asking my boyfriend’s boss to help me plan a secret vacation, a camera was stolen from my office, and more

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

1. Asking my boyfriend’s boss to help me plan a secret vacation with him

My boyfriend of six and a half years is turning 30 between Christmas and New Year’s. His family and many of his close friends live in the UK. I would like to surprise him with a trip to the UK for Christmas and so that he can spend his 30th with the people who mean the most to him. However, in order to do so, I would need to contact his manager to ask about booking time off for him. I know that he is allowed to have one week of vacation per year, and he has not taken his vacation this year. How would I go about asking my boyfriend’s manager to request time off for my boyfriend?

I’m not really a fan of this, because it can put his manager in a pretty bad position. From the manager’s perspective, I don’t know if he’s saving up his vacation time for something else, or whether the two of you are having problems and he’d rather not go on this trip (and might prefer to use work as an excuse), or whether he’s going to submit a vacation request for November that would leave him no time for this trip he doesn’t know about in December. If he only gets one week a year, you’d be using all of his vacation on this, which he might not want or which might conflict with other plans he has (and there’s a decent chance he’ll have already used it since this will be the very last week of the year).

It also can cause workload issues, if he’s planning to do something crucial during that week and doesn’t know he’ll need to get it done earlier or otherwise make advance arrangements to cover his work. (In some jobs, the manager could do that for him, and in other jobs it would be much harder.)

A better option might be to ask him to take that week off but leave the trip itself a surprise.

2. Our department camera was stolen from my office

I work at a large company, but my department is pretty small. I’ve always been in charge of keeping the DSLR camera for our department in my office. I use it from time to time, maybe once a month if that – to take photos of new employees and things. I just realized today that the camera is missing from my office (I honestly haven’t had to use it in a month). I tended to either keep it on my bookshelf, or in a drawer with the camera case. I’ve looked through all my stuff and it’s nowhere to be found. I’ve asked around to other people in other departments, and no one has seen it.

Obviously, I should’ve locked up my things better but after four years, there’s been no incident until now. My boss is on vacation until mid-week next week. I’m unsure how to tell her this, and am a bit afraid of the consequence. I don’t walk into my office daily and inventory my belongings, and unfortunately this somehow got away from me. Any advice? I’m ready to look up replacement cameras and hope the end result isn’t too terrible.

If they haven’t given you a locking drawer or somewhere else to secure it, this stuff happens. I mean, yeah, it’s not great that you didn’t have it locked away, but ideally you wouldn’t need to worry about coworkers stealing things either.

All you can really do is be straightforward with your boss, and take responsibility for not having it more secured. I’d say something like, “I think the DLSR camera has been stolen. It’s usually on my shelf or in a drawer, and it’s missing. I’ve looked everywhere and asked other people to look, and it’s nowhere to be found. I should have asked earlier for a locking drawer to keep it in and will in the future if we replace it, but I wanted to let you know right away.”

3. Turning down a job at a company I want to work at

Recently I have began applying aggressively to a company that I really want to work at, in hopes that one of my applications (or my numerous applications in general) would catch the attention of HR. All of the jobs I applied to are similar, just in different departments. Recently one of the applications was accepted and I was contacted by an HR person who did mention that they noticed I applied for “some other positions in (this field).” They then noted the specific application they were contacting me about and we scheduled a phone interview.

I have done my due diligence and read up on the department and their work. Well, after doing all of that, I realize that I don’t think this particular department would be a good fit for me, but I still want to work for the company. I do plan on completing the phone interview; however, if I am called for a formal interview, I don’t really want to waste the time of the staff in that department. My thinking is that the phone interview is a good way for me to talk to HR and give them more information on myself so that if my application is selected again in the future, they already have an idea of my skills. But I am not interested in the work the department does and I don’t really want to turn down an interview and possibly a job if it’s offered because I don’t want to look bad. I don’t know what to do. Is there a way to not accept a formal interview if offered without looking bad? I still really want to work at this company because they are a leader in their field but I don’t think the current position I’m being interviewed for is a good fit for me.

Definitely don’t go to an in-person interview if you know for sure you don’t want the job. You can just explain that you really appreciated their time talking with you, but you realized that you’re more interested in working in departments that do X and Y and you’d love it if they’d contact you if an appropriate opening there comes up.

It’s fine to do still do the phone interview — and it’s possible that you might find out information that changes your mind — but I wouldn’t count on that being something that helps you in the future. I’m assuming this is a large company (given the number of openings you’ve applied for), so while the phone interviewer might put some basic notes on you in their applicant database, it’s not super likely that it’ll give you a significant leg up with other roles there. (It’s definitely possible, but not something I’d plan around.)

The bigger issue here, I think, is that you might be applying for too many jobs with this company. Applying aggressively in the hopes that they’ll notice you can be problematic — it can lead to them noticing you in a bad way, especially if you’re being so indiscriminate that you didn’t realize you’d applied for something that didn’t actually interest you. That’s less of a problem at large companies as long as you’re applying for the same basic types of work, but I’d still make a point of only applying only for jobs there that you’d be excited to interview for.

4. Severance when an employee is fired

My question has to do with notice and severance. I know good employers give employees notice of a layoff (or severance if the employer cannot give notice). However, what about for employees terminated for misconduct, especially with a progressive discipline system in place?

I understand the legal issues with waivers in exchange for severance. Outside of that issue, though, should employers give severance to employees terminated for cause, assuming the employer has a progressive discipline policy in place (so the employee has had previous warnings and/or done something so egregious, they needed to be terminated). Do you have a sense of whether it is common or not common to give severance to employees terminated for misconduct?

It really varies by employer. Some employers routinely offer severance to fired employees, often because they want the signed release form in exchange. (It’s typical to have people sign a release of any future legal claims in exchange for severance, which can be smart to do even when you don’t have any worries about legal issues, because even baseless lawsuits can take up a huge amount of time and money.) Others don’t offer severance to fired employees unless there’s a specific reason to (like that they’re worried the person is litigious or has real grounds for a case, or because they recognize that just got the hiring decision wrong and so bear some responsibility).

In general, I think that employers who can afford it should offer severance to employees who are fired unless they’re being fired for deliberate misconduct. If someone is being fired because they just couldn’t do the job well but they made a sincere effort, that sucks for everyone and it’s kind to offer some severance to cushion the blow (and to recognize that hey, you hired this person so you’re part of this too).

5. Should I get a low-level part-time job in order to work my way into a management position?

I’ve worked my way up to a supervisor position in informal education nonprofits (think zoos, gardens, etc.). I’d like to eventually become education manager/director of an informal facility, but in my current office that would mean my boss would have to leave, which isn’t going to happen any time soon.

There is a science museum in my town that I would love to work at. Science museums are the one informal facility that I haven’t worked in, but I think would fit my background well.

Do you think it would benefit me to work at the museum part-time doing something like weekend birthday parties? This would be a low position on the totem pole. Then if a management position opens up, I would already work there and have an “in.” My husband thinks that everyone loves a “work your way up from the bottom” sort of story, but I’m worried it might actually hurt my chances since they would see me just as a birthday party host and not a manager. (If they see me at all, since management very well might not work weekends).

I would enjoy the weekend work but don’t need the small amount of extra money it would get me, so I would just be working there in hopes of it helping me get a management job there in the future.

Nah, I wouldn’t do it. If you wanted to do it for other reasons and this would just be a possible side benefit, I’d say to go for it — but without counting on it leading anywhere. But in a case where you’d be doing it solely as a strategy to get hired into a management role, no. There’s more chance than not that it won’t give you a leg up since the work is so different from what you actually want to do there. (It might be different if it were volunteer work; then it’s clearer that you’re just looking for ways to help out. But taking a low-level paid role isn’t likely to have the same effect.)

Instead, I’d just plan to send in a particularly awesome cover letter and resume when the job you want opens up. And also, you might look for other ways to become a known quantity to decision-makers there, such as by attending their events or otherwise networking with them.

{ 235 comments… read them below }

  1. Graciosa*

    Regarding #1, please don’t do this to the manager. It really puts the manager in a terrible position.

    I think we’ve had a similar question posted before and I had exactly the same reaction.

    I don’t have any business AS A MANAGER deciding whether one of my employees wants to take a trip – or where – or when – or with whom. It is none of my business.

    Making this request is asking the manager to use his or her position as a manager to make decisions about how the employee wants to handle an entirely personal matter.

    In the comments to the last question, someone also pointed out that abusers use the tactic of this type of grand romantic gesture to both impose on the object of the gesture and to isolate that individual by convincing other people in that person’s life that the abuser is a *great* person. Again, managers do not want to be put in the position of having to make these determinations (nothing implied about the OP, just adding to the many reasons managers do not want to be dragged into this and asked to make a decision).

    The most that is fair to do is for the OP to ask the boyfriend to take the time off and let *him* make the decision. Leave the manager out of it.

    1. Artemesia*

      Soooo this!!!! This is a creepy idea and a spouse or partner should never meddle in a person’s workplace. If this were a spouse then it would be still inappropriate but at least not scarily so. But a girlfriend or boyfriend? This is WAY overstepping and a boss who would agree to this would be making an enormous mistake.

      If the OP wants to surprise the boyfriend with this trip which is a sweet idea (until she is meddling with his single week of vacation and conspiring with his boss, yikes) then she should do some big reveal now and let him then negotiate the time off or let her know that it won’t work. The surprise doesn’t have to happen on the even of the trip — it could happen this weekend.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        I came to say something similar – this is a serious overstep. OP’s #1’s heart is in the right place, I’m sure, but it’s still just. not. done. Please don’t bulldoze over this boundary, OP. I’m in agreement with Alison – ask your boyfriend to take the time off and, if he says yes, then surprise him with something else while you’re on the trip.

        1. Sketchee*

          It’s a big sticking point for me. Individuals manage their own schedule. It would be odd to try to force someone else’s schedule. Not a friendly gift. Alison’s suggestion of having planned timing where the even is a surprise is much preferable.

          I’m sure the OP knows the spouse enough to know that it might be pleasant. Coworkers and managers aren’t going to want to get involved in your relationship or something so private which is outside of work. The heart is in the right place and I trust the intentions are pure. All the more reason to do things safely and with extreme consideration.

      2. Francesca*

        I agree with your comment in general, but I don’t think that being unmarried makes a difference… People in long term relationships can be every bit as committed without choosing (or something without being legally able) to marry.

        1. Colette*

          It’s hard to tell from the outside what a couple’s level of commitment is. You might know whether they’re married but don’t know whether they’re living together to reduce their rent or because they plan to be together long term – and traditionally the public sign that you’re planning to be together long term is marriage.

          1. WhatsInAName?*

            Why should I be forced into marriage because you think it’s the norm? I am happy living with my boyfriend of 7 years and plan to do so for the next 50. A piece of paper doesn’t change my feelings.

            That being said – I agree that this is a serious overstep regardless of level of commitment or marital status.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              Well, nobody said you should be forced into marriage. All Colette said was that marriage is a well-understood signifier that a relationship is long-term.

            2. Liana*

              I don’t think that’s what Colette said at all though. Nobody here wants to force you into marriage, I think she’s just pointing out that marriage is the traditional public sign for long-term commitment.

            3. Colette*

              It may not change your feelings, but it does change how other people (and the law) see your relationship. There are plenty of couples who are living together who plan to be together forever, and there are plenty who are together for now. They look the same from the outside.

          2. anoning*

            It’s more than a little outdated to say that someone who is married is outwardly showing more commitment than someone who has been in a long-term relationship. Judging people’s level of commitment on how they want to outwardly display their relationship status seems a bit….wrong.

            Someone in a ten year unmarried relationship is no less committed than someone who’s been married for a few years. It’s goes back to that really archaic school of thinking that everything in a marriage is great and perfect, but someone a long-term unmarried relationship isn’t. You don’t get to say who is more or less committed.

                1. snuck*

                  I might have an impact on workplaces though.

                  Legally a spouse has entitlements in insurance and superannuation/pensions (I’m in Australia, I think this is your retirement 401?) and so on. A partner who is not married can receive the same entitlements, but only if they are named on the paperwork, or fight it in court, where a legally married spouse just gets it all automatically. (As per a recent case in Australia where a young tradie died on a job when working interstate, and his girlfriend of a few months got his ?$100k payout – not his family – because he listed her on his paperwork as his next of kin. If she wasn’t listed she’d not have been entitled.)

            1. Sas*

              Agreed. It is an outdated comment or why of thinking. We know that there are factors that make a marriage different than a relationship otherwise. The least of which is commitment. There are PLENTY of married couples who would rather not be. And that doesn’t really have much to do with this person’s situation, or talking with a boss. As another commenter wrote, there are many couples who are married for a year or two. Compare that to the several years this couple has been together

        2. Artemesia*

          Marriage is a public and legal commitment of joined futures and finances; no one can judge the commitment level of non married boy and girl friends. And the ‘not everyone can marry’ excuse is less and less true now that same sex marriage is legal. One is entitled to make assumptions about a relationship involving marriage that one is not entitled to make about a ‘committed partnership’ of whatever seriousness otherwise. And besides that, this behavior is out of line for married partners as well — just not as far out of line.

          1. OhNo*

            I disagree, I don’t think one is entitled to make assumptions about a relationship whether or not the couple is married. You don’t know if one partner is cheating, if they’re in the middle of divorce proceedings, or if they are just staying married in name only but live completely separate and normally have no interaction.

            Honestly, I think this is just as far out of line for married couples as it is for unmarried partnerships. Just because you’ve made someone your legal partner doesn’t mean you get the right to run their life without permission.

        3. LBK*

          Agreed – they’ve been together 6.5 years. There’s plenty of couples who have been married and gotten divorced within that time period. Judging someone’s level of commitment based on marital status feels a little outdated; a lot of people aren’t in a rush to get married anymore and wait to do it until they decide to have kids or until they’re financially comfortable so they can afford a wedding without piling it on top of other debts (hello, student loans).

      3. Sadsack*

        A spouse should not do this either. No one should contact someone else’ boss about stuff like this — married or not, all the same rules and possible scenarios apply.

        1. Stranger than fiction*

          I agree in general, but I’m wondering if it changes anything if Op knows the boss well? like if they know each other from dinner parties or company events and such outside of work?

      4. SystemsLady*

        “I have a surprise for you the week of X/Y I would like to plan! Take these dates off if you can.” works perfectly fine, seriously. No hijinks necessary!

        If they ask for a hint which is definitely a thing both my husband and I would do, tell them you’re traveling.

        That also doubles as getting a clue as to whether they’re open to the trip or would prefer another date. I’m sure this isn’t the case for OP, but I’ve heard of this happening where the surprised SO wasn’t at all interested in taking a trip and got upset

        1. Kyrielle*

          I would tell them the surprise involves traveling up front, actually. It may not occur to them to ask for a hint, but a surprise trip can be an issue. Bills need to be paid before you get on the plane, I assume he has no pets that would need boarding or OP would know that, houseplants have to be watered – you can’t just find yourself at the airport and gone for a week, no big deal.

          Also, given the distance of the trip, jet lag and impact on return to work may be a thing, so leave him a buffer day or two after the trip to recover – or confirm with him that you don’t need to, which would mean blowing the surprise, but might be wiser.

          I assume OP knows her boyfriend and he may find this awesome. But there still may be logistical impacts.

          1. LBK*

            Maybe I’m just thoughtless but I kinda think people are overestimating the logistical difficulty of having a surprise trip…I got one for my boyfriend for Christmas two years ago and it really wasn’t a big deal. I know him well enough to know all of those things – what his financial situation is like, what his work schedule is like, what other things he’ll have to have dealt with if he’s not in town, etc. Although maybe this is because we travel together a lot anyway so it’s nothing out of the ordinary? I also didn’t spring it on him as it was happening, it was booked out 3 months from when I told him, so maybe that makes a difference too.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Three months is plenty for it. Even a month would be, in my book. Any shorter, and you run into “but I had other plans and didn’t realize I wouldn’t even be in town” or “I didn’t realize I wouldn’t be in town, I need to do X and Y and Z before we can go” and suddenly you’re frantically rushing around.

              Yours doesn’t sound like a “surprise” trip to me, but a “gift” trip – it’s not like you sprung it on him the day before or day of travel.

            2. Engineer Girl*

              The ease of surprise travel is heavily dependent on how many obligations you have. About a decade ago I had a lot of surprise (last minute) travel due to family health issues. I had my luggage pre-packed. It was still a scramble as I had to take care of work deadlines, had to find a substitute teacher for a class I teach, had to cancel activities I had planned.
              The burden of surprise travel is dependent on the person involved. They may have no external obligations, or they may have many.

          2. Red*

            When I surprised my fiancé with a birthday trip, I told him we were going out of town for the weekend to visit my parents and he booked his own time off and packed his own suitcase and whatnot. Then I went the wrong way on the highway and we ended up at the airport. Whoops! Luckily, he was over the moon about it.

            1. LBK*

              Yeah, I told mine that my cousin was hosting a mini family reunion and that since it was a far drive he should take Monday off in case we decided to crash overnight on Sunday.

            2. Chocolate lover*

              I’m a grouch, and not only don’t like surprises, I’m very much a homebody, and like having my at home, quiet time. I have to mentally prepare myself for traveling, no matter where it is. I’d be ticked if my husband ever “told” me where were going somewhere for a weekend. No. We agree on it together, or you go on your own.

              1. SevenSixOne*

                This homebody thinks an overnight surprise trip *might be fun*, since that would be minimal disruption to my routine and alone time and leave me close enough to home that I could get back quickly… but I would be a nervous wreck if I wasn’t able to plan a weeklong trip abroad MONTHS in advance.

                If someone who didn’t work for me asked for my help in orchestrating something like this to “surprise” my employee, I wouldn’t just say no, I’d probably also say something to the employee– “Hey, Alex called me and wanted me to arrange a week off for you. I’m letting you know about it because I thought that was strange.”

    2. neverjaunty*

      Very much all of this. OP #1, do not put your boyfriend’s boss in this position. And do not put your boyfriend in the position of having a potentially ticked-off boss because of something YOU did behind his back.

    3. Mando Diao*

      All of this, plus, “Surprise we’re going on vacation! You have 30 minutes to pack a suitcase & find your passport, and then let’s go hang out at the airport 2 days before Christmas! Speaking of those Christmas and NYE plans you made with your friends from college, super bummer I guess.”

      1. Bookworm*

        I think we can give OP the benefit of the doubt here and assume she knows her boyfriend (and their relationship) well enough for her to know if he would like it or not. I’m not sure there’s a need to speculate on that.

        I agree with the overall takeaway the manager has no standing to approve a vacation request unless it’s from the employee himself.

        1. Mando Diao*

          I like traveling but I wouldn’t like a surprise trip that someone else planned without me, and over the holidays to boot. Sometimes people get caught up in wanting to surprise others and they forget the distinction between “likes to travel” and “would appreciate a trip he didn’t choose to go on.” It’s worth noting even if you don’t think so.

          1. Artemesia*

            I am leaving the country in two weeks — and the lists, and the arrangements have been underway for weeks. Though my husband knows more or less what I would travel with I would not want him choosing my wardrobe, what cosmetics and hygiene products to pack yadda yadda. Surprise trip sounds like a nightmare to me.

          2. Reba*

            Yeah, clearly the OP knows their partner best, but I am a grump, hate surprises, and would really hate a surprise trip that I was denied the chance to prepare for in the way I want.

            I would be thrilled to have my partner say, “hey I have a great idea about a trip for the holidays/your birthday!” Like, it does not have to be a ~~surprise~~ for it to be a nice gesture!

            1. LawPancake*

              Yes! I hate nearly all surprises, except maybe a surprise half day where the office closes early. I would be 100xs happier and more excited about a trip if I were both aware of it and also had a hand in planning it. Then again I really like planning travel…

              That said, I’m sure the OP knows her partner well enough to know whether this surprise would be appreciated but would echo the above posters in saying that contacting his boss directly is not appropriate.

        2. Colette*

          I don’t read that comment to imply that he wouldn’t like the trip, but there’s a real chance that he will have made other plans by the time she tells him about it.

          1. JessaB*

            This. There are too many reasons someone may be holding on to the PTO. Even if I’d like the holiday I might not want to spend my money on it, or travel during very heavy travel times either. And let’s say the thing costs $3000 (which is light for a week abroad,) I might need my share of that for something else and if I knew my significant other had that money to spend on me, I might desperately need my car fixed or something. But travelling during holiday season is a real pain in the butt. I’d not want to do that. And what if the people in the UK are away on their OWN trips? How do you even know the people you want to visit with me are A: available, B: willing to see guests, etc.

            1. Colette*

              It’s not even about the PTO – he could easily make plans to spend time with people locally that he’d have to cancel at the last minute.

              I assume the people in the UK would be in on the surprise, but what would the OP do if the boyfriend suggested they make the trip? What if someone’s health deteriorates – does she want to be the one saying they should wait to go?

              1. JB*

                Hi Colette,

                Thanks for your comment. The people in the UK are in on the surprise for sure. I would definitely not show up for the holidays without them knowing. I’ve already been in touch with his family and friends so that they know what is going on.

            2. LBK*

              Am I crazy for thinking this is all stuff you should know about your SO? I kind of feel like some people here must not ever discuss anything financial or personal with their boyfriend/girlfriend given how many “you don’t know what their situation is” comments there. You *should* know what their situation is, especially after 6.5 years!

              1. Tacocat*

                Yeah, it seems like there is a lot of assumptions/projecting. I think we should all assume that JB knows her SO better than random people on the internet. Not that there isn’t value in putting things to her for her consideration, but really, she knows better than us how this will be received, even if she shouldn’t contact her boyfriend’s manager.

              2. Rachael*

                This is what I’m thinking. I think that there may be times when this is actually appropriate. If you know the boss and have a good relationship then I don’t see anything wrong with a girlfriend/boyfriend surprising the other depending on their relationship situation. I lived with my first husband long before we were married and I knew his PTO plans and everything. I wouldn’t have thought twice if my ex had booked a trip that he knew that I wanted to go on and made all the arrangements. I think that some people just have different boundaries and different relationships with their bosses. BUT, if the girlfriend doesn’t know the boss well I would advise against it just for the reasons others had given. You don’t want to approve time off for someone who is having problems with their SO.

                1. LBK*

                  Oh yeah, I’m still totally in agreement that asking the boss is an overstep unless she already knows him personally. But relationship-wise, I think people are painting a bizarrely elusive portrait of someone the OP has been dating for the better part of a decade, like she has no way to know what’s going on in his life.

              3. Myrin*

                I agree with this. I admittedly don’t have relationship experience myself but I’m surprised by the many comments insinuating that OP doesn’t know whether her boyfriend likes surprises, likes trips, likes surprise trips, already has something planned for Christmas, has something planned for another time which would leave him PTO-less etc. I’d assume you would know this kind of thing about your partner of almost seven years resp. someone you live with/talk to all the time.

                1. JB*

                  Thank you. I really appreciate the comments and food for thought that people are providing, it is very appreciated. However, with his family being in the UK in addition to all of his very close friends (aside from our shared group of friends here in Canada), ALL of his family and close friends are in England. Because of this, we spend the holidays, ever year, with my parents and my family, so I have a pretty good idea of what the holidays will hold. However, as some have pointed out, I maybe should not be so quick to make assumptions. I’ve been with him for almost 7 years now, lived together for that entire time. We are very similar, so I know him extremely well. I’ve also talked with his family and they agree that he would be over the moon if I am able to pull off this surprise. However, I will be re-thinking my approach. I didn’t think it would really be a good idea to ask his manager without me knowing the manager at all, I just wanted to get some feedback because I am not a manager, nor do I have many friends or family that are managers for me to approach for advice. I am a young professional, which is why I’m thankful to have lots of things to ponder from this community. Thank you all :).

              4. Engineer Girl*

                Not necessarily. The BF could be saving his ONE WEEK of vacation for later in the year for a romantic vacation with his sweetie. Maybe he’d rather do that than go see his family.
                The projecting going on is assuming how the BF will want to use that one week. Immature couples assume things about the other person. Mature couples talk about it. Because no one is a mind reader. You may **in general** know someone’s preferences. It may be very different **in the specific**.
                This is a huge boundary issue – the vacation belongs to the BF so the OP has not right to decide how it is used. It isn’t like using his toothpaste. It is using up something that has value. You just don’t do that!

                1. EmmaLou*

                  I’m going to disagree a little here. Now, I’m coming at this with almost 30 years marriage experience so it’ll be different than the OPs. (It’d be different anyway as no one’s got the same relationship as anyone else.) My partner’s vacation time belongs to both of us. Just as mine did when I was working. I have carte blanche to accept dinner invitations, work party requests, moving/painting party “invitations” without checking with him first. He trusts me to look out for his best interest every single time. He doesn’t make those decisions for me because keeping the schedule is not what he’s good at. He’d love a ready-made vacation in many ways as he doesn’t get the thrills that I do making lists and planning. He still talks about the day I planned twenty years ago where I told him nothing at all except: “Drive here. Turn here. Drive 3.5 miles on this road.” and we spent the day doing little silly things like looking at furniture we can’t possibly afford and having lunch with a couple of relatives at work. I could have contacted his boss at that time as the boss knew me, I knew him and I knew that his work was never time sensitive and I knew when the busy times were. He’d been working there for years. I didn’t do that. I’d just tell (have told) my husband, “I need you to take the fifteenth off and I’m not telling you why.” And he’d love that. Then he gets anticipation and mystery. Of course, we are one of those couples that hold hands all the time. Boundaries not a huge issue for us. Sooo… relationships are different.

        3. Sadsack*

          I have to agree with this. I mean, OP may be right or wrong about how her boyfriend would respond, but the fact is she shouldn’t contact his manager about it.

        1. JB*

          Hi Gazebo,

          Thank you for your comment. I would of course be telling my boyfriend at least a week in advance so that he would have time to prepare for a holiday abroad. I’m not made of $$$ so he would need to get out some British pounds from the bank and to know how to pack accordingly for the holidays.

            1. LBK*

              I find it really weird to assume he’d have other plans that his girlfriend wouldn’t know about.

              1. Temperance*

                It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s, so I don’t think it’s a huge leap. Most people have some sort of holiday plans.

                I’m not assuming that his gf would be in the dark about his plans, but more that he will have more than likely made plans of some sort.

                1. LBK*

                  Well, it sounds like his entire family is in the UK, so if he’s made a plan to see them it’s the same plan the OP is already proposing anyway. And again, if he were making those kinds of plans, she’d likely know. If she’s confident he’s not already doing anything, I don’t see how it’s our place to tell her she’s probably wrong.

                2. Anna*

                  The OP has been with their boyfriend 6 and a half YEARS. I think they would know better than any one of us whether or not that will be sufficient for their actual partner. I find it really unlikely that a couple who has been together that long would not already know what was happening around that time. And frankly I would give up other plans if my partner told me he’d made arrangements for us to visit out of country family.

          1. Violet Fox*

            All of this makes surprise trip sound like an even worse idea of a really bad idea. “Surprise!trip!” is bad enough, but “Surprise! Trip! and by-the-way-you-are-paying-for-part-of-it” sounds awful, and the sort of controlling surprise that a person feels obligated to do even if it is not something they wanted or wanted to do with that timing, etc. Especially considering airfare for that sort of thing tends to either be non-refundable or very expensive, or very expensive and non-refundable.

            Maybe smaller surprise, like “Surprise dinner at your favourite restaurant!” or “surprise your favourite sweets/treats” would be good for a surprise and the trip really should be something that the two of you should plan together including things like timing, budget, time off work etc.

            1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

              I feel like I’m becoming the “leave the OP alone” fairy these days.

              This LW asked for advice about conspiring with her boyfriend’s boss. She did not ask for, not does she need, advice from strangers about her boyfriend’s preferences.

              1. Florida*

                Agree. OP didn’t ask for advice on whether the trip was a good idea for her boyfriend. She asked for advice on how to handle it with her boyfriend’s boss.

                Nothing in the world is more annoying than unsolicited advice. Her advice about the boss was solicited, so that’s fair game. But whether she takes the trip or not, or surprises her boyfriend, or anything about other than talking to the boss, is not our business.

              2. Chickaletta*

                100%. We’re making A LOT of assumptions about their personal relationship which has nothing to do with the question.

                My cousin’s boyfriend (now husband), did exactly this to surprise her on a vacation where he proposed. I’m not close to her and I have no idea what her manager thought, but since they’ve been married for ten years I’m assuming it all worked out and all reports were that she was loved the surprise including the part where he got the time off approved for her. But judging from the responses here it looks like most people don’t feel it’s always that romantic. I think it has a lot to do with the individuals and their relationship, which again we don’t know. I can see where this would put the manager in a tough situation, but the manager has the right to say they’re not comfortable with it and they won’t approve a request from someone other than the employee themselves. The boyfriend also has the right to say they aren’t going (although, at the airport this would be awkward!) Nobody’s forcing anyone to do anything here, ya’ll. Personally, I say live a little. Stop making assumptions that everyone else is a stick in the mud who and that all awkwardness must be avoided at all costs. Life is boring enough.

            2. Mustache Cat*

              Not that I think it’s a perfect idea either, but can we assume that the OP understands her boyfriend and their situation together the best out of any of us?

        2. LBK*

          It sounds awesome to me – everyone likes different things. Can we give the OP enough of the benefit of the doubt that she knows her boyfriend of 6.5 years a little better than a bunch of random internet people?

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Yes, this.

            It’s weird that commenters are both arguing that marriage isn’t necessary to demonstrate commitment (and that the 6.5 years this couple has spent together is evidence enough of a deep relationship — not that the OP needs our opinion on this) and that, apparently, the OP needs strangers’ advice about her boyfriend’s preferences (not that she needs our opinion on this either).

    4. Jeanne*

      It puts the manager in such a tough spot. Alison’s thought is correct. Ask your boyfriend if he will request that week off and to let you know when it is approved. You have plans but they are a secret to him. In the end he will still be very surprised, the boss won’t be mad, and you don’t take the chance of the boyfriend being mad cause you interfered in his work life. Everyone is happy!

      1. JB*

        Hi Jeanne,

        I think what you and Alison have suggested is what I’m going to do in the end. I think he’s going to be suspicious and will figure out what I’m planning, after almost 7 years of being together, he knows me too well lol. However, it will be the thought that counts and he deserves to be with his family and friends for the holidays. Thanks :).

    5. hbc*

      Even if it was 100% certain the boyfriend would like it, I wouldn’t want to be put in that position as a manager. I’m getting itchy just thinking about the execution of this. I can’t put his break on the team calendar so people will be caught unaware. What do I tell someone else who wants that time off but the calendar looks free? If he asks for a couple of days in September, how much am I obligated to push him towards not taking time off? Is he going to be ticked at me for months for not letting him use his measly 5 days while others are taking off? Do I let him plan his karaoke duet for the office holiday party knowing he’s not there?

      OP would be putting me in the position of being a spoilsport or lying to someone who’s supposed to trust me. Please don’t.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Excellent points. I didn’t even think about coworkers possibly wanting that time off.

    6. LawLady*

      My fiance booked our honeymoon entirely on his own, and he’s not telling me where until we’re at the airport. I think it’s wonderful and romantic, but the key is that I know WHEN and THAT the trip is happening.

    7. Grey*

      As a manager, I wouldn’t think too much about it. I’d just say, “Per policy, requests for time off must be submitted by the employee”. I’d then alert my employee that somebody tried to schedule time off on his behalf.

    8. Lily in NYC*

      I think there’s also a reason not to do it that’s unrelated to work. A large part of a trip’s enjoyment is the anticipation of the trip. Surprising someone takes that away from them. I’ve seen videos of parents not telling their kids they were going to DisneyWorld until they were actually in the parking lot (little kids who wouldn’t notice where they were). I remember quivering with excitement for weeks before our disney trip as a little kid.
      I really don’t like surprises unless it’s something small like bringing me a candy bar for no reason.

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        A lot of parents don’t tell their kids because they don’t want to deal with the disappointment if it can’t happen for some reason. If mom or dad got to sick to travel for example.

        1. LBK*

          Personally I wouldn’t tell kids because I wouldn’t want them asking me every day if it was time to go to Disney yet. Children aren’t known for patience.

      2. Daisy Steiner*

        I think that’s just horses for courses. For myself, I totally agree with you – I’d much rather have the joy of anticipation than be blindsided. But I think others feel quite differently and really relish the surprise component.

    9. N*

      OP1 I actually know someone who did this recently. The wife arranged the trip with her husband’s boss, and the boss told her husband that he had to block out an entire week for a special “leadership training.” Unfortunately, the husband got really, REALLY excited about the “leadership training” and spent several weeks preparing for it. In the end it worked out, and he was excited about his vacation, but he was also a little upset that there was no leadership training, after all.

    10. lambtd01*

      Do not do this. Boyfriend of employee called me to ask if employee could leave early on a Friday. They were going out of town for a long weekend and he was going to propose. He needed to be at a specific place at a specific time for the planned proposal. I told him if she asked me for the time off I would say yes. She never asked. In the meantime, the owner who also works at the office asked to block off that same time. Her boyfriend called again asking me to give her the time off. He said they were arguing about it and she didn’t want to ask because owner had already blocked the time and someone had to be at the office. After speaking with the owner she said we will close the office early that day. Shortly before the weekend, the employee came in and asked if her boyfriend had called me asking me to give her the time off and did he plan on proposing. Obviously, I didn’t want to ruin her surprise but it was hard to keep a straight face and I did not like being put in the middle.

      1. Sketchee*

        Wow. That’s mortifying. Hopefully the employee will know not to have others contact you unless it’s an emergency and it’s a one time thing!

    11. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

      Yes, I would be absolutely livid if I found out that my SO firstly burned my only week of vacation time, and secondly booked a trip, flights and all, for the two of us without even asking me about it. This nonconsensual booking of the vacation and spending of the money would lead me to immediately end the relationship. Granted, OP’s BF might be nothing like me. But regardless, I think he should have the opportunity to agree to this vacation.

  2. A Non*

    #2 – We’ve had things stolen from the office where I work, usually by a non-employee who slipped in without being questioned. It happens. Be matter-of-fact about it, and hopefully your boss will be too. If for some reason a locked drawer isn’t a practical solution for the future, the IT department almost certainly has a locked area where they keep their goodies and won’t mind storing a camera as well.

    1. Chaordic One*

      We had a similar situation where I used to work. I turned out that the boss took the camera with him on vacation and forgot to tell us. The man is a jerk.

      1. Seal*

        Same here. It turned out to be the beginning of the end for him, though. Subsequent investigations found that he regularly “borrowed” items from our office and “forgot” to return them.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Yep, I’ve definitely worked places where people borrowed the communal equipment and then just sat on it for eons.

      3. KR*

        Ugh we got a gorgeous new camera last fall that lived at my bosses house for the better part of the winter and spring because he wanted to “figure out how it worked”. And every time he would suggest I go out and take some pictures of things (which happens often in our office) or we might need the camera we had to remind him that the camera was still at his house. He still has trouble figuring out where the shutter release is after months of figuring out and he returned it dirty so I needed to clean it.

      4. Menacia*

        Hrm, this is a good point. Perhaps the OP’s manager who is currently on vacation borrowed it?

        1. OP2*

          OP2 here! Camera was definitely stolen. No one casually borrowed it. I got a vaguely stern talking to about locking up my shit better… and now we aren’t even sure we need to replace it anyime soon. There’s an investigation going on to find it (someone may be trying to sell it online) but otherwise, it’s not The Worst. I was afraid of my boss’s reaction but it wasn’t so bad. Thank god.

  3. My 2 Cents*

    OP #1, if you talk to his boss, make it about the fact that his employees only get one week of vacation time per year, that’s absurd!! Okay, I’m not actually advocating this, but my overall point is that it’s a wretchedly stingy policy and not normal, even in this country where we really treat our employees badly.

    1. Jeanne*

      It’s an awful policy but not completely uncommon, especially for low level positions.

    2. JessaB*

      It’s really not OP 1s place to make that call. What if boyfriend negotiated less holiday for something ELSE he wanted at the time?

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Yeah, whoa. The OP definitely should not harangue her boyfriend’s boss about their company’s vacation policy.

      1. Megs*

        Yeah, I feel you. I’m a contract employee – no benefits whatsoever. I can more or less take all the unpaid time off I want, though. Wee?

        1. Petronella*

          Yep, that was my life for years, when I worked for the temp agency and also when I was an “auxiliary” employee for the provincial government: no paid vacations, no paid sick time or any other kind of leave. I did get to work beside the regular employees, doing the exact same work with the exact same training, and listen to them complain about how their 3+ weeks of paid vacation per year, plus unlimited and unquestioned paid time off for sicknesses, children’s sicknesses, medical appointments, children’s medical appointments, and any other kind of appointment or “stress,” wasn’t nearly enough time off. And no, my hourly pay was NOT any higher in compensation. Wee indeed!

        2. Gazebo Slayer (formerly I'm a Little Teapot)*

          My employer is very stingy even about unpaid time off. I asked for one day in September and was denied, and I’m worried I’ll get in trouble for calling out a few days ago to deal with an apartment emergency. And, like Petronella, us contract/temp folks don’t have higher hourly pay – in fact we have lower.

    3. PolarBear*

      I’m in the UK and get 23 days in my new job which rises by a day each year plus the 8 bank holidays.

      Senior managers get 30 days!

      It’s the law here that employees must have a certain number of days paid leave – for full time employees I think it’s 20 days plus 8 bank holidays.

      Sick leave is separate. I currently get one month full pay and one month half pay per year but I’ve seen 6 months full and 6 months half before.

  4. Copper Boom*

    #4 – I’m more of the opinion that if your progressive discipline process was followed, and the employee was given every opportunity to improve, but didn’t, then severance isn’t warranted. I believe severance should be offered in cases where the termination wasn’t entirely in their control – they’re no longer a fit for the role, they’re under performing, but haven’t been given the coaching and opportunity to address the issues, etc. if the employee is in control of their performance and chooses not to work towards meeting expectations, their actions are not deserving of a severance payment. If; however, they’ve been working really hard to improve and it’s just not a fit, I could see a case for severance.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      We always give at least 2 weeks severance and more if there are significant years of service. We don’t think of it in terms of judging who deserves it or not.

      The humanitarian aspect is part of it. Being fired is a terrible economic impact. Two weeks is a tiny cushion but it’s at least a cushion and hopefully a bridge to unemployment compensation or new employment.

      Beyond that, it’s a good business practice.

      If you can’t afford to pay out a minimum severance, you’ve got some massive problems with your business. Two weeks pay should be cheap to you. If severance is an impact to the business, you’re either firing too many people (by hiring poorly), or budgeting terribly.

      And, the practice of paying severance helps move dead weight off of your payroll entirely! Managers hate firing people. Managers will usually hang onto employees LONG after they should have been termed because of how much they hate firing people. If your managers know that a fired employee will have at least that tiny cushion, no matter what, it’s a lot easier to get them to do “the right thing”.

      Good business practice.

      1. neverjaunty*

        Excellent points. It’s not about rewarding or punishing people – it’s about mitigating the economic impact of a job loss. Even if the employee absolutely deserves to lose their job. Two weeks’ pay isn’t exactly a huge windfall.

      2. Copper Boom*

        Interesting. This is probably also influenced by location. I am in Canada, and my province lays out minimum payments requires when paying out severance pay. This pay isn’t required when an employee is terminated for cause. If we were to give even 2 weeks pay when terminating for cause, this tends to send the wrong message that maybe the termination wasn’t justified and opens my employer up to a wrongful dismissal claim, and makes it liable to having to pay out the entire severance depending on the findings.

        Also, in my experience, if managers are faced with having to pay the entire severance payment regardless, they’re less likely to do the work of giving the employee the time and support to improve and just sever right away. Taking away the severance requirement in “for cause” cases ensures that managers work supportively with an employee and given them multiple warnings before resorting to a “for cause” termination.

        1. Judy*

          I believe in the US, the term “for cause” means a significant cause, like theft or violence, not a performance issue. You generally don’t warn in a “for cause” situation, it’s that bad.

          1. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

            For cause legally includes poor performance, but there is definitely an understanding that there is the difference you describe. Euphemisticly, I’d describe it as you “get fired” for violence, insubordination, etc., but “are let go” for poor performance. The latter often being less of a hindrance to future employment, so long as you can articulate why you’d be more likely to succeed in the new job.

        2. Isabel C.*

          From what I’ve heard/read, Canada also has a better social safety net than the US (universal health care, more welfare, I think more unemployment insurance) so termination without severance, while rough anywhere, may also be less of a hardship than it is here. (Sort of like how tipping’s generally optional in other countries, because said other countries actually make people pay food servers minimum wage.)

          1. Snork Maiden*

            Our safety net’s bigger than the States, but smaller than other OECD countries, if I remember correctly. If I lost my job I’d have to wait 6-8 weeks for unemployment insurance payments, which are a percentage of what I made but are capped at a certain rate (I want to say $900 every two weeks, but I could be totally off base) and only last for a certain amount of time, like 72 or 96 weeks. I’d lose my dental and eye insurance and would be out of pocket for that, plus any other treatments like physiotherapy. I might qualify for low income drug plans, but my prescriptions would still be more than if I had insurance. There is a long, long wait for the few social or affordable housing units available here. Also I would be expected to sell off assets like a car or house if I wanted to go on welfare. All of this varies from province to province. Some provinces will have weeks more unemployment insurance coverage than others, for example, or better health care coverage.

            1. Petronella*

              +1 that Canada’s social safety net is not a miracle and not instantly available and there are plenty of extremely broke people and extremely poor people here. Just one tiny caveat: you don’t necessarily have to “sell off” your house or car to get welfare. You can own a home (as long as you live in it) and/or a vehicle (usually just one vehicle though) and still be eligible for welfare…if you meet the other requirements of which there are many, and the paperwork and process is extraordinarily onerous.

              1. Isabel C.*

                Ah, gotcha–and downthread it looks like being let go for cause does generally involve severance there, so it’s not a country-wide legal thing. I was thinking it might be more of an imperative here, where we’re (especially in some states) awful at supporting people post-employment.

                …not that most companies actually *do* it anyhow, in my experience/from what I’ve heard. Sigh.

        3. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          That is interesting.

          Every state’s unemployment rules are different and “for cause” may or may not matter under their rules and “for cause” may have different definitions per state. I’m not familiar with a situation in the US where paying severance would increase the company’s liability either under unemployment or in the case of termination complaints/lawsuits.

          In any event, mandated severance is limited. Employers pay directly to their state’s unemployment insurance and are charged for terminated employees who use it which, I guess is defacto severance although that takes awhile to kick in and I think paying two weeks directly from the company at termination is the right thing to do.

        4. Elizabeth*

          I’m also in Canada, and everywhere I’ve worked, full time permanent employees are given severance when fired with cause. More often than not they’ve been significant amounts (usually at least a month per year of service), and this is in the non-profit world.

      3. Joseph*

        There’s another aspect of good business practice involved with severance: It prevents lawsuits.
        Say your employee makes $50k a year. That works out to about $2,000 for two weeks of severance. The cost of a single “unjust termination” lawsuit, even a baseless one, would be much more than that – especially once you consider the wasted time your manager, owner, employee co-workers, etc all need to spend writing statements/giving depositions.
        Companies with severance universally require a release-of-claims form to be signed as part of the severance agreement. If you don’t offer severance, you have literally no recourse if the employee refuses to sign it. But if you offer severance, employees (even those who might otherwise have sued) are almost universally going to take the $2,000 payout today.

      4. Mel*

        Do you give severance to everyone? I’d have a hard time giving it to someone who for example was lazy, stole, sexually harassed someone or didn’t take the job seriously. And if I saw my company giving those folks severance I’d wonder what the hell was wrong with them? It would be the principle of it, not the cost.

        1. Pwyll*

          I think it really depends on the situation. We let an employee go once, after 6 months of remedial actions, who was lazy and really didn’t take the job seriously. We gave her 1 months’ pay so long as she signed a release. We certainly didn’t see the severance as a reward to the employee, just that we recognized that unexpectedly pushing someone out the door could wreak havoc on their financial situation. It was both a kindness, and a way of reducing liability in case she decided to sue us for god knows what.

          We certainly wouldn’t pay severance to someone who is fired for breaking the law (theft, harassment, etc.). But letting someone go who isn’t performing? Meh. Sometimes the severance is cheaper than the hassle.

          1. Isabel C.*

            Right. Plus, lawbreaking is subjective, whereas one person’s “lazy and doesn’t take the job seriously” could be another’s “won’t work eighty-hour weeks when they signed up for forty” so giving severance in that case is both more humane as a standard and also less liability.

        2. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

          There were a couple employees fired for theft over the last few years. They didn’t report to me and I don’t know for sure but I’d be pretty sure there was no severance there.

          That would be the rare exception. The other markers on your list, we’d pay severance. Well, “sexually harassed”, what we did would be based on lawyers advice at the time. We’d never term for that without our lawyers being 100% looped in and doing what they said to do.

      5. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*

        Wow, these are excellent points. Thanks. I was thinking purely from the compassionate angle, but this makes a lot of sense as a business practice.

    2. Mel*

      It’s not that easy. Managers use progressive discipline even when folks are trying and the work is just substandard. Turning stuff in with errors is a good example. It’s easy to tell an employee he should correct errors and be more detail oriented about them, but they can be missed even when someone gives maximum effort. Is that within their control or not? You could argue either way.

  5. Polka Dot Bird*

    I’d also caution against it because you don’t know how leave over Christmas works. Is there seniority at play? Is there a time they open bookings but won’t consider it before then? But mostly I’d caution against it because it’s your boyfriend’s leave and he should be involved in that decision. Also, what if there’s a different family event he’d rather go over for or he’d rather visit in summer? Your gift is sweet but maybe a weekend away would be a better choice. Ask him to keep it clear and tell him it’s a surprise.

    1. Huddled over tea*


      I work in a small office that’s very flexible with days off but we still need minimal coverage over Christmas and we basically take it in a rota – whoever didn’t get it the previous year gets first pick if they want it this year – so it might be that he’s not senior enough to request those particular days off.

    2. Artemesia*

      If I had not seen international family for years and had one shot at it, the last time I would want to take it would be Christmas. The weather in the UK is crappy then, flying is hideous and in the UK the whole place shuts down (even public transport) on the 25th and 26th. If I have one lousy week of vacation a year, I am going to want to visit family in June not December.

      And ‘Surprise, I talked to your Boss and we are spending your time and your money on a trip you didn’t plan and may or may not want.’

      1. Ex-Pat*

        Well to be fair, the weather can be crappy in June as well.

        I go to the UK every year during Xmas. And for me that trip is about spending the holiday with family and friends. So it’s not about sight seeing, anymore than going home in the US is about sight seeing.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I was going to say this–the point of the trip is for the BF to spend time with family and friends, not go sightseeing. I assume they would have plenty of things to do.

          Off topic, but I want to go to the UK for Christmas. It’s the only time I haven’t been! Maybe a little before so I can hit up the Christmas markets–I know of a couple here and there. *whine* everybodybutmegetstogoallthetimeorlivetherearrrrrrgggghhhh *okay done whining LOL*

          1. JB*

            Yes. We have been to the UK 3 times already in the past 7-ish years. He lived there until he was 24 years old, so at this point, it is definitely beyond sightseeing for the both of us. It is about spending quality time with friends and family.

      2. Elfie*

        It’s shutting down less and less though – quite a lot of restaurants are open for Christmas Day now, and virtually everywhere opens up for the sales on Boxing Day. And the weather’s an awful lot better over here in December than it was where I grew up in Canada in December!

      3. Cath in Canada*

        Yeah, I don’t go back home to the UK at Christmas any more. It’s dark (we once spent the three shortest days of the year in Edinburgh and it was really restrictive to only have 5 hours of true daylight each day), it’s crazy expensive to fly, it’s hard (and expensive) to get train reservations, all my friends have plans with their own families so I don’t get to see them, and we always always always get sick. Usually just a cold, but the year we all got norovirus was the year that really killed Christmas travel!

    3. LBK*

      I would think that would be something she’d have at least a decent understanding of having been together for 6.5 years. Surely it’s not the first time they’ve ever discussed holiday plans together.

  6. JB*

    Hello everyone,

    I was the person that wrote in for question #1. Alison, thank you for the advice. I think after reading your advice and the comments of others, I will ask my boyfriend to book some time off, but won’t tell him what it is for…although he will probably guess what is going on since we usually take a trip to the UK almost every 2 years to see his family and friends. Just a side note, my relationship is rock soild, my boyfriend and I are practically married at this point (just can’t afford it), and it is his family and his best friends that he misses very dearly that we would be going to see…he is from England, so it is without a doubt that he would enjoy this trip. He works in an industrial environment, so I think he is already probably going to get a week or so off at Christmas for his plant to shut down. I think I’m going to inquire to one of his colleagues about what happens at Christmas for time off and then ask my boyfriend to book off the time.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments everyone! I knew that this would be a tricky subject to bring up with a manager and I just really wanted to know everyone’s opinion to see if this would even be feasible. I was already worried about doing it, so now will definitely not be moving forward with contacting his manager. And as Alison said, because it is the last week of the year, he will probably book it off anyways.


    1. AnotherAlison*

      I am not questioning the strength of your relationship, but I did want to point out that even actually married couple’s relationships fall apart.

      Personally, I’ve been in a relationship with my husband for 20 years, and I would be very unhappy with a surprise trip. YMMV, but in my case, he should know me well enough to know I don’t want a surprise PARTY, never mind a surprise trip abroad (even if it is a trip I would very much want to do, I want a hand in planning it.) Since it’s to visit family, what you have in mind may be fine (he knows there’s a trip, but he doesn’t know what it is). But, he might want to use that one precious week of vacation for something else, or he might have other things in mind that he would want to do on a trip home to England. You definitely wouldn’t want it to be rigidly planned.

      1. MashaKasha*

        In support of your first paragraph – not a surprise trip, but I did once borrow a week of vacation from the following year to go on a romantic vacation with my then boyfriend of two years, who really REALLY REALLY wanted to spend some time traveling with me over the summer. He looked SO SAD when I’d told him I didn’t have any vacation that year, so I was immediately, “okay, I’ll come up with something”. I’d just started at a new job that had terrible vacation policies – you got nothing for the first six months, a week for the second, two weeks after a year. A group of us had come over together from OldJob to work there, so we all had a really good working relationship, including my boss, who allowed me to do that. Then I had to go further into vacation debt because my son was in 12th grade and I needed time for college visits and college orientation. Took me over a year to get out of the vacation hole. I was still digging out of it the following summer, while my now-ex was vacationing in Europe with his new girlfriend. Oh, forgot to mention! he broke up with me out of the blue three days after he and I returned from our romantic vacation. Lesson learned. I will never ever ever again spend the vacation time that I do not have for a significant other that I might not have come tomorrow. And I would be pretty unhappy if my significant other decided to spend my vacation time for me as they best see fit.

        Great news though, the one thing that sets good, strong relationships apart from bad, dysfunctional ones is communication. I agree completely that now is the time for OP to share her plans with her boyfriend, and, even if it turns out that he cannot go along with those plans, I am positive that he will appreciate the thought greatly!

    2. SRB*

      Yeah, ask him to take off time and plan for a 1 week trip to a surprise location, wink wink. That was he knows what and when, but not where, and he can tell you if he has a problem with that idea.

      Also, you might want to check if both passports are up to date. That sort of thing takes awhile to get updated, so you don’t want to spring this on him a week ahead of time and have him go “Uh but my passport is expired and it takes more than a week to get one sooo…?”

      1. Marillenbaum*

        The passport thing is a very important point. There are one or two places in the US where you can get a passport the day before, but you have to basically show up at 4 in the morning to have a hope of getting it, and if you aren’t in New York City (and maybe Chicago), then you’re SOL.

        1. LBK*

          Most post offices that offer passport services can actually do expedited ones pretty quickly. I think I got mine 3 days after I renewed it. It’s actually faster that going through the passport office in most cases (although obviously you have to pay a fairly high expediting fee).

          1. Jayn*

            Good point. The expediting fee isn’t trivial if you need that fast a turnaround. And if he hasn’t had a US passport before that makes things even trickier.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Fair warning – I just got an expedited passport through the post office for my daughter, and it was considerably more than 3 days. But the fee was only about $60, so maybe we’re talking about different levels of expedition.

            Also, I’m sure OP and boyfriend know this since they travel a lot, but make sure your passport doesn’t expire for several months AFTER your trip will be completed.

            1. JB*

              We both have 10 year passports that are not expiring anytime soon. I’m Canadian, we live in Canada and he has a UK passport. But I agree, the passport issue is extremely important to consider. He had to get his UK passport renewed about 2 years ago… that was interesting for sure! From Canada, it had to first go to the US, then to the UK. It came back about 3 weeks later I think.

              1. Jayn*

                Canada does ten year passports? Now I’m annoyed at myself for getting a five-year one. (Also sorry for assuming you’re in the US, I really should know better…)

                1. AcademiaNut*

                  Yes, but it’s fairly new – it wasn’t available when I last renewed mine, 4.5 years ago. *And* they’ve streamlined the renewal process for when you’re renewing from abroad, so I don’t need to do the extremely annoying affidavit in lieu of guarantors.

                  Although it now takes four weeks instead of three, for the new chip based passports, and the ten-year one costs twice as much as the five.

                2. Cordelia Longfellow*

                  Academia Nut – the Canadian 10-year passports are actually a better deal financially. 5-year passports cost $120 and 10-years cost $160. :-)

            2. LBK*

              I think I paid around $100, part of which was for expedited mailing time (overnighting it to and from the passport office, which saves a lot of time).

    3. Goats*

      Why check with his colleagues to ask how time off works? Since you’re going to ask him to take time off anyway, even that seems like it could be an overstep.

      1. Florida*

        That depends on the relationship with the colleagues. If he has colleagues that OP and boyfriend regularly hang out with socially, then I don’t see a problem with it. If she only see his colleagues once a year at the company party, then it’s an overstep.

    4. mskyle*

      As a counterpoint: although I think Alison’s advice is good and probably the right way to go, I do know an exceedingly sensible woman who did this, very successfully, for a birthday trip for her boyfriend. I know she cleared it with his boss ahead of time but beyond that I don’t know the details of how she pulled it off. The birthday guy is so conscientious, I can’t imagine he would have been comfortable with it if it hadn’t been very well planned. I think it might have been a slightly shorter trip (like a five day weekend or something), though, and he definitely gets more than one week of vacation a year.

      So, I don’t think this is quite such a terrible idea as others do, though it definitely has its pitfalls.

    5. Artemesia*

      Smart move. You could even do the big reveal early rather than at the last minute. I don’t understand the comment about not affording to get married. My husband and I eloped and the cost was under 100 bucks including the dinner we bought for his brothers who drove us. Marriage saves money generally speaking; it costs almost nothing to do.

      1. the gold digger*

        Wedding license $100
        Pastor and church $400
        Dress $39 (and I have worn it many times since)
        Dinner for immediate family that didn’t include endless booze, because that would have bankrupted us with his parents $600
        Rings (and I never wear mine) a few hundred, I think – I wish we hadn’t gotten them

        Only necessary expense – wedding license for $100

        1. em2mb*

          Yes, but since OP says the overseas trip is to visit family, it’s likely she and BF are of different nationalities. There could be costs associated with visas, immigration, etc., that aren’t readily apparent. Plus, they might be the type of couple that wants to have their friends and family there, which would again involve international travel.

          1. Marcela*

            Yup. For our marriage to be accepted and recognized for the Spanish and British governments (I’m not Spanish nor British, but we were living in Spain and my husband is British) they asked us for many things, from certificates of residence, to publish notices in the paper about our marriage. It wasn’t cheap at all, specially since we had to ask our embassy to write very specific letters for some documents that don’t exist in Chile. It was so expensive that we didn’t get to buy clothes for our civil ceremony.

            1. Marcela*

              Bah, I guess I should have said “notices in the newspapers (in Chile and the UK)”.

      2. Lily Evans*

        Depending on their financial situation, they might not want to get married. If one of them has a lot of student loan debt, they might not want to burden the other person with that. And there’s also nothing wrong with wanting to save up for a big wedding, if that’s what they want.

      3. Kai*

        Everyone has their own priorities and desires for how and when they get married. It’s fine.

        1. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

          +100000 Call me materialistic, but I would never have been happy with a small scale wedding like Artemesia and the gold digger describe. I come from a huge Italian family where church ceremonies and fairly elaborate receptions are the norm – think my Big Fat Greek Wedding. Nearly 23 years later, my big fat Italian wedding is still one of the best times I’ve had with my husband, family and friends. It was just such a blast, and no one involved with they funding regretted a single penny they spent on it.

          My daughter, OTOH, is very introverted and shudders at the thought of a big blowout. So if she and her longterm boyfriend get hitched, they will probably have something small and intimate. There’s no pressure for her to have a big wedding though – we live halfway across the country from my family now, so as long as she’s happy, we’re happy.

        2. Megs*

          Agreed. I think it’s absolutely reasonable to read an implied “the way we want to” after “we can’t afford to get married.”

      4. LBK*

        Some people don’t want to downgrade their wedding plans for the sake of finances. If someone wants to wait and save up for a big wedding, that is completely their prerogative – I don’t see what the rush is.

        1. the gold digger*

          Oh sure. If someone wants to spend a lot of money on a wedding, more power to them and send me some cake. All I am saying (and I think Artemesia) is that if the goal is simply to be married, it is not that expensive. (For two US citizens.) If the goal is a nice big party, that is completely different.

          I didn’t care about being married from a commitment perspective – I just wanted to minimize our tax and insurance bills and have the other legal benefits of marriage. The wedding itself didn’t matter to me – I wanted to elope and be done with it.

          1. LBK*

            I get that the actual marriage piece of it is pretty cheap but most people aren’t going to separate out their marriage and their wedding just so they can knock the cheap piece off the list first and then do the rest when they’re able. Marriage and a wedding are pretty intrinsically entwined for those people who decide to have the latter (and for the record, I’m also Team “Eloping At City Hall For The Tax Benefits”). It just feels weird to me to say “marriage is cheap, it’s the wedding that’s expensive” when those are almost never going to be separate events (again, assuming you’re someone who wants a wedding).

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              And yet others find it weird that people say “We can’t afford to get married right now” when most of them really mean “We can’t afford to throw a big party to celebrate our marriage right now.” I wish people would be honest and say “We want a big wedding and we can’t afford that yet” instead of saying they can’t afford to get married.

              (Not judging. Have as big a wedding as you want. Big thumbs up from me.)

              1. LBK*

                But that’s exactly what I’m saying. If you want to have a wedding, then a wedding and a marriage are synonymous. It feels like petty hair-splitting to say the marriage is cheap but the wedding is expensive – they’re one and the same for people who are having a wedding. It’s not being “dishonest” – it’s that for people who are having a wedding, there’s no difference between “we can’t afford to get married” and “we can’t afford to have a wedding”. There is no former without the latter.

                1. Blossom*

                  I don’t really get the distinction here. I mean, I do, but I find jarring. If you get married, you have by definition had a wedding. Small weddings are still weddings.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  But that’s exactly what I’m saying. If you want to have a wedding, then a wedding and a marriage are synonymous.


                  No, I’m sorry, that makes no sense at all. I mean, I understand that some people don’t WANT to have a marriage without a wedding. But that doesn’t mean one CAN’T. It means they choose not to. There is a HUGE difference between “we can’t afford to get married” (which means we can’t afford a license, or we’ll lose a source of income if we get married, or there are legal issues that we cannot afford to tackle right now) and “we can’t afford a large party.” A wedding can be inexpensive. It does not require a fancy dress or a dinner.

                  for people who are having a wedding, there’s no difference between “we can’t afford to get married” and “we can’t afford to have a wedding”.

                  Um, okay. I had a wedding, and I understood the difference pretty well, so this statement is not true.

                  When you talk about people who are not capable of separating the two, do you mean they wouldn’t even feel married without the party? That they believe standing in front of a JoP or minister and exchanging vows without a large party afterward isn’t an actual wedding? Because that, to me, is more petty. (Like the woman I knew who didn’t consider herself engaged because she didn’t have a ring yet, even though he proposed and she said yes.)

            2. Jayn*

              This. We did them separately for legal reasons, but had there not been a reason to get married RIGHT NOW we would have waited on the legal bit until we could plan the wedding. (Though it does give us two anniversaries to celebrate) Different couples are allowed to decide how they want to get married, if they decide to at all.

    6. Liana*

      I think asking for him to take the time off is a great compromise. Planning a surprise trip is a really sweet gesture, and there *are* some people who would like it, but as other commenters pointed out, there are lots of potential pitfalls with that. Besides, if you can coordinate the trip with the time his plant is shutting down anyway, that would conserve his vacation time for something else!

      (FWIW I think one week’s vacation is garbage, but I realize that is completely out of your control – I just wanted to comment on that).

    7. Rachael*

      I just want to add that I think it is a GREAT thing you are doing. I’m on the west coast of the US and my family is on the east coast. My husband knows me well enough that I would be excited about a surprise trip. And, he knows my PTO and what I have planned. Because….my days are mostly spent with him and my kids…lol. People don’t usually spend holidays apart when they are in committed relationships and their families are so far away. A lot of people are putting their own hangups about this kind of thing without thinking that “hey, maybe the person who has been with him for 7 years knows him better than I, the reader, does”. I say, good for you for thinking about your boyfriend. This is sweet and he and his family/friends are going to love it.

      1. OP #5*

        I agree Rachael! I LOVE surprises and I would be so happy if my husband put something together like this! It’s extremely thoughtful and he knows me well enough to know that I wouldn’t get stressed out over the details like packing. My office is extremely casual and winter is our slowest period so if he called my manager to ask him about my time off it wouldn’t be a big deal at all. I get that there are potential down falls depending on personality and work situations but I’m glad you are acknowledging what a wonderful thing OP is doing for her bf!

  7. Memyselfandi*

    OP#1, what if his family and friends in the UK have made plans to go somewhere over Christmas. In my experience this sort of surprise has many pitfalls.

    1. Lily*

      I read it that she/he plotted with the family in England and the surprise is only für the bf.

      1. JB*

        Yes, I’ve already spoken with his family and friends to let them know what I am planning.

        1. memyselfandi*

          Then don’t count on everyone keeping the secret, and if someone let’s the cat out of the bag, don’t hold it against them. My brother and sister-in-law tried to surprise us one year by coming home for Christmas from a distance. One of my sisters let it slip resulting in hurt feelings.

  8. One of the Sarahs*

    OP #2 – Before your boss returns I would also send out an office-wide email, along the lines of asking if whoever borrowed the camera could return it to the shelf (i.e. not to you). Of course it could have been stolen, but it also could have been borrowed and forgotten about – but I’d go with a public assumption that it was borrowed.

    If it comes back, problem solved, but make sure you have somewhere to lock it up in the future – if it doesn’t, you can show your boss you’ve already taken action (although it might get complicated if the boss took it on holiday, of course!)

    1. Joseph*

      Good advice. In a lot of these “stolen” cases it turns out that someone borrowed it a few months back, was in a hurry afterwards and just put it in their desk/shelf/etc, then just totally forgot about it.

  9. Chicken Fishing*

    #5, I’m a manager in the informal education field and do a fair amount of hiring. Not everyone is the same, of course, but I find that frequently we love hiring people from other institutions as they bring in new ideas, skills, and perspectives. I agree with Alison, definitely do some networking. There are science teacher conferences almost everywhere that most science museums (and zoos and gardens) like to participate in and some areas have local informal education conferences/workshops (there are also the national organizations like ASTC, AAM, and NAI). Or just reach out to them directly and let them know you’re interested in the work their doing (ask about a specific project/initiative). We love meeting with other informal educators and sharing ideas. This will also give you some insight into whether or not a management position is likely to open up any time soon. Good luck!

    1. Michelle*

      #5 – I work in a science museum and if you want to get an “in”, consider a volunteer position. When we hire, we always give current employees and volunteers a chance to apply before we do a formal listing. We have hired a number of great volunteers for paid positions and it has worked out really well for us. They have knowledge of the culture and expectations of the positions they are applying for.

      1. OP #5*

        I had wrongly thought that volunteers were “lower” on the totem pole than a p/t paid employee but I can see how it would be the opposite since you’re volunteering because of your love or passion for the organization. At my last job we did have volunteers but they were all retired so I hadn’t even thought about it for someone my age. I am definitely looking into that!

        1. Museum&Zoo*

          I agree that volunteering is a great idea, but don’t assume that because you volunteered that you will necessarily get the job – several volunteers and interns applied for my current job, and many of them were pissed when they didn’t even get an interview and that I was brought in as an “outsider.” Even more ask me semi-regularly when I am going to leave this job because they want it (in a creepy cutthroat way). If you do volunteer, make sure that you work very hard, ask for additional responsibilities (after a reasonable amount of time), and use the opportunity to network and meet other people. There’s a bit of a “pay (by volunteering/unpaid internships) to play” mentality in a lot of zoos, museums and gardens which frankly I find distasteful and wrong, but will acknowledge exists.

          That being said, my volunteer/internship opportunities at two organizations landed me positions 5+ years later even though they didn’t get me a job right after . I think having the institutions name on my resume helped to make me a “known quantity” and they were more likely to interview me which gave me an opportunity to discuss my skills and ideas.

          1. OP #5*

            Wow it’s crazy to hear how cutthroat some of the volunteers at your organization are! I’m sure Alison could have a whole other blog post on how to tell off volunteers who are vying for your job! I would hope that my experiences supervising outside of the museum would be what would get me the job but it so often feels like you need an “in” which it sounds like volunteering could fulfill. After looking over the museums volunteer page, the volunteers get to do a lot more than just birthday parties which was my original idea so I think I will apply and see how it goes. I will keep that in mind should I ever apply for the management role and not get it – I won’t be aggressive like some of your volunteers! Even if it doesn’t help me get a job at this particular museum it will help me know the inner workings of a science museum and may better my chances at a different museum in the future.
            Thank you!

    2. OP #5*

      Hi, thank you so much for responding – it’s great to hear from someone who is a manager in the informal education world! I know how infrequently turnover occurs in management position in organizations like these so I want to get every advantage possible. It’s so reassuring to hear that you do hire “outside” people. I’m going to a state-wide educators conference in September that I’m really looking forward to and will definitely take yours and Alison’s advice to network!

  10. Afiendishthingy*

    #3- I cringed as soon as I read the phrase “applying aggressively.” I understand the impulse when you really want a job, but please don’t use this strategy. My department is constantly hiring part time employees to work on different projects, but each client/project is a separate posting. Our recruiting coordinator does a lot of pre screening before passing qualified applicants to the project coordinators for review. Every now and then the recruiting coordinator rolls her eyes and says “oh, my god, this person has applied for 20 positions this month.” So yes, you will get noticed this way, but not in a good way.

    I’d also have a hard time taking seriously someone who did this and then declined to interview. If all the positions are very similar and you really want to work for this company, I’d give this department a shot.

    1. Probably Too Judgemental*


      Applying aggressively is not something I’d want to see! When you hover over an applicant to an advert in the candidate database software we use, it actually says ‘has applied for X positions’. Of course, we work with a huge number of temps and contractors, so a lot of them have genuinely applied to multiple assignments and that’s fine, especially if it’s over a period of time, but for our permanent positions, applying to more than 3 positions would put someone on my mental ‘desperate, will take any job’ list.

      1. Anxa*

        I think I shot myself in the foot several years back, then.

        There was a time I thought I’d be either a very good janitor or a good admin assistant and applied to lots and lots of those jobs. It took me a while to understand that there was no such thing as working as a janitor for a few years, then combining that experience with prior experiences to advance into facilities management, and that it was very hard to break into with a bachelors and no experience.

        I just spent six months volunteering at this same place (a university) and haven’t heard anything for other jobs I’ve applied for. I’ve even let really good fits go by unapplied for trying to ‘save it’ for the best fit.

        Wuh oh.

        1. Probably Too Judgemental*

          It’s fine applying to lots of different places; that’s normal and expected! It’s when people apply for lots of jobs at the same company that makes it look bad, especially if they apply for manager roles the first few times and then eventually move onto team lead, team member and team assistant…

        2. Artemesia*

          It is sometimes hard to know the best strategy. In many Universities a temporary employee like an adjunct would NEVER be considered for a full time position. Even visiting professors are unlikely to be taken seriously for a full time position. I would think that volunteers might have similar problems in some organizations being taken seriously for management positions. So you need intelligence based on the specific employer as to whether you are helping or hurting your chances by that approach.

          1. WhatsInAName?*

            Yes! This! I volunteer at an organization – I am their go to person, been asked to serve on planning committees for their largest fundraiser and be present to work the room at another large events that included a keynote speech from a former POTUS (the event is actually billed as “a night with Mr. President” and is $1,000 a plate.

            When I applied to a position they had open the ED sent me a letter stating they hoped they wouldn’t lose me as a volunteer and that I was too valuable to them in that perspective to consider me for the admin position.

    2. Tacocat*

      I also advocate for giving the department a shot. If #3 really wants to work for this company to the point that they are applying so aggressively (agree here too that this is a bad idea), then the best way to do so is to continue with this interview. They might find that department is better than they expected. Or, by being in the less desirable department but at the same company, it would be much easier to eventually switch into the department they would prefer than to get there as an outside applicant. If instead they turn down the interview while still applying aggressively, there is a chance that they never get a job at this company.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Another advantage of starting in the department is a first hand view of what it actually takes to do the other jobs the OP actually wants. I have also applied to positions for X, been rejected, and had the HM refer me to someone else. In my case, the position I really wanted was the one I was rejected for, but it could work the opposite.

        I wouldn’t take the job, though, unless I thought it was something I could do for 2-3 years. Most places don’t want someone in there angling for a new position right away.

        1. Tacocat*

          Yes, this is a good call. Even if its your longer term goal to move elsewhere, it would be bad form to try to do it right away, so the first job has to work well enough for a couple of years. It can also depend on the company’s culture. My current company has a big culture of internal development to the point where your current manager is supposed to help you achieve your goals, even if it is transferring to a different area within the company. Since it’s all internal transfers, it also doesn’t have to be quite as long as a full 3 years, especially since there’s a chance that another internal transfer could take your place. Even here though, if it was right away, people wouldn’t be happy because they’d have to hire again so soon.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        That’s an excellent point. I once seriously applied for a position I wasn’t thrilled about, because it was a chance to work at a company I liked, and because I knew it would give me the chance to gain essential skills for the job I knew I did want a few years down the road.

      3. Kittymommy*

        I was thinking this as well. I have found it’s much easier to transfer within an organization than come on brand new. This may be even more so of they have an unease (possibly) to a candidate due to excessive applying and then rejecting an interview.

      4. OP FOR #3*

        Great point. Thank you for your suggestions. The job would definitely give me more experience in management (I have some), and it would look great for my applications when I apply to PhD programs. There are a lot of pluses. I was more concerned with being bored with the scope of work. However during the phone interview, he explained the hierarchy at the organization and stated more ppl in that position move up to another position within 3 years. He also stated the lady who would be my boss just transferred from another department at the organization (that is completely different that the current one) so I think there is room to grow.

    3. OP FOR #3*

      Hi thanks for your comment. I think I misspoke when I said aggressively. I was trying to stress that I’m solely applying to this company. I have only applied to 8 jobs since Feb 2016 with this company (8 jobs in total actually because this year is my first year applying).

      But in the past month, I applied to 3 with the same title. Do you think that’s still too much? How much is too much?I only really said that because the HR person referenced it and said “we may have spoken before” (we hadn’t.)

      1. Liana*

        I think 3 jobs in the same month is still a lot, even if they’re all the same title. And applying to 8 jobs at the same company in a span of 5 months is definitely going to be noticed. Some companies may like the determination it shows, but I think it’s more likely to induce vague irritation or simply dismissiveness. However, since you were already offered an interview, I think it might be worth going and seeing what you think of the job and/or department! You may end up being more enthusiastic about it then you originally anticipated. I definitely wouldn’t recommend accepting a job you don’t want because you think it’ll give you a leg up when ti comes to applying to the department you want to work for, but if you go to the interview and like the job they ARE hiring you for, then I consider that a win-win for everyone involved.

      2. Tacocat*

        I think you are okay for now, especially since its a big company and you are applying to similar jobs that match your experience and skill set. Just make sure you are applying for jobs that are a good fit and that you would enthusiastically take any if they decide to move forward with you. Might just want to reduce the number of jobs you apply for by only applying to the best fit ones. I would also definitely recommend you go through the interview process because you might find you like the area better than you thought you would. Or, if you are a strong candidate, but not the top candidate / best fit for the area, the interviewers/hiring managers might help you network to other areas of the company. Dropping out after applying to many though would send a strange message that might cause them to write you off.

      3. Polka Dot Bird*

        Someone applied for two jobs within my area. The hiring manager instantly removed them for consideration on both. Now, they were different jobs, not the same job title, but the lesson I have taken away from that is to be careful.

  11. themmases*

    I’m not sure if this is what OP 2 meant by theory comment that they are ready to look into replacement cameras, but they do not need to pay for the replacement themselves. In fact they shouldn’t try to do that or even offer.

    I probably wouldn’t even bother researching replacements yet– just offer it when you tell the boss. You’re certainly need to know the budget and there might be constraints on where it can be purchased. If the camera is rarely used they might opt not to replace it at all or to get something way cheaper this time.

  12. Liane*

    Ques. 1: I am surprised Alison didn’t mention her usual “Don’t contact a relative or friend’s boss unless that person is so ill/injured they can’t all in sick.”

  13. Another Day Another Issue*

    I have a variation on #4 — we may be terminating an employee this month. There has been a PIP, not only has she not improved, she has taken several steps backwards and actually is starting to border on insubordination.

    The issue is that she moved from one coast to the other for this job. Our company paid the moving expenses and then she signed a relocation contract stating that if she leaves the company voluntarily or is terminated within the first two years, she must payback moving expenses. She has been with us 9 months.

    In this case, would waiving the moving expense repayment in lieu of some sort of payment be sufficient to hold her to a release of claims?

    1. baseballfan*

      I am not a lawyer or HR professional but from a common sense standpoint it seems that waiving a repayment requirement is akin to giving someone money.

      It’s just like if you default on a loan, the lender will send a 1099 for the amount written off and taxes must be paid on it, because it’s considered income (with a few exceptions).

    2. Gaara*

      You really need to ask your lawyer that question. But the idea is you’re giving them something you don’t have to (if you don’t) in exchange for the release in either case.

    3. CM*

      You’d still need to get her to sign a release, but yes, you would basically be forgiving debt, which (for purposes of taxes and ability to enforce a contract) is considered the same as giving her money. And the release that she signs should reference the waiver of repayment, to show that she got something of value in return for signing.

    4. hbc*

      I would think that you can offer a dollar or a cookie or a hearty handshake in exchange for not suing, right? You’re just trying to provide them some incentive to sign the paper saying they won’t sue you.

      1. Megs*

        Well, not exactly. In order for a contract to be binding (and that’s what this is), it needs to be a meaningful exchange for both sides (consideration, in legalese). Agreeing to forgive a debt could certainly be considered meaningful, but a dollar would most likely not.*

        *Standard disclaimer: not legal advice!

  14. Name(Required)*

    OP #2 you can try you upload a picture taken with that camera- if there are any other pictures posted to the internet taken with that camera they’ll come up, you might fid a picture of Bob’s dog or lead you to someone’s facebook profile picture.

  15. Sales Geek*

    To #2: if you haven’t done so already, file a police report on the missing camera. If you can find it somehow you’ll need the camera’s serial number (it’s on the box for most DSLRs if you still have the box). The police won’t do much about it but doing so A) makes the camera more difficult to pawn/sell on eBay and B) allows you to file an insurance claim on the camera.

    I learned all this the hard way after leaving $2,000 worth of kit in the trunk of a rental car.

    You may consider an email to people in the department asking if someone “forgot” to return it but would ask your manager about doing so. I would defer to the commentariat here on the wisdom of doing this. In some places this could have the downside of false accusations and/or feeding the rumor mill (I *hate* office gossip).

    1. Liana*

      I think sending an email politely asking someone to return the camera would be completely fine, and would actually be my first step. Chances are reasonably high that someone borrowed it and forgot to return it – that happens a lot with office equipment. Honestly, I’d hold off on a police report until other options have been exhausted. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to do, but it’s a much more extreme step than sending an email, and if it does turn out that someone simply borrowed it, it’s going to be highly awkward when OP becomes the person who called the police over misplaced office supplies.

    2. Pwyll*

      Yeah, once you’re very sure it’s been stolen and not just borrowed by some other department or person, filing a police report is good for documentation purposes (and insurance purposes). If you’d like to really make the police officer’s day, bring them a package with a letter explaining what happened that includes the date it was last seen and the date and time it was discovered missing, and if you can, photocopies or a listing of the barcode from the box (with the serial numbers).

      When our office was broken into and all of our technology stolen, I brought a packet of all that information to the local police department. The stuff was never recovered, sadly, but a Detective actually stopped by the office to thank us for making their jobs easier by providing such comprehensive information.

    3. BananaPants*

      Where I work it’s very common for someone to take instrumentation from the storage room without checking it out, and then when someone else needs it an email goes out to everyone asking who has it.

  16. KT*

    #1, please don’t do this. It puts the boss in an awful position as well as a lot of pressure on your significant other; what if he’s saving his very limited vacation for something else, like a family reunion? You springing this on him could really ruin his plans.

    (Moreover, I once had an ex do this–when we were exes–he reached out to my boss to get time off for me so he could “surprise me” and take me on a long weekend trip to convince me to get back together. My boss was taken aback, but agreed…she didn’t realize I had a restraining order against him…when he showed up and I called the police, she was horrified she had unknowingly helped him…NOT SAYING THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE DOING…only that some managers will be very concerned about agreeing to this because of situations like mine)

    1. Marillenbaum*

      That’s an excellent point, and I’m so sorry that happened to you. No matter the LW’s individual circumstances, as a policy this is not a thing managers should say yes to, precisely because of the situation you cite.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      It’s surprising enough that a manager would agree to this request from a current boyfriend/girlfriend – I’m shocked that your manager would do this for an ex! Or did she not know you had broken up?

  17. spek*

    #2 From the use you describe, not sure why you would need a DSLR camera anyway. For just day to day photos, you really don’t need that much resolution – a phone camera should be fine. If you don’t access to a camera phone, or don’t want to take work pictures on a personal phone, or if you need higher quality photos, you can pick up a cheap 8MP digital camera online for about $25. No one would bother stealing the replacement, either….

  18. Name(Required)*

    OP #1 I think it depends on the type of job- Co-workers can easily cover for me but someone with projects or long term work it might be harder for

    OP #2 might help a bit. its not 100% but it might tell you if someone posted pictures with it

  19. OP FOR #3*

    Thank You for your advice!

    Just so everyone knows, the company has about 15,000 people working for them and 2000 volunteers. I want to clarify that I have applied to a total of 8 jobs since Feb. 2016 with this company but they are all the same position (lab manager) and I think the HR guy oversees that one particular department (say it’s a school of medicine). So I did think it was for that department, I wasn’t clear on the scope of work (it said hematology but his work is on metabolics research). However, during the phone interview I did learn more about the department and their goals because it’s a new department for this company. Like you said the phone interview added clarity to the position. Yesterday evening I was contacted to interview next week. I am going to respond today.

  20. Anon Guy*

    Regarding the vacation question, I *WOULD NOT* call the boss despite your good intentions. Ask if he wants to go on vacation and he can put in for it. That said, what kind of job only gives one week of vacation? Bleccchh.

    Regarding the severance pay, I wanted to mention that in many states, even for employees who are fired, companies are legally required to pay you for any accrued vacation time. That’s one reason so many companies are now doing the “unlimited vacation” nonsense–you don’t accrue anything tangible so if you leave it doesn’t cost them anything.

  21. Lalaland*

    I’m cringing imagining OP1’s boyfriend getting denied for requested vacation time due to this scheme and doing something stupid like freak on the boss or quit because he was denied the use of vacation time outright…. and then the aftermath of finding out it was because he already was given time off without his knowledge for a surprise vacation.

    If my husband did this to me… well that is not something I should broadcast for future trials.

  22. Marisol*

    For #2 – Alison suggests that you say, “I should have asked earlier for a locking drawer to keep it in and will in the future if we replace it.” I disagree with volunteering your culpability. First of all, the problem is that someone is a thief. Unless there is a known problem or a set policy regarding the safeguarding of assets like cameras, I don’t consider it negligence to assume good faith on the part of the office staff (or cleaning crew, or whoever). You didn’t abuse the camera; you didn’t leave it outside on a park bench. It was stored carefully in your office, just not locked up. I would tell the boss what happened in a direct manner as Alison recommends, but leave off the blaming myself part. I would then say something like, “now that I know this can be a problem, I think I need a locking drawer to prevent this from happening again. And voila! You have framed yourself as a problem solver.

    Now if your boss does assign blame to you or asks why you didn’t keep the camera in a locked drawer, then I’d tell him that since there were no incidents for the previous four years, you saw no reason to have a lockbox or whatever, but that you see now that it is necessary going forward.

    If he insists that you are at fault for not locking up, well I’d probably go ahead and accept blame rather than argue about it and risk looking like a weasel; I would take it on the chin and move on: “I see your point and you’re right, I should have suggested a locking drawer”. However, I see no reason to frame the issue as something that you screwed up on. Why give someone ammunition? I don’t know the boss in question, but lots of bosses are so bombarded with decisions that they will take what you say at face value, and not look too deeply into something that is a relatively low-stakes issue. In other words, if you don’t give him the idea to blame you, he won’t think of it himself. This strategy will be especially effective if you take the attitude of being irate that someone had the gall to do this awful deed, viz., *SOMEONE STOLE the camera from my office! We have a thief!*

    I am *not* suggestion you lie or alter facts in any way. I just don’t think it’s necessary to fall on your sword. I guess I’m advocating corporate gamesmanship ;)

  23. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

    Wait wait wait wait… ONE week of vacation PER YEAR??!!! Is he like a captured briton slave working for the Roman emperor??? Is that normal in the USA? Is that even legal?

    1. BananaPants*

      It’s entirely legal. There’s no law requiring paid leave of any kind in the U.S.

      1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

        Holly molly. It’s 4 paid weeks in my country (Spain) and 5 where I live (Norway). That’s more or less the average in EU. Is it normal not to have paid holidays in USA?

  24. Landshark*

    I’m sure the dead horse has been beaten to death here, but I’m a firm believer in relationships and work never overlapping. The only time I’ve ever had my husband contact my work was when I physically had to call in, not email, and I had laryngitis so severe that I could barely even whisper. I would much rather know the dates and advocate for myself than have to hear about it from even the most understanding boss. Your boyfriend will thank you, OP1.

Comments are closed.