should I give my new boss a gift, I get my own hotel room while my male coworkers have to share, and more

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

1. Should I give my new boss a gift as thanks for hiring me?

I got a job and start last Monday. My boss wasn’t here for the first week, but he will be in next Monday. I learned a lot already and understand how my team works.

I got interviewed by the team, including my boss. It was three of us being interviewed and I got it. They all discussed it and my boss obviously has the final say. So I feel honored and grateful for this opportunity. The gift I want to give him is a knight with both hands out holding a pen. So it’s a little fancy pen holder. Think it’s too far or weird?

Nooooo, do not do that. Your boss didn’t hire you as a favor; he hired you because he thought you were the best person for the job. A gift will be weird. Do not do it.

I know it’s easy to feel gratitude when you’re hired, but it’s really not a gratitude situation; this is a two-way business arrangement. The mental positioning you want is this: You’re excited to be there and happy for the opportunity, but you’re bringing at least as much value as the paycheck they’re giving you in exchange for that.

(Plus you don’t really know your new boss at this point and can’t judge if he’d like the gift or not. Maybe he had a terrible experience with a knight once. The point is, you don’t know him well enough for gift-giving.)

2. Is it okay that I get my own hotel room while my male coworkers have to share?

I’m a woman on a team of mostly men. When we travel, the men often have to share a room while I get my own (if there was another woman, I assume we would share, but that hasn’t come up yet). On the one hand, I think sharing a room with a coworker is a bit strange regardless of gender, and I treasure the alone time to recharge. But I also think it probably wouldn’t be that big of a deal. We work long days and don’t spend much time at the hotel. Also, I feel like I’m getting special treatment due to my gender, and I don’t want my coworkers to resent me.

I had initially told my work I would prefer not to, but should I offer to start sharing rooms with the men? My company would be glad to save the hotel money. What if it turns out to make me more uncomfortable than I expect; will it be strange to change my mind again?

Don’t offer to share rooms with the men. It’s 100% normal to not mix sexes in hotel rooms during business travel. We can debate whether or not that makes sense, but it’s unquestionably the norm. Your male coworkers almost certainly know this and don’t expect to share a room with you. You’re not getting special treatment because you’re a woman; if there were other women on staff, you’d be sharing a room, but right now there aren’t. I promise you that no one thinks that you’re selfish for not offering to share with the men.

Sharing hotel rooms sucks. Enjoy that for right now, circumstance has put you in a position where you don’t have to.

3. Am I operating in bad faith by planning for a trip that I’ll back out of if I become pregnant?

I’m planning on presenting at a conference in the next couple of months for work. I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time and think it will be good for my career. However, it’s in a country with active Zika transmission, and I’ve been trying to conceive. The risk would be low since I would be mostly indoors, in a big clean city, but WHO and CDC guidelines still recommend that pregnant women limit travel. So if I were to get pregnant over the next month, I would not go.

I’ve already experienced a chemical pregnancy (like a super early miscarriage) and I know conception can take a while so I wanted to leave the door open for myself. Am I acting in bad faith? I’ve stalled booking anything just in case and I’ll know for sure before it’s too late, but I hate feeling so cagey and dishonest about it all. Should I just back off the trip regardless?

Pregnancy is unpredictable enough that you’re not obligated to make work plans around the possibility that you might become pregnant in the future. If you do, you’ll deal with it then, but until that time, it’s completely reasonable that you’re proceeding to make plans based on your current reality.

Updated to add: As commenters have pointed out, the CDC recommends that you should wait at least eight weeks before trying to conceive after returning from an area with Zika.

4. A former employer still pays for my cell phone bill

I still have a past employer paying for my cell phone. Is this morally wrong or illegal? I don’t want to get in any trouble!

It’s not illegal, but yes, there’s an ethical issue with allowing them to continue to pay a bill when it’s no longer a business expense. Take them off the bill (or if you can’t do that yourself, contact them and alert them that they need to).

{ 120 comments… read them below }

  1. Jeanne*

    #2, You sound like a generous person but you’re going the wrong direction. Don’t offer to share with the men. Offer to help the men advocate for everyone to have their own room. Having women and men share is awkward at best. Spouses can object and your coworker is then torn between spouse and job. The next woman could be uncomfortable sharing with a man but will they have to require it. What are the boundaries of sexual harrassment if you share a room. All of that. Anyway, if you treasure the time to be alone and relax, maybe the men would too. Help the men get good treatment.

    1. MK*

      Also, saying you don’t want to share and then offering to share and then changing your mind again, if you find it’s a problem after all, would come across as capricious.

    2. Snowglobe*

      The OP’s question seems to contain the assumption that women might object to sharing with men, but men wouldn’t have a problem sharing with women. That is certainly not going to be true in many (most?) cases. OP offering to share with the men could put them in a situation where they are uncomfortable and can’t complain.

      1. INTP*

        I agree with this. It could make the men uncomfortable to even be asked. They don’t know the OP’s motives, whether they’d be seen as sexist to say no, etc.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        It also assumes that they’re all heterosexual. And if it never occurred to the team’s management to question that assumption, any team members who are not heterosexual might be very reluctant to admit it.

        1. Regina*

          Precisely! I’m bisexual, so all of this “oh but of course if there a woman she’d room with you” thing ignores women who aren’t straight. Everyone should be able to conduct themselves in a way that is respectful of the other person and before someone says “Oh women won’t come on to other women while traveling” think again, dears.

          1. Anxa*

            But do you think that thus is about attraction or common gender segregation?

            There was never an option to avoid sharing locker rooms with women who were attracted to women; the norm for some nonsexual intimate activities has been to divide by gender not attraction.

            There’s also a huge difference as a woman receiving unwanted attention from a woman than a man; men are usually more powerful.

            That said, I feel as it’s still a little awkward to have people share when there’s the potential for sexual attraction based on gender. I wouldn’t want to be torn between feeling as though I’m hiding my orientation or outing myself.

            1. Rudrani*

              “There’s also a huge difference as a woman receiving unwanted attention from a woman than a man; men are usually more powerful.”

              Powerful or otherwise, unwanted attention is sexual harassment. Unless you’re suggesting that sexual harassment is somehow worse because “men are usually more powerful”, which is shockingly problematic for two reasons; 1) it diminishes sexual harassment that women suffer at the hands of other women; 2) it diminishes and continues the cycle of sexual harassment that men endure in the workplace at the hands of women, because “men are usually more powerful”. Sexual harassment has psychological effects on people, their performance and can trigger traumatic experiences from their past, regardless of the “power” of the person making the comment(s).

          2. Zillah*

            There probably is some latent heteronormativity built into it, but I actually think that as a general rule, it’s far more about gender than sexual orientation. It may not be true everywhere, but that’s always been my experience.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t think same-sex rooms are supposed to be about avoiding the possibility of sexual attraction. I think it’s more about the same logic behind single-sex locker rooms or bathrooms — that many people are more comfortable with certain activities being segregated by sex (changing clothes, bathroom activities, etc.).

          (Whether that’s reasonable or not is up for debate, obviously — the whole thing is just a social construct.)

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yes. I am a bisexual woman and I am still far more comfortable on average changing clothes in front of other women (whether they’re straight or not) than in front of men (whether they’re straight or not). (On average because a man who’s my bff is more comfortable for me than a woman who’s a complete stranger; this is an ‘all else being equal’ thing.)

            I’m not going to try to argue that this makes sense or is “right.” It’s definitely a social construct, and as such is worth examining. But that doesn’t make it not be a real thing.

          2. Kathleen Adams*

            Other people here can – and have – come up with solid, logic-based reasons, but if I did so, I would be pretending. I wouldn’t cheat, my husband wouldn’t cheat, but sharing a room with someone of the opposite sex…

            It just wouldn’t feel right.

            I could try to parse my feelings, I guess, but for me it really does come down to that.

      3. Joseph*

        Frankly, given all the potential issues (sexual harassment, rumors of affairs, etc), I don’t know why the company would even want to have mixed-gender room sharing, even if OP did offer.

      4. Shannon*

        My husband is harmless as a declawed kitten, but, I’d have a problem with him sharing a room with a female coworker.

    3. BananaPants*

      No employer worth its salt is going allow mixed-sex hotel rooms even if there were volunteers. There’s too much risk of accusations of untoward or inappropriate behavior, and it’s likely that if any of the men are married/partnered the significant others will object (as I’m sure would be the case if the genders were reversed).

      I’m not a jealous person, but I would not be even remotely OK with my husband having to share a hotel room with a woman he works with. I don’t know the women he works with and to suddenly have one insisting on sharing sleeping accommodations would be SUPER sketchy and I’d wonder about the purity of her motivations there. Frankly, I would quit my job before I would share a hotel room with a male coworker. Fortunately with my company, everyone gets their own hotel room when traveling so even sharing with another woman has never been a concern.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’m always a little nonplussed by the spouse objections. I know it’s a super common reaction, but I’ve never had it myself and would love to hear people who have that reaction say more about why. Obviously your spouse isn’t going to suddenly become someone who isn’t faithful just because of the presence of a an opposite-sex person in the room. Is the assumption that it’s too much temptation or something? That can’t really be it, because presumably people trust their partners, so if we were to break it down, what’s behind it?

        (I feel like this sounds kind of judgy, like “well, my relationship is too evolved for these concerns” and that’s not at all how I mean it. I’m just genuinely curious.)

        1. Interesting*

          Its the perception. People gossip. Spouses are insecure. It opens your company up to potential sexual harrassment lawsuits. A spouse might cheat since the opportunity is there when it normally isnt.

          It’s a bad idea for many reasons, so it surprises me you are dismissive of it. I’ve seen you be that way when the subject has come up in the past.

          Why play with fire?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Because I don’t consider it fire for a healthy relationship. I’m not going to cheat just because opportunity presents itself, and I assume my spouse wouldn’t either. If I didn’t assume that, there would already be a problem, regardless of what did or didn’t actually happen.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              Exactly. If someone is looking to cheat, there are always opportunities. And if someone isn’t interested in cheating, opportunities are meaningless. (This all presumes monogamy has been mutually agreed upon by both partners; although that’s been by and large the norm, it’s far from universal.)

              1. Julia*

                Well, even if you’re not monogamous, it would be a really bad idea to offer to share a room with a colleague and try to start something with them.

            2. Interesting*

              So you focused on cheating and are leaving out the liability issues for your company it can create.

              Male and female coworkers are sharing a room, they have a mandatory work dinner which involves a few drinks. They go back to the room, one makes an inappropriate comment which offends the other coworker. They return from the trip and file a sexual harrassment complaint.

              Or same basic scenario but one coworker has ulterior motives and tries to make a move on the other, gets rejected, and then starts a campaign of harrassment against the coworker for rejecting them.

              Potential for theft between coworkers.

              It sets the company up for potential lawsuits and major headaches. THAT alone is a good enough reason to keep coworkers separated.

              Everyone thinks its about cheating and ignores the obvious. Yes, they should be adults but too many people act like morons.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                No, I’m not talking about it at all from an employer standpoint; I’m asking about the perspective of people who feel strongly that they wouldn’t want their spouse sharing a room with someone of the opposite sex.

            3. Maria*

              There are many intimate acts that are not sex that I would have a problem with my spouse sharing with another person. Sharing a hotel room involves some of those acts. Saying “Well, I trust him not to engage in sex with his coworker” sounds to me like the person sees no difference between a colleague and a spouse other than the act of intercourse.

              1. baseballfan*

                Agreed. I would not be OK with my husband sharing a room with a woman and he would not be OK with my sharing a room with a man. Has nothing to do with whether we think “something will happen” and everything to do with the fact that you just don’t share intimate space like a bedroom with someone of the opposite sex who you are not involved with, especially if you are involved with someone else.

                The spouse objection is moot really, because I would not ever agree to do this. I would pay for my own room first. (And then find another job).

                1. LawLady*

                  Just curious, but if your husband shared a room with a gay man would that be different? What about a lesbian woman? Your “you just don’t share intimate space with someone of the opposite sex” thing reads to me like it’s entirely cultural norms and not actually based in the relationships themselves. Is that right?

            4. Chinook*

              “Because I don’t consider it fire for a healthy relationship. I’m not going to cheat just because opportunity presents itself, and I assume my spouse wouldn’t either”

              AAM, you are not alone in this thinking and I speak as someone whose spouse has cheated on her. You are either someone who thinks of cheating as an option or someone who doesn’t – opportunities won’t change this. He has female friends even now (though I do insist on meeting them so they know that I know they exist) and I wouldn’t question his fidelity if they had to share rooms for work. Heck, when he was in the military and police training, the women’s bunks were in the same room and only separated by a curtain (and they weren’t the ones he cheated with). How is that different from sharing two separate beds?

              That being said, I wouldn’t want him to have to do it not because of him but because I have met some women who either a) don’t take no as an answer and/or b) it puts him in a he said/she said situation if there were any complaints of misconduct by either parties. In order to protect himself and his reputation, he shouldn’t have to share a room with a woman.

              As for those who wonder how I would know/how can I trust him now – I won’t debate this issue but I can verify that he is horrible at lying to me and he has offered to give me everything (including the wolf and his pension) if I ever leave him. Basically, he has given me a bond against his word that it will never happen again.

        2. Lily Evans*

          I have a friend who recently got married and her husband’s the only man who she’s seen naked/been naked around and vise-versa, so for them sharing a hotel room with someone of the opposite sex would probably be crossing an intimacy line, even if everyone changed in the bathroom.

        3. AW*

          presumably people trust their partners

          Not necessarily. There’s always the people who’ve been cheated on but have decided to try to make the relationship work anyway. I wouldn’t blame them for not being thrilled at the idea of their significant other sharing a hotel room with whatever gender(s) of co-worker they’re attracted to. I guess you could still say that even in that situation you either you trust your partner or you don’t, but it’s probably more complicated once that trust has been broken before. And people sometimes do end up staying in bad relationships for longer than they should.

          I say all this as someone who’s never been cheated on but has read a lot of advice column letters from people who have.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s fair. I tend to assume the relationship is over at the point where you don’t trust the person not to cheat, but I see your point about if you’re in a relationship recovery period. Still, though, I feel like more people say this than are in that relationship situation, so I remain befuddled by it.

        4. Boss Cat Meme*

          I trust my husband 100 percent! But I sure don’t trust some of the people he works with! My husband is one of 4 mangers who supervise about 30 people, about 25-50 yrs old. At the last Christmas party, a night of company bowling, we watched a surprising display of drunken behavior between a female manager and her “team” that was pretty eyebrow-raising. So even though I trust my husband completely to turn down any advances, that doesn’t mean that they won’t be made, and someone is going to be pretty angry when their special snowflake ego takes a big hit. When you are in the same hotel room, how can anybody “get away” from an awkward situation?

          As a side note, I am a blonde with large natural breasts, like a German farm girl. I have NEVER had a relationship of any kind with any man I have ever worked with. At EVERY conference/work function I have ever attended, I have received the soft knock on the hotel room door after everyone else has turned in for the night. Married men, a U.S. Senator, a Congressman, they all come creeping around after dark and the pressure to say yes is enormous! Not that I desire them, but to get them off my back, as if I just feel worn down from fighting it. I also have had women I don’t even know (co-worker’s wives) come up to me and call me names and tell me to get my hands off their husbands. I’ve had co-workers call me at home late at night. I have had the future husband of a co-worker ask for my number the week before they were married, and then call me at home the week after they returned from their honeymoon. The very thought of sharing a hotel room with a male co-worker turns my stomach. In fact, I feel the same way if we ALL had our own rooms–in a way that almost makes it worse! No No NO NO WAY!

          1. Artemesia*

            Maybe my revulsion for this room sharing comes similarly from a long life in which I have been hit on by virtually every person in a position of authority over me during my student days and on occasion in the workplace. I was in my day attractive but not fabulously so and I have always been a conservative even dowdy dresser and yet every major professor from undergrad to PhD made advances and plenty of other men including a very prestigious leader in my field from Harvard with whom I had hoped to do some work. Most of them were gracious about ‘no’ but Harvardguy actually tried to tear my blouse off; I was 3 mos pregnant at the time and absolutely not flirtatious. I really thought we were getting together to discuss research. The first time this happened I was a fairly geeky freshman and it was my even more geeky philosophy professor. Have also had it happen in political settings and in later professional settings.

            Given the prevalence of this kind of behavior just in my own life, I am inclined to think it is a significant hazard that forcing gender mixed rooming would exacerbate. Imagine a handi boss manipulating that sort of thing if there were not a strong norm against gender mixing in rooming.

          2. Zillah*

            Yep. My experience is that men are far more likely to feel entitled to women’s bodies, time, and attention than women of any sexual orientation. That’s not true across the board, ofc, but IME, it’s a consistent pattern, and I avoid rooming with men I don’t know well for that reason alone.

        5. BananaPants*

          I trust my husband. I have zero reason to doubt his fidelity, and we’ve been together for 15 years. It’s not trusting him that’s the problem – it’s the woman I don’t know who suddenly wants to share a hotel room with him on a business trip. Maybe it’s totally innocent, like the OP today who thinks it makes it unfair to her male coworkers – or maybe she actually wants to hit on him and is going to get pissed off when he spurns her advances. When they’re sharing a hotel room, he can’t easily get away from that situation. In the event she has ulterior motives it could end up badly for him both personally and professionally. Why take the risk?

          I would be deeply uncomfortable sharing a hotel room with my male coworkers and I’m positive none of them would come on to or assault me. Sharing a hotel room is an intimate experience – and I’m not talking about anything sexual. You see them in their pajamas, you hear them snore, you smell the bathroom after last night’s Mexican food goes through their system. That’s a level of intimacy that I think a lot of people would be uncomfortable sharing with anyone other than a family member or close friend. Basically, no one I work with – male or female – needs to see my 30-something, overweight-mother-of-two self bra-less and in ratty pajamas, while I watch House Hunters International and enjoy an overpriced soda from the minibar.

          1. Julia*

            This is pretty much how I feel about the issue.
            My partner had to share a room once due to university budgeting (at least not four people in one room again like the last time!) and I know it was really uncomfortable for him.

            As a woman, of course, he and I would both be worried for my safety if I ever had to share with a male co-worker, especially one I don’t know well. There are a few I would share with if I had to, but I’m assuming they’d hate it just as well, as would their wives.

        6. Shannon*

          I have a vested, financial interest in my husband’s career. If he excels, it benefits us as a family. There is too much risk involved in sharing a room with a different sex coworker. Any accusation of impropriety will affect his chances of getting promoted or raises. It may very well even endanger his job and if the accusation is bad enough, it may make it difficult for him to get another job.

          As a woman, I have been in situations where so much as going to lunch with a man alone has caused rumors to be spread about me. I have seen first hand how the rumor mill can adversely effect your career. I safeguard my husband’s career just as I safeguard my own, because our fortunes are tied together.

        7. Ren*

          Even with the best intentions sharing a hotel room with someone of the opposite sex is uncomfortably intimate. Intimacy is so much more than physical relations. Even if nothing goes on it can cause distressing feelings and perhaps guilt. When else would your spouse be sharing a hotel room with someone of the opposite gender? On vacation? Hopefully not, a church missions trip? No. There is not one situation that I can think of where this would be appropriate.

          1. Chrissy*


            I have platonic friends who I would skinny dip with (so as to avoid being thought of as prudish), but I don’t want ANY of my coworkers seeing me brush my teeth, see my pajamas, sleeping next to me, etc. The work environment is full of competition and not everyone is a friend, so it’s a good thing to keep it strictly professional and sharing a hotel room, by default, crosses that line.

      2. Artemesia*

        Given the amount of sexual behavior that occurs at conventions and on business trips I can’t imagine how anyone would think it appropriate for a business to house men and women in the same hotel room. I am not a particularly jealous person; my husband has stayed at the home of single women he knows through his blogging activities and that hasn’t bothered me at all but I would have been pretty skeeved by him rooming WITH a co-worker on a business trip. And I sure as heck would never have wanted to room with one of my male co-workers although I was not attracted to most of them and I doubt many were thrilled at the thought of me in close quarters.

        It is just inappropriate and asking for trouble. And it is a gross violation of privacy. It is naive to assume that it would not lead to inappropriate sexual behavior since that sort of thing tends to happen when it is easy as away at conventions or on business trips. Yes, it can be arranged without room sharing but this makes it so easy. And plenty of people would find it shocking and reputation damaging even if the people involved think it is no big deal.

        1. Anonymous Educator*

          It is naive to assume that it would not lead to inappropriate sexual behavior since that sort of thing tends to happen when it is easy as away at conventions or on business trips.

          Maybe with two consenting single adults (or a married but poly?), but I’m monog married and if I were required by work to room with a different-gendered co-worker, I promise you nothing sexual would happen between us.

          Never mind that getting involved with a co-worker (business trips and conventions aside) brings its own weird issues. I think people who want to have sex at conventions or business trips are more likely to want to do so with a non-co-worker, but maybe that’s my own faulty assumptions.

          1. mehowe*

            I agree. I’m not married, but I would not find myself accidentally having sex with a co-worker just because he (or she, for that matter) happened to be in a bed next to mine. Sharing a room with an opposite-gendered coworker would be awkward but I assume that adults know how to keep their genitals to themselves if they want to.

          2. Artemesia*

            Of course. Me either. But there are lots of flirtatious or close to affairs among co-workers. People who are already attracted might well find this quite convenient or quite tempting. My daughter has roomed with male co-workers and it was no big deal; I totally weirds me out. Probably a generational thing.

            1. Zillah*

              I’m 28, and it would make me uncomfortable as hell to share a room with a man I’m not related to/don’t know very well. (It doesn’t bother me at all to share a room with lesbians/bisexual women.) I don’t think it’s just generational.

    4. Anonymous Educator*

      What are the boundaries of sexual harrassment if you share a room.

      Men can sexually harass men in a room. And men can also sexually harass women while not sharing a room.

      I lived in a co-ed dorm in college with co-ed bathrooms and showers. Did we have sexual harassment in our college? Absolutely, just as much as any other college. Were there higher incidents for residents in a co-ed floor with a co-ed bathroom? Nope.

      I’m not advocating for this woman offering to share with men. I just think the concerns about this leading to sexual harassment come from fear rather than common sense. Men who sexually harass women at work don’t behave because they don’t “get” to share a hotel room with a female co-worker—believe me, they find plenty of other opportunities to harass.

      1. Artemesia*

        It is fairly easy to remove yourself from unwanted advances on the convention floor or a cocktail party or whatever; there you are locked in a room with someone with boundary issues — what are you going to do then that is graceful?

  2. gnarlington*

    I just came from a conference where people shared rooms (people of the same gender, of course). And a couple of people were thisclose to sharing a BED. A. Bed. I will never understand how any of this is a norm! I don’t think I’d be able to handle it if I were asked to share a room with a coworker or colleague.

    1. LawCat*


      Ugh! I don’t get it either. I’d be horrified to share a hotel room (and a bed… I can’t even… whuuuuut).

      I’d never share a hotel room with a coworker. I hope to never see any of my colleagues in their PJs and never want them to see me in mine. I don’t want to experience first hand whether they snore/talk/walk/fart in their sleep. Pretty sure they don’t want to find out any such things about me. Nope. Nope. Nope. I’d be buying my own hotel room and looking for a new job.

    2. Ivy*

      In my former (third world) country you were usually paying for a hotel bed, unless you wanted to pay double for a whole room, and I’ve had to share room with complete strangers (same gender though). When I started working for a foreign bank and went on business trips I was fully expecting having to share with colleagues, and imagine my extreme surprise that I got a room to myself.

      I think I would still have balked at sharing with a man or sharing a bed :-)

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I shared a train compartment with a complete stranger (same sex) when I went to Scotland–it’s just how they do things on the overnight train, unless you book the compartment to yourself, which I couldn’t afford. It was no problem whatsoever, except the person in the next compartment coughed loudly all night and neither of us got any sleep. >_<

        The next night, I lucked out because there was a booking error and I got it to myself. Yay!

    3. Lillie Lane*

      I had to share a room with 2 other coworkers in my second month on the job. That meant 2 of us had to share a bed….as the youngest and least senior, I volunteered. Luckily the woman I shared with eventually became a close friend. We still laugh about how ridiculous it was.

      At my job now, we always get our own hotel rooms….except for an upcoming meeting where we are renting houses. Everyone else gets a king or queen, and I’m getting stuck with the twin trundle bed. Can’t wait until I get older and more senior.

    4. nep*

      I would never want to share a room w a coworker.
      A bed? Can’t. Even. Imagine. that being suggested. Beyond ridiculous.

      1. Rachel in Minneapolis*

        I have shared rooms with both genders and even recently shared a bed with another female co-worker I knew well. It wasn’t great but it wasn’t terrible.

        I work for a church and most work trip are self-financed or fundraised. I can always choose to pay for my own room, but that’s a significant expense. We often end up calling a church in the conference area and sleeping on the floor all in one room. Not too comfortable, but it’s free!

        A few years ago when I spoke at a series of conference s around the US, I had my hotel room in all these fabulous cities. It felt almost excessively luxurious.

  3. Bookworm*

    #3 – I’m sure you’ve considered this, as there has been so much information floating around and so much still unknown. (And the CDC suggestions have changed.) However, when I spoke to my doctor I was told that the current recommendation is to wait eight weeks before *trying* to conceive after returning from an area with Zika.

    Depending on what your physician says, that may be something to consider.

    1. snuck*

      This is what I was coming to say… They are finding that the Zika virus remains in the body for a considerable period of time (months) after the initial infection symptoms pass. Even if you don’t get pregnant before you go, you won’t want to risk getting pregnant right after you get back… and even if you don’t think you contract Zika you’d want to get tested because a lot of people have mild / low symptoms.

      If you are actively trying to get pregnant then I personally think you shouldn’t apply to do the paper – or set a cutoff date for when you plan to stop trying and keep that in mind so that the conference can arrange a different speaker in time (these things normally take a few months to organise though – because speakers need funding to travel etc). I personally believe it’d be rude to apply, be accepted and take a highly covetted position and then back out the week before for a planned pregnancy.

        1. Caledonia*

          Several golfers/tennis players of both sexes have pulled out. Some might be because of the zika virus, others because of the fact it doesn’t gain them points/money (in the case of tennis players). There is a British athlete who has frozen his sperm as well.

    2. Newby*

      Yep. If you are trying to get pregnant, you shouldn’t go. If you do go, you should put pregnancy plans on hold for at least two months or you do risk just as much as if you went while pregnant.

    3. BananaPants*

      Yes, I see that Alison updated – but OP3, if you’re actively trying to conceive now, going to an area where Zika is active will mean you need to wait at least 8 weeks after your return to try again. Some doctors are recommending waiting as much as 6 months.

      In general, I don’t recommend putting your childbearing plans on hold for a job, or trying to time a pregnancy around work stuff – but Zika throws a wrench into it a bit. There will be other conferences.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #1 – the best gift you could give your boss is to work hard, produce great results, and get along with others.

  5. dragonzflame*

    #1 – a far better way to show your gratitude to your boss for hiring you is to kick arse at your job. That’s all he really wants.

    1. Artemesia*

      Yes. A gift and particularly a gift that could strike him as immature (unless you know he is a gaming fan or whatever) is a false step. Most bosses would be embarrassed or at least put off by this type gesture.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        If I was giving a gift at this early stage, then it would be something like croissants or cake for the whole team. And even then it would be for a birthday or if I happened to be passing a particularly good bakery.

        1. Artemesia*

          I think it is also a misstep for a new female employee to bring baked goods; you really don’t want to establish your image as that of the nurturing mommy in the workplace. Down the road and if many people do it, it is one thing, but ‘woman with cookies’ is not the way to establish that initial indelible image, just as small submissive tokens to the boss are not the image you want to establish early on.

      2. INTP*

        Yeah, a coworker of mine bought my boss a gift card for her birthday soon after he was hired and gave it to her in the room full of cubicles. She actually declined the gift and I could tell she was super uncomfortable and felt bad about it. A little trinket is different from a gift card but still not expected and better to hold off on.

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          I meant for my birthday. (The companies I have worked for have the unwritten rule that the birthday person buys the cake/croissants/chocolates)

  6. specialist*

    Zika letter:
    This is something you need to discuss with your doctor. Are you aware of the current recommendations? The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that women who have had a Zika virus infection should wait at least eight weeks after symptom onset before attempting conception. Men with symptomatic Zika virus infection (confirmed or suspected) should wait at least six months before having unprotected sex. Most people who get Zika infections don’t know that they’ve had it. The risks are pretty significant. Are you willing to hold off trying to conceive for 2 months after your trip? If your partner is going, are you willing to hold off for 6 months? The Zika virus can be transmitted through semen and the recommendations are because they have found the virus in semen months after the infection in men. The mosquitoes that carry this virus are active in the daytime, so you are at risk at times outside of our classical evening bugs ideas. You need to have this discussion with your OB now.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I went to a country where dengue and malaria were common, and used a 40% DEET spray as a precaution. (Deep Woods Off is 25%, for comparison.) If you do go, whether you’re pregnant or not, that might be a good idea, although you’ll need to be extra careful not to get it in your eyes or mouth.

    2. Pudding*

      That is really something that OP needs to consider in addition to whether or not Zika itself is an acceptable risk regardless of conception plans. We all know that mosquitos can get indoors and there is no amount of repellant that can gaurantee no bug bites! I consider anyone in the country to be at high risk of getting a mosquito bite, I got one this morning when I reached out my door to grab the paper – that was only 3 seconds of outdoor arm exposure to be bitten!!!

    3. Is it Performance Art*

      Suggesting that she talk with her doctor is an excellent idea. The CDC tends to err on the side of avoiding any possible risk when it’s very devastating, even if the risk is very small. Some people are comfortable with that approach, while others are not. (Women in areas with Zika are having children, but they’re taking extra precautions to avoid getting infected.) The actual risk is going to depend on the country and the region of the the country you’re going to. There may be thousands of cases or just a few. Some women planning to conceive will be comfortable traveling to ares with active Zika transmission if there have been very few cases in the area, they take precautions to avoid infection and get tested for the virus after they return.

  7. Concerned RN*

    #3 – if you go on your trip make sure to check with your healthcare provider about when it’s safe to try to conceive again. It looks like the cdc is saying to wait 8 weeks:

    And don’t forget that if you’re in your very early pregnancy at the time of the trip you might not get a positive pregnancy test yet! Be careful.

  8. Edith*

    #2: OP, think about the hotel room assignments the way you’d think about other gendered spaces, like bathrooms or locker rooms. A solitary woman in an office full of men would get the ladies’ room all to herself while her coworkers would all have to share the men’s room. I don’t think it would occur to any reasonable person to think the woman was getting special treatment. You getting your own hotel room is a side effect of your employer’s hiring decisions, nothing more. Unless you actively sabotaged female coworkers’ careers in a nefarious plot to get a private hotel room you have nothing to feel selfish about. It’s the luck of the draw.

    1. GreenTeaPot*


      There is no reason, none whatsoever, for a man and woman who are not married or partnered but merely coworkers to share a hotel room.

      The whole issue is preposterous for all the reasons noted above.

      I wouldn’t even want to share a room with a female coworker. I’d pay for my own room, if necessary.

  9. Mochafrap512*

    #2 I don’t think the company would even allow her to share a room with male co-workers because it sets them up for major potential problems.

      1. Mochafrap512*

        So does this mean you don’t see it problematic that men and women would share a hotel room?

        1. Bowserkitty*

          I think KR means it’s problematic to share a room with a coworker regardless of gender.

  10. mehowe*

    Even if you ended up deciding you were okay sharing a room with a man, the man might not be okay sharing (not intended in any way as a personal slight). I agree that it is best not to even mention mixed-gender room sharing and to push that everybody gets a room to himself or herself regardless of gender.

    1. Edith*

      I can see scenarios in which OP agreeing to share would actually kind of screw over the guys. Like if it’s usually two to a room and there are an odd number of guys. Presumably they take turns getting the single room. If they started sharing with OP they’d go from getting their own room every third or fifth trip to never getting their own room.

    2. Mochafrap512*

      I totally agree. A man may not like it for the same reason a woman wouldn’t, his significant other would probably have a problem or he doesn’t want any sexual harassment allegations.

  11. Red*

    #1: a gift would be not very appropriate in general, but a gift of symbols implying fealty and subservience is just creepy, and a good boss would probably be more than a little uncomfortable with it.

    1. Christopher Tracy*

      Yeah, this. My mind boggled at the gift idea. A knight holding out his hands (granted, to hold a pen)?! No, no, no. And even without the pose the gift is in, a knight is just all kinds of wrong. The boss did not save you, OP. You got that job because you were better qualified for it than the other candidates – you presumably earned it on your own merits. You’re not indebted to anyone.

      1. teclatrans*

        Well, the full image — pen included — is that of knight holding his sword out to his liege, offering fealty. So, to my mind the pen sort of intensifies the image.

    2. Even More Anon*

      My last boss would probably get the biggest kick out of such a gift. But, he was also a crappy boss who would think that pure subservience was a good trait, and he had a major thing for “medieval” themed anything.

  12. PianoMan*

    #3: I would absolutely not go to a a country with active Zika transmission if I were planning/trying to conceive (not would the infectious disease doctors with whom I work!). We don’t understand much about how these viruses stay in the system, and if you can avoid it this is definitely a situation where you’re better safe than sorry. The CDC recommended 8 weeks is reasonable but not particularly conservative, and new discoveries about Zika are coming out often (eg female-to-male sexual transmission was just confirmed a few weeks ago for the first time!). Don’t do it.

  13. Menacia*

    #4 I’m curious as to how that happened? Did your company let you keep the phone they issued you? I would absolutely contact them and let them know you are not receiving a bill for your phone and please have it put in your name for billing purposes. I can see how this could occur in a large organization that manages its phone bills as a group and not individually so it’s easy to miss, but yes, the mistake will be eventually found out. So the question is, do you want to contact your company tell them, or have them contact you to ask why you did not? :)

    1. Mreasy*

      I got laid off & let my company pay for my phone til they noticed, at which point IT called me & I called the phone company to switch billing, zero dream. Probably I shouldn’t have gotten those 4 free months of phone service out of them, but I sure didn’t feel bad about it!

    2. Mochafrap512*

      I wonder if they would ask her to pay them
      back. Since it would be too costly to take her to court, they probably wouldn’t pursue her if she said “no.” I also would admit to it before they mention it if the op wants a good reference or wants to remain on good terms.

  14. Rowan*

    As someone who was trying to conceive for seven years (and ultimately failed), I’m going to give the opposite advice that the other commenters have: plan on going. Also plan on doing anything else you would if you weren’t maybe going to get pregnant.

    Trying to conceive is hard enough psychologically without also constraining your activities and life plans based on the fact someday you might be pregnant. I would never have survived emotionally if I’d done that. It was bad enough being off caffeine, alcohol, NSAIDs, and hot tubs without also giving up travel, career advancement, and so on.

    1. Artemesia*

      Generally I agree here but this is a singular threat. Having zika in your system while pregnant can lead to catastrophic birth defects. And there is increased evidence that the virus lingers in the system. This is just a ginormous risk.

    2. Gaia*

      I would be with you 100% because you cannot stop your entire life on the chance you might get pregnant, if we weren’t talking about Zika.

      The risk to the baby if there is Zika in the body is catastrophic. I cannot fathom a woman trying and struggling to conceive only to get pregnant and suffer the birth defects caused by this virus.

    3. specialist*

      We have the CDC recommendations for a reason. The consequences of Zika infection in pregnancy can be severe. One study found the rate of brain related defects in Zika pregnancies to be 29%. Microcephaly alone has been reported between 1-13%. Read some of the information about thalidomide babies and how their mother’s decision to take that drug affected the children’s lives.

      If the conference is that important, then follow the CDC recommendations and use contraception for 2 months after returning. And don’t take your husband. As a physician, I strongly advise you to talk to your doctor about this AND to follow your doctor’s recommendations.

    4. BananaPants*

      I would be with you, except for the fact that Zika is a pretty huge risk. If OP3 went to this conference and came back in early pregnancy and with Zika she would have a heartbreaking decision to make – terminate a wanted pregnancy, or have a high risk of giving birth to a baby who will have profound lifelong disabilities. There have already been Zika-affected babies born in the US to women who were infected while traveling in early pregnancy, and at least one affected country is advising its citizens to avoid pregnancy for TWO YEARS.

      My husband and I are thinking of trying for another baby later this year and I flat-out will not go to any area where Zika is actively circulating.

    5. Observer*

      I am going to agree with you 100%. The OP surely have enough sense to get herself checked for Zika and prevent pregnancy if she tests positive (or if the tests are just not conclusive, she’ll prevent pregnancy.) Putting your life on hold is a bad idea in any case. For someone who may be having issues, it’s a TERRIBLE idea.

  15. Nanani*

    #2 – It’s on your employer to hire more women and make everyone have to share with a same-gender roommate.
    In no universe is it YOUR fault for being the only woman there, no more than it is any minority’s fault for being the only one in a majority group.

  16. Lissa*

    I have to admit I giggled about the idea of the boss having had a terrible experience with a knight. “Actually, my parents were dragons, so you gave me a gift representing their murderers!”

  17. Tomato Frog*

    Maybe he had a terrible experience with a knight once.

    Please don’t encourage my neuroses. I once wrote “Knock ’em dead” on a coworker’s going-away card, and then spent the rest of my work day worrying that maybe her father had been killed in a boxing match or something.

    1. Artemesia*

      LOL. I can imagine me doing that. The knight thing is creepy because it is a gesture of fealty — medieval fealty — not the imagine you want to project as a new woman in the office.

      1. Petronella*

        Either fake, or a very young and very naïve OP who has not yet overcome her cultural conditioning that a young woman must be “nice” at all times, especially to males, and is not entitled to space of her own.

  18. Pix*

    FWIW, I (6+ years hotel experience at the front desk and arranging company rates) spoke to someone about #2 issue once, because she wanted her workers to each be on a different floor or in a different wing; no rooms could be next to each other or nearby. She said it was to limit the possibility of the company being in trouble for not doing enough to prevent harassment or assault.

    OP#2, put your energy toward advocating for MORE hotel rooms, not fewer. If you guys all go to the same place at the same time, year after year, talk to the hotels in the area. 90% of them would prefer the steady business from business people than to rely on tourism. Especially if these are places where you go repeatedly, every year, see if they’d like to lock in that business. If it’s a big hotel chain and you use them often enough, you can for sure get a corporate rate, and if corporate won’t, try the hotel itself.

  19. OP3*

    Thanks for the input! I am currently planning on waiting to see if I get pregnant this month. If yes, then I’m backing out (with 2 months notice). If not, I’ll go (and prevent pregnancy). I’m aware of the additional precautions but didn’t include it in my original letter. The area I’m going to (Merida, Mexico) has hardly any documented cases – most of the cases seem to be in more rural areas in southern Mexico, so I’m worried enough to be cautious, but it’s a calculated risk that I’m comfortable with. I’m going to be inside most of the time and am staying in a large modern hotel with central AC. My question was more about the ethical ramifications of planning a trip with a big secret variable that I can’t really talk about with my boss.

    1. Artemesia*

      I love Merida. Great food too. I would check to see if they can blood test you for Zika when you return — maybe a week or two after. Most Zika infections apparently don’t cause symptoms but can be detected in the blood. If you test clean then you can get back to working on the baby.

    2. KellyK*

      I think your plan sounds like a good one, and two months’ notice is reasonable. I don’t think it’s unethical to plan a trip that you’ll have to cancel if you get pregnant, particularly because “I’m pregnant and I can’t go to an area with Zika” is such an extremely reasonable reason to back out of a trip.

      I don’t know how long ago planning started for this trip, but since you’re presenting a paper, I’m assuming a lot of lead time. I don’t think it would’ve been realistic to put your attempts to get pregnant on hold from nine months prior to the trip, especially since the trip may cost you a few months when you get back to verify that you haven’t caught it before you try again.

  20. Josh*

    1. I would definitely NOT get your new boss a gift. I think you should act as if they are just as lucky to have your services. Your also giving an impression that you may be sucking up and/or alienate yourself from your new peers.
    4. Guilty….I too have had my service paid by an old employer….though I eventually took the high road, I did get a few months free.

  21. Rebecca*

    Honestly, volunteering to share a room with the men will make you look clueless to social norms – not something ion want to portray on the workplace.

    As for men and women sharing a hotel room in general – it just “isn’t done”. It’s not the standard, and to me is more odd/uncomfortable than anything. And no, my spouse would not be okay with it and neither would I, as I assume 99.99999% of most people would not be okay with it.

    1. Petronella*

      Right? I’m wondering how that conversation would even go: “Hey Manager, I’d be delighted to share a bedroom with any of these guys!” The OP would look like a very strange person.

  22. A Becky C*

    #4, unless you stole the phone there shouldn’t be a big problem. At the company where I work, I noticed that we were paying the phone bills of several past employees. We took measures to put a stop to it, which meant cancelling the number, so that might be an issue for you.

    One of the modem dongles was stolen by a previous employee though, and used to download hundreds of dollars worth of mobile data. We actually pressed charges and the case is currently ongoing. It’s likely he will have to repay us the amount we lost as well as a fine.

    1. A Becky C*

      More seriously, though, please at least let your employer know of their mistake. It’s a heck of a job tracking down all of these lost costs.

  23. Librarosaurus*

    If this is the pen holder #1 is talking about (and it’s the only one that matches the description on Google Images), I need to add an extra level of “don’t do this!” The kneeling adds an uncomfortable subservient element. I would be seriously creeped out if one of the people who report to me gave me this, even if I expected a gift from them (which I never ever would).

    Just thank your boss by doing well in your job and confirming you were a good hire, as was said above!!

  24. MilesofMountains*

    #2: I worked for years in a field where sharing rooms was the norm (I even had to share with the client once, and there wasn’t even an attached bathroom to change in privately!), and I would still balk at sharing a room with the men. One of my female coworkers had to share a room with three men once at a client’s insistence and she was furious and all of our other colleagues agreed she was justified in being angry over it. Getting your own room is one of the few perks of being a woman in a male-dominated field, enjoy it.

  25. RG*

    #1 Giving a gift in this setting isn’t appropriate, but even in a legitimate gift-giving scenario there’s always some risk involved if you don’t know the recipient’s preferences. “Maybe he had a terrible experience with a knight once” is a good example of “many a true word is spoken in jest”. I was bullied in the setting of a historic re-enactment group and now have post-traumatic stress problems as a result. Not something that affects my paying job, but in a volunteer position I’ve had to politely ask the group to choose a theme other than medieval if they want me to be involved in an activity, because it genuinely makes me feel anxious and ill to be around reminders of that time.

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