employee’s boyfriend says our manager can’t contact her, anxiety about work travel, and more

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

1. Employee’s boyfriend doesn’t want her to be contacted by our manager

I am the owner of a small business specializing in bridal hair and makeup services. My husband is a partial owner, and is a W2 employee. He is an assistant manager and covers shifts while our main manager is off. Part of his job as a manager is to contact our team members with important information. Recently, he contacted a team member to let her know of a staffing change that would affect her event the following day. He left a voicemail stating that he would send over additional information via email, and would follow up the next morning with the room number where she could find her client. This is part of a weekly routine, and all members of our team receive this information from him when he is the manager on duty.

Yesterday I received a text message from the boyfriend of that team member, sent from her cell phone, asking me to not have my husband (the assistant manager) contact the employee and that it is inappropriate. I then received a text message from the employee asking for the assistant manager’s personal cell phone number so she could ease her boyfriend’s mind and text him directly to tell him not to contact her. I have not responded. Finally, I received a text from our main manager, stating that the same employee requested the assistant manager’s cell phone number from her as well. She also did not respond.

What do I do? We are a mom and pop — we don’t have a huge staff, and my husband’s involvement in our business not only has never been an issue, but is imperative to the way that our business runs! This is not the first time we have had an issue with this employee’s boyfriend. I also received a very intense, borderline aggressive email from him last year when he felt she was working too much and not spending enough time with him. I know the relationship at home is abusive, and I know my boundaries in regards to communicating with her about that. I have never had to deal with a significant other becoming involved in our workplace before and I am concerned for my other employees and how he could escalate.

Ooof. Don’t engage with the boyfriend at all. Instead, ask to talk with the employee herself in person next time you’re both working at the same time. When you meet, say something like this: “Part of Fergus’s job as assistant manager is to communicate with staff members about scheduling changes and other business-related items. Is there some specific reason why you don’t want to hear from him?” You’re asking this so that she has a chance to tell you if there’s something you don’t realize about the situation. It sounds like her boyfriend just doesn’t want her being contacted by male coworkers, but who knows, maybe there’s something going on specific to your husband that you need to hear about. If she had a troubling encounter with him, you’d want to know that that’s what’s going on here.

But if it’s just that her boyfriend doesn’t want dudes texting her, then say this: “I can’t assign work tasks based on gender, and part of the assistant manager job is contact employees with work-related information. That’s not something we can change. If you’d rather that we contact you in some other way than texting you, we can probably do that. Just let me know if so. But I can’t take Fergus out of the loop entirely.”

You might also post information about domestic violence hotlines and shelters in places where people can see it privately, like it office bathrooms. And read this, and this excellent comment from the same person.

2. Can I refuse to go on a work trip because of my anxiety about traveling?

I’m due to go on a work-related trip to London soon. I’m already an anxious traveller (and in general – I take medication, but work doesn’t know about this), but the recent terrorist attacks – now three in three months – have left me terribly worried about going. I know that the chances of being caught up in anything are very low, but I really wish I could get out of the trip. To make things worse, I recently witnessed a suicide that happened in public. It wasn’t anyone I knew, and I just happened to be in the same place, but it was still very shocking and traumatic, so my anxiety is even worse than usual at the moment.

The trip was for me to meet members of our team that work in the London office and for some additional training in my role, although it would technically be possible for me to have that training in my home office. I’m reluctant to ask about not taking the trip in case it reflects badly on me, and I’d rather not bring up the anxiety issue as I’m worried they’ll think I’m being dishonest because I haven’t mentioned it before.

Am I being ridiculous and should I just get on with it as best as I can and hope the trip goes okay, or is this a legitimate concern/request? With anxiety, it’s so hard to know when I’m being unreasonable, so I tend to err on the side of thinking that I’m probably being overly dramatic, but I still can’t shake the worry. I’d really appreciate your thoughts.

I could tell you to go on the trip, but that’s not really going to help you … nor would it be all that reasonable of me to think I could make that calculation for you. I mean, yes, it will probably be fine! But with any kind of travel — with any kind of anything — there’s always a small amount of risk that it won’t be. Only you can decide what you’re comfortable with.

But I do think that you could say something to your boss, especially since it sounds like this trip isn’t essential. You could say, “I’m feeling really anxious about going to London right now and haven’t been able to talk myself out of that feeling. Would it be okay for me to do the training from here instead?”

If you decide that you’d like to mention that this is against a backdrop of you already struggling with travel anxiety, they’re not likely to think you’re lying just because you’ve never mentioned it before. You could explain that you’ve been able to manage it in the past, but this time is more of a challenge. (That said, if your job involves regular travel, it may be better not to mention the overall anxiety.)

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Should I like/share articles from a company I am interviewing with?

I am wondering what the proper etiquette for sharing social media posts by a company you are hoping to work for. I recently finished my graduate degree, and a boutique consulting firm that I worked with on a project for one of my courses asked me to contact them after graduation, as they are looking to expand in the near future. We’ve met a few times in the past month and things seem to be going well, and their new program directly relates to my degree. But I also understand as well as things are going, there’s no guarantee I will get a job offer.

Every few days they post an article written by one of their consultants. Some of them I really like and if it were any other company, I would like and share the article. I am hesitant to do this though, as I don’t want to come off as pushy or that I am expecting them to offer me a job. They are a small firm and don’t have a lot of followers, so it would be noticed if I started sharing these articles. Am I right to hold off or would it be acceptable to like/share one or two articles I find particularly great?

That’s fine! If you’re liking/sharing their stuff every day, that would feel like overkill in a small firm where they’d notice it, but liking or sharing a few articles isn’t going to seem like you’re sucking up. It’s just going to seem like you came across some stuff that you genuinely liked and wanted to share.

4. How can I follow up on a networking opportunity that I missed when life intervened?

I was recently connected with someone senior to me in an area of my profession that I may be interested in entering in the next few years (I’m currently in a job with a set time period — like a fellowship). I was connected to this person through my father-in-law and one of his friends, who is a professional colleague of this person. I have experience related to this area of our profession and the right kind of educational background but not the kind of experience that people who work in this area tend to have. When we spoke about six months ago over email, we had talked about setting up a (real, non-BS) informational interview at some point on one of the February federal holidays.

At the end of January/beginning of February, I got pregnant and had some complications (one-day ER visit) and then was hugely ill from morning sickness (read: all-damn-day sickness) for several months and am just starting to emerge from the fog. Sometime in late spring, I remembered that I had let this ball drop. Now, though, I’m insanely swamped at my current job and honestly don’t have the time to take off for an information interview even if this person were still willing to do one before I have the baby. I’d really like not to just write this one off — I’m not great at networking and I appreciate the time people have already put into connecting us. What is the most gracious way to reach out and say hey, life happened to me big-time, can we just reschedule this for the same time next year instead?

This stuff happens. It’s fine to email and say something like this: “I want to apologize for not reaching out earlier. We’d spoken back in December and had talked about setting up an informational interview for February. I was so grateful that you offered that, and am a bit mortified that I didn’t then follow up with you closer to that time. I’ve had some complications from pregnancy that intervened with most of my plans for the last few months, but I’d still love to take advantage of your generous offer if you’re still open to it. Could I reach back out to you early next year (when my life should be more predictable and plans more reliable) and see if you’re open to rescheduling at that point? I really appreciate your initial willingness to talk with me, either way.”

5. How do you interview for a job you aren’t passionate about?

Many cover letter, resume, and interview columns concentrate on how an applicant is great for the job, how their experience has prepared them for it, and how excited they are to work with a company in that field.

How do you suggest adapting this advice when the primary motivation for job searching is, “I would like to make more money,” or something equally not-job-centered? Is there a way to honestly communicate to hiring committees that you think you’ll be good at a job without implying that you live and breathe retail, insurance, or entry-level clerk positions?

You don’t need to imply that you live and breathe whatever the industry is. You just need to explain why you’d be really great at doing it. Those are two different things. You can excel at a particular job without having passion for the specific field (although it helps to have passion for doing a good job, but again, that’s a different thing).

In fact, a cover letter that focused primarily on your excitement about the job or field wouldn’t be a very effective cover letter. The majority of your cover letter and interview focus should be about why your skills, experience, and track record indicate you’d be awesome at doing the work of the job.

Some types of nonprofit work can be an exception to this, where you’re expected to have a personal commitment to whatever their mission is. But even then, good nonprofits are hiring for skills and performance (commitment to their mission may be necessary but wouldn’t be your primary qualification).

{ 298 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    I really miss Marie. Her comments are still so powerful and on point, years and years later.

      1. Emi.*

        Marie has since stopped commenting (unless she changed her name), but she wrote several really helpful (and long! and well-organized! and well-written!) comments about domestic abuse, how it affects victims, and what other people can and can’t do to help. Those are the ones Alison linked to in her first answer, and they’re well worth your time! I’d only read one of them before, and I’m really glad of this reminder.

        1. fposte*

          She also commented on Captain Awkward, and was the originator of the “your house is full of bees” trope there.

  2. Denise Biscuit*

    OP 1: Is he is calling during non-work times or after hours? Would it be possible to request solely email communication instead?

    1. Denise Biscuit*

      Just to clarify-I am in no way trying to make excuses for or play down potentially abusive behavior.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Could you tease out how the timing makes a difference? Are you referring to the boyfriend, or to OP’s husband? (I suspect the latter but want to be sure I’m not misreading.)

      I’m having a hard time understanding why someone engaged in normal business communications in an industry that operates outside of 9-5 hours should have to communicate only by email because an employee’s boyfriend has quasi-abusive, controlling, boundary issues.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Well, there’s the perfect solution you’d like to have, and there are the least-worst solutions you might have to have – because you can’t find a perfect solution in an imperfect situation. And email may turn out to be the least-worst solution in this case.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I’m still not understanding how emailing is a solution when the boyfriend is complaining that any contact is “inappropriate,” and the employee is (seemingly) backing him up. I’m not trying to be a jerk—I think there are some underlying logical assumptions being made, and I’m not understanding them, so I’m asking for detail so that I can try to follow .

          But even if this were a “least worst” option, I think it’s really dangerous and generally a bad practice to accommodate batshit crazy requests/demands, which is how I’d categorize the boyfriend’s complaint.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            Because it might be possible to email without him knowing or intercepting the communication.

            What you call quasi-abusive is abusive, end of, and what you call accommodating batshit crazy requests may be helping to keep OP’s employee safe. There are things you can’t practically or realistically do. And then there are things you can do, like not using a method of communication you know is likely to be compromised. What if he starts deleting her messages or voicemails? It could make good business sense to stick to email as well as minimising the risk to the employee.

            What exactly are you not understanding? OP has an employee in an abusive situation and may find it useful to use methods of communication that are less likely to be intercepted – how does that not make sense to you?

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Your response is kind of lecturing and escalating. Was that your intention? I’m happy to engage in a conversation about the points you raised, but I want to make sure I’m understanding where we’re both coming from because I don’t want to inadvertently escalate into an off-topic side conversation.

              1. Ramona Flowers*

                Okay honestly? If you’re still reading, you really frustrated me by calling it quasi-abusive and then calling it batshit crazy – why not just call it abusive? That was… really strange.

                As others have said there may be a cost and benefit consideration to be made. And yes normalising is not ideal but sometimes you do need to take practical steps to work around a difficult situation.

                As to whether email can be intercepted, it’s far easier to have an email account boyfriend doesn’t know about at all / can’t access.

            2. CityMouse*

              I think there have to be reasonable boundaries. I think controlling boyfriend won’t be swayed by a change to email and I think a boss calling about schedule things is normal. Ultimately I think small accommodations are in order but this guy already was hostile.to the OP and I don’t think OP should.allow her or her employees to be abused by this guy. It is easy to over focus on the employee here but ultimately you can’t help.someone who doesn’t want to be helped and you cannot allow an abusive boyfriend to dictate how you run your business.

              1. Observer*

                The OP has no way to keep the BF from abusing her employee. That’s just out of the picture.

                1. tigerlily*

                  I think perhaps CityMouse was referring the Manager and the Assistant Manager as the employees OP should be keeping from abuse. I could be wrong, though.

                2. CityMouse*

                  That is correct. The line has to be firm that protecting the girlfriend does not mean OP and other employees put up with verbal abuse from boyfriend.

            3. caryatis*

              An abuser could delete or intercept email as easily as a text or voicemail. Unfortunately, that’s not something the employer can control.

              1. Apollo Warbucks*

                I agree with you, but it might be that emails wouldn’t bother the employee’s boyfriend as much as text messages do. Maybe he would view them as a more professional form of communication.

              2. Turquoise Cow*

                Maybe hearing a man’s voice sets the guy off in the way that an email wouldn’t. Listening to a person’s voice, it’s usually easier to determine gender (or at least assume gender), but the written word is less easy. It’s possible that, assuming jealousy is the motivation here, a man calling (even about work) is perceived as the pretext to a more personal conversation, while an email is impersonal, somewhat genderless, and has little potential to lead to a personal conversation.

                (I’m not condoning the abuser’s behavior, and I’m fully aware that it may not be logical in the way that I laid out here. It also may not do any good, but if it’s not a huge problem for the managers to communicate this way, maybe it’s worth suggesting as a sort of middle ground?)

              3. LBK*

                Yeah, I’m not really understanding how an email is less likely to be intercepted. If he can demand she give him her phone to see texts/calls, what’s stopping him from demanding she show him her email account?

                1. Yorick*

                  I could imagine a slightly less controlling situation where the boyfriend doesn’t actively monitor texts and calls but gets angry when he can tell she’s getting them. Some people don’t have notification sounds for emails like they do for texts (I don’t even have the email app set up, I just check it through the browser).

                2. Perse's Mom*

                  And I’d guess most people these days have their email linked to their phone anyway.

            4. JB (not in Houston)*

              I really think PCBH was merely trying to understand your reasoning–and I am glad she asked because I also wasn’t sure what your reasoning was.

            5. Rat in the Sugar*

              Well, if the bf has access to her messages then he could have access to her email as well. Maybe not hearing the voicemails will help keep her safe, or maybe it will enrage him even further that OP’s husband is now “sneaking” and put her in even worse danger. OP and her company can’t start trying to guess what would set him off or calm him down.

            6. 42*

              It’s not a huge leap of imagination that the boyfriend may have her her email login info too. So email correspondence isn’t really as airtight a solution as you may think it is.

              I don’t understand why your tone to PCB is as such, either.

            7. Marty*

              One more thought, I wonder if it might be possible to remove the person from the voicemail, and replace it with a robocall. Use a mechanical sounding speech generator to deliver the message. (Other advantages, suddenly the assistant manager doesn’t have to spend the time on the phone).

              1. Jadelyn*

                Okay, but all of this seems to me to be trying to find ways to enable the boyfriend’s controlling and abusive behavior – changing methods of contact to ones he’s less likely to be upset about, signing someone else’s name to communication so he won’t feel threatened or jealous, etc. – so I’m kind of shocked and hoping I’m badly misunderstanding this.

                This seems to me to be especially futile since abusers are not wholly rational, not in the usual way of the term anyway. (Their actions have an internal logic, but are not rational by external standards.) If you set a precedent of giving in to his demands now, what happens when he decides that he doesn’t want his girlfriend speaking to OP’s husband at all, in any medium? Or when he decides he needs to set his girlfriend’s work schedule? How far should the OP go to coddle an employee’s abusive partner?

                I just don’t think tiptoeing around abuser-logic and demands is the best way to help the employee in question here, and I’m really surprised to see those kinds of suggestions here.

                1. Yorick*

                  It’s not ideal, but it might prevent some hostility/violence toward the employee, and it might save some headaches for the employers.

                  I would argue that employers should send emails during off-hours anyway, unless it’s an emergency. I don’t get texts about work and I think I would prefer not to.

                2. bookish*

                  Yeah, I kind of feel like the best way to respond is to be like “this kind of request is really out of the norm, this is not acceptable behavior.” I mean not worded exactly that way but I feel like it should be made clear that the abusive boyfriend is not being a normal, reasonable person and I think that trying to accommodate the request would, in a way, aid in gaslighting the employee into believing that it IS very inappropriate for another man to be calling or emailing her, even about work. Because trying to accommodate it would send the message that it’s something remotely reasonable to ask as the boyfriend of an employee.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I’m with you on this, Jadelyn—I’m struggling with the idea that the company, a third-party to this relationship, should pacify the boyfriend or otherwise change its normal business practices to coddle the boyfriend. On one hand, I understand the urge to try to work around the boyfriend, but on the other hand, the boyfriend’s request is entirely inappropriate and unprofessional and attempts to actively interfere with the employee’s relationship with her employer. But at bottom, the only person who can change an abusive person’s conduct is the abuser.

                  Marie once fielded a Captain Awkward letter where she described the behaviors that third-parties adopt to placate/diffuse an abuser’s behavior as similar to a tree having to grow around a metal pole suddenly planted in its growth space. The tree ends up having to contort and twist to the point where it can no longer support its weight if the pole is removed. The pole is the abuser, here, and OP’s company is the tree.

                  I’m also not convinced the suggestions would actually help the employee or minimize/reduce the risk of harm, and I think that’s also making me feel anxious about all the suggestions to accommodate, normalize, or respond to the boyfriend’s inappropriate communications.

                4. Yorick*

                  I think I’ve changed my mind after reading below – especially about how this would make the boyfriend seem more powerful to the employee

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        Sorry to double comment, but I imagine Denise is wondering if the boyfriend has a 9-5 job and is less likely to know if calls are made at those times, and also if perhaps the calls disturbed the boyfriend – though as you say ‘non-work times’ are different when you’re not in a 9-5 industry.

      3. Apollo Warbucks*

        The employer shouldn’t have to change anything, but it would be a real kindness to the employee to help them out if there’s a reasonable and workable accommodation that can be made about how they communicate with her.

        Abusive relationships are all consuming and really hard to break away from, and if the employee losses her job, she losses a connection to outside world and if she becomes financially dependent on her boyfriend then it would even harder for her to leave.

        1. KR*

          This. If husband is able to switch to just email (which if the employee knows that all work communication will come visit email from now on she will probably pay attention to her emails the night before she has work, negating the heads up text) and boyfriend likes that better, we are really doing a kindness to the employee and it isn’t a lot of extra effort on the husband’s part. It’s not like it’s requiring a lot of extra work – it’s requiring less because he doesn’t have to send a text and an email.

      4. Denise Biscuit*

        Sure-My thought process was this: at any job, employees have time at work and and time away from work, assuming they do not work 24 hours a day. Time at work is likely spent centered around about what the employers needs/wants are, but the time away from work is likely spent in a wide variety of ways, at the employees own choosing (sleeping, watching tv, travel, errands, hobbies, exercising, etc). I was thinking that because email is minimally invasive compared to a phone call or ultra casual text message, it may be perceived as more respectful of the employees personal time away from work.

        I think there are 2 issues here-the first is the company needing to communicate information to employees during times when the employees may not be at work (as a courtesy)…the second is that it sounds like there may be a concern for a particular employee’s safety.

        In this instance those issues do seem pretty entertwined but all we know is that the boyfriend doesnt want the employee to be contacted and went about telling the company in an overstepping and unprofessional way. I was just trying not to let assumptions color the response because we dont have much information to investigate the abuse.

        But again, i know that abuse is serious and i am in no way trying to make it seem that abuse should be excused ignored.

        Honestly, id be curious the ages of fhis employee and boyfriend.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thank you for explaining! This was really helpful. I agree with you that if the problem is issue #1 (communication during employee’s away-from-work-time), that email is likely less invasive and helpful.

          If the issue is #2 (controlling/abusive boyfriend), then it gets a bit dicey. On one hand, DV advocates often suggest a “harm reduction” framework that suggests that even if you can’t get someone 100% out of a dangerous situation, even a 10% decrease in harm is better than nothing. But this is such a difficult line, in this context, because now we’re talking about the company changing its standard business practices to acquiesce to the controlling boyfriend. If, as Apollo suggests, the employee is in an abusive relationship, then it would be a kindness to change the method of communication if it would materially benefit the employee. (Even though this approach sets off some kind of spidey sense for me about the employer getting tangled up in the abusive/controlling dynamic of the boyfriend, which makes me really uncomfortable for reasons I’m struggling to articulate.)

          And if the problem is issue #3—that there’s some underlying problem between this employee and OP’s husband that OP is not aware of—then I agree with the suggestion down-thread that the other assistant manager should approach the employee to try to figure out what’s going on. It wouldn’t justify the boyfriend’s approach, but there’s a small possibility that the boyfriend is reacting inappropriately in a “white knight” manner because of some other dynamic between OP’s husband and the employee.

          1. Newby*

            I think that the employer allowing the controlling boyfriend to change standard practice because it would make him happy could actually make things worse. It might make the employee think that her boyfriend’s request was a reasonable. If after talking to the employee, the OP thinks the problem is an abusive boyfriend, she should probably talk to a DV expert before deciding how to handle it.

          2. KellyK*

            But this is such a difficult line, in this context, because now we’re talking about the company changing its standard business practices to acquiesce to the controlling boyfriend. If, as Apollo suggests, the employee is in an abusive relationship, then it would be a kindness to change the method of communication if it would materially benefit the employee. (Even though this approach sets off some kind of spidey sense for me about the employer getting tangled up in the abusive/controlling dynamic of the boyfriend, which makes me really uncomfortable for reasons I’m struggling to articulate.)

            I think it’s not so much getting tangled up in the abusive dynamic as giving the employee room to request something that might work better for her. Especially in a small company without a lot of employees, it shouldn’t be too hard to respect employees’ communication preferences when possible.

            But the request has got to come from *her,* not the boyfriend. Does keeping the focus on her relationship with her employer make that feel less uncomfortable for you?

            When determining whether they can accommodate the request, it might help to take the abuse and scary relationship dynamics out of it. If the employee preferred a different method of communication because she often lets her teenager borrow her cell phone or she lives in an area with a lousy cell network, could that be accommodated? If so, using a different communication method to give her some breathing room with her boyfriend should be just as doable. (It’s also possible that it’s not–there may be specific reasons to use a given method of communication.)

            1. Jadelyn*

              I can’t speak for PCBH, obviously, but I’ve been experiencing similar spidey-sense tinglings of discomfort with the employer getting tangled up in the dynamic that PCBH described, so I will just say that as someone who had what seems like a very similar reaction, I would respond very differently to the request for a different means of contact if it had come from the employee rather than the boyfriend. An employee asking for an accommodation from their employer is normal and within the scope of that relationship. A third party, like the boyfriend, asking for the same accommodation is a huge crossing of a boundary, and I think that’s what’s making me so uncomfortable about it.

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I think you’ve captured it for me, Jadelyn. The alarming part, here, is the third-party trying to impose limitations or dictate the business practices of the employer—i.e., interfering with the employee-employer relationship.

                Maybe a helpful analogy would be the previous letter from a mom who wanted to contact her daughter’s employer about her daughter’s affair. In that letter, the commentariat universally decried the idea that it would ever be ok/appropriate for the mother to contact the company, least of all to try to get the company to limit her daughter’s social relationship/friendship with her coworkers.

                I think the boyfriend’s behavior is similarly analogous to the mom’s in that it demonstrates a significant lack of boundaries, an improper understanding of the role of third-parties and a loved one’s employer, and a failure to recognize or follow professional norms. If the mom had gone ahead and contacted the employer, I don’t think we would have advised the company to find workarounds so that the mother would be less discomfited.

                1. Dankar*

                  I’m with you on this for the most part, but I also think that the commentariat in that situation didn’t feel that the mother would react violently toward the daughter if the company failed to provide a workaround.

                  People are, I think, weighing the cost of potentially allowing the boyfriend some say influence over the employer-employee against the benefit of perhaps sparing the employee physical harm until the situation is/can be improved. Whether or not the benefit outweighs the cost might be up for debate (particularly where ceding any control of your business to outside forces is concerned) but I can certainly see where both sides are coming from.

                2. Dankar*

                  Oh, I just saw your comment a few below this one. Yes, normalizing this behavior in the employee’s mind would be a terrible thing, but there’s again a judgement call to be made about whether potential mental harm or potential physical harm is more dangerous.

                  I guess I’m not being very helpful here because it’s such a no-win situation. I agree with AAM about posting resources for the victim in private spaces, and with another commenter who suggested setting up an anonymous email address for the business and signing off on emails to all employees as “The Manager” or just the business’ name rather than the assistant manager’s.

                3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  @Dankar, I think the tough part is that we don’t know if we’re in scenario #2, and if we are, we don’t know if physical abuse is at issue. But I also think we don’t need to know those details to know that there’s a boundary violation.

                  To be fair, if the boyfriend is in fact abusive, then the employer isn’t provoking him or making it worse—he’s making it worse. I think it’s tough because good-hearted and well-meaning people can get sucked into the boyfriend’s abusive cyclone without realizing it. The suggestions about switching to email indicate that commenters think the employer is somehow responsible or increasing the employee’s risk of abuse when the only person who controls the level/extent of abuse is the abuser.

                4. AsianHobo*


                  But what makes any of us feel the boyfriend will react violently but that mother won’t? The fact that the boyfriend is a man and the mother in the other letter is a woman?

                  As someone who was abused by a mother-in-law, I’m seeing the same level of emotional abuse in both letters. Neither is acceptable.

          3. Super Anon for This*

            About problem #2, I think my concern is that acquiescing to the boyfriend’s request might normalize it to the employee, as well as give him a power/ego boost, making him bolder, and making him seem more powerful to the employee. “Even my boss is scared of him, she changed our whole notification process because of him.” Or something like that. I would want to keep being a lifeline for the employee, and keep her working for me, but without giving way to the boyfriend.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think you’re bang on about why this is bothering me—I’m really worried about the boyfriend being able to exert control over third-parties because, if this is a DV situation, it normalizes crazy behavior and would make the employee feel like it’s normal for him to do these things.

              1. CityMouse*

                This is exactly a concern of mine too. At what point does accommodating boyfriend send a message that his behavior is okay or normal?

              2. Anna*

                Why can’t you be explicit in this scenario though? No need to normalise the behaviour. “Employee, I’m going to start emailing from now on. I’m doing this because your husband’s mindset is crazy and I personally believe your safety is at risk if I don’t. But know that he is not being reasonable here and other employers won’t accommodate this behaviour”.

                If an employer spelled it out for their employee like that, it’s pretty hard to claim its “normalising” his behaviour or making her feel it’s normal for him to do that. Sure, the employee’s boyfriend will have got his own way, but hopefully it will open employee’s eyes.

          4. Denise Biscuit*

            My intention with my initial comment is rooted in respecting all employees’ off time, not in accommodating or enabling an abusive boyfriend. If this is a regular part of the job, i wonder why they arent able to be more proactive about scheduling things more in advance. I really value ths times i am able to leave work at work and plan my personal life around it… I still think the abusive boyfriend is a seperate issue.

        2. AMPG*

          I think the issue is that a man is contacting her, not the time of the contact. Which means that switching to email is less likely to help the issue, although it might be worth making the offer.

      1. Bea*

        If he’s checking her texts, I’d be floored if she had an email he doesn’t monitor as well. This level of abuse rarely has a go around like that. He’d flip even harder finding out they switched communication methods to try to avoid him, feeding into his controlling paranoia.

        1. Lance*

          Very much agreed; not to mention, the e-mail would (I assume) have male manager’s name attached to it, which I imagine could make the situation even worse still.

      2. MommyMD*

        He probably checks everything. Employee may be put in a position of choosing between employment and boyfriend with this crazy behavior. I’m just glad it’s not husband. Hopefully she kicks this guy to the curb eventually.

      3. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        I could see this working if the emails were from assistantmanager@bridalshop or scheduling@bridalshop and not signed by name in the body of the email.

        1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

          I’m glad I scrolled down because I was just about to suggest this as well – I understand that the business shouldn’t bend over backwards to accommodate abusive demands, but this might be a solution for the immediate problem that won’t put them out much effort.

        2. Muriel Heslop*

          I was going to suggest this, too. It may not be a permanent solution but it could work.

      4. Tuxedo Cat*

        That’s what I was about to say. I also feel like email is a no-win solution because the boyfriend will probably start thinking the employee is having other communications he doesn’t know about.

    3. Nottingham*

      Email is not the best solution. Email can be a really bad idea. Direct communication is almost always better.

      By phone, voice-to-voice, you know you’re speaking to her and she’s getting your message and whatever info she needs to do her job. The abuser may still be controlling or influencing the answers she gives, but it reduces some of the opportunities for the abuser to be gaslighting her – or you.

      Email makes it much easier for the abuser to track, control and delete info that she needs, maybe without her even seeing it; to pretend to be her and then fail to pass info on; or even pretend to be her and actively sabotage her with managers, customers, and coworkers. Same goes for texts.

  3. Carolum*

    2: How often does the job require you to travel? Also, you might want to be upfront about how the events in London and what you saw closer to home are affecting you. These are both very extraordinary – and difficult – things to deal with.

    1. Liet-Kynes*

      The events in London are not extraordinary things to deal with, for the very obvious reason that we’re ALL being affected by them. And for that reason, I think claiming that one is extraordinarily affected by them is pretty far off base. I entirely agree that witnessing a suicide is an extraordinary, and extraordinarily difficult, thing to deal with, but it really rubs me the wrong way when people on another continent and not directly affected melt down over a terrorist attack.

      1. Fact & Fiction*

        Unfortunately, anxiety that requires medication doesn’t listen nicely when you try to reason it out of having a “melt down” and the think that’s an incredible unkind way of reacting to this OP’s question. She wrote in to get perspective and is treating her anxiety. Please believe me that if you don’t have anxiety, if is nowhere as easy as just willing yourself not to have a “melt down.”

        Also, we’re all human and many if is are nearly as emotionally affected for senseless suffering and death whether it occurs locally or half a world away. That’s not to say we grieve more deeply than those who lose loved ones, but I don’t think there’s anything bizarre about being deeply touched by terrorist attacks, murders, wars, or anything like that just because it occurs far away. In fact, I believe the world could do with more rather than less empathy.

        1. Fact & Fiction*

          Sorry for the phone typos and I hope this doesn’t come off as angry. I am just an anxiety sufferer and know that it’s unfortunately not always a simple thing to deal with. I applaud this OP for treating hers and seeking advice to gain perspective. Our anxiety brains are often deceitful!

          1. Liet-Kynes*

            It did come off as angry and insulting, so thanks for the apology and see my response below.

        2. KellyK*

          Totally agree. Also, it’s not *just* the terrorist attacks in London. It’s the terrorist attacks in London *and* being asked to go there *and* just having witnessed a suicide *and* already having an existing anxiety disorder. That whole combination is fairly extraordinary, and it’s reasonable to ask for some accommodations around that.

          People can also be deeply shaken by events that have personal connections to them that aren’t always obvious. The Boston marathon was pretty traumatic for me, because my brother was *there.* (He was nowhere near the explosion and was fine apart from the trauma.) The Orlando Pulse massacre hit close to home for a lot of LGBT people, even if they lived nowhere near Florida.

        3. KR*

          I think this is pretty insensitive. Also, we don’t know if OP is from Britain. It’s easy for someone who doesn’t have anxiety and fears to get frustrated by other people’s fears but it’s a different story when you’re the one that’s scared.

        4. Liet-Kynes*

          I was not unkind, and I don’t appreciate you using your anxiety to devalue my perspective. The OP asked, specifically, for an outside perspective on whether this level of fear of traveling to a city recently affected by terror was reasonable, as a check against her own anxiety-driven thinking. My perspective is that it is not. You may disagree with that, of course, but don’t tell me that my outside perspective is off base when it was explicitly requested!

          Also, I’d like you to really interrogate your assumption that a lack of empathy motivates a lack of fear of traveling to terror-affected cities, because that is incredibly far off base and I find it insulting. I can, and do, grieve for those losses and be affected by those events as an empathetic and aware human being, while not translating that grief into fear that I will be personally affected or into an experience of personal trauma.

          1. Jadelyn*

            I disagree that you were not unkind. You dismissively characterized someone’s anxiety – a mental disorder that cannot be directly or easily controlled or willed away – as a “melt down”, and talked about how other people’s emotional reactions to events – again, not something that can be easily controlled or willed away – “rubs you the wrong way”. That’s not a kind approach to someone who’s in distress. *You* don’t have a strong emotional reaction to distant mass-murder events. That’s *your* reaction. That doesn’t make it inherently a better or more right reaction to have, and your initial comment came off very strongly as you mocking or belittling people who have a different reaction.

            1. Liet-Kynes*

              I have a strong emotional reaction to distant mass murders, that just doesn’t get translated into personal fear and trauma.

              We’ll just have to agree to disagree that my characterization was unkind, I think. I’ll give you “meltdown,” which is probably unkind. But I think it’s entirely legitimate for someone’s authentically felt reaction to something to rub someone else the wrong way. I was not belittling them or mocking them, but their reaction does rub me the wrong way. Their feelings are not more legitimate because they’re partially rooted in a mental health issue, and my reaction is not less valid for the same reason. I feel very strongly that people tend to appropriate the trauma of terror, and I think it’s inappropriate to translate the natural horror and grief we all feel into personal trauma that isn’t really earned. Feel free to disagree with that, but don’t use “but anxiety” as a thought-terminating cliche.

              1. Jadelyn*

                I have to say I’m not loving how acknowledging a significant factor in a situation – A MENTAL DISORDER, in case that has not been made clear, which bears directly upon the topic at hand by the OP’s own words, and which is, again, NOT SOMETHING PEOPLE CAN JUST CONTROL – is being mis-framed as a “thought-terminating cliche”. But if you want to sidestep that particular significant fact, fine. Let’s move on from that.

                At any rate, I will never ever agree with the idea that personal trauma has to be “earned”, because there’s a fast and ugly slide between that mentality and a culture of telling victims of trauma that they’re overreacting, telling people to just “get over it”, etc.

                Now, there is a conversation to be had about performative grief as an activity people undertake, and our cultural attitude around that. But in my opinion, it’s far too thin a line between that and auditing people’s trauma responses, which is what I see you doing, and what I object to so strenuously.

                Lastly, I agree that it’s entirely possible to be rubbed the wrong way by people’s authentic emotional responses to things, but I maintain that it’s unkind to air that, especially directly to the person experiencing the reaction in question. And no, that’s not what the OP asked us to do – they asked for a “reality check”, basically, not to hear about people’s pet peeves around secondhand trauma responses. Those are two very different things, and to me, your initial response fell firmly into the latter category.

                1. Liet-Kynes*

                  “I have to say I’m not loving how acknowledging a significant factor in a situation – A MENTAL DISORDER, in case that has not been made clear, which bears directly upon the topic at hand by the OP’s own words, and which is, again, NOT SOMETHING PEOPLE CAN JUST CONTROL – is being mis-framed as a “thought-terminating cliche”.

                  I’m not framing anxiety itself as a thought-terminating cliche. I’m framing your browbeating as thought-terminating cliches. I don’t disagree with anything you post here about anxiety itself, but I do feel very strongly that you’re using the fact of OP2’s anxiety to invalidate my perspective. Anxiety is legitimate, but I think some anxious fears aren’t.

                  “At any rate, I will never ever agree with the idea that personal trauma has to be “earned”, because there’s a fast and ugly slide between that mentality and a culture of telling victims of trauma that they’re overreacting, telling people to just “get over it”, etc. Now, there is a conversation to be had about performative grief as an activity people undertake, and our cultural attitude around that. But in my opinion, it’s far too thin a line between that and auditing people’s trauma responses, which is what I see you doing, and what I object to so strenuously.”

                  So there’s a conversation to be had, but I’m not allowed to participate in it because I think the pervasive cultural trend performative grief and outrage is feeding OP’s anxiety? I think you’re giving me the benefit of absolutely no doubt whatsoever. I know where I stand as far as that line goes, and I don’t deal in slippery slope arguments.

                  “Lastly, I agree that it’s entirely possible to be rubbed the wrong way by people’s authentic emotional responses to things, but I maintain that it’s unkind to air that, especially directly to the person experiencing the reaction in question.”

                  And I maintain it isn’t, when that person is, once again, asking specifically for outside perspectives on the validity of those reactions. Which makes me think you’re motivated more by my not treating anxious fears as intrinsically legitimate than by the notional unkindless of airing an asked-for perspective.

                2. Liet-Kynes*

                  And, OK, fine: I’ve not mentioned this because I don’t particularly like wielding my trauma as a club or a trump card, but I lost a close friend in an event that sparked a lot of general performative grief and trauma. The particulars are not important. I felt, and feel, strongly that the widespread outpouring of abstracted sadness and outrage made it “our tragedy” not “my tragedy” and like my direct connection was diluted.

                  Again, I don’t want to use that as a club. But I do have reasons for being rubbed the wrong way by the general atmosphere of collective terror and grief that has come to saturate our culture and feed fears and anxiety.

              2. Amber T*

                I’m confused as to what exactly rubbed you the wrong way. I’m also confused why you think her feelings aren’t legitimate. And quite frankly, your line about “but anxiety” is insulting to anyone who does suffer from anxiety. Try practicing a bit of empathy, and be thankful you’ve never had anxiety or panic attacks that you couldn’t control.

                1. Liet-Kynes*

                  You’re misreading my line “but anxiety.” That’s not insulting anxiety, it’s calling out someone who’s telling me I’m not allowed to feel rubbed the wrong way because anxiety is a factor.

                  You’re also misreading my statement about legitimacy. I said their feelings are not MORE legitimate because anxiety is a factor, not that they aren’t legitimate at all.

              3. Lee Ann*

                I think I agree with you to an extent. I can only imagine how insulting it is to survivors of terrorist attacks, and families of those who died, when people with no connection to the attack (like OP #2) appropriate the trauma as you put it. It’s normal to have some fear and anxiety, and one cannot always control it, but one can choose not to appropriate others’ suffering as one’s own.

      2. Super Anon for This*

        They are on another continent, but are going to be traveling to London very soon. This is extremely relevant to her, and would affect anyone extraordinarily.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          … that’s just not true. It wouldn’t even occur to me to worry about a terrorism attack in London; they can happen anywhere, and I can’t restrict my life to only be in places that I believe (with no actual knowledge) are or are not safe.

          1. Lee Ann*

            Agreed. The area I live in is “a ghetto” according to some websites. I cannot change my life and move right now based on irrational fears.

        2. Liet-Kynes*

          Hard disagree. I’ve traveled to multiple cities affected by terrorism and was not affected, extraordinarily or otherwise, beyond taking the reasonable precautions I’d take in any world city.

          1. Anxious Traveller OP*

            I am the OP from the anxious traveller question. Just to confirm, I do live in the UK, just not in England. So these events do feel quite ‘close’ to me and, combined with the other issues I’ve mentioned, are a source of significant anxiety at the moment.

            As I mentioned in my question, because of my anxiety, I do tend to assume that I’m being overly sensitive about things and I try to correct for that as much as I can. I put a huge amount of effort into appearing anxiety-free at work, and I get regular comments from my boss about how calm and good under pressure I am, which makes it even harder for me to admit to having so much anxiety.

            Since I wrote the letter, my trip to London has been booked, so I feel I now have to go. I am still terribly worried about it, but I am just going to do my best to get through it and hope that I’m able to control my anxiety for the duration of the trip. Thank you to everyone who has commented and offered advice – it’s much appreciated.

            1. CityMouse*

              Hi OP. I want to say that I am sorry about everything you went through. Since you feel like you have to go, I am wondering if there is anything you can do to feel more comfortable. I suggested planning something fun below so you can have something positive to focus on. Is there someone going with you that you trust? I don’t think you have to go into detail but saying “it is hard not to think about the attacks when going to London” doesn’t make you sound too anxious and having an ally might help. I am an American so the experience is different, but my visits to London have always been positive and I hope that once you get there you will be okay and be able to relax. We are all rooting for you.

            2. a different Vicki*

              As far as I can tell, there is a large range of “normal” reactions to hearing about or being near a terrorist attack. None of them are necessarily wrong.

              I was living and working in Manhattan in September, 2001, but I wasn’t directly affected. Part of how I dealt with the attacks was to focus on the very small-scale stuff, like “what is the current status of the subway system” and making a point of spending money in Chinatown because they’d lost tourist traffic. One friend who saw the planes hit spent weeks in New Hampshire with friends, because she needed not to be in her neighborhood for a while.

              Neither of us was wrong, in our reactions or how we handled them. If someone told me they were worried about me living in New York, I told them not to be, and why I wasn’t. If someone told me they were too nervous to come visit, I didn’t tell them they were being foolish, though I might say something like “you’d still be pretty safe here, but I understand if you don’t want to come to New York right now.”

            3. Rebecca in Dallas*

              If you’re already working with a mental health professional, make an appointment to see them between now and when you travel! They can help you come up with some specific coping mechanisms for your situation.

              I’m so sorry you’re feeling anxious about it. I know in my experience, the anticipation is the worst part, once I’m actually in the situation I was worried about, it’s not nearly as bad as I thought. I have a lot of anxiety around travel in general and I always end up glad that I pushed through. Good luck!

            4. Floundering Mander*

              If it helps at all, I live in London right now and I was here for all of the recent attacks. If you didn’t happen to be in the part of town you’d never know anything had happened until it hit the news. I was on the tube in the area at the same time as the Westminster attack and everything was totally normal. I went to a memorial service at the Mayor’s office a few days after the London Bridge attack and aside from the sadness and the road being closed on one side of the station it was fine.

              I have suffered from anxiety and I know it’s hard to shake. But really there is nothing to be uniquely afraid of in London.

            5. former foster kid*

              hey OP, i’m a londoner and get where you’re coming from. the mood in london has been -tense- but especially post-grenfell.

              in that you need to come, i think don’t mention how you feel regarding london as non-londoners are ALWAYS doing this and we’re a bristly bunch. but i also think it’s definitely fine to say you’re an anxious traveller to coworkers, and that you’re just generally stressed. if you want to communicate that you’re worried without saying it, just say ‘ahg! all these tourists are driving me crazy! can you [londoner coworker] recommend somewhere not swarmed by tourists where I can go for dinner?’ etc etc.

              we’re all a little on alert, all a bit worried. i truly do understand where that’s coming from. but london’s a wonderful place, and i really hope you get to enjoy my city even a little bit whilst you’re here.

              side note: if you need to breathe during your work trip, consider heading out to kew gardens, near the end of the district line. it’s so country-esque and so peaceful, it’s a great place to recharge. all the little squares in the middle of town are great too. i work pretty close to the british museum, and walk over to russell square to eat lunch most days. finding that eden in the city can be so helpful.

              have a great trip!

      3. Anion*

        I lived in the UK for ten years. We’d been back in the US a week when the Manchester attack happened–an attack that affected girls the same age as my daughters, the same age as all the girls who were and are their friends in England–girls who spent many nights at my house, who I love and care about–who were at a concert my daughters and their friends would have loved to go to.

        Don’t tell me I’m wrong or somehow irritating to you for being absolutely devastated and horrified by that attack, please, or for still not being able to think of it without crying.

        I have girls that age.

        I lived in that country.

        Is that good enough, or do I need some other qualification in order for my reaction to be appropriate to you? Is it only okay for me to be bothered by an act of evil if it happens in my backyard?

        Is it better for you if my reaction is just to shrug, because that’s the “right” way to react to such things?


        (I’m sorry, but really, this comment is extremely upsetting to me.)

        1. Manuel*

          I think I understand what Liet-Kynes is trying to say regarding this issue. There is a trend of people – who are in no way affected outside of being a human being – taking a tragedy and making it all about them. I think this kind of behavior is simply attention-seeking and not at all close to what you and the OP are describing, which are reactions based on direct links to the event (children of similar age, living/having lived in close proximity, knew people who were actually at the concert, etc…). I also think that kind of attention-seeking behavior detracts from people who have truly suffered due to the event. We all seem to have that relative or that friend who does this, hence the multiple advice columns that deal with those issues.

          Additionally, I have a friend who suffers from anxiety and events like this feel more overwhelming and threatening to her than they do to me and she has to carefully manage her medications and therapy to adjust. I think sometimes seeing the multiple posts and news stories only makes her feel more anxious, even when people’s intentions are good, so attention-seekers are even worse and she often ends up unfollowing and hiding their posts to manage her feelings. Meanwhile, I almost never feel the same way she does, so I have to be very careful when we talk about stuff like this. I’m a keep calm and carry on type, so I have a hard time really understanding how she feels and I have to make the extra effort to see things from her point of view.

          I think there is a big difference between people discussing these types of events in a reasonable and appropriate way versus people who try to co-opt the tragedy to garner sympathy for themselves and I think that is what other commentators might be trying to convey and frankly, I agree with them. If I’m wrong, please disregard!

          1. Anion*

            I appreciate what you’re saying–and thanks, honestly–but there’s a difference between taking to social media and having fits, and having private feelings of fear, worry, anxiety, horror, grief.

            It’s not “making it all about them” when someone volunteers to go help out in Haiti after the earthquake, is it? Do we sneer at those people for attention-seeking because they are affected by a tragedy? Do we expect them to basically say, “Wow, sucks for them, but doesn’t affect me, so I feel nothing about it?”

            People have the right to their private feelings. The OP anonymously wrote in for help dealing with hers. It’s not my or anyone else’s place to tell her that she’s wrong or offensive or effing “appropriating” by having normal human emotions about things, and I’m really tired of the idea that some people are wrong for having feelings or that it’s anyone else’s place to shame them for doing so.

      4. nonegiven*

        We aren’t all affected the same way and we aren’t all being asked to travel there in the middle of an anxiety attack.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I second this–it’s perfectly understandable to have some anxiety about these recent events. My mum even said she would be nervous traveling there right now, and her sister lives in Greater London where practically nothing ever happens. FWIW I wouldn’t; I’m not afraid of terrorists; they piss me off. But it really is scary to a lot of people, and I think almost everyone would get that.

      *is in despair about finding any job at all, let alone one that would allow her to travel regularly to her favorite place on Earth* :{

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I’m friends with some folks traveling to Manchester and had some fears. They’re well-traveled all around the world and wouldn’t have been at the Ariana Grande concert, but they still felt some level of fear. It may not be rational, but I understand it.

      2. Lee Ann*

        It’s similar to a fear of flying. It’s a common fear so it’s socially acceptable. But a lot of people – hopefully not OP’s employer – would also see it as excuse making.

  4. Wakeen's Duck Club*

    3. Glad I’m not the only one who’s thought of this! LOL!

    5. If you act lie you’re really passionate about the work when you’re not, it’ll probably seem fake. Here at Wakeen’s Duck Club, those who are honest and can get the job done are the ones who score the most points.

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #2 As well as what Alison suggests, I wonder if you’d consider mentioning what you witnessed and explaining that you’re currently dealing with that. I’m so sorry that you had that experience – it’s not surprising that it’s affected you. I don’t want to overstep the bounds of what advice is okay to give on here, but I will say that it’s common to have an acute stress reaction after witnessing a traumatic event, and that extra pressure and worry is the last thing you need right now. I think any decent employer would understand that you need to minimise stress and look after yourself.

    1. Fiennes*

      I thought this as well. If OP is uncomfortable talking about her general anxiety, mentioning this specific instance would provide context for her fear. While many people misunderstand anxiety problems, most will be very sympathetic to the aftermath of witnessing a suicide.

    2. Sylvia*

      I agree. I don’t think that I have anything to add to Alison’s advice or yours, but there is this:

      If hearing about someone else helps, at an old job, one of my coworkers witnessed something terrifying. Everyone wanted to be as helpful as they could, but most of us had no frame of reference for it. If people at your work are aware of what you witnessed, they might jump at the chance to support you as soon as they know how.

    3. MillersSpring*

      OP, if you don’t want to share your anxiety disorder with your employer, and your job does not require frequent travel, could you maybe state that “medical issues” currently prevent you from traveling?

  6. Ramona Flowers*

    #3 Liking and sharing is fine – but what I wouldn’t do is comment on the posts (e.g. on Facebook or LinkedIn) as that might be overkill.

    1. OP3*

      Good point about making comments! I probably wouldn’t do that. I’d probably just like an article I found really exceptional. Its kind of how I found them in the first place. An article came across my feed and it was so relevant to an upcoming project for school. So I contacted them via their general inquiry page asking if anyone there would be willing to talk with me. The owner called me and he was super helpful. I honestly was just looking to complete my assignment, I had no thought of it possibly turing into a job possibility. I have told some my cohorts still in the program to check out the articles as a source for assignments. I might just stick to that for now.

      It’s a fine line between natural interest and coming off as a creepy creeper.

      1. Zinnia*

        Assuming you are also liking and sharing articles from other sources at similar rates (ie, liking 10 articles a week, only one or two from this org) I can’t imagine they’d find this odd.

  7. Geoffrey B*

    “I then received a text message from the employee asking for the assistant manager’s personal cell phone number so she could ease her boyfriend’s mind and text him directly to tell him not to contact her. I have not responded. Finally, I received a text from our main manager, stating that the same employee requested the assistant manager’s cell phone number from her as well. She also did not respond.”

    When discussing this with the employee, it might be an idea to confirm that she really did send these messages herself. Text is a very easy medium for abusive partners to impersonate people.

    1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      Good point. The employee Mary have had nothing to do with this interaction

    2. SarcasticFringehead*

      Yeah, if the boyfriend doesn’t want her talking to other men even in a professional context, it seems unlikely that her contacting them on their personal phones instead will be “acceptable” – much more likely that he wants the number in her contacts so he’ll know if the assistant manager contacts her from that number (or to harass the assistant manager, or for other nefarious purposes).

  8. Nobody Here By That Name*

    OP 2: sympathy on the anxiety. Hopefully you have help dealing with it. If not, you could check your company’s EAP if they have one.

    Beyond that, if you don’t want to disclose mental health issues at work you could simply say it’s a flair up of an existing health issue you deal with. Nothing they need worry about, but it will make travel difficult.

    It’s non-specific yet has the benefit of being true.

  9. JPaper*

    Op#2: If it makes you feel any better, I work in London tourism, and LOADS of people have been cancelling trips to London since the London Bridge attack.

    1. Sami*

      I’m sure tourism has been greatly reduced, but I have friends on vacation in London right now. And I’d go in a heartbeat. So, like everything else, YMMV.

      1. MacAilbert*

        I’ve been to London, and I might be spending the night in January in between Edinburgh and Paris. I’m not going to not live my life out of fear (kinda the whole goal of terrorism, that). Besides, California has a higher murder rate than Britain and France combined, and I spend a lot of time in higher crime areas. I am far, far more likely to be murdered going about my daily business back home than while on vacation in London, Paris, or any other major European city. Hell, if there is another terrorist attack in America, I live in one of the most culturally dominant cities in the country, and I frequently travel through the downtown area and work in the tourist trap, so even if tourists are specifically targeted, I’m not exactly safe at home.

        1. CityMouse*

          I live in a city and I feel like fear is what bad people want, so if I am afraid, they’ve won. I more get pissed when that’s a shooting, whether politically motivated or not. Keep your stupidity out of my city.

          1. CityMouse*

            To be clear, this is no judgment on OP, she clearly went through something terrible recently and it is 100% understandable to react like that. OP may need a break no matter what.

        2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

          I feel the same. I am more likely to be killed by a random American with a gun in my home city or driving to and from the airport than in any terrorist attack. However, the point the OP is making is that her fear is irrational and how to deal with it. She intellectually knows that nothing is likely to happen, but she can’t get the panic pigeons to settle due to anxiety and her recent witnessing of a suicide.

          1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

            Although I agree with the comments about overcoming fear and the relative dangers of terrorism, I think your point about anxiety is an important one. I also think JPaper was just letting the OP know that they are not alone in that anxiety, which can be helpful sometimes.

          2. LizB*

            I love the phrase “panic pigeons.” That’s going to have to join “brainweasels” in my personal dictionary of euphemisms about my mental health that I find hilarious.

          3. MacAilbert*

            This is all true, it’s just that I feel like, at this point, we’re really discussing our own mileage on the issue (and nothing really wrong with that).

        3. Artemesia*

          I travel a lot and am on a lot of travel groups and am floored by the number of Americans who are obsessed with their safety in Europe when they come from a country where it is considered acceptable in many areas to shoot anyone you are ‘frightened of’ and where random shootings are common. We have a greater likelihood of being shot at school, in church, at the movies, at work than anyone in the western world. I live in a country where the response to the slaughter of little children in a school was to loosen gun background check laws.

          1. Elizabeth H.*

            I hear more of the opposite . . . European people worried about coming to America bc of our gun violence. I feel soooooo much safer in Europe than in America vis-a-vis crime.

            1. Limey Abroad*

              I live in London and am currently in the US on holiday, and my husband and I are much more worried about getting caught in a mass shooting here than a terror attack at home. It seems like the US has mass shootings every week! You get worried about the danger of random violence in places you don’t know.

            2. Anonymous for this*

              A friend of mine was mugged by a knife-wielding attacker while walking down Islington High Street (London) in broad daylight. I don’t think London is unduly dangerous, but nor do I feel it is significantly safer than the US, particularly with the frequency of drunkenness/chavs/laddish behavior over there.

              1. Anion*

                Yes, thank you. Just because violence doesn’t make the news doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

                1. MacAilbert*

                  We have the opposite problem here. Out media is much less restrained and reports on so much more violent crime than it did in the past that many people think we’re in a particularly bad crime wave. Statistically, we’re way safer than in the 80s or 90s, but not that many people see that.

              2. MacAilbert*

                In terms of crime rate statistics, I do live in a more dangerous city. Anecdotally, I can list off plenty of incidents. Last month, the cashier at a sandwich shop I stop by on the way to work sometimes got stabbed for not giving out a free sandwich. My coworkers got a knife pulled on them once (which is why we aren’t supposed to confront thieves) and the security guard’s been hit more times than I can count. Yesterday, there were at least three stabbings that I know about, and I don’t pay attention to those stories. Last mass shooting in my city was less than 2 weeks ago. On Sunday, Pride saw a stabbing and a mob beat down. People get mugged all the time. I can’t find violent crime statistics for London except homicide, which is at 118 for 2015. That same year, 52 people were murdered in San Francisco. In a city that had under 900,000 people, as opposed to 8.6 million.

              3. Anna*

                I live in London and had to respond to this. It’s terrible that your friend was mugged at knifepoint.

                However, “drunkenness/chavs/laddish behaviour” do not counteract the fact that you can’t legally buy a gun in the U.K. (with a very few exceptions). We do have a culture of binge-drinking here, but that doesn’t make us a violent society. Same goes for laddishness.

                Most importantly, “chav” is a pejorative term referring to working class people. It’s not synonymous with violent behaviour.

                1. Anonymous for this*

                  This is an old thread, and I’m revisiting it due to AAM’s year-end updates. Nonetheless, I wanted to respond to this point.

                  I would not, ultimately, describe either the US or the UK as a “violent society,” and my position from June hasn’t ultimately changed: London isn’t unduly dangerous. Nonetheless, while the risk of a mass shooting may be greater in the US than the UK, mass shootings aren’t the only kind of violence. London does have a problem with acid attacks (CNN described it as “the world capital” of acid attacks on men), particularly in parts of East London.

                  When I lived in London, I lived above a pub near Old Street; I wouldn’t describe it as a “no go zone,” but there were definitely dicey moments on Friday evenings. And my favorite story: during the World Cup, one drunk patron nearly started a fistfight with an American patron who got testy when the former accused Americans generally of not knowing anything about soccer! Said fistfight was averted when the drunk bloke challenged the American to describe the offsides rule, and he quoted it almost verbatim.

      2. J*

        Exactly this. I’m going to London in a couple months and have talked about moving the trip since the uptick in terrorist attacks. But the entire trip was based around being in Kings Cross on Sept 1 this year, and I’m not really willing to compromise on that. I’ll probably be more conscious and have heightened awareness of my surroundings on the trip than I would have otherwise, but I’m not overly worried.

        1. Becky*

          I was at King’s Cross last year on Sept 1! :D
          (A year too early to see Albus off to school but…)

        2. MacAilbert*

          Heh. I did that in January (so no seeing the students off) took a couple hours to get through the photograph line, but it was totally worth it.

      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Sure, but OP is going through a different experience than others—it’s not only the underlying general anxiety or the specific anxiety of multiple terror attacks, it’s also coming on the heels of witnesses an extremely distressing and traumatic event. I think JPaper is just trying to let OP know that they’re not alone in their fears/anxiety and that it’s ok to feel this way so that OP feels comfortable raising the issue with the powers that be.

        We can of course rationalize over whether the fears are substantiated relative to other everyday harms, but I’m not sure that will help OP address their immediate concerns re: business travel to the UK.

    2. EleonoraUK*

      I live in London Bridge, about 10 mins walk from where the attack occurred and was home when it happened. I regularly go drinking in Borough Market, but I happened to be hosting people at home that evening. I was deeply upset after what happened, and shocked to the core, but things are returning to normal, and extra defenses have been put on all London bridges so pedestrians can’t be hit again. I don’t know if that helps, as fear isn’t rational and the OP has every right to feel exactly how she feels, but I just wanted to share my current experience as someone local in case it was useful/helped allay some fears.

      1. VivaVirago*

        I absolutely second this! I work in London Bridge and travel there daily.

        It is also totally okay to feel fear and anxiety and not go on the trip, and I’m so sorry that you’ve been dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event. The emotional response to that kind of shock and trauma doesn’t go away overnight, and can absolutely impact how you feel about other big things (and international travel can certainly feel like a big thing!). So I want to emphasise that this is not in any way an attempt to undermine you or how you feel about this, and good for you for thinking about your needs and wants and what that might look like in this scenario.

        If you *do* end up going on the trip and it is helpful to know that there are friendly people here, well… hello! I would be happy to answer any questions at all that you might have about coming here, if that is a thing that would be of use to you.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        I think it’s easier to feel that way when you’re right there, which might seem odd, but you’re seeing all the every day stuff carrying on that those of us watching the news from across the world don’t see.

        Source: Lived in NYC during 9/11.

        1. EleonoraUK*

          I completely agree – it’s why I hope my posting may help a little. Like VivaVirago, happy to answer any questions about the area if useful to the OP.

          People going about their daily business as normal after a terror attack doesn’t tend to get extensively covered. I’ve been back at Borough Market several times, to shop, to eat, to get slightly tipsy. In fact, the night we got slightly tipsy, I only later thought, “Oh, I’d been thinking in the back of my mind that I should keep my wits about me and be 100% in control at Borough Market.” The fact that an evening gently got out of control to the point of tipsiness snapped me out of that subconsciously held belief, and right into the amazing Mexican food place (which is located right next to where the attackers were shot). It still feels weird to walk down that street, but I imagine that, too, will fade with time.

          I also feel slightly defiant about the whole thing. This is my place, my neighbourhood. I refuse to be cowed out of going there. In fact, I’ll go twice for every time I would have otherwise gone.

          It’s a funny old world, and a tragic one, but it seems to go on anyway.

          1. JeanB in NC*

            “It’s a funny old world, and a tragic one, but it seems to go on anyway.”

            I think that’s the most British thing I’ve ever read. :)

    3. sanbikinoraion*

      The stupid thing is that thanks to gun violence in the USA, you’re far safer while in the aeroplane and in London than you would be if you just stayed home.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        I really don’t see the point of everyone chiming in to tell the OP how ridiculous her fear is. She isn’t asking for help understanding the risk. She knows the odds of something happening are low. Her issues are anxiety-driven, and you can’t just throw facts and probabilities at her and make that go away. Let’s please focus on helping her with the question she asked.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          That was my original reaction too and I almost said something about it, but actually, she IS asking for help understanding the risk. She writes: “Am I being ridiculous and should I just get on with it as best as I can and hope the trip goes okay, or is this a legitimate concern/request?”

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Oh, that’s interesting! I read that line as, “Is it inappropriate/bizarre/out-of-professional-norms to ask not to travel to London in light of my anxiety?” as opposed to “is my anxiety/fear legitimate.” I have to confess that my reaction to the posts about gun violence, likelihood of death in the U.S. v. UK, etc., was similar to JB’s.

            1. Elizabeth H.*

              I read the question that way too. Actually, I still think that both factors are present in her question and should be present in the relevant advice. She asks if it’s a legitimate concern AND a legitimate request. It seems like people are
              a) providing examples and evidence that many people feel safe in London and that there is not really an authenticated basis to fear or avoid travel there
              b) suggesting that in consideration of the context of her recent experiences, her mental state etc. it’s not unreasonable for her to say that she feels nervous traveling and request to do the training here if at all possible (even if it’s not a legitimate safety concern as it would be if she were going to say Somalia – the way she feels is real). Hopefully, both pieces of advice are helpful and relevant to the letter writer whatever her decision ends up being.

              1. Anxious Traveller OP*

                Thank you and apologies if I wasn’t clear. I did mean to ask if my concerns were both legitimate (given recent events) AND reasonable (given the lack of perspective that anxiety can cause), but I can see how it could be read as one or the other!

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Yes, that’s how I read it. But if other people are reading it the way Alison is, then maybe I’m wrong!

          2. MacAilbert*

            Wait, isn’t the OP British, just not English? I could have sworn she mentioned that in the comments somewhere. I’m all for the America VS. Europe discussion (I kind of started it), but I was under the impression that the OP wasn’t American and we were comparing our perspectives to each other rather than addressing the OP at that point.

        2. Super Anon for This*

          It looks to me more like people are explaining the fear and anxiety they felt about terrorist attacks they experienced and how they dealt with it. Not saying that her fears are ridiculous and have no basis.

  10. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2… I hope you are able to work things out. I know this might not help, but if you do end up going, I live near London. It’s OK. The attacks were scary and tragic, but really aren’t a major concern in everyday life.

    But yeah, these things aren’t rational… my brain knows the chances of the channel tunnel springing a leak and drowning me are as close to zero as you can get but I still don’t want to go through it in case it springs a leak ;)

    1. When a man is tired of London...*

      There are probably loads of employees at LW1’s workplace who would jump at the chance to go to London in her place!

        1. Blue Anne*

          Weegies don’t like anywhere but glezga. :P

          (Looking forward to returning to Edinburgh this weekend… I don’t like London much either.)

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        The purpose of this trip is explicitly about the OP — for her to meet colleagues and receive training.

    2. The Bread burglar*

      I am American and live in London. I am not afraid.

      It was surprising and upsetting but we are moving forward just fine. There is increased security. I actually would advise going to youtube and watching the Jon Oliver video where he talked about the attacks and how American media were covering it in a really dramatic way.

      I would also remind you that on average in Western Europe that less than 200 people die a year from terrorism attacks. You actually have a stronger chance of terrorism killing you if you live in the USA.

      Now if this is more about what you witnessed and a desire to be closer to home and your support network that makes a lot of sense. Especially if you have anxiety already. And I would second that only you can decide whats right for you. But I didnt want you to think that London is in a grip of terror and a warzone the way media can portray it.

      1. CityMouse*

        I live in the DC area and have lived in both Chicago and New York and stuff happens (I was actually on the same block from Comet Ping Pong when that shooting happened). I am pretty good at rationalizing and realizing I am far more likely to die of the flu than be killed by a terrorist, but I recognise that not everyone is able to do that. My mother in law has lived in tiny towns her whole life and things like the Alexandria shooting make her upset. My spouse also travels a lot for work and is in London regularly and so she gets anxiety about that too. Her first trip to visit us in Chicago and she was terrified of the L, but she had literally never been on public transport before.

        One thing that works for MIL and my mom is to focus on the benefits of our city. We take her to things she likes here like festivals or museums in DC and she can see the benefits and it makes her less city anxious. My spouse tells her about fun stuff he gets to do in his downtime in London and ot.givrs her a different focus point.

        If LW has downtime in London, I would suggest picking fun things to do in London and focusing on that aspect of planning. Instead of fear about travel what about a trip to the Tate or the Tower of London or whatever you are uniquely interested in? Or just picking a fun restaurant to visit?

        1. This Daydreamer*

          Downtime in London! *starts fantasizing*

          You know, I think it would be good to focus on all of the cool stuff you can do and see in London to help distract yourself from any anxiety. And there are so many museums, historical sites, pubs, shopping, and other really cool stuff to do there.

          OP, look at guidebooks to see what’s there to do. Maybe that will help you deal with the anxiety just because you have so much to look forward to!

      2. Elizabeth West*

        This is a good point. Our media in the US tends to dramatically exaggerate risk for ratings. I read MSN UK and MSN US every morning and the same headline can be hugely different from one site to the other.

        1. London Calling*

          Some newspapers in the UK were very irked at the NYT suggesting that after the London Bridge attack London was ‘reeling with shock.’ Sure we were shocked, pissed off and angry – but reeling? not anywhere I went or anyone I saw – and I work somewhere that is an ideal target. On the Monday morning people were commuting and going to school as usual, running their errands and leading their – our – lives. As someone said after the tube bombings in 2005 – this is London, dudes. We are used to the bad guys trying to frighten and demoralise us and we adjust our day around it.

          1. Political risk consultant*

            Incidentally, I was in London on 5/5. Reeling was an accurate description. I was virtually the only person in my client’s office that day, because I had walked from our corporate apartment to work. Anyone whose commute involved public transportation didn’t make it in. On Borough Market, I’m not there now, so I can’t say, but it strikes me that arguing over “shocked” versus “reeling” is splitting semantic hairs.

      3. Political risk consultant*

        “I actually would advise going to youtube and watching the Jon Oliver video where he talked about the attacks and how American media were covering it in a really dramatic way.”
        While I don’t see London as overly dangerous, I do often see folks try to brush off concerns about terrorism as “the media’s exaggerating it.” It’s not. There are Islamists in London with very troubling backgrounds.

  11. Marzipan*

    #1, I’d suggest you consider having the ‘main manager’ you mentioned be the one to talk to your employee about this. I say that because of the ‘Is there some specific reason why you don’t want to hear from him?’ part of the conversation. I agree that it’s very, very much more likely that the issue here is with the employee’s boyfriend and not anything to do with your husband, but on the remote chance that there actually is some issue she needs to raise, it would probably be a lot easier for her to do so if she’s speaking to someone who isn’t married to the person she’s raising a concern about.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I was just about to post something similar!
      She can also discuss whether there is a different method of contacting her which would work better – I think for most people a voicemail followed by e-mail would be fine, but it wouldn’t, presumably, be difficult to switch to text + email if that is preferred.
      It might also be worth suggesting that she clarify why the employee / her boyfriend felt it was inappropriate – we’re all assuming that it is because the asst. manager is a man but it’s worth clarifying whether the timing of the call might be an issue . (It doesn’t sound likely, but a specific conversation should rule that out, and allow the employee to raise any relevant points – for instance if there is an issue with [perceived] poor management meaning that calls to home / out of hours are made too often)

      It does sound much more likely that it relates to an abusive partner, but it is worth having the conversation in a way which allows any other actual or perceived issues to be raised as well.

      1. Czhorat*

        It doesnt’ matter why the boyfriend has an issue with this. For him to contact the employer on this is inappropriate. Full stop.

        The employee is an adult. The only reason a third party should ever be involved would be an actual legal issue, in which case the third party would be her lawyer. The only conversation the management should have here is with the employee to tell them that they are not to have boyfriends, spouses, neighbors, or anyone else contact the management on their behalf.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Yes, obviously, it is inappropriate completely that the BF texted. But this is an abusive situation, and the posters here, and Alision, and the OP, are talking about wanting to deal with the situation in a way that is helpful to the employee given the abuse while also dealing with enforcing professionalism.

          So sure, the boss can charge in and declare that the boyfriend is never to talk. If there was no abuse at home that’d be great.

          Or, because the OP actually cares about the well-being of the employee here, who is a victim of violence, the OP can have a still professional conversation to see if there is some (still, professional) way to go about this.

          I don’t think OP wants to decide to just not give a sh&t that the employee is being abused. Hence the letter.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          That’s true, but Bagpuss and Marzipan are also right that the “why it’s inappropriate” question helps OP figure out what the employee’s safety/context are. There may be different approaches based on whether this is a controlling situation or whether it’s a “has a bad understanding of professional boundaries” problem. I know those problems seem like the same thing, but the latter could exist without the former.

        3. kb*

          The boyfriend is being completely inappropriate no matter what, you’re completely right. That should be the primary message from management to the employee (though I suspect the employee already knows and is probably embarrassed). But I think Marzipan and Bagpuss are saying that just in case the phone call from the assistant manager wasn’t completely aboveboard (not that there’s anything in the letter to believe that it wasn’t), the employee may be more likely to open up about that to someone who is not married to the assistant manager.

          1. Marzipan*

            Yeah. I just think that if you’re ever going to ask someone if there’s an issue with X, you should be prepared for the possibility that the answer will be ‘yes’, even if it seems extremely unlikely and you’re really just asking the question as a precursor to a ‘well, given that there’s no X issue, moving forward I need Y from you’ kind of conversation.

            If ‘yes’ isn’t actually a (remote) possibility there’d be no point asking the question; you’re asking it because you want to know if there’s some factor you aren’t aware of. And if you accept that ‘yes’ is a possibility, then if the X in the conversation relates to your husband, it creates a possible barrier to communication – the employee may wonder if your reaction will be coloured by your relationship. In this case it sounds as though there’s another manager who could reasonably speak to the employee about the issue without that being a factor, and that seems to me like a good way forward.

    2. CityMouse*

      I also.woukd anticipate the employee.potwntially lying about her reasons. “My boyfriend doesn’t think I should talk to men” may even sound absurd to her, so in would expect her.to rationalize. I feel like I would expect her or her boyfriend to be irrational and I don’t like this suspicion on the manager when he has.done nothing to earn it.

      1. Bagpuss*

        I don’t think it is suspicion on the manager, It’s a way of specifically clearing that possibility off the board. Since the asst. manager is OP’s husband, she presumably is not going to rush to condemn him even if the employee were to make an allegation against him, but ensuing that the person who has the conversation is not married to the person being complained about is good management practice in any event, and also makes it easier for the employee to say something if there was anything specific in what the manager said or did or how they dealt with the interaction which is an issue *for her*.

        Something as simple as “He phoned at 10.30 p.m. – I feel calling that late was inappropriate and he should have texted” is far easier to say to to someone who is not your boss’s spouse, and in most cases would also be a valid issue to raise. calling at that time might also be reasonable if the change means you need to be out of the house 3 hours earlier than planned the following morning, and it might *feel* reasonable to someone who typically doesn’t go to bed until midnight, but not to someone who usually goes at 10 – it’s not necessarily about suspicion or blame, its about communication.

        It may be that the employee would lie. In which case OP can investigate any complaint made and decide how to proceed.

        1. Marzipan*

          “I don’t think it is suspicion on the manager, It’s a way of specifically clearing that possibility off the board.”

          That was certainly the spirit I meant it in. Because a) inappropriate behaviour can and does exist in the world, and b) it’s very difficult for people to *seem* impartial in cases where they have a personal connection, even if they are doing their utmost to act impartially. For example, occasionally members of my team need to make decisions where they might be perceived as being biased, and I generally pass those decisions on outside the team. I trust that they would be fair and reasonable, but I also recognise that the person being decided about might not perceive it that way. Removing that factor makes it look fair as well as being fair, and sometimes that’s half the battle.

          In this case, it’s not that I think the husband has done anything untoward, but that removing his spouse from the conversion makes it an open forum for the employee to raise any concerns she did have.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I agree with this.

      I also like the suggestion about setting up an email address with a generic name like scheduling or asstmanager that was mentioned above.

      1. Wheezy Weasel*

        Might be worthwhile setting up a Google Voice account for texting, too. Both owner and manager can access it via a smartphone app or browser.

  12. Librarian of the North*

    OP #2 – In a previous profession I was the go to travel person. I liked it for the most part and because I was hourly travel was major money. However, I have huge flight anxiety. I passed out on a plan after it sat on the tarmac for an hour being de-iced and had a major panic attack the next two times I flew. I had to tell my manager I couldn’t fly anymore and explained my anxieties. Not only were they very willing to accommodate me, they felt terrible I had continued to fly despite panic attacks. I think if you have a decent manager you should be able to explain the situation and be met with compassion.

  13. MommyMD*

    Witnessing a suicide is highly traumatic. You may need some short term counseling and a short period of time off work. It does not sound like a good time to go on this trip. How understanding is your employer? Anxiety plus witnessing a death plus terrorism concerns is a lot to handle all at once.

    1. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)*

      Agree. I think if any these events occurred independently the OP may be able to manage travel anxiety as normal, but the amount of recent exposure to several traumatizing events is probably more than most anyone would be able to handle.

      1. MommyMD*

        Yes. The suicide must be taken into account in this situation which just puts LW over the top. I say she comes clean in private with a hopefully understanding manager.

  14. misspiggy*

    It seems like OP2 might be working regularly with London colleagues. If so it’s probably better not to let them find out the trigger for the trip being cancelled. Risks like that have been a feature of London life since the 1970s. They may hope colleagues are willing to bear those risks for a short time, and feel distanced if not. Which would damage the working relationship in many subtle ways. (Just as I’m terrified about visiting friends in a high-gun-use area of the US, but wouldn’t give them that reason for opting out of a visit.) It might be better to focus on general anxiety about travel to unfamiliar places, especially in the wake of the suicide.

    1. Hankie Enlightenment (formerly Sarahnova)*

      Yeah, as a Londoner I gotta admit to feeling mildly irked when people (including Brits) act like a trip to London is practically sticking your head into a lions mouth, even though millions of us are living here and working here literally every damn day. And where I come from, we don’t even really consider one loser with a car a ‘terrorist’. This city is not only amazing, it’s millions of people’s home, and we’re getting on with things like we have been doing since the threat was the Nazis.

      That said, anxiety is not rational and I know that OP#2’s will not be eased by the knowledge that she’ll almost certainly be reducing her risk of dying by taking public transport around London vs staying at home and driving to work. #2, I think it’s reasonable to raise the issues with your manager and I wish you success in dealing with your anxieties.

      1. (Different) Rebecca*

        Some friends of mine in Chippenham (I’m American) have never been to London! Not once in their whole lives!

        1. Discordia Angel Jones*

          My parents live part time near Chippenham, part time in London – I am constantly surprised when I visit them in their non-London abode how many people there I meet who have never been to London. It’s only an hour and a half away (by car, probably about the same by train)!

          But I suppose that sort of thing happens everywhere in the world, through lack of opportunity or lack of interest (or both). I also have the drive to go everywhere and see everything, which some people don’t (and some people can’t).

          FWIW for the OP2, I do live full time in London, and I can chime in with the other Londoners above and below, we are all carrying on as normal and London isn’t “in the grip of fear” which I recall seeing in some US broadcasting. I am being more vigilant than perhaps I was a year or so ago, but I regularly go to Borough Market and have been back since it reopened! I also travel through one of the busiest train stations in the country on a twice daily basis. There’s an increased official presence, but nothing to be worried about.

          Of course, anxiety is usually not rational, but I’m sure OP2 if you want you can ask your London colleagues some questions, if you think it would help?

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This is not a surprise to me; I meet people here who have never seen the ocean, not once in their entire lives. To drive to Corpus Christi, TX from my city is about 13 hours (that’s only a day and a half of driving). We did it all the time when I was a kid. I know that seems endless to someone in Europe, but in the US, it’s not all that long. And these are not people who couldn’t afford it, either. They just have no curiosity about going. :(

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              I think the “only a day and a half” thing is going to vary by US location as well. Growing up in the Northeast, that sounds like a *lot* of driving to me.

      2. Super Anon for This*

        I mean, I come from a small rural town where there is no crime basically. Maybe a kid shoplifting a pack of gum from a convenience store.

        So the idea of traveling to a place you hear about on the news (not London I mean, any big city) every night for shootings and grisly murders is horrifying. I live in a relatively low crime big city right now, and it seems like there is at least one new murder every day.

        I like living in this city, but it is appalling and frightening to think you might be walking down the wrong street at the wrong time and get paralyzed, killed, etc. And you mention that millions of people live and work in London, which sounds like you mean millions of people make it in and out of London everyday without being in a terrorist attack, so why worry? But the thing is, if you are one of the ones, that’s it. Game over. The odds of being in a terrorist attack are small, but if you are the consequences are enormous. That’s what people really worry about.

    2. VivaVirago*

      Eh, I am a Londoner and I think it depends on the person you’re talking to. I’d not be at all fussed by colleagues planning a trip wanting to perhaps talk to me about my perspective on the recent attacks and safety in general in the area. I generally think it’s okay to ask a local colleague questions about upcoming travel, and especially if LW2 had a really good relationship with a couple of London colleagues, then I don’t think she would need to actively avoid voicing concern about recent terrorism.

    3. Samata (Formerly Whats In A Name)*

      I think in this case the London attacks aren’t the sole reason for, and alone likely wouldn’t result in, cancelling the trip. OP has witnessed a series of traumatic events recently and the culmination of feelings around all of these would be hard for most people to manage.

      1. Elle*

        Agreed, but it’s unlikely to be understood that way by her colleagues. I work for a large multinational and if I heard that an American colleague was cancelling a trip to London because of anxiety, I and everyone else would assume it was a hysterical reaction to the recent terror attacks. And we would have no sympathy.

        Incidentally, I don’t recall many Americans being terrified of terrorist attacks in the UK when it was the IRA, but I suppose it’s a bit different when it’s a group you are funding, isn’t it?

    4. Turkletina*

      If your friends live in a high-gun-use area (or a high-crime area — I’m not sure whether you’re talking about places where concealed carry is the norm or places that have a lot of gun violence), they know why you’re not visiting. Even if the OP gives another excuse, it’s going to be in the back of her colleagues’ minds as a possibility. I really don’t think the OP needs to go our of her way to spare the feelings of the colleagues.

      I live in Detroit. None of my friends from other parts of the country want to visit me. Have they told me why? No. Do I know? Absolutely. I don’t think their fears are well-founded, but I also don’t take it personally.

      1. Pebbles*

        I’ve traveled to Detroit 4 times in the last 8 years or so. Only once did I feel concerned and that was during a walk from the hotel to downtown (about 1-1.5 miles) past broken/boarded-up windows and a school with barbed wire fencing. Nothing bad happened, but we took a cab back. Other than that, my husband and I have had so much fun there. It’s much like any other downtown area IMO, with the lively and vibrant areas that have lots to see and do, and then areas where it’s sad to see buildings that aren’t being taken care of.

      2. Gelliebean*

        I used to live near Woodward, just north of the city itself, and I do get just a little cranky at people who have a particular stereotype in their heads. I mean, I get why they might think it’s scary, but I spent a lot of time in Detroit and I love it like no other city I’ve been in. Mostly Detroiters are just hanging out being people.

  15. This Daydreamer*

    OP#1, I think your employee’s boyfriend is trying to get her fired. He’s likely make more demands of you that are inappropriate and get in the way of her ability to work. He may also try to sabotage her job on her end as well, maybe forcing her to share a car and then always needing it when she has to get to work or demanding it during the work day, for instance. He may try to convince her to quit.

    He’s doing this in order to isolate her so he has more control over her.

    It isn’t fair for you to have to deal with this and you are likely to have to figure out how involved you are going to be in helping her. I advise you to ask her if he is trying to force her out of a job and start the conversation from there. Ask her if she wants you to ban him from her workplace – if he is ever disruptive or threatening then of course he should be banned immediately, with or without her blessing. Don’t just have information about domestic violence lying around the office, talk to her about it. Tell her about local organizations that can help. Try to convince her to call them.

    If she isn’t ready to talk to them immediately, tell her she can change her mind later, but that she is in danger of losing her job and independence if she doesn’t keep him from interfering with your workplace. Also tell her that you will not communicate with her boyfriend and hold to that. Especially make sure no one ever tells him where she will be going as a part of her job.

    Never forget that you can’t force her to get help, to leave her abuser. If he makes it impossible for her to do her job and she isn’t willing to leave, then you may have no choice but to fire her. If the realization that she has to choose between her boyfriend and her job is enough to convince her to seek help then you can choose to cut her some slack for a short time. But she may choose not to leave him, and it is extremely hard to make the choice to leave an abuser.

    1. NEW YEAR, NEW ME*

      If she is in danger of losing her job, it’s giving her bf more power over here. This could be what he wants to happen to her, and also gives him more financial control over her.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        That’s very true, but the OP is the boss here and has a business to run. She can be as sympathetic to her employee’s plight as anyone but she has obligations to her clients and to her other employee.

        It’s an awful situation, but there is only so much she can do to help. I really hope that she can help her employee get the assistance she needs to safely leave her abuser.

  16. Your local London expat*

    OP2 – I’m an American who has lived in London for the last decade, as well as a fellow anxiety-sufferer. This is in no way to downplay your feelings, which are completely valid, but to just give you some context from the ground.

    I live by Waterloo station. My flat is about a half mile from both Westminster Bridge and Borough Market, and I was in El Pastor (one of the restaurants attacked at the market) the Saturday night prior to the attacks. It is as close to home as it could be.

    But. Except for barricades along the sidewalks on bridges (which you would likely think was just to delineate pedestrian vs bike vs car lanes, if you were out of the loop), London is untouched. I am currently standing in one of the busiest stations (Paddington) at one of the busiest times waiting for my train platform to be announced, surrounded by thousands of people doing the same. It feels like any big city. I’m surrounded by people commuting to work, heading to Henley Regatta (hats ahoy!), going to their families, and more.

    I say this just to say – London is okay. And you will be okay if you decide to come here. Most importantly, though, practice the right self care for you, and make the decision that is right for your health. If that’s to stay home, stay home and don’t feel guilty about it. There will be more trips and more opportunities.

    Jedi hugs from London.

    1. London Engineer*

      Yes – and this is why I would shy away from mentioning any anxieties to do with London as a destination when bringing this up. You might end up with people understandably trying to reassure you about the risks which is unlikely to help in the same way that pointing out that a particular spiders aren’t poisonous isn’t going to help someone with a phobia.

      And I say this as someone who works around the corner from Borough market and whose office was shut for a few days afterwards – the area is back to normal as far as I can tell and seems as crowded as ever.

      1. Denise biscuit*

        Off topic but I have to ask: do all you folks in london go out for drinks at all and talk about the latest AAM post? Sounds like jolly fun!

        1. Your local London expat*

          No, but now I’m tempted to organise an AAM drinking session in Borough Market. Win win!

  17. Madison*

    OP2: As someone who has anxiety, and has some serious travel anxiety, down things that worked for me, and might help you.
    1. A course of low dose anti depressants; it’s takes the edge off so I can address this by…
    2. Mindfulness (meditation): I never thought this would work but with an app or regular classes are incredible. Anxiety is just your body having a physical over reaction and you can control this
    3. Having a chat to a psychologist will help immensely in dealing with it – CBT therapy is life changing
    4. Valium :-) a Valium for a flight may help and that’s okay
    5: there is a terrific book called ‘first, we make the beast beautiful’ by Sarah Wilson on anxiety and it is magic
    6. Be kind to yourself and know that you can overcome this, and it might suck. I often write frantically for 5 minutes about how Beyoncé would handle the stressful situation and then realise how much my anxiety has lessened!
    Best of luck xx

    1. Excel Slayer*

      I’m piggybacking on this because all these are good things to think about.

      As someone who also has clinical anxiety (thankfully travel anxiety isn’t a part of may anxiety), I’ve found that being open with my boss about it has been really helpful. People do generally understand that it’s something people are hesitant to be open about, so I don’t think mentioning it now will be seen as weird. If, in your judgement, your manager isn’t a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ unhelpful kind of person, it could be helpful for you to share.

    2. Emi.*

      You can also get a lot of CBT workbooks–I’ve got The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, which seems pretty good, and I’ve also heard good things about The Anxiety and Worry Workbook (although for you I bet advice about phobias could help). If CBT is “therapy with homework,” CBT workbooks are, like, homeschool therapy, I guess. You do have to motivate yourself to do the homework, but it’s just as effective. :)

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        I loved that workbook (anxiety and worry workbook). So good and helpful. My only issue was that it wasn’t until I got to the last chapter that I really felt like “This IS A BOOK ABOUT ME” – I found the worry stuff better targeted to me than the anxiety stuff which included a lot on physical symptoms.

  18. Info Interview*

    #4 – If you get a positive reply back, set up a calendar reminder on your phone or other calendar now to follow up in January/February. With the new baby’s arrival & general life busyness, it will be helpful to have an automatic reminder to yourself so it doesn’t fall by the wayside 6-7 months from now.

    1. LW #4*

      Good call! And thanks to Alison for the great script. Now, to paraphrase it so it’s not googleable . . .

      1. Emi.*

        My strategy for this, when I’m having trouble, is to read the original, then make an outline of the important points (*apology *reminder of who I even am *gratitude/apology *explanation etc), and then write my version from this outline without looking at the original.

        OTOH, why would she google your email? That would be super weird.

        1. LW #4*

          Falls into the category of “Paranoia/You Can’t Be Too Careful/Risk-Reward Ratio Here is Skewed, i.e. save 5-10 minutes by not rewriting vs convince professional contact I am a bumbler and a plagiarizer” for me.

  19. CityMouse*

    Op1: this is hard and I think you have to tread a fine line. I don’t necessarily think you should accommodate his controlling behavior because 1) it interferes with people’s ability to do their jobs and 2) it sends a message that normalizes his behavior or makes it seem more reasonable and you should not be sending a message to your employee that this is no big deal. But I wouldn’t jump to during her either. I don’t think it is wrong to set reasonable boundaries with this employee, making clear it is.not okay for her boyfriend to contact her bosses like this, while also posting DV hotline info in the bathrooms or similar. You can try to help her but don’t let her boyfriend abuse you or your other employees.

    1. Not Allison*

      Agree x100. He thinks it’s okay to control her AND her workplace. To make any change in process would be admitting fault and feeding this guy’s ego.

      I would have a talk with the employee and instead of posting signs randomly, literally hand them to her and encourage her to seek a counselor to at least talk about this. It’s probably the tip of the iceberg in terms of the ways he abuses her. Maybe she needs someone reasonable to confirm what is actually going on here.

  20. Kat A.*

    For LW #2: Suggest doing the training in your office because it would save the company money. “I really don’t mind doing it here. It would be more economical.”

    1. Sarah*

      I mean, the company is likely going to be out the cost of the tickets at this point, so I’m not sure this will work. Every company does travel expenses differently, but where I work it would be a big deal to cancel flights and not get the benefit of the travel, absent some really significant reason/excuse. If OPs employer buys refundable/transferable tickets, perhaps it’s not an issue though.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah — if they’re already prepared to pay it, it’s likely they’ll just respond that the price isn’t a problem. It’s better to be more straightforward.

        1. Sarah*

          I guess it depends on the workplace. Like I said, this would actually be a pretty big deal at my current job, but we also deal with a lot of grants and weird pots of money (including some government funding, although we’re not ourselves government-affiliated) so they can be super strict about exactly how things are spent/reimbursed. So, this is maybe just a “know your workplace” sort of thing. I can 100% say that while I don’t think my work would FORCE me to go on a trip like this after the tickets were purchased, it would definitely hurt my reputation to back out with anything less than clear documentation from a doctor/psychiatrist, and I do think it would limit my future opportunities. Now, that may not be true everywhere (or even most places!) but I do think it’s something to consider and weigh given OP’s particular workplace.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      In addition to what Sarah and Alison said, the training is not the only reason for the trip (and money is not the only factor; the quality of the training, the experience the OP will gain, etc. also matter).

  21. Turanga Leela*

    #5—In addition to what Alison said, you can also talk about why you’re interested in this particular insurance/retail/etc. job. Does the company have a reputation for treating employees well? Does it provide products or services that you really like? If you can explain why you’d rather work at this job than at other, similar jobs, that can be a great thing to add in your letter or interview.

  22. Mrs. Fenris*

    #2-By all means, be up front and talk to your manager about possibly doing the training locally! Travel anxiety is pretty common. I really wish a former coworker of mine had handled it directly. We had just acquired some new equipment that would greatly add to the services we were able to provide, a real game-changer, but which has a steep learning curve. Our boss wanted us each to go to a two-day training session that was offered a few times a year in a city halfway across the country, a very expensive class that she paid for. We all got it done over the next 18 months or so (it was actually an excellent class at a great facility, and I thoroughly enjoyed it), except for one guy who kept just not doing it. He was a person who struggled terribly with direct communication. Any time Boss asked him when he would be taking the class, he would cheerfully tell her he was going to do it soon. He was the only one who hadn’t been trained on the equipment yet and it was affecting his work flow. She finally got him to register for the class, and paid for it. And he just didn’t go! Nobody found out about it until the following Monday. He finally confessed to the boss that he didn’t like to fly. If he had just said so to begin with, she could have accommodated him. There were a couple of similar classes within driving distance of our city. That was the beginning of the end with him at our company, I’m afraid.

    1. AMPG*

      I second this – I think the terrorism aspect of it, even though it’s a real trigger for you, might be complicating your thinking about the situation a bit. Travel anxiety is common enough that you can probably expect your employer to be understanding. You can explain that you’re usually able to treat it well enough to handle business travel, but you’re experiencing an uptick in symptoms, and so would prefer to do the training at the home office this time. You can add that you do fully expect to be able to travel in the future. I really think they’ll be understanding, especially if you approach it with the attitude that you know it’s your problem to manage.

      1. Anonymous for this*

        I think they will be understanding — but within limits. That’s why OP should cite her recent witnessing of a suicide. Is OP presents this as generalized travel anxiety, what will happen the next time the company needs him to take a business trip?

  23. Detective Amy Santiago*

    OP2 – I know it can be difficult to be open about mental health struggles, but I would urge you to talk to your employer. Honestly, I don’t think I’d bring up the terrorism aspect at this point and instead focus on the terrible tragedy you witnessed and explain that it has shaken you up (rightfully so) and that you don’t think you’re in a place right now where travel is a good idea.

    And please consider seeking some counseling to help you deal with this if you haven’t already. It is likely that you have some mild PTSD from what you witnessed.

  24. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-Follow Alison’s advice
    #2-I can understand not wanting to travel. On Monday, my BIL quickly canceled travel to Paris this week because my sister almost had a panic attack. The university where our mom works had an “armed man on campus” scenario that turned out to be a horrible hoax. Mom spent a couple hours locked in her file room with colleagues. All was well but sister was just short of a mental break down, on top of her and her husband signing on their new home. He probably should have gone but his bosses understood the situation. I don’t think it’s going to hurt to ask and explain.

  25. Emi.*

    #1 Is this actually the same workplace as the old letter about the boyfriend calling his girlfriend’s employer, or just a similar situation?

    1. CityMouse*

      It has to be similar, right? The OP in that article was the boyfriend. It is just similar and I think Allison’s point is that it isn’t as rare as we would like to think.

    2. Solidus Pilcrow*

      I was getting a feeling of deja vu, too. I feel like I’ve read this before (or something very, very similar).

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        That confused me too! I like the links in general, but linking something in the OP’s letter (rather than your response) makes it seem like they chose the link (and in this case, that they were involved with that specific letter). I think it would be more clear if you only linked in your response.

    3. Amber Rose*

      Sadly, abusive situations tend to play out the same. Nearly every story of an abusive partner is going to sound like someone else’s story of an abusive partner. It’s a fairly predictable cycle. :(

    4. Amber Rose*

      OP 2: Anxiety is an overblown version of a perfectly normal human response. And in the case of attacks and stuff, most of the world is anxious. Everyone is tense. Even in my part of the world where there has been no terrorism or anything, security at events is ramping up. There is going to be an absolute flood of tourists here in a week and you can feel the concern in the air.

      Your boss is not going to think you are being strange. He is not going to think you’re lying or being over dramatic, as long as you don’t burst into tears and start screaming or something. Present your concerns calmly and ask if you can not go on the trip, I am pretty sure it will just be a normal work conversation.

      If he doesn’t want to let you stay home, consider a quick chat with a doctor or therapist about some coping strategies for a short term, high anxiety event.

      1. Amber Rose*

        OK, something went weird there, because this wasn’t supposed to be a reply, it was supposed to be it’s own post.

        Darn. :[

  26. Allison*

    #2, I feel you, I have travel anxiety too! I often get nervous before going places, worried something will happen and I won’t know what to do, worried I’ll forget something important or get lost. But, if it helps at all, I just traveled to London and had a blast! It helped that I was traveling with family, so I was never alone, and I got to see some really cool stuff and eat some delicious Indian food. I was super nervous on my way to the airport, but I’m so glad I went! Once I was on the ground, going from place to place and seeing all the incredible old buildings, my anxiety mostly subsided.

    That said, I’m still not compelled to become a world traveler and start flying all over the place by myself! I could go back to London and I’d love to go back to Paris (super cliche and “basic,” I know, but what can I say? I fell in love with the city!), but it would have to be with family, friends, or a significant other. If I had to go back to London by myself, I could probably do it, but I’d need some deep breaths and a glass of wine . . . or three . . .

    If you really can’t bring yourself to go, I totally understand. However, I highly recommend trying to make the trip less scary and even something to look forward to, because the opportunity for this kind of travel (on someone else’s dime!) is pretty awesome. Is there a way for you to not travel alone? Could you have someone meet you at the airport? Would you be able to visit any cool landmarks while you’re there?

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Allison–I travel by myself almost all the time, and it really can be nice. If you ever want to try it (or OP does), you can start small. Make solo journeys to places close to you with which you’re unfamiliar. Practice finding how to get around by yourself, via apps or Google it beforehand (I do this a lot), or whatever. It also helps if your first major trip by yourself is to someplace you’ve been before, so there’s an element of familiarity there. I’ve been to London three times, alone, and I’m comfortable enough there now to get deliberately lost and explore. I went to Cardiff alone, Tintern Abbey alone, and all the way to Scotland alone.

      Now that I say that, it sounds pathetic, haha. #foreveralone

      I would much rather have someone to go with on holiday, but the reality of work travel is that you probably won’t have that. In OP’s case, you make a good suggestion about someone meeting her; perhaps one of the colleagues or someone from the other office could do that.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        I love traveling alone – I kind of prefer it. My point of traveling is to see the world and other people and things, so I like it when it’s just me and the experiences and I can focus totally outward. But if it’s someone you care about a lot or you’re going more for vacation than for exploration, then it can be fun to share the experiences together . . . they’re both good. However I have yet to meet another human being, besides my dad, who has as much enthusiasm for going to museums as I do.

      2. Pebbles*

        I don’t think that sounds pathetic at all!

        I spent the ages of 20-30 doing vacations mostly solo. Oh sure, I would meet new people here and there and spend a day or two with them occasionally, but personally, I much prefer experiencing the world on my own. I don’t have to take another person’s likes/dislikes into account, I can push myself where I want, I’m more approachable by people and it forces me to approach others when I need directions.

        Now that I’m older and married though, I rarely get to say “bye honey!” and take off, so there’s been some adjustments I’ve had to make. Thankfully though, we’ve got some common interests when we travel and he can be adventurous at times!

        For the OP, I personally like using the DK travel books (loads of pictures and suggested walks!) to research what there is to see and do in a place, and it gets me excited to make plans about the upcoming travel. I think other posters may have already suggested this, but perhaps finding something to be excited about would help take the focus off the anxiety so much?

  27. CityMouse*

    For OP5: I definitely feel you. There is an attitude in some areas that you have to be 100% passionate about every job but that just isn’t realistic. As much as you would like to say “I want this job for the money”, I would agree that explaining how you would be good at the job or other things you like about the job like location or the job tasks would be better, because they don’t want to hire you if you would be miserable because then you would likely leave quickly.

    1. Anon Anon*

      One of the best jobs I’ve had was one that wasn’t that excited about. In fact, if a friend had not have passed along the ad, I wouldn’t have bothered to apply. And, even during the interview process everyone seemed nice and it seemed like a good place to work, but it didn’t blow me away. But, it was one of the best career moves I’ve made, even though I wasn’t excited about a lot of the job duties of the position. And as someone who interviews, I care less about finding someone who is super passionate about the industry and more about finding someone who is capable and focused and isn’t going to want to pick-up and leave for something better in 18 months.

  28. puzzld*

    #1 We had a somewhat similar problem in that we had someone who could not be reached by text or cell phone (out of range for internet and cell service — I know, right?) and land line was spotty. So we had a practice of updating her calendar, then a couple of times a day when she drove up the hill to the end of the driveway to get her paper mail or newspaper, there was a point where her cell service kicked in and she retrieved her messages, looked at her calendar, etc.

    My point is, it seems to me that a “such and so has been changed on your calendar” would be very unobtrusive in a case like this.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Using a Google calendar, or other similar tool, might be useful.
      And as I pointed out below, having a male voice say, “I’ll send you the hotel room number in an email” might really trip some warning lights, especially for an abusive (possessive, power-hungry) boyfriend.

      So saying (or texting), “The details of your assignment have changed; all the info is on your calendar” might help to just ratchet it all down.

      You can’t solve her core problem, but there are perhaps ways to communicate info (and technology that can help you) that will lower the drama for her without inconveniencing the business.

    2. nonegiven*

      There are places around here you have to drive to the top of the hill to get a signal.

  29. Allison*

    #3, don’t avoid all contact on social media, but be conservative in your reactions/interactions. I always seem to have at least one male friend who likes, comments on, and/or shares just about everything I post, and while that’s allowed on Facebook, the amount of attention, disproportionate to the attention I get from most people, tends to creep me out* and I’ve put a number of guys on my “restricted” list because of it. When it comes to an applicant acknowledging, in some way, a lot of things the company posts, I’d probably figure they were either trying to suck up, or making sure we keep seeing their name so we don’t forget to read their resume and give them a call. I’d probably try to give them no more attention than you would any other similar company in the industry.

    *I realize that some people are just very active on FB and “like” pretty much everything they see, but despite knowing that, it’s still unsettling.

  30. Buffy Summers*

    Reading Marie’s comments made me think of my husband’s coworker, “John” who has a wife who is very abusive to him. He regularly comes in with bruises, black eyes, scratches, etc. He’s always asking my husband what he should do, but won’t follow through on any of the advice, such as filing a police report or leaving her. Part of it is likely the stigma attached to men seeking help for abuse by women. I guess he feels like seeking help isn’t “manly”. I don’t know. But I wish there were more resources for men and less stigma attached to it.
    The other part, though, is that she tells him no one would ever believe him; her coworkers believe she’s so sweet and kind and if he ever did tell someone she would be sure to convince everyone she was the abused and he, the abuser. She’s probably right – even I wouldn’t have believed her capable of this before my husband began telling me all that John has had to endure at her hands. Not just physical, but verbal and emotional abuse.
    I wish there were more resources for victims of abuse, period. Employers need more training in recognizing the signs and learning what they can do or how they can foster an environment that wold make it as easy as possible for victims to come forward and ask for help whether they’re male or female.

    1. fposte*

      Totally agree on the resources. But even with resources it’s really hard to break away from the cycle; it’s rarely a one-and-done kind of thing even with good support.

      1. Cleopatra Jones*

        Even if they do manage to break the cycle and get away,that’s only the first step to recovering from an abusive relationship.
        So many times, people leave an abusive relationship only to fall into the very same thing in the next relationship because they haven’t learned to NOT ignore the red flags of abuse, OR they think because they are not being physically abused, then emotional/verbal/controlling/manipulation is not a big deal.

    2. LCL*

      If John and your husband have a good rapport, at the minimum with John’s permission your husband can get pictures of the fresh bruises, and keep them on his phone. This can help John prove his case.

  31. Liet-Kynes*

    “Am I being ridiculous and should I just get on with it as best as I can and hope the trip goes okay, or is this a legitimate concern/request? With anxiety, it’s so hard to know when I’m being unreasonable, so I tend to err on the side of thinking that I’m probably being overly dramatic, but I still can’t shake the worry.”

    I’m going to honestly state my reaction here, at the risk of being overly hardass: Yes, I think you’re being unreasonably anxious about the risk of terrorism, and no, I don’t really think you get to claim you were so deeply affected by a terrorist attack that happened in another country that you can’t function to travel there over a month later. I don’t know about “overly dramatic,” because I think that’s a gendered criticism and I don’t like it. But your connection to the victims of those attacks is tenuous in the extreme, and while we were all saddened, I don’t think it’s really our place (as non-Londoners, not directly affected) to lay claim on the trauma of that event.

    Where I do think you have traction is the suicide you unfortunately witnessed, which undoubtedly has caused some mild PTSD and exacerbated your existing anxiety. I think that’s all the reason you need to supply if decide not to travel, and it’s the reason I would personally be more sympathetic to as your boss.

    That said, I would personally advocate powering through and doing your best to enjoy a trip to London, which is one of the world’s most fascinating cities.

    1. Anon for This*

      I tend to agree (as someone who both has a diagnosed anxiety disorder and is an anxious traveler).

      I may be getting hung up on the word choice, but “anxious traveler” (as opposed to “serious travel anxiety”) sounds like something the OP needs to handle; it’s not reasonable to refuse a work trip because you don’t like travel.

      I’ll use myself as an example here: I have significant anxiety that has, in the past, caused real challenges in my work and life. That’s a medical issue that should be accomodated. Totally unrelatedly, I’m anxious about traveling; for me, it’s mostly about my size (I’m fat, and juuuuust barely fit into airline seats. I live in fear that I’ll be asked to leave a plane because my seatmate complains, or even just that they’ll be huffy and rude to me). That’s on me, and while I can make choices about what jobs I’ll take (or keep), I would never tell me boss that I wouldn’t do a work trip because I don’t like flying.

      1. Sarah*

        I agree this distinction is important. It’s not clear to me from the letter which is happening here — the OP says she’s taking medication which suggests to me she is in some type of treatment, but I’m not sure whether that’s travel anxiety (which truly makes travel very difficult/near impossible) or general anxiety which is going to be an issue to work on regardless of whether she travels or not.

        I think it’s one thing to go to your supervisor and say “I have a medical/mental health issue I’m dealing with around travel after a recent incident I witnessed. I’m taking medication but I’m not sure I’ll be ready by the planned time of this trip. Here’s a note from my psychiatrist/psychologist, and here are the steps I’m taking to make sure I’ll be able to travel in the future, but I’m hoping I can be accommodated for this particular trip to do the training locally.” It demonstrates there’s a genuine medical issue and the OP is actively working on making sure future travel can happen (assuming this is a part of her job).

        It’s quite another to just be generally worried about travel and not be doing anything in particular to correct the situation. I hate travel, but not in any medical/mental health way — I just really don’t like it and generally avoid it when I can. But when there’s a work-related trip I need to take, I both can and do suck it up and go. I 100% realize some people have a real mental health issue around this and “sucking it up” isn’t an option — but then that’s something you need to be proactive about if it’s a real part of your work and take active steps around your health.

        Assuming OP is in some type of treatment (which I would assume so if she’s on a prescription medication), perhaps she can talk to her doctor/therapist about this issue and see what their recommendation is? That would be a more neutral third party who has a lot more info than random internet commentators as to which box the OP is in.

    2. Super Anon for This*

      You can’t really control what you feel anxiety about. Period. You can control how you react, but you can’t control how you feel.

      I think it is really strange to say the OP is “laying claim on the trauma” of the event. There isn’t a limitless supply of trauma in the world, even if there were she can’t control how she feels. It isn’t as though she is running around in therapy groups for terrorist attack survivors and making it all about her.

      The issue isn’t really that the attacks themselves were so traumatizing, but that the prospect of traveling to a city that has had, on average one terrorist attack every month for the past three months, is scary. There is a reason, for example, that they didn’t force students at Sandy Hook to attend the same school, but built a whole new one. There is a reason why people, for instance, avoid roads that tend to have a lot of accidents. When something bad happens multiple times, no matter how rare it is, people tend to avoid the place it happened, out of fear (not unreasonable) that it will happen again.

      1. Liet-Kynes*

        “You can’t really control what you feel anxiety about. Period. You can control how you react, but you can’t control how you feel.”

        When the OP asks, explicitly, for an outside gut check on whether their reaction is realistic or not, and I give her one, I honestly think reminding me of this doesn’t speak to my point at all. Yes, she is reacting and feeling the way she is reacting and feeling, and that is authentic, but she did in fact ask how the situation looks outside her own head.

        And I also don’t see the distinction between being traumatized by the attacks and finding the possibility of being in a new one so scary that you avoid the city entirely.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          I actually agree with you in general that there ARE people who lay claim on trauma of an event and that this is really obnoxious, but I don’t think that is what is going on with the OP. I think she is just a nervous traveler and has become extra nervous about going to London because of recent terrorist attacks there. If she hadn’t already had travel anxiety or a recent traumatic event, then maybe. But really, I can understand how having some data points to latch your framework of travel anxiety on to would just anchor it and make it worse. To me that’s what’s going on here, not a general appropriation of tragedy (which is a whole other thing, longer conversation and off topic). And I think it’s being appropriately responded to as such.

      2. Anon Currently*

        I don’t think the OP is “laying claim on the trauma.” I think he/she is generally nervous to travel and doesn’t necessarily want to call attention to that fact as much as get out of an undesirable commitment.

        That being said, as a former Floridian and quiet member of the LGBTQ community, I was HORRIFIED by the Pulse shooting and almost equally by those who jumped in about how horrible it was, about how nervous it made them of America’s increased gun violence, etc. All good points, but I primarily just wanted to be able to grieve and feel violated by the shooting without other people jumping in to talk about how much it had hurt them, when they were allies living on the other coast or whatever. And then I just wanted things to get back to normal without everyone harping on about how dangerous it would be to “put oneself in that situation again.”

        I agree that the OP shouldn’t have to travel if it’s going to be an undue hardship. But OP also shouldn’t bring up the terror attacks, because it honestly isn’t her trauma, regardless of how much she feels it affected her.

    3. Jaguar*

      What? The letter-writer is anxious about going to a place where there has been recent violence. I don’t think OP should indulge those fears for their own benefit and to the extent that their medical issues allow, push themselves to be stronger than their fears. But reframing this as trying to claim a connection to the victims is bizarre and, more importantly, not in the letter. Being worried about going somewhere with a recent history of violent activity is perfectly valid. It’s a matter of personal safety, not kinship with the victims.

  32. Is it Friday Yet?*

    I disagree SLIGHTLY with Allison’s response to #1. I think that more than likely, it is the boyfriend being weirdly overprotective, but if it does have something to do with her husband, I don’t think she’s likely to tell the wife that. I work for a husband and wife, and I would never in a million years tell her about any issues I’ve had with her husband. Instead, I’d have the main manager have this conversation, but even then, I don’t know if she’d really tell you if there’s a problem.

    1. Cleopatra Jones*

      The problem with categorizing it as ‘weirdly protective’ means that the boyfriend can escalate his behavior into full fledged abuse because he’s just being ‘protective’. That’s how too many cases of abuse begin. The abuser makes the abusee think they are just protecting them for their own good, then the next thing ya know the abusee is all of sudden to stupid to think on their own and can’t be trusted to make good decisions for themselves.
      Nah, this dude is at worst abusing the employee and at best setting her up to be abused.

      1. Is it Friday Yet?*

        But as the OP states, there are boundaries as to how she can communicate with her employee about that…

        I’d at least give the employee to bring up any issues she may have with OP’s husband, and if there are none than explain that it’s inappropriate for her significant other to make that kind of request.

        1. Cleopatra Jones*

          I’m not disagreeing with you about OP observing professional boundaries in the way she handles this situation. I’m disagreeing with the categorizing it as ‘weirdly protective’ instead of the abuse that it is.

  33. sunshyne84*

    #1 I just don’t understand the need for the asst. manager’s personal phone number if your boyfriend already doesn’t want you to be contacted by him. That sounds really sketchy. I feel like the boyfriend would contact the assistant manager himself and become irate because it’s a non-business line. Why would she ask two other people for it, when she could call the store and talk to him directly on speakerphone or respond to his follow up email? If there was a real reason behind her not wanting the voicemails besides her boyfriend just not wanting another male contacting her then I doubt she would go to the you without mentioning it and then asking for his number like you wouldn’t be alarmed. She could have just gone to the other manager. I bet her boyfriend assumed there would only be women in this bridal shop. Either way, he is contacting her as the regular manager would and I don’t think he should make any accommodations because of one person’s insecure boyfriend.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Ah, you posted while I was writing.

      yeah, I have the same problem.
      In fact, I might be saying to the employee: “Your boyfriend scares me a little, and so you absolutely may not have my husband’s–or any other employee’s–personal contact info. God forbid that leads your boyfriend to assume something and make him lash out at the assistant manager.”

  34. TootsNYC*

    This is just a workaround, but…

    Would it be possible to set up a GoogleVoice number that is named “Manager, Bridal Business,” and that gets forwarded to or accessed by whoever is on duty? And use the text function, instead of leaving voicemail? So texts come in, and they’re business texts, and they have this neutral “from” identity.

    I wonder if part of the problem was a man was saying, “I’ll email you a hotel-room number.”
    Given the business, it’s of course perfectly ordinary, but those “man arranging a meeting with my woman at a hotel” might amp up the optics.
    So maybe even just that–“Please call the main number [that GV number that’s forwarded to whoever’s on duty] to get all the info for your next assignment”–might lessen the tension for the employee.

    Am I the only one who thought it was ultra weird that the employee’s response to an “inappropriate contact” from her male manager was to ask for MORE, and MORE PERSONAL contact info? Like, if Male Assistant Manager is not supposed to leave a voicemail about work, why is it OK for Female Employee to contact HIM on his personal text/cell phone?

    1. Observer*

      Sure. But this is not really about inappropriate contact by the manager. It’s about BF flexing his “authority”.

    2. kb*

      I think the text asking for the manager’s contact info was not actually from the employee. I think it was an attempt by bf to get the man’s number, potentially to threaten him directly, but also possibly to check out the phone bill or call record to make sure he hasn’t been contacting the employee. I’m guessing bf suspects his gf is having an affair with the male manager (he probably was set off by the manager’s mention of hotel room info) and bf is attempting to slyly investigating (he is not succeeding, clearly).

  35. Candy*

    OP1: Is there a reason your managers’ absolutely have to contact your staff during their time off?

    Even without an abusive ex, I wouldn’t much like my manager calling or texting me AND sending me an email on my time off AND THEN following up with me the next morning. That all just seems like overkill. If you’re not calling to change the employee’s schedule directly (asking me to come in early because of this staff change, for example) why can’t they just check their work email/staff bulletin board/etc about room number or staffing changes when they come in?

    1. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      In this case it is a hairdresser/makeup artist who needed to know the changes in her schedule at an offsite event the next day. Unless she calls her manager first thing every morning to make sure nothing has changed, there would have been no other way for her to know the changes. A voicemail and an email are not at all excessive in this circumstance in my opinion.

      1. MegaMoose, Esq.*

        Agreed. And considering that it sounds like the company does exclusively bridal hair and makeup, it’s entirely possible that none of the artists work out of a shared location.

      2. Candy*

        Fair enough. If there isn’t one main location all staff check into every morning then contacting them weekly with the schedule makes sense (although, not to digress too far off the main issue, I would think a google doc shared with all staff with email notification of changes would work just as well)

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          But things can change last minute with these type of events and there may be a need for immediate communication. This isn’t a typical 9-5 office job.

  36. thefyd*

    #2: If you are taking medication for your anxiety, then presumably you have a medical provider who can support you if you want to request a reasonable accommodation for a medical issue; i.e. to be excused from travel because of an anxiety disorder. I know it’s tough to reveal something like this to a manager, but doing so doesn’t mean you were “dishonest” for not mentioning it before, it’s just that the specifics of your anxiety never conflicted with your work requirements before. Once I talked to my own manager about my own situation, I was at least able to free myself from anxiety about my anxiety interfering with my career, if that makes sense.

    And as a fellow anxiety sufferer, I know how infuriating it is when others think they can just logic your suffering away, and tell you how you really should feel. Hang in there.

  37. Amber T*

    OP 2 – you’re not being ridiculous for wanting to cancel the trip, and if you would prefer to do the training at home and the company can accommodate that, you’re not out of line for requesting it.

    To share a similar (though not work related) story, just in hopes it makes you feel less alone – I was supposed to tour with a choir last summer through Turkey and Greece. I also suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, and was pretty nervous in general, but I was using it as a way to hopefully get over a fear (and I’ve always wanted to go to Greece). The terrorist bombing at the Istantbul airport happened just two days before I was supposed to leave (in the exact terminal where we were scheduled to land). It was 24 hours of panic attacks and fear to the point where I was sick. I ultimately canceled my trip. Many members of the choir still went, had a great time, and were completely safe. To this day, I don’t regret not going. I’m still hoping to get to Greece one day, but I’ll do it when I’m ready.

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