update: my company’s accountant is nitpicking my pretty frugal travel expenses

Remember the letter last month from the person whose company accountant was nitpicking his travel expenses in the most ridiculous way? If you didn’t read the comments, you missed this insane detail from the letter writer: “Actual comment at the last checkin with Bob, regarding a ~$12 tab at Chipotle: ‘Ordering extra guacamole is wasteful of member dues.'”

Here’s the update.

Thanks for writing a reply to my question! Funny thing is, the week you posted it things were already on their way to a mostly happy resolution. I’ll explain:

That week I was asked to staff our CEO at a conference at the last minute. Our CEO is a very prominent woman in her field who travels constantly and is usually staffed when she has major speaking engagements. My colleague who handles this particular topic area had a family emergency so I was asked to go. The CEO’s very formidable executive assistant sent me the flight/hotel info since I was expected to be on the same flight as the CEO.

“This will be interesting,” I thought. So I sent my proposed travel expenses to Bob as he has demanded, and of course he came back and said the flight was way too expensive, take this other one, and he also nixed the conference hotel and advised a Days Inn a 30 minute walk away! I replied that I had important business purposes for this itinerary and he gave me his now-usual spiel about “responsibly using member dues.”

I finally saw an out that didn’t involve my boss going to the CFO and forwarded his response to the EA, explaining that “accounting is refusing to authorize the itinerary you’ve given me.” She was horrified by what she read and wanted the full story. I had lots of emails from Bob with his ridiculous travel decrees, so at her request I forwarded them along. She said she would take care of it and that I should book the original itinerary on orders from the CEO.

It was a great trip; the CEO did a great job speaking and it was nice to get face time with her. A week or so goes by. Then we get an all-staff email announcing that the travel audit function was moving under the authority of the general counsel. I had a call that day from a new audit team member apologizing for the hassle under Bob and that he was never authorized to (a) veto/approve individual expenses in advance or (b) subject auditees to ongoing monitoring — according to the new audit person, he had been freelancing in an effort to go “above and beyond.” The new audit person also said I am no longer under audit and said that my past expense reports were all responsible and that I have been an excellent steward of our funds. I found out a few days later from the EA that the audit team lead had been fired. The CFO is still in place, but has had the audit function removed from his oversight due to his lack of supervision and is on notice. Bob was not fired but was demoted and moved to a pretty menial role in accounting where he has no significant contact with non-accounting employees…or with travel expenses.

Unfortunately, I found out today that my own boss was reprimanded for failing to escalate the situation when I requested it. Good in the sense that she shouldn’t have allowed her issues with the CFO to get in the way of advocating for her employee, but bad because she knows I was the one who took the issue to the executive office. Hopefully I won’t be held back down the road because of this.

I really appreciated the encouraging comments. To answer a few of the questions, no I don’t think it was a conspiracy by the CFO to get to my boss by pushing me out. Maybe, but I really do buy that Bob was just way out of his lane and completely unsupervised. There were apparently five other employees getting the same Bob audit special, all relatively lower in the organization and in other departments. And I’m not concerned about my org’s financial condition, as some suggested I should be; there’s no question that we are financially strong. Just one rogue accountant.

The guacamole story was very funny to my coworkers; it’s become a running joke and people now order extra guac for me when we go out to group lunches, which is fun 😊

{ 307 comments… read them below }

          1. Annonymouse*

            And you either bring in your own glass or drink from your hands.

            Cups and glasses are an irresponsible waste of funds.

    1. H.C.*

      I also went Holy guacamole but in the WTF sense, at the part where Bob had no expense approval/veto authority to begin with and was going rogue in a zealous attempt to save a few drops in the bucket.

        1. Annonymouse*

          Don’t you mean he was showing initiative on the cost saving measures and gumption on the implementation?

      1. sstabeler*

        yeah, it occurs to me a LOT of people misinterpret “going above and beyond”- it means going beyond your strict job DUTIES, but not exceeding your job AUTHORITY. Had Bob properly suggested the policy change, with reasoning, it’d be a reasonable attempt to go above and beyond. Implementing it as a policy change applied to other people exceeded his authority. (I say applied to other people since he can impose additional restrictions on himself all he likes)

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      YES! This may be second only to the spicy food update. I am so glad there was a way to raise this organically and solve the problem not just for OP but for all those under audit.

  1. Rubyrose*

    I love it when the opportunity comes along to get my concerns forwarded to someone who can and will do something about it.

    1. Annonymouse*

      I’m going to go out on a limb here with an unpopular opinion:

      OPs boss might have been right in not taking this to the CFO.

      Considering CFO has had this removed from them and the lead auditor fired makes me think one of two things:

      1) CFO didn’t know the extent of the cost cutting Bob was trying to implement and wouldn’t care or listen to them since they already have a strained relationship. E.g

      “Bob is trying to make my employee take cheaper flights by..”
      “That’s his job. We all need to make cuts and if that’s what’s recommended then that’s what you’ll do. I’ll be keeping an eye on you and OP for extravagant spending from now on.”

      Or he did know or had put the pressure on himself to get costs down by any means necessary.

      Regardless it was when the CEO got involved that it got fixed, not the CFO.

      But they should have at least tried even if they didn’t get a resolution.

      1. designbot*

        That would have been a really ineffectual way of bringing it up to the CFO. From what I remember of the original post, this should have gone more like, “I’m concerned that Bob is losing sight of the bigger picture in his efforts to cut costs. The hoops he’s making people jump through are ultimately costing us far more in wasted employee time, and I need my team members to be productive when we send them out of office.” If OP’s boss makes a financial argument why Bob is being ridiculous, it’s the CFO’s job to listen.

        1. Annonymouse*

          But I got the feeling from the original letter that the boss and CFO had a strained relationship and boss would not get s fair hearing or even listened to with pushback.

          Rest of sentence would have been:

          “that actually cost the company more in lost work time, lack of preparation for the conference which negatively impacts our reputation. The flights don’t even save us money once the cab fares are added in.”

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I have to work with a lot of people with whom I don’t have a great relationship. If you can’t talk shop with someone because you don’t have a good working relationship (OR hear a legitimate complaint them), that’s a sign of professional immaturity and not a reason for people to avoid raising issues with you. Designbot’s phrasing is perfect, and if the CFO refuses to hear it, then it’s up the chain of command until your employees are no longer subject to expense report harassment by Power Trip Bob and his guacamole vendetta.

      2. sstabeler*

        No, they should- and if/when CFO won’t do anything, talk to the CEO- including (if appropriate) mentioning this is something of a pattern with CFO. The problem would almost certainly rapidly disappear.

  2. Litigation Associate #3*

    One of the most satisfying updates ever! Love the ongoing guacamole joke!

    OP, I really hope your boss doesn’t retaliate and instead learns from this. But if not, at least you know your company is willing and able to deal swiftly and appropriately with bad behavior.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I think that you are in a good spot now, OP. I really doubt that the boss will retaliate, unless she is dense. Maybe this will open up some lines of communication for her so she can square away some of her own concerns. But anyway, OP, you have the perfect explain as to how the CEO got involved if your boss ever confronts you regarding this.

      Everything bubbles to the surface eventually. It’s a good lesson for your boss and I think I would just let her incubate that lesson.

      Congratulations on your happy ending for this issue.

      1. Amber T*

        Yeah, it wasn’t as if you went to the EA or CEO on your own and said “this is a problem.” It came up as naturally as it could have and there was no avoiding it. I’m glad the EA and CEO were on your side!

        I’m also surprised that they fired Bob’s boss and not Bob. I get the reasoning behind firing the audit team lead, but I would assume the same consequence would follow for the asshat causing the problem, not just the manager that didn’t catch it.

          1. TootsNYC*

            yeah, but it’s not about punishing them. It’s about whether you can trust them anymore. It’s about the good of the company, not about whether you are retaliating against someone, or trying to make them a better person.
            (you’re not their parent)

            The Navy has a great phrase: “lost confidence in his/her
            ability to command”

            I wouldn’t have confidence in Bob’s judgment. I suppose that firing him might be too harsh, but I would worry that he’d do something really similar in an attempt to prove that he deserves to get out of his now-mundane job.

            1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

              Oh, no. I know.

              But also by demoting him, he might quit. Unemployment probably will not be paid out. And, true, the company can deny a claim for it if they fired Bob. But someone like him would probably appeal that decision. (Of course, this all depends on the state they’re in. I am not a lawyer and am merely using what limited knowledge I have.)

            2. MasterOfBears*

              My guess is that if Bob was running rogue without direct supervision, he probably was never directly told “no you’re way out of line, knock it off,” which would make a firing more difficult. It makes sense that in that case, the hammer would fall on the supervisor who probably knew dang well Bob didn’t have the standing to do what he was doing, but was unaware/didn’t care to act on it

            3. Annonymouse*

              I’m not surprised they fired Bob’s boss.

              It sounds like Bob was supposed to do audits and his boss was supposed to oversee who was being audited, what the results were, reporting it to the board and directing Bobs work in general.

              The fact Bobs results and recommendations were so extreme, that he was continuing to monitor people after their one off audit and he was trying to veto or change spending approvals WITHOUT HIS BOSS EITHER KNOWING OR CARING IS HUGE.

              Either his boss did know and was onboard with what he was doing or had no idea.

              This isn’t a minor “you sent an email about trying to keep expenses down without running it by me and that’s not your job, don’t do it again. ” kind of mistake.

              How do you NOT notice his continued monitoring of 5 different employees?

            4. Creag an Tuire*

              I get the sense that whatever job Bob got moved into involves zero independent judgement. No Bob, we’re not paying you to have ideas, just file the TPS reports and stop wasting company time.

              1. JessaB*

                It really doesn’t need to have a tonne of judgement beyond “this is REALLY out of line,” ie “no you cannot spend 10,000 on a first class Etihad seat. No, you can’t spend 200 on a single lunch for yourself and not any clients.” It’s not really about nickels and dimes unless there’s clear reason to believe someone is seriously padding or lying about expenses. And generally a convention hotel, a business or coach class seat, etc. under 50 for a meal depending on the city and the availability of food, etc. Is reasonable.

                The idea of an audit is to catch real wrongdoing. Padding, unreasonably expensing booze, or stuff that’s not work related, etc. But if the general trip cost is let’s say 1000 total, and everyone is coming in between 900 and 1500 or so, given different circumstances, that’s reasonable. You audit for receipts, and obviously you audit the one who comes in at 2000 without a reason. But that’s it.

                If you really truly do need to cut to the nickels and dimes, you come up with a policy, you put it out, you get responses because you may not actually realise you’re costing MORE than you think you are, then management finalises it. You don’t do it yourself at the level of Bob. Ever. Policy is the responsibility of the C Suite or at least the higher management levels, as it needs to be across the board. You can’t tell employee x that they have to spend y and not tell every other employee in the same circumstances that. Well you CAN, but it’s lousy business and won’t actually provide the savings you think it will.

        1. Observer*

          Well, there are two possible reasons not to fire him. One is that he could have misunderstood what was expected of him, in which case that’s quite possibly on the team lead. Also, perhaps he does good work in terms of being accurate and detail oriented, and firing is a hassle. So move him into a job where here can’t do any harm, but can be useful. The good side effect is that it will be much harder for him to later spin his ridiculous behavior into a story about his greatness. And he might just even learn a lesson.

      2. Misspelled Forgery*

        Yeah, I don’t see how OP’s boss could reasonably see this as OP being insubordinate or whatever. OP was tasked with accompanying the CEO, what was OP supposed to do when Bob rejected her travel plan, book Bob’s suggested plan and tell CEO that she’s staying in the Days Inn 30 min away and not flying with her? OP, if your boss gets mad at you for being the impetus for this, she’s not reasonable or fair.

        1. designbot*

          I really wonder what Bob even expected to happen there. Option A, he knew he was doing something that was not cool, in which case he should’ve stood down when he saw what the trip was for. Option B, he thinks he’s the hero of this story and expected the CEO to praise his frugality and not give a fig about her own convenience and OP’s efficacy in her role assisting her. These both sound really extreme to me, but Option B must be the case given Bob’s behavior? My read on this if I was Bob, even if I thought I was the hero of this story would’ve bet that the CEO would not put up with the inconveniences that the prols are expected to tolerate, and I wouldn’t have bothered with the usual rigmarole for this particular trip.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            My money’s actually on Option C: Bob thought the CEO was going to be inspired by how frugal he’s been forcing the audited employees to be. CEO would then change her own travel plans because money is the only bottom line, full stop. After that, CEO would discuss Bob’s achievement with the CFO in a meeting where the CFO was displaced in favor of Bob, and the whole company would start using The Bob Method for all expenses (not just travel! this also applies to toilet paper and ballpoint pens!), which would save them so much money they could afford to pay Bob better than anyone else in the company and he would deserve this money because otherwise it would have been wasted on convenient hotels and pens that work consistently. Or something. I assume this is how “Bob’s” see the world.

            1. Noobtastic*

              And once Bob is CFO, he’ll insist that everything be done in 8 point fonts, in order to save money on computer memory. Those 32 Gig flash drives are way too expensive! Use smaller font, and we can fit the same amount of data onto a 24 Gig drive, instead. And we’ll save on printing costs, as well! Who cares if no one can read the documents? Reading is not an effective use of member dues!

              1. Annonymouse*

                Everyone has to buy their own magnifying glasses or cheap reading glasses.

                Not on the company health insurance though. Let’s keep those premiums down.

              2. sstabeler*

                which is particularly ridiculous because there’s no such thing as a 24 gig flash drive (or if there is, it’s fairly obscure)- it goes 8 gig, 16 gig, 32 gig. (basically, like ordinary memory, each size up is the equivalent of 2 of the previous size.)

          2. Onyx*

            I’m not sure Bob realized that the CEO was involved. After he rejected the itinerary, the OP says “I replied that I had important business purposes for this itinerary and he gave me his now-usual spiel about ‘responsibly using member dues.'” I read that as the OP literally saying “important business purposes” without clarifying that she meant “This itinerary was set by the CEO, because I’m accompanying her.” I.e., I read it as the OP deliberately giving Bob the opportunity to dig his own grave by deciding he knew better than the OP whether saving a few bucks on a flight was more important than her business purposes (without even bothering to find out what the business purposes were).

            1. Observer*

              Quite possibly. But he had it coming. At minimum, he could have asked why she suddenly needed to do it this way after all of his instructions. But, no, there COULD NOT be any reason that over-rode his definition of “responsible use of funds” and so, he reflexively kicked back.

          3. DCR*

            I don’t get the sense that OP told Bob that the trip was with the CEO. He just said that you needed to stay at that hotel and take that fight for compelling business reasons, which didn’t convince Bob

      3. M-C*

        I think if it was me I’d seize any opportunity to tell my boss “I’m horrified that I might have inadvertently gotten you in trouble with this Bob business. I felt very on the spot about having to refuse the EA’s orders about travel, and I wanted her to know it wasn’t at all about me or our team being uncooperative with the CEO”. That should square things away..

        1. Pontoon Pirate*

          But he shouldn’t be horrified; his boss’ dressing-down was the result of their own inaction. I think the best path forward is for OP to continue performing his work excellently and interact with his boss in a natural, neutral way.

          1. Dr Wizard, PhD*

            Yeah. Honestly I think OP’s boss should have been reprimanded; that was becoming an unsustainable situation.

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I wouldn’t apologize. Or if I did, I would not say I was horrified or felt bad about getting my boss in trouble. I would say, “I just wanted you to know that I wasn’t attempting to go around you after our prior conversations re: Bob. When I was asked to staff CEO on her trip, her EA directed me to book an itinerary that Bob canceled. When Bob made that cancellation, I had to speak to the EA in order to resolve the tension between her directions and accounting’s approach.”

          I think OP is legitimately protected in this context. There’s almost no way for the boss to retaliate without it looking like they’re undermining the EA/CEO, and it was 100% reasonable for OP to discuss itinerary trouble with the EA instead of their boss. Even if the boss plays the slow-burn-approach to retaliation, it’s going to look weird. And frankly, the boss deserved the reprimand.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I agree with this 100%. Information, no apology, and only if OP’s boss indicates she thinks OP went around her on purpose and/or seems to blame OP for the reprimand (which was deserved). Since I’ve had bosses that overreact to baseless assumptions, I’d probably do this proactively, but I don’t think OP is in that situation.

          2. Norémon*

            In my experience I would send this proactively in writing. But, yes, no apology but information. More so as protection if there were issues later on, to have evidence of your statement. So it won’t be played as intentionally going over the boss’ head.

    2. Product Person*

      I think that any retaliation is more likely to get the manager in trouble than the OP, and hopefully the manager is smart enough to realize that.

      It’s not like the OP went above the manager’s head to complain; she was supposed to coordinate a trip with the EA, and if that caused the higher ups to learn about the passive stance the manager took on an issue affecting a direct that *was* theirs to resolve, they can only blame themselves for being reprimanded based on facts.

      1. Product Person*

        Heh, I didn’t refresh the page before writing, and it didn’t show Not SoNewReader’s comment which I mostly repeated. NSNR, apologies for making it look like I was ignoring your words. And yes, OP, congratulations on the happy ending!

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      Also on the subject of your boss’ retaliation, in a beautiful world your boss could use this as a learning experience and realize that at your company, he/she can speak up about something and not get in trouble. I think Boss was coming from a place of not necessarily fear, but concern that it would look petty on her part to complain. Also, Boss might have realized that CEO was not interested in this stuff (hence his being put on notice) and would have come down in some retaliatory way on Boss, on you and on your group.
      So keep an open mind.

    4. Artemesia*

      You didn’t really rat out the boss anyway, you were denied as part of a trip with the CEO and her EA is the one who protested. Of course the past emails made it clear the boss had not dealt with it, but you didn’t initiate. Good luck on that.

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      It sounds like the company on a whole is reasonable. Just a few eccentric people are making things more difficult.

    6. theangryguppy*

      I am imagining Bob in his new more menial position, trying to “go above and beyond” by tracking the sudden uptick in reimbursable extra guacamole orders across the organization. I’m desperately hoping that he’s secretly horrified by the “misuse” of member funds that he’s inspired by his nitpicking.

  3. OxfordComma*

    I am so glad this was resolved! Hopefully, your boss learns appropriately!

    Order extra guac every time from now on!

    1. Ego Chamber*

      Hell, order only guac every time from now on! Bonus points if you can manage to do it when you happen to be at lunch in the same Chipotle as Bob. ;D

  4. H.C.*

    Someone should pull an Oprah-esque “You get a guac! And you get a guac! And you get a guac! GUAC FOR EVERYBODY!”

    1. H.C.*

      And I hope your boss really doesn’t hold this against you, moreso because it started from a legitimate issue (CEO asked you to travel on same flight/hotel, but you got expense-blocked by Bob.)

        1. Annonymouse*

          Do we get points for guacing in other comments or on other letters?

          Cause points and sweet avocado are all that matter now.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Yes. We used to have a horrible HR director at my old job, and, when we got a new one, they scheduled a meeting for us so I could go over some policy issues that were causing pain to my staff and impeding progress. The look of increasingly abject horror on her face as I explained how a particular reporting-the-same-thing-in-triplicate issue was killing morale for the people with the most to report (a/k/a busiest) and some of the other things I’d be complaining about for (literally) years, was priceless. Six months in, there was a staff meeting where 99% of what we discussed that day was corrected with updated policy for everyone. I loved that lady.

    1. BRR*

      Same. When I read it I thought, “uh oh, going up agains the EA.” Now I just miss having one of those admins who run things sigh.

      1. the_scientist*

        Everybody with an ounce of common sense knows that you don’t go toe-to-toe with a good EA. Especially if they’re the EA to a powerful executive. Glad to hear that Bob got his comeuppance with extra guac, as it were.

        1. I'm A Little TeaPot*

          hell no! My dept just had a REALLY good one leave, and it’s now becoming pretty obvious how much she did. The exec’s are kicking themselves for not giving her raises, etc.

          1. OhNo*

            That’s the thing about EAs: their job is often really focused on making things run smoothly. Which means that often no one notices how much they were doing until they’re gone and you’re suddenly feeling every single bump in the road.

            1. Noobtastic*

              Yeah, it’s kind of like your heart. You never really notice it when it’s doing the job well. You only notice the bad ones.

              But get rid of a good heart, and you’ll REALLY notice the absence! For about a minute.

            2. Annonymouse*

              My bosses are feeling this pain right now while I’m on maternity leave. I’m less an EA than a general office manager/in charge of day to day operations (small business).

              They already know I do a lot but I think they’re realising just how much I’ve been in charge of (inventory, sales, customer service, event planning, appointment booking, figuring out client payment problems plus in charge of one of our children’s programs.)

              Also not helped by the fact they didn’t get a replacement/temp for me until after I left.

              But they’re still doing better than the last place I left which lost 25%+ of their clients, hasn’t had a single well run event or enough inventory and had to sell off their second location since I left. (Before I left they were growing in the second location and holding steady in the first location where they had tapped out the market.)

                1. Annonymouse*

                  Nope, just damn good at admin and customer service which in the sports club based industry I’m in is 70-80% of the work and 99% invisible to members.

                  It’s also the thing that keeps and gains us new clients. Good customer service = referrals and high retention of clients.

                  Also me doing all that admin frees up my bosses to work on sport programs, training staff and coaches, marketing and business development.

                  The last place I left had terrible customer service until I took over and reverted back to it after I left almost immediately. I had been there 4 years so it was a huge change to most members to go from being treated like respected clients/acquaintences to suddenly be treated as walking wallets.

        2. Annonymouse*

          Well it doesn’t sound like Bob had much sense if he would rather OP catch a 5am flight from an airport not near their house with no running public transport and arrive at a conference a disheveled, tired mess.

          All to save $50-$100 which would be eaten up in taking a cab or über to and from said airport.

    2. Antilles*

      Yeah, the EA definitely was on the ball here.
      The CEO also deserves some indirect props here for creating an environment where her EA feels empowered enough to be able to talk back to other departments and address issues without getting stuck in a “but you’re just a secretary” title/power-trip game.

      1. Annonymouse*

        Anyone trying to pull that at my work very quickly learns how wrong they are in one of two ways:

        1) job shadowing me (if new staff/new to the admin side of our sports club)

        2) letting other staff deal with them since I’m “just a receptionist”. I’m heating up a slice of humble pie for them for when 2 minutes later they have to come to me since I’m the only one who knows how/is authorised to fix their problem. Y

    3. Anonymous Poster*

      Reminds me of a professor that gave me some of the best advice ever in my US-Soviet Relations class:

      “Remember that the ruler of any communist country has always been the General Secretary. This is for a very good reason. In your professional life, always make friends with the secretary. Look at what happened to Trotsky, after all… Secretaries won’t take you down with an ice ax, generally, but you’ll notice your travel slips, your expense reports take a lot longer, and maybe that raise sits in a mailbox for awhile before getting processed.”

      1. SusanIvanova*

        My grandfather was in the Air Force from WWII until he retired as a Master Sergeant , and I absorbed a similar rule: sergeants run everything. Stay on their good side and good things will happen to you. Get on their bad side, and forget it.

        1. Artemesia*

          My husband ran a communications unit in the middle east as a 21 year old Lieutenant in the Army and was well aware that everything depended on the non coms and techs making it all work. He cut them some slack; they worked nicely. When he was relieved after his tour he told the incoming CO that he needed to be attentive to their comfort and cut them some slack as the whole operation depended on them and on them re-upping. He hears Newguy got all spit and polish out in the middle of out back nowhere on the Black Sea and that several key people decided it was time to not re-up and go back home.

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          My daughter was in the army – at her commissioning, the general advised = “Listen to your sergeants. If you want to become a captain, listen to them. Don’t ignore them. Again – listen to your sergeants.”

          She learned that lesson well…

        3. Norémon*

          I’m in training to be in the curatorial or administration aspect of my field. I shuttle service I regularly use is run by a retired military man. And he regularly says that everything relies on the administrative working well.

  5. BRR*

    This was so nice to read. If there are issues with your manager after this I would try and explain that you didn’t escalate, you just let the EA know that you weren’t allowed to use that itinerary.

  6. [insert witty user name here]*

    Glad this worked out for you, OP!

    And thank you for helping me decide what I want for lunch today…. (hint: there will be extra guac in my near future)

  7. Middle Name Jane*

    Yay! These are the best kinds of updates to read. I’m so glad everything worked out, and fingers crossed your manager doesn’t find some way to retaliate.

    I’m new to regular business travel, so I’m always mindful/paranoid about following my company’s travel expense rules. We have pretty cut and dry rules, but they’re reasonable. Still, I don’t want that dreaded call to come into my manager’s office to explain my expense report.

  8. Emily*

    I am a known cheapskate and even I order extra guac at Chipotle.

    So glad it not only worked out for you, but it sounds like it made for a good story in the office, too!

  9. Sara*

    Love this update! I’m so glad that that EA knocked some sense into the company. Its too bad for your boss that she got reprimanded, but honestly she should know that kinda of nitpicking IS something that she can use her ‘capital’ on. I hope she learns fromt his.

    1. Snark*

      Yeah, sounds like the manager has a really bad sense of a) which hills one is actually likely to die on and b) which hills are worth dying, or at least getting a Purple Heart, on.

      1. Naruto*

        Yeah, it was just so outrageous, I feel like the OP’s boss should have pushed back despite any tension in her relationship with the CEO. I don’t have a problem with her getting reprimanded for that.

        Sidenote: it makes me happy that the OP’s coworkers buy her extra guac at group lunches now!

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          “Sidenote: it makes me happy that the OP’s coworkers buy her extra guac at group lunches now!”

          I know, right? You just can’t top a work battle that ends in a resounding victory and perpetual supply of extra guacamole.

          1. ECHM*

            Your last line made me smile! (As did this update!)

            P.S. “Power Trip Bob and his Guacamole Vendetta” would be a great band name.

        2. CMDRBNA*

          Also? Managing her relationship with the CFO and her employees’ treatment by the audit team is her job. I can understand strategically picking your battles, but this seems to me like a pretty egregious abdication of your responsibility as a manager. It’s refreshing to see someone actually held accountable for failing to manage, since it seems to happen so rarely (sadly).

    2. paul*

      would this even be really a use of capital? I admit I’m crappy at politicking, but this doesn’t seem like something that should/would come back to eat her credibility in a healthy-ish workplace.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It depends. If she was in the middle of fighting five other battles with the CFO, I could see how she could decide that it would be harmful to throw another one in there.

        1. a Gen X manager*

          It feels like the fact that it was not just illogical and ridiculous, but that it was *on-going* should have given the CFO pause to re-consider addressing OP’s concerns.

  10. Snark*

    The thing I don’t get is why Bob wasn’t handed a banker’s box and shown the door, but eh, demotion is fine.

    1. Antilles*

      I’m guessing this is why:
      “I found out a few days later from the EA that the audit team lead had been fired. The CFO is still in place, but has had the audit function removed from his oversight due to his lack of supervision and is on notice.”
      While Bob was way off his rocker, the people ahead of him were either completely negligent in their duties or tacitly approved of it. So he dodged a little bit of the culpability based on being junior enough that the people above him really should have been keeping tabs – kind of like the “just following orders” defense.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I had the same thought–Bob’s managers should have nipped this crap in the bud. It should not have had to go through the OP the way it did. So it’s more on them than him, although I approve of the demotion. If someone abuses their power, they shouldn’t have any.

    2. Jaguar*

      OP said in the comment on the original post Alison linked to that this auditing had come as a result of overspending and a whole team being set up to crack down on that problem. That’s what Bob was doing (although, taking it way too far, obviously). It’s possible that there was a lot of pressure to be strict / meet quotas / whatever. It’s the most likely scenario that Bob was just being awful at his job, but there’s realistic scenarios where Bob was in a difficult position and, in that scenario, firing Bob would be a really shitty thing to do in its own right.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I agree with Antilles. It sounds like the CFO may have started acting like he/she was untouchable and led the entire department into believing that they all had way more power than they actually did. I’m actually really glad to read that the reprimands went uphill instead of rolling down exclusively on Bob. Since the team lead was let go, it may really have been that Bob wasn’t quite a rogue employee.

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        It does sound like they found a systematic issue, and it’s a joy to see it resolved this way.

        If this is indicative of a larger pattern of lax oversight or misjudgement by the CFO, I get why the manager might have been reluctant to bring the issue to them. (They still should have done so, of course.)

  11. hbc*

    Bob should be forced to run the numbers on how much company time was spent on reading an expense report to the detail needed to catch the guac, write out the email, and have you read the email. I’m guessing the effective cost is a lot more than a fast food add-on.

    1. Temperance*

      I kind of love this, but I also think that guys like Bob have never heard the phrase “effective cost”.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        I used to work with a guy like this, and it w as *exhausting*. He refused to see that the most efficient thing isn’t the elimination of all waste, but to the point that cutting any more is itself inefficient.

        1. Floundering Mander*

          Many people in this world don’t seem to understand this, especially politicians. I can think of many examples in two countries where chasing after waste costs significantly more than the amount that was wasted.

  12. AndersonDarling*

    Best update ever! I love it when the universe sorts these things out and you get a front seat view! The OP didn’t need to escalate the issue or go behind anyone’s back to report the situation, because the solution presented itself on a silver platter. And I doubt any other route would have solved the problem faster than the CEO could.

  13. AnonEMoose*

    And here we see again the reason for one of my personal Rules of the Office (learned back in high school). Specifically:

    1. NEVER piss of the admins/executive assistants. And the more powerful the boss, the more you never want to piss off his/her assistant.
    2. NEVER piss off the custodians (which, in an office environment, translates to maintenance, security, IT, and so on).

    And the opposite of same, which is that maintaining good relationships with people in these positions not only makes the work environment more pleasant for everyone, it means that in situations like this, going to the assistant can Get. Stuff. Done.

    I hope your boss doesn’t retaliate, OP. But I think that you have a very reasonable out with the “I was getting conflicting information, and the assistant told me to go to her with any questions about the travel.” Which doesn’t mean your boss won’t hold a grudge, but hopefully not.

    1. K.*

      Yep. The c-suite EAs are usually the ones running the show, and the custodians are the ones who make sure the building functions. The cleaning woman who comes by every afternoon is one of my favorite people here, and I always say good morning/good evening, how are you/have a good night to the security as I come and go. (I think it’s rude not to, TBH – I have to swipe my card at the desk at which they sit, which means I look right at them. They’re people, not plants – of course I say hello!) A friend of mine worked somewhere that had the same receptionist for something like 30 years and she was one of the most well-liked and respected people in the company – there was a huge to-do when she retired.

      1. TootsNYC*

        They are the civilian equivalents of non-commissioned officers (NCOs)–sergeants and warrant officers.

      2. OhNo*

        As a complete aside, I learned the whole rule about being respectful and making friends with the admin/assistant/custodian/support staff early, but for some reason that never included security.

        Now that I’m actually working, though, the security guards are definitely in my top three People to Make Friends With at any new job (right alongside receptionists and cleaning staff). If they like you, they can be so wonderfully helpful!

        1. Marillenbaum*

          It’s like how my first things to master at any workplace are: phones, copiers, and coffee machines.

    2. phil*

      In the entertainment business we have PAs-production assistants. They’re paid a minimal amount, work like Trojans, and are waiting for their break in the business.
      It’s vary smart to be very nice to them because, things in the entertainment business being what they are, in 2 years she’ll be the producer you’re trying to get a gig from.

  14. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

    I seriously almost stood up at my desk and clapped when I read this. Honestly, this made my day (and has inspired me to make guacamole tonight).

  15. Hmmmmm*

    Pro-Tip: If you ever an idea to go “above and beyond,” at least run it by your boss one time. Try to get evidence of them signing off on it or at minimum proving they had awareness that you were trying something new out in an email. I know people sometimes are afraid of their boss taking credit for a good idea, but that will happen regardless if you get their approval or not if the boss is so inclined.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I think it might have been a good move if the OP had looped her boss in when she forwarded all those Bob emails to the CEO’s EA. “Just wanted to let you know–Bob nixed my travel plans to accompany the CEO, and the EA wanted to know what was going on. So I forwarded all the emails from Bob to her, so you might hear about this from a different direction.”

      Not trying to Monday-morning-quarterback, but I thought it might be good to get that tactic out there in case it’s helpful to someone in the future.

      1. Crusts On*

        I’m not sure, but I think Hmmmmm was talking about Bob ‘going above and beyond’ to cut costs. The OP was just (trying to!) do their job.

  16. Mike C.*

    . I had a call that day from a new audit team member apologizing for the hassle under Bob and that he was never authorized to (a) veto/approve individual expenses in advance or (b) subject auditees to ongoing monitoring — according to the new audit person, he had been freelancing in an effort to go “above and beyond.”

    Hahahaha, called it! I knew there was something really fishy about this behavior.

    But thinking about it for more than a minute, this jack*ss put you under serious strain and messed with your schedule in an effort to further his own career. He actively made your job more difficult to perform, made you get up earlier and stay out later for cheaper flights, and made you stay at hotels that were farther from your destination, increasing the risk that you’d be late to important events. I just can’t imagine what I’d say to the guy if I happened to run into him in the bathroom or something but it wouldn’t be pretty.

    Also, you didn’t go above your boss’s head here. You made sure that you could do the job your CEO was expecting you to do, and part of that means being there with the CEO when she needs you. It’s your boss’s job to support you in times like these and you shouldn’t feel bad that she’s being held to account for not doing so.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I think you nailed it. When someone starts approving or disproving something without the authority to do it then there are problems. In a weakly managed place this is a stepping stone to power. In a well managed place this gets stomped on like a bug.

    2. Samata*

      I agree with everything you are saying, and said in the original thread.

      I also think the paragraph you pulled out is exactly what got Bob demoted, his boss fired and the audit team moved.

      For him to have been doing it as long as he had and for the CEO’s EA to be the one to find it out is not good for anyone – I am sure “How did you not know Bob was doing this?” was asked more than once. But I also wonder if his boss and CFO did know he was doing it and they were using him as a scapegoat to meet their own numbers/goals. note: I realize that is a major speculation on my part

      1. OhNo*

        I am sure “How did you not know Bob was doing this?” was asked more than once.

        And I suspect that’s why OP’s boss got reprimanded. It sounds like everyone else who either knew or should have known about this behavior got fired, or had major responsibilities taken away. The org clearly expected that management should have been paying close enough attention to nip this in the bud.

        1. paul*

          This is probably going to sound dumb, but all I know about audits is I occasionaly have to dig up paperwork for them, and I’m not a manager…

          if he wasn’t CC’ing them on this stuff, and the CFO didn’t tell the middle guys when OPs boss approached them, how do they find out about it? I have to admit it’d never cross my mind to talk to his boss; I’d talk to mine and leave it to them to handle a situation with someone in a different department being a jerk.

          1. OhNo*

            I feel like good managers keep a close enough eye on their employees to notice when something’s off. Employee’s productivity on assigned tasks goes way down, they’re taking a bunch more meetings than expected, they’re meeting with a few specific people way more frequently than the usual audit process should warrant… little things like that should lead to questions, in my opinion.

            Managers don’t have to micromanage their reports (usually), but they should be paying enough attention to see when they go off the rails.

      2. RVA Cat*

        Yeah, this sounds like a small-scale version of the Wells Fargo fake account scandal: management sets impossible goals, supervisors turn a blind eye and/or encourage fraud to seemingly reach said goals, staff realize it’s commit fraud or get fired.

        1. Observer*

          The difference here is that the people most responsible are the ones who were punished the most. Wells Fargo? Not so much. It was the people who were being squeezed that got hit. It took some major negative publicity for ANY of the top people to face any sort of repercussions.

  17. Amber Rose*

    And here again we see the difference between initiative and overstepping. Hopefully Bob realizes his current situation is a direct result of his ridiculous power high and learns a thing or two from this whole experience.

      1. JeanB in NC*

        Ha, there’s been more than one letter here where I thought my eyebrows were going to come right off the top of my head.

    1. Annonymouse*

      If this OP and spicy lunch LW share lunch at least this OP has some extra guacamole to cool their mouth off.

  18. Nancie*

    As soon as I saw this…

    The CEO’s very formidable executive assistant sent me the flight/hotel info since I was expected to be on the same flight as the CEO.

    …I heard a faint Hallelujah Chorus in the background.

      1. MasterOfBears*

        This may be slightly random, but your user name made me laugh because my org dubbed our own formidable executive assistant “Tammy, Mother of Dragons.” She loves it. We love her. I once watched her rip an entire disorganized hotel conference staff a selection of new ones and it was a joy to behold

  19. jv*

    I can’t believe he had the audacity to question the EA to the CEO…. my god the stupidity. Obviously, he wanted to get demoted! EA’s to presidents and CEOs are usually THE BEST. They don’t take crap from people and if you get on their good side you’re set in the office.

    I’ve only come across one EA that was hard to work with but the rest have been awesome and supportive (and usually pretty funny!). They are basically second to the boss – the boss implicitly trusts them to handle important things.

    1. TootsNYC*

      ah, but he DIDN’T question the EA to the CEO.

      He questioned our OP, who is pretty low in the organization.
      He didn’t know that she was temporarily connected to the C-suite.

      And that’s why I think his actions were so very much worse.

      The funny thing is that lower-level people have far less opportunity to do big damage in terms of fraudulent expense reports.

      1. Annonymouse*

        It does make me wonder if OP mentioned the CEO in the travel approval request.

        As in
        “These are the flights/hotels to attend the conference with CEO. Please approve.”

        Cause if Bob didn’t notice the name drop and only saw dollar signs he really should have been torn a new one. Maybe even two.

        And you can bet he didn’t pull his tightwad ways on the person the CEO normally goes with if he has a drop of wisdom.

        1. Old Admin*

          I read the update as that the OP intentionally did NOT mention CEO in the travel plans, thus setting a (very justified) trap for Bob. And Bob jumped in with both feet!

  20. Kyrielle*

    I love this one. And hopefully your boss realizes that you had no choice. I mean, if you had, I suspect you’d have done the same thing. But you really didn’t.

    You couldn’t book the flights and hotel the EA/CEO wanted you to, because you wouldn’t get reimbursed. You couldn’t book the flights and hotel that Bob wanted you to, because you wouldn’t be where you needed to be when you needed to be, to do your job, and the CEO explicitly wanted the person doing this (in this case you!) to be on those flights / in that hotel. Something had to give – and you really, really can’t just go “well, I’ll be out of pocket for the flights and hotel for this” – that’s not reasonable. That left advising the CEO (via her EA) that you had this issue preventing you from complying with the requested itinerary.

    There was no out here that let you perform your job duties without *losing your reimbursement* – basically, paying the cost of the trip – which is not a real option in the mind of anyone remotely sane. Looping in the person who mandated the itinerary was really the only step you could take. (And looping in your boss at that stage wouldn’t have helped, because it was the CEO and/or her EA that would need to decide whether the itinerary was more important than the cost, or not.) And once you did, well, if the CEO or her EA asks for info and you have that info, you give it to them.

    The whole situation perfectly “forced your hand” – and while I’m sure if someone had asked you whether you’d have liked this to fall in your lap, you’d have said yes, the fact remains that the entire sequence left you no other choice. Hopefully your boss realizes and understands that.

  21. TootsNYC*

    There were apparently five other employees getting the same Bob audit special, all relatively lower in the organization and in other departments.

    That’s a classic bully move.

      1. Annonymouse*

        Like the person that normally goes with the CEO I’m guessing.

        Maybe Bob missed the memo on OP taking that persons place because he was too busy trying to shame people into eating cheaper fast food with no extras or sleep in their rental cars.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        And I’m guessing it was all people in different departments so no one manager would wise up to it either.

    1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      This exactly. Bob was “going above and beyond” by standing on lower people. He looked great by cutting their expenses by 30-40%. Well, yes, he did. They had small expenses anyway and he just told them no. Because he could. So yes, he should be demoted. He is nothing but a bully. He didn’t give a rat’s a$$ about the company’s bottom line. He wanted numbers that made him look good. He’s the factory manager who doubles the daily production quota that is mandated by corporate and tells the staff do it or leave.

  22. miyeritari*

    A happily ever after! This is literally the only good part of my day so far (though it’s only 11am here in California).

  23. ArtK*

    I am reminded of a bit of Kipling. “Pleasant it is for the Little Tin Gods
    When great Jove nods;
    But Little Tin Gods make their little mistakes
    In missing the hour when great Jove wakes.”

    Bob is/was the definition of a Little Tin God.

  24. Wendy Anne*

    I wonder if any of the managers of the other 5 knew about this and didn’t do anything either? If so, I hope they are getting reprimanded like the OP’s manager did.

  25. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

    I know there is a reputation for EAs to be “just secretaries” but this goes to show how vital they are to the function of an organization. I’m so glad there’s positive resolution with this issue!

    And seriously, extra guacamole at lunch is always a score!

  26. Leatherwings*

    My favorite part of this story is how the EA and whoever the EA reported it to (probably the CEO, yeah?) saw this is as the serious problem it was and took pretty swift action. They didn’t give Bob a lecture or drag their heels – someone said “my god, we’re going to lose good people over this crap. We’re fixing it now”

    That’s great leadership, and I’d feel really comfortable at an organization with a CEO that thought that way.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Especially considering a bit of a running theme in the comments this past week about companies that said “Wait, you’re leaving? In that case, the thing you’ve been complaining about that never changed could totally be changed. What do you mean it’s too late?”

      1. CMDRBNA*

        ^^ THIS

        I cannot tell you how many times (ok, well, like four times) I have given notice at a job and only THEN is management suddenly aware that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. Not, you know, the umpteen times it came up beforehand. Seriously, at my last job I was asked for feedback from my no good very bad terrible manager for the first time ever after turning in notice.

        1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

          four times? That’s huge. That’s a ridiculously large percentage of companies to leave because of untenable situations. Not for better positions, not because you moved, not for more money, because that place sucked. Four. That could be anywhere from 25% – 75% of a typical person’s career path. That’s freaking me out.

          1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

            In the IS/IT world, it happens often. And, it isn’t that management doesn’t notice that things are outa whack.

            It’s when it comes home to roost – they’re about to lose a good employee – which may end up costing a lot of money and definitely screwing up the continuity of the organization – that they have to say something’s wrong. Oh, yes, they knew all along – but said nothing until they finally were stung by it. And reacted with “oh gee whiz, golly, we didn’t know.”

            Horse***t. They knew. They chose to let it go by, because they thought all was well and if the bottom line improved, it was working.

          2. CMDRBNA*

            Yup. When I was starting out in my career, I seriously did not realize that this is what office work would be like – that the biggest issue wouldn’t be the work but the people.

            First job out of college: left after nine months after the boss had hired and fired eleven people in nine months in our department of three. That place was beyond insane and toxic and I think was an outlier, but it was a really traumatic experience on top of being a horribly stressful place to work. My immediate manager was an older woman with NO boundaries who spent most of her time tormenting me and my coworker for having the audacity to be 1. younger and 2. childless (we were both right out of college) because she had just gone through a nasty divorce and was taking it out on us.
            Second job: left after about two years because they hired a man who started sexually harassing/bullying the women in the office. All the support staff except for him and the other male admin quit. I asked repeatedly for my contracting company to transfer me to a new office, forwarded them bullying emails from him, documented everything, met with our directors multiple times, and then turned in notice – at which point my contracting company began frantically trying to find me a new position. They hadn’t even tried to do anything in the year leading up to that.
            Third job: left because my supervisor bullied my coworker and eventually assaulted her. She spent most of her time crying in our shared office. The executive director was an active alcoholic and he and my supervisor were drinking buddies.
            Fourth job: the people at this job were actually wonderful, but through no fault of their own all work shut down because of a government scandal. Left after six months because I was quite literally going insane because we had no work to do and I was spending eight hours a day in a windowless, dark office at a desk that was a writing desk from the 50s being used as a computer desk and developed a herniated disc in my neck and back problems that still bother me.
            Fifth job: entire department turned over twice after a specific person was promoted into management. Just got word that it’s turning over again, three people left after I quit after three years of micromanagement and general chaos following this person’s promotion.

            I don’t know if I have especially bad luck or what, but honestly, if I’d known that the majority of places I was going to work were going to be outright unbearable, not just occasionally frustrating or whatever, I would have become a plumber or something.

          3. CMDRBNA*

            Dang, I wrote a long response detailing the reasons behind leaving each job, but yeah, either I have spectacularly bad luck in workplaces or people really are that bad.

            1. Annonymouse*

              I’m going to go with bad luck.

              It seems like most of the time you do your due diligence but then something changes (new manager who is unbearable, contract gets lost) that was not reasonable to foresee and changes the dynamic.

              As I’ve often heard and found true about 70% of the time: people don’t leave jobs. They leave managers.

              The other 30% is:
              Better opportunity
              Personal reasons

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yup. As someone wiser than me once said in reply to this sort of thing, “You didn’t care about this when it was hurting me. You only cared when it started hurting you.” And someone like that is not anyone you want to be in a relationship with (work or otherwise).

        1. So anon*

          What a great description for why I’m getting out of my marriage and not willing to listen to pleas to work on things. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Thank you!

        2. CMDRBNA*

          neverjaunty, I love this!

          Sadly, this has so, so so been the case at so many places I’ve worked. Seriously, I’ve never had a boss really take me seriously that something was a problem until after I’d turned in notice, then they wanted to try to work something out.

          Then it’s too late! I’ve already committed to another job!

          At the last job I left, I refused to do an exit interview or give my manager any feedback. It felt really, really good to just nope out of that entire process, because I knew it was a complete and total waste of my time. Every person in our department who left gave an exit interview, every single person said the same thing, and no one thought it was worth doing anything about, so what’s the point?

          1. Norémon*

            I was very uncomfortable at one job (I expected shit to go down), let my bosses know how I felt, they ignored or dismissed it. So I lined-up another job and sent in my resignation. Months later my ex-boss kept contacting me wanting me to come back. To the point of being creepy by contacting at the new job.

  27. Courtney*

    I was EA for 4 years to a badass CEO who gave me full authority to shut down crap like this. I actually loved when this kind of thing came across my radar and I could help nix bad behavior or remove a barrier for an employee. Bravo to the EA and her boss!

  28. Falling Diphthong*

    *fist pump of solidarity*

    I’m glad of the detail that Bob was trying to show he was the sort of accountant who goes above and beyond, which I thought might be the case. And it’s nice that overall you are in a company that observes “Wow, X hasn’t been working at all, we should do X differently.”

  29. CMDRBNA*

    I hope this is a wake-up call to the OP’s boss that letting your employees be mistreated because of your personal issues with someone is pretty much abdicating your responsibility as a boss and can come back to bite you, and I hope she doesn’t take it out on the OP.*

    *Having had bosses like this, I’m always confused about why you would take a promotion into a management position and then essentially refuse to manage.

    1. SusanIvanova*

      From observing a doormat manager I had – “Ooh, a promotion! They must like me! Oh no, mustn’t do anything to make them not like me!”

    2. On Fire*

      Easy – it’s more money. I’ve had, and currently have, awesome managers who are in those jobs because they’re good at them. I’ve also had a couple of terrible managers who took the promotion because they got a raise with it and moneymoneyMONEY!!!1!!!

  30. 2 Cents*

    Your boss is off base for thinking you escalated it. You were the messenger between Bob and the CEO’s EA — not your fault that he was completely out of line. I hope your boss remembers this important detail — you didn’t go over her head, but rather, the opportunity to explain what was going on came to you.

    1. MicroManagered*

      Yep. And if it comes up between OP and OP’s Boss, that’s exactly how I’d frame it. “I was willing to work around Bob’s demands as best I could. He outright denied my travel itinerary with CEO, and when I informed EA, she asked for more info. I certainly never meant for it to blow back on you.”

  31. MacAilbert*

    My question in all this is why anyone would eat at Chipotle, much less order extra guac. Maybe it’s just because I’m from urban California, but anytime I go to Chipotle, I get a burrito about half the size of the one I could have gotten at a no-name hole in the wall for $2 less, and the Chipotle one never tastes as good. They also come off as unbearably pretentious.

      1. KHB*

        …and also because business travel, by definition, sometimes takes you to places that are unfamiliar and/or not urban California, where you may not know where the best hole-in-the-wall burrito joints are, or if they even exist. Chipotle and other national chains offer reasonably consistent food and a reasonably consistent experience, and they’re reasonably easy to find. And sometimes, especially in airports, your options are limited.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Ever since the 14-hour road trip where we naively said “okay, we’ll get pizza, how much longer could it take?” (apparently the restaurant took this as a personal challenge) our road trips have tended to be from Panera to Panera. They’re easy to find, have reasonably healthy options, and service will be quick. A Panera recently opened near me and I virtually never go there–because I know my other local options. But hit the road and I am almost always happy to stop and have a reliable Panera experience.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Because when you’re traveling on business and need to grab something for lunch, sometimes you aren’t surrounded by great but cheap hole in the wall Mexican joints, a divine little Thai place only the locals know about, a fantastic Jewish deli that you can tell from the awning has fast service, and a couple of gourmet food trucks. Sometimes you have the option of fast chain food, or candy bars from the service station.

      If you are inside an airport, then “divine little hole in the wall Mexican place with great cheap food” probably isn’t one of your options.

      1. paul*


        I make it a point to try out new/interesting places sometimes on work travel, but in an airport or on a drive from home to my work destination? Man, subway/chipotle/McDonald’s can happen. And in a small town at 9pm they may be all that’s open

        1. Noobtastic*

          Twenty years ago, I was in a small town at 9 pm, and even McDonald’s wasn’t open. In fact, we had to drive a few miles out of town to find a gas station that was open.

          Ironically, this “small town” was actually the county seat. But due to location, most people in the county only become aware of it when they have actual county business, like jury duty. Otherwise, they know about the bigger town up the road, that actually connects to the interstate, and has several 24/7 options along that main road.

          1. Norémon*

            Yeeep. Most small towns or rural areas stuff usually closes at 5:00PM even on Friday nights. Our gas station right by the highway closes at 10:00PM

      2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        Some years ago – I worked for a company that had a ridiculously low meal stipend on the road — and a manager seriously suggested to us that we seek out what was essentially a soup kitchen for unemployed actors and actresses during a trip to New York.

      3. Annonymouse*

        Also there’s the time factor.
        I don’t have time during the conference to waste on
        1) finding a local eatery
        2) figuring out if I like what they have on offer
        3) and if it’s in my price range
        4) finding out how fast/slow their service is
        5) and if it’s good quality or not.

        If I have 10 minutes to an hour break I’m going with something I know which is a chain restaurant/fast food place.

        1. azurelunatic*

          And if there are extra dietary requirements in there (whether it’s for spiritual peace, secular peace of mind, or physical/medical reasons), add factor #6 on there.

          A less frequent traveler or somebody at something intense like a conference may not have enough battery to do all that work even for dinner when there’s likely a little more time. A regular traveler tends to know exactly how much spare they’ve got…

          “But there’s Yelp!” … or there’s the extra half-hour+ figuring out what the locals use instead of Yelp.

          The place to put that labor is probably on the administrative support at the hosting location, who are best placed to know what’s good, what’s close, what the price ranges and speeds are, and what sort of dietary requirements they can fulfil. It’s also likely to be reusable, if the location gets regular visitors…

      4. Lissa*

        Also it kind of seems to me like talking about how you prefer local hole in the wall places that are so much better than the commercial mainstream is just as pretentious as Chipotle. (the places aren’t pretentious, I just know way too many people who can’t stop telling everyone about their non-mainstream tastes)

        1. Noobtastic*

          I was just thinking about the “I don’t watch TV” people earlier today.

          Now, it’s fine if you don’t watch TV. Lots of people don’t watch TV. I once lived in a sort of dip in the land, where the TV signals simply wouldn’t reach me, unless I was twenty feet higher, and since I was in an apartment, getting an aerial on a pole was not an option for me. My rabbit ears wouldn’t cut it, except for a fuzzy rendition of one particular channel. I did a lot of VHS tapes and books.

          What’s not fine is looking down your nose at other people, and telling they are wrong for watching TV.

      5. Road Warrior*

        “Because when you’re traveling on business and need to grab something for lunch, sometimes you aren’t surrounded by great but cheap hole in the wall Mexican joints, a divine little Thai place only the locals know about, a fantastic Jewish deli that you can tell from the awning has fast service, and a couple of gourmet food trucks. Sometimes you have the option of fast chain food, or candy bars from the service station.”

        I have done business travel, mostly internationally, for 15 years and have never had a choice between fast food or candy bars from a service station. Thanks to this thing called “the Interwebz,” you can find information about divine Thai places and such easily. If your only choices are Chipotle and candy bars, you’re doin’ it wrong.

        1. Annonymouse*

          It depends on time frame.

          If it’s after the conference has wrapped for the day and there isn’t a social event scheduled then yes, I have time to look up local food places and wander around to try and find them.

          If it’s in between seminars, immediately before I’m due to travel or need to be somewhere then I don’t have time to dick around. I want guaranteed food I know I like in a quick time frame.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          If you’ve never been to a town that had no options for divine Thai places, or more generally nothing but 0-1 fast food places and a gas station…. I will draw inferences about your very limited experience.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            On a recent trip, we gave up on eating out in a midsize city when it turned out all the local places, and almost all of the more distant ones, closed at 8 on Tuesdays. (Something we learned using those interwebz.) Everyone was wiped and didn’t want a long drive to hope something was open, and fortunately putting together leftovers in the kitchen was an option. The next day our careful interwebz planning of lunch out fell through when all the restaurants had sold out of food to the festival crowd and had closed and were waiting to be restocked. Fortunately I had learned and had backup picnic makings in the back of the car, because even the gas station options had been pretty razed.

        3. Floundering Mander*

          Clearly you’ve never driven across Kansas or New Mexico in the evening. Depending on where you are when you get hungry, you might be SOL.

          Though interestingly I just visited San Francisco a few weeks ago and ran into this problem. We stayed in a suburb that was only 20 minutes away from downtown on the train and reasonably close to the airport. There was a problem with luggage so we didn’t actually get out of there until 11pm. Everything was closed except Wendy’s and Walgreens.

        4. Optimistic Prime*

          You’ve seriously never been in a small town or urban neighborhood where the only thing (or only thing open) was a fast food restaurant and a service station? I’ve been to several of these places I don’t even travel extensively. Have you heard of food deserts? The Internet doesn’t magically make restaurants appear where there are none.

        5. Observer*

          Besides what others have said, I’ll point out that you have been lucky. The fact that a place has good yelp reviews doesn’t necessarily that it’s good – or consistently good. On business travel, it’s often worthwhile to stick with the know mediocre, rather that chance disaster in search of great food.

    2. Student*

      You know what’s worse than brow-beating people for the added expense of buying some extra guac with lunch on travel?

      Brow-beating people for buying some extra guac with lunch on travel because you think they should’ve bought the guac at your personal preferred-foodie restaurant.

      Seriously. You get to like what you like, but you don’t get to call the OP “pretentious” without consequence because she likes something slightly different than you. That’s basically textbook-definition pretentious behavior – by you.

        1. MacAilbert*

          Specifically, Chipotle’s particular advertising style. It really feels like they want to bill themselves as something they aren’t.

      1. Road Warrior*

        It’s fair game to call out someone for being so unadventurous as to be in a new city and stick exclusively to fast food. Their choice, by all means, but I do draw inferences about people based on how open they are to new experiences — and eating only Chiptole on the road can be a sign of that.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Okay, but people will draw inferences on your drawing of inferences about the adventurousness of the spot they grabbed a bite between flights.

        2. Miss Nomer*

          See, I would give way more side-eye to someone who judged what other people eat than someone who ate fast food or something. Their food choices don’t affect you. Let them be.

        3. Optimistic Prime*

          The OP only said that they ate at Chipotle, not that they only/exclusively ate at Chipotle. Usually when I’m traveling I eat a mix of familiar favorites and some new stuff, because sometimes after a long day of work in an unfamiliar place combined with travel and jet lag you just want to eat some Wendy’s and go the flip to sleep.

        4. Observer*

          Talk about pretentious! Even if the OP actually limited herself to Chipotle (which she never said or implied) judging people on that is one of the most ridiculous – and narrow minded! – things I’ve read in a long while.

    3. Breda*

      Because 90% of the country doesn’t have really good no-name hole-in-the-wall burrito places? There was like one Mexican restaurant in my New England hometown before Chipotle, and it was a nice sit-down place.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        And even if a town does have such a magical place, if I am traveling to some random town I am not familiar with for a business trip, then hey there, guess what? I may not have the time or energy to go searching for the “oh gosh, people of this lovely town, what is the best and most magical and non-corporate and locally sourced farm to table authentic place for me to eat that is so totally not pretentious and that will bring me true joy?” no-name hole in the wall hipster place that is cool enough for the people of the internet.

        1. sam*

          And even on vacation…I went to some amaaaaazing restaurants in Peru, mostly at the suggestion of my guide, who knew where the (ahem) safe places to eat were. But given the number of warnings we got about not drinking the water/not eating any fruit/not consuming anything that wasn’t cooked properly, I definitely stopped at a few more…familiar (aka chain*) places when I was on my own in completely unfamiliar territory.

          *OK. I went to Starbucks. Because Starbucks is EVERYWHERE.

            1. ZucchiniBikini*

              That’s not true actually. I’m in Melbourne, Australia, and we have three Starbucks in our CBD. They’re all crappy, but they ARE here.

              1. Annonymouse*

                There used to be heaps more. I heard most of them where closing down including the one at a main train station in Sydney.

    4. SL #2*

      I live in urban California myself and comments like this is literally why 90% of this country hate people who live in urban California.

    5. Turtle Candle*

      This is the funniest “ignoring the comment rules to chastise the OP for something frivolous” I’ve seen in a long time. It almost reads like satire.

      1. SoCalHR*

        definitely honing in on the fast food restaurant of OP’s choice is TOTALLY off topic and irrelevant to the post and purpose of askamanager. Such passionate opinions on the matter!

    6. MacAilbert*

      I think this is a pretty good example of how you can’t really convey tone on the internet. I’m always up for a little lightheared sniping back and forth over food choices, but nothing serious is meant by it. I don’t actually think OP is seriously in the wrong, and I wouldn’t push this past a little ribbing.

      1. MacAilbert*

        More seriously, I know why people stick with chains when travelling, but it’s Chipotle. It’s like when I drink PBR. Yea, sometimes I want cheap lager, and I’m allowed to have it, but my friends are going to laugh at me and remind me that PBR is utter trash and I should feel bad. Nobody seriously believes that, or honestly thinks I shouldn’t get PBR if I really want to. It’s just a thing we do.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Hahahaha! OK, it’s late. I read that as “when I drink PB&J.”

          Seriously, I wonder about anyone who sticks and peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a blender, unless they have a broken jaw and are sick of soup.

          Thanks for the laugh. I’d better go to bed, now.

  32. Kate*

    I’m happy it turned out well :) As someone who does all the booking for my coworkers business trips, I was very upset reading your story, so it’s good it’s been handled and you have reasonable people up in the org chart :)

  33. Noobtastic*

    I hear your concern about your boss taking it out on you that she was reprimanded. Allison, do you think it would be a good idea for LW to contact HR and voice this concern? Or would that make things worse?

    I do know there are laws about retaliation, but they may not apply here.

    Anyway, HOORAY for the CEO! And I just think it is absolutely hilarious that the C *F* O is not responsible for auditing finances. HAHAHAHAAAA!

    Since you love the job in all (or at least most) other respects, this is probably the best possible ending, and I’m really glad you didn’t have to leave, as so many commenters suggested. Nevertheless, update your resume and put out a few feelers, in case your boss gets vengeful. Hopefully, she knows this really was her own fault, but you never know who some people will blame.

    1. Friday*

      Actually, the CFO should NOT be responsible for auditing finances – the CFO oversees the actual booking of the finances and an outside eye should be auditing this. Ideally, the audit committee reports to the BOD, or the President/CEO but nobody else.

      1. SL #2*

        Our external auditors present findings and report to our C-suite, but the CFO is expected to recuse herself from having anything to do with the auditors until the audit is complete.

        1. Noobtastic*

          Thanks for explaining this. I’ve never been on the financial side of things, except for one brief stint as a temp, and that was not very enlightening. I mostly just copied papers all day. I was only there for two weeks, so they weren’t exactly itching to educate me.

          I just figured CFO = Finances, and financial auditing goes with it, right? But recusing herself from the financial auditing does make sense, in a “who watches the watchers” sort of way. Which means that the original set up was wrong, in the first place, doesn’t it?

          I learn so much on this site!

  34. J.B.*

    I love this. I also would have done the same. My boss is so passive that I seize on excuses to address issues when I get them. (Disclaimer: this is a dysfunctional environment. I know this and it wouldn’t fly anywhere. Due to the dysfunction it works here.)

  35. GrandBargain*

    Great update. It’s like watching no-limit Texas hold ’em tournaments when one player has a completely pat hand. But, the other player doesn’t know it and can’t help but walk right into the trap that’s been set. So fun.

  36. AlliH*

    OP, I am thrilled to hear you had such a positive outcome! Thank goodness for the formidable EA’s of the world. I keep picturing her as a Debbie Fiderer or Delores Landingham type. (“……the senior staff was already appropriately intimidated by my stern visage and dry wit.”)

    Guacamole and chips for everybody!

  37. London Calling*

    Oh that’s glorious (sits back, folds hands on stomach and revolves thumbs lightly around each other while smiling with satisfaction). Sometimes just gets it So Right while dishing out the retribution, doesn’t it? that couldn’t have been better and more satisfactory a resolution if you’d been asked to write it yourself.

  38. Dr. Doll*

    I think the amount of guacamole eaten worldwide had a tiny uptick today due to this update, since every reader of this blog is ordering guacamole tonight. ;-)

    Fantastic news and so glad you are appreciated and being handled reasonably.

    1. Old Admin*

      I had California roll with extra avocado while reading the update today! It suddenly tasted twice as good. :-D

  39. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    A story my father (may he rest in peace) often told me about cutting people some slack.

    An accountant came into the sales manager’s office. “Mr. Smith”, he said “Snidely went over on his meals allowance. Five dollars for the week. FIVE DOLLARS! And when I approached him, he was insolent. He told me to go ***t in my hat!”

    “OK, Mr Beancounter, I’ll pull his file and his sales record.”

    “Hmm… he is the company’s lead sales rep. He is now at 156 percent of quota, with two months to go. Hey, BEANCOUNTER…..”

    “Yes Mr Smith!” all shiny, bowtie, looking up.

    “Yeah, Beancounter. Go get your hat. And while you’re at it, get mine, too.”

  40. Richard*

    Glad it worked out in the end. That was insane. But membership organizations can be tense like that: I worked for a nonprofit business organization, about 30 employees. We had a nice holiday party each year at a restaurant with a generous hot buffet, dessert cart and open bar. The executive director always told us to not take pictures for social media or discuss the party outside the office, because then members started calling her with unfair comments like “I can’t believe my dues go to letting staff get drunk.”

  41. Bea*

    I’m glad that this all worked out and that all the people who sucked the most got demoted, your manager got a reprimand that was well deserved, she better tuck her tail and see the error of her ways. You go to bat for your team when they’re being unfairly treated, as a manager I take bullets for my team not let them get rolled like that.

    I am delighted your coworkers buy you extra guac, they are my kind of people. I know I’d cackle over that kind of stupidity in the same way as they do.

  42. Drama Llama*

    Your boss totally deserved the reprimand. If you feel you are disadvantaged in your job because of it (e.g., boss behaves unprofessionally towards you, holds you back for promotions or gives you menial projects, etc) please take it up with someone more senior. If I were in your HR dept I would definitely want to know about a manager who holds grudges because their employee complained about an unbearable situation.

    1. Noobtastic*

      It occurs to me that one way to pre-emotively deal with this situation is to befriend, really befriend, as in “we get lunch together once a month” befriend, the CEO’s EA. Then, if OP’s boss should start taking it out on OP, sometime further down the line, it WILL come out, naturally, via one of these lunches, and the EA will take it from there.

      “Hey, CEO, remember that time you reprimanded BossLady, because she didn’t go to bat for LW? Well, I don’t think it stuck, because she’s doing it again.”

  43. Maolin*

    This is one of the best updates I’ve ever seen on AAM. The Bob Audit Special is my new Dylan cover band name.

  44. Old Admin*

    Wow. This update is so full of win.
    I haven’t read all the comments yet, but have one suggestion based on personal experience – go and talk to your boss. It may be very helpful to explain you did not want to get her into trouble, that you’re sorry about her reprimand (even if you aren’t!), that you *had* to answer the EA, and that you don’t intend to make this a pattern.

    My little story:
    I had just started my very first job, a very lowly freelancer (and deeply in debt to boot) at a company that really, truly, had a clueless Dilbert style Pointy Haired Manager (the CEO). He even looked the part! CEO/PHM liked to run around and be important etc.
    On my second day, I was sitting at the computer with the Chief Tech Officer while he was explaining a task to me. CEO bursts in, chatters at me, asks if I already had my company email address. My answer: “Not yet, I’m that will happen soon.”
    CEO immediately goes off on the CTO and yells at him he’s incompetent (he wasn’t), to handle that immediately yadda yadda while I am cringing. CTO takes off to the coffee area.
    I am sitting there, terrified, trying to overcome my social awkwardness – and a little voice tells me to go and fix things as best I can. So I follow the CTO and immediately apologize for getting him into trouble, not my intention, will be more careful etc. The CTO’s angry expression dissolved, he abruptly turned to to me, shook my hand, and said: “It’s all good! And you know what, my first name is N.!”.
    We stayed friends for many years after that. :-)

Comments are closed.