work travel expenses with a baby, required to be on the “fun committee,” and more

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

1. Work travel expenses with a baby

I work for a large company that is always trying to out-do its competitors on the Top 100 Employers lists, so we generally have good benefits. When it comes to expenses, they are generally fair but strict. (Things that should be reimbursed are, but you have to follow procedures and limits.) In terms of childcare, we have emergency back-up daycare and also an annual allowance of $400 for childcare reimbursement if you need to work outside of regular hours or while traveling.

In May, I have a four-day training out of state. It would be fairly easy to get out of, but I want to go. I have a baby who will be sevens months old then. I am not ready to leave her home for several days, for both emotional and logistical reasons. What would be fair to ask of my employer in terms of accommodations?

My plan is just to pay for my husband or mother to come with me and hang out with the baby in the hotel while I go to training during the day. I know my employer would be fine with this, as other employees sometimes bring their families to trainings. But would it be fair for me to ask my employer to cover some of the expense, since the training is technically required and they claim to be family-friendly? I don’t have any parent role models at work and I don’t know what people usually do in this situation.

Well … in most companies, I’d say probably not. In the one you’ve described … maybe? I think you’d want to be careful about how you frame it, so that it’s clear you’re not expecting it to be an automatic yes. If you ask, I’d say something like, “Because Jane will only be seven months then and logistically it will be difficult to be away for several days, I’m going bring her, along with my husband to take care of her. Any chance that the company would be willing to cover some of that expense, in order to make it possible for me to attend?”

Hmmm, writing that out, I’m pretty skeptical that it’s going to be seen as a reasonable expense, but you know your company best.

That said, if the training were required, I think you’d have a better case — but in this case they may just tell you that it’s fine to skip it.

By the way, have you used any of that annual $400 childcare reimbursement yet? If not, I do think it would be fair to ask if you can apply that to this.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Candidates who cancel interviews and ask to reschedule

I had a candidate email me the night before the interview saying that “something came up” so she couldn’t make it, but she’d like to interview next week when she was free again instead. I know that personally, when I interview for jobs, I make it my priority. Her rescheduling gives me the impression she would treat the job with the same kind of abandon, and she didn’t give me any indication there was an actual emergency.

How lenient do you think hiring managers be if a candidate wants to reschedule?

It depends on how strong the candidate and what they say when asking to reschedule. “Something came up” is a pretty cavalier way to ask to reschedule, and it would raise pretty big red flags for me about the candidate’s reliability, sense of professional norms, and degree of polish. If she was a very strong candidate who you’d been excited to talk to, I’d reschedule but go in with some heavy skepticism. But if she wasn’t particularly strong, I might not reschedule at all.

To be clear, there are plenty of reasons that are good ones for asking to reschedule an interview — getting sick, family emergency, etc. But “something came up” isn’t on that list. (Of course, it’s possible that that the thing that “came up” was indeed illness or an emergency, but you have no way of knowing that from what she said, and when you have limited data on candidates, this stuff matters.)

3. Required to be on the “fun committee”

When my company’s current CEO came onboard about three years ago, he inherited an office culture that was in serious need of rehabilitation. As a result of the poor morale, eventually he created a “fun committee,” comprised of 8-10 staff members who were expected to plan office events throughout the year as well as the company holiday party in December.

An email recently went out to the whole company regarding this committee. Most of original people on the committee were relieved of their duties, and new people who *supposedly* volunteered to participate replaced them. I say “supposedly” because I know one coworker definitely did not volunteer herself, and she got appointed anyway. Appointments last 2-3 years.

I’ve always found this whole thing sort of nauseating — but now even more so given the fact that at least one person was forced to participate. I know how you feel about forcing participation in work events that are billed as “fun,” but what about being forced to *plan* those events? That involves such a specific skill set, and I know I’d loathe doing it. Does this type of mandate by management fall into the same category as mandating participating in the events themselves?

In general, I think it’s more reasonable to mandate that people plan these activities than attend them — because planning work events is a legitimate work function that needs to happen if someone has decided that the events are a thing that will happen. Of course, this gets a lot hazier if he’s mandating this of people whose jobs have nothing to do with boosting morale or planning events. (Sometimes it can be reasonable to define that more broadly than you might think, though. For example, if you’re a manager, then your job does have something to with morale. If you’re a data processor, then no.)

But it’s weird to claim that people volunteered who didn’t. And really, it’s a bad idea to make people work on this stuff if (a) they don’t want to and (b) there’s no compelling job-related reason why they should. That’s not likely to produce the “fun” he’s looking for. He’s much more likely to get that from people who are enthusiastic about doing the planning.

And of course, there’s a rich irony that this is all rooted in his desire to improve morale. You rarely improve morale through this kind of event, particularly events that few people are excited about, and particularly when there are serious culture problems to begin with. Is he addressing those culture problems in any more meaningful ways? If not, this is doomed to failure anyway, and if he’s blaming that on the “fun committee,” none of this is going to shake out well.

4. I need to book work travel but am waiting on a job offer

I’m waiting for an offer for an internal position I applied for a few months ago. I went through three rounds of interviews, and then HR called me at the end of last week and said, I should expect an offer.

Well, for my current job, I just learned I need to travel right around the time I was hoping to be starting this new job.

I want to send an email to the hiring manager to get an update on the position because if I will be starting a new job the week after or the week of the trip, I don’t want to travel. Mostly this is because it would not be advantageous for my current department to send someone who is just going to leave the next week. Should I send something to the hiring manager, and how do I phrase that email?

If there’s an easy way to get out of the travel, I’d just do that. For example, in some cases you could simply say, “That’s a bad week for me to travel; I have non-work things I need to be in town for” and that would be sufficient.

But if that won’t work in this situation, then it’s reasonable to email your contact and say something like, “Any chance you can tell me what timeline to expect for the offer you mentioned? I might hold off on booking some work travel, depending on what your timing is.”

But also — it’s not uncommon for an employer to tell you an offer is coming in, say, the next two days and then have it take a whole week or even longer. Sometimes this stuff just gets delayed. So if you can’t get out of the travel, you may just need to book it and cancel it later. That stuff happens; it’s part of doing business and can’t always be avoided. (And you need to factor in that even if you receive the offer quickly, you might be far apart on terms and need to negotiate or it might fall apart altogether. So it can make sense to just proceed in your normal job as if you’re staying, until you have absolute confirmation that you’re not.)

Update: A commenter just pointed out that this is an internal position. That changes things! Since it’s internal, your manager presumably knows you applied, so the easiest thing here would just be to explain the situation to her and ask how she’d like you to handle the travel. You could still do the suggestion in the second paragraph, but I’d skip the one in the first paragraph.

5. Interviewer asked if I have any financial or criminal problems

I am a recent grad and had my first interview for a full-time position two days ago. It went really well but there was a question that surprised me. The interviewers asked if I forsaw any financial​ or criminal problems that would prevent me from working. I don’t remember how they phrased it exactly, but it took me a few seconds to realize they were asking that of me before I stuttered out a no, with an awkward laugh. The laugh was paired with me clarifying if the question was directed at me.

Now, I feel like I made myself look suspicious because of the pause and the light laugh. I’ve interviewed for on campus jobs before and have never received this question. What are employers hoping to gauge with a question like this? The stability of the employee? I’m assuming this was a question they asked all the interviewees because they were going down a list of questions. What are your thoughts and is this a question employers typically ask?

You didn’t make yourself look suspicious; laughing a little at a question like that is a very common reaction. Don’t worry about that at all.

It’s definitely unusual to frame the question that way, but if this is a job that is going to run a financial and criminal background check before hiring you, it’s just a way of asking if there’s likely to be anything that comes up on the check that may cause issues or that you should provide context for now.

{ 502 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    I would not ask for money for the husband to travel to training; maybe if a babysitter were being hired on site, in this company, it MIGHT fly but it sounds like a fast one to bring a family member for a ‘free trip’ with this excuse. (true though it is) Years ago I gave a speech at a conference about women’s issues in the workplace and had to bring my 7 mos old son. I tried to have them reimburse the sitter given the theme of what I was being asked to do and was met with a pretty frosty response.

      1. Green*

        7 month old baby is a bit different, since many moms are still breastfeeding at that point….
        But I’d caution against making childcare a “women’s issue.”

        I’m a woman, no kids. But childcare is a big issue for the divorced dad with custody in group.

        Also, trying to be sensitive to moms and “helping” a woman by NOT asking a woman with young children to travel (and potentially miss out on career development opportunities) is actually discriminatory. It can be awkward, as individuals have different preferences, but you should offer the opportunity (along with any accommodations or reimbursements you’re willing to provide) and let the individual decide if they want to accept the opportunity.

        1. Junior Dev*

          To clarify: I think they should invite women with children and they should facilitate childcare along with any other speaker arrangements.

          I’m a woman with no kids, I certainly don’t think all women or only women take care of kids. But it’s something that disproportionately falls to women, so let’s not pretend that a failure to provide childcare is somehow gender neutral in its impact.

          1. she was a fast machine*

            This, exactly. Because childcare is distinctly socially coded towards women in a pretty patriarchal way, it makes sense to accommodate it in recognition of the fact that many women don’t have a choice wrt to childcare.

            1. Green*

              Providing or paying childcare for female speakers but not for male speakers or events is gender discrimination. The law doesn’t care about patriarchal social coding.

              1. Natalie*

                No one suggested only female speakers be provided childcare, just that it’s exceptionally ironic to not provide childcare (to anyone!) at a conference on women’s issues.

              2. Junior Dev*

                I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that anyone wants only women to have childcare paid for.

              3. stivee*

                I don’t think anyone has called for that, though. The argument is about whether overall it’s a ‘women’s’ issue, not who’s getting reimbursed for what.

                In a perfect world, it would be characterized as a family issue, but this isn’t a perfect world.

                1. Green*

                  Just clearing up that even though some folks think it’s particularly ironic for a women’s event or that not providing childcare has a disproportionate impact on women (true or false, for better or worse), you should not treat female and male employees differently.

        2. Jadelyn*

          Childcare may not be an issue for any given individual woman – I’ve got no kids and no interest in having them myself, so I hear you – and it may be an issue for any given individual man, this is true. However, that does not change the fact that in the aggregate, we have cultural expectations around childrearing and childcare responsibilities that skew heavily along gendered lines. The existence of women for whom childcare is not a concern, and the existence of men for whom it is a concern, does not make childcare less of a “women’s issue” in terms of social expectations and working on changing cultural standards.

          1. Artemesia*

            The issue here boils down to whether this is a business or personal expense. If the company is paying for the dog walker or cat sitter, then covering baby sitter necessitated by travel seems reasonable, but we have traditionally not included personal expenses in what is reimbursed for travel. And paying for a spouse to accompany adds another dimension; it only even makes sense if the baby is nursing since otherwise Dad could care for the baby at home.

            When something is counter normative it is likely to hurt you to expect to expense it. If the company seems receptive to different kinds of arrangements then a discussion of the issue separate from the specific trip makes sense — but just asking to expense taking your husband on a business trip because of the kid risks creating an impression of yourself that may not be helpful.

          2. Green*

            In employment settings: You cannot treat male and female employees differently in a concrete way (providing or paying for childcare for a female speaker talking about issues for women in the workplace but not providing childcare for male speakers) in a work setting because of aggregate skewing of cultural expectations. For work purposes, the “existence of women for whom childcare is not a concern” makes assuming that childcare is a concern for women an inappropriate workplace bias. Assuming someone has a particular need or likes specific things on the basis of gender or race, even if broadly culturally true, has no place in the workplace. It is a fact that the majority of working women with children would rather stay home with their kids instead of working. Should employers make assumptions about working women with children (or women more generally) based on that fact?

            More broadly: Meanwhile, on a broader social basis, perpetuating that it is a women’s issue because of aggregate cultural expectations only reinforces those cultural expectations. Some women with kids are flaky and their performance suffers because they are all about their kids. Some women with kids are flaky and their performance suffers because they don’t have an equal relationship with a co-parent. Some women with kids kick a**. And some women without kids are flaky and their performance suffers because of [insert any other reason here]. Claiming that this is a “women’s issue” instead of a “parents’ issue” wrongly includes the huge proportion of working women who do not have children in their home, wrongly excludes male parents (who suffer from their own forms of employer discrimination about active parenting roles). In fact, there are good arguments that arguing for more (or equal) paternity leave (or more inclusion for fathers) is actually more helpful for establishing equal parenting roles early on while destigmatizing leave for both women and men.

            1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

              I feel like you either missed the point of the joke, or decided to make an argument that no one is refuting.

              Junior Dev was pointing out the irony that a woman with childcare needs wasn’t given childcare needs at a women’s issues conference. That’s a direct poke at the current societal viewpoint that kids are in fact a women’s issue instead of a parental issue, which does disservice to all genders of folks with kids or kid-aspirations.
              Nowhere did anybody say that Artemesia should have been given childcare because she was a woman and no men should get the same offering.

              From what I’ve read as I’ve lurked here over the years, the majority of the commentariat here (and definitely Artemesia) believes that all genders should be treated equally in the workplace on the matters of home/work life balance, pay, benefits, etc. So no one is arguing against your point about equality at all.

            2. BuildMeUp*

              I think you’re saying that when going to a conference, childcare assistance should be offered to both men and women, right? I agree with that completely. I think the commenters above were just pointing out the irony of a woman having difficulty getting childcare assistance to go to a conference… about women’s issues.

              Aside from that, though, I do disagree that calling childcare issues a “women’s issue” reinforces the cultural expectation that women take on childcare. I think maybe you’re reading that as exclusionary toward fathers, but it’s a fact that the care of children primarily falls on women. Are there exceptions to that? Of course. But ignoring the fact that childcare is socially coded as a woman’s job doesn’t make it go away, and I think that recognizing it is the best way to start changing it.

              1. Green*

                No. I don’t think they are obligated to offer childcare assistance to anyone whether for a conference or work day. But they can if they want to, and that’s a very nice perk for some employees. And if they offer it, they should offer it to everyone.

                Children are personal expenses.

                On “women’s issue” — we can call it that here and debate it, but if people at my work characterized childcare as a “Women’s Issue”, then I would consider that inappropriate. It’s like a line out of the HR bias training videos.

    1. Jeanne*

      Lovely people at that conference. Anyway, I think bringing along your babysitter could be ok. If you’re asking the company to pay the difference between a hotel room booked for one or a hotel room for 2 + baby, go for it. If you’re asking for airfare and extra food allowance, probably not.

    2. Rach H*

      My company allows me to bring my family – typically I try to frame it in a cost effective way. Instead of asking them for my plane ticket – I ask to rent a car & drive – and if the price is the same they will allow it. An easy way that I got my young child to some work conferences.

      1. Jerry Vandesic*

        I have had a relative travel with us to take care of my son. The company paid for both travel costs as well as a reasonable payment to the relative.

    3. BananaPants*

      My employer’s travel policy allows employees to bring a spouse on travel as long as the employee pays for the spouse’s airfare, meals, etc. Basically it’s taking advantage of the fact that the spouse will take taxis with the employee, share the hotel room, etc. – all of the things with no incremental per-person expense.

      It was more popular in the past when most of our employees were men with wives who didn’t work. These days it’s unusual to have spousal travel come up, since the majority of our employees who are married are in 2-income households and most spouses can’t just take off for 2 weeks in China (or don’t want to). But I do know a couple of women who used the policy to bring a spouse and baby along on domestic travel so that mom wouldn’t have to be away from a nursing baby overnight – spouse babysat during the day and they all stayed together at the hotel.

          1. Government worker*

            But I wasn’t addressing her wording. Referring to caring for your own child as “babysitting” just because you’re the male parent goes far beyond using the wrong word. It perpetuates the idea that childcare is the woman’s job, and the man just “helps.” It impacts all of us, from hiring decisions (we can pretend it’s not true that women of childbearing age sometimes have a hard time getting hired because of the preconceived notion that they’ll take off when they have kids, but the fact that it’s not legal doesn’t mean it’s not true) to decisions about who gets to/has to travel for work.

            1. Anonygoose*

              This is my pet peeve as well! Mostly because people don’t even realize they do it (and usually don’t mean anything by it!). It’s only when you reverse the genders that you realize how weird it sounds – “Wakeen babysat his kids on Saturday” doesn’t sound weird, but “Jane babysat her kids on Saturday” does.

            2. Green*

              FWIW, your second comment was more helpful since it actually explained the issue for observers. I posted something similar above, but (hopefully?) did not make the person I responded to feel bad. I think the *issue* you’re referring to is larger than “wrong word” usage — but I think in assuming the best of everyone here, it’s probably best to just assume OP is just using common conversational words applicable to either gender in which babysitting simply means actively watching the baby. When my husband gets back from golf and the dogs are being “energetic”, I tell him it’s his turn to “babysit the dogs” even though they’re our shared responsibility.

              (Also, since a lot of the folks here are diction buffs, aren’t phrases words like “tone policing” inherently tone policing?)

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Totally agree with you, Rusty, but I think it would help to have had the one-liner plus this explanation because it makes it clear to folks who haven’t thought about this in depth that you’re critiquing a skewed and unfair normalization of gender roles.

      1. the gold digger*

        I worked with a man who didn’t understand why his wife didn’t want to travel with him all the time – you know, be stuck in a hotel room in the suburbs (or in the tiny rural towns where my company had factories) all day without transportation while he’s at long meeting and be away from her friends and hobbies.

  2. MK*

    For reasons I can’t articulate, asking to bring a family member to babysit is sounding off to me, in a way that asking for childcare during the trip wouldn’t. Also, if your husband and/or mother are available to come on the trip, surely they are also available to take care of the baby at home? How is it logistically preferable to cart the baby and a caretaker with you? All that, combined with the trip not being compulsory, would make the request sound off to me.

    1. Book Lover*

      Well, she may still be breastfeeding. And even if not, it is hard to leave your kid behind, at any age, but definitely under 12 months, when they can’t understand why you have vanished.

      Anyway, I do this – my mother comes on all my trips, I get a separate hotel room for her, and between flight and hotel and food it is expensive, but the kids come with me and are taken care of and I get to go on my trip. That is not a reimbursable expense for me, but my flight and room and food are, and it is worth it to have the time away from work learning something useful and in a nice location.

    2. Engineer Woman*

      Indeed, it is difficult to leave a baby behind, but this is actually a choice for the OP. She indicates she doesn’t have to go on this trip but wants to. OP is fortunate she is in a position to be able to make such a decision.

      As for breastfeeding, there is an option to pump. I would not request for employer to cover the travel expenses of husband or mother. As MK stated above, if they were available to go on the trip with OP, they could take care of the baby at home without the travel expenditure. Leaving children behind is emotional for most working parents, regardless on a daily basis or on overnight business trips. It’s part of the cost of being a working parent unfortunately.

        1. kb*

          TSA actually makes exceptions for breastmilk! The TSA website has a specific page about it. I’ve heard of uninformed agents pushing back against it, but it is allowed by policy and I have seen it successfully done. Also, pumps are considered medical devices, and therefore not a carry-on.

          1. Murphy*

            It’s always up to the TSA agent though. They can not allow you to take anything, despite any written policies saying they’re allowed. It SHOULD be ok, but no guarantees.

            1. blackcat*

              Yeah, my friends have always found that TSA doesn’t allow breastmilk through, even if you state the policy.

              One friend had trouble bringing through her pump. A TSA agent demanded that she demonstrate how it worked–by using it! The argument was that they needed proof that she was breastfeeding, given that she didn’t have a baby with her. Fortunately a supervisor quashed that, but TSA experiences are hugely dependent on the individual agents.

              1. Circles*

                They demanded that she demonstrate how it worked by using it

                WHAT?? My goodness. That’s ludicrous. Was she supposed to demonstrate at the gate or were they going to allow her to demonstrate in a private area? I totally get trying to make our airports & country safer but asking a mother to demonstrate how a breast pump “works”??

                1. blackcat*

                  Well, based on what my friend recounts, the TSA agent was not concerned about safety, really. The (male) agent also made comments about how if she had such a young baby,* she shouldn’t be traveling without it. The implication was she was either lying about having a baby or was a bad mother. So I think it was an effort to punish/humiliate her. The supervisor just had her turn it on on the counter–which is analogous to being asked to demonstrate that any other device is a working object.

                  The agent said she had to go with a female agent into a private area to show that it worked, so she wasn’t asked to do it in public, but it was really awful.

                  So I’m really hesitant to tell a breastfeeding mom “Oh, just do X, it’ll be fine.” You never know what could go wrong with X, particularly given that people can be assholes.

                  *The baby in question was 14 months, so not even that small!

                1. my name is Rory*

                  TW – abuse being mentioned

                  Some babies have issues such as cleft lip and/or cleft palate and are unable to latch. Some mothers have breast issues and can’t breastfeed directly or have past trauma because of abuse or have oversupply issue. There are a litany of reasons why a woman who has a baby with her would also have a pump.

                2. Susie*

                  You either don’t have kids or you were privileged and lucky enough to have no problems with breastfeeding that led to you to pumping for your baby.

                3. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  There’s no call to jump on MM for her comment. I think Minerva is just responding to the ridiculousness of the TSA agent’s position (like, no baby = obvious why I need a breastpump even when talking to an unreasonable person) and not making a statement that it is somehow unreasonable or suspicious to have a breast pump and a baby both.

                4. Minerva McGonagall*

                  Yes – I was reacting to the absurdness as Jessie surmised. Of course some women need to travel with pump and baby for a multitude of reasons, but I would guess traveling with just the pump is much more common, particularly when limiting the population to women on business travel.

          2. BananaPants*

            Yeah, that’s not a guarantee. There are many cases of the TSA forcing women to drink their own milk, forcing them to open it up for chemical testing (involving dipping test strips or dropping reagents into the milk, thus contaminating it), or making them dump it. It’s at the discretion of the agent, and if you do something to piss them off, they’ll make you pay.

            1. kb*

              By mentioning the pushback, I was attempting to allude to the fact TSA often sucks about it. My comment was trying to address the misconception that because it is a liquid, it automatically cannot be done. I was pleasantly surprised when a coworker was able to bring her breastmilk and pump through without any hassle. My apologies if my comment came across as “well, why don’t you just do this?”

            2. Not So NewReader*


              I do not understand how this ensures passenger safety.

              I do think that it sends a message that TSA has NO clue what it is doing. (Tame version of what I am thinking.)

        2. Jessica*

          Nope — she could always freeze it and put it in checked luggage, but also there’s an exception to the 3 oz liquid rule for carry-ons that applies to pumped breastmilk, whether its for a baby to drink during a flight, or a woman flying home with pumped milk.
          But all that doesn’t really matter: the OP thinks it would be best for her baby to come along, but wants to know if childcare during the trip could be reimbursed. I think that asking to use some of that $400 makes sense.

          1. neverjaunty*

            Pumping enough to keep up her supply for four days (plus possible travel) AND freezing it the entire time AND getting it back from the trip frozen…. not impossible, but then, neither is standing on your head while drinking a glass of water. I wouldn’t want to try that either.

            (Of course that doesn’t mean the company should pay for a babysitter to come along. But ‘she can just pump!’ is one of those things that sounds a lot easier on paper than it turns out to be.)

            1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

              As someone who is currently pumping for just daily daycare – yes, definitely. It’s hard to fit enough pumping sessions into my regular workday just to get enough to feed the baby for the next day. Trying to maintain full supply for several straight days of not nursing sounds very stressful. (Baby is more effective than the pump at getting milk out, so you have to pump more minutes than you’d spend nursing to get the same result. And nursing gives the body stronger milk production cues.)

              I’m missing a beloved annual work trip this year because my baby isn’t yet old enough to be without me. I mean, she and I would both survive and all, but it wouldn’t be fair to her. I feel sad about this even though I feel like it’s the right decision, and it does make me aware of the different experiences working moms are likely to have compared with working dads.

            2. StarHopper*

              It’s actually not that bad.

              When my son was just 8 weeks old, I traveled across the country for a week-long conference. (I had applied for a grant to get the money to go.)

              I pumped throughout the trip and donated the milk I pumped to a local mom that I connected with through a breast milk donation site. The only problem the whole trip (other than being connected to a machine every few hours) was when the TSA agent considered throwing out my ice packs from my cooler bag because they weren’t frozen solid. My baby continued nursing for more than a year after that trip.

              I think that taking the baby along with a family member would bring its own breed of inconvenience. There’s never a true win-win when you’re the working parent of a small baby.

              1. Kate*

                Domestic trips where the meeting location has a mother’s room (and where you are not having any supply issues) – doable. 12hr flights with 8 hour layovers and a meeting location with no private space (and where pumping is not AT ALL part of the culture)? Nightmare. YMMV

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                Well, it wasn’t that bad for *you*, but clearly it would have been a problem for several other moms here. Also, you don’t seem to be addressing her point that it would hard to pump enough before the trip to last her baby through while she’d be gone. People suggesting “pump and dump” or pump and donate on the trip aren’t addressing that issue. Yes, formula exists, but if she doesn’t want her baby living on formula the whole time she’s gone, she has to pump beforehand.

                In other worse, none of us should be assuming that there’s aren’t legitimate logistical reasons why it would be better for her to bring her baby along.

                1. JustaTech*

                  And we shouldn’t assume that all babies will take a bottle of pumped milk. A friend of mine could not get her baby to drink from a bottle (and wasn’t willing to leave the baby for hours or a day until she was hungry enough to try the bottle) . My friend ended up donating all the milk she had pumped, so it wasn’t a total waste, but it also meant that she had a hard time going anywhere because she was too shy to breast feed in public. (She wasn’t working, which might have changed the situation.)

              3. Science!*

                Breastfeeding can be so complicated and different for everyone. If you have ever struggled with supply that can change a lot of the decisions you might make. The age difference matters too. I found that early on, my supply could take a small dip so 8 weeks might have been okay as long as I got enough time during the day to pump. But when my son was 9 months old, I had to travel for a job interview and I decided it was inconvenient to bring him and my husband so I tried the pump and save as well as the pump and dump. I was gone for a little over 2 days (56 hours, I counted) and when I got back my supply tanked. I might have been able to get it back: using mother’s milk tea, special breastfeeding cookies, increasing my pumping at work and adding a pumping session at home but that is a LOT of work (especially as I was finishing my dissertation). So I decided that 9 months of breastfeeding was okay with me. But at 7 months I might have made a different decision.

              1. BananaPants*

                That’s just heartbreaking for a mom who’s already distressed at leaving her baby behind and having to pump around-the-clock.

                I ended up pumping and dumping when traveling for work while our older child was a toddler. She was still nursing 2-3 times a day and eating plenty of food, and I still had some milk in the freezer so my pumping 2-3 times a day was solely to maintain supply and avoid mastitis. It *still* bugged me to dump the milk.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  I remember pumping and having *such* trouble getting my milk to let down – my body just refused to respond to the pump. But one time I finally was able to, and I actually got a good few ounces…. and then I knocked over the bottle before I got the cap on, and my milk spilled all over the floor. I just sat down right there and cried.
                  Which is totally OT – but “pump and dump” brings up that memory for me, always!

                  What is on-topic about this is: it’s a little irritating to see a long list of “she should just pump,” as if a mom of a baby would never have thought of this. Unless she has been living in a cave away from the marvels of modern machinery, she is aware that pumping exist, so it seems…. less than helpful for her issue.

                2. Future Analyst*

                  Absolutely. My kids are all done nursing, but even reading about dumping hard-won milk makes me ache.

                3. JustaTech*

                  I had a friend who had to get vaccinated against smallpox while she was still nursing her son (long story, basically, science), and since that’s a live vaccine with a big oozing open wound, she couldn’t feed him.
                  So she pre-pumped for *months* and then pumped and dumped for the 6 weeks until she was cleared of the virus, and then he decided to wean himself. She was pissed. All that pumping for nothing!

          2. Observer*

            That’s not a terribly practical proposition – she’d need to pump enough milk before the conference to last till she gets back (which is not all that easy for a lot of women) and then pump enough to keep things up. In other words, bringing the milk back is not the only problem, though a real one.

          3. JessaB*

            And I hate to say this but there are dozens of reported and fact checkable stories of women having problems with breast milk on flights. The TSA is pretty darned untouchable if the particular agent you get wants to be a pain in the you know where. You can’t guarantee you’ll be able to bring it with you even if the rules say you can because “the rules” actually boil down to they’re supposed to x, but they can do whatever they want and being a rules lawyer will cause them to pull you from the line and inspect you and your stuff til you miss your flights.

      1. Sami*

        I have a friend who is a consultant for a big name company and travels often. She is also breastfeeding and her company pays for her pumped breast milk to be shipped home every day she’s gone. In a cooler with dry ice (or whatever-I’m not exactly sure of the logistics).

      2. Another traveling mom*

        While I wouldn’t ask for reimbursement either, I don’t think it’s unreasonable at all to bring a 7 month old along if it’s possible, especially if you are nursing. There’s a huge difference between pumping during an 8 hour training and pumping to keep up supply for 4 full days away from a baby. Ask me how I know! Just did it – 4 day trip away from a 7 month old. It was a pretty terrible work week and much more stressful for both of us (and my husband, who got no sleep for his own work week cuz poor kid screamed all night) than the previous trips where my kid and mom came with me. Also the effort to build up 4 days worth of food for the kid at home was…well it was equally taxing. Things I never thought about before living it….

        1. Anancy*

          Oh wow, that’s sounds incredibly tough. I did it for one night with a 1 yr old and that was rough. I can totally understand why OP would want to bring her baby, but am not optimistic the company would cover it. I would also personally want to hoard that $400 reimbursement because the chances of something coming up the rest of the year are high, but that’s my personal preference.

        2. New Bee*

          Yep, even as someone with oversupply it would still be a challenge to make so much extra milk (we’re talking 120+ oz) since our bodies are designed to meet baby’s demand. And it’d be additionally stressful to have to explain the logistics to my boss. (Not trying to go sandwiches here, just relating my experience with folks who won’t take “No, this pumping/time constraint/lactation space/storage isn’t a viable option” for an answer without prying into an uncomfortable level of detail.)

          1. Another traveling mom*

            I had oversupply and worked from home, which is really the only way I could manage it, because the 6 weeks ahead of time I was able to pump every two hours without getting up from a desk, hooking up to a pump, pump, clean up, etc. I try not to be defensive because you wouldn’t know unless you’d done it, but people are so cavalier “oh, you can just pump” or “you can just give her formula.” I am of the fed is best opinion so no breastfeeding dogma here, but I guess my kid just loves nursing – took her 2 months (not joking!) to accept drinking milk from a bottle and she won’t take formula, drink water, or eat much solid food. Then pumping logistics are ridiculous – pumping requires an electrical outlet (your pump’s battery will be dead after one 15 minute session.) So hard to find a free electrical outlet in an airport! I was pumping every 3 hours because I can get clogs and mastitis in less than a day. Most of those were literally in public – either sitting next to an outlet in a hallway or standing at a public restroom counter. Thank god I’d bought extra pump equipment that fits in your shirt or I would have been topless all over Oklahoma. Storage logistics equally difficult – I donated some locally and was OK dumping the rest. The training facilities and two of my hotels didn’t have fridges so if I’d wanted to send home it would not have been possible.

            1. AMPG*

              Yes, I find the “just do X” suggestions…unhelpful at best. Working parents, and especially working mothers in the U.S., spend a TON of time and energy figuring out the logistics of balancing the needs of their infant with the needs of their job. The idea that there’s some obvious answer that they just haven’t thought of is really kind of insulting.

        3. Kate*

          Seriously, pumping while travelling is the WORST…especially on 8+ hour flights or in meeting locations that don’t have a private space for this. And the number of times airport security has given me a hard time about the pump (“why do you need a pump if your baby isn’t with you?”)…

          1. Observer*

            That’s WHY I need the pump!

            I know, some TSA agents a stupid (and that’s the kind version.)

      3. Dizzy Steinway*

        I think there’s a difference between leaving a child during the day and leaving them overnight.

        1. Dizzy Steinway*

          But then I live in a country where this would be considered early to be back at work full stop.

        2. Taylor Swift*

          Yeah, but presumably this child has two parents. The other parent would not be leaving the child. It’s not like OP would be leaving her baby with the wolves or something.

          1. AMPG*

            It’s still hard emotionally on both the parent and the baby, not to mention an additional burden on the other parent, who now has to do overnight care alone.

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Right, but OP mentions in a comment downthread that she is breastfeeding, so it is more complicated than simply having the other parent care for the child. Obviously it could be done, with formula or pumping or a combination, but it makes the situation far more complicated than “but there is another parent!”

      4. Artemesia*

        My kids were completely breast fed to avoid the allergy history in our family and so formula would not have been an option with a young infant and pumping doesn’t work well for everyone. I would not have been able to pump enough to leave a freezer full of milk when I went on trips (although perhaps with the improved breast pump technology today I would have) I avoided travel when the kids were babies, but when I had to travel they came along so they could be fed.

    3. Big10Professor*

      I don’t think it “sounds off” so much as it’s probably something the company gets a tax break for when provided by a licensed provider and not when it’s a family member who came along. I think it’s worth asking, but with gentle phrasing, and while expecting a “no.”

      1. Kate*

        Is there a corporate tax break for this? I was not aware of that. This sounds different than a dependent care FSA

        1. Natalie*

          It could be part of their cafeteria plan, which is a particular kind of benefits structure with tax advantages. In that case it’s not a specific tax break for childcare reimbursement, but childcare reimbursement could be one of the benefits that’s part of their cafeteria plan.

    4. Susan*

      I agree that it sounds off, because it kind of sounds like she’s trying to get a free vacation out of it. I know that’s not her intent, but that could be how people interpret it (especially if her coworkers don’t have kids). I know people who sometimes take their families with them on business trips, but they pay for the family members’ travel out-of-pocket. I doubt the company would consider the husband’s travel expenses as legitimate childcare expenses, because childcare expenses are usually things like daycare or a babysitter.

      The customary options for this type of situation would be:
      (1) Bow out of the training because you don’t want to leave your baby for 4 days;
      (2) Have the husband or mother take care of the kid at home;
      (3) Leave the baby home and use the $400 towards a babysitter/daycare during the trip;
      (4) Bring the baby on the trip and use the $400 towards a babysitter/daycare during the training;
      (5) Pay out-of-pocket for the husband/mother and baby to join you on the trip.

      I suspect that if the company pays for the husband’s travel, people are going to find out about it and get mad that the company won’t pay for their spouses and/or children to join them on business trips. I guess it depends on the company culture, because maybe at the OP’s workplace, it wouldn’t hurt to ask, but where I work, I think it would be considered unreasonable to ask for this and make the OP look out of touch with business norms.

      1. misspiggy*

        I work in the UK and several other countries. If the kid is under a year old it wouldn’t be seen as trying to get a free vacation. Companies may or may not fund part of the cost. But for me it’s totally normal for a baby to come along to a work event, be looked after by a relative or family nanny, and for the mum to pop out to feed it. Handing it over to a stranger or leaving it at home would be seen as too hard on the baby and mum. Half the time the baby sits in the session with us, and gets fed discreetly under a shawl.

        Admittedly I work in education, where there is some pressure to appear child-friendly. But it’s interesting and a slight shock to see how different the attitudes are in different places.

        1. Susan*

          I’m not saying anybody would object to her bringing the baby on the trip (although if she is planning to bring the baby into the training sessions, or take breaks to feed the baby and/or pump during the training, she should make arrangements with the instructors ahead of time). I just think that at many companies, it would be considered out of line to ask for her husband’s travel expenses to be paid by the company.

        2. Colette*

          Yeah, bringing the baby and family member doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. There are good reasons to not want to leave an infant with someone you haven’t met or chosen yourself. I don’t think the employer is required to pay for it, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask or unfair for them to pay for it but not other spouses.

          1. sstabeler*

            Basically, the issue comes down to the employee de facto being able to have their husband and kid along, making it seem closer to having a vacation coinciding with the work trip. As such, particularly to a stingy company, it might seem like they were trying to pull a fast one.

            1. Newby*

              Seeing if the $400 per year childcare reimbursement could be used seems reasonable. It’s a bit of a stretch but if the company wanted to, they could justify it with their existing policies and not open the door to everyone trying to get the company to pay for their spouse’s travel. Also, the employee would not really be getting anything “extra”. Presumably, they will have other childcare expenses that they can’t use it for this year and will instead need to lean on family support. I think the key is to ask and not push. Asking won’t look bad while not taking no for an answer would.

            2. Anna*

              I think this would take a particular kind of mental gymnastics to get there. She’s going to be in training all day for days. The only time she’s going to be with her husband and baby are after the day is over, which would probably be her free time anyway. The room is probably a double so the company is paying for that empty bed space anyway. I’m not sure how anyone could think four days in a city taking care of your baby while your wife is in training all day could look anything like a vacation.

              1. sstabeler*

                I don’t disagree- I’m explaining where the company is coming from.

                Remember the company was noted as being somewhat stingy, and being strict about even a perception of the trip also being a vacation is a classic stingy company move.

            3. Colette*

              Anyone who thinks business travel is a vacation has never traveled for business. It’s not the same thing, whether she brings her family or not.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Uh, yeah. This isn’t a vacation for most folks. Possibly if you tag on time to the actual conference, but I have never been able to have a “vacation” when I travel for work conferences, and that’s without a child. I imagine it’s even more exacerbated when you have a nursing baby.

              2. Susan*

                Right; nobody said it would be a vacation for the OP, but her husband doesn’t have to attend the training, so it could be a vacation for him. He will have all day free while the OP is in training, and the company might object to paying for his travel so he can take a free trip to wherever the training is being held.

                1. Electric Hedgehog*

                  As it so happens, I’m bringing my nine month old and husband to a four say training event in May. Im paying theier way and well be tacking a couple days of vacation on the end, which ive been open about to my company, so the post and comments are interesting to me. I do just want to say, though, that i have no misconception about the part of my trip where I’m working being a vacation for my husband. He’ll be caring for an extremely mobile infant in unfamiliar surroundings, without the comforts and conveniences of home. It will be rough, and I’m hoping that the extra vacation at the end makes it ok. Just my two cents.

                2. Colette*

                  Caring for an infant in a hotel room is also not a vacation? But regardless, the company isn’t paying for him to sightsee, it would be paying for him to provide childcare, the same way they would be paying for a babysitter if he didn’t come (and that was the deal they worked out).

                  Anyone who is jealous of that can offer to have their spouse come along to provide childcare next time.

      2. Leave her home.*

        I agree. OP didnt mention her reasons being tied to breastfeeding, which would justify the need to bring the baby a bit more (possibly) but it seems like a personal preference. Since we’re all about gender equality, if her husband had a trip, would he bring his baby and wife, ask for reimbursement and justify it for “emotional and logistical reasons” ? No. Husband would leave the wife home. I would suggest OP pay out of pocket for her husband, or expect a no from the company.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It might sound off because we expect spouses to share caretaking responsibilities, so OP’s husband isn’t really analogous to a babysitter (but I’d argue OP’s mom is a little closer to that idea since she’s one step removed).

      In general, I think companies should be flexible about accommodating employees with babies, but this sounds like a slightly different circumstance. OP, you mentioned other folks sometimes being their families. Do they do that at their own expense? Because if so, bringing your family doesn’t seem very different from what your coworkers are doing, except for the breastfeeding part (I assume).

    6. Kate*

      I work in public health (in academia, but I also work with a lot of folks in the UN, NGOs, donors, etc) and this is very, very normal and is not considered unprofessional (although many of our international colleagues don’t deal with this because they get 12 months maternity leave!). Maybe because we are a field that is supportive of breastfeeding, and being away from baby in the first year (particularly first 6 months but even past that) makes maintaining breastfeeding much harder. Also, leaving a baby for several days is just really hard emotionally. It gets a bit easier when they are older and less dependent. And (at least for me) I would much rather leave my baby with my mom, who I know and trust, than an unknown onsite babysitter.

      1. Kate*

        Just to clarify, I think asking to bring them along is appropriate. Whether company covers any of the costs is obviously up to the company, and in the situations I describe above, the employer contribution varied from $0 to full costs covered (with US orgs obviously being the worst. ugh)

      2. HM*

        My mom also works in public health (academia), and they are unbelievably supportive of this. When I was born she stayed home for a weekend and then brought me in to work every day for two years. Everyone was completely understanding, and now I’m in high school and she’s tenured.

        1. the gold digger*

          I have a friend who worked at Whole Foods in the early days (before they went public). She had a crib in her office, which is where her baby stayed while she worked. Having an infant on premises does not appear to have harmed Whole Foods financially.

    7. Triceratops*

      Since they have a specific childcare reimbursement and it’s capped yearly, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to ask to use that for her husband’s/mother’s expenses! If she has to travel more than, like, once a year, she’d burn through the $400 in it’s entirety anyway.

    8. BananaPants*

      Working moms who are nursing do this frequently, there’s nothing “off” or weird about it. The employee incurs the expense of bringing the spouse (or sometimes a sibling, mom, or mother-in-law) to care for the baby, as well as travel costs for the other adult and the baby and meals for the other adult. I wouldn’t ask my employer to cover the cost of the other adult coming along since spousal travel is usually not reimbursed, but since OP1 has the $400/year childcare benefit she could certainly ask if she can apply that towards the cost of bringing another adult along to care for her baby.

      If mom is nursing, having to pump around-the-clock for several days during the trip is exhausting, and she needs to be able to pump enough milk (24+ oz per day) BEFORE the trip to feed the baby in her absence. That’s on top of meeting the normal need for milk for daycare. Formula may be an option if mom already supplements, but an older baby who hasn’t been given formula regularly will often refuse it. And if she’s not going to pump and dump, she needs to figure out a way to keep her milk cold enough and get it home, either with her or shipped on dry ice.

      1. OP #1*

        Thanks everyone. As suggested, I am breastfeeding. She still wakes up at least 3 times a night to nurse, so it would be bad for both of us if I left her. While other managers sometimes get out of these trainings, I don’t think I should have to fall behind on professional development because of having a child. #insertworkingmomhashtag
        I know no one here was suggesting that I’m trying to get a free vacation, but that it might look that way to my employer. For the record, it’s in a city that most people wouldn’t want to vacation in, but I suppose it could look that way to someone. I could ask around about hiring on-sight childcare during the day, although it would be difficult because there are also evening events, some of which I’d want to attend. It’s too far to rent a car and drive, although I will keep that option in mind for the future.
        I think there is a service that lets you freeze your milk and send it home, but I don’t have enough inventory to leave her for a few days, as I recently had to get rid of all my old milk due to her newly-discovered dairy (cow-protein) allergy. And it would be difficult to pump every 3 hours throughout the training (running back to the room to nurse her would take less time.)
        My husband really doesn’t want to use his vacation time to come with me, so it’s not the most convenient option for us either. That said, I guess I’ll go back to my original plan of either flying him or my mom. I don’t think I will ask for any reimbursement.
        Anyway, like someone commented above, there is no perfect option in situations like this. I appreciate everyone’s input.

        1. Jubilance*

          As a fellow nursing mom, I totally understand where you’re coming from here. I think it’s fair to explain the situation to your boss and see what they say. I absolutely think you should bring baby if you can afford it – it will be so much better for your nursing situation. Best of luck!

        2. AMPG*

          I’ve been there. I took my husband and 8-month-old on a 4-day work trip with me, although in our case it was a 9-hour drive, so I flew out the day before and my husband drove with the baby, so we only had about 24 hours apart. Then we drove back together over the weekend. I wasn’t eligible for any reimbursement, but the costs were smaller because he drove out and shared my hotel room.

          Personally, I think you should ask if you could use some of your $400 to offset the travel costs, and just make it clear that you’re going to do it either way, so it’s clear you’re trying to make the best decision for your family even if it costs you money. It sounds like your workplace tries to be supportive of working parents, so you might be surprised by the answer.

          1. OP #1*

            9 hour drive! That must have been its own challenge. This training is a 24-hour drive so out of the question. That was a smart way to go about it though.

            1. AMPG*

              At the time we were living a 7-hour drive away from most family, so we were used to road trips for holidays and the like. It worked out really well. And it was an optional trip that was still good for my career, so I’m glad I got to do it.

        3. Meg Murry*

          Does your company currently cover the cost of shipping milk back for traveling parents (many family friendly companies do now)? If so, perhaps you can add that as an offset cost for your boss. Present it as “I haven’t used the $400 childcare benefit yet, and shipping milk back would cost at least $X (a service like MilkStork would cost at least $150 plus shipping, for instance). A plane ticket for my mother to come with me so I don’t have to ship the milk plus [any other details or costs that you could offset] would only cost $Y. Would I be able to use the $400 childcare benefit toward that plane ticket?”

          Since your husband works 3-12 s as you mentioned below, if you *don’t* take the baby with you, you might need to use some of that $400 childcare benefit to provide coverage while you travel due to your husband’s work schedule, which might be worth mentioning as well.

          However, it’s possible that the $400 benefit isn’t a straight up reimbursement but rather that you can use a specific sick-kid nanny service or backup daycare for up to $400 worth of care that the company would cover – in that case, it might not actually cost them $400, they might have negotiated a lower rate, or it might already be partially paid for.

          I think it might at least be worth asking, but be prepared to either pay yourself or skip the training this year as a backup.

          1. OP #1*

            I hadn’t thought of the shipping milk cost as a negotiation point. I kind of assumed my company would pay for it but I didn’t see it in the expense policy. I’ll have to look at our benefits site.

            I think the policy might be too rigid on the $400 child care. I looked at the expense policy again and it says child care, not a family member. They also have specific policies around spousal travel (it’s not covered except at the new partners’ meeting and for travel longer than X number of weeks in lieu of you traveling home on the weekend) so I’m afraid it’s going to be a no because it might be a precedent they don’t want to start.

            So, I’m kind of backing off of asking for reimbursement, but I’m going to keep poking around our benefits site and asking around to see if I can find an angle.

          2. OP #1*

            You just reminded me, at least I’m going to see if I can expense a rental car from the airport, rather than the usual taxi or shuttle both ways.

        4. swingbattabatta*

          Just chiming in to say that I wish you luck with the milk protein allergy issue. We dealt with it for months, and it was so so hard. I hope everything works out for you!

      2. Willis*

        Yeah, I don’t think it sounds off to ask about the possibility of using the childcare benefit to pay for some of the costs of the childcare provider traveling with her. The OP said they’re strict but fair with use of benefits so she could frame it as “I know this benefit exists, I’m trying to get some additional information around the parameters for using it.” The answer might be no, but the company sounds like they’re trying to be in tune with the needs of working parents, so it doesn’t seem off the wall to ask.

        Of course, if she’d already used the $400, then I think it’s on her to cover this cost. But otherwise it seems reasonable to ask..

    9. Another Lawyer*

      The baby is young enough that most people would understand leaving them is A Lot to ask.

  3. Pinkpenguin*

    The nonprofit org I work for offers 50% coverage for a caregiver travel for the first two years. It’s an amazing benefit and has done a lot for retention. So, it does exist, and worth asking for!

    1. Channel Z*

      Wow, this is fantastic I want to work with you! So since such a thing does exist, maybe OP could suggest the possibility of this type of accommodation but with evidence to back it up. Another thought is to request a single amount to cover childcare, and then she can use it as she sees fit, in her case putting it toward caregiver accommodation.

    2. OP #1*

      That’s amazing! I need to connect to the working parents network here and see how other people have applied our random benefits.

    3. VivaL*

      Yep, my old company used to pay full cost of travel for one caregiver for the first year (including adoption), and/or pay to ship breast milk, or storage, etc etc. Also used to give an extra month of maternity leave. It was a large financial firm, so they could absorb those kinds of costs. Regardless, the benefit was amazing – pretty progressive for this country.

  4. Fiennes*

    About “something came up”: tone would matter a lot there. It’s possible the candidate is genuinely being cavalier in a way that should raise a red flag. However, I can imagine a lot of very valid reasons for canceling that a candidate might be uncomfortable disclosing to an interviewer. “My schizophrenic brother had a breakdown” — “my regular doctor called and said I need to go in for a biopsy right away” — “my abusive ex slashed the tires of my car” — etc. I can think of better ways to tactfully word all of the above, but I could also understand a flustered candidate erring on the side of vagueness.

    1. Engineer Woman*

      Yes, this!
      Was “something came up” paired with “I’m terribly sorry for the inconvenience but… could we possibly reschedule for next week. Thank you for your understanding, etc etc…” Or simply: “Something came up and next week I am free on Day X at between Time A and B. Let’s do it then if that works for you…”
      Cancelling interviewee might not want to disclose the reason, or even hint the reason, of what the issue is for fear of additional questions or doubts. (How often do you need to attend to your brother? Do I want to hire someone who has such a relative? Biopsy? Does this candidate have cancer? Abusive ex? Do I want to have such potential drama potentially spill into our workplace?)

      1. PABJ*

        But saying something came up is so vague that it’s possible to be literally anything. If it’s something more urgent, it’s possible to be much more specific without getting into details. You could say something like “There is a family emergency that I need to take care of.”

        1. Fiennes*

          Like I said, yes, there are better ways to do it – but this is an error I can imagine a candidate making if they’re feeling especially sensitive/private about the reason for the cancellation. In other words, it’s still a mistake, but not necessarily one that means the candidate would be a bad hire.

        2. kb*

          It could be that the occassion doesn’t really rise to emergency-level but still is obligatory. I agree that the vagueness makes it impossible for the OP to discern how valid the reason is and that phrase in particular is a bit cavalier, but I can also see how there may be a completely valid reason to reschedule an interview that would be difficult to convey appropriately in an email to a potential employer.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’m hard pressed to think of anything that would be tough to convey appropriately — “unfortunately ill” and “family emergency” and that ilk are going to cover most things, and will make it clear you can’t come and that you’re not being cavalier about it.

            1. kb*

              A lot of the examples I had in mind were based my own personal hang-up on the word emergency, which you addressed below. By “convey appropriately” I meant convey an accurate sense of the level of severity, which appears to be less important than I had thought. I was thinking I wouldn’t want the interviewer to worry I’m in dire straights when in actuality the issue was fairly mundane, but in reality the interviewer probably wouldn’t really read that much into it.

            2. OP2*

              OP2 here.

              Everyone brings up good points. Thanks for your feedback, Alison! :-) I appreciate it! This is great!

              The other issue I didn’t mention is that it’s for a part-time job. So if more things “come up” and you miss a day, because the job isn’t everyday, that’s a HUGE percentage of the hours we need gone.

              1. sstabeler*

                It’s also entirely possible for the things to “come up” when the employee would be off anyway.

                There’s another possibility, though this isn’t exactly the prospective employer’s problem, and nor is it entirely likely. It’s possible that someone the prospective employee is living with is demanding they do something during the time the interview is scheduled for, and doesn’t think an interview is a “good enough” excuse- whereas a job would be. That would be something I would want to explain in person, not over the phone or email.

            3. Green*

              I think it really depends on what the role is and the tone here. “Something came up” sounds overly breezy for an e-mail, and there are better phrases, but if the overall tone was professional, I’d give them another chance. This is also an unfortunate bias (that position implies good judgment or competence), but many would also be more willing to trust interviewee’s judgment that the “something” that came up was sufficient if it were for a managerial/executive/”professional” role vs. an administrative or junior level role.

              That said: there is also a perception that interviews should be your first priority. A few people have posted similar comments here, and we’ve seen some letters in the past. I try to be as accommodating as possible, but interviews are almost never my first priority: accommodating the job that pays my bills is usually my first priority. (And most of the interviews I’m getting these days are from people reaching out to me rather than jobs I actively applied for, which–in my mind, at least!–gives me more standing to ask comp questions early in the process and treat it as a more equal relationship.)

              That said, I’m a lawyer, and many interviewers are used to us having complex schedules to work around (travel, unmovable meetings, last-minute issues that are inherently vague). I canceled an interview with a request to reschedule recently because “an urgent meeting scheduled” (i.e., my BIG BOSS was in the office and asked to meet with me, which I figure most of them would cancel an interview for as well) but “an urgent meeting” could also be a major crisis for the company or having to fly to [insert third world country] for a bribery investigation I can’t talk about.

              Anyway, if you’re going to use a vague excuse, I’d try to use a modifier (“serious, urgent, unexpected, emergency”) that suggests you understand that you are missing a commitment and language that suggests you realize that it is likely an inconvenience for the other person.

            4. Anna*

              For whatever reason, when I read “something came up” my brain filled in “an interview for a better opportunity came up.”

        3. Dan*

          Well yes it could mean anything. Makes me think we should have some stock excuses ready in case we need to cancel interviews at the last minute.

          1. neverjaunty*

            It’s not really that hard to come up with “there was an unexpected emergency” or “a last-minute serious issue that got in the way” or something else vague.

            1. Dan*

              That’s kinda my point… “something came up” is a no-no, but “unexpected emergency” is fine, even if it’s a complete and total lie. It’s not like any rational interviewer is going to demand proof of it.

                1. Robin B*

                  Just like on “the Brady Bunch” when the boy cancelled his date with Marcia because “something suddenly came up”…..

                2. Amadeo*

                  Eh, I used it once to rescind acceptance of a job offer after I found out the business owner had been tried for rape. I wasn’t exactly willing to disclose to either him or his wife/girlfriend/whatever she was to him at the time that this was the reason why. It may have sounded cavalier, but my use of it was (to me) anything but.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  @Amadeo, that’s very different though. You were ending contact, not trying to reschedule. When you’re canceling at the last minute and want to reschedule, you need to say something that makes it sound like you’re not taking it lightly. Different situations.

              1. hbc*

                “Something came up” can mean literally anything, from puking your guts out to unexpected concert tickets to realizing you double booked yourself for interviews to just not feeling like going. “Unexpected emergency” only covers big things that couldn’t have been planned for, as in, exactly the only things that excuse it.

                Of course someone could lie about it, but that doesn’t mean you take any answer as equivalent. That’s like accepting “I’ll get right on it” and “I’ll do it when I feel like it” as both okay because the first one might be a lie and in both cases the person might start work immediately.

                1. Newby*

                  Apologizing and mentioning an emergency makes it clear that the candidate understands that rescheduling is a big deal and not something that is being done lightly. Saying “something came up” implies that the candidate does not think rescheduling is a big deal and fails to acknowledge the inconvenience to the interviewer.

                2. Here we go again*

                  I think the term “emergency” should only be used in true life or death situations, or something like a house fire or car accident (which could be life and death). Other things can come up that are “urgent” but not emergencies. A couple weeks ago, I got an unexpected collections call because my doctor’s office sucks. I didn’t have a lot of time because I can’t have their mistakes affect my credit, so I had to leave work and just sent a note to my boss that “something came up.” I know my boss well enough, that I could’ve been more specific, but I wouldn’t dare say it to an interviewer who doesn’t know me.

                  There are “urgencies” and then there are “emergencies” but either way sometimes things come up that can’t wait.

                3. Green*

                  @Here We Go Again — I think you’re getting in to subjective judgments regarding “urgent” vs. “emergency” here, though. I’d treat them both equally, and in what you define as a “true emergency” (whatever that means to the individual), most individuals would be willing to disclose more if necessary to convey the severity.

                  “Life and Death” is a bit arbitrary. My dog being in pain and needing to urgently go to the vet would be an emergency to me. Breaking my arm would be an emergency. A possibly cancerous lump would be something I’d urgently attend to and be seriously stressed about, but not an emergency to me.

                  I don’t know that you can effectively apply your vocabulary preferences or subjective assessments to others. But if you figure out a way to make everyone comply, please let me know. :)

              2. BRR*

                In addition to what reason you give, I think it’s important what else is in the email. If something came up last minute I would try to be very apologetic and acknowledge the situation.

                1. Newby*

                  I think that is the key to determining how to handle it. When we hear “something came up” we are all assuming a cavalier tone. If everything else in the e-mail is apologetic, it makes a big difference.

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      I suppose it depends on how much communication is a part of the role – because this is telling you something about the candidate’s ability to communicate.

    3. snuck*

      I feel similar… there’s a lot it *could* be and a lot it mightn’t.

      If I liked the candidate (and I wouldn’t interview people if I didn’t like them!) I’d actually reach back out to the candidate, by phone if possible, and do a little human touch fishing… “Hi Jane, I got your message and just wanted to touch base with you… It’s very unusual to have a message back like that, can you tell me a little more so I can understand better?” and see what she says.

      And then take that into consideration.

      If she’s young, inexperienced etc… and her uni just set a make up exam for her at that date/time she might not have known the best way to handle it. If she just broke up with her boyfriend and is a crying mess, and I need someone who can handle people sensitively etc… this whole situation can give you a lot more information than you expect… And… if you don’t like what you hear you can just say “I’m sorry Jane, but we can’t reschedule, we’re hoping to wrap this up this week.” and be done with it.

      It won’t hurt… and if she really is in a crisis, her loyalty to you after you show consideration for her needs will be much higher… it will cement in part at least her feeling supported and welcome.

      1. Karen K*

        “Can you tell me a little more so I can understand better?”

        I’d think this was incredibly intrusive. That said, if I really wanted the job, I would have probably given more info than “something came up.”

      2. Anonygoose*

        However, there’s a lot of things I *wouldn’t* want to just tell an interviewer with an interviewer. Make up exam, sure. Broke up with boyfriend? Not so much. Fiennes gave some great examples above. I would appreciate the call, but unless the candidate is quite open, the OP is still unlikely to get more than a vague ‘family emergency’ or ‘medical emergency’ etc, even if it is something serious. I don’t think the OP should prod too much, just decide if it’s worth canceling the later-date interview or not.

    4. jordanjay29*

      I’m in total agreement here. “Something came up” sounds cavalier to some, but it might also be a careful way of providing an explanation without lying or exaggerating about the situation, while still retaining privacy. The last thing I’d want a new employer to know about before the first interview is my medical situation, family problems or any reason to give them suspicion. The vagueness of ‘something came up’ leaves them in the dark on the exact nature of the issue, which is where I want them if they aren’t already a close contact of mine. They don’t have the right to know what is going on in my personal life, not this early in our professional relationship.

      On the other side, if the interviewer came to the interviewee and said that they needed to reschedule because something came up, there’d be no question about integrity.

      I’ve done this very thing before, just explained that I had a personal issue come up and needed to reschedule. The interviewer acquiesced and didn’t ask about the situation further. To me, that extension of trust was a positive as the interviewee and helped me make a decision. I understand if someone is a weak candidate or they already have many more interviews that the ability to extend this trust might be limited or not worth the time. In that case, OP#2 already has their answer. If they wanted to pursue the candidate based on the information they have, then they should stop reading too much into “something came up” and just reschedule.

      1. Colette*

        I don’t think “something came up” shows a lack of integrity – but it does sound like the candidate isn’t really interested in the job, or that they are willing to prioritize the interview. An interviewer ain’t being judged on their professionalism or reliability the same way the candidate is, so it wouldn’t be as much of a red flag from her.

        1. jordanjay29*

          I disagree. Especially if the interviewer is the hiring manager, but still if they are an HR person or something similar, their professionalism says a lot about the company they’re representing. It’s a two way street, both interviewer and interviewee are evaluating each other, seems fair to apply some standards to both.

          1. LaurenB*

            Yes, and I’d definitely consider it in my evaluation of a company if I was asked to reschedule by an HR person because “something came up.” I’d also expect a bit of an apology and a recognition of the inconvenience. I really don’t think we’re asking a superhuman feat of the candidate here.

            (Unless it was with the government, in which case I totally expect them to have me waiting by the phone and then get an email telling me my interview had been delayed by an hour. But again, dealing with a huge faceless bureaucracy is part of working in this environment and they’re kind of letting you know what you’re in for.)

          2. Colette*

            In business, it’s not uncommon for higher priority issues to come up. If I manage a team that runs the company network and the network is down, I’m probably not going to focus very effectively on interviewing because my first priority should be to the primary responsibility of my job.

            And candidates should be evaluating the company as well, so if the candidate feels the need to pass because of the reschedule, that’s an unfortunate side effect but absolutely a valid choice.

      2. OP2*

        I’ve never had an interviewer reschedule, and I’ve never rescheduled for a candidate. I know when I’m interviewing, I need to take time off work and plan it out… so rescheduling at the employer’s whim is a lot harder.

        1. jordanjay29*

          Sounds like you know how to move forward with this candidate then (or in this case, not move forward).

    5. Dankar*

      I also wondered if that was a way for the candidate to avoid disclosing a medical condition since some employers (and I am not saying OP would!) might avoid hiring someone that might need accommodations once hired.

      1. jordanjay29*

        This is one of my primary concerns and why I play most of my cards close to the vest. Once an offer is made I might disclose what’s necessary, but adding undue information to an employer before the first interview is needless and might factor against me in the process.

        1. Sarah*

          Of course you don’t need to provide a million details and fax over medical records, but “An unexpected illness came up and unfortunately I won’t be able to make it in for our interview. Is there any way we could reschedule for next week?” could as easily be strep throat as something more chronic where one might be worried about discrimination.

    6. C.*

      I completely agree. I guess I can understand why the Hiring Manager might’ve been a little annoyed (setting interviews up generally takes time and planning of people’s schedules), but a big part of me wishes that “they” (an abstract they here) would understand that life sometimes happens and it doesn’t make me any less interested or qualified for the job at hand.

  5. The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    #3, I feel for your coworker. This was not uncommon at a place I worked. We called it being “voluntold.” Newer employees were usually voluntold they would be on some event committee.

    That place also seemed to think it could resolve morale problems through BBQs or ice cream socials rather than addressing the real reasons for low morale so there was that. You’d also get comments/questions/side-eye from some folks in management if you didn’t attend.

    1. Junior Dev*

      My coworker told me a story of how he almost quit after weeks of extreme overtime where the employees involved were rewarded with…a gift certificate for out own merchandise.

      Better than the last place I worked at, where they gave us $10 Starbucks cards in a similar circumstance.

      1. AnonAnalyst*

        I’d take a $10 Starbucks gift card over what my last company did! After morale tanked because most employees had impossible workloads, the management team designated a “fun” committee to organize weekly (mandatory) “fun” events.

        Since the chief employee concern was that they were physically unable to complete the amount of work that was expected of them in the time available, being forced to take time away from their regular tasks for “fun” did not have the anticipated result. Morale dropped even lower and most employees left in short order.

        Weirdly, the management team, which was mostly staffed by very smart people and good managers, was shocked that weekly “fun” was completely ineffective in improving morale. Years later, I am still confused as to how this seemed like a viable solution to the morale problem to that group of people.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I hate when bosses do this, particularly because a “mandatory fun” committee completely fails to address the root causes of low morale. Its like telling someone with a broken foot to paint their toenails instead of getting an x-ray and cast. As a result, both planning and attending events becomes yet another craptastic responsibility when you already feel worn down and low.

      OP, has anyone relayed feedback to the CEO? I wonder if people came together to talk to him about concerns and potential alternate ideas/solutoins, perhaps he’d back off on the fun committee idea. If you can’t talk to him, can everyone who was appointed without their consent “respectfully decline” the appointment without looking insubordinate? I imagine it’s slightly harder to pull off, but perhaps if folks from throughout the company opt out, the CEO will begin to realize that the initiative lacks stakeholder support.

      1. Blue*

        I don’t know why but I am guessing the people who were “volunteered” almost have to have job descriptions that could extend to this kind of work — and declining, in scenarios where participation already doesn’t sound optionional, would be insubordination.

        1. Purest Green*

          No, we have a similar thing where I work and it’s nothing at all related to anyone’s job descriptions.

        2. Karen K*

          Besides, if these types of things are ever going to work (and I’m not saying they do!), they need to involve people from all levels in an organization, not just admins and such.

        3. Beaker*

          Our job description has “Other duties as assigned” – basically their way of giving us the tasks no one else wants to do..

        4. JustaTech*

          I’d be amazed to discover how “scientist” has a job description as party planner! :)
          At my job the social committee is supposed to be staffed by a person from each department (partly to get enough people and partly so we don’t, say, forget that the Scheduling department can’t ever be away from their desk between 2-3pm), so the head of each department says to their group “somebody’s got to do it, whoever has the lightest load at the moment volunteer or I’ll pick someone.”
          This has the unfortunate side effect that the social committee at least is mostly women, but it’s how other inter-department committees are formed too (like safety).

        5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yeah, no one I’ve met who’s been put on a committee like this has anything remotely related on their job description. And “other duties” usually does not refer to “anything under the sun that the employer dreams up”—it’s usually assumed to have a rational relationship to your job title and the other core responsibilities that appear in the job description.

      2. OP #3*

        I don’t think so. I’m assuming that probably at least half of the people on the committee actually did volunteer. I know them pretty well and they enjoy — or at least tolerate — taking on these types of tasks, are pretty extroverted, etc. But I feel badly for my coworker because she works often with the CEO and he is not someone who would take kindly to her saying “I respectfully decline to participate.” He’s not someone who is super inviting of critical feedback. I worry that, since this has happened with her, that it would happen with others (or potentially did happen with others) who do not enjoy organizing events and have zero experience doing so (cough cough me cough). But you’re completely right; she probably individually at least should have pushed back a bit. I don’t think she did.

        And I agree with the other commenters: your analogy is amazing.

        1. pomme de terre*

          FWIW, I recently had to do draw up a list of recommended people for a committee like this and then our firm president “asked” them to participate. (Not a fun committee, but a beta tester group for a new internal product.) It was the kind of project that some people would jump on, and others wouldn’t want to touch w a 10-foot pole. We knew if we asked for volunteers, our beta group would skew towards certain demographics and we wanted to design something that everyone would use. So we knew all the Xs would volunteer, but had to seek out and “ask” a few Ys and Zs to make sure we didn’t create something that would automatically turn off 2/3s of our employees.

        2. Anon for this*

          I am not suggesting this is your situation as it does not sound like it. But, I know a good number of situations where someone was “volunteered” because no matter what the fun committee planned, that person would complain about it. Basically, they are trying to get the individual to understand that it is hard to find something fun that everyone enjoys. But, again, I am not suggesting that is the case here.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Oh man, that’s even worse! There’s low morale and he won’t accept critical feedback? I am banging my head against my desk. I’m truly sorry that your coworker is in this situation. The only other option I can think of is to preempt being “volunteered” by coming up with a system (e.g., everyone has to do a shift on the committee and it rotates every 1-2 years).

          1. OP #3*

            Thank you. I feel the same way. Your system seems way more egalitarian. Also 1 year makes more sense to me, but 2 — and esp. 3!!! — is asking a LOT, IMO.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I agree. 2 years is a lot, but I can understand that argument if people tend to stay for years and years and there’s a benefit to having prior institutional knowledge. Otherwise, no one should be forced to serve for more than a year, and certainly not for three years.

              1. pomme de terre*

                So true on the institutional memory! Remember the ep of The Office where Jim tries to tweak the office bday celebrations and it’s a total disaster, and then at the end of the ep Michael is like, “Oh yeah, I tried that years ago. Total disaster.”

    3. Purest Green*

      It’s particularly grating when employees who have health problems/dietary restrictions are basically mandated to sit in a room for half an hour watching other people eat cake and punch.

    4. Life is Good*

      I’ve been forced to be on activity planning committees and, for an introvert like me, it was excruciating and I got even further behind in my work. Don’t you just love it when employers make “fun” a priority instead of spending the money and energy on improving processes so morale isn’t in the toilet? Talk about putting lipstick on a pig.

    5. Turtlewings*

      “The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves” is exactly what I thought as soon as I read it!

    6. Mike C.*

      Why can’t people plan events that are actually fun, like “stay home but still get paid” or “here are some cookies and a raise”?

      1. Kelly White*

        Wouldn’t it be great if the committee went rogue and did that- had actual morale building ideas/activities- (ex: raises, more PTO, sit downs with management where they take our ideas/concerns seriously).

        1. Erin*

          Those kind of mandatory fun committees always remind me of the student council at high school. Which never actually worked with big issues which were important to students.
          We know your miserable because you’re in high school so you will attend this loud obnoxious mandatory pep assembly for a sporting event you could care less about or be suspended for skipping school. Wouldn’t it be easier to give everyone a paid 1/2 day off on a Friday?

          1. copy run start*

            At least in high school you could get your parents to call you out for a “doctor’s appointment,” as about 90% of those who could drive in my high school did….

        2. Ann O'Nemity*

          Actually, that’s how I got *off* the mandatory fun committee! I was emceeing an office event years ago and mistakenly gave everyone there a free PTO day.

          1. OhNo*

            Do you mean “mistakenly”? Because I would be all about “accidentally” giving out things like PTO if I had the opportunity. ;)

            1. Ann O'Nemity*

              No, I actually made a mistake. I thought all the participants were to be given PTO, but really it was supposed to be just the winners of the event contest.

              Management didn’t rescind the PTO after my mistake (could you image the disappointment if they had?!) and I was disinvited from future fun committee planning meetings. Win/win.

    7. Voluntold Volunteer*

      A former job had a variation of this. Much like the OP’s situation, morale was really down and the person running the department was scrambling to keep people from jumping ship (including blocking internal transfers, but that’s another story).

      When I was appointed/voluntold to participate, I pointed out that I had been involved with something like this in the past and I really trying to distance myself from this type of work because I wanted to spend my work time on stuff that was more in line with business goals. As a woman, I find myself getting roped into stuff like this frequently because I’m very organized and have a reputation for getting stuff done. Coincidentally, the committee was almost entirely female.

      Don’t get me wrong – I know some people live for this kind of stuff and love to plan events, but I’m not one of them. If my department would have asked for volunteers, I’m sure they would have gotten a least of few people to raise their hands. But the fact that they appointed the people (without even checking with them first) made morale drop even further.

      1. Jen*

        THIS! I feel like as a woman in marketing, I am almost always voluntold to be on “prom committee” as I always refer to it and it pisses me off because it’s one of those benevolent sexism things. Sure I’m picked to be on a committee but it’s a “soft” committee that adds nothing to the bottom line and gets no glory. No thanks! I’ll be on the benefits committee or diversity committee but I’m not organizing a pot luck chili cookoff that no one wants to attend.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Decades ago, everyone in my workplace got put on committees. It was right after performance reviews, so we figured grandboss was told to emphasize teamwork. I ended up heading up one of the committees. My rules were that the meetings started and ended on time, I invited grandboss to every meeting, but put the memo inviting her in an inbox she rarely checked, and that anyone who tried to make the committee actually do anything was put in charge of accomplishing whatever they brought up.

          The interesting thing was that the workplace grouches (not me!) all got put on the Sunshine Committee.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, and in my experience when men are put on the committee (i.e., voluntold), they then go out of their way to be incompetent or say they’re “just not good at this sort of thing” so that women end up carrying the load in the end, anyway. It happens with notetaking, also, all the time, and anything remotely logistics or cooking related. It’s one of my biggest workplace pet peeves.

          1. CDL*

            The notetaking thing drives me insane, as does any sort of fun teambuilding event planning. The latter always, always falls on women in my group. It used to fall on me until I started explicitly saying that I didn’t have time to handle those events on top of my job responsibilities. I am the most productive in my group, with the highest workload, so I was able to get out of it – but other female colleagues were not so lucky. It’s frustrating to watch. A friend was recently recognized for her contributions to the team, but all that was mentioned was the fact that she plans great happy hours. These things pigeonhole women.

            With the notetaking, I’ve been asked to take notes when there are more junior people in the room (who happen to be male) and I’ve explained that if I need to actively participate in the meeting, I cannot also take notes. I am lucky in that I have incredibly supportive and fair male colleagues, and they will either volunteer to take notes, or in the case of a recent meeting, ask a man in a junior role to take notes during a meeting.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Totally agreed. One of my favorite strategies, when a guy says he’s “just not good” at notetaking, is to tell him it would be helpful for him to try it out because how else will he develop that skillset? Or to rotate the responsibility at each team meeting so that people know that they’re going to be responsible for notes on a particular day. I’m of course willing to be more flexible if someone has a disability that impedes their ability to notetake, but I’ve only had that happen once over the course of what feels like more than 1000 job-related meetings.

              I’m the kind of person who takes notes, regardless, because it helps me understand and track information, but I do not volunteer to circulate my notes or to notetake for the group.

              And I hear you on happy hours/party planning. It drives me nuts.

      2. Lora*

        This is an excellent point. Also, I’ve known men who felt insulted that their boss put them on the Fun Committee – because it showed he didn’t think they were good for any technical contributions, when there were technical committees that needed appointees. Hey dude, welcome to my world.

        I have, thank heavens, never been on a Fun Committee. Nobody even asks. I think it’s because the male engineer notion of fun doesn’t generally match up with what they imagine I do on weekends (sit around with my women friends drinking cheap white wine/appletinis and doing each other’s hair? I guess?). “This Weds evening, we will have an outing to observe the process design of scale-down cheesemaking methods. Crackers and bread will be provided.” “Next week, there will be a company outing to a gallery showing 19th century Japanese wood block printing techniques. We will meet at Cuchi Cuchi in Cambridge for fruity drinks and appetizers.” “On the 11th of Never we are organizing a trip to a metalsmithing workshop where we will learn how to do sand casting, basic stick welding and hand-beating techniques. Please bring a bag lunch.”

        1. Namast'ay In Bed*

          Completely unrelated but I LOVE Cuchi Cuchi. Though I don’t know if I’d want to go there for a work event.

        2. JustaTech*

          Oh, can I come on your fun events? All of those sound *amazing*!
          Our fun events are almost always “food with a theme”. Super Bowl party, World Cup party, Oktoberfest party (with mustard tasting contest!), Cinco de Mayo, Fourth of July, Halloween (which is a proper party with costumes if you want and silly decorations).
          All on-site, all catered by the super cheap place across the street (who’re very good at catering and meh at individual lunches).

      3. The Floggings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

        Hopefully, people on the fun committee will be recognized for their efforts.

        We didn’t have the gendered issue as mostly it was new peoples who were voluntold, but we did have an issue with contributions to office events being seen as “less than.” Two people who actually did volunteer for years and were enthusiastic about it quit their volunteer activities because of this. Both were quietly told when seeking promotions that they were seen as “spending too much time” on these things and it “didn’t look good.” But they weren’t spending more time than was needed to do the volunteer tasks. One pretty much was the welcoming committee and organized get togethers a few times per year for new people to have lunch and meet others (it was a large, pretty siloed dept so it was a way for people who also wouldn’t normally interact to get to know each other.) This involved getting a room for a brown bag, making a reservation if going out, and encouraging people to attend. The other maintained a “snack bar” to raise funds for events (chips, cookies, candy, soda). He didn’t carry out transactions as it was all honor based. He’d just periodically collect the money and pick up new snacks at a warehouse store when the snack bar ran low.

        So morale was also not improved by frowning at people who were actually happily doing the work to make events happen.

    8. Fifty Foot Commute*

      Yes! I came to the comments to share “voluntold” as well. My reaction definitely depends on who voluntells me; some people I trust enough to laugh it off and joke about being voluntold, but everyone else just makes me bitter.

    9. Kathleen Adams*

      The organization I work for has one “fun” committee – it’s the Christmas party committee. Sooner or later, everybody serves on it, whether they like it or not.

      But the thing is, that’s not entirely a bad thing. The employees on the Christmas party committee should be somewhat representative of the employees of the company, so along with the “Yaaaaay! I adore planning elaborate parties!” people, you really do need some of the “Can’t we make this year’s party more low key?” people.

      But the other thing is, our committee just plans one event per year. Planning multiple events would be much more onerous.

      1. pomme de terre*

        Kathleen Adams, I totally agree with your second paragraph. The party planning committee is not everyone’s cup of tea, and it’s certainly not a silver bullet for morale, but having a few curmudgeons/dissidents in the mix can really, really serve the wider organization really well. If only extroverts plan events, they will probably design events that appeal only to extroverts. And the extroverts probably don’t even need the structured socializing events because they’d get that kind of contact/networking on their own.

    10. LauraG*

      We have a number of “fun” committees here, because they’ve always had a department family picnic and a department fun outing and volunteer days and people expect it I guess. The committee responsibilities rotate between work groups, but there’s always a member of the admin staff on the committee and they are the ones who do the actual booking and food ordering and whatnot, so we’re not expected to deal with that kind of planning. It’s mostly coming up with a location and a date.

      What I want them to do away with is the team competition where they invariably divide us up into random groups and expect people to compete against each other for some dubious honor. The scavenger hunt in 100 degree weather at the local state fair is remembered as a particularly grueling one.

  6. kb*

    OP 2: Is it possible the thing that came up was related to their current job? I could see myself erring on the vague side if that were the case, though “something came up” comes across as a bit cavalier. It could also be something that wouldn’t really fall under one of the generic standards (illness, family emergency, etc.) but still perfectly valid, so they didn’t know what to say without going getting into TMI.
    I could also see someone being more vague if what happened was something like childcare falling through or a car breaking down. They may not want you to think they have unreliable childcare or unreliable transportation, but utimately they may have made it worse by making it seem as if they are just a flaky person.
    As Alison said, it utlimately comes down to how promising of a candidate she is and if you can wait until next week to make your decision. I think I would reschedule to see, but I’m a benefit of the doubt-type person to a fault.

    1. Anancy*

      Agree, and I could also see myself thinking “something came up” is more professional sounding than spilling intimate details. I wonder if “An emergency came up” might read better?

      1. kb*

        Right– I can totally see it as somebody trying to keep things professional rather than personal, but missing the mark.
        I could also see a situation not meeting the threshold to be described as an emergency but still being obligatory. Do “unexpected family obligation” and “unexpected personal obligation” come across well? Or do those leave the interviewer with more questions because the phrase is unusual/vague?

        1. Dizzy Steinway*

          I definitely wouldn’t use those. They make it sound like you’re not prioritising the interview. Make it sound either professional or urgent.

          1. jordanjay29*

            I don’t know if I’d appreciate what this says about the interviewer and/or workplace that I’m about to interview for. If that was the case, I’d almost want the interviewer not to reschedule.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think the phrases are unusual, but they make it sound like there’s a non-emergency responsibility that came up that you’re prioritizing over the interview (which might be the/legit, but is probably not worth signaling). I think “family emergency” would be closer to what you’d want to convey over email (although I hear what Dan is saying re: more “specific” reasons being fundamentally vague).

          1. kb*

            I guess family emergency in my mind would be something like a hospitalization or death, so I’d feel like I’m lying if what really happened is that my child has a minor illness and needs to see a doctor in the morning or something like that. Y’all are probably right that saying it’s a family emergency would be better, but it wouldn’t be my first instinct.

            1. Newby*

              There is also the option of being more specific if you feel like you are lying. I like “family emergency” but I think “my child became unexpectedly ill” would sound better than “something came up” or “unexpected family obligation”. No one should have to reveal that (which is why “family emergency” works) but it is an option.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep, “family emergency” would be fine. But “unexpected family obligation” and “unexpected personal obligation” sound like you might be canceling to go to a cousin’s birthday party (the first) or to wait for the cable guy (the second).

            1. kb*

              That’s true, I was really hung up on the word emergency. I guess I would quibble about it more in my head than any interviewer would. That’s probably true of most things, but very good to concretely hear in this case.

            2. jordanjay29*

              I think the issue is if that the word ’emergency’ gets tossed around so much, it starts to lose its importance. There are situations that supersede an interview which aren’t true emergencies, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that. Requiring an ’emergency’ to reschedule an interview needlessly boxes in a candidate to a high stakes scenario, and that’s just not realistic.

              1. fposte*

                But most of those should be disclosable.

                If this is a situation where I as an HM have other slots within the interviewing window open, that’s one thing; often, though, this means having to reconvene a committee and delay the process for all the applicants. I’m a lot more likely to do that if I have decent information about the seriousness of the schedule clash.

              2. bridget*

                Even if it is a total lie that the thing is an “emergency,” it has, at the very minimum, the benefit of communicating the fact that the interviewee understands that only things that rise to the level of “emergency” justify cancelling/rescheduling an interview at the last minute. If an interviewee conveys that he or she thinks that waiting for the cable guy rises to that level, that’s a serious problem in terms of not understanding professional norms, one of which is that you generally schedule your personal life around work obligations unless it’s an emergency.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  This is a great explanation (and much better put than what I wrote)—thank you, bridget!

            3. AvonLady Barksdale*

              I’m starting to think that this is a situation that calls for a little white lie. I have canceled an interview before– just once– and it was because I woke up not feeling well and decided to stay home from work. I imagine that if I were ever interviewing again and “something came up”, I’d probably skip that and say I was unwell and couldn’t come in. Actually, no– personally, I’d probably use the word “emergency”. But I do think being sick is a good reason to skip an interview.

              This strikes me as kind of like the situation with the letter the other day, where the hiring manager went into a lot of detail about “romantic history” when rejecting the letter writer. I think the hiring manager overshared big time (a, “we’re looking for a different fit” or something would have sufficed). In this case, I think the interviewee UNDERshared, probably because she thought it was more professional to give fewer details.

              1. fposte*

                Yeah, it also reminds me of the OP who didn’t want to disclose she was pregnant yet but was having difficulty with food smells in the office. While I agree that you don’t want to overshare, it’s easier to get people on your side if you take them into your confidence. As a hiring manager, I’d respond better to “I’m so sorry, but I woke up terribly ill this morning” than to “Something came up.” (Though the juxtaposition there is kind of thought-provoking.)

              2. Newby*

                I don’t think it’s a lie. An emergency is defined as “a sudden, urgent, usually unexpected occurrence or occasion requiring immediate action”. That actually fits most reasons you would miss an interview. Something unexpected happens that you have to deal with immediately (hence it can’t wait until after the interview).

                1. kb*

                  I guess I was raised in a “clean the blood on the carpet before you call the ambulance” type of household, so I, before reading this advice, wouldn’t think to use the term emergency in a lot of situations. That may or may not be the situation of the OP’s candidate, but as someone who would make that mistake, I wouldn’t hold it against a candidate for doing the same.

        3. always in email jail*

          “unexpected family obligation” reads to me like “I forgot its my niece’s graduation party that day” or something. Which, as a hiring manager, I would consider a dealbreaker

          1. kb*

            Does “urgent family obligation” or “pressing family obligation” sound less like a party? I guess I don’t know anyone who would reschedule a job interview for a party, so it didn’t even cross my mind as a possibility.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago*

              To me, the word obligation implies that it’s something that was planned or foreseeable. An emergency is, by definition, unplanned and impossible to predict.

              Even if “unexpected family obligation” is “need to drive my grandma to chemo because my brother’s car broke down”, which I would think is valid, I think the optics are better if you call it an emergency.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Yeah, this was my take, as well. When you say something is urgent or pressing, it sounds like you have poor time management. When you say it’s unexpected, it leaves the door wide open to obligations that an interviewer may not view as “high priority,” which makes you look flaky. The key is to be specific enough to signal that this is not your usual practice and that something has to be “serious” for you to prioritize it over an interview, but you don’t have to be so specific that you seem like you have questionable discretion.

  7. New Bee*

    OP1, our orgs sound very similar (and our kids are about the same age, hey!). In ours, moms can bring a caregiver and get reimbursed for 50% of the cost of that person’s travel, up to $200. I think they also cover the full room cost (folks usually share rooms). The $400 sounds like a great perk and made for this situation, but I would guess they don’t cover expenses on top of that.

    I think you should figure out a few scenarios (the total cost of a caregiver going with you, if it’s possible to only attend a few days, what factors would tip the balance for/against going, etc.) and then talk to your boss through that lens. That way if you ultimately don’t end up going, you can feel like you chose not to for reasons aligned to your priorities (because choice is a luxury in these new mom days). Good luck!

      1. New Bee*

        Yes, which means we probably know some of the same people through 6 degrees of separation! Would you mind sharing what you do now in the Friday open thread? (Asking for…reasons.)

    1. OP #1*

      Someone else said they had that perk too! I never knew that was a thing. Now I want to ask around and also scour our expenses policy. I’m sure if that was a thing here I would have heard about it though.

  8. Brrrrr!*

    OP5: Depending on the position younare applying for, they may be evaluating the risk of having you in that position. Financial distress may cause an employee to engage in unlawful behavior if they are in a position to handle money (i.e stealing) and similar for someone who might have a criminal history in other positions. As someone who used to work for a background check company, I can say that an employer might want to know if someone trying to work as a pharmacy tech has a history of arrest for using/dealing drugs, etc. By asking straight up in the interview, they may be gauging how honest the applicants are about possible records that may show up on a background check. If you have no records that may show up on a background check, then this question need not make you nervous.

    That being said, I highly recommend everyone to read the summary of rights under the FCRA on the FTC website because it could provide you valuable information on your rights regarding any background checks an employer might run on you. That way if a record DOES show up, you know what you need to do to handle the situation (and employers are required to notify you if a record on your background check has caused you to be rejected from a position – these are called pre-adverse/adverse action letters and are mentioned in the summary as well).

    1. Dan*

      I’d prefer it if they just ask you about a list of things that they would consider an issue. My seat belt ticket? Speeding? Reckless driving? DUI? Don’t make me guess, then guess wrong about what concerns you, and make it look like I’m dishonest.

      My background is in air transportation, and if you want to work in the secured area of a commercial airport, there’s a list of ten offenses or so that are disqualifying. They ask you up front about those and that’s it. No games.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        I don’t see it as playing games… but then I hadn’t considered that many people would have a long list of “financial or criminal problems” from which to choose. I agree that asking about a limited number of concerns makes sense and is clear, though.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Especially since “financial or criminal problems” can mean a lot of things that have nothing to do with a disqualifying offense, or even with bad behavior by the interviewee. Someone who had to declare bankruptcy because their abusive spouse destroyed them financially, say.

          1. Brrrrr!*

            That’s why it’s a good idea to be honest if an employer asks you a question about thing like these because you can present it in a way that is can shed more light on the mitigating circumstances, rather than letting it surprise them. They may see your situation more favorably

            1. Mike C.*

              But if it has nothing to do with their business the issue is literally none of their business.

              1. Emi.*

                But if it’s going to come up on a background check, it’s in the candidate’s best interest to be candid. And there are a lot of positions for which bankruptcy would be relevant.

                1. Mike C.*

                  No, there aren’t. People claim that bankruptcy is relevant because it shows “someone is irresponsible with money and is thus a bad person” when it usually means “someone had a serious medical issue while being uninsured”.

                  I shouldn’t have to preemptively spill my guts about every last thing that could possibly show up just because the employer in question has some pretty terrible ideas about risk management.

                  Specific questions that relate directly to the job at hand are fine, open ended stuff for the sake of “risk management” are not.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  Then the employer can ask about the specific, necessary issue related to the job, instead of a vague and intrusive question that may not be.

                3. Dan*

                  And what I’m getting is that is that if a bankruptcy is relevant to your business, then ask that specific question. Do *not* ask me a vague, “any financial issues that we should know about?” question.

                4. Jadelyn*

                  Mike, bankruptcy is less important because of “irresponsibility” it supposedly shows – which, I agree with you, it doesn’t show that at all – and more because of the financial distress thing mentioned above. A company is trying to protect themselves against loss from an employee doing something shady, so they want to know who meets the big 3 criteria of pressure, rationalization, and opportunity and keep those people away from being able to do damage to the organization. Someone who’s been through bankruptcy and is financially struggling may be under financial pressure, and if you’re hiring them for a role involving opportunity to steal, all that’s missing is the rationalization, and that’s hard to suss out from an interview. It’s got nothing to do with their ability to manage their money and everything to do with the fact that, statistically speaking, someone in certain types of financial distress *is* more of a risk because that “pressure” criteria is being met.

                  I work for a financial institution and we have to conduct extensive background checks for every hire. We don’t treat a bankruptcy as a disqualifying event, mind you, and even for people with bad credit we’ll usually reach out and give them a chance to explain what really happened – so, to go with your example, if they had a medical emergency while uninsured, we’d be willing to work with them rather than declining out of hand. But I dispute the idea that it’s “terrible ideas about risk management” – it can be that, sure, but it’s not inherently a terrible idea to at least want to know what you’re getting yourself into for certain types of businesses or types of positions.

                5. Emi.*

                  I’m not saying it’s a moral thing, yeesh. If you’re in lots of debt, that is going to come up on some background checks, so it sounds to me like they’re giving you a chance to let them know ahead of time if it’s non-blameworthy medical debt. (Financial struggles can be a red flag for security clearances even if they’re not your fault, because they can make you more vulnerable to bribery. You might think that’s silly, but you can’t exactly blame it on the hiring manager.)

                  The fact that it’s so vague and open-ended makes me think they meant “Is there anything that’ll come up on the background check that you want to give us a heads-up about now?” I don’t think it’s possible to be deeply intrusive at that level of vagueness.

                6. Brrrrr!*

                  @Mike: credit reports show more than just bankruptcies. Sure bankruptcies are there but there are also liens and judgements as well as showing loans and mortgages and your credit card payment history. I believe medical debt is also listed, though it’s been years since I’ve read a credit report other than my own.

                  Often, yeah, someone may have a bankruptcy but if it shows that they are paying their current debts off regularly, like not taking months to pay their monthly credit card fee, then the employer can see that the applicant is handling their financials well and that may mitigate the risk of hiring them. It’s not just seeing a bankruptcy and then automatically disqualifying an applicant.

                  Also, there has to be a specific need by the company for the credit report, which is why I mentioned the dependence on the position being hired for.

                  Otherwise Jadelyn spells it out quite well. Employees are as much business investments as buying and selling products, and the company wants to know how much risk that investment is going to be.

          2. Not Australian*

            “financial or criminal problems” can mean a lot of things that have nothing to do with a disqualifying offense

            The expression is also vague enough for it to mean one thing to the person asking and something entirely different to the askee; I’m with those people who think the question(s) should be a lot more specific.

          3. Lablizard*

            “Financial problems” is especial vague and might to someone up for a second. After all, if you have student loans or a mortgage and are unemployed, that is a “financial problem”, albeit not the one they are interested in

        2. kb*

          I don’t see it as playing games, but it is a question that’s difficult to answer appropriately when you aren’t aware of the intent of the question. I could see someone going into a lot of detail about a relatively minor charge that the particular employer really wouldn’t care much about (a minor in possession of alcohol charge from 8 years ago) or not thinking something is relevant that the employer would actually care for more details on (a history of bankruptcy).
          It’s a really common question, but there are better ways to ask that yield more pertinent info.

        3. Dan*

          I consider it games (more specifically, guessing games) if the questions are vague. “Any financial problems we need to know about?” I donno, what do you need to know about? My maxed out credit card? My collection item that is 6 years and 6 months old (which fall off in six months)? My five recent collection items? My bk? Tell me what you need to know about, and I’ll tell you if I have it. If it can’t be articulated, then it probably doesn’t matter.

          1. caryatis*

            I would definitely disclose anything in collection, because without an explanation, that looks really bad. Don’t know what a “bk” is.

            1. Dan*

              FWIW, paying off collection items doesn’t actually make them disappear. Does the employer need to know about my $20 blockbuster account that went to collection 6 years ago, but I paid later? It’s still there for another year.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I don’t think it’s playing games, but Dan is right that the question is a bit vague and open-ended (I need a confusing way, not a helpful/conversational way).

      2. Brrrrr!*

        With your example, it sounds like there is a lot of regulation to set up the secured access, which I think helps with knowing what is or isn’t a disqualifying offense, and in my general experience a lot of companies just don’t have that kind of regulation for their hiring processes. A few did, though, since they did a lot of hiring for cashiers – the financial example I mentioned above was a sort of reference to them – and they had a pretty streamlined process from weeding out people who were disqualified.

        Then again, a lot of applicants don’t really know about their own records either. One applicant once didn’t even know there was an active warrant out for his arrest until the company he applied to ran a background check on him and we found it.

        1. Dan*

          I once had my address forwarding request get screwed up, and never got my forwarded mail… including my last bills from the cable, phone, and cell companies. Stupid me never really put 2 and 2 together, I just figured it was my lucky day when the bills didn’t come.

          It wasn’t my lucky day when I applied for a job that required I submit a copy of my credit report with my application. It was the first time I ever looked at my credit report, and hot damn, there were three collection items on there.

          Separately, and I don’t mean to bring too much politics into this, but apparently one of the things that got Gorsuch some extra attention was a case he presided over where someone was convicted of being a felon in possession of a fire arm. The person’s defense was, “I didn’t know I was a convicted felon.” I was like, WTF? But it turns out the kid had taken a plea deal on that prior charge, and thought he was pleading to a misdemeanor. Oddly, the issue at hand was whether or not the kid was entitled to a retrial, not whether he’d walk free if he won. “Winning” just meant a retrial.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            When trial courts make errors in criminal cases like the one you mentioned, retrial is usually the remedy. It’s very rare to have a conviction/sentence vacated for trial court errors.

            1. JessaB*

              Yeh it needs to be particularly bad for the appeal to result in overturning/vacating the sentence – like proof a critical witness outright lied, or the prosecution was so incredibly guilty of withholding exculpatory evidence from the defence that it was obvious it should never have gotten to the trial at all. But usually all it does is get tossed back and then the prospective defendant gets to sit around wondering if the prosecution is going to bother to re-try or not.

        2. KellyK*

          A friend of mine found out that there was a warrant out for her arrest because someone saw it in the paper and gave her a heads up so she could go turn herself in. The kicker is that this was for an *unpaid library fine* and that she hadn’t actually gotten the notices about it. (I’m not sure if the library neglected to send anything or if they had an incorrect address.)

          1. JessaB*

            I once found out that my drivers licence was suspended by getting a letter telling me the suspension had been vacated upon further review. I had lived in the same place since before the accident in question, the accident had directly involved a police car, and the suspension was supposedly for failure to report. I am just glad I never got stopped for a traffic violation during those few months.

            Oh and silly anecdata I am probably the only person you know who directly t-boned a parked police car and the cops were in the wrong. It all had to do with two prior accidents on the bottom of an icy hill and when I hit the same known-to-them piece of icy road, and spun out and hit the parked cop car, I looked at the cop and said “two prior accidents why wasn’t someone at the top of the hill to warn off traffic? Why didn’t you have it sanded/salted yet?” The cop facepalmed and groaned. And the city paid to fix my car.

            But yeh it’s entirely possible to have something on your record and have no idea that it’s there. Or a misunderstanding of what and why it’s there.

        3. anon for this*

          My bf’s company once figured out during an all-day interview that the federal marshals were looking for their candidate for various financial malfeasance. Someone walked in and whispered in the company president’s ear to keep the guy talking. The marshals and local police showed up about an hour later.

          1. starsaphire*

            I can’t even imagine how I would react to this scenario! It would seriously throw me off my game.

            *thinking, ‘Keep him talking, keep him talking!’*

            “So, uh… got any pets?”

            1. anon for this*

              The president’s amazing at bull**** – he was disconcerted but it wasn’t difficult. Plus the candidate was happy to talk about himself.

              Apparently the look on the president’s face when the cops showed up was priceless.

      3. always in email jail*

        I don’t think it’s games. I work in state government and, until a recent policy change went into effect, asking interviewees if they had disclosed any convictions on their application and informing them that they would likely undergo a credit check were par for the course. I did try to apply some context, though. “Please double check your application to ensure you’ve included any convictions. I like to ask this in the interview because it does include moving traffic violations, which some people don’t realize. I promise we won’t judge you for a speeding ticket! But the investigation will bounce back if you have not disclosed something”

          1. caryatis*

            They’re typically worried about financial crimes, failure to file tax returns, and delinquent debt (including any charged-off credit cards, collections, garnishments and judgments).

            1. Mike C.*

              Then they should ask about convictions related to financial crimes and then list several examples. I can’t read someone’s mind here.

              1. Natalie*

                Yeah, there’s really no advantage to being so vague. You’re going to be seeing the criminal records anyway, so you don’t need to try and wheedle information out of people. And being super vague is going to catch people who either have actual convictions that are so old or irrelevant that you won’t care, or are charmingly innocent enough to think their underage alcohol consumption ticket from college is going to be a problem.

          2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            Eh, I’d guess if you are up for a job where your credit report/financial history actually matters you’d know what they meant. Or as the CEO for the first bank I worked for put it, “if we wouldn’t approve you for a loan, then you don’t have good enough credit to work with other people’s money”. I’m sure that’s not universal, but it’s a decent rule of thumb. Oh, and before anyone jumps all over it, we did have people that had no credit. The bigger point is that most people don’t want to come in and hand over their money to someone that has issues managing their own.

            1. Natalie*

              I don’t know if that’s true at all. In fact, in the industries and fields where you are most likely to have entry level or otherwise less sophisticated workers is where you see a lot of variation in what they look for and how far back they look.

              1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

                I guess I’m not familiar enough with fields outside of finance to know who else might want to pull a credit report. None of my friends/family have ever mentioned having one pulled. I know several had criminal background checks, but outside of finance, I don’t know what fields pull credit. I will agree that I have no idea why they’d want to if the position doesn’t have access to large amounts of money.

                1. Mike C.*

                  Lots of places pull acredit report on the mistaken belief that not paying bills or otherwise not having a good credit score means you’re an immoral person that chooses not to pay your bills.

                  If you don’t believe me, check out a long Facebook/newspaper comment thread linked back to a news story about debt relief. It will be filled with outraged people who are seething at the mere thought that someone “chose” not to pay their bills and how it’s a strike against their personal integrity and honor and it goes downhill from there. I know it sounds extreme but some of these folks are employers and such practices don’t help the businesses and end up having external consequences.

                2. Natalie*

                  I think credit checks might be becoming less popular outside of relevant fields, since they got a lot of bad press for being unnecessary and the recession means more and more people will have some negative items. But that’s just gut feeling, I have no actual evidence.

                  In my experience, unnecessary pre-employment screenings (criminal, those weird “personality tests”, drug testing) are more common in fields where the employees have substantially less negotiating power – retail, food service, warehouse, unskilled and semi-skilled labor. Which isn’t to say they’re universal in those fields; as labor markets tighten, employers often have to abandon them.

                3. Brrrrr!*

                  @Natalie, if you want to discuss unnecessary background checks, we can always discuss For Profit schools. Because a lot of them “guarantee” a job after graduation to lure students in, they will do an initial pre-screen for students who have records that might bar them from, say, getting a nursing license after graduating in order to avoid being sued by students who fail an employer’s or regulatory body’s background check.

                  There is also the fact that employers are often judged by the actions of employees. I’ve seen a case where an employee has a record and is hired anyway, and then does something illegal outside of work and the employer gets blamed for something out of their control. Also, often on the flip side, a lot of employees who might engage in violence in or out the work place don’t have previous records.

                4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  Unfortunately, there was a trend toward more and more employers requiring credit checks for jobs that truly have no rational relationship to the check (and where performance is in no way impacted by your credit status). Think run of the mill jobs like “cashier at Walmart” or “customer service associate with no access to the till” at retail clothing store. And many government employees have credit screens, even if their financial information would have no bearing/influence on their ability to do their job without the risk of corruption. There’s since been some pushback in some states, but unfortunately, there are many non-financial jobs that still require this kind of information.

                  I agree with you that for certain financial jobs, people understand what’s being asked. But I have friends who are attorneys for the government, and even they have no idea what’s being asked by “financial problems” or a credit check review. If they’re surprised or confused as highly-educated professionals, I can only imagine how much more confusing this can be for blue-collar or service workers.

            2. Mike C.*

              Those standards don’t make any sense. Having cancer while being uninsured (and thus not being able to qualify for a loan) has nothing to do with my ability to manage or oversee the money of my employer or their customers.

              It’s an incredibly dumb thing for an employer to say. It’s even worse when you consider the fact that going from unemployed to employed is the best way to recover from those very financial issues to begin with.

            3. Dan*

              Not necessary. States have had to pass laws prohibiting employers from asking about these things when they’re not relevant to the business need or the need of the position. Not all states have passed those laws, so it’s not obvious just because the question is asked that there is a business need for asking it.

            4. Jadelyn*

              That’s…a really dumb criteria to use. Does struggling to rebuild credit make someone incapable of counting out a cash drawer accurately or something, and I just never knew?

              Yes, there’s the financial distress as pressure thing that was being discussed above, but the idea that someone’s overall credit score, which may or may not indicate current distress considering how long it takes to rebuild after something wrecks your credit, makes them “not good enough” to work with other people’s money is ludicrous.

              Hell, we actually hired someone who had had $10k charged-off with us years ago because she fell into financial distress during the recession (where you default on a loan and collections can’t get anything out of you, so eventually the bank declares it a loss or “charged off” the books). She had to sign a special agreement to pay back the old loan and keep all new accounts current and paid or lose her job, but we hired her anyway.

              1. Brrrrr!*

                I was under the impression that companies are not allowed to view an applicant’s credit score because of percieved bias for this very reason.

                1. Natalie*

                  There’s no law explicitly forbidding it, it’s just not a very useful number to an employer. Someone could have a low credit score because they don’t use credit much, or have 1 small credit line so their utilization is often high, or any number of reasons. The number doesn’t tell you anything, really.

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  There are some states that restrict or limit an employer’s ability to run a credit check or pull a credit score, but there’s no national ban on this practice. That said, it’s a horrible practice that’s often unrelated or unnecessary from a business perspective, and that tends to reinforce discrimination while providing very little relevant or useful information about the applicant.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Yeah, this is not a wise metric. It’s also problematic because your credit score, at least when you’re young, is partially derived from your parents’ credit. As a result, applicants of color, low income applicants, and applicants who have suffered a financial crisis (usually because of medical debt) are disproportionately harmed by these policies. At the same time, the credit score/check has no bearing on a person’s personal responsibility, capacity, or qualifications for a job. It’s frankly a lazy and inaccurate tool in most industries.

            5. Anon for this*

              That’s really horrible. I have zero issues re:knowing how to manage money, but I have a very expensive medical history, and a resulting very long period of unemployment combined with college loans that could no longer be deferred. My choices were stop paying down the loans or be homeless. I chose not to be homeless.

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          If they’re going to run a background or criminal check anyway, why do you need to ask the candidate beforehand?

          1. Anna*

            Because for some positions, it won’t necessarily disqualify them and for other positions it’s a test for honesty. Not disclosing could cost you the job. Plus background checks can be expensive and if someone tells you right up front about something that would disqualify them, you can eliminate them from the pool before you spend that money.

            However, especially for criminal checks, there’s no need to know anything about it if it has no bearing on the work the candidate would do. Hence Ban the Box.

            1. Brrrrr!*

              Yes, they can be very expensive! On a few rare occasions I’ve seen them $1000+, so you better be sure your applicant is going to make the cut. Most are not that expensive, though.

      4. caryatis*

        You want them to name every possible criminal conviction or financial problem? Because in most companies, it’s not just ten offenses that would be a concern. This question is actually a gift to the employee who has such problems, and who ought to seize the chance to explain (because everyone thinks they have a good explanation).

        1. neverjaunty*

          Having an employer ask irrelevant, intrusive and vague questions is not a “gift”.

        2. Observer*

          They don’t need to list every possible crime in detail, but they do need to be more specific. Instead of “criminal or financial problems” which is ridiculously vague, something like “bankruptcies or any convictions relating to financial matters, such as outstanding judgements, fraud etc.”

          1. KellyK*

            Exactly! “Financial problems” can be anything from a bankruptcy to a missed payment to just being broke. It’s way too vague to be useful. Not putting it in the context of actual job requirements also makes it inappropriately personal. It’s one thing to say, “Official policy prohibits us from hiring people with serious financial difficulties, because there are opportunities for theft,” or “We need you to be able to drive the company car, and our insurance requires a clean driving record.” It’s another to just ask about “financial problems” without tying it to any reason that it’s any of your business.

            1. Dan*

              Even with phrasing such as, “Serious financial difficulties”, that question needs to be more specific. Because, what is serious? What are you going to ding me for for not disclosing?

          2. Mike C.*

            I’m not sure why bankruptcies are lumped in with convictions in criminal matters. People keep doing this, but there are very good historical reasons why we don’t make bankruptcy a crime.

            1. Observer*

              I’m not saying that they should be on the same list. I’m just making the point that you can be reasonably specific and cover your bases (regardless of whether they are good bases) without needing to worry about dozens of possible scenarios.

    2. Dizzy Steinway*

      Over here (UK) we have strict rules around asking about convictions (how, what and when you ask) and it’s not the done thing to ask someone in an actual interview to try and guess at how honest they might seem. I don’t know if that would be legal or not, but you’d be on thin ice. Concerns about vulnerability to bribery belong in a separate conversation* in my view. And disqualifying offences belong in the application e.g. if you apply for the police here you have to complete a form declaring that you don’t meet various disqualifying criteria.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes. I once applied for a job which involved positive vetting. So on the application form there were a lot oquestions I had to asnwer about whether I, or any of my immediate family, had ever been involved with, or supportive of terrorist organisations and so on, but there was then a separate section you have to fill out to say whether you had any criminal convictions and *that* had to be placed in a separate, sealed envelope, as it was confidential! (The post was one which allwed them to ask even for spent convictions)

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree. I find the American practice of pulling conviction information to be abhorrent and unhelpful for most industries and in most cases.

    3. Mike C.*

      Sorry, but the whole “financial stress” thing is absolute garbage. For the vast majority of situations, it just punishes people for medical bankruptcies. That’s cruel, unethical and discriminates against people for non-businesses reasons. There’s a huge line between having debt and having a criminal record.

      You know what solves a ton of financial issues? A steady paycheck.

      1. JustaTech*

        And it’s not like a credit check is going to get information on dangerous debt, like having gambling debts with the mob. Or debts to the spy agency of an unfriendly foreign country. Like, *those* debts are problematic.

        Your student loans, care payment and mortgage? Those are things that would make me think “normal person”.

      2. Anon for this*

        Yep. I graduated with a degree in finance, then had a massive medical emergency, and as a result, had to make the choice whether to keep making college loan payments or become homeless. I chose to not become homeless. Guess what field I’ll never work in again. Makes me feel real good about those college loans.

  9. Gaia*

    When I do a first interview (post phone screen) with folks I get to ask this super fun question

    “Do you have any moral or ethical objections to [super controversial method of scientific research]?” If the answer is yes or their body language indicates the answer is probably yes it is a quick ‘thank you for your time. I’m sorry this won’t be a good match’ and show them out.

    For the roles I hire, the candidates would have no way of knowing we are at all involved in this area of scientific research (if they have the background to understand our connection, we’d have funneled them to a different area of the company) and it is so controversial that we don’t employ folks that openly object to it – they wouldn’t be able to be effective.

    It may be a similar thing – criminal and financial issues would make you incompatible with the job so they are asking now instead of going through a whole process only to find out there is this particular issue that cannot be resolved.

    1. Dan*

      I’d ask why you get that far in the process to ask the question, but I assume you need to see the body language? Have you had a lot of instances where people tell you it’s fine, but they’re lying because they need a job and then bomb on it? Seems to me that the in-person interview is pretty late to disclose what is more than just a potential deal breaker.

      1. Gen*

        I used to work at a place where the recruiters/HR for the service provider would very firmly coach people to lie about their moral opinion on certain topics “whatever you actually think about X you MUST say you’re 100% against it and it’s abhorrent or you won’t get the job and we lose money, it’s ridiculous but you must do it”. Most of the people interviewing for these jobs had no previous experience in the industry and would often get surprised once they were on the job about how vehement they were expected to be to toe the orgs line, and it resulted in a massive turn over rate because the people getting the job really weren’t prepared for what it entailed. I could easily see it going the other way and people trying to lie about something they suspected would actually upset them

        1. amy*

          That’s insane. And I would not trust any of those people. If you’ll sell yourself out for that, you’ll do it for anything. Also, it doesn’t matter what the industry is: if people are telling you that you have to lie to get the job, of course they’re going to abuse you once you’re in.

          I once got a job, a nice one, because out of 50 candidates I was the only one who said I’d be honest in a given situation. The VP doing the hiring was beside himself, totally appalled by all these bright young people ready to lie at the drop of a hat. Even when in fact lying was absolutely the wrong thing to do and would have invited lawsuits.

          1. Gen*

            Yeah this was in itself an awful job, not just the pay and the way management treated people, but the day-to-day work was harrowing (similar to listening to graphic descriptions of medical procedures or violent crime), so the only people there either felt passionately about the mission or were desperate for any kind of job. I didn’t lie and still got the job, though I know some people who started with me did because they mentioned it later (unsurprisingly this were also the people who also made up illnesses to go on unapproved holidays and falsified metrics, so you’d be right about not trusting them). Most people were gone again in a few months and very few lasted a whole year. It was a mess.

      2. Mr McGregor's Gardener*

        [super controversial method of scientific research] might be so controversial that the fact the job involves it isn’t spelt out in the job advert, least the company/institute attracts unwanted attention.

        1. Gaia*

          Yup. This is why our building has no sign. We don’t do first rounds on site and why we ask this specific question. We don’t ‘hide’ what we do, we just don’t scream it from the rooftops because while most people actively want the results we get there are many that object to the manner in which they are achieved.

      3. Gaia*

        That is correct, it is the body language we want to see. We’ve had people say it was fine when it clearly wasn’t which is why we stick with asking in person.

        For our process, the first in person interview is relatively early in the process. We don’t meet onsite and it usually lasts less than half an hour. It is closer to an in person phone screen than anything else. I was truly skeptical about how we could do this better but we’ve found over the last 20 years this works really well.

    2. Mookie*

      It may be a similar thing – criminal and financial issues would make you incompatible with the job so they are asking now instead of going through a whole process only to find out there is this particular issue that cannot be resolved.

      That certainly may be the case, but, as you imply, employers are not always or automatically entitled to that information simply by virtue of asking and such a line of inquiry is not always inherently relevant to the position on offer and its core duties. Depending on the country — and in the US, the state — background screening has limitations and prohibitions.

    3. always in email jail*

      We do the same thing in our “administrative questions” at the end of our interview. “This organization provides XX services to the community, including XX and XX. Are you comfortable working for an organization that provides these services, and possible promoting these services at community events?”

      For example, if you work at a public health department and will be attending events promoting flu shots, but you’re against vaccinations, it may not be a good fit (unless you’re comfortable promoting them regardless)

    4. Observer*

      “Criminal or financial issues” is such a broad term, that it’s meaningless really. And it’s hard to see any role where something SOOO broad really would make someone “incompatible with the role”. I’ll admit that if you are talking Cabinet level appointments, that would be different, but we’re talking about a recent grad!

  10. Gaia*

    Also on #5 at my first interview as an adult, I was asked if I had any “convictions” that would keep me from meeting the job requirements. For some reason I convinced myself they mean like…moral convictions as in things I was opposed to as opposed to criminal convictions.

    I talked about my convictions for like 5 minutes. Just a litany of things I found morally offensive or wrong in the world and things I wouldn’t want to be exposed to at work. The interviewer just said “…….I see.”

    I did not get that job.

      1. amy*

        Why oh no? It sounds like a very good thing that she didn’t get the job. It was apparently a cesspool.

        Don’t be so desperate for jobs. There are more of them out there, usually.

        1. Dizzy Steinway*

          Uh, I don’t think they turned her down because they did all the things she mentioned.

        2. Gaia*

          Yea they turned me down because I’m pretty sure they thought I was just a bit dim witted. They were actually a really good company. I have several friends that work there now and they all affirm I’d have no issue with all my ‘convictions.’

        3. Lissa*

          Wait, what? Sorry, I think I’m missing something, but what about them asking about convictions and Gaia misunderstanding it to moral convictions makes it a cesspool? The fact that they didn’t hire her?

    1. kb*

      An employer asked me a really similar question to OP 5’s about foreseeing any financial issues that would prevent me from working. I thought they meant financial issues in general, like in the world, so I expressed my qualms with the state of various markets and how they could affect the workplace I was interviewing at. I also went deep on some legislation that was pending at the time. I don’t know why they didn’t stop me before I got to theorizing how the next Great Depression would come about. Really bummed out the vibe of the interview.

      1. Dan*

        Were they clear on what financial issues might actually prevent you from working? If you ask me, questions that vague are pretty dumb, because those kinds of things only prevent you from working if there are regulatory issues or other reasons particular things are an issue. If they don’t tell you, how would you know?

        1. kb*

          Looking back, being asked in the context of an interview gave it away. I also could have asked for clarification.
          I agree that the question is not very precise, but my response was silly in the context of the job I was applying for (part-time college gig that had nothing to do with financial projections).

          1. Lablizard*

            At least it makes a funny story. At my first American job they asked me if I had any “issues with Immigration”, capital “I” as in the agency. I didn’t catch that, so started talking about the things I still didn’t understand about the US, despite having one parent who was a citizen and watching a lot of American TV as a kid. The interviewer got a bit of an earful

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I interviewed for a part-time job while in college and was asked if I’d have any problems getting to work as scheduled. I said no, I had a reliable car, and I lived within walking distance, so there wouldn’t be any problems getting there. Turned out they meant would I actually show up as scheduled, and not keep calling out every time I needed to study, as my predecessor did. I did get the job, so maybe they liked both answers. ;-)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Honestly, if they didn’t say “criminal convictions,” I would have taken it the same way you did.

    3. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Well Gaia, technically you were correct! They could have been much clearer and asked about “any criminal convictions”. Asking if you have moral objections is certainly within the realm of possibility, as you brought up earlier with respect to controversial scientific research!

    4. Not A Morning Person*

      That’s awesome! Thank you for the laugh!
      It reminds me of the time I was a witness in a drunk driving and accident case. The defense attorney asked me if I’d had anything to drink that day and I said, “Yes.” He perked up and asked me what I’d been drinking and I replied, “I had milk and orange juice at breakfast and a Dr. Pepper at lunch.” Almost everyone in the courtroom laughed.

  11. Blossom*

    #1 – I took the question to be whether this expense could be paid from the $400 allowance (Alison just mentions it as an afterthought).

    1. always in email jail*

      I think the OP will have the greatest chance of success if they frame their “ask” this way.

    2. OP #1*

      Looking into this. I think there are rules about the caretaker being licensed or something. But I haven’t used it yet and the HR year ends in June.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh! Ha. Fixed. Although I like the idea of “to ski pit” being some new slang about how to handle expenses.

      (For people who didn’t see it, I’d originally written this in the answer to #1: “but in this case they may just tell you that it’s fine to ski pit.”)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OMG can we make this a thing?

        “How do I allocate or write off all my unreimbursed expenses?”
        “Just put it in the ski pit.”

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        OMG, me too. I had the same reaction as Gaia, as well. I was like, “is this a specific phrase that means something to people who live where there’s snow?” Wow, I feel silly. :)

    2. Gaia*

      Ha! I thought this was just some phrase I didn’t know. Like “oh that doesn’t work for you – no worry, just ski pit”

  12. Dizzy Steinway*

    I think I would actually quit my job if someone tried to force me to be on a fun committee. And I love my job. But I would resent it that much, because I would just find it really stressful.

    However, I do wonder if being on the committee would give someone any clout to try to change the interpretation of ‘fun events’ into something people actually want? I guess it would depend how the rest of the committee felt. But I think I’d want to just run far, far away.

    1. Jeanne*

      I think I’d come up with fun events that were really inappropriate. You know those signs about how many days since an accident? I’d propose one of how many days since a manager lied. Or I would propose actually fun things like leaving early on Fridays or half days on rainy days so you could sleep in.

      1. Judy*

        I actually did have a job that the “Employee Engagement Committee” got a “summer hours program” program for exempt employees that stated if you had your 40 hours in by lunch on Friday, you were free to leave if your didn’t have any pressing commitments. Of course, it was only June through August, but it happened for several years until I left.

      2. Troutwaxer*

        “…many days since a manager lied.” I actually work for a really good company, but that’s funny, and so true (for some of us!)

        But the permutations are endless: We think it would be fun to fire Fergus and demote Jane. We think it would be fun to go on strike over wage and hour issues. We think it would be fun to be paid on time and receive as much pay as our peers in other companies… I can laugh because I’m not in any of those situations.

      1. Havarti*

        I handle booking the venues but I detest coming up with the activities. However, our committee is made up of a group of older women whose children are all grown up and some of them, I swear, live for these things. They get positively giddy sometimes.

    2. Purest Green*

      I told my current manager that I would have to resign if I were ever required to be involved in party planning, because that kind of thing gives me serious anxiety. (Required party planning never came up in the interview and is in no way related to my role nor the roles of my colleagues.)

    3. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

      Yup, I’m on the FC at work…somehow I’m actually leading the FC. Not sure what happened there. In any case, yes, we did a survey to see what type of events would garner attendance, since I get a budget every month to use (but don’t have to do events every month). So, I veer toward the “what people want AND easy to accomplish” type things. I do NOT want to become event planner extraordinaire, and I don’t have time to be one! Lots of birthday cake celebrations, we had a virtual meme contest (that was hilarious!), and may buy a few puzzles to put in an empty cube for people to work on and take a little break from their day.

    4. pomme de terre*

      Forcing people to be on the fun committee is ideally done for this exact reason: you get a different POV on fun!

    5. No more nonesense*

      I got volentold onto one of these once. I suggested a silent reading activity (loved those in elementary school).

      I have not been volentold onto a fun committee since.

      1. pomme de terre*

        As someone whose job sometimes overlaps with fun committee (internal communications), I am totally torn on whether or not I’d recommend silent reading. I personally enjoy it but it’s not very interactive. Maybe if everyone was reading the same thing, like a book club, or if everyone got together to listen to an audiobook excerpt or a TED talk?

  13. Obelia*

    I hope Fergus the baby and Wakeen the baby make an appearance in AAM at some point (if they haven’t already) :)

      1. Venus Supreme*

        I imagined a 7 month old in a taupe pencil skirt and blazer with baby loafers, a pacifier, and baby hair pulled into a tiny ponytail.

  14. Joe X*

    #4: It’s an internal position so her current manager should be aware of it, and should be able to coordinate it with the new manager.

      1. Dankar*

        I just wanted to say that I really appreciate that you leave the original answer as-is and add an update when things like this happen or when we receive more context for the OP’s question in the comments. I love that we can see how you would respond to the original situation (in this case, if it were an external job) and the “correct” response for the OP once it’s updated.

    1. Chocolate lover*

      That’s not automatically true. I work at a university and the only time you’re required to tell your current manager you’re applying to another position inside the university is if you’ve been in your current position less than a year.

      1. doreen*

        Yes, but just because you aren’t required to tell your current manager doesn’t mean they won’t be aware. For example, in my case, I don’t have to tell my manager-as long as I use some kind of leave for the interview. ( I don’t normally have to use leave for the interview, but that would involve explaining that I am interviewing) . There isn’t the sort of confidentiality you might find expect with external job searches, so it is very likely that the hiring manager has called the current manager for a reference before making an offer. And once I accept an offer, current and new manager have to coordinate dates, and depending on the specifics , it’s very possible that I will end up completing that travel before transitioning to the new position

        1. chocolate lover*

          I know it happens, but it’s not necessarily a given. My former manager did not know when I applied to another job on campus. I asked for (and was given) confidentiality, I went to the interview during my own lunch time, and for a reference they used one of my senior colleagues who had overseen some of my work and was a de facto manager even if not officially (I had told her I was interviewing.) My official manager didn’t know until I gave notice, after I had the official offer. Which I’m grateful for, because she would not have responded well at all. She took people leaving very personally.

          I wonder if size of organization also plays into it? My 2 units are connected, but don’t work directly together on a daily basis, in a fairly large university. I wonder if it would be different if there were a closer relationship between the groups. My old office also hired people from other units on campus, without ever contacting the staff member’s current manager. They used other people for references.

    2. *TMA (OP#4 for today)*

      This is the case. My manager knows because policy says he has to be made aware before I can even interview. But the travel is from a project manager, who doesn’t know. I’ve tried to keep it as quiet as possible, and I’ve just been acting like I’m staying at this job.

      BUT I did send an email yesterday to the hiring manager, I just couldn’t wait even though Alison got to my question very quickly. It basically said what Alison said. The hiring manager contacted me this morning, and officially offered me the job! YAY!

      If I didn’t have this upcoming travel looming, I would have just been patient and waited because I know these things take time. But I really didn’t want to waste my current department’s money for trip that really won’t be useful for me to go on.

  15. 30ish*

    For LW1, I would suggest to frame it as “would the company pay for part of the cost of a caregiver for the baby traveling with me”. That way it’s clear what the goal is here (your being able to take the baby with you and have someone care for them while you’re attending the training). It’s perfectly legitimate IMO. It’s not about the husband being able to go with you, it’s about the baby being taken care of.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      No! Enjoyment is mandatory! The mandatory fun will continue until morale improves!

      1. JustaTech*

        I should totally have us play Weird Al’s “Mandatory Fun” at our free lunch party this week. “If you want free lunch there will be “Mandatory Fun!”

  16. Suni*

    Hey alls,

    I’m the OP #5. Thanks for all your responses, Alison and readers! After reading through them, and in hindsight as well, the question makes sense. A background check will be part of the interview process and the position would require working with youths and families so that might be a factor.

    I think what just stumped me was how the question was phrased as if I could forsee any future problems, not past. Being someone who currently doesn’t have any financial or criminal problems, it didn’t occur to me that this could be a way for you to explain any conflicts you may have had, or are having. In my head I was just thinking “Why would I be planning to have any of these problems? Is that something people normally plan out ahead?”

    Thanks again!

    1. Mookie*

      In my head I was just thinking “Why would I be planning to have any of these problems? Is that something people normally plan out ahead?”

      Bit of a puzzler, too, because the best criminals plan accordingly, including not getting caught (and definitely not disclosing their plans to employers).

      1. Another*

        Right, I get that they wouldn’t want to hire a potential child molester or something for a job like that, but I highly doubt someone like that would disclose their plans in advance. But maybe the interviewers feel they haven’t been thorough in their questioning and may be subject to some sort of liability unless they ask about future criminal plans? It’s still weird.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          “I’m not a child molester yet but I’m right on the verge. Is that an issue?”

        2. TL -*

          I think it’s more probing for any pending cases – if you’re currently in trial but haven’t been convicted or in the process of declaring bankruptcy.

      2. fposte*

        My guess is that they really meant it about the financial question (basically, are you heading into bankruptcy, divorce, etc.) and lumped them both together. But it sounds like the question was a pretty blunt instrument.

        1. Elsajeni*

          I think it’s more just poor phrasing — they were trying to say “If we run a background check, do you foresee anything coming up on it that would prevent us offering you the job?”, but the way they phrased it made it sound like it’s the problems, not the them-finding-out-about-the-problems, that might be in the future. Either way, though: yes, laughing is a pretty normal reaction, and I think most interviewers would probably recognize it as the response of someone who wasn’t expecting the question, not find it suspicious.

    2. RVA Cat*

      Anyone else wondering if this is the employer of the guy a few weeks back who had to quit because of the surprise, mandatory drug test for marijuana?

  17. Kate*

    Re #1 – I am in a somewhat family unfriendly environment (academia) but with a supportive director. When I had to travel internationally at 5 months but was still exclusively breastfeeding, I brought my mom. We used miles for my mom’s ticket and my employer covered the infant supplement on my ticket (you pay an additional 10% of ticket price for bringing a lap child on an international flight). Mom and baby stayed in my room at no extra charge. I know this is not directly comparable since it sounds like this is a domestic trip, but agree with Alison that I would see if you can use some of the $400 childcare reimbursement for this (that’s a great perk, by the way!!)

  18. amy*

    I am sick to death of stupid American attitudes about babies and work. This is the only place on earth where people behave like this, and the only place where otherwise intelligent people look at the situation and insist, on the basis of no mathematical thought, that nothing can be done about this: that if you have a baby and insist on the reality of its existence, this is your fault and your problem, and that you’ll just have to suck it up.

    I see no reason to tolerate this ignorance or to behave as though it’s reasonable.

    Lady with baby: It is possible that your boss doesn’t know what a 7-month-old is. Tell your boss that you cannot travel without the baby, and that you cannot travel with the baby unless you can be reimbursed for a caregiver’s costs. Suggest that perhaps now is not a brilliant time for travel, and that perhaps you can participate in another way. (Trust me, if you had a health condition that prevented travel, your boss would manage to deal.) If the boss responds like a particularly ungracious teenager and asks whether this is going to happen every time you have a baby (as though it’ll probably happen a dozen more times), say, “I would certainly hope so. Tiny babies need a lot of care.” But there’s a good chance that your boss will turn out to be human and not respond that way.

    Go tell your boss what you need for your baby, and don’t bargain your way out of it before you even get to hello.

    1. Dizzy Steinway*

      But if you read the letter, OP doesn’t have to go to the conference. She would, however, actively like to go.

    2. Liane*

      Wow! Granted the USA is way behind other countries on this, but the OP describes her company as being very family friendly. They are trying to get or stay on the Top 100 List for that. It’s not like she wrote her company gave plaques to employees who didn’t use the childcare credit the previous fiscal year.

    3. Temperance*

      Okay, I get that you hate how things run here, but she wants to go. She doesn’t have to go.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The thing that gets me about your attitude is that I can guarantee you would not be saying the same thing if the LW was a male. Yes, babies require a lot of care, but this one has two parents that are able to care for it.

      If LW is breastfeeding, then yes, I think it makes perfect sense for her to ask her employer to help cover the cost of bringing her baby along because, as discussed in a thread above, the logistics of pumping for that long are incredibly difficult.

      1. AthenaC*

        But how will we amuse ourselves if we can’t make broad, sweeping statements full of indignation and moral convictions? (As opposed to criminal convictions)

    5. Rat in the Sugar*

      Alison has asked non-US commenters to not disparage our entire country in the past. We can’t change the conditions here, and it makes a lot of us feel pretty crappy when you talk about the States like that.

      On topic, it’s not a good idea for OP to flatly say that she must travel with the baby, and must be reimbursed for childcare costs. Regardless of your feelings towards it, that simply isn’t going to be considered reasonable or normal at most US companies. Also, I don’t think it’s good for the OP to walk into the conversation assuming that her boss will be adversarial or act like an ungracious teenager; it’s not a good frame of mind and also isn’t likely to happen when she stated in her letter that her company is very family-friendly. I think she will get a good response out of asking to apply the $400.00 allowance to these circumstances, without gearing up for a fight with her boss.

      1. Troutwaxer*

        We can change the conditions here. We simply choose not to.

        If enough Americans wanted change we could all join or local Democratic/Republican committees and primary anyone who votes against employee-friendly policies. Ten years of serious political engagement by even one percent of the American people would be a complete game-changer.

      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Is it just non-US commenters? Because I’m in the U.S. and I’d offer the same criticism. (Seriously, I’d like a ruling on this.)

        Amy obviously missed the (critical) line that the OP actively wants to take this trip, and that her employer isn’t requiring her to do so, so her comment is off-base. But the underlying criticism? Legit, and it’s the fundamental cause a lot of questions like this one.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In the past when it’s come up, it’s been non-U.S. commenters, although I think Amy is in the U.S. (based on her wording). What I’ve asked in the past is that people lay off the general U.S. bashing because, while there are legitimate issues with employment practices here, as there are in every country, it’s not a useful or constructive contribution to the discussion, and it’s pretty exhausting to hear as frequently as has sometimes happened here.

    6. Case of the Mondays*

      I don’t want my employer assuming what I am willing to do and won’t do with a baby. I’m hoping to have a kid and I intend for my husband to be a 100% equal parent. I wouldn’t want to be passed up for travel because my boss thinks I should be home with my baby. If I want to leave my baby home with my husband and travel just like my male colleagues do, that is my right and not my employer’s decision.

      1. OP #1*

        Yeah, my husband spends more time caring for the baby than I do, due to the nature of our work schedules. However, I’m the only one with breasts.

        As I mentioned, I could get out training easily but I don’t want to miss a professional development opportunity that’s available to everyone else.

        I agree that Amy’s tone is more adversarial than one I would actually take with my boss but I appreciate the ire. I’m lucky enough that I can afford one more plane ticket if I need to, to level the playing field, but how many people fall behind at work because we’re behind (most of) the rest of the western world on understanding that working motherhood is a reality (and necessity for most families)?

    7. Aphrodite*

      You can disagree, Amy, but please disagree pleasantly.

      Nastily-phrased commentary may feel good as you write it but it will never convince anyone to your point of view.

  19. Czhorat*

    What strikes me is the juxtaposition of OP1 – an employer offering generous benefits, child-care allowances, and other perks, with OP3 “volunteering” staff to be part of a “fun committee”. One offers a tangible benefit which makes life better; the other is a sometimes forced notion of “fun”.

    Of course, it’s possible for a good company to do both, and for social activities to grow somewhat organically. Forcing them, however, seems like the wrong path.

  20. HelloItsMe*

    Re: the fun committee….

    Are there REALLY no people there who want to do it? Maybe it’s been a job that’s shamed so even if people want to do it, it’s not “cool” because everyone talks smack about it?

    I get that you don’t want to. But I love that stuff. I’d quit my regular jobs to throw office parties! Hahaha.

    1. Temperance*

      It’s the kind of work that doesn’t help your career, and that can be used to actively keep women in administrative roles. I always advise my interns to avoid it at all costs.

      1. HelloItsMe*

        What? No way! At least at the companies I worked for, it was neither admins nor women doing it. Haha.

        1. Murphy*

          Yeah, not this last year, but the year before I was on the holiday party committee and it was definitely all women. (I think there are more women than men in my office, but we’re not ALL women.)

      2. eplawyer*

        But it could help your career too. If it’s the kind of place that places an emphasis on mandatory “fun” and notes who doesn’t show up, being on the planning committee may help at review time. Declining may hurt your chances because “you’re not a team player.”

      3. always in email jail*

        I also advise folks to NEVER COMPLAIN ABOUT THE OFFICE PARTY. That’s a sure-fire way to end up on the committee the next round.

      4. Gaia*

        Oh man that is so untrue with my company. We have a committee to plan events and 1. it is equally spread among all levels of staff and between genders and 2. it actively helps your career (here) to be part of this because it is so highly valued in our company culture and 3. we have to hold a lottery for volunteers because there are usually more than enough.

        There are good ways and bad ways to do “office fun” type stuff. My company handles it very well. If there is every an issue in gender division (per capita, we actually employ more women than men so have slightly more women on the committee) all planning stops until that is rectified. The women have held strong on this :)

    2. Another*

      It’s highly dependent on your workplace priorities and how the committees are structured, I think. If you work somewhere where the committee is rotated out regularly and you get credit come review and promotion time for being a team player, that’s more positive than places where the same few people get pigeonholed as “office mom” for years and are stuck planning every activity (and doing the cleanup afterward) while everyone else is getting assignments that advance their careers.

    3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

      I dunno. A contrarian point of view here.

      At almost every place I’ve ever worked, there was a social committee of some sort. I realize that some people don’t enjoy said social events. But many do. And many see such events as opportunities to get to know each other better – example – some may not like an individual, but learn, in a social setting that he/she isn’t all that bad of a person. A manager may finally get the time that the people who work for him are people and not just “resources”.

      Agreed – that I’ve had many co-workers I wouldn’t want to socialize with, or have a drink with, but it’s awfully nice to have the opportunity to do so.

      1. OP #3*

        I totally hear you. I am way more tolerant of the events themselves. Though I can be quite the social curmudgeon :), I usually end up having a good conversation with someone I don’t talk to often.

        But again my issue is really with the forced *organizing*, not with the events. I’m not someone who expects a workplace to entertain me with social events, so if it were a choice between having no events vs. having events and being forced to plan them on a committee for any extended length of time, I would totally choose the former. (Not saying you *expect* social events, but I could see someone saying, “Well, if you want workplace social events, then you should have to contribute somehow.”)

    4. kb*

      I also enjoy it! I love making themed treats in my free time, but never have enough people to eat them. My Halloween crudités have been described as hauntingly beautiful.

        1. kb*

          I’m commenting from my phone right now and the photos are saved on my personal laptop that I don’t have with me, so I can’t upload right now.
          One year I did a mosaic of Linus awaiting the Great Pumpkin out of different pieces of chopped veggies served with a warm cheese dip. I used eggplant and purple asparagus for the sky so it was a moody scene. The grass and greenery were kale chips. The people were peppers and the pumpkins were carrots.
          Another year I went 3D and had a veggie skeleton climbing out of a vat of purple jell-o. The veggies and jello didn’t actually touch and were intended to be eaten separately. That one was a little hard to eat because all the veggie pieces were stuck together with toothpicks.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            OMG! This is amazing. I am begging you to send these in once you’re able. They sound worthy of their own separate post, seriously. Email me if you’re willing!

    5. OP #3*

      No, there are actually people who (I am reasonably sure) want to do it. I’m guessing at least half of the committee did volunteer — possibly more and I’m just being paranoid based on the one person who didn’t. I think it’s great if certain people who enjoy doing that type of work want to do it, but to me, it isn’t right to force someone do it if they don’t want to AND it really has nothing to do with the work they actually perform.

  21. Murphy*

    Ugh, I hate being voluntold to be on committees. I’ve had it happen twice at my current job, and I think both time I got an email that said “Thank you for volunteering to serve on this committee!” …and I totally didn’t.

  22. eplawyer*

    I can see the concerns with OP1 asking for company to pay for her husband and baby in ways that would not be a concern if she hired a babysitter at the training. This is a training presumably with other people of her same job level. Will she be ducking out of sessions to spend time with husband and baby? Would she be having lunch with them instead of networking? Things like that.

    Having said that, based on the culture described, I would at least ask. If you think it would not be held against you later for even asking. In other words, are they doing these things to get in to the best employers EVAH list or are they really committed to it?

    1. always in email jail*

      I think there’s just as high a chance of her ducking out to see the baby if she’s with a babysitter rather than daddy. Probably a higher chance. Knowing your baby is in good hands with their other parent is more reassuring than they’re with a random babysitter for many people.

    2. Meg Murry*

      Yes, +1 million to the “do these perks exist mostly on paper and to get on the Top 100 list but you get side eyed if you actually use them, or is your company (and most specifically, your boss) actually on board with true family friendliness”? Because I’ve worked at both places, the actual family friendly one and the one that just wanted to be on the list – and for instance, that $400 childcare benefit came out of your boss’s overall budget, so while the boss couldn’t deny it for you, you got a lot of scrutiny about whether you really *needed* to use it, etc.

      As a working mom, if I were acting as a mentor to OP, I’d personally suggest she consider skipping this training/conference if she really doesn’t feel comfortable leaving the baby behind. Mainly for these reasons:
      -If you drain the childcare benefit now, that still leaves you with 6 more months of the year to have a childcare emergency – I wouldn’t use the $400 on an optional scenario. Also, would taking your husband for 4 days involve him taking his own PTO for 4 days? Personally, I wouldn’t suggest that either, unless he has an enormous pot of PTO. If your husband is currently a SAHP or on paternity leave that might be different – but otherwise I would fear hitting the first round of cold/flu/ear infections in November with my spouse out of PTO and the childcare benefit used up and scrambling to deal with a sick kid.
      -At a lot of 4 day events like this, you get as much (or more) out of the event during the networking that happens during lunch, after the class is over in the evenings, etc. If OP is rushing off to be with her baby and spouse/mother, she would miss out on all of that. And if the class *isn’t* that way, could OP get just as much out of it from a webinar or reading the handouts, etc?
      -I’d also ask whether OP will get any kind of major immediate benefit from attending this conference/training *this* session as opposed to waiting. Is it some kind of power users training that will really help her kick her career and job up to the next level, or the first step toward some kind of broader certification that will take a long time to earn? Is this a once a year opportunity, or is it offered again in 3-6 months, or perhaps somewhere closer to home? When OP says “4 days” and “out of state” does that mean a 2 hour drive or a quick flight? Or is it cross country travel that could tack on an additional day or more in order to travel the night before, etc? Is asking to bring the husband and baby along asking for a couple hundred more dollars in flights, and is she also asking for meal expenses? I think asking for a slight room upgrade is not unreasonable, but the flights etc doesn’t make sense. That said, I also think OP might get more side eye if she is asking to have her husband’s way paid along on a typical “vacation” spot – the optics are different asking your company to pay for your spouse to travel to Orlando vs Omaha, for instance, even if the cost would be the same.

      That said, I took a work trip when my son was 8 months old, and while it wasn’t easy, we made it work. One of the main accommodations I asked for (and got) was that rather than staying in the hotel most people stayed at, I went to a suite style hotel that got me a kitchenette with real sink and full fridge/freezer. The hotel was still on the approved accommodations list, but it was about $40 more a night – however, as I pointed out to my boss, it also offered a full free hot breakfast, which brought the difference to more like $25 a night. It was still a pain to pump enough in advance of the 4 days gone, pump while traveling and haul all the milk home, plus we relied on formula as a backup – but it did work. In my case however, approximately quarterly travel was part of my job, and others in my group had been covering it for the previous year or so (last 6 months of pregnancy plus maternity leave plus a trip that happened the week after I was back from leave) so I had lots of advance warning and time to plan – and since it was my second kid, honestly, I was a little ready for a stay in a hotel and a full night’s sleep by myself :-)

      1. OP #1*

        Thank you! I appreciate the advice.

        As you suggested, the value of the training is really networking. That’s the main reason I don’t want to skip it. It’s an annual training where I get to meet up with the others at my rank across the country. My plan is probably more to skip out on class a little early to go feed the baby, and make more of an effort to go to the networking events. Would my employer love that I’m missing a little bit of class? Probably not, but people do it for hangovers so I don’t feel guilty about it.

        Are they really family friendly or just pretending to be? A little bit of both. The culture here tends to be that people side eye “corporate” when they come out with these policies because they don’t really mean it. But on the ground, everyone wants to be the boss who really cares… Not sure if I explained that right.

        A night’s sleep does actually sound amazing. But since she wakes me up so often to nurse, my breasts would probably wake me up and I’d be sad.

    3. overeducated*

      That seems so ridiculous to me. For one thing, family child care is MUCH MUCH cheaper than a babysitter. Where I am, professional one on one infant care starts at $20/hr. That will blow through a lot more than $400 with travel and overnights (assuming you hire a known sitter). If the alternative is hiring a total stranger local to the training, who yo haven’t vetted andnwho hasnt spent time with the baby before,that seems like putting the appearance of possible impropriety over the best and most affordable childcare.

      1. OP #1*

        Yeah, hiring a stranger across the country makes me nervous. My baby is just used to the people she’s used to.

  23. AlwhoisthatAl*

    I can’t resist this question in Interviews
    I got asked by a recruitment Consultant if I had a Police record and I answered straight away “Yes, I’ve got Zenyatta Mondatta and Walking on the Moon”. The guy stuttered “W w what” and then appeared utterly clueless when I explained about it being an actual group. He even asked again towards the end of the interview which was was basically a tick the box interview. Needless to say, I didn’t use the agency again. If that’s how they interview they are not for me.

    In an actual job interview I was asked if I had a criminal record and I replied “I’ve got YMCA by the Village people” which did cause the interviewer to laugh out loud and say that she thought it wasn’t that bad.

    1. Student*

      I know you’re trying to use humor to deal with a subject you find awkward.

      Speaking as somebody who works in a field where we take criminal behavior very seriously and have a very good job-related reason to do that, I can tell you such an answer would show us that you don’t understand how serious we are about the issue and would reduce your chances of being hired.

      This kind of flippancy might work at a interview for many jobs that don’t have any high-stakes or high-expenses work. It’ll turn people off in fields where theft is a serious issue – all of retail – or any job that handles significant budgets.

      Humor has a place in work and in job interviews. If it doesn’t help you build a rapport or break the ice in a job interview, though, it’s a bad joke and for the wrong audience at the wrong time; save it for a nightclub instead. It doesn’t qualify as a joke if you’re the only one laughing.

  24. always in email jail*

    #1: I would follow the advice in alison’s last sentence and frame it as money that would come out of your $400 “pot” of work-related childcare money. I think if it’s framed as “Since my baby is under 1 and I am still breastfeeding, I would like to bring the baby on the trip with me. I have a family member willing to provide childcare during this time. Would it be possible to apply my $400 childcare allowance to these expenses, since this is a work-related trip?”

    I don’t think if it’s framed that way it’s an unreasonable ask.

    1. Murphy*

      I agree with this. If there’s money earmarked for childcare, this seems like a reasonable use of it.

    2. always in email jail*

      maybe take out the “I would like to bring” and replace with “it is best if I bring”

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Agree with this completely. That seems like a very reasonable request to make.

    3. committee member*

      I agree. They might still say “no” depending on the policy but it’s not going to paint you as someone who has become unreasonable.

  25. MuseumChick*

    OP1, it sounds like your company is already way more generous/family friendly than most. Is there a reason you can’t us the $400 they already provide to help cover the cost of having a family member come with you?

    Personally, I would not ask them to cover the cost for reasons others have already articulated. BUT if you still want to I would frame it this way “I know this is a long shot but I wanted to asked just in case it’s possible. As you know I want to attend the training. I have a 7 month old who, for logistical reasons, I cannot leave at home. Ideally I want to bring a family member to watch him/her while I attend the training. Would the company be able to help me cover the cost for that?”

    1. OP #1*

      I just re-read the policy and it is specifically for child care, and cannot be paid to a family member.

      I think I’m backing off of asking for anything, but I’m starting to ask around what people do.

  26. Mallory*

    Sorry but ummm…why exactly do you need to PAY your husband to watch HIS baby?? He’s not a babysitter. He’s the father.

    1. always in email jail*

      I think they mean pay for the airplane ticket etc. Similar to what they would have to do if they brought a babysitter instead, except cheaper because they’re only paying travel and more peace of mind since it’s the father and not a random babysitter…

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Well, if the OP was my wife that would mean I’d be taking PTO, which is of course paid at my current rate, in order to save us the expense of day care, which is much lower than my rate. This isn’t a case of dad “babysitting” by taking over for an hour for mom, which is a ludicrous and sexist idea, but the father is taking the place of paid child care. Just because it’s the father and not a nanny that’s coming on the trip shouldn’t change whether it is eligible for reimbursement.

      That said, when the minion was in elementary school I took leave and paid my own way to accompany my wife on a business trip so that the minion and I could see the sights in [major city], and then the three of us could have dinner together and do a little bit of sightseeing afterwards. But we’re well off, and this was something we chose to do during a school break.

    3. OP #1*

      LOL, I appreciate your outrage but I just meant for travel expenses.

      My husband works three 12-hour shifts a week, so I think technically he could arrange his schedule to not have to use PTO, but might be tricky. He would really rather not use his vacation time to sit in a hotel in this lame city, so I may end up asking my retired mom to come instead.

  27. nnn*

    Esprit d’escalier for OP#3: the person who didn’t volunteer for the committee could have replied with an innocent “I’m sorry, there must be some mix-up, I’m not one of the people who volunteered.” (Passive-aggressive option: use reply all)

    If I were forced to be on the “fun” committee, I’d start by doing an anonymous survey of what kinds of fun employees are and aren’t interested in, carefully designed to permit employees to provide honest feedback about the kinds of “fun” management had in mind (including strong negative feedback if that’s how they feel), as well as to suggest their own ideas (including “just leave us alone and let us do our work” if that’s how they feel).

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I love to “misunderstand” people when they try to spin things like this. I’m sure I’ve done almost exactly what you describe. And part of the time I’m right, as I often don’t get it when people try to make passive-aggressive inferences, so I really do try to clarify what they’re asking, even if it’s uncomfortable for them.

  28. delurker*

    Hi, long-time lurker coming out of hiding to point out that OP1 does actually state that “the training is technically required”, even if she also believes it would be “fairly easy to get out of.” Many are responding to her question as if the travel is entirely voluntary.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I think this is one of those times we’re asked to take the OP at her word. She doesn’t say “I believe it would be fairly easy to get out of.” She flat out says she could get out of it easily. Let’s trust her.

    2. SystemsLady*

      I’d trust OP here. I’ve been in similar situations.

      For example, there was a new version of a fancy training module for dealing with customers that we were all technically required to attend, but everybody had been to the old version and there was a general sense that if you wouldn’t be able to travel to the main office to get to one of the sessions, it wouldn’t be a big deal.

    3. OP #1*

      Yeah, it’s required, but people that don’t like going to training frequently skip it, claiming to be busy with important client work, etc. I’m sure I could use my baby as an excuse but I find value in the trainings and I don’t think I should have to lose out because I’m a working mom.

      1. AMPG*

        I think this is a really important point – keeping up professional skills is a great way not to be “mommy-tracked.” When my oldest was a baby, I took a step back from work travel, but still took a couple of trips his first year, including a networking trip that was optional because it was a great way to stay engaged.

  29. minnesnowder*

    We had an interviewee cancel last week. We are in corporate law and he cited a work emergency, which is totally a thing that happens in this field. He showed up today for his rescheduled interview and was 15 min late because he got lost (we’re in a complicated downtown big city situation – I got lost when I came to interview, too). I can see these as being two strikes against him, but both are fair and legitimate. He seemed very nice and we could use some fresh blood around here. I hope it doesn’t impact his candidacy.

    What I’m saying is, things happen. I would be suspicious of “something came up” as well, but who knows. I say give them another chance.

    1. Dan*

      I had an interview once where I got lost, too. The interviewer sent me one set of directions to their suburban office building. I followed them to a T. Until I reached a dead end. And then, I looked more closely at the heading — these were “directions from the North”, and I was coming from the south. (The interviewer would have known that from my address…) I hit the dead end, and was like “shit.”

      I was late, but the interviewer didn’t care. They hired me.

  30. Delta Delta*

    #2 – It may be easier to say “something came up” than to say what it was that came up. I had an interview Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m., which I had scheduled the week prior. Unfortunately on Monday afternoon, I had a situation which landed me in the emergency room until 1:00 a.m. As I sat on the ER stretcher I tried to decide if I should cancel, and if so, how I should say it. Ultimately I decided to go to the interview (and as it turns out, that job and I would not be a compatible fit, which I may not have known if I hadn’t gone). But it is definitely a little odd to try to figure out how to explain that there’s a situation without getting into the details of the situation with a stranger – especially a stranger who could potentially be your employer. And, depending on the situation, the employer’s opinion of the applicant may be colored by the particular situation.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      There’s a pretty wide spectrum of things you can say. “Something came up” is on one end. A complete description of what happened and why you ended up in the ER is on the other end. The best answer is probably somewhere in between these two extremes. “I had a personal emergency” sounds like it took something really important for you to reschedule this interview. “Something came up” sounds like it could have simply been a more interesting opportunity.

      1. Delta Delta*

        You’re totally right. As I’m thinking back on it, I realize that since I was worried about why I was in the ER in the first place I wasn’t totally thinking straight about what I was going to say if I needed to cancel. And I can see how if someone was in a stressful situation (there are lots of good examples upthread) they might not be able to formulate exactly what’s going on in a non-TMI way.

        I’m not at all disagreeing with AAM’s or other’s advice. I’m just thinking about it from another (and unfortunately, far too personal) angle. If I was an interviewer and I heard “something came up” I might be a little suspicious, too.

  31. Pen and Pencil*

    I hate companies that demand you to have fun. I too was “appointed” to a fun committee. that essentially consisted of every young woman at the company (30 people). What’s worse is the committee had no budget, so everyone on the committee had to pay for each event in one way or another (usually by buying food for a communal meal/snack), so the poorest people were footing the bill. If it were happen again, I would definitely push back.

    1. Government worker*

      I work for a government agency, so there are no funds provided for “fun.” Which means our “fun committee” ends up planning potlucks and the like. I get it, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s kind of funny to get an email that says “The Fun Committee is Throwing an Octoberfest Party!” and then asks you to bring the food.

  32. animaniactoo*

    Re: Being on the fun committee. Actually, I think I like the idea of rotating the duty. Sure, some are better at it than others, but you’re going to have Forced Fun, rotating the duty serves a few functions:

    1) It gets people an inside look at how hard it is to plan stuff that everybody will like.
    2) It gets people an inside look at how hard it is to plan stuff that is doable within the budget.
    3) It means that one or a few people’s idea of “fun” doesn’t necessarily rule the roost, and there’s opportunity for more ideas and stuff that different people may like better to happen.
    4) It gets the people who tend to be good at it and then get saddled with it long past the point when they want to do it a break.

    Just don’t say that people are volunteers when they’re not.

    1. Another Lawyer*

      This is what we do – everyone has a birthday partner, basically and we all bring/buy a cake for that birthday and send an email for cake time.

    2. pomme de terre*

      Yes, having term limits makes the task more palatable. I also think managers can present and treat the party planning committee as a career development opportunity (which is what my firm does). Running an event is essentially project management. I’d rather have a new teapot engineer learn the ropes by running our holiday food drive or planning an outing, when the stakes are relatively low.

  33. Natalie*

    For the fun committee, does your friend feel comfortable tanking it? To make my second 30 Rock reference, if you’ve ever seen the episode where Liz deliberately does a terrible job planning a bachelorette party, it could provide some inspiration. Suggest the most boring, unfun events until everyone leaves you alone.

    1. OP #3*

      That’s a pretty great suggestion/reference. I might just suggest it to her and see if she’s comfortable with the idea. Thanks!

  34. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Re: Traveling with a baby. I think Alison’s script is right on — treat it as a “Hey, could this work?” rather than a more determined request.

    I will say that my last organization, in which most staff traveled regularly, covered 50% of the flight for a caregiver to travel with a working parent. They encouraged people who used that benefit to try to save money in other ways (buying groceries rather than eating out, staying with friends) if possible, but it wasn’t a requirement.

    1. OP #1*

      That’s so amazing. Just re-reviewed our policies and we don’t have anything like that. I need to suggest it.

  35. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Re: “Something Came Up”

    I see people above reacting negatively to that phrase specifically. It doesn’t bother me; it’s not meaningfully different from “a family emergency” or “an unexpected scheduling conflict” or whatever.

    For me, it totally depends on what else was said/written in the message. “I’m so sorry to have to do this, but I’m afraid something has come up and I’m not able to come in tomorrow. I understand if you’re not able to reschedule, but I am still very interested in this opportunity and can be available any time next week” is very different from “I need to reschedule my interview, because something came up. What day next week could we meet?”)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      That’s true; the additional context helps. However, if you use the word “emergency,” the context is already provided.

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        It feels like it gets into an un-useful level of language nitpicking.

        I’m thinking about a couple of situations that occurred in my life in the past couple of years. I don’t remember how I described them to my boss, but I’m glad that I didn’t have to worry about framing them perfectly. Neither was an emergency, but in both cases I decided that I needed to suddenly miss work. (One: My sister’s partner left her, and I flew out to be with her for the first few days alone in their house. Two: My teenage cousin committed suicide, and I left work as soon as I found out. I came back for several days before leaving town for the funeral.)

        I’m not saying that there aren’t alternative ways to describe these events. Maybe “family emergency” could reasonably cover both, I don’t know. And given that lots of folks report a negative reaction to the “something came up” language used, it’s worth avoiding. But I think the rest of the context gives us all the clues we need, and we shouldn’t focus too much on the choice of a specific phrase.

        1. fposte*

          To your boss is very different than to an interviewer, though. Your boss already knows you and is going to see you again in the future anyway. To an interviewer, this is asking them to do extra work on behalf of your candidacy. It’s going to hurt you if it’s not clear that you understand that this isn’t a small thing.

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            Sure, of course. I’m just surprised that folks are so focused on the “something came up” phrase. To me, it is not intrinsically dismissive/cavalier; to most others on this thread it seems like it is irredeemable, and that surprises me.

  36. Abby*

    I agree that the phrase “something came up” is cavalier enough that I would be reluctant at rescheduling. Of course someone could do the opposite and lie about an urgent issue. But I think when you are trying to get a job and trying to demonstrate that you are responsible, you do need to give more information. Not private details about a personal illness or diagnosis, but something more detailed.

    I teach at night at a university and I had a student not show up for a test and then email me later that night and state “I thought I could make it but it turns out I couldn’t.” I interpreted that statement the same way. To miss a test with no notice beforehand (Students had my cell and email), you should provide a concrete explanation such as my boss wouldn’t let me leave, I am sick, etc. Again, it could be made up (although we students I do ask for proof sometimes but wouldn’t for an interview), but at least it provides some explanation.

    1. Sarah*

      I would have been SO tempted to write back “I thought you were going to pass this course, but it turns out you won’t.”

  37. Death Rides a Pale Volvo*

    I once got out of being on the “Fun & Fit Committee” at a job by saying “I am neither fun nor fit.”

    Was told: “Awwww, we think you’re fun!”

    Me: “Thanks! But, let’s try this again. I know you want to arrange going to a baseball game for the company. That’s awesome, but for stuff like this, I’m useless. Now, if everyone would like to go to a comic book convention, I’M IN!” (Please note this was 1998.)

    1. seejay*

      My idea of fun doesn’t necessarily fit other peoples’ ideas of fun.

      Fun for me: dancing at industrial night clubs until 2am, paintball, late nights with video games, horror movie marathons.

      For most people that would make them run away screaming, while their ideas of fun usually bore me to tears or are painful.

      Don’t put me in charge of organizing fun, most people will not like it. ^_^

  38. anonanna*

    #3 My company has event organising groups. However, each event has a new group. OP should suggest this.

  39. anonanna*

    I can see #1 being a reasonable expense. Pumping is more complicated than just pumping. It’s easier to leave the baby at that age with his or her father than a baby sitter or a nanny who is a stranger during the day. It’s a different situation to childcare the baby is already attending because that childcare is familiar. Dad is looking after a 7 month old baby, he’s hardly going to be going nuts doing the tourist trail. Plus, dad can look after the baby during the night allowing the mum to sleep as much as possible so she can get the full benefit of the training course, which is ultimately for the benefit of the company.

  40. js*

    I had to go work onsite at my company’s convention right after returning from maternity leave, when my child was 4 months old. knowing the length of my work days during the convention, and since i was able to negotiate a shorter stay onsite than usual, i decided to go without the baby, leaving her with my husband and mother. feeding aside, i felt like she’d be more comfortable at home, and they’d be able to continue the usual routine with her between home and daycare, rather than being cooped up in a hotel. but my boss did offer to bring my husband along if that’s the way i’d wanted to go, and I probably could have included my mother too if i’d wanted. i don’t think it’s an unreasonable thing to ask if they really want you there.

  41. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    So is anything less fun-sounding than “Fun Committee?”

  42. Rocketship*

    Oh man, #3… Reminds me of a previous job where morale was also low, so the company decided to send out an “Employee Satisfaction Survey.” From that they determined the top three, I think, factors in employee dissatisfaction and promised they would make efforts to improve those areas. So far so good.

    Except… one of those top three was “Rewards and Recognition.” The solution to that was, yep, a Fun Committee. Employees in *customer service* were recruited to develop, implement, and continue running these rewards and recognition programs. The employees. Had to reward. Themselves.

    So it was basically the company saying, “We don’ think you’re worth recognition, but if you think so then knock yourselves out.” Nobody above shift-lead level was involved in any of the R&R programs. And weirdly, the closer friends you were with someone on the Fun Committee, the more likely you were to be rewarded or recognized.

    Good job, everyone.

  43. puzzld*

    Better to be on the fun committee than at their mercy. You can call me the fun ruiner if you like, but as long as I’m on the job they’ll be no forced fitness walk/runs, no staff dunk tanks, pie in the face games or other horrors that have been unleashed by certain groups. We might have a treat for all this months milestone celebrators, we might have a happy hour… but that’s about all the fun we can stand.

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