do this regularly, you get used to it and it doesn’t seem so stressful. It’s like college or camp.

    2. Anna*

      I’m currently preparing for a week-long conference for an organization that is notorious for penny-pinching. Three staff members are going. None of us are sharing a room. Even last year when our budget was a bit iffier, none of us shared a room. Sharing a room even with a coworker would have been completely weird; I can’t even fathom sharing with someone I don’t know at all. And I regularly share rooms with friends for geeky conventions.

    3. KT*

      In the non-profit world it’s pretty common. Every conference I’ve been to you roomed with someone (typically a stranger, since most organizations can only afford to send 1 person). If you want your own room, you pay out of pocket for it.

      It’s not ideal, but I make it work.

      1. Amy*

        Same for me. The only times I’ve had my own room were when I couldn’t get reimbursed even for the cost of the hotel as a share. In those times I booked a cheaper option on my own, like Holiday Inn Express, and took a cab or walked to the official hotel.

    4. Lily in NYC*

      But not everyone is an extrovert. I would have a threesome with Donald Trump and Rush Limbaugh before I would share a hotel room with a stranger (or even a coworker).

      1. Amy*

        I’m an introvert and I can handle it. You’d be surprised how nice strangers are. They’re just like everybody else.

    5. Lefty*

      Strangers = deal breaker with no discussion. I just wouldn’t do it. Ever.

      My co-workers (most of them) are very likeable and not at all scary, but I don’t want to room with them either. I don’t want my co-workers seeing me with no makeup, hair in a pony tail, doing situps on my floor in my PJs. Also, I barely sleep when I travel for work, so I’m up watching TV until 2am most nights. I’m sure they would love me having the TV on all night. Oh, I forgot to mention, I’ve snored like a drunken lumberjack since I was a little kid. I never sleep in front of other people because of that – well except my SO.

      I would pay my own way if this was something that only rarely came up. If it was a regular thing, I’d be looking for another job. I’ve never been asked to share a room in my 3 decades of work travel and no one I asked has ever even heard of this happening. My boss said that people need their decompression time when they travel and he can’t even imagine asking anyone to share rooms. So, I don’t think it’s the norm – at least in good sized companies.

    6. Mike C.*

      It’s a huge safety issue risk in my mind – not because the risk is likely (1-2 out of 5), but because the damage that could be done would be horrible (4-5 out of 5).

      What happens when an employee who raised concerns but had to share a room anyway is attacked by their roommate? Maybe they get drunk, maybe they don’t have a good understanding of consent, maybe they just think no one will believe the victim. Maybe you trust your coworkers, but what if you’re rooming with a stranger?

      So what happens on Monday morning when there’s a police report that starts with, “My boss insisted I share a room with a complete stranger because it cost too much, and I woke up in the middle of the night to find this person on top of my tearing off my clothes”. Maybe it’s something more minor, like a report to HR that continues, “My fellow employee/room mate harassed me for my embarrassing medical condition” or even more simply, “Because my boss forced me to share a room with a coworker, a previously hidden and deeply private medical condition was made known to the coworker who told everyone else”. Perhaps it’s nothing more than an exit interview of a star employee that says, “I’m leaving because I didn’t feel my privacy was respected by my management – they repeatedly made me share hotel rooms with coworkers and even complete strangers!”

      I’m not saying this is all illegal, but do you think this sort of trouble is really worth the savings gained by booking double rooms?

      1. Joey*

        That’s a huge stretch Mike. Why would anyone worry about violence when there arent any warning signs?

        1. Mike C.*

          You can’t call the last one a stretch, and if any of the others actually happened it would be (among other things) a huge and very public embarrassment for the business or organization involved.

        2. Lefty*

          Gacey, Bundy, List, BTK Killer, Berkowitz…Just a short list of killers who had family, friends, co-workers, etc…who never saw any signs of violence and/or could not believe they would hurt anyone.

          1. Joey*

            I can’t remember, but did any of these killers ever murder the person that roomed with them on a work trip???

            1. Lefty*

              I don’t believe they did, but I believe you’re missing the point. The point is that you don’t really know people or what they are capable of. Would you want to share a room at the Marriott with John Wayne Gacy just because he only killed boys/men that he lured to his house?

  8. AJ*

    Your boss is petty and awful. He’s punishing you disproportionately, even after you solved the problem. There’s no sense trying to mend things with someone like that.

    1. Florida*

      There’s no sense trying to mend things with someone like that? If we were talking about a random stranger, I would agree, but we are talking about her boss. Presumably, neither OP nor the boss are leaving any time soon, so they have to work together. It sucks going to work everyday when you and your boss don’t get along. I’d say there are plenty of reasons to try to mend the relationship.

      I agree with you that the boss is awful, but I would definitely try to mend the relationship.

      1. Lee*

        The boss already has said OP is never going anywhere ever again on the company’s dime. Something tells me this boss is going to take any attempt by OP to try to “mend” things not on its face for what it is but as adversarial and an attempt to get back into a position to ask to go away for another conference. (On the flip side, this boss is going to take extreme pleasure in denying OP the ability to go to this or any other conference ever again.) I really don’t know that this relationship can (or should) be saved.

        1. M-C*

          The only good point here is that the OP may be able to get more scholarships for future conferences. And -should- at least attempt to do so, as this is about her professional development.

          But I’d make a point of going as an individual, and in no way representing the company (like making sure the company name is not on your badge or in the listings). Because you know, they’re already getting an improved employee for free, they should not be getting the credit for that if they’re going to be so cheap about it. I’d guess that if the boss was perceptive enough to realize he’d been wrong last time, he’ll get the message of ‘I’m going to this as my own self” loud and clear.

          OP, start saving your money now so this doesn’t stifle your career. You may need a new job soon if this continues :-(.

        2. YaH*

          I agree. This relationship is over, and OP has zero future there. Boss has slammed that door shut *hard*.

          OP, your boss is completely out of line, both in his initial expectation and in how he’s handled the aftermath. But the end result is still a crappy ending for you- a workplace that will actively deny you opportunities for future professional growth.

  9. Poohbear McGriddles*

    Heck, if my employee saved the company $2k on conference fees on their own initiative, I’d want to let them upgrade to a nicer room not force them to share a room with a stranger.
    I have to wonder how much all of the meetings to discuss his reluctance cost the company. Probably more than $148.

    1. Hlyssande*

      I know, right? What’s $148 compared to the $2000 they would have spent otherwise? You’d think the boss would be ecstatic about that! SERIOUSLY.

  10. steve g*

    “Both nights?”

    All of this drama over two nights in a hotel? I would so be job hunting, I could NEVER work somewhere so cheap

    1. AMG*

      Exactly. It’s an issue of respect. Boss can tell OP how much he values her, but then he acts like this. Obviously the behavior is more believable than the lip service.

  11. Case of the Mondays*

    I wonder if your boss suffers from thinking if it’s no big deal to him it should be no big to everyone. I know a few people that like to project their experiences on everyone rather than thinking about why someone may be uncomfortable with something. Unfortunately, not everyone can be open minded to see why just because everyone else is doing something, you can’t/won’t do it.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      That’s what I think too. I keep thinking of Jack Welsh’s story about counseling a subordinate who wanted to fly to a remote meeting in his private plane. Jack Welsh told him that’s not in line with the culture at GE, and it would look prima-donna-ish and show-offy. The subordinate said he would pay for the gas, and Welsh yelled at him that “this isn’t about GAS!”

      I wonder if the boss feels like this is an issue of the OP being out of synch with the culture and also not seeing what the big deal is.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Oops, hit Submit too soon. I think the boss is being all kinds of unreasonable, and you can see in the comments here that lots and lots of people think sharing a hotel room with a stranger is an absolute no-go. Not the same thing at all as wanting to fly your private plane to a meeting. But I wonder if, in the boss’s mind, this is what the sticking point is.

  12. Florida*

    Thanks so much for updating us. I agree with Alison’s advice to ask him how to approach it in the future.

    1. M-C*

      And OP make a note to yourself – don’t ever consider any expense approved in the future without some kind of written record. Even if you have to send an email after an oral hallway approval “just to confirm that you have approved $xxx in order for me to —-“. Just so instead of arguing point by point in the future you can just smile sweetly, go back to your office and forward the email saying”I was confused this afternoon because I was pretty sure you had approved that. I found this which is what misled me to think so. How would you like me to word a request in the future to avoid this kind of misunderstanding?”.

      1. Florida*

        I just remembered a time when I was approved to attend a local class. The company had issued a check and registered me for the class. My boss’s signature was on the check request form. Fast forward to one week before the class when I reminded her that I wouldn’t be in the office because of the class. She told me that I couldn’t go to the class because she wanted to go to the class. (God forbid we have two people attend the same $50 class.) She made me retrieve the form from the accounting department to prove that she had authorized it. I was able to attend the class.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      I disagree with Reaching out to ask how the boss wants her to handle it in the future. I don’t think the boss has it in him to have that conversation reasonably. As others have said, future prof dev. is on the op and she should begin looking for other work in my opinion.

  13. AndersonDarling*

    I imagine this happened: After the initial discussion between the LW and her boss, the boss went into a colleague’s office and said, “Do you believe this? …”
    The colleague then said, “You want your employee to room with a stranger? How much are the rooms? Are they $400 a night?”
    Boss: “No, they are $74 a night.”
    Then the colleague laughs the boss out of the room because he is an idiot. That is why the boss said such nice things after the meeting, he knows he was way out of line. And the boss is acting awkward because the LW knows he is an idiot.

  14. puddin*

    I would absolutely meet with him to talk about this. But my approach would be more like, “I sense that there is some distance between us since our debate about the conference in January. How can we patch things up moving forward?” I would let the conversation flow from there. It sounds you need to clear the air for certain, but I would not ask how to handle it better in the future. Maybe I am just stubborn but I am not going you offer a mea culpa when the situation is a youa and mea culpa.

  15. Stranger than fiction*

    The paranoid side of me is wondering if he is now going to set up the Op to fail/try to get rid of her. Those comments about how valuable she is may have been a smoke screen. I’d watch my back unfortunately I’ve seen it happen to people close to me and yes over stuff this petty

    1. DBAGirl*

      Yes, talk is cheap. “I appreciate/value all you do” costs boss nothing. He could tell you that and fire/lay you off the next day. Yes that’s legal – at least in the US.

      Look at the actions, not the words. And look out for yourself, because if you don’t, well boss won’t be doing it for you.

  16. AMG*

    If only we could have a way to get the OP’s subjects to write in! This would be a opportunity to hear from the other side. OP, perhaps we need a 3rd update from you after you try to talk to your boss again.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Holy Hanukkah Balls, that would be awesome! Imagine the discussion we’d have when we heard from the curse maker or potted plant pooper.

  17. Oui*

    Rightly or wrongly, this is obviously because the boss thinks you are some sort of weirdo prima donna for getting into an argument about this. I know this because I find most people (including most people commenting on Ask a Manager) oddly sensitive about (what I find to be) bullshit and this is how I would act if I wasn’t smarter about keeping the eye-rolling to myself.

    Advice? Just continue to be totally no nonsense and good at your job. There is little you can do to get rid of your boss’ contempt at this point.

    1. Mike C.*

      Post like this are awesome – rather than responding directly to people and having a discussion, this commenter does the passive thing so they won’t be challenged.

      Advice? Maybe actually respond to someone who you disagree with and have a conversation with them.

  18. Not Sharing*

    Hi! Original Poster here.
    Keep in mind that this is what they pay me to do–I’m a successful fundraiser. I make a persuading case for money!

    1. TT*

      Ha! Hopefully a better boss or a better job is in your (near) future. Sometimes even well run companies can act crazy over small items. He’s probably burned more than $148 in staff time discussing the matter.

    2. Artemesia*

      People who are successful at development work are not that easy to find. There is surely another agency run by someone who is not a petty little twit that might be avail themselves of your services.

      1. blackcat*


        During my brief stint in the non-profit world, I was EXCELLENT at convincing people to part with their money and feel great about it. I brought in the $$, and I got treated SO WELL.

        Another employer will treat you better.

    3. Mike C.*

      You objectively, measurably, directly make them money and they’re still going to stiff you on a hotel room.

      W T F !?

    4. anon #435201*

      Oh, friend. I hope you find something so much better OR, if it’s what will make you happiest, smooth things over with this boss. It just sounds like you deserve a smoother ride for all this hard work.

  19. Lia*

    I used to work as a field sales rep and at our annual nationwide meetings, we would be assigned roommates. When you got to the hotel, the staff would tell you “you’re rooming with Jane from Dallas” or “you’re rooming with Ted from Boston”. They were always same-gender matchings, and I never heard anyone complain about it — it was just how things were done. But then, with that company, we would have meetings starting over breakfast at 7 a.m. and ending at 9 p.m. — every moment was scheduled tightly to pack as much in as possible, so when we got back to our rooms, we basically fell into bed.

    In my current job, we always get our own rooms — ALWAYS — but I know colleagues at other places are not as fortunate. At the “big” annual convention every year, there are always people looking for roommates, because their orgs will pay for the hotel OR the registration, not both and so they want to reduce their out of pocket costs if possible.

  20. MissDisplaced*

    “In any event, I should’ve just let the organization pay for me to go and not fuss about subsidizing my way.”

    No, no, no… you should not feel bad for asking to have a private room. This, my dear, is NOT a “fuss!” Your boss is being very unreasonable.

  21. misspiggy*

    My take is that the boss feels like an idiot, because the OP out-argued him to the extent that he ended up lying to defend his position, and then she called him out on that. Once you show someone senior that you’re cleverer than they are and you’re not willing to hide it, they can end up hating you. Been there, done that, had to move on.

    Only if the boss is normally an intelligent and reasonable manager would I approach him as Alison suggests. Otherwise, I think the OP might have outgrown the organisation.

    1. catsAreCool*

      “boss feels like an idiot, because the OP out-argued him to the extent that he ended up lying to defend his position, and then she called him out on that” This!

      Maybe another time, give the boss some time to think about it? I’m not sure if there would be any winning with this kind of person though.

  22. pucksmuse*

    Your boss is a giant ass. This conflict went from being about, “I think you should suck it up and allow us to save some money” to “I am YOUR BOSS and I won’t allow you to tell me what you will and will not do!” I think you behaved appropriately in this situation, even if your boss now treats you with contempt. He is treating you as such because he’s butthurt that you wouldn’t let him push you around.

    Please don’t feel bad about this. I don’t think you made a mistake applying for the scholarship. You did it in good faith. Your boss turned it into something stupid and ugly. He made a fool out of himself over a few hundred dollars. You made a stand over defending your personal space bubble and showing yourself to be someone who can’t be cowed.

  23. cheeky*

    One of the biggest things I have learned from this site is that I never want to work for a non-profit with a little budget.

  24. MK*

    Frankly, I think most of the comments are skipping the point, which is the manager’s inconsistent behavior, by focuding on the “sharing a room” issue.

    In general, being asked to share a room is not crazily unreasonable. But neither is it unreasonable for someone to say they are not cofrotable with the arrangemeant and decline to do it. After that, it’s a matter of negotiation to find a solution, which could be anything from the company paying to the employee not going on the conference; it all depends on a variety of factors.

    In this case, though, declining to pay for the extra cost made no sense, since the company was prepared to pay a much larger sum for the OP to the conference. The manager’s refusal was unreasonable in the context.

    That being said, it was his call to make. He didn’t really even have to argue the points with the OP, he could have just stand by his position and let hwer decide what she would do with it. He, however, choose to accept her request and is now treating hwr with contempt. This is bizzare.

  25. V.V.*

    For some reason most of the posts seem to be focusing on the rehashing of what originally happened.

    I am a little surprised at Alison’s advice in this instance. I don’t know if discussing this for the mere sake of dispensing with the elephant in the room is a good idea, especially if it risks inviting the tiger. I am afraid the language suggested will be misconstrued as acquiescence, and that this boss will exploit the opportunity to his own ends.

    I understand that the OP’s instinct is to try to play nice and show that she can get along, but I disagree the impetus falls on her, even if she is the subordinate. The boss has already had several opportunites for both parties to save face and walk away; it’s clear from the follow up letters that he’s not interested.

    Let sleeping dogs lie.

    1. YaH*

      I agree that Alison’s advice missed the boat- “Was there a different way you would have wanted me to handle that, or something about how I approached it that’s caused tension?”

      “Yeah, I wanted you to shut up and do what you’re told.”

      1. Ruffingit*

        This is my feeling as well. This boss is behaving horribly, but I don’t think there’s any saving this situation and restoring the goodwill…on either side here. Frankly, if this OP is as much of a rock star performer as it seems, I think I’d be looking into taking my skills elsewhere. This situation is so childish and ridiculous on the part of the boss, I don’t think I’d want to be working there anymore.

      2. V.V.*

        When I said “I disagree” it was *apparently* with no one in particular. As I reread, I saw Alison DID include the the caveat:

        “But if you haven’t totally written him off…”

        Fortunately reviewing OP’s last update, she doesn’t seem particularly inclined to bring this up again. I would hate to read another update where she reached out and found herself entrapped (exactly what I pictured too, YaH).

        Once you’re in, there is no nice way out of that quagmire.

  26. Amy*

    “He ultimately acquiesced to the private room, but essentially said that this is the last conference I will attend on behalf of the organization.”

    This is what’s known as a Pyrrhic victory. You won the battle but the cost may turn out to be too high. It’s worth making a point of being a team player for the foreseeable future.

    1. SenatorMeathooks*

      Not necessarily- OP ultimately wins here; never again will she be asked to share a room with a complete stranger at a conference.

  27. Ruffingit*

    Totally random and absolutely pure speculation so there’s that…but I’m almost wondering if Boss took the money allocated to the conference and either pocketed it or spent it on something the company wouldn’t authorize for him. Just seems so weird that he made such a thing out of this.

  28. V.V.*

    I hope it’s not that messy, but I agree… Boss man doth protest too much over such a pittance.

  29. DaBlonde*

    I am way too snarky for my own good, but as the fundraiser, I would start phrasing all of my funds generated using “hotel room” = $74 from now on.
    “I just signed Wakeen’s Chocolate Teapots as a sponsor, they’ve given us a check for 13.5 hotel rooms.”
    Then I would start looking for a new job.

  30. NE*

    I would look at it from his point of view. If your boss legitimately believed that he did not approve any budget for you to go to a conference, he may think that it is generous enough of the company to pay for your time to attend this conference. Is there anything else they are paying for that the scholarship did not cover?

    I think the budget of the non-profit, the amount of money you bring in, and the value of this particular conference to your organization are unknowns that really matter when it comes to choosing how to respond to a line in the sand like the one he initially drew.

    It might be worth it to apologize and use vacation time to attend the conference.

  31. HistoryChic*

    I’ve been following the original post (and now this update) closely because the OP is a former colleague. In the time that I worked at this organization, I had to share a hotel room with two other people at one conference. One was a colleague and also a close friend (we actually had to share a bed), the other was a part-time employee who I didn’t know very well. (But got to know her on the trip and found I didn’t really like her all that well.) It was a conference that I really wanted to go to so I just made it work. In another instance the same boss asked me to share a hotel room WITH him to save the organization money. It was a suite with one entrance into the suite, two bedrooms with doors, and a common room in the middle. But I was still horrified by this request and said – “heck no, if I can’t have my own room I’m not going to this conference.” He acquiesced in that situation. If you notice that I said the OP is my former colleague it is because I moved on (thanks to all of the wonderful advice on AAM!) and am in a much better situation. I agree -OP you are great at your job. You should find somewhere that treats you right. Sometimes it the grass IS greener on the other side!

    1. AMG*

      Always nice to have neutral 3rd party to validate or clarify what’s going on. I stand by my assessment that the boss has no common sense and you need to evaluate whether you really want to work for such a tool.

    2. virago*

      Repeated for emphasis, particularly the last seven words:

      I’ve been following the original post (and now this update) closely because the OP is a former colleague. In the time that I worked at this organization, I had to share a hotel room with two other people at one conference. One was a colleague and also a close friend (we actually had to share a bed) …

      In case sharing a room isn’t bad enough … These people take “penny-wise, pound-foolish” to new depths!

  32. Mena*

    You’ve learned a lot about your boss throughout this experience. Is this the person that deserves your hard work and commitmment? Maybe it is time to move along.

    And yes, in my industry, rooming together with a known colleague is unthinkable. This??? LoL!!

  33. Chriama*

    Hey OP I’d like more details about how the second conversation went. How was the boss able to claim that he hadn’t approved the original conference cost? Was there an email detailing the agreement or even discussing arrangements for travel or work cocerage? I’m just wondering what sort of miscommunication (either genuine or manufactured by the boss) would lead him to backtrack that far. And what additional argument was the tipping point that got him to agree to the cost in the end?

    Bottom line is I think you’re dealing with an unreasonable boss, but I’d like to hear more about his irrational reasoning for my own curiosity’s sake.

    1. Not Sharing*

      He simply denied having approved it. There was no written record of our conversation about it, other than a line item in the budget for “professional development”. But that isn’t necesarily earmarked for me, nor for conferences specifically.

      He ultimately said “okay” because I think he was tired of arguing over it. And possibly because I had won the argument.

  34. Susan*

    This couldn’t come at a better time. I was told yesterday that I will have to share a hotel room with the person who reports too me for a conference WE are hosting! Not only will we have long days (upwards of 18 hours), we now have to figure out the bathroom situation in the a.m. after less than 5 hours of sleep. I need to do my yoga and make my smoothie in the morning; she wants to sleep in until as late as possible. I embarrassingly use a CPAP for snoring and really don’t want anyone to know. I am painfully private. Worst of all, we’re both social but introverted, so we need that alone time or we’ll self destruct. We each need an hour to get ready. For the first time ever, I have serious anxiety about a work event. I didn’t sleep at all and am dreading this event that I have to promote. I hope to work through it before the event in two months. Good to know I’m not alone in this!

  35. a n w*

    try sharing a BED. i’ve arrived at scheduled work trips with coworkers only to find we were expected to share not only a room, but to sleep in a bed with a co-worker! i found out this is a common move in my office. luckily it’s only been myself and another coworker when this has happened, so i’ve simply had the hotel move us to a room with a bed for each of us, but I was told they will commonly book one room for four people to save money. there is no technical law against this that i’ve been able to find, but i find it HIGHLY inappropriate that they would expect me to share my bed with another adult co-worker while on a work trip!

    1. Jamie*

      This I will NEVER understand. If a coworker were to fling their leg over you and bury their face in your hair while pressing up against you no one would question that HR couldn’t write that up fast enough.

      But companies think it’s okay to put people in the position where this could totally happen completely involuntarily because people are SLEEPING and thus not in control of of their body? No matter how many times I read about this I am still stunned this happened even once, much less is a thing.

      When I run the world my first edict will be unless you are in jail, the military, or a semi-private hospital room adults get to decide if/when and with whom they share sleeping quarters. No one should have to see a co-workers skin care regime, hear whatever weird noises they make in the night, or have to see them in any state of dishabille that would be actionable at work.

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