letting a boyfriend stay with you on a business trip at a new job, using a bunch of vacation time right before resigning, and more

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

1. Should I let my boyfriend stay in my hotel room during my first business trip at my new job?

I have recently starting a traveling job as an interviewer with a team. It is the first time I have a traveling position, and it requires weekly travel and hotel stays to different locations.

We will be staying about two hours from my boyfriend’s home next week (we are in a long distance relationship). Seeing as I just completed training and this will be my first assignment with a group of new coworkers I have not met yet, I am hesitant to have my boyfriend come and stay with me at the hotel, as I am afraid this might be seen as inappropriate or unprofessional or, at the worst, I could get fired. At the same time, I feel like time after work is personal and private.

Since he is two hours away and due to a situation with his car, he prefers to take a bus/shared ride and stay most of the week in my hotel room, waiting for me to come home every day and then returning by bus at the end of the week. I would have no problem with him coming in his car for dinner or to spend several hours in the evening or even spending a night here and there if I felt like we could do it discreetly, but I am concerned that him staying the entire week in my hotel room, even if we were quiet, could be seen as inappropriate or unprofessional. What’s your take? To clarify how the room is being paid for, our company reserves our rooms in their name, has us call and change the reservation to our own name, pay for the room ourselves and leave our own credit card with the hotel for any extra charges. We may choose to receive travel advances or else be reimbursed at the end of the week.

Don’t do it. This is your first trip for this job, and so it’s going to come across differently than if you’d been working there for a while and had already established a solid reputation. Because you’re new, this will be one of the only things people know about you, and you don’t want to be the person who had her boyfriend stay in her hotel room for a whole week when people barely know you yet.

If I had a new employee do this in this context, I’d be worried about professional maturity and judgment. But six months from now, when you’ve established yourself as professional and good at what you do? I wouldn’t care.

Also, you don’t know what might be planned for the evenings — there could be group dinners or other activities, and it’s going to be awkward if you have your boyfriend waiting for you in your room.

2. Is it a jerk move to use a bunch of my vacation time right before resigning?

So, I’m in a bit of a pickle. I like my job, but it has become clear that the potential for growth that was presented to me at my interview was not an accurate forecast. I’ve also recently found out that my boss has been actively isolating me from communicating with other higher ups (the word “territorial” regarding me and my projects came up), preventing my proposals from being moved forward, and more frustrating, toxic behaviors. All in all, it seems like a good step to move on.

My company, however, doesn’t pay out for vacation–when you leave, you just lose that time, which to me, seems like part of the value (and part of the argument for salary being a little lower). I don’t tend to take a lot of days off and have barely used my PTO, even during a medical crisis. Is it unethical to take a chunk of my spare vacation days and then come back to put in my notice afterward? I don’t think it’s the “nicest” thing to do, but between my frustration at my boss and the situation and my desire to move on and get the full value of this job, it doesn’t seem totally unreasonable. Is this a jerk move?

I don’t think it’s a jerk move at all. That vacation time is part of your compensation package, and you’re entitled to use it. But even aside from that principle, it’s not a jerk move. People can’t always control the timing of their resignations — people get job offers at inopportune times, or they have a family health crisis, or all sort of other things. (Hell, it’s even possible that being away from work gave you time to step back and reflect on what next move is right for you.)

3. My employee won’t wait until work hours to answer emails

I have a remote employee who was assigned to my brand-new two-person department from another area of the business. She generally goes home at 4, and I always work until 5, and frequently much later. Several times a week, I’ll realize that I need to ask her something after she’s left for the day, and I’ll send her a quick email while I’m thinking about it for her to find in the morning when she gets back into the office. The difficulty is that, as part of her past role, she’s become accustomed to checking her email in her off-hours, and frequently reviews projects, answers questions, etc. off the clock.

I’ve told her that I don’t ever expect her to respond to email after hours, that I’d prefer she enjoy her evening, and responding the next day is preferable, to which she has laughingly responded that she’s used to it and likes to stay ahead of her work and see what’s coming up the next day. It’s a great problem to have, as far as problems go, but she is hourly, and I’m concerned about the legality of her spending chunks of time (small chunks of time, but still…) reviewing email and projects off the clock. I also don’t want to trample on her off-hours — she’s got a life, and I want her to have that life without feeling like she has to constantly be checking her email.

Can you recommend some wording for how I can let her know that I’d really rather she leave work for work hours, or should I leave her enthusiasm intact and manage it on my end by scheduling my emails to go through the next morning instead of whenever I send them initially?

It sounds like the issue is that you’ve presented this as a suggestion, when you really want it to be a requirement. At least I’m assuming that you do — because she’s hourly, you need to require her to track all the time that she spends doing anything work-related from home, and you need to pay her for it, including overtime pay if that puts her over 40 hours in a week.

So I’d say this: “Jane, I realized that I wasn’t clear when we talked earlier about you answering emails after your normal work hours. We’re required by law to log any time you spend on work, even checking email from home, and we need to pay you for it. I haven’t budgeted to pay you additional time, so I do in fact need you to stop checking emails outside of work. I really appreciate that you want to stay on top of your work, but this is a legal issue — I can’t let you do it.”

And then if she continues to do it after that, you have to have a pretty serious conversation with her about it, because she’s exposing your company to legal liability if you don’t pay her and costing you money that you haven’t authorized if you do pay her.

And just for the sake of a complete answer — if she were exempt rather than hourly, I’d tell you to leave this to her own judgment. Some people actually find it less stressful to deal with some work emails at night (I’m one of them) and as long as you were very clear that it was in no way expected, I’d leave that call up to her. But because she’s non-exempt, you really do need to make it a clear requirement that she not do it (unless you’re willing to pay her extra for it).

4. Do I have any chance of being rehired at the job I walked out on?

I walked out of a job and didn’t give any notice. I didn’t cause a scene or insult anyone. I simply had a lot of things going on in my personal life, burned out, and reacted in a way that I shouldn’t have by walking out of a good job. I just took all of my belongings, got up, walked to my car, then drove home. I never contacted them in any way, shape, or form, and I never responded to any of their correspondences.

Do I have any chance of being rehired?

It’s pretty unlikely. People burn out, and that’s not something a reasonable employer would hold against you. It’s the leaving with no notice at all and then refusing to respond when they tried to contact you. They were probably really worried, and mystified, and frustrated. It’s going to be tough to come up with an explanation that will get them past the “but why didn’t you at least let us know you were okay?” piece of this, and even if you tell them something that somewhat puts that to rest, they’re going to be concerned about the same thing happening again in the future.

5. Offering to be a resource to job candidates who I reject

I work for a small start-up, and we are currently doing a round of hiring. Through the hiring process, I’ve interviewed some really great people who, while not a perfect fit for the job, seem like they could be great employees at other companies in my field. Many of these candidates are looking to make a career change similar to the one that I made a few years ago when I started in my current role.

When I send rejection letters to people who I do think would do well in this career change, is there a way to genuinely offer to be a resource? I know from my own experience as a former teapot maker that trying to make that career change can be intimidating, and I feel very lucky to have found my current position. I’d be more than happy to answer any questions that former applicants might have about companies to look at, roles to consider, transferable skills to highlight etc. I am, however, struggling a bit to find the words to express this genuinely without coming across as condescending. Thoughts?

Absolutely. I’d say it this way: “I made a similar career change myself a few years ago (moving from X to Y) and I’d be happy to share my experience with you and talk with you about what I learned in the process, if that’s something that you’d find helpful. If that interests you, just let me know and we can set up a time to talk.”

By the way, people will take you up on this. Job seekers tend to be hungry for that kind of help from people in the field they want to work in. So you might want to offer it somewhat sparingly (for example, only to the candidates you think best positioned to get real impact out of your advice), at least at first until you know what kind of response you get, or you could end up investing a much larger amount of time in doing it than you intended. (Or maybe not — I don’t want to discourage you from being generous with your time. Just make sure you’re prepared for everyone to say yes!)

{ 258 comments… read them below }

  1. Glasskey*

    #3, if you have Outlook, use the “delay delivery” function! You can set the emails to come to her inbox the next morning when she arrives. I use it all the time-it’s awesome!

      1. Captain Bigglesworth*

        I use Boomerang all the time at work. I facilitate educational events and my outgoing emails would overlap if I didn’t use this (since I like to send them out while I’m thinking about it).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The thing is, though, that for all she knows, the employee is also doing this with other people’s emails. The risk of just setting her emails on delay is that it could end up making the problem invisible to her, while it continues with emails from other people. I’d rather have her address it head-on with the employee.

      1. Workfromhome*

        You are correct that you certainly should address it with her that you should not check emails …BUT the delay delivery should also be used. It has all kinds of benefits even if the person does become diligent about following the no after hours rule. When the OP send emails late to be viewed in the AM they sit in the box until the employee comes in. But other emails may also come in pushing the emails down the list. If you know the person comes in and checks their email at 8:30 and you have it delayed to send at 8:31 you know it will pop right up as a priority. If its not a priority but its sitting at the top of their box they may treat it as priority or feel badly because its been “sitting” since last night. A delay ensures they feel like they can address the email “promptly” Plus regardless of how well the employee understands “no email” rule it might be human nature to check it even if they don’t do anything to respond or leave tracks they read it. This ensures that no one “Slips”. It’s a good step that doesn’t cost anything or doesn’t hurt anyone IMO.

        1. Sadsack*

          You make a good point with delayed delivery, but it isn’t much help if there is only one person using it. There is no assurance of the employee not slipping with others’ emails.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Plus it sounds like she’s doing other work on her projects after hours not just looking at email.

            1. Questioner #3 - KB*

              She takes her laptop home and logs in whenever she’s going to be doing a significant amount of work in the evenings (an hour+), but yes. I’ve had her review things and send me comments time stamped at 7 and 8 o’clock at night with no correlating time on the clock.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                If I’m reading this correctly that she’s doing work that she’s not logging, your company needs to immediately put a stop to that — you’re breaking the law by allowing her to do that and not paying her for it.

                1. Questioner #3 - KB*

                  She always clocks in from home (as far as I know), when she’s going to be working on an actual project for more than a few minutes or wants to make up for leaving early or so forth, and I’m fine with that. Primarily, this is regarding checking email and replying on her cell phone, which typically takes a few minutes, and probably generally falls under the 6-minute threshold. Still, I don’t know since I don’t have a stopwatch, and I’m nervous that her 2-sentence replies might be skirting that boundary. I’ve only ever had one instance (this week, actually, which is what prompted my question) where she appeared to do any real work without clocking in. I’ll be asking her for that time tomorrow (when she’s back in the office. :-) ).

              2. justsomeone*

                If you know she’s working that time, can you send her timesheets back and ask her to add the time she spent at home to her sheets? Make that part of the approval process. My boss does that when I forget to add after-hours time I spent working that she’s aware of.

                1. Questioner #3 - KB*

                  That’s a great idea – I may start doing that. I don’t really have a problem with paying here for the time, but the idea of tracking it just seems like it could get pretty messy. For her and me both.

      2. Observer*

        In addition to what WorkfFromHome said, it also has the advantage of establishing that the employer is actually serious about not expecting the employee to answer email in the evening.

        1. Questioner #3 - KB*

          I’d love to remove her mobile access completely, but that starts getting into political weirdness – her getting moved under me was something of a demotion (from an org chart perspective, anyway), and I’m hesitant to do anything to her access or privileges that will make her feel like she’s losing any *more* status than she’s lost already.

          1. Natalie*

            I’m not sure how large your company is, but is this something you could blame on Legal or IT Policy or something else? She doesn’t need to know that you instigated removing her access, maybe it just came up in a routine audit. And it’s pretty normal in companies to prevent hourly workers from having remote access, for exactly the legal liability Alison explained.

            I think you should still have the direct conversation with her, but removing her access could reinforce that you’re serious.

          2. LAI*

            I would really strongly encourage you not to just remove her access, unless you have talked with her in advance and she has agreed to stop working from home. I think that if I were in her shoes, I would definitely see it a loss of status and a loss of control over my work. You mentioned upthread that you’re ok with paying her for the extra time, so I would encourage going that route instead. Just be really clear that she has to log her hours from home, you have to pay her for that time, and if it starts getting to be more hours than you can afford (or more hours than you think is reasonable for her to be completing her work), then address that at that point.

          3. Observer*

            I agree with LAI.

            Also, if you think that you might need her to work extra or after hours in an emergency, or WFH might come up, removing mobile access is not so great.

    2. Almond Milk Latte*

      I definitely use Delay Delivery because my boss would give major side-eye to me emailing her a report at 3am. But that’s the most peaceful time for me to sit around and look at spreadsheets, so. I’m hourly and bill my time appropriately, she just doesn’t want to burn me out.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        So the recipient can’t tell you’ve used delay delivery? I have Outlook but I’ve never used this feature, but if it’s transparent on the receiver’s end, I can see some not-exactly-above-board uses for it. (“Sure, I was in the office until 5:00; didn’t you get my 5:01 email?”)

        1. anonderella*

          As far as I know, no one can tell. I have to use this all the time for our traveling associates. I know most of our people check email on their phones, so if someone’s out of the office, I try to look up where they are currently based and delay the delivery to just after 8 or 9 their time, depending on how high priority it is.

          Company-wide notifications are trickier, because people in my time zone get all uppity when something hasn’t hit their email yet that they know is going on.

          One thing about it that I didn’t know at first – Delay Delivery-ed emails, once sent, will not show up in your sent folder until the time they are sent. I don’t know if they are stored somewhere (I would assume they would be, so there would be some way to cancel a pending sent email if needed), but it disappears from view once you send it, later to pop up at the time you specified it be sent in your sent folder.

          1. SJ*

            my Delay Delivery-ed emails sit in my Outbox until they’re actually sent. (I use Outlook)

            1. anonderella*

              I also use Outlook, though not nearly expertly : ) What is Outbox, is it the same as the Sent folder?

              1. Nancie*

                Outbox is similar to Sent, but it’s for the emails you’ve written that haven’t been delivered yet.

                If you’ve ever hit Send on an email while your network connection is down, the email will land in Outbox until the network connection is restored. Sometimes if the intranet is a little slow, I’ll notice a “1” appear next to Outbox for a few moments, then vanish as the email moves to the Sent folder.

        2. Stranger than fiction*

          I believe it retains the time stamp of when you sent it to your outbox, which is a disadvantage to me.

        3. Kyrielle*

          I just tested to myself – nope, as the recipient I can’t tell. As the sender it shows I sent it at 7:23 am (when I pressed send), but as the recipient it shows it was sent at 8:01 am (since I told it to send after 8).

      2. Koko*

        This is like, 99% of my use of delayed delivery. I feel like, “Koko was working on this at 1 am last night,” carries a different connotation than, “Koko got an early start at 7 am today!” Our culture sees early risers as more productive.

      3. Talvi*

        My thesis supervisor was concerned the one time I remembered to send him a chapter draft using delayed delivery so that he would get it at 8am – he’s used to getting emails from me timestamped 3:30 or 4am and he was worried I’d stayed up all night to get that draft to him! (Nope, I was sleeping when it showed up in his inbox.)

    3. sam*

      I was going to suggest this as well. Part of the issue may also be that it’s hard for her to know whether this is a “must open now and bill extra time” email or a “can wait until tomorrow morning” email until she’s actually…opened the email. At which point she’s already, well, done half the work.

      One thing to be careful of with the delay delivery function though – I believe it still time stamps your email as of the time you actually hit send, not the time you delayed delivery to – that can get a bit tricky if you’re trying to delay it for reasons that involve not actually letting the recipient know what time you sent it (not necessarily the case here, but could be in other circumstances). It definitely does for the sender, but I’m not quite sure how the recipient sees it.

      In those situations, you may be stuck with just saving things as a draft and setting a reminder to yourself to send things out at the appropriate time.

      1. Questioner #3 - KB*

        In her prior role, I can see why she would need to be all over her email all the time, but I’m honestly questioning at this point if she even needs access to her email on her phone at all. There basically isn’t anything that should require her immediate attention off-hours in her current role.

        1. Michelenyc*

          I was just going to suggest that you have her remove her e-mail from her phone. That would probably cut back on her answering questions from home.

          1. A Bug!*

            Yeah, this was my first thought. If there’s nothing about her job that’s ever going to require her to do work away from the office, then just remove her remote e-mail access. You want her to enjoy her evening, but she can’t really do that if she knows her work e-mails are a thumbswipe away.

        2. Bob*

          “There basically isn’t anything that should require her immediate attention off-hours in her current role.”

          I would focus on that aspect when you talk to her. As someone who constantly checks email at home, I would probably be a little upset if I was suddenly told to stop checking email. I’m used to being judged by how quickly I respond to problems so it might take some convincing to get me to adjust to that no longer being the case.

          Also, at my company a manager has to sign off on hourly employees getting remote email access (disabling access per user is typically very simple) so maybe you could spin it as “we revisited your current job duties and realized you don’t need the ability to check email remotely anymore. “

        3. Cleo*

          We don’t allow any non-exempt employees remote access or email on their phones for this reason. It’s tough when they go from an exempt role to a non-exempt, but it’s better to upset them over not allowing them the temptation to work off the clock than to allow them to do so and then bring on a lawsuit for all the unpaid time if they get really upset later.
          I had an hourly employee who would try to come in early and/or work through lunch off the clock. We were in a very strict no overtime period so I had to answer for any hours over 40 on anyone’s timecard. Even after a couple talks explaining that he was going to get himself, me, and the company in trouble he continued to work off the clock. Once I threatened to write him up if he did it again, he finally saw how serious I was about it.

        4. i'm anon*

          You need to remove her device access. You can frame it as a work-life balance issue in addition to a legal issue, and I know upthread you said it could be politically delicate to do so, but it’s the swiftest and surest way to limit your company’s liability here.

      2. Kyrielle*

        Except, even if she logs in to *see* if she has email and then logs back out, isn’t that technically, although very short, time you have to pay her for?

        She really, truly, *should not be checking email* or know whether she has any until the next day.

        1. Questioner #3 - KB*

          I did a little bit of reading, and anything less than 6 minutes can be rounded down to 0, so just logging in to see if she has email wouldn’t necessarily be a huge liability, and sending a one-sentence response isn’t a huge deal, either, but the question is whether I should just ask her to track whenever she’s spending more than 5 minutes on something work-related so I can add it to her timecard, or if there’s a cleaner way to handle this. Who really has a solid grasp on how long 5 minutes actually is when they’re responding to an email, anyway?

          1. A Bug!*

            Who really has a solid grasp on how long 5 minutes actually is when they’re responding to an email, anyway?

            I sure as heck don’t; I take way longer than I think I do to write even short e-mails.

            It just occurred to me, though, that depending on what her actual itch is, there might be another solution. I know that once I get an e-mail, I feel the need to acknowledge it in some way even if I’m not going to deal with the substance for a while. If that’s your employee’s itch, then an out-of-office reply might help, one that gets enabled automatically based on her schedule.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            The cleaner way is to require her to stop doing it, period. The job doesn’t require it, and you’re opening your company to legal liability; she’s already shown she’s willing to not log her time at night. Why not just make her stop altogether?

    4. Questioner #3 - KB*

      I’ve used delay delivery before, and I love it, but my primary concern with that is just driving the problem underground – where she’s still checking other emails and doing occasional little project in her off-hours without reporting it back. I do realize that anything less than 6 minutes can be rounded down, which is why I haven’t addressed it before now (even though it’s made me rather uncomfortable), because one-line email responses take mere moments to fire off, but when she’s reviewing entire presentations and sending me comments, I’m pretty sure that’s taking her more than 5 minutes, and if she’s doing it for me, then she’s probably doing it for others, too.

      1. animaniactoo*

        If you can swing it, would it work for you to have her come in one hour later, or leave one hour earlier, giving her the freedom of that hour to do that kind of work at home where she seems to be in her best groove for it?

      2. Glasskey*

        Yeah, in my experience with an employee who did the same thing, it was really, *really* challenging. I explained it seven ways ’till Sunday and it would stop for a while but then restart. He was salaried so I didn’t have the OT issue to deal with but it still drove me nuts because he would stress out about getting emails all the time. Like with your situation, he came in early while I stayed late and all my thoughts came poring out at 5pm when everyone had left for the day and I could finally think, but none of it was urgent! It turned out that he had a lot of insecurity about the job and needed some coaching in putting up boundaries in general–not just with emails, but with in person requests and other people claiming that something was a “fire” when it really wasn’t. So that may be a broader issue to probe for. I have a lot of respect for those organizations who don’t allow emails during certain hours-I wish more CEOS would take an active stance on this.

      3. Person*

        Exactly – the point is that it is happening, and it’s a performance issue like any other. Using workarounds and otherwise contorting how you interact with her in order to manage her reactions are not solving the problem.

    5. Geekster*

      That was going to be my suggestion, too.

      I most often use this when I know the recipient is on vacation. I’ll set it to deliver either the afternoon of the first day back or the next day. I do that so as not to clog the inbox during vacation but also for selfish reasons…my email won’t be lost in the mass of unread emails. :)

      I’d also ask IT for a log of after-hours access, and then have a conversation with the employee. Explain *why* it’s critical that she not put the company at risk for litigation. Explain why it’s critical for her (i.e. termination). Explain that this is the first and final warning. The next time you pull a log of after hours access, you will be walking her out the door unless she has pre-approval to work those hours. Ask her for her thoughts on how to avoid that.

      1. Karyn*

        “I most often use this when I know the recipient is on vacation. I’ll set it to deliver either the afternoon of the first day back or the next day. I do that so as not to clog the inbox during vacation but also for selfish reasons…my email won’t be lost in the mass of unread emails. :)”

        Bless you. I mean it. The worst part of vacation is coming back to a pile of emails to wade through.

      1. SophiaB*

        You can set it to send in the morning when you open your emails though – I do this for my boss because she starts early and I finish late. It stops her from bombarding me before I’m in the office too.

  2. Captain Bigglesworth*

    OP #2 – I wouldn’t think twice about this to be honest, but I did something similar to my last employer. I requested off two weeks in June to go to a family wedding. I received a job offer right before I left. I actually resigned before I left (since it was unpaid time off) and did not come back from my vacation. This can be done tactfully and without burning bridges.

    1. Jerry Vandesic*

      It probably makes sense for people to check their employee manual in situations like this. I had one employer that would not allow vacation to be used during the notice period, and wouldn’t pay if an employee tried to do it.

      1. Captain Bigglesworth*

        In my situation, it was an unpaid time off anyway (I worked part-time in food service). I still communicate with my managers there and they volunteered as references for my new job hunt. It probably also depends on the industry that you are working in.

      2. themmases*

        Yeah, even in my situation I’m not sure I would have been allowed to request time off after giving notice. But if you know you are leaving, it’s not that hard to just make your requests first and give notice after. I’ve rarely heard of people being asked to cancel pre-existing plans after they gave notice– maybe for something truly urgent or in a workplace that was just vindictive.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I’ve worked at places where they required you to be in the office for the last half day of your notice period.

        My toddler son had a medical procedure at noon on my last day, and I couldn’t take it off to be with him during the recovery period. They wouldn’t pay me, or something. I don’t remember what it was that made this have any teeth; NYState protects workers pretty fiercely.
        I had to pass off kid care to my MIL.

    2. themmases*

      I took almost all my vacation before leaving my last job and it was not a big deal. After I gave my notice, I stopped taking on new projects and was expected to devote all my time to maintaining day-to-day things and training/documentation for my replacement. There wasn’t the same worry about my availability as there had been before my notice.

      I was leaving for grad school so I was able to both give a long notice, and have a long period to myself where I knew I was going to leave but my management didn’t yet. (Maybe 4 months total, 2 of them in notice.) I just requested what I wanted before giving notice. There was no reason to ask me to cancel any of them since I was mostly doing transition stuff during my notice period anyway.

      It can be really hard to stay focused on the job you are leaving once the countdown has begun. All that time off really helped me and I’m convinced it helped my department too. Plus it gave my replacement a few chances to be independent before I was gone for good.

      1. Adele*

        I’m in a similar situation now, and am weighing the pros and cons of vacation time/notice time. I’m heading to grad school in a different state, but haven’t given notice yet. I have a pre-planned, cannot-be-changed vacation week scheduled around the time I’d like to give notice. It would be very helpful to my budget to be able to take the week off, and then come back to work for a final week, but I’m not fully sure my boss will like that. I’m thinking I might give three weeks notice instead of two, eg, give notice, work a week, take my already scheduled vacation, and then come back for a final week. I’m not really sure what I “owe” my employer – does a notice period imply that you will be in the office for the whole time?

    3. Lies, damn lies, and...*

      My prior company had use it or lose it time at the end of he calendar year. I gave about 2.5 weeks notice but took a good chunk of between Xmas/new years off before leaving January 3rd. Basically, the company created a perverse incentive, since I wasn’t going to receive those hours as pay I took them at a somewhat inopportune time….

  3. L*

    OP #4 – I’m changing career fields, and I would love to have exactly the kind of help you are offering. You are going to come across as someone offering them a major favor, not someone being condescending.

    1. Not the Droid You are Looking For*

      On my last graphic designer search we had a lot of internal candidate that were either looking to start their career in graphic design or transition. Unfortunately, a lot of them were people who had some exposure to the programs but no formal training.

      In their rejection letter, I offered to have them meet with me and our lead graphic designer, to talk about what working in the field was really like and what we were typically looking for. I had a list of local resources that I offered people as well, which included information on the graphic design certificate for my local community college.

      My takeaway was the most helpful thing I offered was getting to see my lead graphic designer’s portfolio and the former candidate being able to ask questions about the how’s and whys.

  4. Mike*

    #2: That’s one nice thing about California. All the vacation time I accrued gets cashed out.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      The only bad part is that unused vacation gets taxed at the highest rate and you have to wait until you file your tax return to get it back.

      1. Dan*

        The withholdings are done at the 25% rate, which isn’t even the highest.

        I wouldn’t even call that bad – after all, you get it back. It’s not like it’s gone forever.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          You don’t get the interest on it. If you leave in January you have to wait a full year until you file.

          1. V*

            You can adjust any other withholdings over the rest of the year to compensate, though.

          2. Eh...*

            You barely get interest on your savings account – it’s an opportunity cost, and a small one.

            If you leave in January, how much vacation would you have accrued anyway?

            1. Engineer Girl*

              5-1/2 weeks of a senior staff engineers salary. Not chump change. And I have a high yield money market.

    2. Dan*

      I loved being a non exempt employee in California. There are so many labor friendly rules, particularly when it comes to overtime.

    3. the gold digger*

      Which is why so many California companies are now allowing unlimited vacation! Not because they are nice, but because they don’t want to pay out accrued vacation.

      1. Joseph*

        Also, from what I’ve read and heard, the “unlimited vacation” thing almost always ends up with employees actually taking fewer days off than the usual system of accruing X days per year.

        Employees still feel the usual “we’re busy, hard to schedule time” pressures, but without that reminder on your pay stub every two weeks that you have accrued 17.38 Days of PTO quietly nudging you to use some time off.

        1. MashaKasha*

          Yup, I’ve never trusted unlimited vacation because of its potential of turning into exactly that; no vacation or minimal vacation. It would always be “do you HAVE to take this week now? we are swamped now, and you can take your vacation at any other time, it’s unlimited, remember?” rinse, repeat.

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Yeah, to me this is similar perk to tech start ups with free food, game rooms, etc, because basically you end up living there.

            1. Joseph*

              Exactly – All those perks tech start-ups rave about sound great until you realize that they all have the exact same justification of “because you’re supposed to be working instead of [normal human activity]”.

              >We provide dinner: You should be here instead of eating with your family.
              >We have beer in the bridge: You should be here on a Friday night instead of at a bar with friends.
              >We have game rooms: You should do your relaxing here (then get right back to work).

            2. MashaKasha*

              Yeah those would scare me too. Anything that sounds like a great perk on the surface, but appears to really be there to facilitate either you never leaving the office (“on-site laundromat!”) or being available 24×7 (“company iPhone!”) would scare the beejezus out of me.

            3. Koko*

              Or the grad school I declined an offer of admission to after visiting their campus and discovering they had cots and showers in the department building for grad students to use.

              1. Talvi*


                My boss and I would joke about tucking a cot away in one of the storage rooms, but that’s because I am decidedly not a morning person and he liked the idea of mid-afternoon naps…

        2. Arielle*

          Agreed, I really don’t like it. The only situation where it makes sense to me is in the case of a coworker of mine who has a lot of medical appointments and procedures. She says at her last job she could never take a vacation because she burned through all her PTO on medical stuff. In that case it’s a real benefit. In my case I feel guilty even asking for a single day so I would feel a lot better having a specific number of days allotted to me.

      2. MV*

        Yup! “Open” time off. That way they don’t need to accrue anything and you end up taking less time then you otherwise would.

      3. robynwithay*

        Which is exactly what my company does. I don’t even mind not getting paid out if I ever leave. I have the time available and flexibility to go and visit my family a couple weeks a year and take a couple long weekends. It’s so nice!

    4. MashaKasha*

      I’m in the Midwest and it’s been the same at every job I worked. It’s like a nice extra bonus you get when you resign.

  5. Anonacat*

    The vacation question is timely for me. In general, does it look bad to quit shortly after you take a holiday?
    I’m think of doing something similar, but my circumstances are a little different.
    My work does pay out annual leave – this is a requirement, and the reason why they encourage us to take it – it’s a financial liability to have too much leave on the books.
    My holiday is long (~5 weeks – I have about four saved up, the balance is unpaid leave).
    If I quit a couple of weeks after being back, is this going to reflect badly on me?
    The reason for not just quitting outright is a) I have left it too late to give appropriate notice (4weeks is required) and b) having a bit of income in the weeks before I start my course will be very welcome.

      1. Adele*

        What if your potential notice period encompasses a pre-planned, already scheduled vacation time? Ideally, I’d like to come back for a week before moving on to grad school (would definitely help my budget), but I’m not sure if I should just give notice earlier (and lose out on a potential paycheck) and quit prior to my scheduled vacation.

  6. Christopher Tracy*

    Also, you don’t know what might be planned for the evenings — there could be group dinners or other activities, and it’s going to be awkward if you have your boyfriend waiting for you in your room.

    When I traveled for work for the first time almost two and a half years ago, I brought some textbooks with me thinking I’d have some downtime at night to study for one of my professional designation exams. Well, I didn’t crack those books once because I got dragged to three hour plus long dinners and parties every night for four nights. By the time I got back to my room, I could barely keep my eyes open, I was so exhausted. I can’t imagine trying to entertain somebody after all that.

    1. Rubyrose*

      Yes to this.
      Bonding with your new coworkers is extremely important at this stage.

      1. Carolina*

        Agreed. You also need some time to get a sense of whether your coworkers bring spouses to work travel or not. Mine definitely don’t — our work trips tend to involve long, exhausting days, and even if we have an evening off, people tend to socialize with coworkers, crash early or do the daily work they missed doing because they were in meetings all day.

        One of our newer coworkers once brought her teenage daughter to hang by the hotel pool and we definitely gave her the side eye.

        1. Artemesia*

          This and assume that you are expected to dine with and socialize a bit with co-workers which is most important as a new employee. People who take advantage of business travel for personal relationships e.g. visiting Mom, visiting the boyfriend etc etc are often viewed negatively particularly if there is any hint that they scheduled the trip with this hidden agenda.

          Once you are well established and have demonstrated your dedication to the job and have been on trips and spent time with co-workers if that is the norm then you both know how it might be perceived and are less likely to be viewed negatively if you do something different.

          It is one thing to say ‘count me out on dinner tonight, I’m meeting with local friends’ and then go to meet your boyfriend for dinner and quite another to have him camped out in your room so that you are not free to join others or respond to whatever comes up. For all you know these are really 12-14 hour work days.

          Absolutely not on a first trip. He needs to drive to meet you the second night and not to be camped out in your room the whole week. If possible take the following weekend and return Sunday instead of Friday — if it can be done without a big footprint i.e. you aren’t driving with the group.

    2. Menacia*

      The only time I ever brought my husband on a work trip was when my manager was bringing someone as well. I would never assume that bringing my spouse is okay unless I was with the company for a good length of time, and I either okay’ed it with my manager, or it was a normal part of the culture. If you are new to the company, then I would refrain from bringing him on this first, very important for a good first impression, work trip.

      1. Analyst*

        I never brought my husband either during the trips, but one time I was working in upstate NY at year-end and I met him in NYC for New Year’s. I had planned the extra vacation time tacked onto my business trip so the company still paid my airfare there and back.

    3. myswtghst*

      This is a great point. When I initially started traveling for work (often with people a few levels up the org chart from me), there were a lot of big dinners out to encourage us to unwind and get to know each other. Now that I mostly travel alone, I’ve brought my fiancee with on a trip, but it would not have worked out well at the start.

      OP#1 – Look at this as an opportunity to get to know your new coworkers, and to get a feel for the culture and how travel is typically handled. I found my first few trips to be a great opportunity to really get a feel for whether or not people really spent the full per diem, if drinks with dinner were really okay (and not just okay per policy), if I should really be working from the hotel in the evening or just relaxing, etc… You’ll have chances in the future to bring your boyfriend, but now is not the time.

  7. Dan*


    To be clear, having a non exempt employee who works of the clock is NOT a great problem to have.

    It’s a very serious one that can land you in heaps load of trouble.

    1. Rebecca*

      Totally agreed. I have coworkers who think they are martyrs and will work off the clock at the drop of a hat. We are non exempt. Not only is this illegal, it skews the analysis of amount of work getting done by X number of employees, so when you actually need help, the OT numbers don’t back up the extra person request.

      1. Beezus*

        I did this to a department I worked in a few years ago, and I still feel bad about it. I was exempt, but I worked loooong hours (with my manager’s knowledge) and it skewed their numbers and made it look like they were able to cover more things and better than they should have been able to. The adjustment when I left was painful for them – they could not add staff, so they had to cut services, and people did not understand.

      2. Ms. Didymus*

        We had to let someone go recently because of this. She just wouldn’t listen when we told her that 1. it is illegal for her to “stay late to help out” and not record those hours and 2. she was actively hurting our attempts to justify hiring additional people because she was making it look like we could do more in X hours than we really could.

    2. Questioner #3 - KB*

      I realize there’s plenty o’ liability associated with her working off the clock – I was more referring to her enthusiasm about responding quickly, even at the expense of tracking 2 minutes of work time (and I do realize that anything below 6 minutes can be rounded down).

      1. Joseph*

        Ah. That’s a slightly different topic, which mostly comes down to simply emphasizing to her that it’s not really the corporate culture you’re trying to build and that you want people to feel like they can truly disconnect when they leave, so they come in refreshed. It’s great that you’re enthusiastic and want to respond quickly, but it’s very rare that we have an actual emergency so important that we’d want you to interrupt your evening to address it – and quite frankly, whoever receives your email won’t be reading it till 8:00 AM the next morning anyways, so we’d really prefer for you to fully disconnect and not check your email at home.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I’m wondering if her previous role in the other dept was exempt? If not, Op needs to speak with that manager because they were allowing it.

      2. Ama*

        If she’s having trouble resisting the urge to check her email (and you can’t just have her remove work email from her phone entirely), one thing I have done is hide my work email app in a folder that I have to intentionally access in order to see how many messages I have — I can’t see the little “new messages” number while just scrolling through or working in my personal email app. For me out of sight was truly helpful in keeping it out of mind.

    3. Joseph*

      Yeah. Some employees don’t realize that it’s highly illegal – for the very good reason that if it was legal, employers would immediately “volunteer” all of their employees to work unpaid overtime.

  8. Elw*

    Does vacation time not get paid out in general in the US (I see the exception is California)? I’m from Canada and I’ve always had any unused vacation time that was earned in the year paid out on my final paycheck so I’m just curious.

    1. Dan*

      There’s what most state laws require, and what most companies do.

      I think most state laws are silent on the issue, but most companies pay it out.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It varies by state. Many states don’t require it, and in those states it’s up to individual employers (although many of those individual employers still have policies stating that they pay it).

    3. Christopher Tracy*

      My current company doesn’t pay out unused PTO. And the law firm I worked at prior to this place only paid us for it if we never took a single day of PTO and instead worked OT for them.

    4. Bartlett for President*

      I didn’t even realize it wasn’t required, as all of my US-based employers have paid it out.

      My German employer did not, although I couldn’t tell you what I had since it was a university and my boss basically required that we only show up on the days we taught, had office hours, or meetings (and you bet we got good at making sure those were all stacked up nice and tight on as few week days as possible). So, I would feel rather petty being upset about it.

      In fairness, had we been obligated to go in every day like other researchers we would have done what everyone else did: door shut (sometimes locked), ear buds in, and basically ignoring everyone while we worked. At least we didn’t have to wear pants to do that at home…

    5. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When I left a company in 2013, they had just instituted their “use-it-or-lose-it” policy (except in their California offices). I left in July and got my unused vacation paid out, but had I stayed until October, I would have been out of luck.

      1. SH*

        My company in NYC has a “use-it-or-lose-it” policy and they basically force employees to take any unused vacation time. When I read these pay out posts I think my company’s policy is harsh. However, they’re very generous about people leaving work early to take care of personal matters (like doctor’s appointments or religious obligations) so it probably balances out.

    6. Jake*

      My experience is that the larger the company, the more likely they are to pay for unused time, even in states that don’t require it. At least that’s my experience for exempt roles. I’ve never seen non exempt roles pay out unused time unless required by law.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I’ve never seen non exempt roles pay out unused time unless required by law.

        Ahhh, this would probably explain it then. I was non-exempt until two years ago, and seeing as how I haven’t left my current company yet, I wouldn’t know whether they pay out unused vacation for exempt employees.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I’ve never seen that distinction made anywhere I’ve worked. My last few jobs I’ve been non-exempt and the company always paid out my vacation when I left.

      2. Liza*

        In Minnesota I was always paid out my unused vacation time (non-exempt employee). I never had much of it left to be paid out, since I tend to use all my PTO, but it’s a counterexample to Jake’s experience.

      3. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        Vacation payout isn’t required in my state, and I’ve been a non-exempt employee all my life. Every company I’ve worked for has paid my vacation out at termination. Some had us accrue at different rates than exempt employees, but I still got what I had accrued paid out.

      4. Faith*

        I had a friend work for a Fortune 10 company who got a very rude surprise when she quit and was told that the company did not pay for unused PTO. She said that had she known about this before giving notice, she would have taken a nice vacation to visit her family in Australia.

    7. The Alias Gloria Has Been Living Under, A.A., B.S.*

      I think in many states the rule is that if company policy says they will pay it out, the states will hold them to it. So far everywhere I’ve worked pays it out.

      1. Kyrielle*

        This. :) I’m actually in my first job where they won’t pay it out, because we have the “unlimited time off” thing. I was a little wary of that since I know people have mentioned at other companies, managers not allowing time off – so far, I’ve been really pleased with how it’s implemented here, but the fact that it’s at your manager’s discretion does leave me to wonder if my experience is just based on accommodating managers or is, in fact, common here.

      2. sam*

        This. A lot of states don’t have an absolute requirement, but they do absolutely require that companies adhere to their written policies on the subject – policies and employee handbooks ultimately create a contractual relationship (even if they don’t change your status as an ‘at-will’ employee – and will often explicitly say that they don’t).

        I know in NY there was a move a few years ago to require companies to pay out unused PTO. Not sure if it went anywhere. Everywhere I’ve worked has done this to some degree or another based on their own accrual policies, but I had a friend who got laid off and got nothing because of the way their policy worked and I remember researching it for them at the time.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Didn’t go anywhere. I’m in NYC, and I’d have gotten a memo about it for sure. I also just double-checked. As long as they clear spell out up front in the company policy handbook, etc. that you forfeit any unused time, they don’t have to pay out.

      1. Liana*

        MA does require it! I live in MA, and I’ve always had it paid out. The first time was a nice surprise, because it was my first professional job after college, and I had no idea it was a thing until I got my last paycheck, which was almost double the normal amount, since I had a decent amount saved up.

    8. Liana*

      I live in MA and I believe it’s the law here – at least, I’ve always had unused vacation time paid out whenever I’ve left a job. But yeah, as others have said, it varies by state.

  9. Dan*


    You will always be known as Houdini at that job.

    The only way people will look past it is if it is a job that everybody burns out on.

  10. Myrin*

    Didn’t we have a letter very similar to the first one, only sent by “the other side” (the girlfriend who wanted to accompany her boyfriend on a business trip and stay at the hotel)? I remember the advice being very similar and then the OP came to the comments and was all huffy about the thought of not going with her boyfriend so the whole idea seemed to have been an indication of maturity after all. This OP comes across much more calmly and like she’s really calculation her options, but I strongly agree with Alison to still not do it, if only because of how it can and likely will come across.

      1. Bartlett for President*

        Well, now I know what I’m going to be reading before bed tonight….*goes and gets my virtual popcorn ready*

      2. Blake A*

        I’m in a similar situation to OP1, I’ve just started a new job which requires me to travel to the company’s headquarters (a city in another country) to train there for 3 months. They will be paying for my accomodation in a studio apartment. My boyfriend and I have done long distance for 7 months before (without any visits), and it was brutal. I would love for him to come visit me for a week. I didn’t think twice about this, but now seeing the answers to OP’s question I’m wondering if it would come across badly.

        1. Lore*

          I feel like that’s a different scenario, though–I think it would be a bad idea to have him come the first week, or maybe to schedule a particular time for a visit until you’ve been there for a week and know the schedule. But in a three-month period, they can’t expect you to be on the clock the entire time the way they potentially could on a one-week trip, and presumably your weekends will be your own.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          A three month training session is VERY different. I don’t think it would be weird at all for someone to come visit you during that time.

        3. NK*

          It’s completely different – I wouldn’t think twice about having him visit you. Not only because of the duration of the trip, but also because I think there is a difference between traveling together with colleagues, and traveling on your own. With the former, you’re more likely to have after-hours activities together, like getting dinner. With the latter, you may be all on your own after work.

          Years ago, I went on a 2-week trip across the country to train colleagues in another office. Other than maybe one or two nights, I was on my own outside of work. My then-boyfriend came to visit me over the weekend (and tacked on a day or two of working remotely), and no one would have batted an eye about it.

          1. irritable vowel*

            Yes, when traveling on your own for work, it’s generally not a problem to have someone accompany you. But traveling with a team is different.

        4. Joseph*

          I think it’s totally different because of the length of time involved. OP1 and the linked post from 2015 are talking about a week or less during team-building/business trips. So it’s likely (and reasonable!) for the company to expect you to spend your evenings at dinner with co-workers, networking with clients, or whatever. On a three-month trip (where they’re renting an apartment to boot!), that won’t be happening. Especially since most of your co-workers at HQ will have their own lives that they’ll be doing on nights and weekends, whereas on a business trip everybody is in the same out-of-town-and-bored-at-hotel boat.

        5. TootsNYC*

          I agree, I think that’s different.

          Personally, I wouldn’t have him come for that week until about a third to halfway through that training. Certainly not in the first 3 weeks.

          I think you could even have him come twice (at 1 month and 2 months).

        6. Bartlett for President*

          I just want to echo this. I worked at a company that required we stay somewhere for a few weeks for training (and they gave us all our own hotel rooms at a Marriott that was some kind of extended stay place – basically, they were studio apartments in a hotel), and for those that were there for 4+ weeks, it was pretty common to have significant others visit during that time.

          If someone on one of the teams I used to manage was expected to relocate somewhere for three months, I would encourage them to invite their SO out to visit (on their own dime, of course). There is a HUGE difference between 4 days and 3 months, and no rational manager is going to dispute that.

        7. BananaPants*

          That’s very different. You’ll be there for 3 months and on your own, not traveling with coworkers. You’ll be in an apartment rather than a hotel. I wouldn’t have your boyfriend come in the first couple of weeks so that you can focus on the training but after that I’d say it’s certainly fair game for him to come. Maybe at the 1 month and 2 month marks, if you can afford two trips and he has the schedule flexibility to travel twice?

          If an employee in that situation was married and their spouse and/or children did not accompany them on a short term rotational assignment, some employers even pay for one or two flights for the rest of the family to visit during such an assignment (mine does!).

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I remember this one, and I just re-read through the comments again. It is so frustrating when an OP only wants to hear what they want to hear and actively lobbies against all the wise, practical advice given.

      4. B*

        I just read this whole think and it made me so angry. She asked a question, didn’t like the answer, and just did what she wanted anyway. Nevermind that 50 people told you the same exact thing – what do they know! I seriously dislike people like this.

    1. New Bee*

      I thought of the same letter and also agree. Someone at one of the sites I work at brought her boyfriend to work the first week of the job (and nearly every day for several months thereafter, under the cover of “volunteering”), and it made it impossible to take her seriously, especially since it was her first job and she’s right of college. In general, significant others and work just don’t mix.

      1. PABJ*

        Just read the letter and even though everyone said it was a bad idea, she ended up going anyway.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I was really baffled about why she wrote in in the first place since she was so hell-bent on going anyway. I also feel so sorry for Alison whenever this happens because man, she engages with these questions and gives thoughtful and professional answers and then the asker chooses to… just ignore all of that.

          1. The RO-Cat*

            I personally feel sorry for OP (and I think some people must bang heads more than others, before learning); Alison’s answers, though specifically directed to that OP, benefit many others. This way I see her efforts not wasted, just not taken in by one individual from the many that learn every day here (me being one of them, naturally)

            1. Ashley the Paralegal*

              +1 I can’t tell you how many letters I’ve read that helped me in some way or even just given me some insight for possible situations in the future. Definitely not wasted effort on Allison’s part.

              1. Kyrielle*

                Oh goodness yes! Even when I read letters that are 180 from anything I would ever encounter, I often learn something from Alison’s response – and it may be applicable in situations I would actually encounter.

                And then there’s the occasional ones I hope I never encounter an analogous situation for, but hey, I’m primed with the professional phrases (or the awareness that really there are none, just run!) for that situation.

              2. Bartlett for President*


                I’ve learned things here that I thought would have little use to me, but thought “hm, interesting!” – but, then turned out to be situations I’ve been in months later, and I felt 10x more equipped to handle it because of what I had read here.

            2. Nervous Accountant*

              Some people take longer to process than others–I do. I remember early on I emailed Alison and we would go back and forth for a long time. I cringe at some of my responses now because I was just so stubborn and not getting it, but I read them now and they all make sense. It wasn’t because I thought she was wrong, I just…I don’t know. It just took me longer to process things than I guess it does for others?

          2. Jack the Treacle Eater*

            I don’t think Alison’s efforts are ever wasted. There wouldn’t be the readership here if they were.

            Whether an OP agrees with or takes the advice given or not, they’ve had an unbiased sounding board to bounce the discussion off and a pause for thought; and as RO-Cat says, even if the advice is unwisely ignored, there are many, many other readers who might benefit from that advice.

            I’d also dare to suggest the ensuing discussion and kciking around ideas benefits Alison as well…

            1. Mallory Janis Ian*

              Yes, I think that particular OP just wanted validation for what she had already decided to do, and then was huffy and indignant about comments that didn’t support her in that.

    2. Elin*

      I can see it being problematic if the OP kept telling her coworkers that she can’t go to, say, a work dinner with them because her boyfriend is there, but is it really that big of a deal if he just stays quiet and off to the side? Like, if he just spent his time either quietly working in her hotel room, or going out to meals by himself when she’s busy.

      1. Amtelope*

        At the company I work for, this would be fine for an established employee, but as the first business trip someone went on for the company … no. It’s just not a professional first impression.

        1. Roscoe*

          Whats unprofessional about that though? Seriously? If she is performing her duties, why does who is in her room after hours matter? If she brought a random guy back to the hotel room after going to the bar, would that be unprofessional too?

          1. fposte*

            Yes, of course it would.

            My issue is both that she’s new and that it’s an LD boyfriend–you really don’t want to make it look like you’re making the company foot the bill to visit your honey and that work is secondary.

            1. fposte*

              I’m recanting my “of course it would,” because conferences are technically business trips and there’s a lot of hooking up at conferences.

            2. Liza*

              If it is a long distance relationship, that makes it more tempting to have the boyfriend stay in her hotel room but also makes it even more of a bad idea. First week of a new job = really need to focus on learning the new job. Visit with long-distance sweetie = really want to focus on getting to see the sweetie. (Why yes, I am in a long distance relationship right now.) Those situations don’t mix well–if OP tries to do both, she or he is likely to leave everyone dissatisfied including her- or himself.

          2. Ashley the Paralegal*

            I think what makes bringing the boyfriend unprofessional is that it gives the impression that she isn’t able to separate her personal and professional lives. Especially since this is her first trip and she needs to be focused on doing a great job. Also, I’d say the random person would completely unprofessional, particularly if she works with older or more conservative people who might come away with a negative image of her. Whether that is fair of them to do isn’t really relevant.

            1. fposte*

              And on a business trip, there really isn’t any “after hours” or “your own time.”

              1. Roscoe*

                Ok, well maybe the business trips I’ve gone on have been different. We have hung together sometimes, but it wasn’t a requirement. If I had a friend in that town, I’d absolutely hang with them in my off time (which I guess in your mind I don’t have). I’m not saying that you should never make time to do group things if they are being done, but you shouldn’t be looked down on if you choose not to partake in those activities all the time.

                1. Gabriela*

                  That’s true and I have chosen to hang out with friends in the city in which a conference was held over participating in the conference social activities, BUT this was not my first conference . Also, I think visiting with friends and having someone stay in your room the whole time are different in terms of levels of distraction.

                2. fposte*

                  If it’s fine with your employer, it’s fine to do, but yeah, you’re on their dime the whole time. And the OP doesn’t know if it’s fine with her employer–that’s kind of the point.

                3. Oryx*

                  But the SO isn’t in town. The SO lives two hours away from the conference site. So it’s not like with a friend who lives in the area that you see for an hour or two at dinner. The SO will be spending the time in the hotel room with the OP. Your friend doesn’t need you to entertain them because they presumable have their own life, job, activities, they can do. With this, the SO doesn’t have that option.

                4. sam*

                  Right, but this is also her first trip and she’s new to the team, so she just doesn’t know the team dynamics well enough yet to know what the dynamics of a business trip will be like. If she goes on several of these, and every single one results in them all retreating to their rooms after meetings/dinner and no socializing, then she’ll know that it’s much safer to invite someone to spend the evening. If they’re a team that whiles away the evening in the hotel bar talking strategy, or otherwise uses the time to “bond”, she’s going to want to at least be available to make the choice to take part in that. But she just doesn’t know what this trip is going to involve.

                5. Bartlett for President*

                  I think there is a distinction between business trip, and team building exercises. The old question was a team building event, which almost certainly included evening events (dinner, etc).

                  I also think there are rules for general behavior, and there are rules for “making an impression because I’m new” behavior. Once you’ve been at a company – or, are very established in your career, perhaps – there is more leeway. But, when you are new or young you aren’t a known commodity, and thus won’t be given the benefit of the doubt.

          3. Amtelope*

            The problem is that it’s her first trip, and she needs to appear focused on work and on her team. It’s for the same reason that someone working for our company should plan to go out to dinner with the group most nights the first time they travel, even though it’s common and not a problem for people who’ve been here longer to beg off the group dinners, order room service, and use their evenings to work or rest. Once you already know the rest of the team and have a track record of good performance, it’s a different situation.

      2. Artemesia*

        It is never ‘quietly’ because people know and they will interpret her behavior with that lens. She will be the employee that couldn’t do X and Y because she was off in the hotel room #$%$ing like a rabbit. It doesn’t matter if no one else is working or sleeping or whatever; it is a totally tone deaf choice for a new employee. And for many jobs it would remain a big ‘no’. Always wait and see what the norms of a company are before doing anything that might be viewed as inappropriate behavior.

      3. LQ*

        I think the big thing here is this is the first one. First one with new coworkers that haven’t even been met.

        After a time or two the OP will likely have a good handle on what the norm is, but having someone in the room the first time might make the OP less likely to do going out to happy hour and or whatever the optional things are. The first time there is a lot of value in doing all those things to see how optional they are, to get to know people and culture. Then you can go, oh there is a huge expectation that everyone go to all social after hours things and how much do I want to/can I push back on it. Oh, hey most people show up for a few minutes and then duck out and a lot of people bring spouses along.

        1. 3D Queen*

          My fiancé (sound guy, on set a lot) has a semi-regular client in a fun town two hours away (LA to SD) that requires an occasional 3-4 day trip. The first two times he went on his own, the third time I joined late and explored the city by myself, the last time they invited me to sit in! I thought it was the STRANGEST thing ever, but I certainly didn’t say no to the beautiful views and delicious food.

          They key was that he established himself as professional first, and it worked out because it was the right situation at the right time with the right mix of personalities. Honestly, joining people on work trips can be super fun, you’ll get there in the right time! You’ll get more out of it for you and your boyfriend in the long run if you get to know your co-workers first — the only reason they invited me was because my BF spent a lot of time getting to know them and talking about me and our awesome relationship

  11. Christopher Tracy*

    RE: letter #4. Something like this happened to a guy at my job. He went through a ten month training program at our company to become a teapot adjuster. Once he graduated, he was placed in a division that deals with complex financial issues. Several months later, he had a nervous breakdown at work and quit. Six months after that, he was hired into our company’s teapot marketing department where he’s been ever since (going on six or so years now I believe). I think the only reason he was rehired by our company was because a) he’d been a marketing major in college so the position was a better fit than the adjusting position, b) he knew almost everyone in the company having gone through this training program, so he’d made a lot of strong connections, and c) he owned up to what happened and kept everybody in the loop after his freakout.

    Meanwhile, another former graduate of this program up and disappeared only two months after her placement. When I asked her coworkers and former manager what happened (I’d spoken to her when I started, and she appeared to love her job, so I found this odd), nobody knew – they said she just didn’t show up at one of their division retreats. Then they noticed she wasn’t showing up to work or calling out. When I asked if anyone called her to see if she was, you know, alive, they’re like, “No. But maybe someone should do that.” You think?!

    We still don’t know what happened, but we assume she’s not dead since she has a family member who works at our parent company who would have said something to the training program manager about it. If she showed back up and applied for another job at our company, she would most definitely not be welcomed back. What she did is talked about throughout the company as one of the most unprofessional, and bizarre, things they’ve ever seen.

    1. Caroline*

      I don’t mean to pick on you here, but can I just clarify that a nervous breakdown isn’t a freakout. If he had a true breakdown, then it’s a serious medial issue.

      To me, your colleague’s situation would be no different than if he originally had a job with your company which involved heavy lifting and a back injury prevented him from continuing, but then a desk job came up which was perfect for him and he was offered that. I don’t think anyone would look askance at that, I think we’d all be pretty happy that an otherwise good employee was able to continue working despite a medical condition barring them from their previous job.

      As I said, I’m not trying to have a go at you, but the stigmatisation of mental health problems is such that I feel it’s important to highlight that they are just as real (and can be just as serious) as physical health problems.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        As someone with mental health issues, I’m very aware of the seriousness of such things. What happened to him was situational stress where he was tired of being yelled at by his division’s less than pleasant clients, and finally snapping on one of them before quitting. I know this guy, and he doesn’t have a true mental health problem that the job would need to accommodate. But I can admit that in my haste to give this example, I probably could have used different phrasing to describe what happened to him.

    2. MK*

      I think this might be one of the few times where it’s better to admit a mental health issue. A person who had a nervous breakdown has probably left a better impression than someone who simply disappeared and didn’t bother to notify anyone, because there is a good chance they were just flaky or irresponsible.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        He doesn’t have a mental health issue, but I’m willing to bet the girl who disappeared did. I say that because when I was in college and in the midst of one of my more severe depressive episodes, I just stopped showing up to newspaper. The editor and other writers would email me to see if I was all right, but I kept deleting the messages without responding and I barely left my room around that point. I was also so embarrassed by the way I’d just ghosted everybody, that that made me even more anxious and depressed, which made me withdraw even more.

        People quit what we do all the time because it’s like customer service times ten, and you have to be a certain personality type to get yelled at damn near every day and just let it roll off your back. But usually when they quit, people know why and where they went. We heard nothing from her. I’m still concerned about her to be honest.

        1. MK*

          By “had a mental health issue” I meant a problem concerning his mental health, not necessarily an ongoing condition. And disappearing could be due to flakiness or cowardice.

          1. Christopher Tracy*

            I think flakiness is exactly what the people at my job think happened with the disappearing girl, but I’ve met some extreme flakes in my day (hell, I can be one), and she didn’t strike me as one. Or a coward.

            1. blink*

              Yeah, I once disappeared from a job I had, up until then, been really competent at–I had gone crazy (for realzies) and I didn’t tell anyone because I knew I couldn’t make the call without speaking in rhyme (also way too fast to be understood, also probably not coherently enough to get across that I was quitting or why. I was crazy but I was self-aware.)

              I think flake-outs happen, but when someone who has been a job long enough, and garnered enough responsibility, to throw everything into chaos when they vanish, I think that something is usually very wrong. Or they’ve been playing the long con and someone should check the books.

              That said, I would never, ever expect to be hired at that place again!

  12. Random Lurker*

    #4: I think you’ve burned a bridge. I had an employee burn out and disappear. We eventually found her and made sure that she was OK. Our worry turned to contempt. There was a workload that we had to unexpectedly pick up without the benefit of a notice period to arrange schedules, get a head start on recruiting a backfill, etc. Projects she owned needed to picked up by people with no context nor the benefit of her handing over even a basic status. It put us in a real bind for a couple of weeks. HR put her down as ineligible for rehire due to the way she left. Notice periods aren’t required, but if you forego one, it will damage your reputation with the company you left.

    1. MK*

      Also, even leaving without notice, as in “today is my last day, so you have till the end of the day to handle the transition”, heck, even a call to let them know you are never coming to work again, will leave a better impression than doing a disappearing act.

  13. Do I Know #4?*

    #4: Someone did this at my workplace a few months ago, leaving during the middle of a work shift without saying anything to his manager.

    Not only did his up and leaving hurt us that day, as there was work to be done by day’s end that ended up being spread out to other people with similar day’s-end deadlines, but we also were short an extra two weeks of his employment in notice time when trying to hire someone else.

    I can understand being burned out; I’ve been there myself and quit a job without another one lined up due to burnout — but I gave notice (four weeks, actually). This person was already pretty much at the bottom on our team; his leaving without notice was an incredibly unprofessional act, and it should forever kill his chances at redemption here. If I were still in management at that company and I saw he had reapplied for some reason, I would have done everything in my power to prevent his being rehired.

    1. Rubyrose*

      I did something similar. At the end of my shift I stopped by the office managers desk, coat on, on the way out the door, and said “will you mail me my check?’ She said yes and I walked out, never to return. Not one of my better moments.
      It was a part time student job. I was dealing with severe depression. Burning a bridge did not cross my mind. But would I expect to be able to be rehired – no way.

    2. Christopher Tracy*

      Yeah, even the guy from my earlier example have notice when he burned out from the stress of his job. But I had another coworker at Evil Law Firm who just never came back from lunch one day. The weird thing was, he sat right next to me, and I swore I saw him in my peripheral a few times after that, but my supervisor said he never showed back up to work or called out. Other coworkers claimed to have seen him hanging around downtown on our lunch breaks, so they also thought he was still coming to work. Nope.

      The way he left wasn’t great, but given how awful that place was, none of us coworkers held it against him. We all joked we could just never come back from lunch too.

  14. Kera*

    LW1 – Alison’s got it spot on here. For your first few trips, you don’t want to be bringing your partner along. It sends an unprofessional message for your first trip, and since you’re likely travelling with your co workers, you’ll likely need to be going out for dinner/socials with them, particularly as these are colleagues you’ve not met yet and I expect part of the reason for the trip is to get you all familiar with each other. You probably won’t have time to see him! Leave it until you’re travelling alone (if that’s something you’ll end up doing) or until you’re much better established at your company.

    I travel a lot for work, and will cheerfully take my husband along with me to the more interesting locations where he can entertain himself while I’m at work. It’s a widely accepted perk of the job and the biggest problem is often making sure expenses and receipts are split correctly. It can also be perturbing – I’ve spent the entire day in a windowless conference hall and come back to the room exhausted, and he’s been off shark diving or sightseeing or other cool stuff and is buzzing with excitement – bit of an awkward mismatch.

    While I agree that your evening is your own, it’s a bit different when you’re travelling for business and you need to make yourself available for social activities or working late on the group’s project. Again, this can change as you get to grips with the dynamics of your workplace and your colleagues, what’s expected of you and what’s reasonable – I’ve (frequently) told my colleagues that I’ve run out of social and would be spending the evening alone, I’ve organised evening excursions, I’ve even babysat so a colleague and their partner could go out for dinner together. But until you’re experienced in the standard your organisation, you can’t judge reasonable deviations from it.

  15. brighidg*

    OP#4: First, let me say OP as someone who has done the walkout thing *twice*, I totally understand where you’re coming from. In my instance, I happened to work in a stressful industry for employers that had less-than-stellar reputations. In my instance, I happened to work in a stressful industry for employers that had less-than-stellar reputations, so I was able to bounce back twice from my decision. Seriously, those jobs would have made for a dozens of quality letters to AAM.

    My main concern though is going back to the same place – would you want to go back to the same role with the same people? If so, how do you know you wouldn’t run into the same issues? As I’ve said, I’ve stayed in the same industry and I can say that nothing I’ve heard about my former workplaces has made me regret my decision to leave. I may regret how I left, but I don’t regret leaving. Why do you want to go back?

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      That’s a really good question. Looking back on all the jobs I’ve quit or had my position eliminated, I’d never want to return to any of them. None of those places changed the things that made them awful places to work, but they were also smaller places – I wonder if the company OP #4 wants to work at is a larger company with many different divisions or business units that don’t necessarily do the same thing? In that case, I could see wanting to go back if you didn’t actually hate the company, but just hated the division you were in.

    2. themmases*

      I agree. I did this at a retail job in college. I don’t feel guilty about it because the environment was objectively terrible… If anything I wish I’d reported them to OSHA rather than let them off easy with my sudden departure. I certainly would never go back even if I were in dire straits and needed retail work again.

      The summer I went to lunch and never came back, we had: a new manager who routinely kept closers until midnight, later if she didn’t like the assistant manager closing that night; plumbing that broke so frequently neighboring stores stopped letting us use their bathrooms; related leaks that required us to walk through the backed up water to save merchandise and that were never cleaned up properly; and broken air conditioning (in Chicago, in July). That same manager tried to prevent me from attending the funeral of a friend who died suddenly. A couple of weeks after they fixed the plumbing I was stocking misses’ clothes with no air conditioning when a coworker told me that actually, the plumbing had broken again and there were no bathrooms. That was it.

      This OP’s real problem is their lack of reference or even goodwill from the people they left behind, because they are never working at that company again and they probably shouldn’t even want to. If they are staying in the same industry and that reference will be relevant, they’d be better off re-connecting with any individual they knew from that job who might be understanding enough to help them find something new.

  16. Hornswoggler*

    Sorry to crash the thread with a technical question. Alison, I’m having trouble with video ads on individual pages which play automatically. Is there a way of turning them off? They don’t appear on the home page, but when I click on an individual post, they start up. You get the sound, but you can turn that off by rolling the cursor over the picture, but the images continue to display with subtitles. It makes the page navigation and typing really jerky and slow. If I make a comment and press submit, it seems to re-load and start again.

    It seems to be a sort of news/comment thing, just called ‘Sponsored Content’ – e.g. stuff about Prince’s death, the latest Jon Stewart jokes about Trump, stuff about the Invicta Games.

    I don’t like to use an ad filter as I know that’s how you make money, but these are getting really tiresome.

    Thanks Alison! Keep up the good work!

    1. Christy*

      Alison has said before to use an ad blocker if the ads are messing up your experience on the site. One person (or 100 regulars) using ad blockers still nets her much more revenue than turning off ads entirely.

        1. fposte*

          Might be useful to state the ad blocker and the browser so Alison can pass on that info.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Several of us have done this already, and Alison has been on top of it. The ad network hasn’t, apparently.

            1. fposte*

              For you, sure–but I’m guessing you don’t know whether CherryScary’s adblocker is the same as yours.

                1. Liza*

                  Yes, but even then the empty box (with headline) still shows up! It’s only a very minor nuisance compared to the video, though. That’s very persistent advertising.

                2. Liza*

                  fposte & esra, I’ll poke at that some more. Thanks for letting me know that more is possible!

            2. edj3*

              I do use the most recent Ad Block Plus, have clicked the box and added it multiple times to the items to be blocked with zero success.

      1. edj3*

        I use Ad Block and still get the video ads. I’ll need to stop reading at work because my company has a pretty restrictive internet policy and while this site is OK, those ads are not :(

    2. Florida*

      Several times a week someone posts a comment about the ads on this website. I understand that ads can be annoying but Alison has an email address. The comment board isn’t the only way to contact her. If you have an issue with the website ads, you can email her directly, rather than clogging up the thread. If several people have a problem with it, she will write a post about it, as she’s done before.
      I dont mean to be the comment police. It’s just that there are so many comments that the off-topic comments just clutter things up.
      Am I the only one that is bothered by this? If so, feel free to disregard.

      1. The RO-Cat*

        I don’t really find these comments bothering (at least as long as they don’t smother the main issues). As I see it, there are people willing to go to some lengths to make sure Alison is able to keep the site going; and when the technical issues are too much, they signal and/or look for ways to keep ads going within the usability limits they defined for themselves. Could they write to Alison? Of course. Has she the time to answer? I’d guess not; that is why sometimes the hive mind can help with ideas for a win-win solution. The price? Having some comments off-topic sometimes. As long as Alison thinks this is acceptable I guess we’ll have this kind of things going on.

        As for Hornswoggler’s problem: I get these ads too. As soon as the image appears, I right-click it and choose “Pause”. This reduces the page’s jerky moves. I know it’s not ideal – Alison still misses some impressions, I think, but it’s better that AdBlock all over the site.

      2. Hornswoggler*

        Sorry to irritate you, Florida. I used this method precisely because I have seen others do it! Thanks for all the other input folks. I will try the pause thing – I didn’t think of right-clicking.

        1. Florida*

          Hornswoggler, my response wasn’t really to you but to everyone who used this method. You were just the straw that broke my back, so to speak. I realize that others have used this method, which is precisely the problem. So my reply was not to draw attention to you specifically but more to everyone who does this.

          1. Liza*

            Florida, like RO-Cat I actually like that we commenters can help each other out with this kind of thing. Perhaps you could just collapse the comment thread any time you see the start of this kind of thread?

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Agreed — I’d much prefer people email me directly about it rather than posting here, both because it clogs up the thread and because if they email me, it’s easier to do any needed troubleshooting directly (if back and forth is required). I do respond if someone emails me about it.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You’re talking about the ad above the comments. They changed it a few weeks ago and it seems to now bypass ad blockers, unless you block individual elements. I actually tried removing it and site revenue plunged, so now it’s back.

      Basically no ads = no site. So the ads need to stay. I’ll probably do a separate post of its own soon talking about this.

      1. Nonia*

        Alison, I read the article you posted yesterday about the ads. Although I don’t encounter the ad problems that others do, I appreciate knowing about how hard you work on this site to improve user experience. Thanks!

  17. Roscoe*

    #1 This is one of those things that I really hate. I agree with Alison’s advice, but I don’t like it. As the OP writes, her after hours time is for her. Whatever she wants to do off the clock should be ok (assuming its not illegal or hurting someone). But people are such busybodies that they have to intrude into other people’s business. If I went on a work trip, and someone had their sig other in their room, I can’t imagine that I would care one way or the other. Hell, if they wanted to have a crazy party, I wouldn’t care either, as long as they got their work done the next day. I really wish people would learn to mind their business. But until that day comes (probably never) the advice given is correct.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      But that’s just it: We don’t know that the evenings are “off the clock” time yet. For all OP knows, there could be work-related activities in the evening. She needs to go on this first trip solo to get the lay of the land, see what the normal hours and expectations are.

      1. Roscoe*

        I suppose, but that goes into other issues I have of expectations that you will do things with the group after the work day is over. Why should that be an expectation. If I want to crash, go to the pool, go meet a friend, or go to the bar, why should that matter. Why should I HAVE to go out with co-workers after the work day is done.

        1. chocolatechipcookie*

          No one HAS to. It’s not just about getting into other peoples’ business- although there’s certainly people who would! For social activities, if everyone else does dinner or something together, it is helpful, especially as a new employee, to socialize a little with your coworkers or managers that you’re going to be working with for hopefully a while. Building relationships just makes it easier to work with people. No reasonable person will get mad or think you’re a terrible employee if you don’t, but you’ll lose the benefit of that social time and perhaps be seen as a bit stand-offish if you blow everyone off the whole time. If it’s really bothersome (for whatever reason), it’s probably a good idea to try to make the effort once or twice and then beg off.

        2. neverjaunty*

          Because it’s a business trip, not Friday happy hour after work, and it is common for the purpose of the trip to include socializing with co-workers to some degree.

        3. myswtghst*

          I don’t think anyone is saying you have to go out with coworkers every night after work, especially not on the umpteenth business trip – it’s more about this being the first trip with new coworkers who the OP will likely want to build working relationships with, and whose “normal” business trip routine OP has not been exposed to yet. In my experience, it isn’t about “being up in each other’s business”, it really is about building relationships with people outside of the work day, when we may all be too focused on work to really get to know one another.

          Different companies have different cultural norms around travel. OP may find out this is a group who does dinner the first night and encourages everyone to go their own way from there on out – if that’s the case, great, invite the boyfriend to come out for a night or two. OP may also find out this is a team that places a high value on socializing, in which case they’ll be in a better position to decide how to handle it without having to worry about the SO sitting in the hotel room alone.

    2. anonderella*

      This is a tradeoff of living around other people – sometimes you have to curtail your desires in order to advance, because no person operates as an island. We rely on resources other people can provide us, and our relationships with those people – this is reciprocity. For a large majority of people all over the world, this has meant giving up physical and emotional comforts for the sake of common peace – maturity, civility, reason, and responsible action.

      Now, how this plays into your question is that all these people making these bargains and compensations for their desires, they also ALL have differing values in life that they are fighting for. We have to make a lot of sacrifices in order to take into account all those different perspectives. Doing this to an extreme is almost as bad as only taking in one perspective into consideration, but we often err on the side of this because it is NOT as bad. Logically, thus:

      Type I vs Type II error : Assuming the boat-rocking is bad, when it actually isn’t, vs Assuming the boat-rocking isn’t bad, when it actually is having major, significant, unseen (however temporarily) consequences.

      In a professional setting, when you don’t know what all is at stake, which would certainly be the case for this first-timer OP, you should err on the side of caution, if not, dare I say, common sense (what I mean by that is that, if company culture dictates boyfriend/girlfriend-having-over is alright, then go for it; if it is appropriate to throw a giant party in your hotel with your company’s name attached to it (because yes, it is, to the hotel staff, and to anyone to whom your party-goers tell), then do it, just don’t forget to invite your coworkers. But, again, OP does NOT know that these things are the case.).

      If you really want to know why it isn’t appropriate, it is because you can’t possibly know all the factors involved, how the consequences will play out, and it appears you are less concerned with them than getting to feel good and have a fun time – this is immaturity, and and extremely short-sighted at that.

      1. anonderella*

        btw, I know in a lot of situations, one of those types of errors is considered by many to be worse; it does depend on the situation, and that it what I am arguing here, though I don’t know that I did enough to explicitly say that.

    3. KTM*

      Unfortunately on work trips (in my experience) there isn’t really ever an ‘after hours’ time. I’m not sure about the OP’s specific situation, but when I’m traveling for work it’s usually for a trade show or to visit customers. The majority of good networking and deals get done over dinner or at the hotel bar later after a few drinks and people are in good moods. If I closed up shop at 5pm and hung out with my boyfriend all night instead of being available for these interactions, my company would be pretty irritated. (To your point though, I don’t care if someone travels with their boyfriend or spouse or whatever, but I think it’s important to understand that aspect.)

    4. Amtelope*

      On a business trip, though, you don’t really know if there will be any “after-hours time” until you get a sense of how these trips work at this company. And sometimes it varies even within the same company. I’ve been on trips for my company where everyone scattered to the winds at 5:00 PM and did their own thing. I’ve also been on trips where having clients who decided to join us for dinner or boxes of materials that failed to arrive meant at 11:00 PM I was still stuck in a restaurant while the client ordered another cup of coffee or frantically photocopying participant packets at the local copy shop. It’s hard to predict this stuff when the OP has never traveled for this company before.

  18. Case of the Mondays*

    For number 4, I’d say maybe. I worked somewhere that had an admin walk out w/ no notice. Months later, she contacted her boss and told him she had been in an abusive relationship and didn’t want to go into detail but that was why she didn’t return or call that day. She went on to say they were now divorced and she was back to work and doing well. He thanked her for letting him know. Her old position opened back up a year later and he reached out to her and offered it to her. She was happy in her new job at that point and didn’t want to return.

    So, while 9/10 you burn a bridge when you walk out, if you later explain and have a very good reason your boss might take sympathy on you and give you another chance, if the thing that made you walk out is now resolved.

  19. HRChick*

    Letter 3: We’re getting geared up for this because of the potential FLSA changes. A lot of people who were exempt are going to be nonexempt now and they’re used to being able to work whenever they want. We’re thinking of making a restriction so that they’re not allowed to have their email account on any of their personal devices. We’re not sure because some of these positions need to have access! :-\ It’s a conundrum.

    Letter 4: We hired someone and gave them a start date. For some reason, she decided she wanted to start earlier and she just showed up to her shift. Because this was after hours, I came back to an angry phone call from the manager about how no one told him that he had a new hire coming in. Thing is, she had not completed ANY of her onboarding paperwork, so she was not supposed to be there. I guess the Director of that department came in and told her that she wasn’t supposed to come back until her start date and that we needed her information to get her paid. But she never came back. We reached out to her through phone calls, emails, letters, certified letters, etc just letting her know that we wanted to pay her for the shift she had worked. She never responded.

  20. CM*

    OP #1: I think one night would be fine, maybe two if it turns out that there is no work or socializing and everyone is doing their own thing after hours; all week would make it look like the work trip was an excuse to have your boyfriend camp out with you.
    OP #4: I agree that it’s extremely unlikely you’d be rehired, but I think it’s never too late to apologize. At least the legend of that person who walked out one day and was never heard from again would be tempered with, “… but much later, s/he eventually sent an email apologizing and saying she had personal stuff going on.”
    OP #5, I would love if somebody rejecting me from a job offered to be a resource!

  21. Dame Joody Wrench*

    #1. Oh c’mon. It’s not like her BF will be tagging along at business meetings. How will they even know hes in the room? It’s her business if she wants to meet up with someone in the evening after hours.

    1. BuildMeUp*

      Well, if their rooms are all in a block together, it would be pretty easy for them to see him in the room as she’s going in/out, or for him to be entering/leaving while one of them goes back to grab something from their room, etc.

      I think the main issue here is that it’s the first business trip OP is going on with this company. It’s a first impression thing, to me – the OP is new, and shouldn’t have “brings BF on business trip” be one of the few main data points coworkers have about them.

    2. Kera*

      On her first trip, how does she know when is teambuilding/networking and when is after hours? My first ever business trip, we had team building dinners and social events precisely because it was my first trip and it was a great opportunity to get to know each other. My last trip, I was ‘on’ from 7am to 11pm, when the clients I was visiting finished up at the pub. Would have been tedious beyond words for my partner to have been stuck in the room waiting for me to come back, tired and needing to prep for the next day.

      Future trips? Fine. My partner has accompanied me to a load of work trips, and its a well regarded perk of travelling for work. But on your first trip, when you don’t know the team you’ll be visiting or the structure of the week, it’s ill judged.

  22. TootsNYC*

    Re #1, vacation time

    I think that not paying out vacation time when someone quits is exactly like asking people to leave immediately when they give notice.

    The employer is getting what they deserve.

    In fact, I think most people in your situation should accept a new job and ask for 3 or 4 weeks before you start, then immediately go on vacation, and give 2 weeks’ notice when you come back.

    And, I think they’re both chump moves, to be honest.

    If anyone there ever says anything to you about having taken so much vacation when you knew you were going to be leaving, say, “Well, the company certainly knows what they’re getting when they won’t pay out vacation. Perhaps the managers should lobby to change that.

    1. OP#2*

      Allison & TootsNYC-

      Thank you so much! I was thinking this as well, but I was feeling really guilty about this all. Thank you so much!

  23. JMegan*

    OP1, this sentence stood out to me:

    I would have no problem with him coming in his car for dinner or to spend several hours in the evening or even spending a night here and there…but I am concerned that him staying the entire week in my hotel room… could be seen as inappropriate or unprofessional.

    I think your instincts are correct. And I could be wrong, but it sounds like this is more your boyfriend’s idea than yours, and that he is actually the one who needs convincing here. So I just wanted to wish you good luck when you have the conversation with him, and hopefully you’ll be able to work out another way of having your visit!

    1. KR*

      That section stood out to me too but I was thinking that since he has his own transportation – could he wait until you get there before you all decide if he should come or not? If you get there and find out that no one really does anything in the evenings, you could have him drive over and spend a night or two later in the week or go out in the evening on a date with him. You could also see if you can adjust your travel plans so that when the conference is over at the end of the week he can pick you up and you can spend the weekend with him.

        1. KR*

          Since he is two hours away and due to a situation with his car, he prefers to take a bus/shared ride and stay most of the week in my hotel room, waiting for me to come home every day and then returning by bus at the end of the week. I would have no problem with him coming in his car for dinner or to spend several hours in the evening or even spending a night here and there if I felt like we could do it discreetly, but I am concerned that him staying the entire week in my hotel room, even if we were quiet, could be seen as inappropriate or unprofessional.

  24. Liza*

    OP # 2: If you time it right, it can be a great benefit to your old department to have you take some vacation time before you leave. Here’s what one of my former coworkers did: shortly before he went on vacation, he told our boss that he was resigning, and gave a last day that was one or two weeks *after his return from vacation.* So we had his vacation as sort of a trial period for what it was going to be like without him. We were able to make a list of the tasks of his that we didn’t know how to do, and when he came back he wrote us instructions for those tasks. It was great!

    Of course, he was only able to do this because he knew our company wasn’t going to boot him out the door when he gave notice. In your situation you’d want to be especially careful about that because of not getting your vacation paid out.

    1. OP#2*

      I wish I could do that! But I also wouldn’t be leaving if it weren’t for the negative circumstances, and they don’t make me feel particularly optimistic about something lik ethis.

  25. Nobody*

    #3, I would guess that this employee doesn’t understand the legal ramifications for a non-exempt employee working off the clock. There was a letter here earlier this year (“Why won’t my manager let me work extra hours?”) where someone who was new to the workforce didn’t understand why she was getting in trouble for working off the clock, because she figured she was allowed to volunteer her free time to work if she wanted to. Alison’s answer to that might be helpful in explaining to the employee why that’s not allowed. The employee is almost certainly doing this with good intentions, trying to be conscientious about her work, so if you kindly explain to her how it can actually be harmful, she should get the picture. That said, I don’t think it would hurt for you to put a delay on your end-of-the-day e-mails so as not to tempt her.

  26. TootsNYC*

    #4, leaving with no notice–
    If you’d even walked in and said, “I can’t anymore, it’s too much, I just quit,” you might have a better shot, depending on what the company knows about the stresses you were under. And of course depending on how good you were at your job. Managers are people too, so in many instances, they’ll cut people some slack if they can truly sympathize.
    Thanks for bringing your question–there are opportunities for people to learn from you. And the takeaway for people in your position is, I think, this: Call out sick. Say, “I don’t feel well, I have to leave,” and go home. Keep it short, but say something.
    That will relieve a bit of the pressure, and then you can write a letter or email from home that says, “For medical reasons, I need to resign right away.” And you can get some level-headed friend or family member to help you preserve all your options for the future.

    It can be so hard when you’re under that level of stress.

  27. Lisa*

    #1: who wants a boyfriend who would hang out in a hotel room all week? It would reflect very badly on her if her new colleagues found out. Why doesn’t he look for a job so he can get his car fixed?

  28. JS*

    #1 – I honestly dont see this as a big deal. Assuming its a large hotel who is going to keep track of your comings and goings of your room? If you want to cover your tracks, you can casually mention to your co-workers you are in the city where your S.O. lives and will meet up with him later so if they see you with someone in the hotel it wont look off to them. However, this shouldn’t be weird or unprofessional to anyone. As Allison says I wouldn’t ditch work happy hours, dinners, or events to see him as this is vital time for you to get to know your coworkers. But it should not look unprofessional or scandalous for him to stay with you. I honestly think if people were uptight about your BF staying with you they would be no matter how long you worked there.

    A legitimate concern however is if you expense items for your S.O. to the company since he was staying with you during that time. Make sure your expenses are well within the amount of a single person.

    #3 – Don’t frame it as a personal issue as “I want you to have evenings to yourself” frame it as a legal issue as: “Legally as an hourly employee I have to pay you for your work. Your work hours are from X to Y so I cannot have you working, evening answering emails outside those hours.” I regularly answer emails off the clock but I am salaried.

    1. KTM*

      I think for #1 I would agree with everything you said if OP wasn’t a new employee and making a first impression. I know we use a lot of dating analogies here and this one seems like a good case. There’s a lot of things that aren’t a big deal if you do or say them after you’ve been with someone for a year, but you would never do on a first date.

      1. JS*

        I disagree that it should have any effect on a first impression. Only if she centers the trip around catering to her boyfriend is it an issue. No real reason for them to ever find out he’s been there. Her issue is that she is worrying that they will judge her for having him stay there. However she never said she wouldn’t see him at all during the trip, if she lets her coworkers know this they are all going to assume either she is not staying at the hotel they paid for her or he is staying with her, regardless of what she says they are doing.

        1. myswtghst*

          Whether or not it should have an effect on a first impression really isn’t the issue, though, because the comments here have made it clear that it would be unusual / inappropriate to many people. And since the OP hasn’t traveled with their coworkers before, they have no way to know for sure that their coworkers would see this as totally fine and normal, vs. something totally out of the ordinary, and their coworkers have no way to know if this is going to happen every trip or just once in a while.

          The first trip, especially in a position where you haven’t met many of the colleagues you’re traveling with, is an opportunity to get to know the workplace norms and get a feel for team dynamics. Chances are, the OP will find that it’ll be totally cool for the boyfriend to join for future trips, but until then, I think it’s better to err on the side of caution and focus on work.

  29. One of the Sarahs*

    OP #1, other people have focused on the possible socialising aspects of the worktrip, and I completely agree – but another factor that you need to consider is if you’ll need time in the evenings to prepare for the next day. This could be actively, in terms of doing work/preparation, etc, but also in terms of needing to just process the day, and getting tons of rest so you can be as prepared as possible for the following day’s work.

    From my experience of working away, even though I’m a massive extrovert, I really needed some downtime in my first few trips, just to work everything out. It’s great to be able to skype a loved one then, of course, but it’s a different situation if you’ve had someone sitting in a hotel room waiting for you to come home, who’ll want attention paid to them. This is my personal experience, and YMMV, of course, but it can be super-tiring, and having some space is so valuable.

    (There are also annoying practical issues to consider – how do you know you’d get a double room, how would you navigate having 1 room key for 2 people, if there’s only supposed to be single occupancy, what happens about breakfast etc, from how you pay for an extra one to what happens if your colleagues usually meet to have breakfast together. All these things could be total non-problems – but until you’ve seen the culture of these trips first hand, you won’t know)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      (There are also annoying practical issues to consider – how do you know you’d get a double room, how would you navigate having 1 room key for 2 people, if there’s only supposed to be single occupancy

      I don’t think these are actually likely to be issues. Most hotel rooms *are* double rooms. I don’t think I’ve ever had the option of a room with one twin-size bed. I guess in an extremely expensive city that might be an option, but even in NYC, on a trip paid for by a government agency (and therefore as cheap as possible), Mr. Shackelford had a double bed. And when I travel for business (the only time I have a hotel room to myself), they either give me two keys automatically, or they ask how many I want. And when I say two (because having one in my wallet and one in my pocket gives me the best odds of not locking myself out), no one ever bats an eyelash.

      But it’s a moot point, because he shouldn’t come.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        This could be cultural, because in my UK travel – that’s been booked through work systems – I’ve been in everything from a tiny single room to a huge suite. But regardless, there are still all kinds of practical things, like breakfast, room service etc, that OP needs to experience to work out how it’ll happen.

    2. Oryx*

      I’ve often had a hotel room to myself, either for business trips or family trips or whatever, and I’ve always gotten two keys automatically.

      1. fposte*

        I always get asked how many keys I want, and even on my own I always get two, because they’re so easy to lose or deactivate.

    3. myswtghst*

      Your second paragraph is definitely true to my experiences. When I travel for work, I’m often working longer than normal days in a strange location while working with new people and being “on” all day, so when the workday is over, I’m ready to crash, not to hang out with my wonderful night owl SO who has been cooped up in the hotel room relaxing all day. While I’m sure it would be nice for the OP to see their SO, it’s not necessarily going to be “quality time” together.

  30. Tuckerman*

    LW1: I invited an acquaintance to meet up with me for part of a conference a couple years ago. We had a blast and now we’re married. But, I had been with the company 4 years and my boss actually knew the fella and wanted us to get together.
    I know how hard (and expensive) long distance relationships are. So if you don’t take the advice to forgo a visit completely, I’d at least wait to schedule it until you get there and have a good idea of your schedule. Then, if you know you’ll have time alone, figure out a time where you can meet up at another location (not your hotel).

  31. animaniactoo*

    #4 – The only possible shot that you would have at this is if you could explain what has changed for you that guarantees the same thing wouldn’t happen again.

    Early on with my current company, I had a couple of days where I just didn’t show up to work. No call, no show, came back the next day with an excuse the first time, but the 2nd – I wouldn’t still be here if I hadn’t done something to address why I had handled what I was dealing with that way. It took being diagnosed with something I didn’t know I had – so I *understood* why I had no energy and no motivation on those days – to make it less scary to me and stop my own freakout about what was going on to do that. But I had to go get help.

    So, you had a bunch of personal stuff going on, you clearly went beyond your ability to cope. What would you be able to show them in terms of what coping skills you’ve added, what additional buffers you have against something like this happening again?

    But – the other thing you need to know is that if you go back there after such a complete break as you had – you’re always going to be the person who did that really odd thing. Are you prepared to deal with that? Because it WILL be talked about. Probably for as long as you work there. It may be talked about less as time goes by, but it will never die. It will always be there for others and they’ll tell the new people as part of company gossip stuff. It’s the nature of the beast. You have to be really prepared to deal with that if you’re going to have any shot.

    In the meantime – even if you don’t go back, I would still write to your manager/hr, and explain what happened. Think of it as what you *can* do about a situation you know you handled wrong at the time.

  32. Anxa*


    Is it generally okay to email after hours so long as it takes less than 7 minutes? And would that be 7 minutes a day or 7 minutes a week?

    People do work or dedicate their personal time to employers all of the time without getting paid for it, to the point that it’s completely acceptable to have to arrive early to work every day and mill about rather than risk being late one day. There’s laundering work uniforms, commuting, etc. None of these are direct job responsibilities, but you’d lose your job for not doing them, so they are time requirements outside of paid hours.

    So if you need to respond to an email outside of paid hours, why is that unacceptable? Does it depend on whether that’d be part of your regular work hours? Also, would this only be for jobs where computer work is part of the usual job. For instance, I’ve had plenty of jobs where I wasn’t able to actually check my email until my shift was over. I actually work a job now where some days are mostly computer work, but other days I struggle to find time to visit the water fountain, bathroom, etc. while doing my best work.

    1. Nova Terra*

      Well, because commuting and laundry are not things exclusively in service of the employer. People commute and do laundry as part of life. You may buy specific articles of clothing for work, or commute specifically to your workplace, but the act of laundering clothes or commuting to places in general isn’t exclusive to work. But responding to work email is specifically an act in service of your workplace as a part of your workplace duties.

      1. Anxa*

        That’s an interesting perspective. I don’t agree with some of the points, though. You don’t commute outside of commuting (I think of commuting as a specific type of transportation). If you’re driving to work, that’s time you’re spending driving for the sole purpose of getting to work (unless you plan on including errands later). You do laundry in life, but you do specific loads of laundry that you wouldn’t do unless you have work (this may be more specific to the experiences of my brother and I fighting over who had dibs on the washer when we worked in restaurants and had conflicting laundry shifts).

        Emailing in my opinion more integrated into your regular life, as you could be casually checking into your inbox and then unexpectedly finding a work related email. Again, my experience may be different than others; I suppose some people specifically have work email accounts, which I think is the case with this OP. That does change things more considerably, IMO.

        I find the line between service for your employer and general life-living to get pretty murky sometimes, and I’m pretty fascinated by the way some activities get classified. I’ve had friends who work in theater for whom doing their hair and makeup is very distinctly part of their job, and were paid for. I’ve also had friends in customer-facing positions with pretty high expectations on maintaining their appearance, that were done solely to comply with their dress codes and beauty standards, and spent hours a week doing their hair, makeup, and shaving that they wouldn’t for an ordinary job.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think your second paragraph explains the disconnect — when this topic comes up, it’s generally (if not always) referring to work-specific email accounts.

  33. Argh!*

    Re: #3 I can understand the temptation, as I had to start checking my e-mail before bed because I tended to not notice e-mails from the night before when I got to to work. But I’m exempt so I have more flexibility.

  34. Anon Moose*

    Another thing with the bf in the room- if this is a conference with multiple staff attending, is OP absolutely certain there isn’t a room sharing thing involved?? Because then 100% the bf hanging out in the shared room with a new coworker would NOT be ok.

  35. lazuli*

    For #3 — It’s possible she may be answering emails off-hours because she wants to feel indispensable, so emphasizing that the emails aren’t urgent or that you want her to be off the clock might backfire and make her feel like she has to prove herself to you more. If that may be the case, “It’s awesome that you’re so on the ball, but, unfortunately,[legal issues]” may be a more effective way of getting her to hear you.

  36. Love Emails*

    Oh my goodness. I am very much guilty of checking my work email at all hours because it’s something to do when I’m bored and makes me feel far less stressed at work in the mornings. My jobs have rarely required me to check emails after work (when they have, I get a text.)

    Also, I can’t imagine anyone who actually works with 100% focus for an entire 8 hour day. You take 5 minute bathroom breaks here and there, maybe chat with coworkers, or maybe visit a certain blog from time to time. I see the 5 minutes of checking email here and there after hours as pay back for those moments of inattention.

    This may sound harsh but if my ability to check email after hours or outside of work was taken away, I would seriously consider quitting a job. I would be very unlikely to take a job if I knew ahead of time that I wouldn’t have after hours access to email. I would just be far too stressed at work in the mornings and feel like my employer was being unreasonable.

  37. newlyhr*

    #4 Although I don’t think there is any chance of you being rehired by this company, you still might want to send a note to somebody there –maybe your boss–saying that you realize now that what you did made things very difficult for them and your co-workers and that you are sorry. I think there can be a big benefit to owning your responsibility for what you did. I’d talk it over with a trusted friend before doing it.

  38. Adlib*

    #1 – Yikes, agree with Alison, don’t do it. I once had a new trainee have a lady friend at the hotel where he was staying. Not that this would happen in your case, but it was a real distraction as he frequently arrived late for training sessions due to driving her to this place or that and taking long lunches. This really spoke volumes about his professionalism/dedication. Needless to say, he was fired a couple months later (for other reasons, but they go along with his previous behavior).

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