my boss doesn’t want my husband to visit on a work trip, employee is too rushed in the morning, and more

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

1. My boss doesn’t seem to want my husband to visit me on a work trip

I recently started a new job (I’m in my second week). I relocated, and my husband and dog stayed behind for now. Come to find out I’m being sent on a work trip VERY close to them, about a one-hour drive. The hotel I’m staying at is dog-friendly, so I called and checked if I could separately pay any fees associated with pets, and they said yes. I’m so excited to see them!

As soon as I knew it was possible for this to happen, I went to my boss, who will also be on the trip, and asked/told him that in my free time after work is done, my husband would like to come to the hotel with my dog to meet me and I’d pay any associated fees. He reacted … weirdly? He started saying he doesn’t want to feel rushed through the day because someone is waiting for me. I assured him this would not be the case. He then said next time I should ask first, which is what I thought I was doing. I’m feeling rather emotional because I really miss my little family, but I’m not sure if I overstepped some sort of unspoken line here. Please help!

Do you know what your schedule is likely to be on this trip? If you’re just working days and won’t have work commitments in the evening, your boss really shouldn’t have a problem with this. On the other hand, if it’s the kind of trip where you might be expected to do informal networking in the evenings, I can see him feeling like this isn’t ideal — because sometimes there’s an expectation that you’ll make yourself available during business travel if something comes up, like if there’s an unexpected opportunity to take a client to dinner. Your boss may just be worried that you may be less open to that kind of thing … but if that’s the case, he should say something like, “Your husband is welcome to stay in your hotel room with you, but this is a trip where we may work odd hours and may end up making last-minute plans with the client for the evenings. So your evenings may not be your own, unfortunately, and I can’t promise you’ll be able to keep any evening plans you make ahead of time.” That may be what he was trying to convey, though.

In any case, I think you could go back to him now and say something like, “I wanted to clarify that my husband meeting me at the hotel won’t in any way affect my availability. I’m there to work first and foremost, and I’ll be available whatever hours you need me while we’re there.”

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My employee is too rushed when she shows up for early-morning meetings

I’m the manager of a team of around 20 people at a government agency. Caseworkers meet anywhere from 1-15 clients a week in our offices during scheduled visits, and spend the rest of their time on administrative work connected to their clients. These appointments last a few hours and are booked between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Other than scheduled staff meetings and their booked visits, we have a flexible schedule. It’s not unusual for people to come in around 9 a.m. or leave at 3 p.m. if they don’t have any appointments scheduled, as long as they’re still working their full-time hours for the week.

I have one employee, Mary, who rarely shows up before she absolutely has to. The other caseworkers who have 8 a.m. appointments are there in good time to organize their case files and set up the interview rooms before the start of the day. Mary is rushing in the door at 7:58 and throwing her jacket on her desk before power-walking to reception to be able to greet her client on time, and even then she’s sometimes a minute or two late. I’m not sure how to address this with her, but I feel it’s very unprofessional to show up two minutes before you’re supposed to start working, especially when she’s meeting clients who are waiting for her. She’s otherwise a good worker, and it doesn’t appear that her meetings are affected by her rushed entrance, but it still bugs me to watch this show twice a week. On the days she doesn’t have early bookings, she’s in around 9 and in a much better mood, so I think she’s maybe just not a morning person. How do I get Mary to come in and prep for her day before she absolutely has to?

It’s not really unprofessional to show up two minutes before you’re supposed to start working. By definition, that’s being there before you’re supposed to start working — so I wouldn’t frame it that way. Instead, if the problem is that Mary isn’t arriving early enough to do the needed prep for her appointments, that’s the issue and that’s the way to frame it.

If it’s really true that she needs more prep time, you could say something to her like, “Please make sure that you’re here at least 15 minutes before you have scheduled appointments, so that you have time to organize your case files and set up the interview room, and so that you don’t seem rushed when you’re greeting your first client of the day.” In other words, be clear with her about what you expect and what you’d like her to do differently, rather than just being annoyed that she’s not doing something you haven’t explicitly asked her to do.

But first be sure that she really does need to change what she’s doing. You said that she does good work and her meetings aren’t affected by her rushing in, so it’s not clear that there’s really an issue here, beyond the fact that you don’t like watching it. If there really isn’t an effect on the work, then this is just a matter of different work styles — and that’s not an inherently bad thing.

3. Should I get paid more for saving the company money?

As an hourly employee, if I take on a project that would cost my company $1,000 to outsource (let’s say the outsource charges 10 hours at $10 per hour), and I do the job instead, and do it in less time (an hour), does this mean I am entitled to compensation for taking on the additional work? Does the scenario change if I were a salaried employee? Should I ask for compensation before taking on projects that save the company money? Even if it’s on the clock?

No, that’s not usually how this works! As an employee, you’re not typically paid by the project; you’re paid one consistent rate. Of course, if you regular do excellent work and save your company money, you may be able to parlay that into a raise and/or promotion over time — but you’re not likely to earn varying amounts based on the projects you do or what you accomplished that week. (Similarly, if you have a crappy week and make a major mistake or are less productive than usual, you’re still going to get paid your normal rate; it’s not going to be lowered based on your work that week.)

4. Lactation room is being opened to all employees

My friend works for a company with 80-90 employees. She had a baby several months ago and returned to work full-time after her maternity leave was up. Another woman in the company had a baby around the same time. The company did not previously have a space designated for a lactation room, but was happy to accommodate both mothers by creating an appropriate space for one. The two mothers have worked out a schedule so that the room is available whenever the other one needs it, and there have been no problems until just a few days ago.

My friend had been hearing murmurings from other employees that it was unfair the new mothers had a quiet space dedicated for their own use (I believe everyone else sits in an open office plan). To be clear, the nursing mothers are not in the room all day; they each use it for about 20-30 minutes twice per day, and spend the rest of the time at their desks. Nevertheless, a few employees petitioned for the room to be open to everyone as a “quiet space” to be used for any purpose. A meeting was called, and the company agreed to open the lactation room up to all-comers, but with the understanding that nursing mothers would continue to have priority over use of the room.

My friend and the other new mother are understandably concerned that other employees won’t respect the need to prioritize the room’s usage as a lactation space, and that the room will no longer be available when they need it. It is unclear who will manage or monitor the room’s use, and given that this decision came from higher up in the company, they are unsure who to talk to about this issue. The company does not have an official HR department, which would be my friend’s normal go-to for this type of issue.

Does the company have any legal obligations to maintain the room as a lactation-only space? Should they bring up their concerns now (and to who?) or wait a few weeks to see how this new policy plays out?

They’re not required to have it be lactation-only. They’re just required to ensure that nursing mothers have a private space with a locking door when they need to pump. If the room is used for other things the rest of the time, that’s allowed.

Since they’ve already announced this change, your friend should probably wait to see how it plays out. It’s possible that it’ll actually go fine and that nursing moms will be able to get the room when they need it — but if it turns out that’s not the case, she’ll be able to point to clear evidence that it’s not working (whereas now it’d be speculation, and they’re likely to tell her to wait and see anyway). However, she can certainly push for a clearer process about how to ensure the room is free when she needs it (such as a sign-up system). As for who to talk to since there’s no HR, without knowing her office it’s hard to say for sure, but one or some combination of the following: her own manager; whoever manages the physical space and/or administration there; whoever decided on the change; or (since it’s a small-ish staff) a second-in-command type if they have one.

5. How long before a reference expires?

At my internship last summer, I had a coworker who praised me highly for my work at the firm and offered, unsolicited, to be a reference for any future jobs or internships. However, due to my abysmal networking skills, I failed to keep in touch this past year. Now that I’m looking into internships for this summer, I am scrambling for references. Would it be appropriate for me to reach out to her to ask if she is still willing, and if so, what would be the best approach? And do you have any specific tips for keeping these kinds of relationships alive for the future?

Yes, it’s totally fine to reach out now! A year is not at all a long time for this sort of thing, and it’s very normal for people to get back in touch to ask for a reference when they’ve been out of touch for a few years. You can just be straightforward about it: “Hi Jane, I hope you’re doing well! You had mentioned last summer that you’d be willing to be a reference for me for future jobs, and I’m hoping I can take you up on that now. I’m applying for jobs and I’d love to include you on my reference list if you’re still willing.”

As for keeping these relationships alive for the future, you really don’t need to do much. This isn’t the kind of thing where you’re popping up after a year of no contact and asking the person to help you move. References are a professional courtesy that don’t require regular contact in the interim. That said, most people appreciate occasional professional updates, like when you get a new job or graduate or have some other kind of major achievement. (Or especially if you can say something like, “I did a project on X at work this month and realized how valuable what you taught me about Y was — I was able to use your insights on Y to do Z.” People love that kind of very specific update on how you helped them or what you learned from them.) But that can be something like once a year — it doesn’t have to be more than that.

{ 540 comments… read them below }

  1. KimberlyR*

    #4-As a breastfeeding/pumping mother, I understand your concerns! I pump 3x a day when possible so I think the 2x a day that you and your coworker do is definitely something they need to accommodate with no fuss. (They should anyway but no one can try to claim that either of you pump too often.) If you do have to speak with someone about the room and it’s usage, I think your wording should be, “How can we arrange the schedule so that (other working mother) and I always have priority for pumping?” You two shouldn’t have to work around the “quiet room” schedule since you actually require the space.

    1. Wendy Darling*

      My office has a lactation room that is rarely used for that purpose so it’s a quiet room most of the time. Right now someone is actually using it as a lactation room so there’s a sign on the door noting that it is reserved during three specific time slots. Our office admin is not down with funny business and will enforce the hell out of that reservation.

      We have a really good remote-work policy (I’m almost never in the office just because my commute is a pain — not even unreasonable, just not fun at all) so we don’t tend to have a lot of breastfeeding mothers in the office, and it’s nice to have a room available if you just need a few minutes of quiet rather than off limits even though it’s not in use 90% of the time. Also there’s a super comfy chair in there. One place I worked actually did have quiet rooms separate from lactation rooms, and you could go in them for prayer or if you just needed a minute or to make a personal call.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        When I worked in-house pregnant women could also use the lactation room, when sitting upright with our eyes open was becoming a struggle. I could see it working fine, with the nursing mothers having priority interspersed with a scattering of people who needed to lie down for 15 minutes due to medical conditions, and the occasional prayer-etc person who needed to gather themselves having an option other than a toilet stall. Or being a disaster when Fergus tried to seize it as his new office, with martyred sighs whenever anyone else wants to use the space. At this point, as Alison says, they probably need to point to evidence of how it’s working in practice.

        1. Nita*

          My office used to have a quiet room like this also! It’s since been replaced by a few small lounges scattered around the office for the same purpose. It’s a really good idea. It was always separate from the “lactation room,” so OP’s issue never came up, but of course not every office would have space for more than one private area…

          That said, I think providing a private space to express milk is federal law? There are exceptions of course, but if federal law does not apply, many states have their own laws as well. So if it turns out that the other employees’ needs (or wants? It’s hard to tell from the letter!) are making it impossible to use the room for this purpose, the law may be on OP’s friend’s side. Hopefully that nuclear option won’t be needed. It’s all so much harder because there’s no HR – but even if the decision was made by a company-wide vote, someone made the decision that it’s OK to even bring up for a vote… if it turns out things are not working, either the manager or this decision maker may be the person to talk to.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        What would worry me about allowing the lactation room to be scheduled by anyone is, even if nursing mothers get priority, what if they have a meeting run over or some other unplanned scheduling change, and someone else (who is not a nursing mother) is in the room when they are finally free to pump? I know most nursing mothers let down fairly regularly, so delays like that might be something they’d studiously avoid, but in case it did happen, I’d want a sign or a note on the signup page saying that nursing mothers, scheduled or not, always have priority, and everyone else should be prepared to be kicked out with no notice. And yes, I’d make the language pretty blunt, because that hint of entitlement in the demand by the coworkers has me concerned that they’d keep pushing the boundaries in their use of that room.

        1. LSP*

          This would be my concern as well. As someone who can have quite a busy schedule, with meetings that often run over time, etc., I wouldn’t want to have to worry about missing my spot and fighting to get into the room when I needed to. A lot of women struggle with keeping up milk production, especially once they return to work, so the ability to get to pump as needed is vital (and a big part of the reason why employers are required to provide a lactation room). I wouldn’t be inclined to wait until there was a problem with scheduling to say something. I would tell my manager that there is a real chance that allowing everyone have access to this space (simply because they want to, not because there is a medical or legal requirement) could end up having an adverse effect on my ability to continue to breastfeed, which could run afoul of the spirit of the law.

          Personally, I know my company has had one breastfeeding mother work here before, and she was given a semi-private space in a soundproof booth in a warehouse where people are in and out of all day. I am now pregnant, and I have already made up my mind that I am not comfortable with that arrangement. We have a pretty good WFH policy, so I am just going to ask to WFH while I am breastfeeding. Most of the people I work with on a daily basis are all in other states, so me being in the office is pretty pointless anyway, and a booth in a warehouse (with no heat or AC) where people come and go, is not my idea of private.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          But this is the reality in many large companies. If there are several women reserving the room for a half-hour slot 2-3 times a day, it’s fairly easy to get to a point where it’s booked solid for multiple hours so that running late just isn’t an option. Usually the women involved are able to work things out among themselves, or there are several rooms across a large campus and people sort out which one to use based on availability and things fall into a routine, but having to sign up in advance and stick to a schedule is pretty common.

          In a company of 80 with two pumping women I don’t see why others shouldn’t be able to use the room for brief periods occasionally if everyone’s respectful about it and pumping takes priority, but these coworkers may not be reasonable people.

        3. INTP*

          Yeah, I think there needs to be a strongly worded disclaimer that any time a nursing mom needs to use the room you have to be out within 5 minutes, even if you’re scheduled to be in there, or something. Make sure people understand that access to the room is never guaranteed. Treating it like a conference room with a calendar where the nursing moms have scheduled recurring appointments would be a good idea but there has to be flexibility when they need to go outside their normal times.

      3. Kelsi*

        Ours is the same–a general purpose “quiet room.” We’ve been in this building for around 3 years now and while it doesn’t have a set schedule, I don’t believe we’ve ever had problems. It’s understood that breastfeeding moms have first priority, always (although since we’re a child-focused nonprofit, the culture of the organization supports that!)

        I’ve used it a few times when I had to take an emotionally fraught personal call (a friend was dealing with some health issues and I was one of her main emotional supports). There are conference rooms where you can shut the door, but all their doors have windows–and since I tend to be a crier, sometimes I need a place where I can not be seen as well as not being heard!

        1. Friday*

          Oh yikes I would hate to be the lactating woman who has to kick a crying distraught coworker out of her sanctuary space so I could pump. If I were younger and meeker, I wouldn’t kick you out and I’d just suffer the consequences. But now I’m all late-30s assertive and would politely but firmly ask you to leave. And then how would our working relationship be after that?

          1. Formerly Arlington*

            And by that token, I would hate to be the coworker who inconvenienced a breastfeeding colleague. I personally would not even use a quiet room if there were nursing moms who might need it. I feel like putting someone in the position of saying, “Hey, I need to pump in there!” is just not cool for anyone involved.

            1. Friday*

              Companies in general should try to have as many private places as possible for people to be human as needed, from specifically specified lactation rooms to small rooms where people can go to have private conversations on the phone. I’ve had family crises pop up at work before and rushing out to my car so I can talk to my crying mom, etc. is not ideal.

      4. Aitch Arr*

        This is exactly like the set up at my employer.
        We have a Quiet Room that’s primary use is as a Mother’s Room. Our admin staff closely monitors the room booking.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        ?? OK, but those are the facts are posted here. What is the point of questioning the validity of the LW’s account? How is that constructive?

        1. Myrin*

          And, I mean, that letter is pretty straightforward; I don’t really see anything that could be lost in translation through OP’s friend’s recounting of what’s happening in her office here. After all, it doesn’t make a difference whether OP says “My friend had been hearing murmurings from other employees” or whether friend writes in herself and says “I had been hearing murmurings from other employees”.

          (Other than that, I thought Mom MD’s first sentence might be referring to Kimberly’s addressing the OP directly. And, well, that is factually untrue but really seems more like a rhetorical thing and doesn’t change her advice, either.)

          1. KimberlyR*

            That’s actually a reading error on my part! I missed that the LW doesn’t work there and is writing on behalf of someone else’s situation. Which doesn’t change my advice at all but I would’ve adjusted my pronouns accordingly. The gist of what I wanted to say was that the 2 affected nursing mothers advocate that OF COURSE they always get first dibs and never have to worry about scheduling conflicts with this room, and they should act that way and speak that way.

    2. Snark*

      And I can just see one of the pumping moms going to the lactation room and someone’s there, and being like, “hey, can ya….” and the other person being all “oh-kayyyyyyyy….” and sighing heavily and gathering up their crap with a chip on their shoulder because, well, it’s everyone’s quiet space too…..

      The employees who whined about wanting access to the lactation room too are assholes.

        1. Specialk9*

          Thirded. People who covet lactation rooms are entitled (and usually male), and will definitely pull entitled shenanigans.

      1. Engineer Woman*

        Possibly, but I do think things need to progress to see if any such interactions occur before the mothers say anything about opening up the lactation room.

        I’m feeling optimistic today: perhaps the person in the room would be “oh, yes, let me get out of your way…” in an apologetic tone of voice, knowing the primary purpose of the room is for Lactation!

        1. Snark*

          Like LBK says below, though, if one’s first thought upon hearing that lactation room is offered is, “how can I demand access to this perk too,” then that person doesn’t get me in an optimistic mood.

          1. General Ginger*

            Yeah, obviously there was no quiet room for anyone until they needed a lactation room, but suddenly now that there is a lactation room the office decided they needed a quiet room?

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yeah, that bugged me too. If they’re asking like, “Hey, is it okay if we use the space for meditation or a nap or whatever when Barbara and Sally aren’t using it? We’ll get out of the way for lactation,” then I feel like that’s okay.
              But if it’s “Hey, how come Barbara and Sally get this for X; we should have it for Y because that’s not fair,” then f*ck them.

              1. AsItIs*

                The “not faaaair” ‘argument’ isn’t even okay for a 6 year old, even though it’s the only argument they are able to muster.

                The big bang 13 billion years ago, the Earth’s formation 5 billion years ago, the start of evolution on this planet 3 billion years ago, an asteroid that if it had come a day later would not have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs without which humans would never have evolved, but it’s all not faaaair because two egg-carriers can’t have a child naturally without a sperm so no one is allowed to talk about getting pregnant.

                “Not faaaair”? You’ve just lost any argument.

        2. LBK*

          My only hesitation with that is that this is one of those things that isn’t a problem until it is – they could go a month before someone throws a fit about being kicked out of the room during a conference call or something, and then you’re stuck playing cleanup on that mess rather than just having made the rules clearer from the start to prevent a situation like that.

          1. Snark*

            Yeah. Even if 90% of the people in the office are chill about it 98% of the time, you’re gonna catch Fergus on a bad day and he’s going to throw a hissy.

      2. Beckysuz*

        Yeah I agree. It smacks of a very childish “but it’s not faaaaaaiiirrr” type of attitude. Having a quiet space to pump is essential to proper milk production. I’m a nursing mother and if I had to worry about kicking out entitled jerks every time I needed to pump the anxiety might inhibit my flow. To quote my mother “life’s not fair, get over it”. If it’s that important other employees have a quiet space (which sounds nice and I don’t begrudge them that) then they need to supply a separate space for pumping

      3. Amy*

        We have someone here who I can see doing that especially since his desk was recently moved and he’s really unhappy about it. He’s been talked to in the past about using the conference rooms as his own personal office so I could see him “needing” the quiet room a lot.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I just had an argument about this with a dude who wants to use the lactation room for uninterrupted naps (unlike OP’s friend’s situation, it is not open to the public for quiet space) and doesn’t want to have to cede it to lactating women to pump. Livid is too gentle a word for how it makes me feel.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah, it’s super gross. A friend said her VP does this, and I volunteered to come yell at him.

          2. Gigglewater*

            ^this made me chuckle. I hope PCBH prints a FAQ sheet for the room
            Q: Can I use this room for uninterrupted naps and not cede it to the lactating women in the office?
            A: NAH FAM.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              OMG, an FAQ sheet would satisfy all my passive-aggressive daydreams…. :)

      5. Emily K*

        I think that’s a little bit harsh. We have a wellness room in our office that is used for lactation as well as other purposes. It’s unfair to characterize the request as “whining” and call people “assholes” for asking for a wellness room. They’re not trying to kick the pumping moms out, they’re just asking for permission to use the room when it’s not being used for pumping, which seems entirely reasonable to me.

        In our office the wellness room is locked and you have to go to reception to get a key at your appointed time. Because there’s a gatekeeper there is no chance of anyone preventing a lactating mom from using the room whenever she needed to – the receptionist who keeps the keys and schedule understands federal law around lactation and will enforce the rule to ensure the moms have the access they need, even if they have to reschedule at the last minute.

        Meanwhile, it’s a very nice employee benefit to have a wellness room. People can book it in 20 minute increments and the most common use seems to be people who develop migraines or light-sensitive headaches and need to be in the dark for 20 minutes until their Tylenol or whatever kicks in. It’s also tricked out with some massage foam rollers, a white noise/nature sounds machine, and some other de-stress type of things like that, which our put-upon customer service staff appreciate being able to retreat to for 15 or 20 minutes after they’ve spent the past hour being yelled at on the phone.

        It’s a good benefit and I’m happy my company provides it. It doesn’t interfere with lactating moms.

        1. Snark*

          They’re whining assholes if they start agitating for a lactation room to be their wellness room. Wanting a wellness room is a great idea and they’re totally in the right to pursue one, but not at the expense of a lactation room that is reserved for that purpose and that purpose only.

          And like I said above, “when it’s not being used for pumping” is not going to deter the selfish. There is, absolutely guaranteed, going to be conflicts around that. There is going to be a mom who is going to need to pump, and there’s gonna be someone else who just got settled in with a cup of coffee, and yeah. Count on it. And having been married to a person who pumped for over a year and had to deal with that crap, nope. Not reasonable.

          1. Emily K*

            That’s why access is controlled by a key kept at reception. The receptionist would evict anyone who just wanted to sit and drink coffee if that situation arose. And for what it’s worth, I’ve been here half a decade and known several coworkers who used the wellness room for pumping and have never heard of any mom having any issue getting the room when she needs it.

            1. Snark*

              Sounds like a lot of advance planning, bureaucracy, and procedure around a pretty simple requirement and need.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                It could be, but YMMV depending on enforcement and the general attitude at the company. I’ve worked places where you absolutely would have to have two separate rooms because people are entitled pricks, but in other workplaces, everyone would have been cool about it. A Fergus attempting to usurp the room would have been shamed to death.

          2. Rachael*

            Exactly. My last job opened the “mother’s room” to everyone and put in a massage chair. Do you know what this meant? That the refrigerator in there was rendered useless because I couldn’t be sure that I could get my stash out at the end of the day and I had to pump in the locker room almost as much times as I used the Mother’s room because someone was sleeping on the massage chair. They wanted to be sensitive to everyone and wouldn’t allow any reservation of the room. It was so frustrating and affected the amount of milk that I could pump because I was running around and stressed out from trying to find backup places within my break time. Just let the mother’s have their own room. Good grief.

            1. Snark*

              At least with my wife, it wasn’t exactly like she could count on every morning at 10:30, either. Sometimes she was leaking at 9, some days she was sniffing onesies and cursing at 11:30. Sometimes it took 20 minutes, sometimes 40. Sometimes she pumped twice, sometimes three times.

            2. AsItIs*

              Then it ceased to be a “mother’s room” and the employer was crappy for doing that.

        2. Specialk9*

          We think they’re likely entitled a-holes because we’ve been down this road and know the signs. There’s a reason it had to get Federal law. I know so many women who when lactating were put on the spot, inconvenienced, treated like they were sneaking a perk. We get letters regularly about people who violate lactating privacy.

          I’m not sure why you’re giving so much benefit of the doubt. I’m not, because I know exactly where this is going to go. They’re going to get pressure, guilt, and pushback on their priority access to the space, because some brah is going to want to nap or take a phone call. Because his wants are more important than a woman’s biological needs.

          And while I’m a big fan of women making their own choices between breastfeeding and formula, I’m super not ok with managers and coworkers doing so. (And yes, milk supply can dry up based on scheduling not being consistent – it happened to me.)

          1. tangerineRose*

            It bothers me that some of the other employees seem to think of this as a perk. There are women who need privacy for a lactation room – how is this a “perk” as much as a decent thing to do?

        3. the cake is a pie*


          There is a chance that the other employees don’t understand how important or inflexible the timing is for pumping. I certainly didn’t until reading some of these comments. If this sharing system does go through, it might make sense to hold a second meeting to make these concerns heard.

          . . . our put-upon customer service staff appreciate being able to retreat to for 15 or 20 minutes after they’ve spent the past hour being yelled at on the phone.

          Also, this continues my appreciation and sympathy for those who have to answer these kinds of calls.

      6. TheBeetsMotel*

        Agreed. There’s the implication that the whining co-workers see pumping as something a new mother is doing just to dick around while on the clock, and if THEY can do that, why can’t I? Rather than a necessary (and, I would imagine mostly inconvenient, from a work perspective!) part of new motherhood.

        Fair and equal aren’t always the same thing. The co-workers are trying to parlay someone’s medical need into free chill-out tim for themselves, which I think is pretty gross.

        1. Specialk9*

          Especially if the entitled complainers then go home to an infant free house and take a nap. (I remember naps.)

          You know what I wasn’t doing when pumping? Having fun. Like at all.

        1. Snark*

          I’m interested too, where “interested” is some value between “I’d bet money on it” and “basically certain.”

        2. Rachael*

          Actually, surprisingly enough, there were several women who were the complainers in my office. See my comment above: they turned the mother’s room into a “wellness” room and put in a massage chair. Plenty of women liked to use the room (perfume and makeup smells everywhere) to get ready for the day or just sleep. It was so frustrating.

      7. hellcat*

        Ha, seriously! I’m currently pumping at work (well, not as I write this, but as of a few minutes ago). The pumping room is nice and all, but pumping itself is a giant hassle at best. I’m unkindly tempted to say that the complaining coworkers are extremely entitled.

        1. Specialk9*

          Oh no, that’s not unkind. Unkind is wishing to connect them to a deeply uncomfortable suction device every 3 hours for a year. But… since they’re almost surely male, they’d likely just enjoy it.

          1. Khlovia*

            Well, don’t allow them to designate the place where you attach the device.

        2. CoveredInBees*

          (I’m typing this while pumping.) When the pediatrician recommended that I start reducing my kid’s daytime milk intake so he’ll eat more solids, I was so excited to be able to be able to drop a pump. It feels like the gift of time has just been given to me. When I started, I thought I’d make pumping
          “me” time but that has hardly happened. I’m not sure if it is better or worse because I work from home. Yes, I always have a space to pump but I also can sit at my laptop while hooked up.

      8. CM*

        Totally agree with Snark. Not just that, but it’s awkward to announce to coworkers that it is now time for you to lactate. To have to do that twice a day… like somebody else said above, with the assertiveness skills I’ve picked up in my advanced age I’d be OK, but I can imagine my younger self being so discouraged that it would lead me to quit pumping altogether.

        Plus, fellow pumping moms tend to understand the importance of keeping the room clean, and some might want to keep some of their equipment in there, or a cooler with milk. I really dislike the idea of a shared lactation and “quiet” room.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, the end result will be moms who quietly stop breastfeeding their babies and switch to formula. Which if you choose that, great — but it won’t be their choice.

      9. JM60*

        If the room isn’t being used for lactation 95% of the time, suggesting that others be able to briefy use it during that 95% doesn’t automatically make them assholes.

        1. Specialk9*

          You have never pumped, I take it? Pumping is a half hour every 3 hours. 95% vacancy doesn’t even make sense. It’s that combination of ignorance and entitlement that makes them highly likely to be a-holes.

      10. Blue*

        “The employees who whined about wanting access to the lactation room too are assholes.”

        YES. THIS.

    3. LBK*

      Yeah, I mean I suppose there is a chance that people will be deferential and it will all work out fine, but I’m so hesitant to assume that will be the case. Whoever made this decision needs to set the standard that if you are in the room when it’s needed by one of the breastfeeding mothers, you will have to leave immediately, no questions asked, no excuses. And in terms of booking the room, the mothers get to delete your appointment if they need it when you have it reserved.

      I’m just so skeptical that people who are already acting jealous about mothers needing some privacy to perform a biological function are going to be respectful about having to give those mothers priority. I know it’s not a perfect analogy but it honestly feels a little like getting angry that someone gets “quiet time” when they use a single-person accessible bathroom and insisting that you should be allowed to book that out when it’s not occupied. They’re not going in there to do work!

      It feels to me that the bigger problem is that this company hasn’t provided an adequate environment for dealing with the pitfalls of an open office and that the frustration with not having any private space is blinding people to how crazy it is to act as though the breastfeeding mothers are getting special treatment.

      1. AMPG*

        I agree – I think the expectation that nursing mothers have priority hasn’t been adequately established yet. I know at my old office, they set up a lactation room when there were about 3 or 4 of us who needed it, and there were multiple all-staff emails about the fact that it was a lactation room only (it was actually an old storage closet, so not big enough for meetings or anything), and we still had to kick out people who were making personal calls or chatting with each other pretty regularly, not to mention tracking down the chairs, which kept getting stolen for meetings. And this was a pretty progressive, family-friendly office. In the case of the OP’s friend, I’m not predicting this will go well.

      2. Snark*

        Totally agreed on all points. And while I can understand the frustration of working in an open office, I still feel like if your reaction to a lactation room is “Nuh-uh, not fair, what’s in it for meee” you’re probably going to give the legitimate user of that room some guff when she intrudes on your (however well-earned) private breather.

        1. LBK*

          Precisely – the way people are already drawing false equivalences between their needs and the needs of these mothers foreshadows a lot of “I’m in the middle of a call, can you wait like 15 minutes?” scenarios.

            1. PNWFlowers*

              A) totally agree with your assessment, on behalf of pumping moms- thank you
              B) your comments are hilarious

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes. The kind of people who complain about lactation rooms and “perks” for moms are the kind of people who would make a nursing mother wait, in distress, even if she’s supposed to have priority. These people are jerks.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            They’re the kind of people who take an accessible parking place because “I’m only going to need it for a minute.”

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Someone did that over the weekend. Parked in what would be the only available accessible space had he not parked there. No placard, no plates. I parked right behind him…and waited. He threw a royal hissy fit, threatened to ram my car (go ahead, I can use the money) and to call the police. You’re going to call the police? Really? No worries, I already did.

              Most of the time I never encounter anyone parked illegally so it’s not even a thing if I have to park somewhere else as long as it’s close-ish. I don’t have a wheelchair or a vehicle with a lift that needs the room, so as long as it’s not too far, I just deal. Unless they make every single spot right in front of the door accessible, we just all have to learn to share. No big deal.

              Sometimes however, like this past Saturday, I am having a really hard time and unless the next open (non-accessible) spot is literally right next to the accessible spot, I will 1) drive around until someone pulls out or 2) just leave because I do in fact need to park that close. This guy with the no plates, no placards thing though…something snapped (probably because of my pain levels) and I’d just had it.

              Police showed up not too long after he threatened to call them. Minimum fine here id $450.00 … I don’t feel even a little bit bad.

              1. Specialk9*

                Good for you. In this one tiny instance you’re living the dream for all of us who fantasize about getting those guys ticketed. In every other way, I’m sorry it’s so hard!

          2. Friday*

            I also have a feeling some of the jerky people would try to pull rank too, like who cares that your breasts are leaking, you are lower on the company totem pole than me and boo hoo I have a headache. Are the pumping women going to feel empowered and supported enough to throw the VP of whatever out on his ass?

          3. General Ginger*

            What’s next, bathrooms are perks? Chairs? Lactation rooms aren’t a perk, and anyone who says they are needs to re-evaluate.

            1. LBK*

              Yes, I think this is exactly what it boils down to. I wonder how the people viewing this is a special privilege rather than a necessity would feel if the OP just started openly breastfeeding at her desk or during meetings – I think all of a sudden they’d probably agree that she needs to do that somewhere private!

              1. General Ginger*

                Probably we’d get a “Dear Alison, ever since I started using the lactation room for naps, my coworker keeps bringing her baby with her to the office and breastfeeds during meetings. What/who can I bring in to the office to make sure I’m receiving an equivalent perk?”

    4. Turtle Jackie*

      Couldn’t they treat the “lactation room” as any other conference room?

      My company policy is that mothers can use any open conference room for lactation purposes. We have rooms that hold anywhere between 3 and 30 individuals. These rooms are reserved via Outlook calendar on a first-come, first-serve basis for anything within reason, including a desire to work without interruption and lactation purposes.

      The only room any of mothers have ever reserved is the 3-person room. Mothers who plan on pumping are able to schedule their time as far in advance as they would like. This also allows multiple mothers to schedule their time and avoids having to have potentially awkward conversations with people who may be less understanding.

      We have an office of about 140 people and there are enough meeting rooms that this has never been a problem.

      1. Snark*

        So what happens if all the rooms are occupied and a mother has to pump? This just seems like way too much bureaucracy around having a room available for pumping.

        Also, ideally, a lactation room has a fridge, a comfortable chair, a sanitary station, and a sink to wash pump parts in.

      2. LBK*

        This works out for you because there’s always been enough available conference rooms to accommodate the request but that’s not the case in every office, especially a smaller one where you might only have a couple conference rooms. Also, not every conference room meets the legal standards established for a lactation room – most of ours have glass walls that are either semi-frosted or just have standard vertical blinds, both of which can easily be seen through depending on the angle.

  2. Sami*

    OP#1– It’s possible that because you’re only in your second week of work, your boss just doesn’t know enough about you to trust that you’ll be completely available when necessary during this trip. It may have been better to wait for another trip near your old home for such a request. That being said, I do hope it works out this time.

    1. JSPA*

      It’s also possible it’s slipped his mind that you and husband are living apart, on-goingly. (That’s a big aspect of your life, but a small detail in his.) If husband and dog were living with you, or about to be doing so, it would be odd for them to tag along on a first, and perhaps intense work trip.

      Alternatively, he may be very aware that you are living apart, and be imagining that the rendez-vous will entail levels of physicality that would make a knock on the door (or being one thin wall away from the two of you) problematic.

      1. Nita*

        That could be it. Maybe in the boss’s mind it’s “my new employee wants to make a vacation out of a work trip,” not “OP doesn’t see her husband for days because she relocated for the job.” It may help OP to explain to the boss why the request was made in the first place – and clarify again that the decision whether to allow this is in his court, and that she’ll make sure the visit won’t cut into work hours.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah, but it’s hugely common to bring a spouse on a work trip. Work doesn’t own you 24 hours a day, and you have someone to spend off hours with.

    2. Mom MD*

      Agreed. It’s way too soon to be asking if family can come along on a business trip. Your boss barely knows you.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        The family isn’t coming along; they live where the business trip is.

        1. Observer*

          Well, actually, they don’t – it’s an hour away and he’s coming to the hotel.

          1. nonegiven*

            He’s probably only spending the night and driving back to drop the dog off at home and then going to work every morning.

      2. Fiennes*

        I don’t think it’s too soon given the circumstances; many bosses would realize that it’s difficult for an employee to be separated from a spouse. This isn’t about her turning a business trip partly into a vacation—which *would* be inappropriate to ask for. This is about a chance to see her spouse for the first time in a long while. Refusing a request like that, without real work reasons behind it (which there may be), suggests either distrust or a bad take on life/work balance.

        Probably the boss’s reaction is a combination of not knowing the employee well yet and not having really considered that this is about a married couple’s rare chance to see each other. Possibly there are genuine work concerns about availability. But if there aren’t, and OP uses Alison’s script and still gets pushback, I would become wary of this boss.

        1. VelociraptorAttack*

          To be fair, she’s in her second week at the job so we don’t know exactly how long it has been since she moved so it might not be “a long while”.

          I’m kind of interested in what her tone was when she asked/told her boss in week 2 of this job that this would be happening. it’s possible that her new boss was just put off by that.

          1. Someone else*

            The asked/told part of the letter stuck out to me. We don’t know the exact wording she used with the boss, but the description sounded like she told him it was happening, and he replied she should’ve asked first and then, in the letter, said that’s what she was doing then. So… part of the boss’ being ruffled might’ve been that he felt like she was telling him this would happen when what he wanted was her to ask if it were OK. And she felt like the way she brought it up was asking, but to the boss felt like their plans were already done.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          Perhaps if the OP asked what is needed in the evening, that would alleviate concerns or make a point to spend one evening with colleagues, one with the family. I had dinner with a friend on a work trip that occurred within my first month. It wasn’t a big deal. I also had spent the entire day and another dinner with my colleagues.

      3. Krissy*

        +1. I know you miss your family OP and the fact that you’ll only be an hour away makes it really tempting to meet up with them. But it’s really too soon to ask for this.

        1. DonnaNoble*

          I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but have you ever had to live apart from a spouse? My (new) husband had to move 1,000 miles away for graduate school for the first 6 months of our marriage and if we had only been an hour away from each other, we most definitely would have made it a point to see one another. I feel like this is a bit harsh and may be coming from a place where you aren’t able to relate to the situation. Both my husband and I suffered from depression being away from each other. I feel that this mindset is a little harsh.

        2. Specialk9*

          I find this mindset so strange. Work travel is terrible, it’s not a perk. One is allowed to have time off, even when on a work trip. A hotel room is already paid for whether one or two people are there.

    3. Kathleen_A*

      I think that *in theory* having a spouse tag along or meet you while you’re on a business trip is fine – again, that’s in theory. Because in theory, you will just do what you would normally do, business-wise, and save the fun stuff for your off time. I never bring my spouse because he would not enjoy being on his own while I worked, but I’ve seen other people do so and it works out fine.

      But. But. But I’ve known oh, so many people who abuse this privilege. Just in the past few months, one of my fellow employees brought her fiance on a trip and took every opportunity to cuddle with him in all sorts of inappropriate places, such as the lobby of the hotel we were all staying in. She should NOT have been sitting in some guy’s lap – be he fiance, husband, or random stranger – in the hotel lobby while on a business trip! And another brought her daughter on the same trip because Reba McEntire was speaking at the conference and DD just had to see Reba, of course. In some cases this might have been fine, but the kid was only about 8, so it’s not like the employee could just dump her in seat and go off to work. She had to stay right there with her while the rest of the staff did their staff jobs.

      My point is, some people do *not* handle this privilege well, and you need to find a way to assure your boss that you are not one of those people. That may mean waiting until he knows you better before trying something like this.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        “She should NOT have been sitting in some guy’s lap – be he fiance, husband, or random stranger – in the hotel lobby while on a business trip!”

        I’d argue that she needs to not do this no matter what kind of trip it is. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

        1. Kathleen_A*

          Well, yeah, but when she’s on a trip on her own time, different standards apply. Had this not been someone I knew, I would have thought it just sort of, you know, gooshy-wooshy cootsy-wootsy. But at a conference where you are surrounded by coworkers and business acquaintances, it was all that and more.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Oh yeah a trip on her own time…different rules apply. I personally (I know this may just be me) just don’t like overt PDAs like that in public.

            1. Kathleen_A*

              No, no neither do I – I mean, there they are, in a hotel, so surely they shouldn’t need to “get a room.” But that’s a different issue, of course.

    4. LBK*

      Yeah, and I don’t love the way the OP framed this – she even describes it herself as “telling/asking” her boss rather than truly asking. I understand that it might have felt like you were trying to preempt your boss’s potential concerns by looking into the pet policy and offering to pay the extra fees, but in the context (you’re new and don’t really know what the expectations will be on this trip) it feels more like jumping the gun and getting info about something that hasn’t even been approved yet. It seems like you’d already discussed it with your husband as if it were a done deal, so I can see why your boss felt like you’d already gone ahead with it without even asking. You don’t really have the capital yet to do that.

      1. Snark*

        And I can think of multiple business trips I’ve taken where it would have been okay….and I can think of several where it was really expected that I’d be available to join the crew for dinner with our partner agency contacts and establish some face time relationships to smooth things over when we told them they were doing something wrong. Two weeks in, OP doesn’t know what these trips are expected to be and what her role will be.

        1. Lindsay J*


          I’ve just taken a new role and will be traveling with my new boss (former grandboss) next month to all of our different locations.

          A large part of the reason for the trips is for me to get to know the staff (and some key vendors) in the new location and for them and my new boss to get to know me.

          And actual information that will be exchanged in the trip could be done via email or a phone call. But sometimes there’s no replacement for actual face-time when it comes to building rapport and comfort.

          If I were to be disengaged in these meetings because I would rather be having dinner with my boyfriend instead, it would defeat the point of the trip.

          I may ask to extend my time in Hawaii so I pay for a couple extra nights in a hotel myself and fly back like on a Monday instead of a Friday, but otherwise it’ll be business.

          And I definitely would be asking to extend, not telling them I would be extending my stay. And I’m only considering that because I’ve been with the company in a different role prior and know that they are flexible with flights as long as cost is approximately the same.

      2. Luna*

        Yes, exactly. The “telling/asking” would be off-putting to almost any new boss.

      3. EditorInChief*

        Agreed. I think OP is a little tone deaf here. As a boss if a new employee started her second week by asktelling me she’s bringing her family on her first business trip, I’d be thinking “Really? This is how we’re starting off?” It’s not like they’ve been separated for months and haven’t seen each other. OP should have found out first what the expectations were for the trip – IE seminars all day, evenings for personal time, or evenings for networking, or other business related events, etc. Then if evenings were meant for personal time, ASK the boss if it would be all right for her family to join her because she’s been living separate from her family.

        I go on alot of business trips and I prefer to keep my business and personal lives separate; I never have family in tow, and I really want my direct reports to do the same. I don’t want to have to deal with their family’s logistics.

        1. Eye of Sauron*

          I agree with your statement. My husband and I have had similar discussions, he sees me as going to places with fantastic golf. I see me going to a location and working 12-16 hour days. The last time we had the discussion about him joining me, I had to be blunt.

          “Sorry hunny, I’d like to think that I’m a good person, but it would bug the hell out of me to be working knowing you were out having fun golfing, and the last thing I want to do after a really long day is to come back to the hotel and be with someone telling me what a great fun day they had. I love you, but no you can’t come!”

          I did concede that next year when we have out conference in Orlando he can come out after it’s over and we’d spend the weekend together.

        2. Delphine*

          But she’s not bringing family on the trip. She’s seeing her husband in her own hotel room, after work.

          1. LBK*

            I mean, in most cases that is what “bringing family on a work trip” means, because obviously you’re busy all day doing work so you pretty much only see them when you get to the hotel at night. The fact that he’s driving from an hour away rather than flying in doesn’t really change that.

      4. VioletDaffodil*

        Your point is valid, but I can also see it going the other way. If OP hadn’t looked into this and had asked first, it is possible the boss would have been put off because she didn’t take into account things like the pet-friendliness policy and associated fees. Showing that she did her homework, to me, doesn’t imply that she is forcing them to allow it to happen, but saying that she is understanding of the fees and she wants it to be fully her responsibility and not the companies.

        1. LBK*

          But the issue is that she only did her homework on the side that benefits her and not on the work side. She should’ve done more to understand what the work expectations would be on the trip and whether it was normal in this work culture to allow spouses to visit during trips. Coming to the boss with the hotel logistics worked out already but without first understanding whether this would even be okay kind of implies she assumed it would be fine.

        2. Observer*

          The problem is that she did her homework and made her decision.

          Had she gone to her boss and said “We’re only an hour away from my husband so I’d like him to meet up with me in the evenings. I checked with the hotel etc. and I’ll pay any relevant expenses, so it should be ok from that end. What are the expectations for the evenings on this trip?” that would have been one thing. But from what the OP says, it sounds more like “I checked with the hotel, I’ll be paying the expenses so my husband is going to be meeting up with me. Ok?”

    5. CS Rep By Day, Writer By Night*

      In every place I’ve ever worked, having a spouse or other family tag along as part of business travel has been a perk only available to higher level executives with a lot of available capital to spend. I’m not sure where OP is in her company’s hierarchy, but if she’s lower level as well as brand new I could see this coming off as pretty tone deaf.

      I’m sure there are companies that extend the benefit to most or all levels of employees, but I’ve never personally worked for one. I think that’s why it’s important to have a good understanding of they cultural norms when you start a new job.

      1. Risha*

        Conversely, I’ve never worked a job where this wouldn’t be acceptable/normal, even for a new hire right out of college. (In fact, I’m pretty sure I remember one guy brought his wife and kid on the two week training trip when I started my first job.) My current place definitely wouldn’t have an issue with it, and it’s policy that if you’re on a business trip longer than 2 weeks they will either fly you home or fly your family out to you for the weekend. If the OP has had a career like mine, it probably never crossed her mind that it might be an issue. It wouldn’t have crossed mine.

        1. Specialk9*

          Yeah me neither, nor my friends. It helps that we often go to armpit towns instead of, say, Paris. But even the cool locations are awfully like uncool ones, inside a hotel conference room. Except the Nashville Gaylord center — that place is wild.

  3. mobiuschic42*

    For OP1, I could imagine a variety of scenarios that are leading her to seem rushed in early mornings, rather than just not being a morning person.
    For one, she might carpool or take her kids to daycare/school in the morning, so coming in earlier might upset that schedule.
    Or it could be an issue of commute time. I have to come into work 15 minutes early once a week, but because of traffic conditions and bus times, I have to leave my house 30-45 minutes earlier than usual.

    1. eplawyer*

      It is also possible that she prepped her files the night before knowing she can only make it in with a minute or two to spare. As Alison said, make sure this is really a work problem and not just a difference in styles.

      I’m not a morning person. So I have my worked bag packed and ready to go the night before. That way I don’t have to deal with it. Some people just prep earlier than others to accomodate their work style.

      1. Lynca*

        This. I tend to prep everything the day before in my down time for meetings, site visits, etc. That way when I come in I am not really rushing to get everything prepared in time for those things.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          I nearly always prep the night before, too. I am oh, so not a morning person, but even if that isn’t a factor (e.g., the meeting isn’t until 9:30 or so, which is an hour after I’m due at work), I like to have the prep done so that if something goes wrong or I unexpected end up doing something else right after I get it, I’m still ready.

          1. Arjay*

            Yes, when I have an unusually early meeting or event, I go into Outlook and change the reminder from 15 minutes to 18 hours so that I get the reminder the day before when it’s actually useful to me, instead of it popping up at 7:45 am and me not seeing it until I wander in at 7:58.

      2. Seriously?*

        That’s what I was thinking too. The only actual work impact that was mentioned was being a few minutes late for meetings a few times. That can be addressed separately from wanting her there extra early because it looks better.

      3. Nanani*

        LW, it’s not really any of your business how and when people prep, as long as the prep is done. You said the meetings don’t seem to be affected, so please just leave Mary alone. She’s an adult getting her work done in a way that works for her.

        Plus “your work day starts at 8 but you really need to be here at 7:45” is the kind of thing that needs a more solid reason to insist on. “I don’t like watching you do it” is not that.

      4. LBK*

        Same, when I have early meetings or interviews I make sure I have everything in order the night before because I know I’m not getting anything done in the morning beforehand.

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Totally. I do this, and I frequently walk into morning meetings 2-5 minutes before they begin. I’m not rushed or stressed out, even as I dash around my office. By the time I face the client, I’m calm, prepared, and often have my coffee/tea in hand. Others might perceive it as being disorganized, but I spend a significant amount of planning time being organized enough to make this specific pattern/style work for me. And, frankly, I come in way earlier if I know someone else needs me to, even if I’m fully prepped ahead of time and ready to go.

        OP#2 needs to really evaluate if this is a performance problem or a difference in work preferences/styles. If it’s the latter, then I think the best thing OP#2 can do is learn to let it go. You really don’t want to hammer an employee with good performance for a (completely legit) work style when it has no material impact on their work. We all approach problems in different ways; just because we prefer our way doesn’t mean it’s the only right/proper way forward.

        1. Newlywed*

          I agree…there’s this thing in my office where people who are “early risers” are seen as more productive, for some reason. I have a schedule where I come in later (still “on time” for what my manager and I agreed to) and I get a lot of snark or side eye from some of the “early riser” employees. However, I’m one of the top performers in my department. There are days when I get in a little earlier, and there are days when I work through lunch, or I stay later to get something done, but I am also constantly learning new techniques to become more productive, more organized, more efficient, so it doesn’t take me as long to do some of my tasks as it does some of my coworkers, and I refuse to be penalized for being more efficient just and “work” longer hours just to create a “perception” that my butt is in a chair for a certain number of hours a day. Now, when we have an early meeting, I’m there not only on time, but early, because that’s a commitment I’ve made. But I’m not going to show up early on days when I don’t have to, or stay late on days when I don’t have to.

        2. myswtghst*

          “I’m not rushed or stressed out, even as I dash around my office. By the time I face the client, I’m calm, prepared, and often have my coffee/tea in hand.”

          I think this is the key. The OP mentions the employee seeming rushed, and it’s worth evaluating if she’s coming off that way to clients. If she is, it’s reasonable to ask that she figure out what she needs to do to prevent that (coming in 5-10 minutes early, prepping the day before, not scheduling meetings first thing, etc…). If it’s just that she’s coming across rushed internally, but that clients are not being impacted (other than her very occasionally being late), it’s probably better for the OP to find a way to let it go.

    2. Kittymommy*

      The only thing I’m curious about is if the LW is thinking she might be coming off as rushed to the clients? If the person is rushing in, throwing her stuff down and then rushing to get the client from the lobby, perhaps they might be picking up on that?? Otherwise, everything else being okay, it doesn’t seem like an issue to get into with them.

      1. Yorick*

        Especially since she likely rushes in past the clients, put her things down, and then goes back to the lobby to get them. I always feel a little weird going to a business to meet someone and being there before them.

        1. strawberries and raspberries*

          Yeah, and the term “caseworker” implies that it’s probably a branch of social services or something like that, in which case I would be annoyed by Mary too. If it’s what I’m thinking, the clients are probably tied to more than one government service, and to take time to arrive early to an appointment and wait for your caseworker and then finally see her come in only to blow past you, throw her coat down, and power-walk back over in an obvious rush can be pretty demoralizing.

          I would address this like, “Listen, you’re a great performer, and I know that you work really hard, but I really would like you to keep in mind how it may look to clients when you’re coming to work in a rush only minutes before their scheduled appointments. Is there something I can do to help you make a habit of being on time?”

          1. Nita*

            Maybe not that demoralizing. The clients have lives too, and may understand that a lot of things can happen to affect when one gets into work in the morning. Especially since she’s not late – she just isn’t in half an hour before the appointment (and it doesn’t seem to be affecting her work). I’ve been on the client side and while waiting was not good because I’ve taken time off work, I’ve struggled to be on time myself enough times to imagine very easily that the person I’m meeting may be stuck on a train/looking for parking/waiting to drop off a kid at school.

            The only thing that baffled me was – why not just set the meeting a little later to account for possible morning emergencies? That may be the solution for Mary also. I just don’t see why the meetings cannot start at 8:15 instead of 8 sharp, unless the boss also sees that as a no-no because it’s an implicit acknowledgement that Mary isn’t in at 7:45.

          2. eplawyer*

            I think this is a pretty big jump. The LW said it doesn’t affect the client meeting. It bothers the letter writer. No mention that it might be affecting others. She is late sometimes for appointments which can happen to anyone (hit every light, an accident, heavier than normal traffic) but the clients are seen at their appointment time.

            1. Sally*

              And when she is late to greet the client, it’s “a minute or two.” If I were the client, I wouldn’t even notice that – or care.

          3. Ray Gillette*

            She is on time. Work isn’t a stage production. There’s nothing demoralizing about seeing someone arrive at work.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          But people go off-site all the time. They go to their homes, they go to lunch, they go to medical appointments, they go to work duties that take place somewhere else. It just reflects that they don’t actually lurk forever in their office-lamps, appearing only when you rub the office to invoke them. Like first grade teachers who obviously sleep under their desks and so CANNOT be in the grocery store turning their students’ perception of reality upside-down.

          1. Yorick*

            Sure, people leave the office. But if she rushes in past a client 2 minutes before our meeting and then rush back, they may assume that she’s not prepared for the meeting. They don’t know that she set all the files up the afternoon before.

            It seems like the biggest problem is LW’s perception. But clients may have the same perception and that may be a big problem, and there could be small issues that LW hasn’t discovered yet. Even if I go over everything for the meeting the day before, I often miss something if I haven’t looked at them just before.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              Usually if I’m prepping for the meeting in the five minutes before the meeting, then it’s because I expected to get away with no prep. If people could see me (I freelance, so am normally invisible) then the correct interpretation of “Falling is feeding her dogs and cats and scrambling to get some tea at 10:59” would be “Falling is prepared for this meeting” and the correct interpretation of “Falling is sitting at her computer with a mug of tea, gazing thoughtfully at the backup documents at 10:57” is “Falling opened them for the first time at 10:56.”

              If I am meeting a doctor, teacher, physical therapist, person giving me a building permit, etc and they arrive at the office before the appointment but after me, that just means…. they were somewhere else. I was just recently somewhere else myself! It’s a normal thing.

              Clients should be able to tell whether she’s prepared for the meeting by whether she asks them to sit for 10 minutes while she finds their file. Not by whether she pre-meeting engaged in the performance art of appearing to gaze thoughtfully at things.

            2. SophieK*

              But the clients aren’t seeing her walk in just on time day after day. Only the LW and others in the office know it’s her pattern.

              And if this is social services of some sort? This is not the part of society that generally has their stuff together. No judgement, but I used to work in the the same building as DSHS. The clients are not really into following social norms.

          2. Basia, also a Fed*

            This is so funny! I clearly remember seeing my pre-school teacher in a restaurant when I was about 3. I was pretty upset and my mom tried to explain to me that she didn’t live at the school. So then I thought she lived in the restaurant. I still remember my distress that there was no bathtub or shower in the bathroom, so how did she bathe? This was 45 years ago and one of my earliest clear memories.

    3. Lynn Whitehat*

      I was thinking the same thing. I get my kids to school at 7:30, and could absolutely not plan on getting to work earlier than 8 on any kind of a routine basis. If my boss told me I had to be in at 7:45, I would have to offer to resign.

    4. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yeah, that was my guess too. Getting to work before 8 involves getting spouse to drive the child to daycare, and usually driving to work instead of transit, which is disruptive all around, but I do it when there’s an early meeting or other demonstrated need. Getting there at 8 means I drive to daycare and get to train in rather than drive (saving $30/day and sanity, not to mention time).

  4. LouiseM*

    OP#4: I agree with Alison that this will likely work out just fine and your friends shouldn’t worry too much based on speculation, but the idea that it’s “unfair” that the nursing mothers have their own private space made my eyes bug out a little. I would hate to work with people who think this way! It would be nice if everyone had access to a private space (and there may be legal reasons people besides nursing parents need one, such as religious or medical requirements) but having access to a lactation room is not a perk, and it’s not unfair for people who need one to get it even though others don’t have one! That’s like saying it’s unfair for a diabetic to get insulin.

    1. Junior Dev*

      It kind of depends what others are trying to use the room for–if it’s for prayer (in religions that require it to be done during the blday) or something related to a health condition, I think that’s different than someone wants to duck in and play Angry Birds.

      1. neverjaunty*

        But that’s not what the OP is describing. This doesn’t seem to be a case of competing needs – what if the call to prayer or an insulin injection coincide with using the room for pumping? – but people who are, charitably, clueless.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          I don’t agree.

          There is too much we don’t know and that friend probably isn’t aware of.

          For all we know colleague A who has an ASD, colleague B who is diabetic and colleague C who is Muslim have been asking for a quiet space to come down from sensory overload/inject insulin/pray for ages and have been turned down.

          But then nursing mothers come along and get a quiet room all for themselves. Which everyone else isn’t allowed to use.

          Speculating just from the use of the word ‘unfair’ is very reaching.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Um… a bit off topic, but let’s not put religion in the same category as serious health needs. No one’s gonna pass out or start leaking through their clothes just because they couldn’t have a quiet place to pray.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              well actually no – at least as far as the US law is concerned. Employers have to accommodate both religious needs and lactation needs, as well as disabilities.

              1. Seriously?*

                But accommodating one need should not affect accommodating another. I doubt that someone who is diabetic or needs to pray at certain times would appreciate being bumped from the room by a nursing mother. If there actually are other people who need a quite room (as opposed to wanting one) then they probably need a second room.

                1. A. Schuyler*

                  It sounds like the two mothers who need the lactation room have been able to come to an agreement in terms of sharing the room between them. I would assume that those with other medical or religious needs could be equally considerate. Perhaps it could be set up with a scheduling system.

            2. Lynca*

              In the US (and I assume other countries as well) you do have to accommodate religious needs by law. I’ve known several Jewish and Muslim workers that receive them from employers.

              I see the problem as less that other people may have need for accommodations that weren’t met and more that there is a fear that people will push the nursing moms out out of a space they need too. Which is a concern but it’s not yet a reality. If it becomes one they’ll need to push back. I understand that fear though because they had to fight to get what they have. It’s one I have about my ability to pump at work. While I have been given the go ahead to do it, I worry about complaints.

            3. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

              No, they’re both protected, at least in the US and most European countries.
              Most discrimination laws (purposely) do not weigh the needs of one group against another.

            4. Merida Ann*

              This comes across as very dismissive and rude towards sincerely held religious beliefs. For some religions, dedication to prayer time is considered linked to the fate of your soul, so, for those who hold that belief, a quiet place to pray truly is as important as and perhaps even more so than physical health needs are to them.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Being married to a devout Muslim with “sincerely held religious beliefs” for the past twelve years I’ve learned a thing or two.* ††

                Yes, the prayers are required and at certain times. However if something interferes with being able to pray at a designated time (let’s just pick the mid-day prayer for example) such as being in the middle of a meeting, or not being able to use a room because a lactating mother who has an urgent actual physical need to be using it right that minute is not the end of the world.

                Missed prayers (and in the US this happens a lot…most Muslims can’t just stop everything five times a day) can be wrapped up into the next prayer time. So if one misses the mid-day prayers they can say them during the ones in the early evening. They just do both at the same time. Not a first preference of course, but allowed.

                *I know some stuff, not all stuff. I am not a Muslim and I don’t pretend to play one on the internet.

                †† Husband is Sunni. I don’t know how this translates to Shia, Sufi, etc. or other sects of Islam. I do know there are some differing points of view (hence “sects”), and a few different schools of theological “laws,” so this might not apply universally.

            5. Goya de la Mancha*

              Breast feeding, just like following a religion are choices. Deeply personal choices, but choices all the same. Both are protected and one should not be seen more valid then the other.

              1. Specialk9*

                Uh. I suspect you didn’t mean that to come out so offensively to both groups? As a religious mom this is landing pretty badly.

                1. Goya de la Mancha*

                  It wasn’t meant to be offensive at all! I was replying to the “No one’s gonna pass out or start leaking through their clothes just because they couldn’t have a quiet place to pray” post.

                  People choosing religion is just as valid (and self -important) as people choosing to breastfeed. In the eyes of US law, both are protected. One does not trump the other.

      2. Kj*

        But I’d assume that if those needs were present, they were present before there were two nursing mothers in the office. Which makes me think the other staff don’t have needs as much as wants- and while I don’t think it is terrible to open the space up to others, I think the coworkers’ perception of the lactation room as unfair would worry me too. Do they consider maternity leave a perk it is unfair for mothers to get? I would wonder if this company has people who are, consious of it or not, biased against working mothers. And worse, the company seems to listen to them. The trend is worrying.

          1. LBK*

            Yeah, if someone had previously made a request for private space for some kind of special need and was told it wasn’t possible, then I can see there being sour grapes at this request being accommodated. But it doesn’t sound like that’s the case – it sounds just like regular open office problems, eg not having anywhere quiet to be able to focus on detailed work or take sensitive calls.

          2. Kj*

            If they were needs for prayer or medical reasons, those are protected under US law and should have already been accommodated- so I’d assume those aren’t it. Unless the company is worse than we think.

          3. TootsNYC*

            yes–I can see this happening:
            I was using cognitive behavioral therapy to treat my depression. I was supposed to do a short focused medication/thought exercise every 90 minutes. I needed privacy and quiet to do it.

            There was nowhere in my offices that was private. Then, the company moved things around to create a lactation room; suddenly, there was a private, quiet space that would have been perfect, something that I would never that thought could be created. The laws about lactation created it–but it would have been very helpful to me, for health reasons.

            (I thought about asking for permission to use the room frequently for those short bursts, but decided I shouldn’t.)

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Agreed. That was my immediate takeaway from the OP’s presentation of the matter.

        2. LSP*

          So many people consider maternity leave a perk, like extra vacation time or something. As if the mother, who hasn’t slept more than 2 hours in a row would be any good at work at that point anyway.

          And, yes, I know some people choose to have babies and others choose not to, but if everyone decided to not have kids in favor of careers (or other priorities) we’d have a serious problem on our hands. Having kids may not be for everyone, but it is part of a natural cycle and should not be treated like something some people do just for some time home and an hour a day in a small room with a locked door at work.

          Sorry. Rant over.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            This is sadly so true. I remember a bunch of folks asking my friend (who was on parental leave) how her “vacation” and “sabbatical” were. She wasn’t on either! It was so dismissive and so misrepresentative of her needs and experience. In my limited experience, people who complain about lactation rooms are cut from the same cloth—they think maternity is some kind of “perk,” and they should be allowed into the club of perks without having to have a child.

            Lactation policies exist to combat very real discrimination against mothers and to make it possible for women to remain in the workplace. The notion that they’re some special perk is so tone-deaf and offensive that I wish the company had nipped this in the bud instead of catering to the dangerous and incorrect perception that this maternity is some kind of special perk.

            1. LSP*

              Exactly. The company acted really poorly here in even listening to these whiners as if they had some valid point of view. They don’t. Even if, as some people have mentioned, some of these folks have medical or religious reasons for wanting to use the space, that has nothing to do with these women and their legal right to access a room in which to pump without fending off people who want to spend their work time playing on their phone or taking a nap. By giving their petty arguments weight, the company has created an uncomfortable position for these two working mothers.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Oh but don’t you understand that it’s ok for women to have babies…they just need to not try to be a mother and have a job/career.


          3. Lindsay J*

            Yeah, I was thinking the coworkers sounded exactly like the people advocating for “me-ternity” leave for people who didn’t have children.

        3. Momofpeanut*

          I have a chronic illness and requested a place to lay down during my lunch hour when a new boss decided laying under my desk was not professional. I was told I could go to my car. Nursing mothers were told to use the bathroom. My diabetic coworkers requested a shelf in the stall in the men’s room so he could change his insulin pump in privacy. All were denied. The nursing mothers eventually won a small room when the PR spokesman stuttered when asked by a reporter what the company was doing to accommodate her recent new motherhood.

        4. Specialk9*

          Ding ding. They don’t even have HR. I’m guessing they aren’t legally required to provide lactation, and may be a little iffy on a number of things. This definitely feels like, enh, working moms are ok I guess, but like not if they are getting special treatment.

      3. LSP*

        The thing is, EEO laws require that reasonable accommodations be made for medical and religious reasons anyway, so if that is what these people are after, it should have NOTHING to do with the room used by lactating mothers. Employers are required to do all of these things. What happens if one person needs to check their insulin at the same time another is supposed to pray, all while a lactating mother is using the room for its intended purpose?

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          If this were really about medical/religious needs that would have already been A Thing. It’s not about that at all. I’m also willing to bet all the money I will never have that the majority (if not all) of the whiners are male.

    2. Christine*

      The “unfair” comment raised a red flag for me about the colleagues as well. Hoping this all works out easily for OP4!

      1. Katie the Fed*

        yeah this sounds like the kind of place where certain people bitch and moan about all the incredible perks working moms get. Maternity leave! And pumping breaks! It’s like a nonstop parade of extra benefits that men don’t get!

        1. Specialk9*

          I remember well the joys of maternity leave. A handful of weeks, at half pay, half hallucinating from weeks of sleep deprivation, between feedings and pumping, trying to keep up with laundry and dishes.

          Oh yeah and all the crying. (Not to mention the baby cried a lot too!)

    3. Stellaaaaa*

      I don’t think the use of the word “unfair” is literal. I’d agree with the other employees that banning other people from the room during non-lactation times is unnecessary and, most importantly, not mandated by law. If the business was under the impression that only lactating mothers could ever enter the room, it’s correct that people pushed back.

      1. Seriously?*

        They do need to have a good system in place for how the nursing mothers can book and enforce their time. We’ve seen letters on here about how difficult it can be for nursing mothers when the lactation room has another purpose.

      2. Specialk9*

        I don’t understand. You know that most lactating rooms are only allowed to be entered by lactating women, right? With keycards or physical keys.

    4. Jemima Bond*

      I also thought the other workers sound a bit churlish. Some people do get oddly annoyed if they feel someone is getting something they aren’t, even if what they are getting is really not a perk.
      I was wondering how such a situation would pan out at my office (UK government agency) but it boils down to our maternity leave allowances (nationally and by law) being longer so women don’t need to express milk at work because babies are weaned by the time mums return to the workplace. So we have no lactation room laws because it’s not really needed. But suppose we had a US employee on some sort of secondment on US employment terms, we have a medical room which locks from the inside and has a chair and a couch-type bed. Also a hand basin (and first aid kit and defibrillator!). We also have a prayer/quiet room which doesn’t lock but has an engaged/vacant sign, which is mostly lightly used except during Ramadan. So if the theoretical seconded lady was using the medical room to express* then those wanting to pray or meditate would still have a place to go.
      *pumping is a childish way of describing farting over here. So saying Jane is in the medical room pumping would suggest digestive distress… Although the verb to trump is more commonly used but let’s not go there…conversely Tooting is s suburb of London so the sniggering goes both ways…

      1. RachelC*

        I returned to the workplace part-time (in the UK) when each of my children was 3 months old. This was before the introduction of shared parental leave, but that means a lot more women may return before the whole year is up; e.g. a couple I know who had a baby recently took their year’s parental leave in alternating fortnight blocks. I didn’t enjoy being at home alone with the baby all day every day and part-time work made me much happier (and brought in more money than statutory maternity pay).

        For my babies, I asked my manager and the office administrator to sort me out somewhere to pump and they gave me access to a quiet lockable room (also used by a couple of other people with health issues), but I also organised my schedule to minimise the amount of time away from the baby, so we rapidly reached a point where I didn’t need to pump at work. I used to cycle to nursery and back in my lunch hour to feed the baby, which was tiring (especially as I had to cram in enough food to compensate for the cycling *and* the feeding in the about 10 minutes I had left when I got back), but it was still preferable to pumping.

    5. EBStarr*

      Yeah, I see nothing wrong with the idea of using the space more efficiently by letting it be multi purpose when it’s not needed for pumping. But complaining that it’s unfair for people to get a quiet space “all their own” as if it’s some kind of perk (!!) when actually it’s for medical reasons is not a great sign that the co-workers will play nicely when the new parents do need it.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yes, ugh, that language! “A quiet space dedicated for their own use!” Yes, very quiet, with a pump whirring away, very relaxing, it’s practically a spa, definitely something to kick up a fuss about.

        A lactation space is not a perk. It is not a perk!

    6. essEss*

      I would get angry at employees whining about a lactation room being “unfair” since it is a LEGAL obligation to provide nursing mothers with a private space. If other employee’s had a legally-covered need for the private room then they should also be allowed to use it (such as prayer or medical necessity) but not because someone just wants a quiet place to hang out for a while. That’s like complaining that it’s not fair that convenient handicap-accessible parking spaces aren’t available to others when then aren’t being used by people who have the legal permit.

    7. EB*

      The “unfair” usage is crummy, I agree. But the other thing that immediately sprung to mind is that if this happened in my office it’d be a major relief to possibly have a room to go to just to place private phone calls. Even work-related calls! Right now the policy is to go to a (still-not-private) stairwell when you need to make a call. So I can see a scenario where the office has been asking for a private space, has not gotten one, and then seizes on any opportunity to actually create a private space that lasts beyond the period of time it’s a lactation room.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yeah, that would be nice, for sure — but there’s a way to ask for that in a reasonable, problem-solving way, and it ain’t bitching about a legally-required lactation room being “unfair.”

    8. SpaceNovice*

      Yeah, that language got me, too! Who the heck complains about nursing mothers having a lactation room? While it’s fair to ask for the room to be open as a quiet room outside of times that it’s needed by the new mothers, the way it was phrased is a red flag. They’re acting like the new mothers are pumping for fun!

      1. Parenthetically*

        Yep, it blows my mind that there are in fact people, even ones who have commented here, who firmly believe that since having children is an optional activity, nothing related to it should be catered to.

        1. LBK*

          Well, I do think there’s a difference between accommodating a biologically unavoidable need that’s associated with children and, say, someone who’s got post-work commitments getting priority over others just because it’s for their kids. The latter is usually what people find more frustrating here; there is often an implication that a child-related issue gets priority over all others because there is some inherent good in raising a child, which I’d think is understandably grating to people who don’t want/can’t have children but still have commitments all the same and want their time to be valued just as much as parents’ time.

          But I don’t think that applies here because we’re not talking about Jane getting a private room to do work because she’s tired from taking care of her newborn and it helps her concentrate (which would be annoying because it’s not like no one else is ever tired). We’re talking about Jane getting a private room because she has a biological need that necessitates some privacy.

          1. Kate 2*

            Especially because childless people are human beings too, and have families and needs also. Perhaps we don’t need to leave early to pick up a child from daycare, but we do need to leave early to relieve the hired caregiver for our Alzheimer’s afflicted mother. And so on.

            1. Specialk9*

              And even if you didn’t have a reason like that, you have worth and value too and sometimes just deserve that time for your things.

          2. Parenthetically*

            Oh, I think there can be healthy debate about what constitutes preferential treatment of people who have kids, absolutely. I’m talking about stuff like a recent comment sniffing that the person would be furious if a coworker who was undergoing IVF asked for some understanding from colleagues about her hypersensitive sense of smell, on the grounds that nobody has to have kids, so she should just shut up and deal with it. That’s a pretty crappy attitude.

            1. LBK*

              Unless there were others I missed, I only saw one comment that said that from someone who wasn’t a regular and the person who posted it was roundly chastised, so I don’t think this is a cause for general criticism of the commentariat as a whole.

              1. Parenthetically*

                Oh no, I certainly didn’t mean it as a criticism of the commentariat, quite the opposite — dismay that such ugly attitudes invade even in this generally thoughtful space.

  5. designbot*

    I think OP1 did violate an unspoken rule of business travel, which is to do the first one on your own to get a feel for how travel works at that office before trying anything tricky like extending vacations off of it or inviting a partner. My husband always wants to invite himself on my work trips, and when I’m starting at a new company I tell him ‘no’ the first couple of times because it’s important to establish my reputation there and also to make sure I understand how these trips go first. Is this not as normal as I thought?

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      I think that the privilege of inviting partners on work trips is much more common among the self-selected sampling of AAMers than it is in the general population. I don’t feel that OP’s boss is out of line for not wanting OP to treat her work trip as a half-vacation or to use it to tend to private-life concerns, but I’m sure people here will disagree with me. You’re right in that OP started planning something that’s a bit tone-deaf when you’ve just started a new job. I believe that OP just made a mere faux pas, but this request is out-of-touch in a way that her boss might have certain questions about her. She committed to a job that necessitated a move away from her family, and I’m sure she stated in her interview that this wouldn’t be a problem. It’s only two weeks in, and she’s showing signs of cutting corners at work in favor of her old hometown. So yeah, I understand why her boss reacted that way.

        1. Matt*

          That’s what I would have thought too – but obviously there is no such thing as “off time” on certain business trips …

          1. Alice Sometimes*

            My experience with work trips for what I do has been that if you’re not working, then you have to be sleeping so that you’re able to do decent work the next day. I’ve had maybe a handful of trips over the last 15 years in which I had one free evening during the week, but those were rare. When I’ve gone places where there were people I wanted to see, I extended the trip by either coming the weekend before or leaving the weekend after.

            If I were in her shoes, I’d have asked about doing that. And if that wasn’t possible, my plan would have been to say to my husband, “once I know the schedule, I’ll call you and let you know if I have a free evening. If it works out, we can meet offsite for dinner.” And have the husband come for a date night, not at the hotel. IF there’s a free evening, which may not be the case. But if there is one, a one-hour commute to see his spouse shouldn’t be that big of a deal for him– he doesn’t have to stay at the hotel to see her.

            Maybe her industry is really different from mine, but–I should also say that even on the least rigorous trip I can think of, including the dog at the hotel would be seen as profoundly unprofessional and would probably be brought up as a point against her in conversations for years to come if people knew about it. It would look bad to both clients and colleagues and would be sufficiently unusual that people would remember it– even more than a spouse.

        2. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

          I’ve never been on a business trip without the expectation of non-sleeping hours being available for business. You do your day thing, and then the other hours are about vendors, customers, or co-workers. Sounds like you have been on business trips that aren’t like that. So mileage varies and the point is that the OP has worked there such a short amount of time, she doesn’t know what the expectations are (and didn’t ask about them before she presented plans.)

          1. BuffaLove*

            +1. Work travel runs the gamut. OP might be expected to put in some seriously long days, with any downtime devoted to group dinner/drinks and crashing at the hotel. If that’s the case, it does look presumptuous to invite your family along and then “ask/tell” the boss. You’ve gotta get a good sense of what the expectations are before you try to do something like that.

            1. Luna*

              Yeah, I think some people assume that they are still on a standard 9-5 schedule even while traveling, but that just isn’t always the case. Even if there are no official meetings scheduled past a certain time, things can change last minute, or maybe the boss wants to debrief at the end of the day or prep for the next day.

          2. Scott*

            I’ve been on business trips where we had meetings all day, then “fun” team building stuff in the evening, followed by an outing to a restaurant together, then a pub after. Obviously people will drop off after the restaurant, which is fine, but even that ran until at least 8 or 9, so trying to mix in personal business after would not have worked.

        3. paul*

          I’ve been on work trips that ran until from 7:30am to 9 or 10 at night, and I’ve been on ones where we were done by 4:30 or 5 every day.* It’d have served them well to at least check in with the boss about what sort of trip this was, and ask, first before making plans.

          *Those trips sucked. I was pretty much worthless after the first 9 or 10 hours. At least I wound up with either sweet OT or getting that Thursday/Friday off.

        4. JS*

          +1! Even for work trips where networking after work was encouraged and set up, no one was punished for not attending. People are tired, or have additional work to do they cant get done while traveling, etc. Or they just might want some decompression time.

        5. Kathleen_A*

          I agree with all of the other problems pointed out here, but there is one other thing that I thought of, which is that some people – and yes, I am thinking of some of my current coworkers – are really bad about blurring the lines between working and off time when they’re away from the office. They seem to feel *entitled* to extra time off simply because they’re in another locale (the cooler the locale, the worse it is), and this become much, much worse if they have family with them.

          Of course I know plenty of other people who don’t have this problem, but I’ve known enough for whom it is a *major* issue, and I would be very surprised if the OP’s manager hasn’t known people like that, too. He barely knows the OP, so how’s he supposed to judge how she’ll react?

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              It also depends how you’re compensated. In a previous job, there was no “off” time in conferences, quarterly meetings with partners etc – but I’d get all that back as Time Off In Lieu, plus the expenses allocations would kick in for it too, if I wasn’t being fed, etc. Sometimes it would be about socialising with partners, other times it would be opportunities to hash out work with colleagues that we could do without interruption.

              It did vary from trip to trip, so sometimes I’d hang out with friends in the same city, or go for a walk by myself – but this is where the advice to see how the first few trips go comes in.

              (I would also guess that as OP is in her first fortnight, this would be a really good opportunity to get more training, or informal Q&As in, so I can see why her boss might be antsy about it)

            2. Kathleen_A*

              Mike, that’s just how business trips work. It’s not that you have no off-time, but you very often don’t have very much, and that’s all there is to it. To pretend otherwise is to set up an unrealistic expectation.

              Unless your boss has already indicated this is perfectly fine, bringing your spouse to a business event (or having your spouse meet you there) makes it seem as though you *assume* you’re going to have a lot of free time, and that just may very well not be the case.

              1. tangerineRose*

                I think this depends on the company and other factors. I usually have had time to myself after 6pm or so on a business trip.

        6. LBK*

          When you’re on a business trip you never really have “time off,” unless explicitly defined as such by your employer. It’s kind of like being on lunch in a salaried/non-exempt job – yeah, it’s kind of your own free time to do with it as you see fit, but there’s still a work frame around that time, such that you don’t have standing to draw hard lines like “this is outside of my working time and therefore you do not have authority to dictate what I’m doing.”

          1. Specialk9*

            That’s not as universal as you’re drawing it. When I’m on work trips, I have a job to do. When I’m not doing that job, my time is my own. Granted, I’m somewhat senior so there’s some flexibility there.

      1. rudster*

        We don’t know if there will be another trip near the old home, might have been one-off. I got the impression that it was rather a singular opportunity, not a recurring one. Note that she never says that her husband was going to stay with her at the hotel, only that he and the dog would would come to the hotel in the evening . It sounded to me like they were planning to visit for a few hours in the evening and then go home, though this isn’t entirely clear from the letter. In any case, nowhere does she imply that she intends to give short shrift to work or treat it as mini vacation. Any sane boss should know that “I’m willing to relocate away from my family” doesn’t mean that it’s not a huge sacrifice, and should see this as a cheap and easy morale booster (we also don’t know how long she’s been away from her family – obviously it’s longer than the two weeks she’s been at the job, presumably a month or longer – she had to actually move, find housing, etc.). From my experiences, the bosses reaction is indeed a little “weird”. If there are going to be specific work demands on LW’s time in the evenings (e.g. events, client dinners), the boss should just say so.

        1. Alienor*

          Yeah, I think the boss should be flexible on this one, considering the sacrifice the employee is making. Good grief, even prisoners get visits with their families!

          Tbh, if there aren’t scheduled activities in the evenings, I don’t think the boss should get any say in whether the employee sees her husband or not. It’s really none of his business what she does with her off-the-clock time on a work trip, any more than it is when she’s in the office.

          1. Graciosa*

            I think the disconnect is coming from different expectations regarding the work trip.

            I have been on work trips where I am, for example, attending a seminar with no expectations for networking. As soon as my last session is done, I’m just as free as I would be at home (possibly with the advantage of a nice location to visit or at least decent room service!). On these kinds of trips, no one would know or care what I’m doing in my off time, which is truly off time.

            I have also been on work trips where I am meeting customers, and those meetings may be at any and all hours of the day or night. If a meeting runs late and the customer suggests we all go to dinner and resume working after, that’s what we do. If we’re lucky enough to get a night “off” from the customer, we’re meeting together as a team to strategize. When I stagger upstairs at 11 (I hope) I’ll need to get caught up on my email before our 7 a.m. breakfast meeting.

            In the latter case, there is no “off-the-clock” time, and declaring that it was “none of the company’s business what I do on my time” would be remarkably tone deaf. I’m being paid to do a job which includes being available to the customer pretty much full time for the duration of my stay.

            Like Designbot and Stellaaa, I would wait a bit to establish myself and learn enough about the culture to figure out what type of trips I would be dealing with before inviting someone to meet me there. If the trips are of the latter type, the OP would be messaging pretty clearly that she either doesn’t understand this or doesn’t care about taking care of business during the business trip. That isn’t the best first impression to establish with a new team.

            I do think the manager’s reaction was not helpful, however. Part of the manager’s job is to explain the expectations to the employee and not leave them wondering –

            1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

              I think your last sentence nails it. Regardless of whether the OP mis-stepped or not, clean up in situations like this is the manager’s job, especially with new employees.

              1. AvonLady Barksdale*

                I think this is what’s getting to me. I don’t think the OP’s plans are unreasonable and I completely understand why she made them. However, your point above about getting a feel for expectations on trips is absolutely correct. I wish her manager had said something… managerial, as in, “On these trips, we expect you to be available after meetings for dinners and networking. I’m afraid your husband’s visit would be distracting and I don’t think it’s a great idea for your first trip.”

                1. Wakeen Teaptots, LTD*

                  I mean, I’m old and have seen everything now (oh god, I hope this is everything, what if it isn’t??? O.o) and the OP’s ask/tell wouldn’t have thrown me, even if it was out of line with office norms or what is possible. Because, that’s new people. It takes a lot longer than 2 weeks to truly on board them.

                2. Lindsay J*

                  I feel like, though, in a lot of cases, the person who has their heart set on seeing their family will just argue “I won’t be distracted. I know I might just get to see him for half an hour before bed. You won’t even know he’s there,” while it’s a 50% chance at most that those things will be true.

          2. Middle School Teacher*

            But I don’t think that’s where the disconnect is happening. It’s cpming more from “I’m a brand new employee and I made plans without knowing how the trip was going to go, and then told my boss.” I don’t know a lot of bosses who would accept that. I think that if OP1 had gone to her boss and said, “hi boss, I don’t know if you’re aware, but I moved away from my family to take this job. We’re going to be very close during BusinessTrip and I wondered if it would be possible to see my husband / dog during my down time. We will of course pay the expenses associated with this. Is this okay?” Sometimes asking for permission is better than asking for forgiveness. It sounds like OP1 put her boss really on the spot by saying, This is happening.

            1. Fiennes*

              We don’t know that she did that. She uses the term “asked/told”, which may well mean she told him about the separation and asked about the rest. In fact, when he said “next time, ask me first,” she specifically said she WAS asking him at that time. Maybe her tone came off wrong, but it doesn’t sound like she presented him a fait accompli.

            2. JS*

              I think you are assuming OP didn’t know how the trip was going to go. We don’t know her role or in what capacity she is taking this trip. Unless I was in sales or my boss explicitly told me the plan of events, I would assume I had nights to myself.

              The only thing I can think of is if boss is more annoyed because he would want that time to be used to “team build” or interact with coworkers/vendors OP does not know yet. In that case he might not have been so unreasonable to say “you HAVE to spend this time doing “x” and not with your husband” but its disappointed/ thrown off by it. In any case though, the boss needs to set expectations.

              1. Middle School Teacher*

                But having only two weeks on the job means she has no capital to assume anything. Yes, the manager needs to make this clear, but she needs to ask. She can’t just make plans without clearing them first.

                1. JS*

                  She doesn’t need capital. Unless this is an entry level job, which it doesn’t seem like it, she is in her right to assume the norms for business travel within her industry and role apply unless she is told different.

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              Seconding on asking for permission before rather than forgiveness after.

              My first thought was boss doesn’t like change, but I’d failed to register how very new OP is. In which case it’s tricky, because a work trip back near her home city might not happen again for years, so why not take advantage of this one-off opportunity? But she is so new in the position, both to her knowing what’s normal for work trips and her boss knowing how reliable a performer she is–this is the sort of accommodation that might be “why sure” for Wakeen and “oh Lordy no” for Fergus, based on how they’ve handled sudden needs to work late or managing home-work separation in the past.

          3. Luna*

            As far as we know the LW did not make any “sacrifice.” It doesn’t sound to me like she was forced to accept an internal transfer to another city. She chose to move away from her family to accept this job. Yes, being away from her family is hard. But that is not the boss’s problem and I think this is part of the reason for his reaction. If the company hired her as a long-distance candidate then the boss might be regretting taking that risk instead of hiring someone locally. To the LW this seems like a simple thing to see her family on this trip, but to the boss it might look like employee is already not adjusting well to her new situation.

            1. Leslie knope*

              Well, OP is a person, not a robot, so yeah, it is a sacrifice to not see her family. Jesus.

              1. Luna*

                Did you even see the comment I was replying to? You really think the boss is treating LW like a prisoner who is denied family visits? Like I said, yes it is hard, but it is a decision that LW willing made, not something she was forced into, so giving her new boss an attitude of “don’t you know how much I sacrificed to be here!” would be remarkedly tone-deaf.

            2. Alienor*

              Be that as it may, I still think it’s pretty cruel and unreasonable of the boss to deny the LW the chance to see her husband for a few hours. She’s not asking to have him invited along to business dinners–from the letter, it sounds as if she might not even be planning to have him sleep over in her hotel room, just visit for a few hours with the dog. Even the nastiest boss I’ve ever had wouldn’t have said no to that, again unless there was a really compelling reason not to (e.g. scheduled activities with the client every evening).

              1. Luna*

                Her boss didn’t say no. He just “reacted weirdly” by requesting that next time LW asks him instead of telling him. Which IMO is not a weird reaction at all, I think LW did overstep here but her boss is still trying to be accommodating.

              2. Lindsay J*

                What makes you think she’s not planning on having the husband and dog stay over?

                She mentions the policy and cost for the dog.

                I don’t know anyone that would drive their dog an hour each way for a day trip, and cost from the hotel would likely not come into play unless the dog was staying.

        2. Safetykats*

          I agree that it isn’t entirely clear from the letter, but OP’s offer to pay any additional costs sure makes it sound like the husband and dog will be staying over. Since you’re generally not allowed to leave a dog alone in the room, there’s no reason to believe there should be a pet charge unless the dog, at least, is sleeping there. E

            1. Kelly L.*

              I don’t think the dog would even be allowed in the door at a non-dog-friendly hotel.

              1. Kathleen_A*

                True. But it really does read to me as though the OP was planning on having them with her at least part of the time. I could be wrong, of course.

    2. Lilo*

      I have either been along on a number of my husband’s business trips, or been invited along to dinners where people from out of town have brought their wives (occasionally husbands, but my spouse’s field is traditionally male dominated, although it’s starting to switch, my spouse is heavily part of trying to remedy this). My mom also had to play this role occasionally for my Dad.

      One, I think there is a gendered expectation that this role is played by a woman. You can go and network and entertain the visiting spouses, but it’s almost always women. It sucks, but it happens.

      Two, they want to know the spouse a bit first to trust that they are appropriate in this networking role.

      I do think this is something that might be okay in the future, depending on the event, but I agree that they may want to get to know OP and spouse first before potentially letting her bring him to a work event.

      1. designbot*

        And in my industry it’s only normal for Principal or Partner level folks to do that; it would be extremely strange for those lower on the totem pole. There’s a lot of reading the room to do in these situations, and OP didn’t give herself the time and space to do that, she just made plans based on assumptions.
        To be clear, I totally get why she wanted to make these plans, why they made sense for her! But the way I would’ve gone to the boss would be really ask-y, not telling at all. Like, ‘hey, I just realized that this is really nearby where my husband is still living and that could be a particular opportunity for me since he is still working on a plan to follow me out here. How do the evenings look on one of these trips? I’d love to be able to meet up with him but the work definitely comes first.”

    3. dr_silverware*

      Yes. All the business trips that I’ve been on, the assumption is that you’re still an adult. You might not have that much free time, due to larger-than-at-home demands on your time from clients or network contacts, but you can still spend it as you like. What I’d suggest for business trips in general is as designbot says–go on the first one and get the lay of the land to see how much free time you actually have.

      For this business trip, I think that now OP1 has actually asked her boss, she needs to use Alison’s script for saying “don’t worry, I’m not going to slack” and then unfortunately really double-down on being present and involved for the business trip.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I have colleague who can’t be “on” all day, every day for the entire trip. It’s important for them to have some time to themselves to recharge.

    4. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

      Eh – just another datapoint, but in my industry the boss’s reaction would be strange and the sign of an extreme micromanager. I’ve booked a lot of travel for the folks in my industry, so I’m pretty aware of when guests are joining. It’s incredibly common – even for the marketing team, who’s whole point of biz travel is to schmooze potential investors. Obviously it’s understood that work stuff comes first and you might be out late with the clients/potential investors, but if your spouse or sister or old college roommate wants to meet you wherever you are after the work is done that’s totally fine.

      It would not occur to me to even ask for permission for this because it’s so accepted/common in my industry.

      That said – you have to know the norms of your industry/role to have that sort of confidence and it’s good that the OP did bring this up to the boss. Given the situation (the OP being away from her family) I’m side-eyeing the boss’s response a little. This isn’t like the OP said “hey, my hubby’s bored and wants to tag along my work trip” – this situation is a bit different, and I think even boss’s who wouldn’t normally want spouses on work trips could have some flexibility given the circumstances. Plus – if that’s normal (to not allow spouses on trips), then it’s up to the boss to be clear about that and why, instead of being passive aggressively against it.

      1. Fiennes*

        Agreed on all points. Also, while norms vary on this, I think we should consider OP to have more knowledge about her industry standards than we do. (Doesn’t mean she’s not wrong—but she’s got more information than us.)

        1. designbot*

          There’s also the company standards, which vary even within industries, and that’s the part that I’m concerned she’s not used to yet. I’ve worked some places where business trips were a 24/7 grind with barely enough time to sleep, and some places where you put in your 8 hours and then got to play, and everything in between. Generally though, a business trip is a great time to really get to know your boss and put in some face time with them, and having a tagalong does interfere with that somewhat.

          1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

            Again – I think it depends on industry. I’ve worked at multiple firms, in different sectors and within various departments, but all within the same industry. Every single company has allowed for companions to join on biz trips. In fact, every single company has had specific written policies regarding how to submit expenses when companions are involved and/or booking companion tickets. The entire industry is known to be very “work hard, pay hard” – I’d guess that since long/not necessarily traditional hours are pretty normal, employees are expected to be able handle biz trips with the same understanding.

            Of course, other industries might be generally anti-companions or there might be more variance btwn companies.

            Seriously though – at least within my industry – I would not take kindly to a boss trying to dictate what I do or who I spend my personal time with (so long as there’s no additional cost to the company). Even if I’m on business trip that will include a ton of additional schmoozing/flexibility – even if I’m essentially working all day and only have 6hrs to drag myself up to my hotel room and pass out before having to be up and do it all again – those six hours are mine and if I want to pass out next to my (hypothetical) spouse, that’s happening. I’m totally fine if there’s an expectation of networking/face time/long hours on a business trip and that those functions absolutely take precedent – but it seems like such a massive overreach to do anything but be upfront about the potential long hours/expectations/priorities of the trip and then address any issues that do arise.

            Its helpful to see these responses though. I feel confident in my assessment of my industry, but I would need to keep this in mind as something to explore more explicitly if ever considering a job that would include travel in a different industry.

      2. Lindsay J*

        I would agree that it seems a little micromanagery, except that the OP had only been with the company for like 2 weeks. At that point it’s still reasonable for a boss to be much more hands on than they would be otherwise.

        And it’s likely that at least part of this trip is sort of orienting or training the OP on company norms, introducing her to key contacts, etc, and thus might be more time consuming than a regular trip later on. (I’m thinking possibly briefing/debriefing meetings around whatever she is actually there to do, etc).

        There’s also something to be said early on about appearing to be more focused on work than other things. Like how in an interview you’re not supposed to ask questions only about pay and benefits, but also the job itself (even though pay and benefits are important).

        Like, our new employees are all sent to headquarters for training. And, theoretically, you have plenty of free time after your orientation class and training.

        I admit I would be slightly concerned if an employee asked me if their spouse could come on the trip with them to orientation.

        It’s just like – I barely know anything about you, about your work ethic, etc. So one of the very limited bits of data I have about you is that you are asking me for something that is at best not at all beneficial to the company, and may be taking your attention away from the job when you are supposed to be learning and absorbing a lot of information about the job, company culture, etc. It’s similar to how I would look at someone asking where the hot nightclubs in the area they will be staying are. Like, technically, it’s your time, and if you show up in the morning on time and functioning then I guess you can go out and party all night, but I’m going to wonder where your focus really is.

        If someone making the ask explained extenuating circumstances (like the OP, though I would be more sympathetic if it had been longer than a couple weeks and if I knew they wouldn’t be able to see eachother again for awhile. Or if the employee were breastfeeding and wanted baby to come along and spouse to watch baby for that reason. Or similar).

        Or if the employee had worked for me for awhile, I knew they knew their job and their role on the trips, and i knew they were a strong performer, it wouldn’t bother me.

        But when all I know is, “Jane started at the beginning of the month. She seemed okay in the interview. Dorothy says her training is going okay so far. She asked me if it was okay if her husband and dog joined her at our business trip,” I’m going to have more concerns then if she hadn’t asked.

    5. PhyllisB*

      I have done some business travel in the past, and each trip was different. One conference was being held at a casino and it was kind of expected that we would socialize with our fellow attendees after the meetings were over for the day. I didn’t broach the topic of bringing family. Another trip it was just meeting during the day and off time was your own. My children were young then and we were going to be in a city that had lots of things they would enjoy, so I asked my supervisor if my mother and kids could come along, with the understanding that I would pay all their expenses myself. (Hotel room didn’t count because they were all two bed rooms same price.) TPTB said absolutely. So off we went. They played during the day while I was occupied, then in the evening we got to spend time together. The next place I worked had meetings at the hotel we were staying and off time we could do what we wanted. Kids were grown by then, so I asked if it was all right for my husband to accompany me, same deal we cover his expenses. That was fine with them. The take-away from all this is two-fold: Ask permission before making any plans, and know what type of trip this is going to be so you will know if it will be all right to even ask. Being this is your first trip for this company, I think I would have tried to ask for an itinerary so you would know if you would have free time for family.

  6. LouiseM*

    OP#1, it seems like some wires got crossed between you and your boss. You say that he wanted you to ask first and you thought you *did* ask first…but in your letter you say you “asked/told” him. I’m guessing it was probably closer to told than asked. To be clear, I think it’s totally reasonable for your husband to come stay with you (and I really hope you get some quality time with him, because long distance can be so hard) but I think your boss probably meant that you should have asked him before extending the invitation, not before the trip.

    1. AMPG*

      Yes, I think the fact that she did all the research about pet accommodations before going to her boss made him feel like he was backed into a corner. Now her husband knows about the trip and the boss is the bad guy if he says no. If she had asked her boss before mentioning it to her husband, it would’ve been easier to soft-pedal the idea that her husband couldn’t come to meet her. Personally, I think the boss is being unreasonably conflict-averse, here, but I think I can see where he’s coming from.

      1. Charity*

        In my experience, managers prefer when you’ve done the research about costs and the potential burden on them before asking. I like to give the OPs benefit of the doubt and when she says that she asked, I assumed she really did ask and just presented him with additional information regarding the scenario. However, now that people have mentioned she “asked/told” I think that instead of saying, “hello, boss, I was wondering if this would be alright to do since, as you know, I’m far from family. If there’s any reason this won’t work, let me know, and by the way, here’s additional info,” she presented it more like “hi boss, I’m planning on doing this, is that okay?” Which is a trap many people fall into when asking permission, especially in a new jon where you might be nervous asking these things, and unfortunately frames it as ‘I’m doing this but before it’s concrete let me just ask but they’re going to probably have to say yes now’, even if it’s unintended.

  7. LouiseM*

    #3 is such an interesting question to me because I can’t quite picture the scenario where a regular employee could do in one hour what an outsourcing contractor could do in 10. In my industry, when we outsource it’s typically because trained technicians with specialized equipment can do a better and faster job than regular staff, and at much lower hourly rates. Does anyone have experience with the situation described in #3?

    1. Graciosa*

      Early in my career, I was able to do some work that would have cost a lot more if outsourced (it did require technical skills, but I just figured out how to do it). I was making less than $10 an hour at the time, and the bid we got for the work was around $5K – not surprisingly, the company let me continue with the project rather than paying the consultants.

      I think people tend to forget the value of having a regular paycheck – and maybe even some benefits – rather than a higher pay rate that is irregular. You can make really good money consulting or working freelance, but you don’t get paid when you’re not working. I have family members who prefer this system, and I respect their right to make that choice.

      It sounds like the OP here is looking for the benefit of both systems – higher compensation for projects with clear savings, while also maintaining a regular paycheck the rest of the time. It doesn’t generally work like that quite so directly, although it is certainly possible to get additional compensation for significant performance (bonuses, raises, and promotions) that contributes to the bottom line.

      It is also possible to be well paid as a freelancer doing project or consulting work if you price yourself properly in the market for the consistency of your work. If the OP really has skills that are valued more highly in the market for project work (and has the tolerance for being occasionally out of work), she might consider this as an alternative career path. I have also seen consultants take on work for a percentage of savings, for example, which ties compensation very directly to results – something to think about.

      1. Artemesia*

        This is an example the OP can use in negotiating a raise. I worked on project X which would have cost Y to outsource and was able to get it done faster. I also took on project A and had this outcome for the comopany. And I have consistently worked with clients who contracted with us further commenting that we delivered on their projects quickly and efficiently. So during this year I have saved money by producing projects in house that were previously outsourced and I have received new business from clients happy with my work with them.

        You look for a raise, not for piecework pay. If the company gives bonuses that are widely disparate then a similar argument could be made for a bonus.

        1. designbot*

          Exactly. The only time I’ve seen a fee-per-project on top of salary has been for bringing projects in, and that’s a special thing where someone lower on the totem pole manages to bag a client or two for some particular reason. They’d not normally being paid for working at that level, but at the same time they’re not working so consistently at that level that it makes sense to raise their salary either, so a bonus fee for bringing in a new contract works out in that one limited situation.

        2. nonymous*

          If the OP did something spectacular that saved the company lots of $$, a lot of companies will factor this into their year-end bonuses, even if it’s a position that doesn’t have opportunities to negotiate raises. Bonuses are cheaper, long term, for the company than raises.

      2. Safetykats*

        OP probably also needs to consider their fully burdened rate in considering the extent to which they are saving the company money. It sounds like OP might be new to a full-time, salariedjob, so perhaps they haven’t thought about the hourly cost of their benefits, including things like paid time off and payroll taxes, and the cost of providing them an office and equipment, if contracted work is done offsite. The hourly cost of one FTE is considerably more than what they are making per hour.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      A friend of a friend created a custom computer programme for his company. The company had hired another company that specialised in those kinds of things, but the results weren’t great. They spent a lot of money trying to get it right and it didn’t work out. In the end, his boss asked him to give it a try. He worked some kind of coding magic and got it done. After that, they stopped going to outside sources and gave him that kind of work. It’s saved them a lot of money, time and stress.

      1. Annie Moose*

        This is the kind of thing I was thinking of–automating something that you’d otherwise hire someone to do manually. Or simply a situation where an in-house person already understands all the requirements and could whip something up that fits their needs directly, while an outside person would need to spend a fair bit of time understanding their needs and how they work.

    3. Alternative Person*

      I think it comes down to availability of skills and familiarity with the system. At a previous job, the receptionist was asked to fill in for the book keeper/accountant because the books needed to be done and that person had the skills and was familiar with the company processes. Outsourcing the work would have taken longer and been more expensive because any contractor would have had to familiarize themselves with the situation/systems. It wasn’t a ten hours to one situation, sure but it saved time/money.

      It also depends on the type of work being outsourced. Sometimes it’s cheaper because you’re hiring someone to do work that is relatively too low-cost for employees to spend time on as it takes away from their regular duties. Sometimes it’s more expensive because you’re hiring someone highly skilled in a particular area to do a very specific job.

    4. Nita*

      I can see this happening… contractors work by the hour, and if the company hiring them isn’t making sure to hold them accountable, it’s not that hard for an unscrupulous contractor to inflate the hours, or accidentally-on-purpose do something wrong so they’re called back in to fix it. I’ve heard of this in the public sector, and it’s resulted in some criminal cases, but usually seems to go unnoticed. Not sure how common this is in the private sector, but it can probably still happen if management doesn’t keep close tabs on the work, or doesn’t have the technical skills to assess how long it should take.

    5. SpaceNovice*

      Your industry is outsourcing for the right reasons–expertise and specialized equipment. So you’ve definitely never encountered this scenario!

      What this scenario is describing is bad outsourcing: trying to save a buck by hiring someone with less of the critical knowledge that you need to succeed. An employee knows a company’s needs and processes far better than an outside contractor. For example: you want someone internal to deal with accepting new shipments instead of sending a new temp every couple of weeks. Or someone internal to maintain internal software; you’re not paying for their time so much as their expertise.

    6. One of the Sarahs*

      Back in my old civil service days, we used to hire consultants to do specific pieces of work, like research and write reports, but then we had to spend a ton of time getting changes and even re-doing it, when the product wasn’t up to scratch. My boss and I used to joke that we should take a week’s unpaid leave, and just do it ourselves, splitting the high contract fee, because then at least we’d know we’d get what we wanted. It probably would have been impossible due to CS rules, but I always wish we could have!

  8. Espeon*

    OP2 I am the type of person that CANNOT start work feeling rushed. I’m the one there half an hour early to eat my breakfast, read some emails etc. I have a coworker who charges in two minutes before their shift and has to rush to log-in on time. Every. Single. Day.

    It doesn’t affect my work, but it definitely drives me batty. I just don’t understand how people can work like that?! Their lateness stresses *me* out just witnessing it.

    So yeah, *technically* your employee isn’t doing anything wrong, but I understand why it puts you on edge! If it were my employee I’d desperately want to tell them to stop it too.

    1. Alternative Person*

      Me too. My workplace has a rule where we’re supposed to arrive 15 minutes before our first client (we’re paid for the time) but in reality, as long as staff arrive at :58 it’s fine. I’d understand if it was once in a while but every time is ridiculous.

      My workplace also has a group of people who engage in time padding which is just as infuriating. Management is so concerned about appeasing the part-time staff that they let them get away with both extremes.

      1. tangerineRose*

        Time padding sounds like a type of theft – charging for more time than was worked, right? That sounds like a more serious issue to me

    2. TL -*

      I hate being rushed but I also hate mornings. Anything scheduled before 9:00 am (or 10, some days) is going to be balanced in between how I’m feeling that morning and how much I *need* to prep to do things well.

      Especially lately, I had a lingering illness whose last effects are just clearing up and mornings have brutal these past few months. But I know myself and how much prep time I *really* need versus how much just keeps me from feeling super rushed and uncomfortable. Sometimes the extra bit of lounge time is really worth it.

    3. Susan K*

      Where I work — and I think this is common in production environments — we are supposed to be ready to start work at the beginning of our shift. Walking in the door two minutes before the shift doesn’t usually cut it, because most people take some time to put their lunches in the fridge, put their purses or wallets in their lockers, take off their coats, have a cup of coffee, eat breakfast, change into their work shoes, etc., before they are actually ready to start working. But there are always those people who push the limits and say they were “on time” because they were physically present at the start of the shift, even though they spent the next 20-30 minutes getting settled before actually working. I eat my breakfast on my own time, and then I get to work right away while they’re sipping coffee on the clock.

      1. Oxford Coma*

        This is how it’s always been in my work, as well. Prep work such as setting up a laptop/other equipment, applying PPE, etc., is your problem. Productive work must begin at the start time.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        But are they paid to be in early? Because I know I would resent an unpaid 15 mins every day. (I’ve been in jobs where it takes 10 mins to get logged onto systems, eg, and if I wasn’t being paid for that, it would fill me with resentment, whereas knowing I was paid, I just chilled, grabbed a coffee, changed shoes, chatted with colleagues etc and it never bothered me)

        1. nonymous*

          When I worked in a production lab the expectation was that when you clocked in you were ready to don PPE. That means the 15 – 20 min to greet people and stash your lunch/whatever was your own time, but you were paid to don any gear required by work.

      3. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize*

        Oh my, you must be my kindred! Two jobs past we had a co-worker who clocked in 1 or 2 minutes before her shift began. Then she would go fix her face, get a coffee, then a water, adjust her uniform etc. It usually took her 15-20 minutes before she actually started working which peeved her fellow workers a lot. Her attitude was “Well, I’m here on time.” No, you are not. Ready to work is being “on time.” It was frustrating because it was a public facing job so no one could take their break etc if she wasn’t there to cover her spot. She later complained to management because no one ever said Good Morning to her.

    4. Lara*

      Surely though, if it doesn’t affect your work, or hers, it’s kind of your problem? And the same applies to OP2. A personal distaste for someone else’s work style shouldn’t result in the other person having to alter it.

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        This. “It irritates me” and “I would hate that” are very different from “she needs to change it.”

        I do not see the problem.

        (Yes, I haaaaaaaaaate mornings and am often late. I prep EVERYTHING day before or at night. I can go from bed to car in 18 minutes, and that includes cooking breakfast. She’s not even late. If she’s on time and working well, other people’s irritation is just not an emergency.)

        1. DArcy*

          The problem is that it’s both unkind and unprofessional to be irritated at your coworkers when they’re not doing anything wrong, just not doing it the way *you* want them to.

    5. Lara*

      To clarify; it’s not that Mary isn’t ‘technically doing anything wrong’ – she’s literally doing nothing wrong. She isn’t getting in a 2 minutes to 8 and sitting around eating breakfast, having a smoke and checking Facebook. She’s getting in at 2 minutes to 8 and proceeding to do her job correctly.

      1. Willis*

        This. Sure, if she greets clients late or in an unprepared manner, that’s an issue. But if it’s just that OP2 doesn’t like seeing her walk in quickly, put her coat down, and then immediately greet a client (and her meetings go fine), this just sounds like something the OP should get over.

        I’ve worked with people that get to work before me but then spend time having breakfast, reading news, or checking personal email. My take on it is to do that stuff at home, and come to work ready to work. But, as long as their habits aren’t impacting me, I don’t see why I’d have any need or standing to ask them to do anything different (and vice versa). People have different work styles.

        1. Luna*

          The letter says that she is sometimes a few minutes late though, which LW should address with her. Showing up 2 minutes early is one thing as long as she is already prepped, but she should not be late.

          And really that’s the problem with only planning to get there a few minutes ahead of schedule, is that there’s no buffer time for unexpected traffic, train delays, etc, so it is much easier to end up being late.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I agree. It’s appropriate to say “when your meetings start at 8:00, I need you to be here, ready to meet with them, at 8:00.” That’s not the same thing as demanding she be there 15 or 30 minutes early because you think it makes her LOOK more prepared.

          2. Kate 2*

            To be fair 2 minutes late falls under the “different clocks” issue. I set all of my watches and clocks to Greenwich time, so they are accurate to the minute. Plenty of people though just grab the nearest timepiece when setting another and use it.

            So you tend to end up with cascading errors, each clock is off by a little amount, and that builds over time in my experience, most people I know won’t reset the clock or watch if they go over by less than 5 minutes the first time.

            And for a lot of reasons I can’t reset all my watches to work time, that would mess me up with other things, for example catching public transit, which also uses Greenwich time.

            Because of this, to me 5 minutes late or less isn’t late at all, one person or another’s timepieces maybe slightly off. Even 2 minutes off can create the impression of being late, if each person’s watch is off by 2 minutes in the opposite direction.

            Ex. Employee’s watch says 7:58, time is really 8 AM, Employer’s clock says 8:02.

            1. One of the Sarahs*

              Aaaargh, the ongoing issue with offices where the computer says one thing, the clock on the wall says another, and the phone says another!

              1. KRM*

                I have 4 different clocks in the lab, all supposed to set themselves via the atomic clock. Every single one says a different time. I think we’ve all given up!

          3. Totally Minnie*

            The letter says she sometimes starts meetings a minute or two late. I have literally never gone to an appointment and thought “It is 8:01, why has the meeting not started?!”

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        I disagree. In this case, I would feel put off if I was the client. In most contexts, If I’m meeting with a professional, I expect a certain level of personalized service. Having that professional rush in while I’m already waiting at reception sends the message that no prep work or review was done immediately prior to the meeting. I guess there may be some situations where no prep work or review is helpful, but I’m struggling to think of one.

        I’d also personally feel like I was inconveniencing the person who is rushing in. As in, “Is this a bad time for you? Do we need to reschedule?”

        1. Seriously?*

          I think it depends on if she is acting rushed or flustered in her appointments. That would be presenting a less than professional appearance. But I have often had appointments where the person comes in while I am in the waiting room because I arrived early. If they are still on time to the meeting it does not bother me.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            If she made people sit for 10 minutes while she got organized, that would be very off-putting. But lots of people do their prep work sometime other than immediately before the meeting–with long phone meetings I walk my dogs right before, so they’re tired and don’t wander in hoping the people in the computer will pay attention to them.

            If I arrive for my 1:00 at 12:50, and at 12:58 the person returns from lunch and walks past me–it means they had lunch, like a normal person. A lot of this feels like creating a veneer of “I am just always in my office, working on your stuff” which is annoying when managers expect it (face-time over results) and no more reasonable coming from clients.

          2. WillyNilly*

            To me prep work done immediately prior to an appointment is what seems rushed to me. That doesn’t allow for thought.

            I do much better when I prep a few hours, or even a day in advance, so I have time to think and process.

        2. Lara*

          In my view, arranging a meeting at 8am is inconveniencing the other person regardless, but that’s by the by.

          Like Falling Dipthong, I prep for meetings days in advance, I never do it just before the meeting. And the key thing for me is whether or not it affects the meeting at all. If they are professional, polite and prepared, I wouldn’t care.

          1. paul*

            You absolutely cannot know that without knowing the client’s schedule. If we have a client working 3rd shift at a factory, an 8:15am appointment lets them stop by after work. Or if they’ve got a 10am start time at their job, an 8am lets them get in, and still have time to change, get a bite, etc after their appointment before work.

            They used specific terminology (case worker) so I feel OK assuming they’re in a similar field to us.

            As far as this…if she’s not rushing the clients I’d let it go. No two people prep exactly the same. If she’s doing good work with her clients, that’s what matters. If this is impacting the clients, if she is rushing them or there’s an indication she *isn’t* prepping well for their meetings if they’re early meetings, then you intercede.

            1. Lara*

              Uh, convenience goes both ways. I meant the client was already inconveniencing *Mary* by scheduling meetings at 8am.

              1. Lara*

                Which, obviously, is fine as every job comes with inconveniences, plus I meant it light heartedly. If you schedule a meeting outside of 9-5.30 with someone who works outside those hours, you *are* inconveniencing them. Adding snark by asking if it’s a ‘difficult time for you’ – despite them being on time and prepped – is unnecessary imo.

        3. ErinW*

          I guess for me it would depend on the type of meeting we were having. If it were my heart surgeon, yeah I guess I would want him/her to have been there for a bit, settled down and not rushed. But I routinely schedule meetings with my chiropractor for first thing in the morning, and since I am his first appointment, I see him walk in while I’m in the waiting room, and I don’t feel I get compromised care based on that.

          We don’t know what kind of work Mary does, but we do know that her appointments last “a few hours” (per the letter), so I wouldn’t imagine her clients feel they are not getting their due from her.

        4. JHunz*

          Frankly, if she’s starting the meeting on time she already has such a leg up on most other service providers that having seen her walk in 2 minutes ago wouldn’t even register.

        5. CoveredInBees*

          I’d leave the judgment about preparation until the actual meeting. No need to get sarcastic about rescheduling.

    6. Nursery Nurse*

      It’s not Mary’s job to make you (or her manager) feel less stressed, though. She’s not being rushed *at* you. As long as she’s not actually late, she’s entitled to cut things as close to the wire as she wants. It’s not fair for a supervisor to give an employee a start time and then get upset when she isn’t early every day. If the expectation was that employees show up early to prep for interviews, that expectation should have been conveyed to Mary and her start time should have been set to reflect that expectation.

      1. Mookie*

        Yes. At best, you could theorize that Mary rushing around at 2 minutes to 8 (when she normally prefers to start at 9) is an indication that Mary is well-aware of the LW’s feelings about non-negotiable 8am start-times, and that “power-walking” is an expression of conscientious urgency, a demonstration that Mary is raring to go and respects her clients’s time. There’s equally something maddening about a person who creeps along at a lazy pace when there’s only seconds to go; that makes me antsy when I inadvertently do it and makes me antsy when I witness it. That’s my problem inasmuch as it is the LW’s problem that she is driven to distraction by Mary, but, again, Mary may feel the same way and the performative Whirlwind of Busy could reflect that.

        The only trouble that needs correcting is being late by a minute or two. In some industries, and it sounds like this is one of them, where that’s just not acceptable.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          If you have clients who have an appointment at X:00 then, no, it’s not acceptable. I get that a lot of jobs can run on flexible hours, but if you’re seeing appointments, it’s not OK.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            It’s not okay if you’re late to appointments. I fail to see how not appearing to have been hiding in a file drawer until you were needed is unreasonable.

            I have very flexible hours, except for meetings. Which ideally I DON’T prep right before, but the night before or a couple of hours before the start-time. No one can see me, so I don’t have the same physical visibility issues–which really sound like the boss who complains that if you aren’t physically seated at your desk, gazing at the monitor with a thoughtful expression, how can they tell you’re working?

          2. Secretary*

            Yes to the stuff with clients, but if that’s *really* an expectation it should be communicated to Mary. I am with Nursery Nurse though, if I have an appointment at 8:00, that doesn’t mean 7:45 to me, that means 8:00. If I have everything I need to do the meeting I will not lose precious personal time by showing up at 7:45 just someone else more comfortable.

      2. Nita*

        Yep. It sounds like OP just has a personal thing against Mary’s working style, which has very little to do with how well Mary actually does her work. She needs to focus less on appearances, and more on results. There are things that are actually unprofessional and should be stopped in their tracks when one is working with clients, but walking in two minutes before an appointment doesn’t seem to rise to that level.

      3. PhyllisB*

        This may already have been mentioned OP, but you said “On days she doesn’t have early meetings she arrives at 9:00 and her mood is much better.” Is there any reason that her client meetings can’t start after 9:00? Or even 8:30 if 9:00 is too late? It sounds to me like Mary perhaps has children to get to school/day care or perhaps a commuting issue. I am still raising grand-children, so I am part of the “get them to school before 8:00” routine. I have a monthly conference call that starts at…you guessed it; 8:00. I had to tell my boss that I would have to be 5-10 minutes late dialing in because cell phone use is not allowed in car lines. My saving grace was that I bought a car with bluetooth capability so now I can just listen without the school knowing I am on the phone.

    7. Kay*

      If I’m beeaking one of the rules I apologize…if you want to tell someone to stop doing something that isn’t wrong because it stresses you out and drives you batty I would respectfully suggest you see a therapist or take other steps to work on this. No one should be forced to change for that reason and trying to force a change to make you less stressed when it is none of your business is wrong. Same goes to the letter writer. If it’s not affecting her work than you need to leave her alone.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        Omg, this! This strikes me as a case of someone trying to make a non-issue into an issue, for no real reason that actually serves a useful purpose. I honestly feel that this o.p. (and anyone else who is seriously bothered by someone else’s appearing “rushed” when it doesn’t actually affect them personally) needs to sort out their priorities. Especially if you are not the person’s manager. In this case, o.p. does have a vested interest in the job performance of their reports, including Mary, and is just (imo) overreacting. For anyone who is not Mary’s supervisor to react that way would be an indication (again, imo) that they are perhaps focusing too much on something that is not their problem or their responsibility.

    8. Overeducated*

      Maybe she has school dropoff and really can’t make it earlier. Or has to take one specific bus or train. People sometimes dont have that much flexibility on both ends of work,

      I arrive to work with enough time before my shift starts to change out of my bike clothes, put lunch in the fridge, and warm up my coffee…but on days I have to catch a train home instead if biking, I AM that person who bolts out the door precisely 8 hours and 30 minutes later. Otherwise I miss the train that gets me to the connecting bus and my commute is around 2 hours.

      The way to deal with this is by compensating so it doesn’t impact your work. For instance, Mary could get her case files for the 8 am appointment ready as the last thing she does the day before so she’s ready to roll first thing in the morning.

      1. KRM*

        And there is no indication that Mary is NOT prepping beforehand. She comes in, gets her clients, and meetings go well. This would indicate that she preps ahead of time, presumably the afternoon before. So let her do her job in the way that suits her best. And maybe don’t worry about the couple of times she’s a couple minutes late–that can be due to more traffic than usual, someone driving very slow in front of you, a more crowded bus than usual if you’re on public transport–all things that you can’t control in the moment, but can crop up at any time.

      2. Kate 2*

        THANK YOU! I can’t afford a car, as many people can’t. The public transportation in my city is very good, but sometimes you have to decide on arriving an hour early or on the dot. Seriously, because of the way the schedules are, that’s the decision you have to make. I can’t imagine how much harder it is for people who have to take their kids to school or daycare and then go to work.

        Sometimes a little grace and a little kindness (when the LW admits there is NO problem) are deserved, and make the world a better place for all of us. We can’t know everyone’s struggles, the battles they are fighting (to paraphrase a wise person), but we can acknowledge the fact that everyone is fighting a battle, and give them a tiny bit of leeway and understanding. Especially when, as LW says, there is actually NO PROBLEM.

    9. Temperance*

      I’m not a morning person, and I depend on public transportation. My options are to leave my house 40 minutes earlier to catch a train that gets me to work 45 minutes early, or one that gets me to work about 10 minutes late, give or take. Granted, I’m salary and have that flexibility, but I see no value in getting to work super early to just sit around.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I take it you’re not seeing appointments, though? Mary is. We don’t all get to keep flexible hours.

        1. Kate 2*

          But she is arriving on time, or 2 minutes late, which could really be a difference in watches or clocks.

            1. Genevieve*

              2 minutes late is, as many commenters have mentioned, within what could be a simple clock error. What if Mary’s watch is set 2 minutes behind her boss’s? What if her first client’s watch is set 5 minutes early—does that mean showing up on time is 5 minutes late? Is it really your assertion that client-service providers MUST be on the dot on time to every appointment they have? That’s an absurd expectation, and not one borne out by any reality I’ve experienced.

    10. Observer*

      But that’s really YOUR problem. You can’t work this way, but others do. Why should someone have to change what works for them to accommodate your totally personal preferences.

      Now, technically, the OP *can* require an employee to accommodate their personal preferences regardless of need and impact. But, that’s very bad management.

  9. Knitting Cat Lady*


    The way this works in Germany: Every company above a certain size needs a quiet room. It is open to everybody who has a transient medical issue, e.g. diabetics who lost track of their blood sugar and need to lie down for a bit until the sugar/meds kick in.

    Pregnant and nursing mother have dibs, though.

    So if you’re in there and a woman comes needing to pump she is allowed to kick you out.

    No big deal.

      1. Leela*

        that’s what I find concerning!

        If coworkers are finding it unfair that mothers (who have a medical need for a space to do this and aren’t just getting handed a nice quiet room for having procreated) get a quiet space, I wonder how likely they are to find it fair when they’re allowed to use it but are asked to leave when a pumping mother needs it.

        I used to work HR and in my experience, men and women who have never been lactating have noooooo idea that it’s a necessity or they think that at worst, prolonged time without being able to pump means just a little bit of discomfort or that you can like…hold it in, as if it were pee. There was much grumbling at previous companies I’ve worked with that rooms were set aside for lactating mothers but other people weren’t allowed to go in for a phone call if they wanted to. At first we tried having the rooms open with priority for mothers but the schedules were extremely disrespected, and if the mothers tried to come in and claim their company-given priority, they’d generally find the doors locked with someone who didn’t need the room coming out when they were good and ready, and frankly they were always pretty nasty, sneering at the mothers (which was reported so we waited in the area to see) or making rude comments about how entitled the mothers were for getting their own space, or really sarcastic “oh it must be SO NICE to have a space that you can just come in and claim whenever you want!” and so on.

        1. Knitting Cat Lady*

          That’s why the rooms are for MEDICAL needs only.

          And way different maternity leave laws mean that most women have already weaned their children when they return to work.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          as a nursing, pumping, mother – I’d like to punch these people in the throat

          1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

            As a happily child-free person, I would also like to punch these people in the throat.

            I, too, would like a quiet space in our noisy open-plan office, but it would never occur to me to demand use of the lactation room! What is wrong with these folks???

        3. Mookie*

          That would be my great fear, that you have to regularly assert your office-mandated scheduling privilege as someone needing to pump. You shouldn’t have to always remind people or waste time knocking on a door and waiting for them to collect their things and leave. It could cause a source of tension that is just totally unnecessary if the office had a clear policy on the subject that the room must be vacated in advance of those scheduled periods without exception and that retaliation would be an automatic disciplinary matter.

        4. General Ginger*

          The number of people who think women can hold all kinds of biological functions in is, sadly, way too large.

      2. Yorick*

        They could set up a reservation system (like in Outlook the way you do meeting rooms) and enforce that employees don’t go without a reservation. Someone would have to “be in charge of” the room, but it could work.

        1. MLB*

          I was thinking the same thing. We had to schedule rooms for a meeting at my last company, and I had no issue opening the door when they ran over their time and letting them know we were waiting. In fact one time a group of people were in there to listen to a company wide meeting. I had scheduled the room, and asked them to leave. They protested because it was a company meeting. I said sorry, but you should have scheduled the room if you needed it.

          I would have no issue doing the same if I needed it for pumping. And if it became an issue, go straight to the person who made the decision to let others use the room.

        2. Knitting Cat Lady*

          Reservation system works for scheduled things like pumping or injecting insulin before lunch.

          Not for pregnant woman A feeling faint and needing to put her feet up for a bit.

          Or autistic coworker B needing to flee sensory overload before hitting meltdown.

          For reference, I go to the loo to come down from sensory overload as I’m in a male dominated industry and usually no one comes in while I’m in there, even if it is half an hour.

          1. Yorick*

            Employees could check the calendar right before going to the room. They could even quickly reserve it.

    1. Temperance*

      My office has a quiet room for this purpose, and I like it. As a person with chronic migraines, I occasionally need to sit in a dark room while my meds kick in.

      Nursing mothers don’t get to kick anyone out, though, because they all get frosted glass and locking doors on their offices (if they have offices), and we have private lactation rooms with keys on every other floor.

  10. Mom MD*

    I’m not feeling the “my friend” third party letters. I think LWs should be first hand and too much can get lost in translation when related via a third party who sometimes does not even work at the workplace.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      I don’t think it’s for us to restrict who writes in to Alison or to whom she makes published replies. It’s entirely reasonable that two friends may discuss a work issue and the one who is familiar with AAM offers to write in. “I know this great advice column but you’ll have to write your own letter because one of the commenters doesn’t like third party questions” would be…mean and weird.

      1. paul*

        Of course it’s Alison’s’ choice; it’s her site. But I kind of agree with Mom MD that when you’re talking 3rd hand the information is a lot less reliable and complete.

    2. Myrin*

      I’m not quite sure about the purpose of this comment – are you proposing that Alison forbid people from writing in about situations that don’t concern them personally?

    3. Katie the Fed*

      you could always not read them if they bother you. Other people might find the advice useful because one thing I’ve learned in 6+ years of reading this blog is that you can’t underestimate the stupid crap some companies/bosses are capable of.

      1. MyBossSaidWhat*

        I agree, don’t read them if you don’t like them. Y first thought – I live in an area known for a marked shortage of viable jobs, and an excess of abusive and controlling employers – “my friend” actually is the LW. But the LW is afraid of being recognized/dealing with the fallout and uses tht to distance/acquit themselves if someone from work recognizes it.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        And I’m not feeling the snark that Mom MD is getting for a reasonable comment. There’s a reason for hearsay rules in my line of work: by the time you’re getting information second- or third-hand, who knows how reliable it can be. It’s reasonable to wonder how accurate the details in a letter can be if we’re getting them at the end of a game of telephone/whispers (to mix metaphors).

        Sometimes Allison goes back and forth a couple of times with the letter-writer to clarify issues. Seems to me she likely lacks that opportunity when it’s a “my friend has this problem” type of letter.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I don’t think the responses are snark, but I also don’t think it’s a reasonable comment. We’re free guests on a blog for entertainment and education – we don’t get a vote on what does and does not get printed. I find these letters useful regardless of who sends them in.

          1. MicroManagered*

            ou could always not read them if they bother you.

            This reads a bit snarky, tbh. MomMD expressed an arguably mild opinion that she wasn’t “feeling” third party letters–not that she was deeply offended, not prescribing what should be done differently, etc.

            Since AAM is a brand (books, podcasts, guest spots on other sites–do we agree there?) that kind of feedback from regular/participating readers is valuable.

            1. I see it's still the same*

              I agree. This is snarky. This happens frequently on this comment board. Here’s the pattern: #1 makes a comment that disagrees with Alison or another commenter. #2 says “if you don’t like, don’t read it.” Um, what’s the point of a comment section if everyone agrees?
              I stepped away from the blog for several months because I was berated in the comments for disagreeing with the masses, and was told by Alison and commenters to not read the parts I don’t like. Today, I thought I would read again to see what was going on. I can see that I’m not missing anything.

              1. Libby*

                But she’s not disagreeing with the advice, she’s disagreeing with the way the site is run.

            2. Liane*

              To be honest what “reads [as more than] a bit snarky” are a number of MomMD’s comments, especially today for some reason.

              1. cereal tower*

                Yeah, I’ve noticed this for the past few weeks… I figured it was just a tone/brevity issue.

              2. Oxford Coma*

                She subscribes to the Cordelia Chase school of “tact is just not saying true stuff”. It’s consistent enough that those who dislike it can and do learn to skip over her.

                1. LouiseM*

                  Thank you! I love Mommy MD’s writing style because she gets right to the point. If you don’t, don’t read her comments.

        2. Mookie*

          I don’t sense any snark in the three comments above. Mom MD has already made this remark twice belowthread, and that doesn’t make for an especially welcoming atmosphere for this LW.

          Alison has been posting this species of letter for as long as I can remember (as do agony aunts and other sorts of advice columnists) and they’re generally on an individualized topic that has no precedent, so it’s not like she’s wasting an opportunity to provide advice on a situation she’s already covered. Even with clarifying conversations prior to publication, we often get an LW willing to provide even more information belowthread, and sometimes that will change the tenor of the conversation dramatically. Nothing is really stopping the LW from doing that here, because presumably she’s in contact with her friend and can consult her directly if she thinks any of our questions merit response or answer.

        3. LQ*

          If you don’t thing of this as a How Reliable Does It Have To Be but rather a How Can This Information Help Others Regardless of Veracity it might help you to see how valuable the conversations and understanding of it can be.

        4. CoveredInBees*

          But we’re not making any type of binding ruling here. Allison gives general advice. Heck, plenty of the firsthand accounts are missing many details that commenters guess on. For the purposes of an advice column, I think one is as good as the next. Yes, sometimes Allison goes back and gets more details but not always and there is only so much info she is going to seek out.

    4. SunshineOH*

      But why does it matter? There’s no “burden of proof” required for an advice column.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        And this isn’t even a super-weird letter where there might be some incentive for someone to make up a shocking tale for kicks. It’s an iteration on a really common work issue, with an answer that will be relevant for many people even if for some reason the LW wasn’t completely accurately representing the original situation.

      2. LouiseM*

        I think the point is that with second hand information, things are more likely to get distorted. For example, I left a comment upthread that was entirely based on the premise that the lactating friend’s coworkers used the word “unfair.” But maybe they didn’t! Maybe this was just OP’s take on what she heard through her friend.

        1. Emi.*

          But if the lactating friend had written in, the letter could still say “unfair” and we still wouldn’t know if that was something the coworkers literally said or the mother’s sense of their grumbling. So it doesn’t make a real difference who does the typing and hits “send.”

        2. tangerineRose*

          Even with first hand accounts, things get distorted on the comments from time to time. Everyone has their own filters.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        Pretty much everywhere I read regularly occasionally has topics I don’t care about at all. (See 538 and sports.) I can see bringing up moderation (e.g. “I prefer it when threads are more/less tightly moderated” (for me it’s always more tightly)) but not for choice of content to cover.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          (Okay, I have to take that back. I have been places with over-zealous moderation, where interesting and civil off-topic discussions (arising naturally deep into the thread, not as an in-crowd immediate diversion in the first post) got killed, but I stopped reading those places and so they didn’t come to mind.)

          The best blogs hit a balance that leads to fascinating off-topic discussions, that started on-topic and evolved.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think it really matters if the third party isn’t providing the details perfectly accurately, because this isn’t a court of law and there’s no need for us to determine with perfect certainty exactly what happened. A question is asked, a question is answered, and it’s hopefully useful/interesting/entertaining to people who read the column. That’s how every advice column works! I’d also add that when the questions are first-person, we still often don’t get a perfectly accurate version every time, because people can be unreliable narrators. But again, this isn’t a court of law so it doesn’t really matter. That’s my take on it, anyway.

      1. MLB*

        Completely agree. Sometimes we see letters from a friend who want to help the person in the situation. And I always wonder if someone talking about “their friend” is actually the person with the problem and fear that people who know them will know who’s writing in for advice. Regardless, you are providing advice which could potentially help someone in a similar situation and that’s really all that matters.

      2. eplawyer*

        EXACTLY. There is an issue presented in the letter that might be applicable to others. It is worthy of being answered so others can see how to address the issue if it arises for them. The SOURCE doesn’t matter. Alison could make stuff up if she wanted to as hypotheticals and address those (but they wouldn’t be nearly as interesting as true questions because truth is stranger than fiction.)

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Agreed. I don’t think it’s necessary to be all picayune about whether OP actually works there. She is relaying something a friend told her about her workplace and is asking for your take on the situation. Full stop.

        Side Bar: “Picayune” is one of those words I rarely get to use. Thanks for the opportunity! :)

    6. McWhadden*

      Ultimately this isn’t just to answer the questions for the person asking but meant to be relevant to others. So, who cares?

  11. RG*

    Off topic, but I feel like at 80 employees you should have an HR department, even if it’s a department of one from a temp agency or something.

    1. Jemima Bond*

      I’m a bit surprised about that too. I don’t know the laws around that if any, but you’d think they’d want an HR department of some sort just to do all the things HR do.
      (like lose internal job applications, treat people like they are stupid and ignore grievances…jk that’s probably just my HR team… ;-D )

    2. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

      Yeah, honestly I think that you need to have a mixed admin/HR person by, like, 25 people? Maybe even 20; you’ll get enough value to make it worthwhile. And once you hit 50 you probably need an actual HR person; they can still be mixed with admin or other duties, but at that point you need someone with real knowledge of employment and benefits laws in order to be in compliance. I’m guessing (hoping?) OP has a higher-up who did HR in the past and otherwise knows their stuff, and is sort of steering the compliance ship on the side?

  12. OP5*

    OP 5 Here!

    Thank you so much for answering my question! As a sophomore in college, I’m pretty new to understanding business norms, so I’m sometimes worried about coming off as unprofessional or seeming bothersome. Having a template to base that message on really helps as well!

    @Everyone Else
    Since I’m still in the earlyish stages of figuring out figuring out what I want to do post graduation, I’ve begun requesting informational interviews with people my field who are doing the type of work I’d like do. I’d ideally like continue to keep into contact with any of the people I “click” with on a personal and professional level. My main uncertainty centers around exactly how to maintain these types of relationships. I’m not fantastic at intuitively understanding unspoken rules, so if people here could spell it out for me, that’d be great!

    For example, if I have a good conversation with someone in the field and they seem reasonably interested in me and the outside projects I’m doing, would it be approproate for me to occasionally reach out with very general questions on how to tackle a problem? Or professional updates? Or job search help? Or share a professional article?

    If anyone has any tips, questions or advice, I’m all ears!

    1. soupmonger*

      First thing to remember is that while people in your field may be happy to meet with you for a chat, emailing them afterwards with problems you’re having, or offering updates, is likely to overstep. People are busy, and replying to non-work emails eats into their time. Networking and making contacts is great, and if you can meet for an informal info swap, even better, but I’d suggest you prepare for these meetings by coming up with questions beforehand, rather than contacting them with questions later.

      I run my own business, and I get a *lot* of emails from students looking for help/advice/interviews, etc and while I like to help, it’s really time-consuming (plus I have yet to have a single thank-you from any of them!)

    2. Naomi*

      One thing you might ask in your informational interviews is what networking opportunities they know about: if there are regular local meetups or social events for people in your field. I’ve found that kind of event to be a good way to make and maintain connections that have later paid off professionally.

    3. Yorick*

      Don’t reach out with questions just to keep in touch, but if you had a connection with someone and you have a real question that they’re an obvious person to ask, go ahead. Just make sure you use a tone that conveys you understand they’re busy.

      1. OP5*

        What confuses me is the other advice I’ve often been given, which is to not only reach out when you want something, etc. job hunting, reference, recommendation. If not questions, how should I maintain those connections?

        1. Temperance*

          I would send articles of interest rather than just using someone as a resource to answer questions. You’ll also see them at networking events.

        2. Observer*

          With something that doesn’t need a reply. So, if you see that the person just got an honor of some sort, a congratulations is in order. Or if you see a really interesting article that is really relevant to your contact – just realize that if it’s a source that your contact would be expected to be checking anyway, that’s not your best bet. But if it’s in a less popular source then an email saying “I saw this article and thought you might be interested. >link<" might not be a bad move.

          1. Yorick*

            I think it’s key to contact them when it’s natural instead of looking for ways to do it. If you really see an article that would interest them and they may not have seen, then send it. But don’t go looking for an article to send them and then send the closest one you could find (they may not care to read it).

        3. EMW*

          Connect on LinkedIn. This allows both of you to passively keep in touch. It also allows the natural congratulations for new roles. I enjoy watching people advance through their career on LinkedIn. I hardly post any articles or anything like that.

          1. Buu*

            Yeah I agree whilst I am not super keen on Linkedin it allowed me to connect with former supervisors/managers that I wouldn’t wan’t on my Facebook. It feels less of an ask to add people on Linkedin and means you can maintain contacts even when they switch jobs/emails.
            I also enjoy watching people achieve stuff, especially when I now it’s a goal they’ve been working toward.

          2. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

            Yeah, passive networking is like the #2 benefit of LinkedIn. I think when you agree to be connected with someone on there, there’s an implicit “we might find each other useful in our careers in the future” vibe. There are tons of people I’m connected to on LinkedIn who I honestly have no idea how I met or why I’m connected with them, but I wouldn’t hesitate to contact them for a lot of networking purposes (like, if I were interested in a job at their company, or putting together a panel event in their area of expertise, etc), depending on how big the ask were. TBH, for me, it’s easier to make those asks of people I *don’t* know very well than of those that I’m actually friends with.

        4. Yorick*

          I don’t think it’s that necessary to reach out at other times, as long as you’re friendly
          and understanding of their schedule when you do reach out (instead of seeming entitled to help at all times).

    4. epi*

      I would actually say that it is OK to reach out when you need something. Professional contacts are not much like friends in this way– not talking for a year doesn’t mean your relationship is over, and people expect to be contacted for favors. Also, you are generally not peers in this situation.

      People who manage students, interns, or entry-level employees in their job often come into contact with a ton of early career people. They can’t possibly keep up a personal correspondence with all of them, or even all of them they really liked, and still do their jobs. Also, as someone very early in their career, you likely don’t have anything that valuable to offer someone who used to manage you. Luckily, people who make good professional contacts don’t see their relationship with junior people as so transactional. They like hearing that you’re doing well and that their management had a positive impact on you.

      Next time you need a reference, put your update and thanks in your request. It helps them give a better reference and is IMO more pleasant and human than constantly emailing just in case you want a favor someday. If you want more contact, letting them know about an accomplishment of yours (and how the job you had with them prepared you) or congratulating them on something are other good times. As you progress in your career and get to know a few people and their work better, you’ll know when you’re seeing an article or resource that would be truly valuable to them. Go ahead and send those but don’t stress if you’re not coming across anything like that.

      You sound like a conscientious person, so you can probably afford to relax about networking. As you gain more work experience, you will come into contact with more people who think highly of you and are willing to do you a favor or want to work with you again. There will be a whole range of them from solely professional contacts to very important mentors or friends. It’s OK to adjust your level of contact with those people accordingly and it doesn’t mean anyone is being slighted or taken advantage of.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Totally agree with this!

        I’ve recommended the “send an interesting article!” approach before but I’m less enamored of it than I used to be. It works if you pick the right article, but it can be hard — especially as a junior person — to know what articles the person will really find interesting. I get sent a lot of articles that contacts think I will find interesting and a lot of them are … strange choices (like really technical HR stuff about benefits, or really basic “an overview of FMLA” sorts of things). Which isn’t a big deal, but it doesn’t really build the connection either.

      2. OP5*

        It makes me feel quite a bit better that y’all are confirming that it’s fairly normal to go lengths of time without talking to contacts. My program really stresses making **personal** connects with recruiters, so I guess I am often scared I’m not doing enough.

        1. Specialk9*

          Heads up that universities often give wacky and off the wall advice on job searching. Keep reading here for a sanity check.

  13. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    #4: Mothers really can’t catch a break. I’m appalled but not surprised that people thought it was ‘unfair’ for nursing mothers to have a space of their own. It’s interesting that none of these co-workers cared about a quiet space before!* Your friend and her co-worker are right to be concerned because it could easily be a daily battle to have their privacy respected. Of course, it might go smoothly and people will respect their time and space. I really hope they do. Good luck.

    * It could be that no one realised the space could be used in this manner earlier, and once it was, they saw other possibilities for it. But it’s the ‘unfair’ wording that sets off alarm bells for me.

    1. WS*

      Yes, the “unfair” wording is alarming! I was undergoing a medical treatment that left me exhausted and unable to walk very far, and I got special permission to park in the spot belonging to a senior manager who was currently on leave, plus organised leave so I could work just two two-hour shifts a day, with a rest in between, for the six weeks of the treatment. Most people were really helpful, but there were definitely a few, with one ringleader, who insisted that this was unfair and I shouldn’t get special treatment unless I got a disability pass for my car, and I should either work full-time or not at all. I explained that it would take longer than 6 weeks to get the pass (to even more complaints!), but I never really understood why it was “unfair” to work reduced hours and have a lie-down instead of taking full leave. The ringleader was really vile and would organise things like using the very loud copier next to the room where I was resting only during my break. Some people really can’t cope with other people having special treatment even if it’s 100% necessary. The same woman also complained every time someone had parental leave, even though she was perfectly happy to take it herself.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        What??????? That’s ridiculous and really gross. You don’t have to justify your health needs to anyone. I’m sorry you had to deal with that.

        Some people really can’t cope with other people having special treatment even if it’s 100% necessary.

        That’s it exactly. Their ego can’t take it. But they definitely don’t want the illness or problem that is leading to the supposed special treatment! I’m not surprised she complained about parental leave for others but took it for herself. Her needs are more important than everyone else’s, don’t you know!

        The ringleader was really vile and would organise things like using the very loud copier next to the room where I was resting only during my break.

        That’s disgusting. I hope she falls into a wandering black hole and ends up in a dimension where everyone is like her.

        1. Parenthetically*

          There’s a religious college in Texas that provides a degree program free of charge to inmates, usually lifers, who’ve turned their lives around in prison so those prisoners can be transferred to other prisons to act as chaplains. It’s highly rigorous and takes several years to complete IIRC. I should not have read the comments on the article about it. It’s incredible what people will go all “well, it must be niiiiiice” about. Begrudging someone who is going to spend the rest of his/her life in prison an opportunity to EARN a degree? Like get a grip.

          I always think the right response in situations like this is, “Sure, I’ll trade you. You take over my time in the lactation/medical needs room, and I’ll take your not needing to pump/undergoing chemo/managing diabetes.”

          1. Shamy*

            +1 Anything involving helping prisoners turn things around gets people so up in arms. If you read up on prison dog programs where prisons have animal shelters, people get so angry despite the numerous positive outcomes for the dogs and inmates which has been seen. I truly feel if every prison in the country had such a place, the number of animals dying in shelters would be greatly reduced. In any case, I don’t want to derail, but your comment about the chaplain program reminded me of it.

            I am so keeping your response in my repertoire of retorts for these situations.

          2. HannahS*

            I agree. No, it’s not nice, and no, I’m not lucky. It’s nicer and luckier to be in good health.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        ooooh this reminded me of the people who complain about pregnant women (third trimester only!) getting special parking at my work. No, it’s not necessary. But it’s a TINY thing that made my life infinity better during a REALLY uncomfortable few months, and I’m grateful for that.

        1. CMart*

          You just made me flash back to all the comments I got from people in my master’s cohort about how “it must be nice” that I was given the special permission to pay $50 to park in the faculty lot closer to the main building rather than the student lot. During my third trimester. During a northern Midwest winter.

          Yes. It was nice. It was nice indeed they made an exception for me that I could have a shorter walk over less treacherous terrain while my ability to walk was impeded and the safety of myself and my fetus were in question due to icy patches. I’m still pretty sure I was outside longer than my classmates anyway due to how slowly I was trundling along by that point. Would they have rather it took me 30 minutes to get inside from the back lot?

        2. General Ginger*

          What I never understand about people like that is: how do they not see that if their company is good at taking care of, say, pregnant employees, then it’s also pretty likely to be open to taking care of employees with disabilities, or other medical issues, or whatever else might require accommodation? Rising tide lifts all boats and all — if the company already has experience with working around Jane’s needing closer parking and X amount of time off, then it’ll be easier to work it out when Bob needs a quiet room and Y amount of time off.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Because some people are stuck in a mindset that privilege is a zero-sum game, and that if someone else gets something I don’t (or something I’ve had and they haven’t), it MUST be taking something away from me.

            See also: politics.

            1. General Ginger*

              Yeah, the “what I never understand” is mostly rhetorical. But yes, absolutely.

      3. LQ*

        I would suspect there are a few people who have other medical needs in that office who do need it but who have been struggling to get by (I have ducked into an empty conference room to take a few minutes to handle a full on panic attack here and there (and sometimes someone will see me and come in to chat which…really not great) and would love a quiet room to take 2 minutes and head it off when possible, insulin mentioned above along with other things as well) and see an opportunity to manage those medical needs better (just because that seems likely in a population of 80 people).

        But I’d also guess there are a few people who get mad when things aren’t equal because they think equal means fair and they don’t understand anything different. The unfair people you’ve met are likely just using the word fair to mean exactly equal and anything less is somehow…I don’t know it offends their sense of moral something. I have no idea how to help these people see that equal and fair are not the same. That equal is an entirely unnecessary and nonsensical construct. I honestly don’t know how to manage for the “all things must be equal” other than talking about it (which is what this whole conversation here is about!)

        1. Tace*

          There’s a couple of phrases for that: ‘equality of treatment’ is what the ‘unfaaaair!’ people see as equal; ‘equality of outcome’ is true equality, becaue it recognises that different people have different needs, so some people will need more help to achieve the desired outcome.

          Equality of treatment: everyone gets a step-stool, or no-one does; all step-stools are the same height. Tall people get step-stools even through they don’t need them; some short people still can’t reach stuff on the high shelves, because their step-stools aren’t high enough.

          Equality of outcome: several sizes of step-stools are available. Tall people don’t need them, and average to short people get to pick a step-stool the right height for them. So everyone can reach the stuff stored on high shelves.

          The equal outcome that your employer wants is to have everyone mentally and physically able to do their jobs, and to have a workplace with good morale and low turnover (because low morale leads to high turnover, which costs money and impacts profits). This means some staff will need and get extra help sometimes, and a good employer will provide that.

          And like you, I really don’t understand why some peolple struggle with this concept.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            It’s like cookies. Say you have two children and two cookies. One cookie is broken. You give child A the intact cookie and child B the two pieces of the broken cookie. Child A says, “unfair because child B got two cookies.”

            This also relates to male entitlement. Millennia of males having full cookies while women have had half of a cookie. Women demand the other half and get it. The males react as if the women who are only just starting to get an equitable amount of cookies as if they are getting “more.”

              1. PhyllisB*

                This reminds me of when my older sister and I were young. She would a candy bar to my sister and tell her to divide it with me. She would break in two but always one piece (that she took) would be bigger. I would of course complain that she got the biggest half. She would say “oh, I’m sorry.” bite it equal and then say “here,now they’re the same size. Is that better?” I would agree and be content. Can’t believe how long I fell for that. :-)

                1. Riley*

                  @PhyllisB, Ha! When we were little my mom had a rule that when two people split something, one person got to break it in half, then the other person got to choose their piece first. As far as I can remember, she taught us the rule before it was ever a problem so I thought that was just how splitting things to share worked and that everyone did it that way!

      4. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        When working at a firm with a fairly strict dress code, I had a leg injury which ended up with me needing to wear quality running shoes, and only those shoes, for about a month. PEOPLE LOST THEIR MINDS. “Whyyyyyy caaaaaaan’t IIIIIII wear sneeeeeeeakers toooooooo?” they wailed.

        After a couple of weeks I snapped at one of them, who was bitching to someone else within earshot of me about having to wear loafers while “some people” got to wear comfortable shoes, that all he had to do was partially tear a tendon in his lower leg and he, too, could wear running shoes! And have medical bills! And pain! Lots of free pain!

        I don’t know if the bitching stopped after that, but they all kept it well away from me if it didn’t.

        I work with nicer people now.

        1. Liane*

          AAM had a letter from an intern who started a petition to relax the dress code and brought up how one permanent employee unfairly got to wear non-dress-code shoes. Surprise, that employee was a veteran with a prosthetic leg.
          It was a short internship for the signatories…

        2. Tardigrade*

          I had a very similar experience wearing a medical boot on one foot and a supportive sneaker on the other, per my MD. A coworker looked down at my feet and mumbled “it must be nice to wear comfortable shoes.” And I responded that the boot was in no way comfortable, that the constant pain from my foot injury was not comfortable, and that our dress code did not mandate the heels she chose to wear that day.

          Some people….

          1. Temperance*

            I’m forever grateful that when I had to wear a boot and sneakers combo, and now occasionally sneakers when I have pain, no one is a jerk about it.

        3. RUKiddingMe*

          It’s like it never occurs to these adults, who presumably have years of being adults living in the world, that there might be a reason. Particularly so if it’s something recently changed. Oh no, it’s a special privilege for one person because the company/boss is being mean/playing favorites.

      5. Lara*

        I’d also reframe it as ‘treatment’ rather than ‘special treatment’. You arranged a schedule with your boss around your medical treatment. You weren’t doing it so you could play kickball or get drunk midday. You were doing it because your body was physically in need of rest. I wish management had told her to knock it off.

      6. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

        One of our admin staff has gotten similar flack from admins in other departments. My boss let her adjust her schedule so that she can take her husband to chemotherapy. The arrangement works for the boss and the rest of us her works supports, but some people with the same role in other departments get really snarky about it.

        People suck sometimes.

    2. MyBossSaidWhat*

      Same (as a working mom). At OldJob, our CEO (small company) apparently pushed back on an expectant mom. IIRC she had to write a proposal for a lactation room including proof that there was such a law and how it wouldn’t be a “hardship”. It was so bad she wound up “deciding” to formula Feed and last we spoke was job shopping!

      1. Mookie*

        She had to assert her rights by citing the law for them? Yebloodygods. It’s almost like they hoped escalating hostilities would make her quit. Good riddance to them and best of luck to her!

        1. Emi.*

          I would be so tempted to write up a lengthy proposal (on company time, of course) with dozens of footnotes citing LMGTFY.

      2. Mockingjay*

        I can’t believe that, 25 years after I had my first child, we are still having to fight for something as simple as a reserved room for lactating mothers at work.

        I had to pump in a bathroom stall. My daughter had to be weaned to formula during the day because it was so difficult to maintain basic sanitation of bottles and pumping equipment. Not to mention the awkwardness of coworkers coming in while I was squeezing away.

    3. Mookie*

      * It could be that no one realised the space could be used in this manner earlier, and once it was, they saw other possibilities for it. But it’s the ‘unfair’ wording that sets off alarm bells for me.

      Yeah, I could see people momentarily feeling miffed that there was an available but untapped resource all along, but the whinging here feels purely obstructionist, like if they can’t have it, too, she shouldn’t be able to, either. Instead of trying to punish her, they should be as welcome and accommodating as possible, demonstrating to management that providing additional spaces for “quiet contemplation” will not be disruptive but immensely productive and morale-boosting. Instead, they pitch a fit and turn her into a bogey who is denying them something they never named before now. Is that how employees get what they want and need in this environment? If so, it’s not a particularly healthy one, and creating a war of competing needs is something that needs nipping immediately.

    4. BuffaLove*

      Everything in that letter is third-hand knowledge; we don’t know that the coworkers are really calling it “unfair.” It could be way less nefarious than everyone is making it out to be – maybe they truly did just see an opportunity to have a quiet space for everyone when it’s not being used for pumping. There’s no indication that they would refuse to give the new mothers priority going forward.

      1. Genny*

        Agreed. It’s also possible that management has created a toxic work environment where the only way to get your needs met is to shout the loudest. I don’t know why, but that’s what I got from this letter: a lot of pent up frustration that management refuses to listen to them (puts them in an open office space, doesn’t provide any sort of quiet place, etc.), so when a legally-required lactation room pops up, they see it as 1) an opportunity to finally get that quiet space they always wanted and 2) another insult to injury that space can be found for a lactation room, but not for quiet space.

  14. Katie the Fed*

    #4 – a smart company would realize that the problem is the open office plan that’s bothering employees, not the existence of a lactation room. Still, I think it’s incredibly petty for employees to whine and moan that two nursing mothers have the “benefit” of sitting in a room twice a day hooking themselves up to a pump. There is nothing really relaxing or fun about that – I’m doing it right now and I have to stop what I’m doing, go to the lactation room, set up my pump, pump, take everything apart, clean up, etc. It SUCKKKKKKS.

    1. MicroManagered*

      a smart company would realize that the problem is the open office plan that’s bothering employees, not the existence of a lactation room.

      +1 I think this is probably close to the real issue. I’ve definitely been guilty of using the “sick room” (what my former employer called it) for scheduling a sensitive medical appointment, etc.

      1. Tau*

        The time I got to talk in detail about my period right in front of my office building desperately hoping no coworkers would pass by because my gynecologist’s phone consultation hours are 1pm-2pm and we have no quiet room.

    2. Kittymommy*

      This exactly. While the coworkers are being awful in how they’re expressing it, the real meat of the issue is that the staff is obviously not feeling the open-space floor plan (which seems to be a common sentiment). Hopefully, but not likely, the employer will realize that and deal with it.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      To the ones who are simply moaning (and not wishing they had a similar room for medical/religious needs) I’d be tempted to tell them “sure, you can use the room too, as long as you’re hooked up to a pump.”

    4. Genny*

      Yeah, I’m reading more frustration about the open office plan than frustration that two women are using the room to pump. It sounds like a classic case of “I’ll be angry about the think I might be able to change (even if it makes little sense) than the thing I can’t change.”

    5. Robin Sparkles*

      I stopped back in December (Christmas Eve to be exact) – and while we had pump rooms available- I had to work around other mothers and it was not easy nor fun. And the use of unfair is petty. Hopefully the LW read the situation incorrectly and the reason is more benign. Agree 100% the real issue is open office plans.

  15. Miles*

    #3 it sounds like this project is above and beyond your usual duties – something another person in your role wouldn’t be expected to do and may not be capable of. If that’s the case and this is a recurring thing, then you might be able to make a case for a raise based on the increased responsibilities.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Agreed. Welcome to capitalism, LW#3! If you think your boss in undervaluing the work you produce for them, then you can consider negotiating a promotion/raise. But in any event the fruit of your labor belongs to your boss at the rate you already came to an agreement on.

    2. Snark*

      But otherwise, this is how a flat rate for your labor works. You’re not a freelancer or a contractor, you’re an employee, and you’re paid a salary for your time. You’re not paid on a per-deliverable basis.

  16. MyBossSaidWhat*

    OP2 – I think you need to let this go. I am also
    the one rushing in at 7:58 – if I had to get in any earlier I’d have to drop my kids off at school before an adult arrives. (Which a lot of parents do, due to inflexible bosses… control is more important than children’s safety!)
    I am at one of the “nice” companies that gives dial-in options for these early-AM meetings. But to some that extra hour or half-hour is massive. May have been the way you worded it but your letter came across as more about optics/judgement/control than an actual problem, and you might want to reflect on that.

    1. DMK*

      YEP. This may not be an issue of her not being a “morning person” but rather that she has other morning obligations that simply don’t permit her to get to the office much before 8 am. Maybe she has children, maybe she has an aged parent with in-home care that can’t arrive before a certain time. Maybe her spouse does shift work and they have a narrow window of overlap so someone is home with their kids. It may not even be at that level – maybe she goes to the gym and it doesn’t open until 6 and she can’t get her workout done and get to the office before 8 after showering and driving in. But if it’s not affecting her work, I think you have to let this one go.

      1. Kimberlee, no longer Esq.*

        Yeah, I think this is the charitable way to think about it and can help OP get over the block in their head that tells them that because the employee is doing it differently than others, or than OP might, that she’s doing it wrong. But honestly, “she’s not a morning person” should be enough. Sure, some people can train themselves to be morning people, but it’s really, really, really hard. People just have different rhythms. People are at their peak at different times of day.

        It’s a bummer to me that, despite all our tech advances, and despite all the human improvements happening in modern workplaces, most white-collar jobs are still very attached to the idea that Good, Productive People get up at 5 am and that’s that. At the very least, those workplaces are forcing a lot of people to work completely outside of the hours that they do their best work. And the kicker is that those places are probably eliminating a level of neuro-diversity that they would have if folks were allowed to work, say, noon to 8 if they wanted to.

        I understand that not all jobs can offer that flexibility, but *far* more can than do.

  17. gona*

    Some references never expire. With others, there are still some more or less legal ways that may or may not work;)

  18. Rebecca*

    #2 – you said that your employees see anywhere from 1-15 employees per week, and the meetings are scheduled between 8 AM and 4:30 PM. Why not talk to your employee, and ask her if she has a commute or other scheduling issue, like daycare or school drop off’s in the morning? Would she be able to schedule her first appointment at 8:15 AM, for instance, instead of 8:00 AM on the dot? She may be stressed from flying in the door at the last minute and going right into appointments just as you are stressed from watching it, but she may have legitimate issues that prevent her from arriving any earlier.

  19. Artemesia*

    Nothing damages a reputation in the workplace faster than using work travel for personal gain. People who ‘just happen’ to schedule work trips to their home town for example get known as people more committed to their own pleasure than getting the job done. To suggest this in a new job where you haven’t established a reputation as a competent hard worker is a reputation killer. I’d wait until they know you better.

    1. Lara*

      Eh? She didn’t schedule the trip. She said “I’m being sent on”.

      It’s not the same as mysteriously needing to go see that one client who lives round the corner from you on a a sunny Friday afternoon…

    2. Observer*

      I’d wait, too. But the reality is that the OP was not the one who scheduled the trip. So calling it a reputation killer seems like a stretch to me.

    3. Jessie the First (or second)*

      She didn’t schedule the work trip. She was assigned this trip.

      She is making an enormous sacrifice for this job by living apart from her spouse. That makes this a slightly different situation than normal “can my spouse come with me” situation, and given the pretty high personal cost involved in living apart, simply asking for this should not be a reputation killer.

      Still might not be appropriate depending on the nature of the this work trip – she’ll have to talk more with boss to find out – but if there will be down time during the trip, this is a situation that should call for some understanding from the boss. That is, if he values his employees as actual people.

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      My husband is pretty high-ranking at his company, and his travel is never “You know what would be cool? Tulsa! I think I’ll tell work to book a trip to Tulsa, and tell my college roommate in Tulsa to start planning fun stuff!” It’s always “So Wednesday you’re going to the manufacturing plant in Portland, and then Sunday flying to Korea.”

      … And my parents actually do live an hour from the manufacturing plant. If he has free time, he goes over and fixes stuff for them. But it’s not like he can say “Due to my in-laws needing help with their answering machine, I feel like visiting the manufacturing plant for a few hours, and then having lots of free time. Set that up, will you?”

    5. Fiennes*

      I don’t see this as being for her “personal gain.” This isn’t about her side hustle; it’s not about her trying to turn this into a vacation. She’d just like to see her husband during hours she’s not working. This is not an unreasonable ask in most settings. If she’s not going to have any time off, if networking or late hours are considered part of it, the manager should have spelled that out either when he first assigned her the trip or when LW came to him with this.

  20. MuseumChick*

    OP #2, I get why this worries/stress you out. I’ve seen a similar thing play out at a previous job. My co-worker Fergus was in charge of opening the museum three days a week and while he would technically be on time/a few minuets early he was always rushing to get everything done before the doors had to be unlocked. If one thing went wrong we would be forces to open late. Even when we spoke to him and pointed out that it was a good idea to plan for something to go wrong and to give yourself enough time int he morning he never changed. There was no reason for him to be late (no kids or other responsibilities that would effect the time he came in) so I never understood why it was such a problem for him.

    If she isn’t on time to meet clients, or unprepared, that is something you can absolutely talk to her about. But as long as she is meeting them on time and prepared for those meeting this doesn’t rise to the level of needing to do anything about it.

  21. Observer*

    went to my boss, who will also be on the trip, and asked/told him that in my free time after work is done, my husband would like to come to the hotel with my dog to meet me and I’d pay any associated fees. . . . He then said next time I should ask first, which is what I thought I was doing.

    If you take out the middle portion of this piece, you might be able to see an aspect of this that you hadn’d realized. You did NOT come to your boss first to discuss your travel plans. You first essentially made arrangements and THEN told him as a fait accompli that your husband was coming along. It probably sounded like the “Is that ok?” was totally a formality. And I have no doubt that this played into his reaction.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      That’s kind of what I was thinking. Yes, the OP technically asked permission, but the boss felt put on the spot because the husband was already told that either he could go, or it was possible. While a manager should be OK saying no, that’s probably something the OP should keep in mind when dealing with this new boss — unfortunately, the boss has hinted that they do not like to say no, and you may be better off feeling them out very carefully about what they want instead of asking for something directly. In other words, they may come down more on the “guess” side of ask vs. guess culture.

      (That’s largely conjecture, but the OP does have a big red flag indicating that they should look into that possibility.)

    2. Jules the Third*

      That’s funny, because I totally read that as OP asking. In my family, the first thing we do is check if SO is interested in [thing]. If yes, then we do the work to see if [thing] is an option, including cost and logistics. If [thing] is an option, then I go to boss and say, ‘here’s a plan, may I do it?’

      In a new workplace, I might check the nature of the trip (evening commitments or not) as part of the logistics, but I might also not think about it if I was new. Alison’s advice is the right advice – ask about evening schedule, reassure your boss that you understand work is the priority, keep in mind that evening schedules are something you should check in future.

      But there’s not anything wrong with developing a plan for your boss to approve or not; less work for the boss.

      1. Observer*

        The problem is not developing a plan. The problem is TELLING the boss. Even “ask/tell” is to definitive.

      1. Robin Sparkles*

        Because going to a boss after making arrangements puts them in a difficult position. Better to just ask the boss that you even had the idea – see difference in the two asks: “Hey boss- this is really close to my former home town. Would it be an issue if my husband visits me in the evening during off-hours?” vs. “Hey boss, since this is really close to my home town and husband lives close by – I checked if dogs are Ok with the hotel and can pay for that. That way husband and dog can pop by after-hours. Oh by the way is that OK?”

        If the boss has concerns she can address the concerns and then it makes sense to bring up that you can pay for it, will be available off-hours, etc. Honestly because this person is new- that’s where the issue is. Had she been a proven high performer for years -the boss’ response would have been uncool.

        1. Fiennes*

          I don’t see the difference in those, except for detail. She hadn’t laid down any deposits or scheduled flights or anything like that. She had only checked to see whether it was feasible. Either way, he is clearly being asked before it happens and before concrete plans are made.

          1. Someone else*

            If she’d already made all the arrangements and then asktold, she puts the boss in the awkward position of needing to not simply say “no” but effectively tell her to cancel existing plans, which some people have a harder time doing than saying no before the plans were made. Vs actually asking up front, which requires only a “no, don’t do that” not a “no, and now undo that”.
            I get that in the actual letter it sounds like she hadn’t actually done anything and didn’t need to undo anything, but it was presented to the boss in such a way as to not make that clear. So from the boss’ perspective, she’s being presumptuous rather than inquiring. It’s the functional difference between “is it ok if I go ahead and do that?” and “that’s ok, right?” The former makes it very clear you want to but have not done the thing. The latter might mean same but might mean “I already did”.

  22. Indie*

    OP1, this is a great opportunity to see how aligned you and your boss are in terms of culture and practices. Like, how valuable to you is an evening of your own? It’s too soon to tell from the scant evidence how aligned you both are (you may be simply miscommunicating to each other the same goal). My own eyebrow would raise at his ‘not wanting to be rushed’ because I hate woolly timekeeping and deadlines from leaders because ‘you have nothing better to do anyway so let’s have a waffly meeting’. I’d rather give up an entire evening to something awesome and productive than have my time whittled away by inches of inefficiency. Of course he could just be talking about true flexibility… you’ll find out in due course.
    In the short term your response is a cheerful ‘of course boss!’. In the long term you’ll find out whether that’s something you’ll be able to keep saying cheerfully.
    Oh! As far as asking/telling your boss something..never do both, always pick ONE. Before you do make sure you know whether it’s your call or his.

  23. Wednesday of this week*

    OP#2: It seems really important whether this employee is exempt or non-exempt (straight hourly). If the latter, then asking her to arrive earlier than her start time would mean asking her to work unpaid. I.e., her paid time starts at 8 am but you’re expecting her to come in by 7:40.

    1. Yorick*

      Simply being in the office early enough to start working on time isn’t really work

      1. WillyNilly*

        The employee is early enough to work.

        OP2 mentions organizing case files and prepping an interview room – these are *work* duties, not personal tasks on the part of employees.

        And it seems to me these tasks could easily be done the day before so the employee can just come in and get right to her meeting.

      2. Marie*

        if there are things YOU need to do to be ready to work — have a chance to get coffee, say hi to coworkers, etc. — that’s not work, but if there are things your job *requires* that have to be done before you can start working — computer login, meeting room set up — those are work tasks and should be done only on work time. Otherwise, you’re asking employees to provide you with unpaid labor (assuming they’re non-exempt).

        It sounds like this is partially a workplace culture/expectation issue. But workplace culture should never replace or interfere with workplace compensation. If it’s something the workplace needs to have done, it’s something a worker should be paid to do. If it’s not worth paying somebody to do, then it doesn’t take priority over paid work. A workplace culture that requires unpaid labor of staff is the workplace culture of a failed business that can’t afford its own overhead.

        I may still be nursing a grudge from being a teenage server having my manager tell me to come in half an hour early for food prep but no, my schedule wasn’t going to be adjusted, which meant I wouldn’t be paid. “This is how you show initiative!” she told me. “This is how you get promoted!” “Why would I want to get promoted in a workplace that doesn’t pay me? I should want to quit a job that doesn’t pay me.” Of course, I was talking to somebody who bought the initiative logic, because they were being screwed out of pay constantly, too, much more egregiously than the servers sometimes, and had just accepted that was how jobs worked. That was the end of that job!

        1. Kate 2*

          Your boss is a jerk, and also breaking the law. Hourly employees *must* be paid for all time working, “prep” or not.

      3. essEss*

        However, the OP has acknowledged that the employee is there before their scheduled appointment and has no complaint about her work and has admitted that the meetings are not impacted therefore the employee is getting there early enough to “start working on time”. If the OP decides that the employee must get there earlier, the OP is making the earlier arrival time a requirement and so it must be paid (for an hourly employee).

        And if the OP wants the employee there earlier in order to set up the room and get the files in order before the meeting, those are definitely work activities and would be paid as work time.

      4. Kate 2*

        Nope, labor laws mean that if you tell your employee they have to be in the office at 7:45, you are *legally required* to pay them for that time. If not you will be in big trouble, could face fines and penalties. Requiring them to be ready to work at 8 AM on the dot is okay, but that is what Mary is doing already.

  24. McWhadden*

    It’s a quality I hate in myself but I do find myself sometimes thinking it’s unfair that parents get certain perks in my office (I can’t have a flex schedule but they can, here.) Even though I try to avoid that kind of negative thought process.

    But voicing complaints that a lactation room is unfair?!?!?! That’s beyond absurd. I’m sure it’ll be fine in practice but those people are just being jerks.

    Also for #3 that’s just the bargain you make when you decide that steady, regular work is preferable to an unstable higher paycheck through consulting. I’d take the steady paycheck any day. But lots of people see it differently.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It’s a quality I hate in myself but I do find myself sometimes thinking it’s unfair that parents get certain perks in my office (I can’t have a flex schedule but they can, here.)

      I actually find that pretty unfair.

      1. Tardigrade*

        Yeah, unless there’s something about the role that makes flextime impractical, it doesn’t make sense to limit that to parents only.

        What gets me about people complaining about the lactation room is that, in most cases, it’s not a permanent accommodation for an individual employee. Because, you know how dare a workplace accommodate the needs of its employees.

        1. Lara*

          Plus it’s a medical accommodation. As a child free person I had to google the consequences of pumping being delayed and they sound damn unpleasant/ dangerous.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        Me, too, and I’m a parent. Raising kids is one of the more common, restrictive, and long-lasting things that people have going on in their lives outside of work, but people have all sorts of reasons for wanting flexibility. Taking classes in the evening, dealing with medical issues, non-child family caregiving responsibilities, volunteer work, pets, religious activities at certain points in the week, etc. An employer shouldn’t care if you want to adjust your start time due to kid dropoff, an AA meeting (as an old boss of mine had on his calendar in the early mornings), a Bible study group, or because you prefer the early shift at the gym.

        If you give everyone the same flexibility you also avoid a lot of hassle around accommodations for specific needs. If I don’t need to specify the reason for my choice of schedule, I may not even need to disclose my medical condition or religious requirements, and other employees are going to be less likely to see accommodations as “unfair” or “special treatment”.

    2. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      I would call that unfair. Lots and lots of people are parents, if the company can allow them to flex without materially harming their business, they can allow everyone to flex.

    3. Robin Sparkles*

      I am a parent and that sounds unfair to me – people have lives not just parents! Don;t feel bad about that one.

    4. Quickbeam*

      At my company, parents have flex time, remote privileges as well as a wider range of start and stop times. Those of us without children have NONE of those. And this isn’t conjecture, I’ve asked up the chain of command. 3 people who sit near me are allowed to work early due to “family needs”; I have requested those same hours for 7 years and been turned down.

      I have a disability and am now pursuing the reasonable accommodation angle which should not be necessary. I should be allowed the same type of flexibility as parents. I am not. I am salaried and work 50-60 hours a week.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah… I’ve worked at a few places like that. It did really seem as though parents were allowed to take off early for Johnny and Suzies… whatever. And need I mention all the times parents stay home because the kids are sick! But if you were single, just TRY and ask to leave early for a concert or take a day off for something in your social life. You got all kinds of ration of shit.
        I understand demands of parenthood. But be fair to ALL employees.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Wow, this really is unfair. I wonder if the parents’ privileges later expire, kind of like child support? “Hey Bob, congrats on Susie’s high school graduation, and oh by the way, your flex and remote privileges end on her graduation day”. So bizarre for a workplace to have this as an explicit policy.

    5. Juli G.*

      That’s definitely unfair. Flexibility should be for all; lactation rooms should be for the lactating.

    6. MyBossSaidWhat*

      Yeah as a working mom, your boss is creating a divide between parents and non-parents (and potentially being very cruel to people struggling with infertility/pregnancy loss!) by only allowing flex for parents.

    7. Totally Minnie*

      I have 3 employees with kids under 18, and I do everything I can to make sure that they get the time they need to make their families function, while other employees can also have time off when they need it.

      I can’t exactly say, no you can’t have the day off when your toddler’s daycare is closed and you don’t have any other options for the day, but I try not to let that get in the way of other employees who have appointments and vacations to schedule. It’s a balancing act, but it can be done.

  25. Annie Moose*

    #2: as a perpetually cannot-get-there-at-8 person, I appreciate Alison’s answer here, excusing those of us who can’t manage 8 AM. :P I function much, MUCH better if I’m able to start at 9 instead of 8 (I’m just not awake yet at 8–my internal clock skews later), but unfortunately am now on a team where I have to be in by at least 8:30 every morning. Even after six months of being on this team, my body is still just Not Happy about it.

    1. Marie*

      I hear ya. I have an exempt flexible schedule job now, and as soon as I had the option to make my own schedule, I discovered my body clock is firmly set to “functional at 10 am and no sooner.” So many years of wasted work as I struggled to be awake and useful! I work a full eight hours from 10-6 or 11-7 now, instead of the 5-6 hours I was working when I had to be in at 7 and spend the first few hours of my day barely able to keep my eyes open, and spend at least one hour later in the day dealing with a caffeine headache.

    2. Kate 2*

      Good point. And we know now that “night owls” and “morning birds” are a real biological difference, thanks to research done by the medical community. It’s a fact that night owls are “set” by biology to wake and sleep at different times than morning birds are, and we can actually measure things like resting heart rate, among others, to tell morning birds and night owls apart. Sadly night owls tend to have worse health outcomes than morning birds, causality hasn’t been established yet, but it is almost certainly because they are forced to conform to a morning bird world. Who knows, maybe one day night owls will be able to get special medical accommodations that let them start later?

      Tried to put a link to one study in my name.

  26. WillyNilly*

    Nothing bugs me as much as the attitude ‘if you aren’t early, you are late’.
    If the job starts at 7:45, if an employee must be in 15 minutes prior to meetings, set that as the rule, and of course count those 15 minutes as official work time in the daily and weekly schedule.
    Otherwise recognize that perhaps you have bad time management that you need so much prep time for routine work responsibilities. I mean 15 meetings a week – seems to me the process should be streamlined to not need so much advance set up for each meeting; That’s almost 4 hours per employee spent just prepping a conference room and pulling client files!

    1. Jules the Third*

      +1 Little Jules’s band teacher is on my last nerve with that one – my kid’s in his seat with music / instrument out and ready five minutes before start time (or more!). I do not need to hear it again.

    2. Starbucks Girl*

      So true!

      In any case, it sounds like Mary is prepared for her meetings and the real issue here is the optics. I know that can be important in some offices, but honestly if the clients don’t care then neither should OP.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        What got me was the mention of Mary power-walking to the reception. As opposed to what? daintily sashaying to the reception as per the job requirements? Come on. She’s on time, everyone is satisfied with her work, and no one has ever complained.

    3. Dankar*

      Amen. Every time I read an article about “early is on time, on time is late, yadda yadda,” I roll my eyes. People who spout that sort of nonsense must never have worked an hourly job. If you want me at work 15 minutes before my start time, you should be paying me for that time.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Not work-related, but as someone who used to host large parties at my house, both for my young children and for the adult group of friends… Nope, early is not on time. On time is on time! Early is too early. If the event starts at 1:00 and you drop your kid off at my house at 12:30, I am not going to commend you for being above-and-beyond punctual!

    4. General Ginger*

      “If you want me to wear 37 pieces of flair, why don’t you make the minimum 37 pieces of flair?”

  27. EvanMax*

    Re: #4

    My wife (who currently pumps) and I work for the same firm, in the same office, on opposite sides of the floor. Around the time that my wife announced that she was pregnant, they installed a new quiet room on our floor, which just so happens to be right by my desk, so I happen to have an anecdotal perspective on who is using it, and when there are actually conflicts (I’m not watching to be a creep, I’m watching because I enjoy catching my wife in the hallway and waving at her.)

    The only time I actually ever seen conflict (some one goes so far as to knock on the door) between users of the room is when it is being used for pumping. That’s not a knock against pumping in any regard, I just want to be clear that other uses (naps, medical, etc.) aren’t getting in the way of nursing mothers. There is a reservable schedule for the room, which is maintained by the same facilities people who handle conference rooms, etc., and this schedule is respected by everyone who is not pumping. Personally, I had to use the room myself for the first time a couple of weeks ago when I had to administer anti-biotic eyedrops. It was a good thing to have that room, as all of the conference rooms and focus rooms and private phone call rooms on our floor have big glass doors, and it’s nice to have a private space to take care of something medical that I don’t want everyone watching.

    I understand the fears around pumping mothers having their room taken away from them through attrition (I may not pump, but I have a wife who pumps and a daughter who relies on that fact in order to eat.) What I see, though, is pumping women taking away time from each other, bleeding in to each other’s reserved time and interrupting each other’s sessions in order to collect their milk from the mini-fridge, etc., while everyone else respectfully uses the room around them.

    That’s purely anecdotal, and it may just be that the corporate culture here has an unusually high respect for women and/or mothers, but it’s what I observe from sitting twenty feet from the quiet/lactation room.

    1. Jules the Third*

      I think there’s some key differences:
      1) It was installed as a ‘quiet room’, not as a lactation room that others thought was an ‘unfair’ perk. That’s a scary difference in attitude.
      2) You’ve got a reservable schedule. The fact that OP’s room doesn’t is a huge red flag.

      1. EvanMax*

        1) is a distinction without a difference. It si a “quiet room” with a recliner, a table, a minifridge, and supplies for cleaning up spills. The resason to not call it a lactation room, i imagine, has more to do with the fat that it calls out to everyone in the office what pumping mothers are heading in there to do,m rather than allowing them their own agency in choosing whether or not to broadcast their actions, or keep them to themselves if they prefer. Honestly, calling it a lactation room and limiting it to lactation only would be a discriminatory act, because there are other equally valid (medically, legally, and morally) needs for a small quiet room

        2) Agreed, this is my point. The office from the letter needs a formal reservation process in place, not just “gentlewoman’s agreements” between nursing mothers, or a general “vibe” of nursing mothers getting priority over non-pumping usage. One of the “more manageable” aspects of pumping is that it synergies with scheduling, and doing so can even help to increase supply when there are issues. Asking for a formal quiet room schedule to be developed (and have it managed by whoever manages the conference room schedules) is a great solution for this letter. Even if that means that Joe in Accounts also has a 15 minute nap scheduled every day right after lunch, so long as that isn’t fifteen minutes when either of the nursing mothers needed to be in there, it doesn’t really matter who is in there when they aren’t.

        One of the real big differences with my office is that, while we have a completely open floor plan, we aren’t without semi-private spaces. We have two telephone rooms, which are completely visible to the rest of the floor with giant glass doors, but other people can’t hear your telephone call out on the floor, so you have audio privacy, just not visual privacy. We also have some smaller “focus rooms” in addition to our large conference rooms, so again, not somewhere that you can hide if you’re doing something that you’re not supposed to be doing, but a Muslim employee who sits a few rows from me regularly brings his prayer rug over to the focus room behind me, which has a nice big window facing east. Praying in there is much more comfortable than the quiet room, I’m sure, and it’s not like he has to hide the fact that he is praying, so the glass doors don’t matter so much.

        So I realize, I’m working in a place that is better than most in many of these regards, which is why I’m pointing out that, in the place that is better than most, the room for pumping is still the “everybody has access” quiet room, except there is a lock on the door (that displays vacancy status from the outside, so you never need to knock just to find out.) and women who are pumping are able to block out their times on a reservable schedule, to protect their usage of the room (but if one of the IT guys, who was up all night working on servers, needs to take a fifteen minute cat nap between meetings, he can do that too when the room is free, because why shouldn’t he be able to?)

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          “The resason to not call it a lactation room, i imagine, has more to do with the fat that it calls out to everyone in the office what pumping mothers are heading in there to do,m rather than allowing them their own agency in choosing whether or not to broadcast their actions, or keep them to themselves if they prefer.”

          I like this. While many women are quite open about their breastfeeding choices, some would probably prefer to fly under the radar – even if most people “know” what’s really going on when they make twice daily trips to the room.

          1. EvanMax*

            I worked as a temp moving and repackaging files for a firm that I won’t name, but I don’t think anyone would be surprised to find them on the wrong side of a social issue. This was at a satellite office about a mile away, give or take, from global headquarters.

            The “lactation room” was a windowless office that they had been stacking old falling-apart boxes of files in. for the first part of my tenure there I was moving boxes out of that office (and in to a warehouse space that they were demolishing while I was working in it. Some clear OSHA violations going on, but I needed the temp work. Anyway…)

            There was one mother that used the room to pump, and she was a smaller timid person, whereas I’m a hulking giant of a person, who would just be all up in that space when she needed it. I really felt bad for her.

            Basically, my own personal rule was to never ever knock on that door. If the door was closed, or even just mostly closed, I assumed she was in there and respected her privacy, and found something else to occupy myself with. Any time she walked in on me moving around boxes in there and apologized I’d would tell her there was no need to apologize and run away as fast as I could. I can’t imagine how terrible that would have been for both of us if I had accidentally walked in on her instead, but thankfully no one ever gave me a hard time about the speed I emptied that room at, so there was never any need for me to go in there when I wasn’t 100% sure that the door was already open.

            I can’t imagine how terrible that was for her. I hope that by keeping as far out of her business as I could I was able to help in some small way.

            1. Observer*

              Thank you for being so considerate. This company was clearly doing a LOT of illegal things.

  28. Emi.*

    Ahh, I can’t wait to go back to work after my baby is born so that I can screw my coworkers over by relaxing in the spa-like lactation room, hooked up to a noisy machine and rubbing my hands together in glee that I have a whole 40 square feet dedicated to my own personal happiness,

    said no mother ever.

    1. Friday*

      This whole thread has made me unexpectedly happy that my current pumping room is a tiny room with a dirty floor that you have to go through the women’s bathrooms to get to. Nobody wants to chill there!

  29. BadWolf*

    On #4 — Here’s hoping on the other coworkers just want to have the theoretical right to use the room, but no one (or only a respectful few) will actually use it.

    1. Lara*

      I think it’s fine for other co-workers to use the room, but it needs a clear reservation system and a strong policy that lactating mothers take priority. It’s fine for Greg to use it for his eye drops, or Sally for her sensory processing issues, if they both understand they need to get the hell out when Jane turns up with her pump. Because Jane’s needs are medically more important.

      1. Genny*

        I would stay far, far away from any language that makes it sound like one medical need is more important than any other medical need. I get what you’re trying to say: companies are legally required to provided a certain type of accommodation to nursing mothers (room with a locking door) whereas the accommodations for other medical needs are more up to the company’s discretion/individual employees’ needs. That doesn’t mean pumping is more important than someone’s insulin shots or eye-drops.

        1. Lara*

          I totally understand but my point was that medical needs trump wants. Drops were a bad example; I had meant to use the example of meditation. And the thing about something like eye drops is that they are very portable and don’t *require* privacy in the same way that breast pumping does.

          And I’m sorry but of course there is a hierarchy of medical needs. It is extremely rare that delaying eye drops will cause infection (like delaying pumping can) or be life threatening (like delaying insulin injection).

          1. Genny*

            No company wants to be in the business of determining who’s medical need is more important than someone else’s medical need. No HR person wants to have to decide whether Jane’s insulin shot is more important than Wakeen’s need for silence and darkness because he’s getting a migraine and his medication hasn’t kicked in yet.

            Lots of people have medical needs. Some can be satisfactorily accommodated in multiple ways, while others can’t. It would be fine for a business to decide that Susan’s need to pump overrides John’s need to have a place to decompress before he overstimulates himself (because they are legally mandated to provide that space to Susan and could accommodate John in other ways, because she needs access to electricity and some privacy, etc.), but that doesn’t mean her medical need is more important.

            1. Lara*

              But as you say, it does take priority, in terms of scheduling access to the room, which is what I was focused on.

  30. ErinW*

    In grad school, I interned with a really nice guy who said he would do whatever he could to help me get work after graduation. For awhile he was sending me listings whenever he saw them. For the last few years I’ve been doing interim work (i.e. “pay the bills” work while I try to find something in my field) but every time I go on a job-application spree (every six months or so) I email him and say I’m applying again. He always says, “no problem, just update me on what you’ve been doing.” I generally send him an updated CV too. We’re not real-life friends (or even Facebook friends) and we don’t need to be; he’s got all the information he needs about me to be a professional reference.

  31. Been a Worker Like That*

    With regard to letter 2, I think I have been this worker, especially early in my career, i.e., not showing up late, but definitely not early, either. In my case, I was low-paid, even as a professional with a master’s degree, and, perhaps even more significantly, the (social services) agency treated employees like crap. “Guilty until proven innocent” was the prevailing mentality, not to mention that the population we served was very tough, with not that many successes, and few days that felt rewarding.

    So I agree that there could be logistical reasons why this worker needs to rush in at 7:58, but I’d encourage you to also look at morale issues in your workplace. Because even as a low-paid worker with a tough clientele, if the agency had made me feel valued and respected, it might have motivated me to come in a few minutes early.

    1. HannahS*

      Yeah, personally, I always arrived at my last job about three minutes before I started–it was an hourly part time job that paid just above minimum wage, and my boss expected me to arrive fifteen minutes early and leave fifteen minutes late to prep and finish putting notes in files. Given how short my shifts were, it would have added up to an extra full shift of work a week! So, I’d stride in, grab my work stuff from the communal shelf, take off my coat, sit down, and begin my work exactly on the hour. My boss wanted me there earlier so that the parents of the children I worked with wouldn’t see me striding in after their children had already arrived. I understood where she was coming from, but I work for money, so if you want me to work an extra half-hour per three hour shift, you have to pay me.

      Obviously that’s not the case in this letter, because this is a full-time position that I assume is salaried. If she seems rushed or disorganized, or if she’s wasting the first few minutes of the appointment reviewing the file, then yeah, it’s fair to explain that she’s expected to prepare–but that could take place at the end of the previous workday, if she can’t/doesn’t want to do it in the morning. But if the only thing is “it doesn’t look nice” then I think it needs to be let go of.

  32. Not So Super-visor*

    LW#3 reminds me of one of the younger members of our dept. He wants something every time he is asked to do extra work. Have to work an hour of OT? He wants an extra 15 minute paid break on top. I agree with Allison though. We don’t outsource work that we can handle here at the office even if it’s slightly outside of your normal scope of work. That’s typically how businesses function.

    1. Kate 2*

      To be fair, if he is hourly you may be legally required to give him those things. For example in one state I worked in, hourly employees had to be given a 30 minute lunch if they worked 6 hours or more.

      In practice this resulted in employers working us for 5 hours and 55 minutes, then demanding that we run – actually RUN – off the work floor to the time clock, so they wouldn’t get penalized by the state for denying us lunch.

      Of course that place was unusually decent. Other places I worked, and my coworkers who worked two jobs, they would threaten to cut your shifts or fire you if you didn’t work extra for free.

      1. DArcy*

        Oregon, for example, is *extremely* strict about legally mandated breaks. Legacy Emanuel Medical Center just got hit with a $277,000 fine for failure to properly give employees breaks, and they got off lightly considering that BOLI found over 4,400 break violations and is empowered to levy fines of up to $1000 per individual violation.

  33. Starbucks Girl*

    OP5: When getting in touch with my references after a while without contact (btw, a year or more is completely normal!), I will also provide them with an updated CV/resume and sometimes even a cover letter. That way they know the details about what I have been up to since we last talked as well as how my interests and skills align with the type of position that I am applying for. Even if your resume hasn’t changed that much, they will still appreciate having some context. Good luck!

    1. TootsNYC*

      Also: If you have applied for a job and think your references might be called, give me a head’s-up about the questions the interviewer asked, how you felt you did, etc.

      If you felt there was a weak spot in your answers, I might have some concrete examples of your work to talk about that might shore you up.

      And I like to know about the job you’re applying for, because I can often find something in your experience that is particularly applicable–at least, when *I* get done with it!

  34. Brett*

    LW #3:
    The comment about “Even if it’s on the clock?” bothered me.
    Is the OP doing some or all of these projects off the clock in additional to their normal work hours, as an hourly employee? (In other words, not just without extra pay, but without any pay?)

    1. JamieS*

      I doubt it. I think what they were getting at is asking if they should ask for additional money on top even if they’re already being paid for the time spent working on the project.

      As an aside, I’m curious if OP meant it takes the contractor 100 hours to do what OP can do in 1 hour or meant the company charges $100/hr not $10.

  35. Quickbeam*

    #4 My company has a lovely lactation room with dimming lights, a lounge chair, refrigerator and a locking door. In 10 years it has been used once for breast milk expressing by a visitor. We met as a staff and now it is used as a quiet room for whatever anyone wants to do. I use it for a yoga practice as our gym always has screaming loud music.

    We all understand we’d yield in a heartbeat to a lactating mom. However we are space compressed and it makes no sense to have a nicely tricked out room that’s off limits to everyone who works here day to day. I don’t think this is a bad policy at all.

    1. CM*

      In your case, where nobody actually needs the room, that sounds fine — but if every day, I had to tell somebody to immediately stop their yoga practice, or wake them up from their nap, or otherwise have to kick them out, that would be too much friction for me to deal with. I would consider it a choice between giving up breastfeeding or quitting that job. If I were allowed to reserve the room for specific times and people respected that, it would be fine.

  36. Kegull*

    OP1, the first thing that crossed my mind was if your boss was a man and if he might be interested in you. Something about the way you described the reaction to your request made me think he’d rather you be alone… I didn’t see anyone else say that so maybe I’m way off base.

    1. Mallory*

      i think that’s kind of a bizarre reaction! there’s nothing in the letter that sticks out to me as insinuating that her boss- just because he is “a man”, would be interested in the OP….where are you getting that?

    2. DArcy*

      I don’t think it’s off base — it’s deeply creepy for a boss to object so aggressively to a married worker spending off duty time with their spouse.

      1. Alice Sometimes*

        I genuinely didn’t get that at all. I don’t think the boss was aggressive or creepy, based on the OP’s own description. Saying that you don’t want to feel rushed through the day and that the person should ask first next time is not weird or sexual. It’s professional, and probably based on the boss knowing that the day can be unpredictable. I could easily see any manager, regardless of gender, saying that sort of thing to any member of their staff.

  37. WorkingMomsUnite*

    What if Mary is a working mom who physically is unable to get to work 15-minutes before an 8:30am meeting? She’s still making her meeting on time (I would consider 2-minutes late still acceptable, as long as it is not consistent) and doing her work well. Leave Mary alone!

    FWIW, I’m a working mom with 2 kids. I have to wake my kids up at 6:25am to leave the house at 6:45am to drop each kid at 2 different places, then walk to my train, get on my train for 50+ minutes, then walk to work. I get to work at 8:30am. I physically cannot get to work any earlier than this because day care only opens at 7am and the trains run on a schedule. Maybe Mary has a similar scenario.

    1. linds*

      As a fellow working mom, I admire your abilities to get your kids ready in 20 minutes

    2. Temperance*

      I honestly don’t care if Mary has children or not. She’s on time, and that’s what matters.

  38. Gigglewater*

    ^this made me chuckle. I hope PCBH prints a FAQ sheet for the room
    Q: Can I use this room for uninterrupted naps and not cede it to the lactating women in the office?
    A: NAH FAM.

  39. MissDisplaced*

    I don’t know #1, but I sort of feel like you are just so new to this job, it might not be better to push back on this.
    I know you think it would be great to see your husband and dog, and normally that shouldn’t be a problem, but depending of what you’re on that trip for, it just doesn’t seem worth it right now and I can sort of see the employer POV on wanting you to concentrate on work/work trip.
    It would be different if you’d been there a few months most likely.

  40. Former Employee*

    There are 80+ employees at the company and only 2 women who need the room to pump. Each woman is using the room twice day, 30 minutes each time, so the room is being used for about 2 hours a day. Assuming an 8 hour work day, that means the space is not being used 75% of the time.

    Why shouldn’t it be available for others to use to lie down because they have a headache or their sinuses are driving them crazy? Maybe there are employees with chronic medical conditions who could use a break now and then. And what about women who are still pregnant (not yet pumping) who need to put their feet up for awhile or give their aching backs a rest?

    If some of the employees aren’t grown up enough to handle this is a reasonable manner, then I think their manager(s) should be reconsidering what they are doing employing them at all!

  41. The OG Anonsie*

    #2 – I am INTENSELY not a morning person, but I used to have to meet patients starting at 5:30am when I worked in a surgical specialty. I wasn’t in patient care, I was meeting them with paperwork related to research participation and checking in with them briefly while they waited to be taken back to the OR. Your first morning patient would always be at a different time, which meant my coworkers and I had no set schedules and would always be showing up at variable times based on when we needed to be there. I always prepped 100% of everything I needed the afternoon before these early cases so I didn’t have to come in any earlier than necessary, I could just grab my pre-prepped materials and go. I often read case notes the night before, too, and when I rode the bus I would scan through my schedule and upcoming patients on my way in to work as well.

    Some of my coworkers did find it weird that I didn’t show up and do all my prep in the morning, which is what most people did, and a couple nosier people acted like I was somehow not ready or likely to flake and not meet the patient at all. Which, to be clear, never ever happened. To me, prepping ahead of time meant I never had any last-minute morning scrambles because the printer was out of toner or the supply inventory was low, which happened to other people with relative frequency and is not a stress I like in pre-dawn hours. There wouldn’t be any hiccups because everything was already arranged, and as a bonus it meant I didn’t have to arrive at work even earlier, which was great.

    In my mind I was mega prepared, whereas some of the folks observing me took my “last minute” (is it really last minute if you did it earlier than everyone else?) approach as an inherent sign of unreliability and incompetence. That persisted even after I showed them how I prepped everything in advance, so it wasn’t like they didn’t know, they just didn’t like it. Sometimes this one particularly snippy person would make comments when I came in about me not being ready for my patients, and every time I would pull out and show them my pre-prepared kit to zero reaction from them. I didn’t get it. I can only guess it’s part of the overall way people are judgy about folks who don’t like getting up early, as if us working the same hours but shifted downward is somehow a sign that we’re irresponsible.

  42. Mallory*

    OP #1, assuming said boss is not coming on the business trip…i would have asked for forgiveness and not permission on this one. you put your work in, you go kick ass, and then you come back to your husband and pup. what boss doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

  43. ZucchiniBikini*

    OP#1, I am a freelancer (in Australia) and I’ve been working with a major client in another city for 6 months now. This has involved 3 business trips to meet with them to date (I mostly work remotely from my home city, but go to them for 3-day stretches as needed).

    I’ll be doing my fourth trip to them at the end of this month, and my fifth falls in July, when my kids will be on winter school break (it’s Australia, so reverse seasons!) I need to go for a 3-day, 2-night trip at that time. My partner will be overseas for the whole month of July. So I’m intending to bring my two elder ones along with me for the trip (my youngest will be off to her grandparents, but the elder two are not as keen on that), and will shortly be advising my client of this.

    The reasons I think I can do this are:
    – I have been conspicuously professional and diligent, and have built up trust in my commitment to doing the work over an extended time.
    – Obviously, I will be paying the extra accommodation and flight costs myself.
    – My elder kids are teens (one mid-teens, one a younger teen), and are perfectly capable of self-supervising and sticking together during the day. They will not come to the client site with me, but will explore the city and surrounds together, staying in touch with me via text. In the evenings, we will do specific things of interest together, and we will stay on an extra day after the business ends to go to an exhibition and concert they want to see.
    – My experience of previous business trips to this client assures me that evening commitments are not part of the deal (usually I am back in the hotel room eating takeout and watching Netflix by 6pm at the latest, and not required again until 9 or 9:30 the next day).

    In summary – I think bringing family along on business trips can definitely work, but I think it is maybe premature to do it so early in your employment, before you’ve had a chance to build trust and to check out the expectations for evening commitments and so forth.

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