boss invited our whole office on a 10-day cruise, I had a disturbing dream about an employee, and more

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

1. My boss invited our whole office on a 10-day cruise at his expense

I’m seven months into my first adult job after college. I work for a university doing outreach for the VP and AVP of university advancement.

On Monday, our VP (my boss’s boss) called us all into a meeting. He said he needed to “get the ladies’ opinion” on his gift for his wife’s birthday. He then loaded up a PowerPoint presentation (we were all chuckling at this point) in which he shared all about the 10-day cruise to Mexico he had planned for her. In the end, he told us all that he and his wife had discussed it, and that they’d decided they would love to invite the office along with them. This includes my two bosses and four (including me) administrative staff. We have until next Monday to make a decision. VP is going to pay out of pocket for all of us, but if we want to bring our spouses we need to pay $1,000.

I’m in shock. I don’t want to commit career suicide by saying no (especially because I’m hoping to move up here eventually). But it’s tough to consider paying that money for a vacation I didn’t plan when I should really be paying off my car or saving for a down payment on a home. Not to mention it will use up every hour of vacation time I’ve saved and then some — and I can’t afford unpaid time off! I don’t want to go without my fiance either, because I know all the other ladies will be bringing their husbands and I’m already by far the youngest employee. I also would hate to make him feel like I don’t appreciate such a generous invitation. On the flip side, I’m concerned about the professional boundaries of going on a 10-day vacation with all three of my bosses. I shared some of my concerns, about money and vacation time, and VP said that he would “gift” me his extra vacation time and not to worry about the money and we could work something out. This is vague and makes me kind of uncomfortable.

Is this normal?? What do I do?? Can I tactfully say “no thank you” without it offending him? Or should I start saving? VP is an incredibly kind, hard-working, and generous man but I’m so early in my career, my fiance and I both are still paying off our debts from school, and this is tough to think about doing because it certainly means putting off any personal plans we had for the winter.

This is not normal. It is very, very unusual. (And that’s saying nothing of the idea of inviting all your employees on your spouse’s birthday cruise. I would be consulting a divorce lawyer if I were his wife, but apparently she’s enthused?)

Normally I’d say to explain you can’t afford it or need to save your vacation days for something else, but you’ve tried that and it sounds like he’s finding ways to negate both of those. You’re going to have to use a reason that he can’t offer to “fix.” I’d say that it’s a very generous offer and you really appreciate it, but you’ve realized you have an unbreakable commitment during the dates of the cruise, like a big family event that you’d never be forgiven for missing. (Make sure the dates are locked in before you say this; otherwise there’s a risk that he’ll try to find other dates.) Alternately you could say that there’s no way your fiance can get the time off work and you wouldn’t want to go without him, but that opens up the door to him pressuring you to go on your own.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. Should I take another promotion without a raise?

I have been working at a small nonprofit (~150 employees) for the past four years. About two years in, I was promoted to a manager position, which gave me a new job title, but did not come with a salary increase. Since then, my company has not given annual raises, but has instead given end-of-the-year stipends as a bonus, so my salary is still – 4 years later – at the coordinator level.

My boss turned 65 this year and will be retiring soon. I have previously been told by upper management that I am part of the succession plan: when my boss retires (who is at the director level), I am slated to get her job. I am worried that there will be no pay raise again when they offer me this new position, as we were informed that managers will not be getting raises this year.

When I was promoted to the manager level I did get new benefits: namely, more paid time off. When I move up to the director level, the benefits are the same but the responsibilities increase exponentially. I am a high performer and am regularly chosen to do special projects by the CEO. My annual performance reviews are consistently outstanding.

Do I take the promotion (and the title) with no raise? I love my job, but I am starting to feel like they are taking advantage of me.

They are taking advantage of you. It’s one thing to temporarily freeze salaries; that’s sometimes a thing that happens. But having your salary frozen within the pay range for the job you’re doing is different than being hired into a new job and still paid in the salary range for the older, lower position.

Think of it this way: If they hired an outside candidate rather than promoting you, they’d have to pay a reasonable market rate for the position, right? They couldn’t say to this outside candidate, “Oh, we have a salary freeze so we’re going to pay you a coordinator’s salary for a manager’s job.” That would be ridiculous, right? But they’ve already done that to you once. Do not let them do it a second time.

3. Should I tell an employee I had a dream predicting his death?

I know this is a bizarre question. I just woke up from an incredibly vivid dream in which a fortune teller told me that one of my favorite/best employees was going to die on September 25, 2024. I’m not sure I even believe in psychic dreams, but it felt so vivid and certain that, were this just a friend or someone I worked closely with, I would tell them about my dream. But when I consider telling my employee about it, I just kind of imagine the letter that they could write you from their perspective: “Dear Alison, did my boss just low-key threaten my life?”

I shouldn’t tell my employee, right? I do actually kind of want to warn him.

PS: I promise to update on September 26, 2024 and let you know what’s up.

Do not tell your employee. I’m not sure you should tell anyone if you have this kind of dream about them, but definitely not in a business relationship.

There are really only three outcomes here: (1) He thinks it’s bizarre that you decided to relay this to him and now doubts your judgment more broadly. This is highly likely. (2) He’s unsettled but can’t do anything about it since if it’s a real prophecy, he can’t avoid it, right? (At least that was the lesson I learned from Sleeping Beauty and the spinning wheel.) (3) He thinks it’s silly, but is mildly bothered by having it in his head anyway and is annoyed you felt you needed to share this with him.

None of those outcomes are good. There’s nothing actionable here for anyone. Shake off the dream and move on!

4. Do you need to write a cover letter when contacting a recruiter?

I’m currently looking for work for the first time in 10 years, and I’ve found that a lot of the jobs I’m interested in are posted online by recruiters. In most cases the job posting says something like, “To apply for this position email your resume to [recruiter name] at [email].”

In these cases, should I still send a cover letter along with my resume, even though I’ve not been asked for one? I’ve read advice before that said to always send a cover letter with your resume if possible.

In general, you should always send a cover letter even if it’s not specifically requested, because a good cover letter can bump your application up. (Note that’s only true if it’s a good cover letter. If it just summarizes your resume, which is what 90% of them do, it doesn’t add much.) That said, it’s definitely true that, on average, recruiters tend to care about cover letters less than hiring managers. But that’s on average; there’s individual variation on both sides. And since you don’t know specifically who you’re dealing with, it makes sense to include a cover letter if you want the best shot at the job.

{ 753 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A request: Please make a point of keeping your comments on this post and others on-topic. The off-topic comments have gotten out of control lately, and I’m asking for everyone’s help in stopping that.

    1. Minnesota*

      Thank you for this. The recent trend toward off-topic comments have made me less likely to read the blog, and even when I do read I tend to not even look at the comments. Which is a shame, since they used to be a rich source for me.

  2. Mike C.*

    Here’s another reason not to talk about the dream: if you say anything and heaven forbid something happens, you become the primary suspect in a very bad episode of Forensic Files.

    1. Cristina in England (visiting Scotland)*

      One of Alison’s weekly book recommendations was The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin, about four siblings who go to a fortune teller and learn the dates of their deaths. Then the rest of the book is about the torment that information causes. Don’t tell him.

      1. SDSmith82*

        I had a dream about 3 months ago about the person who sat next to me in the office. It was a dream that his supervisor (who at that point he was on good terms with) decided to search through his desk maliciously for no reason other than he wasn’t at the office and she felt like being nosy. In the dream there were specifics that made no sense, like us both being out of the office, what she did with the papers, and where some items were moved.

        I told him about it, because it was so vivid and oddly specific that I could not ignore it. About three weeks later, I had a planned friday off, and he had a random sick day. I kid you not, the dream happened- down to the last detail of where his little donkey statue had been moved. Turns out, my dream was a warning to him, and he found out that she’s been trying to throw him under a bus to save her job, without any of us knowing.

        I’m still freaked out about it.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Wow, what happened next? How did he find out what she was really doing? Did he know from the statue being moved, or did someone see her?
          Only if you feel up to it, of course! :)

        2. grey*

          I’ve had a couple of dreams – one was that a coworker committed suicide. It freaked me out so badly that I reached out to said coworker and hung out with her specifically because I wondered if she was feeling alone. Thankfully she’s still fine (this was about 5 years ago), but it did make me wonder (she’s an odd person so doesn’t make friends easily).

        3. Kelsi*

          See, now that’s an actionable dream!

          Telling someone they’re going to die on a certain date–even if you’re correct–isn’t anything that helps them! It just stresses them out.

      2. BetsCounts*

        that book was SUCH a BUMMER I was crying most of the time I read it. Incredibly well written and moving but WOW.

      3. EvilQueenRegina*

        When I was in Year 8 at high school (age 12-13, for those of you not in England), my friends and I were going to go to the fair when it was in town. One day Willow said to Cordelia that she had dreamed that Cordelia fell off the ferris wheel and died. Buffy’s jaw immediately dropped and she said her kid sister Dawn had the same dream. It freaked Cordelia out enough that she made a big point of avoiding the Ferris wheel on the night.

        I don’t know whether she avoided it in future years, or whether if Cordelia was told the same thing now at age 36, it would bother her in the same way it did at 13.

        But yeah, while some people would laugh it off, and some would question the judgement, some might actually take it seriously. I wouldn’t mention it.

    2. Dame Judi Brunch*

      Yeah, never mention this dream at all.
      I caution sharing any dreams at all. I had a dream where a coworker got engaged, told her, and that very night her boyfriend unexpectedly proposed. That was a good dream, but I was worried she felt I ruined the surprise for her or something. (I didn’t know her boyfriend so I had zero idea, so me ruining it was illogical, but anxiety isn’t known for logic.)
      Sharing wasn’t worth the anxiety, even though it was a good outcome for us. Your situation has zero possibility of a good outcome.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        Maybe it gave her time to get used to the idea and understand how she wanted to respond. :)

        1. Dame Judi Brunch*

          That could be! She came in the next day, all smiles, walked right up to me and showed off her ring. It was a great!

    3. Cassandra*

      There’s also nothing actionable in this prophetic dream. If the fortune teller had given you any details you could try to help your employee cheat death by avoiding those things (although cruel twists of fate are a staple of this genre). But with no details to go on, telling them just seems mean.

      1. Nita*

        Good point! I think these dreams are often just weird interpretations of your subconscious, which may be picking up on some danger to the employee, or may be digesting a recent book or TV show with a similar plot. But if I were in the OP’s position, I’d consider saying nothing now, but staying in touch with this employee… maybe in six years it will be more obvious if they need a heads up about something.

        1. LovecraftInDC*

          Yeah, if they put ‘Booked my skydiving trip last week of September!’ on their Facebook in August 2024, maybe drop a line.

    4. RJ the Newbie*

      I actually had a co-worker who shared a dream with my entire department several years ago. The dream involved her and and intimate encounter with our manager. The two of them thought it was a funny joke, but the rest of us were really weirded out by it. My advise is do NOT share. Spare others the mental imagery.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        That sounds awful. I’ve had an explicit dream involving a colleague I did not find even a little appealing. It was uncomfortable for at least a week and, of course, I wasn’t about to tell anyone why. I don’t think anyone noticed that anything was up.

        1. samiratou*

          I have had this happen, too, and it thoroughly weirded me out every time. I can’t imagine ever telling anyone!

        2. Sarcastic Fringehead*

          During my divorce, I dreamed that I was married to my least favorite coworker. It made sense in that I had obviously been having a lot of negative feelings about marriage, so I guess my subconscious decided to construct the most unpleasant marriage scenario it could, but I did not appreciate it.

          1. Khlovia*

            Any chance your least favorite coworker had any personality traits in common with your least favorite husband at the time?

        3. Rebecca in Dallas*

          Ugh, I’ve had the same thing happen and it is SO AWKWARD! At least in my head it’s awkward, I would definitely never tell anyone. At least not anyone at work!

      2. Dragoning*

        Yeah, this is also likely to take on undertones of “Why are you thinking about your employee so much outside of work that you’re having dreams about them?”

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Sex dreams about coworkers are the worst and you should never ever tell anyone about them.

        1. RainbowGrunge*

          Here, here. And if you are a manager…do not ever tell one of your reports you had a sex dream about her…

          Superrrrrr awkward.

        2. afiendishthingy*

          I’m not sure you should tell ANYONE you had a sex dream about them unless it’s your real life sex partner.

          1. AKchic*

            I dunno… unless it was not real sex, and like completely G-rated cartoon-style made-for-tv or comedy gold stuff…
            Some of my pregnancy dreams weren’t actually sex dreams, but had sexual themes, and they were hilarious. Granted, the majority of my pregnancy dreams seemed like shades of drug-fueled hallucinations (I at one point dreamt my MIL was Betty White and her butler was a Maine Coon complete with little suit).

            1. Zeitbombe*

              >I at one point dreamt my MIL was Betty White and her butler was a Maine Coon complete with little suit

              Petition to get this show made.

            2. Annoyed*

              I have a Maine Coon and now I’m picturing her dressed as a butler. LOL She doesn’t look happy.

        3. Aaron*

          Absolutely. I had one once, cast as a rather disturbingly hilarious episode of Friends, and it caused all kinds of trouble.

    5. gladfe*

      If I were the employee, I’d worry about how it was going to affect my boss’s decisions for my career. How close to the deadline would we get before the boss started thinking it wasn’t worth promoting me or investing in professional development? If I left, would it affect the reference the boss would give me?

      1. Boop*

        “Steve is a great employee and normally I’d have no problem recommending him for any job, but he is going to die in two years so I’m worried it might not be worth the investment to train him…”


        1. AKchic*

          “Steve does not appear invested in his overall future as he is not taking great pains to avoid the death I foresaw in a dream on X date and warned him about. He does not pay mind to the warning signs or take heed to the red flags.”

          I think that if a supervisor told me they had a prophetic dream or a death omen about me, I would avoid asking for a reference from them.
          In fact… I *have* avoided asking certain-leaning coworkers and supervisors from being references for similar behaviors (Alaska is weird).

  3. Ginger ale for all*

    There are some dreams people like to hear about, like a dream to one day to own your own ice cream store, MLK’s dreams for the future, Stevie Nick’s crystal visions that she keeps for herself, etc., but it is incredibly rare when someone wants to hear about the dreams you had while you were sleeping.

    1. I Herd the Cats*

      There’s also a tangential 3-question rule I heard years ago that I find applies wonderfully in daily life: does this need to be said? Does it need to be said now? Does it need to be said by me? Remembering those questions before speaking has kept me out of all sorts of trouble.

    2. Antilles*

      it is incredibly rare when someone wants to hear about the dreams you had while you were sleeping.
      I think this is because people’s dreams often tend to be MUCH less interesting for others to hear about than they would seem. To you, last night’s dream was vivid and interesting and felt so real and visceral…to everybody else, it’s like “oh so you dreamed about surviving a plane crash, whatever”.

      1. Dragoning*

        Well, it’s also that the dreamer rarely remembers as many details as it feels like they did, so the conversation is always riddled with “And—I don’t really know what happened, but then suddenly we were in the Caribbean!”

        This is not a conversation a coworker will want to hear. They will feel trapped in the conversation–especially if it’s their boss!

        If my boss comes up to me and starts telling me about his dream last night, I’ve know written off the next half hour of productivity and also kind of want to jump out the nearest window to escape.

        1. mrs__peel*

          My grandfather had a phenomenal memory for every tiny detail of his dreams, which did sadly *not* make his lengthy recounting of them more interesting to us….

      2. grey*

        I’m a *very* vivid dreamer and sometimes I’ll share the dreams in a Facebook post. But its always the funny ones to give people laughs and generally I will get lots of laughing/wow type comments.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      As conversational fodder in real life, dreams one had while sleeping are almost always a bad idea. (Since you are not in a fictional story, so the dreams are not going to be revealed as important yet impotent dramatic foreshadowing in another 200 pages.)

      To the dreamer, the stories feel oddly real, similar to telling someone about a vacation one had here in meat space. For any nondreamers, it’s like wandering into a weird free association therapy session that should have stayed between speaker and their therapist, where no they don’t want to speculate about what it MEANS that Joe from Accounting was in your mom’s house in your dream. And he was eating chicken.

      1. CultKid*

        “To the dreamer, the stories feel oddly real, similar to telling someone about a vacation one had here in meat space. For any nondreamers, it’s like wandering into a weird free association therapy session that should have stayed between speaker and their therapist, where no they don’t want to speculate about what it MEANS that Joe from Accounting was in your mom’s house in your dream. And he was eating chicken.”

        Lol and so perfect.

      2. Jaydee*

        That description of dreams is so perfect! I do have a few friends who would probably enjoy discussing a dream about Joe from accounting being in the dreamer’s mom’s kitchen eating chicken. But it wouldn’t be a full discussion of the meaning of the dream. Just the randomness. I assume he would be there to help whichever one of us has the dream’s mom figure out the financial side of her new llama farm. And none of our mom’s have any business starting a llama farm in our unconscious minds. So we would just end up talking about our mom’s and then going out to lunch to get chicken.

    4. Quaggaquagga*

      Yes, thank you. I have so many people in my life who love to tell me about the super weird dreams they had. Trust me, dream-tellers, it is way less interesting to hear about than you think it is.

    5. KellyAF*

      Your dreams are like your photographs. I’m not interested unless I’m in them or there’s sex.

      1. Lore*

        And in fact, if I work with you, I’m even *less* interested in them if I’m in them and there’s sex.

    6. RabbitRabbit*

      I’ve read advice to the effect of, ‘never tell someone about your dream unless they are right there as you wake up.’ And even then, they may not need/want to hear it.

      1. Angelinha*

        My boyfriend hates hearing about my dreams, and my dad hates hearing about my mom’s. So my mom and I just tell them to each other!

    7. Curious Cat*

      I also would have zero interest in hearing that I was in my boss’ dream! I’d be uncomfortable if a friend told me I was in a dream, but it would be so much worse if my boss said that (I know you have no control over it & we can only dream up faces we know, but still. Keep it to yourself.)

    8. Dr. Pepper*

      This is so true. Nobody, absolutely nobody, cares about your dreams. It doesn’t matter what happened in them. Nobody cares. I say this as someone who often has incredibly vivid, bizarrely strange dreams that seem more real than reality. Sometimes they are highly disturbing and it’s very hard to shake the imagery and events of the dream when I awaken. However, I only inflict the telling of them on my husband, because I fully understand that nobody cares, including him, but he can’t get away and I have to listen to him talking about his stupid dreams too.

    9. AMT*

      I am in the minority here and OP #3 should definitely not say anything to this employee, but I would (a) want to know about the dream, (b) die laughing, and (c) mercilessly text OP photoshopped pictures of me skydiving the morning of September 25, 2024.

    10. SavannahMiranda*

      I read a caveat to the ‘no politics and no religion’ rule of social and workplace conversation. It was that no one else wants to hear about what you dreamed last night over the breakfast table, or any other table.

      Kind of a bummer, really! As some friends get a kick out of what each the other dreams. I’ll talk about my dreams with my mom! But probably not with my boyfriends mom, I suppose.

      In this context, I’d let ‘no dreams’ fall in line with the ‘no politics and no religion’ rule of workplace conversation.

  4. Observer*

    #2 – Alison is 100% correct. They are taking advantage of you. Freezing salaries does NOT include keeping you on the salary of a lower position while promoting you to a higher position.

    In fact, this is so sketchy that I wonder what’s really going on with this.

    If they offer you the promotion, you act as though OF COURSE you are getting the salary that goes along with the position. If they tell you otherwise, you turn it down – and start looking for a new job.

    1. Fantasma*

      That’s really terrible, OP2. In no scenario should you accept or remain in a director job at a coordinator salary. Start researching now to find out a reasonable salary for your area. And at least keep an eye out for potential jobs at other organizations so you don’t have to start the job search completely from scratch if the worst case scenario occurs.

      1. Susan K*

        Also, you should not accept a director position at a manager salary. They might offer you a raise to what you should be making now, and balk at giving you an even bigger raise to a director salary, but don’t forget that if you take this job, they owe you two raises: one for the promotion from coordinator to manager, and one for the promotion from manager to director. Yes, it will be an unusually big raise, but only because they’ve been stiffing you the whole time you’ve been a manager.

        1. No name yet*

          Yes, this. I could see them “generously” making this offer – but it still would not be ok!

        2. AdAgencyChick*

          Yes, OP! If you don’t already know what the range for a director salary is, do as much as you can to find out.

          And PROACTIVELY bring up a raise. In my past experience, I’ve had a company try to stiff me for a raise when promoting me by simply not talking about it. If you are formally offered the job and nothing is said about a raise, tell them you’re excited to take on the new responsibility and ask what salary they had in mind. If you are offered the job and are explicitly told that there will be no raise or a raise that gets you to the level you should be getting paid now, rather than the level you should get paid for a director job, tell them you’re aware that market rate for a director is $X, and you believe you deserve that. You shouldn’t expect to make as much as your boss does now (if you know that information), given that your boss has more experience in the role than you will, but you also shouldn’t get paid like you’re not even at that job title.

          If they STILL tell you no raise, I’d probably say “I don’t want that level of responsibility at this salary.” But if they insist on a manager’s salary for a director’s role, think about whether you might want to take the job and then quickly start job hunting for a director role. You could use this title and responsibility bump to negotiate the salary you deserve somewhere else.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      What’s going on is very likely that the nonprofit thinks it’s doing the “right” thing by saving money, very possibly because the board is not very knowledgeable about how to run a nonprofit. (Source: advising nonprofit boards was my bread-and-butter for a while.) Eventually the board will start losing its top-level employees and wonder why its programmatic goals aren’t being met. Hm!

      1. Oilpress*

        And lot of people like the OP think they are doing the right thing by accepting less money than they are worth simply because it’s coming from a non-profit. What someone is worth can be a vague concept, but in this circumstance, after one (and potentially two) promotions, the OP has reasonable certainty that they are worth more than their original salary.

        1. LovecraftInDC*

          And furthermore, they’re ALREADY taking less than what they’re worth purely for working a non-profit. They’d already be making more money at a for profit company even if they were being paid for the position they’re doing.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          Just followed the money … director-level compensation and authorization for things like company-wide COLAs are budget decisions that the board is responsible for.

          I loved my nonprofit clients, but sometimes it was like pulling teeth to get the board to understand that “nonprofit” doesn’t mean “low-pay” for directors, not if you want them to stick around.

    3. Faith*

      I’ve actually known someone who made less money after being promoted to a director. She accepted a promotion without a raise, and then the leadership announced company wide pay cuts rolled out by salary band. Those in the manager band got a 5% pay cut. Those in the director band got a 10% pay cut. My friend was livid.

      1. Cathy Gale*

        If they had made an exception for her, I am sure she might have been mollified, but I bet they didn’t, and she quit, right?

    4. Jady*

      OP #2: There’s one thing to consider though. Getting a director position isn’t exactly easy. Once you have the job title, it’s on your resume forever. That means it’ll be a lot easier to find that same job (with appropriate pay) at another company.

      It’s your choice, of course. You should obviously push for appropriate pay, but if for whatever reason they refuse, it may be worth taking the position just to have the title, working there for a little while, and then finding a new job that pays appropriately.

      I see this kind of thing happen frequently.

      1. Smithy*

        This is likely going to depend significantly on the OP’s sector within the nonprofit sector – but for nonprofits, particularly ones that are small – it’s not entirely uncommon to see fairly inexperienced people with Director titles. And if the nonprofit doesn’t have a great reputation, the resume boost may vary.

        I’ve seen people rise to Director level positions at small places to go back to Officer positions for a new job. And part of that honestly is tied to salary. Someone was a Director at a small place making $X and then a more junior role opens in a larger place where the experience is equivalent and the salary can easily be $X*2.

        For better or worse, lots of nonprofits take perspectives on salary that range aggressively. I once interviewed for a job where I told them my salary expectations on interview 1 and on interview 3 they told me they were very excited to offer me $30k less than that amount. Ultimately they were shocked that I turned down the role.

        This is a bad trap that nonprofits can be notorious for (titles with no pay) and it truly doesn’t open the door wide open all the time.

        1. Anon Today Anon Tomorrow*

          I work for a nonprofit, and it’s not uncommon for us to interview people who have had the title of director or even executive director (where they are a one or two person staff) apply and interview for coordinator level roles. However, I think just like in the for-profit world, it’s the work rather than the title that is critical.

          I’ve met a lot of people who seem to have quite high level titles but who don’t do the work that really corresponds with that title. So it does seem like it could be worthwhile to take the promotion, even if the organization won’t provide the compensation, for a limited amount of time if it’s going to significantly increase your skill set. Working directly with the board, strategic planning, managing direct and in-direct reports are valuable skills and will make it easier to find a more appropriately compensated position (providing you are going to a job that doesn’t request current salary).

          1. Lil Fidget*

            It’s also possible to be thrown into the deep end quickly, meaning you are a young an inexperienced Director, but also develop quickly and gain skills that wouldn’t have come your way until much later in your career – I would still say a Director at a small, disorganized organization is more experience than entry-level at a better-organized company. They can pick up poor habits too though. I’d say it’s equivalent to mid-level (manager?) at a better org.

          2. Smithy*

            I completely agree that taking the title and no salary increase for a limited time could be valuable – but I think this is where knowing your sector becomes critical. In my part of the ngo space titles really can range from org to org – and there are other key pieces that matter far far more on my resume.

            My pushback was more about not banking on this kind of Director role after x amount of time being such a high value add. If no salary increase was included with the title, I’d likely wait just 3-6 months before starting to apply to new positions.

            The practice of this kind of promotion without salary increase is just very bad practice. Even among ngo’s – and I just would not bank on committing to a few years with the aspirations that the Director title will pay off down the road.

      2. Genny*

        My concern with this approach is you’d need to stay at least a year for the title to mean anything, and even then, I don’t think it gives you that much additional value when applying to other jobs. I’m not sure I’d be willing to spend 1-2 years in a role where I’m being drastically underpaid in the hopes that I might be able to leverage the position into something where I make the lower bands of what I should’ve been making in that position all along (because even with 1-2 years of experience, she’d still be at the lower end of the pay scale for directors).

        1. Lil Fidget*

          Yeah, you have to weigh that against the salary she’s missing out on right now, paycheck after paycheck (and yes the compounding salary reductions if this salary becomes a future benchmark, but she should try hard not to let that happen!). Even if you end up getting a 10K raise in the future – is that likely? – it won’t make up for all the money you should have had over the last four years.

      3. AKchic*

        This also depends on the director’s retirement. Some directors will say they are going to retire, but it actually takes them years before they finally do.
        The CEO at my last non-profit employer kept saying off and on for 10 years that she was going to retire. Well before I’d started there. Every year she’d say she was considering it. The board would haphazardly throw together a succession plan in case she did give her notice.
        Then, she’d find a reason to stay. A couple years would go by and something would irk her (not the job, but politics) and she’d get mad and start threatening to retire again. Cue the rigamarole.

        I left. She put in her official notice to retire and was gone a year later with a great group to handle things. 10 years of back and forth though before she finally left, and there had been 3 previous “successors” chosen over the years. Only one is still with the company, and that one was only a stop-gap successor because they had nobody else at the time. The person they have in place now is wonderful.

        In any case, OP2 cannot expect that she will have this Director role anytime soon simply because she’s been tapped as the logical successor to the person sitting there now. This is merely lip service to keep her in her current position at the low rate of pay. It’s dangling a carrot in front of her while she’s starving in hopes she won’t look around and see all of the carrots on the ground.

    5. Antilles*

      I think the way to handle this is to bring up the raise yourself when they mention the promotion and to do so in a completely natural and self-assured tone that yes there’s a raise involved with the new title, it’d be so odd not to be. Essentially, your tone should *not* sound like you are ‘suggesting’ or ‘asking’ for a pay bump, your tone should sound like you’re just stating a known and widely accepted fact – the sky is blue, water is wet, humans breathe oxygen, my salary will be increased to the level of a director when I accept the role.
      Also come armed with an expectation of what that salary should be based on the typical salary range for similar positions elsewhere, the current salary of the role (if possible), etc. They’ve already low-balled you once (with a lowball of ‘zero’ raise); I would not be surprised if they’d lay out a ‘raise’ which is more money but still puts you way below reasonable market value.

    6. CM*

      Another point to make here — OP#2 should push back on any attempt to frame this as a percentage increase over her current salary.

      She SHOULD already be making a manager salary, and that should be increased at this point to a director salary.

      Since she never got the first salary bump, this will look like a large percentage increase and the organization may say, “Everyone else’s salary is frozen, we can’t give you a 30% increase.” OP#2 should reply to this that a director cannot receive a coordinator salary, and refuse to consider it as an incremental raise.

        1. Cathy Gale*

          Typically we default to “she” and “her” on the blog, since so many other blogs default to “he” and “him”.

    7. Lil Fidget*

      Unfortunately, this technique is not uncommon at small orgs, in my experience. If you don’t put your foot down, you end up with the former intern running the organization – at the intern salary level, of course.

    8. tippins*

      If they were paying the former director a reasonable salary, that money should be available for OP when old director leaves, right?

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yeah funny how that works. I’m guessing that money will be mysteriously gone when OP needs it. I think organizations just can’t stomach the thought of paying someone much more than 10% more than what they were making before. It’s like, they’ve gotten used to thinking of you as a 40K employee (or whatever the salary is) so it offends them to think of paying you 100K – even if the prior person was making 200K and you’re doing all the same work at the same level.

      2. Observer*


        This is not about salary freezes – the role you were in had a salary freeze but you are moving to another role, and you are entitled to the salary of that role.

    9. AKchic*

      I think it’s worth the conversation now to ask about getting OP2 paid at the level she is worth and the level she is currently working, otherwise she should be looking elsewhere and the company can rethink their succession plan.

      If you can’t afford to pay a person what they are worth (even within your own company’s pay scheme), then you cannot afford to have that person at all and need to set them free to find gainful employment.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah, otherwise she runs the risk that they’re figuring they might just lump in the two raises (like a December birthday lol) but she should already be being considered for one raise, with the opportunity for a second separate raise on top.

    10. OP2*

      OP 2 here:

      Thank you for the support and encouragement. Definitely helpful to reaffirm what I already know.

    11. A username for this site*

      Oh I am so certain OP2 is working for my old employer, a job which fell apart for many many reasons shortly after I started, but this one stood out because they deliberately tried to hide it from me after being shady about the salary I was being paid.

      They did not give raises. Ever. You were only allowed a raise if all 19 locations in the organization hit their budget. This included the admin offices, who handled things like insurance, worker’s comp, lawsuits, large capital expenditures. Essentially, the organization never hit their budget, because there was always a roof collapsing or an employee getting injured or a customer was suing because they slipped and fell.

      If your location hit its budget, you could get a bonus, but no compounding raises. No one had gotten a raise in 3-4 years!

    12. Lauren*

      Actually, OP should accept and then he/she has the director title on their resume. They are more likely to get a director job elsewhere by placing it on their resume. It will take a bit to move on, but accepting AND leaving is the best advice.

      1. LovecraftInDC*

        If you have a short stint as a director, you may be LESS likely to get a director job than a long time as a manager. There will be questions about why you’re leaving so soon, and there’s really not many good answers to that question, at least without straight up lying. I’d rather hire someone who has been working for 5 years in a junior position and is leaving because they haven’t been offered a fair wage than somebody who has been a director for 6 months.

    13. Another nonprofit employee*

      This kind of thing sucks and is too common (but far from universal!) at nonprofits. In my first job, I took on a new role with more responsibility and took a huge pay cut, because I moved from a state with a higher minimum wage for exempt employees to a state with a lower one, so they could legally pay me less.

      What has helped me in subsequent jobs is to take avoiding burnout seriously. I think the work I do is important and I want to spend the rest of my career in the nonprofit sector, but that’s going to be tough if I’m super stressed out all the time because I do the work of three people and am barely scraping by and my employer acts like I should be grateful to be getting paid at all. Lots of people I know have left the nonprofit world because they feel like they can’t do mission-driven work and also have a family/pay off their student loans/move out of their crappy apartment/whatever.

      I really encourage you to look elsewhere if your employer won’t budge on salary. If you do, I HIGHLY recommend you get as much information as you can on what market rates are for the roles you’re applying to, and don’t be afraid to ask for way more than you’re making now. A lot of my friends from that crappy first job and I struggled with this, because our expectations were unrealistically low after truly scraping the bottom of the barrel.

  5. Thursday Next*

    LW #3: Don’t tell your employee about your dream! Because option #4 is that regardless of belief or disbelief in the dream, your employee is freaked out that you, the boss, would think this is something worth relaying, and would come to doubt your judgment on workplace issues.

    1. JM in England*

      I agree. There is nothing to be gained by telling the employee about your dream and you would be better off in the long run keeping this to yourself. Consider yourself fortunate that you are not living in 17th century England; back then, foretelling the death of the ruling monarch was a capital offence!

    2. The Original K.*

      For real. I would be so creeped out by this, and he’d forever be That Creepy Boss Who Told Me About His Dream.

    3. Oilpress*

      I agree. I would distance myself from any coworker who thought they were seeing my future in their dreams. I might even tell my boss and/or HR about it.

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      If my boss told me of a dream like this that they had, especially in the serious tone the LW seems to take it, I’d be freaked out. Not by the “prophesy” but by the fact that my boss was taking it seriously and felt that I needed to know, and presumably thought that I too should take it seriously. What other weird crap do they believe? Do they make serious decisions by consulting a Magic 8 Ball? What if they dreamed that I was doing something illegal, like stealing from the company? Would they take that dream seriously too???

  6. kaleid*

    LW1- this is not normal- but I think you should consider going, If you want to keep working there it will be hard to be the only one who does not go. Why don’t you just talk to the boss some more? ” I am still paying off student loans and I need my vacation time. Can you please more specific about the vacation time, and the extra cost?” If you do not like the answer you can still discover a family event that you need to go to….

    1. Mad Baggins*

      I agree, LW should definitely get specifics about being donated vacation time and how the additional cost for the spouse should be paid. But even if LW goes and has a great time, she may have to pay for any additional charges while on the cruise (drinks, souvenirs, meals, activities? LW doesn’t mention if it’s included/covered by VP) and she will have 0 PTO remaining for the rest of the year (unless VP plans to donate more than the extra days on top of her PTO).

      I think the VP may not realize that not everyone in his office can afford this (money or leave-wise). He can afford to pay for the whole office, but LW is just starting out in her career. He has PTO to spare, but gives LW less than 10 days (unless she has already taken several days so far). I wonder if there are other instances of the VP being privileged or ignorant of the circumstances of his workers.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        This is an excellent point.

        The hidden additional costs could mount up to be far too expensive, or even just more than OP wants to spend on something that wasn’t her idea.

        This whole thing, whilst lovely on paper, falls apart in reality.

        1. EddieSherbert*


          Plus, (in my experience) going on a trip and then having to spend the whole time stressing about budget/if you can afford that extra meal is NOT fun. I always plan my vacation… and then plan additional $XXX “just in case” (souvenirs! I need an emergency Uber ride! The hotel is nasty and I need a new one! etc).

          1. LovecraftInDC*

            Ooooh yeah. Worrying about money on a vacation is an amazing way to make the whole thing feel like a waste, particularly if you’re there with a group of friends who are wealthier or budgeted better.

      2. I Herd the Cats*

        I was thinking the same thing about additional charges — is OP’s boss going to cover everything? Starting with the flight to get to the cruise port (if that’s part of the travel?) And having been on a few cruises, there are a lot of ways they nickel and dime you — drinks, port visits, entertainment, etc. Is OP going to find herself in the position of 10 days of either spending money she doesn’t have, or skipping things everyone else is doing? Or having the awkwardness of her boss step up over and over and go, hey, I’ll pay for that!

        The cruise sounds like a well-intentioned (if odd) gesture from the boss, but I really don’t think boss has thought this through in terms of the impact on employees who don’t have the wherewithal to casually spend on unplanned vacation extras.

        Also, as much as I like my coworkers, the idea of spending 10 days with them on a cruise is giving me hives. But maybe that’s just me.

        1. Fellow Quilter for This*

          We know the LW’s situation. but do we know everyone else’s. Just because they are older doesn’t mean they can afford to go either. As pointed out, sure maybe you have a spare $1000 for your spouse laying around, but do you have the extra cash for all the other things on the cruise?

          What if the spouse can’t take 10 days off. Mine can’t.

          Again, lovely idea FOR THE BOSS to go on a cruise with his wife. Possibly not so lovely for everyone else. LW could be the start of the avalanche that gives others the courage to say “sorry can’t make it.”

          1. CanCan*

            Also, some people may have other vacation plans that they’re looking forward to / have already planned. Like visiting close family in a different city/country. And some people may not like cruises to begin with.

            To say nothing of the kids! The letter didn’t mention if people could take their kids, but even if they could, this may not be the best vacation for them.

            There are so many reasons I would NOT want to go, even if I had the vacation days and money. Only if this counted as work (i.e. completely free and no vacation time used up).

            1. Sacred Ground*

              This is the part that got my hackles up. It’s so incredibly self-centered and arrogant. “Why OF COURSE every one of my employees would happily spend all of their vacation time for the year with me and my spouse!”

        2. Dove*

          “Having been on a few cruises, there are a lot of ways they nickle and dime you – drinks, port visits, entertainment, etc.”
          Agreed. And ‘drinks’ doesn’t just mean “anything alcoholic” – it includes anything that’s not a complimentary beverage; water and (in my experience) iced tea and lemonade are complimentary – but fruit juice and soft drinks? Those aren’t. And while it doesn’t cost anything to get on and off the ship at port, excursions (such as a guided tour of local sights) are the sort of thing that does cost money…and, quite often, needs to be signed up for in advance.

          This very much does feel like the boss either hasn’t thought through the impact on employees, or is trying to get a company discount on what’s supposed to be a birthday gift for his wife; beverage packages and port excursions could be arranged on the company card, but it’d look quite odd for him to be doing that if it’s just himself and his wife.

      3. Anna*

        Cruises are usually all-inclusive with basic meals and soft drinks. Anything beyond that (excursions, special meals, alcoholic drinks) are extra. So it is possible to go on a cruise, have a good time, and not spend a lot, or any, extra money.

        1. Totally Minnie*

          True. But if you’re traveling with a group, everyone should be on the same page about how many extras they will or won’t take part in. If they go in without a plan they run the risk of either the entire group planning to do things one person can’t afford, which would leave them all alone for a good chunk of time, or everybody else feeling like one person is the killjoy keeping them from enjoying the cruise the way they wanted.

        2. Genny*

          There are always incidentals: transportation to the port (likely a flight, but could be a taxi, train, or parking expenses), baggage costs if flying, $160 for a passport if she or spouse don’t have one (plus any expediting fees depending on how backed up the passport agency is or how close the departure date is), petsitter is they have a pet, etc. Vacations have a funny way of exposing a bunch of hidden costs.

        3. Dove*

          As someone who’s been on several cruises before? “All-inclusive” isn’t as, well, inclusive as you’d expect; basic meals are covered, certainly – soft drinks are *not* and neither is orange juice. I’ve had to get a beverage package or pay extra for gingerale every single time I’ve gone on a cruise, and I’ve cruised with two different companies at this point. The complimentary stuff is water, drinks that can be mixed from powder (and thus, bought in bulk without taking up extra storage space), and tea.

          (The alcoholic beverage package, btw, is *never* worth the money unless you’re planning on drinking heavily every day of the cruise. It’s cheaper just to pay as you go for that.)

          Plus, there’s the incidentals like getting to the port city, making sure your passport is up to date and won’t expire (most cruise lines insist on a passport that’s good for at least six months from the date of return), anything involving making sure your home (and pets, if you have any) will be fine when you return. Oh, and tipping your room steward when you’re on the ship, and tipping the baggage handlers for the port when you’re getting on the ship. And hotel costs, if you want to make sure you won’t be cutting it close getting to the port and the ship on the day of departure.

        4. Mad Baggins*

          True, though I’ve paid for water (bottled because you couldn’t drink from the tap in that country) and tips for the hardworking staff. Also I wonder how much social pressure there will be to order drinks and go on trips if OP goes, considering how cavalier the boss is about suggesting this idea in the first place. I think it would be harder to agree to the trip but say no over and over to activities onboard than to just say no once and not go.

      4. TheBeetsMotel*

        Additionally; so, the office can just completely shit down for 10 days? I’m hard-pressed to think of a business where this would be feasible.

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          In my mind, this is worse than a business- this is part of one office at a university. She doesn’t specify whether it’s public or private, but if it’s public, I’d imagine there are some serious ethics rules that this would be breaking that could get everyone in that office in a lot of trouble.

          1. pottymouth*

            Ha! I was trying to figure out this new slang term “shit down”—and how I could start using it!

        2. mrs__peel*

          Maybe the LW can offer to be the person who holds the fort down while everyone else is gone and earn brownie points for her noble “sacrifice”.

          (Personally, I would pay almost any amount of money NOT to have to take a 10-day cruise with my co-workers…)

            1. Sabina*

              LW should tell her boss she had a dream that he was pushed overboard by his wife on the eve of her birthday …BWWWWWAAAAAHHHHAAAAA!!!!

        3. Dove*

          Exactly. Not to mention, 10 days is a *long* time to be in close quarters (however large the ship might be) with anyone, especially your co-workers. Even the annual cruise I go on doesn’t go for longer than 7 or 8 days – there was discussion and everyone’s agreed that after about 8 days, it’s just exhausting and you want to go home.

          And that’s with a group of people who, by and large, generally like each other and are good at entertaining themselves. And who won’t see each other for months, until the next cruise.

          Granted, I can – after having thought about it for a while – come up with one situation where an office at a university could take off for the better part of two weeks: spring break or winter break, if those are long enough, or summer break. (Although I wouldn’t want to be going on vacation in Mexico during summer break. It’s warm enough during the winter.) But it’s still a weirdly long amount of time for the whole office to be gone.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            The whole point of vacation is to have time to NOT think about work. By pressuring people to go on this trip, Boss is effectively taking away their vacations because there’s no way all these coworkers are spending TEN DAYS together and are not talking about work.

            Jeez, the more I think about, I’m less creeped out and more ticked off. Ok, no, I’m still creeped out.

      5. TardyTardis*

        I’ve been on a cruise, and day to day expenses are fairly substantial if you expect to do anything besides lie in the sun and/or eat. Drinks, souvenirs, there’s often a casino, Do Not Go To The Art Auction Even If They Offer Free Champagne (long story, but I cried when they brought out the Rembrandt drawing, weep moan wail), and so on. Now, the food is almost always included as part of the ticket, so extra meals shouldn’t be a problem (I remember when I was holding 2,000 calories in my hand with the bagel, cream cheese and smoked salmon, and the waiter was worried I wasn’t eating enough). But there are a lot of other expenses.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I disagree. This isn’t a business trip. This is an international pleasure trip on a cruise boat. If LW doesn’t want to go, LW should stay home. As for career suicide, in an academic setting, I’m not sure how happy HR will be to hear that LW has been fired or experienced some other adverse employment action because they opted out of a trip with the boss’s boss.

      1. Susan K*

        I don’t think the concern is that she’ll be fired or otherwise overtly penalized for not going, but that (1) the boss will think she’s a party pooper or a jerk for declining his generous offer, and (2) if everyone else goes, they will all have a bonding experience with the boss and each other, and OP will become an outsider. When it comes to raises, promotions, and even project assignments, how much the boss likes or dislikes you personally can be a factor.

        1. Glomarization, Esq.*

          TBH I don’t think the risk of “career suicide” is as great as LW seems to fear. This is an office of university advancement. LW can score a number of significant gifts, or exceed fundraising goals, and make their own career out of it. There are lots of schools, and there are lots of fundraising jobs.

          1. Candy*

            “TBH I don’t think the risk of “career suicide” is as great as LW seems to fear.”

            Agreed. What’s most likely to happen is OP won’t go, everyone else will, she will have a nice quiet week alone in the office, everyone will come back and spend some time talking about their trip, maybe there will be some “wish you were there!” comments, but then after a few days the chatter will die down, everyone will get back to work, and it will be forgotten entirely.

            1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

              And a few people who went not realizing that they really could opt out and later grumble about not having any vacation left.

            2. Bostonian*

              Yeah, I think it’s highly possible that all of the respective spouse pairs will keep to themselves, and the whole group wouldn’t actually do a lot together, so OP won’t miss out on that much bonding.

      2. Kix*

        Are there tax implications for the employee to accept this “gift” from the employer? It sounds expensive and would it be considered additional income?

        1. Anna*

          It’s not from the employer because the boss isn’t the employer, the university is. The boss is giving this as a gift from one private individual to another. It just so happens the private individuals he’s gifting it to are his direct reports.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            If that’s the case, then before accepting anything OP should find out if the university has a gift policy between supervisors and employees. Most of the places I’ve worked have had policies in place that bosses can’t give their subordinates gifts over a certain dollar amount. A cruise would almost certainly break any limit that might be in place.

            1. Genny*

              That’s a really good point. I don’t think I’d be allowed to accept such a gift nor would my boss be allowed to offer it.

              IIRC, taxes don’t apply to gifts under $14,000 per person, so I’d be surprised if LW or boss faced any sort of tax issues because of this.

            2. nym*

              Yes, I was going to suggest this as well – depending on where the university is (and if it is a public university rather than a private one) you may be government employees, and that opens up an entirely new can of worms about the supervisor – employee gifting policy. Does the university have an ethics office you could ask?

    3. Fiennes*

      I agree. It sounds like the boss is willing to take care of vacation time and possibly even the fiancé’s ticket. If the latter pans out, then I think this is basically a very elaborate version of the “work event.” You need to put in some face time.

      If boundaries are a big issue, it should be easy for the couple to get some private time. Cruises have so many activities and excursions that they can attend/avoid as needed to minimize purely personal time with coworkers. But they can still enjoy some dinners together or say hi at the pool—which isn’t that different from being at a work conference. Maybe if there’s already a pattern that suggests the boundary violations are likely, there’s reason to be wary—but absent that, this doesn’t seem that fraught to me.

      IMO, if the boss really will cover this in all respects, I think she has more to gain than lose by going.

      1. Birch*

        I understand where you’re coming from, but this is analogous to the camping trip “work events.” It’s weird and uncomfortable enough that it shouldn’t be treated the same as a team building seminar in a conference hotel, for example. Cruise ships have awful reputations for outbreaks of illness, being terrible for the environment, and causing harm to locals, depending on where they put in, and it’s reasonable not to want to contribute to the industry just as it’s reasonable to not be a camping person.

        1. Minocho*

          When I was teaching English in Japan, all the teachers of the third year students went with the third year class on their class trip (analogous to the end of Junior High – these were approximately 9th graders). Most of it was cool. Being expected to hang out with my female coworkers naked in the onsen, however…

          Let’s just say I was “feeling under the weather”.

          1. Julia*

            I think teachers have to get used to class trips (at least in Europe, I think every homeroom teacher has to go, mostly once a year), but yeah, I wouldn’t be happy about the naked part, especially since I’ve known Japanese ladies who were less than polite about my body. I’d probably fake a headache or being drunk (being drunk is a good excuse for things here) and stay in the room.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              Not really comparable, since those are legit work trips. Teachers aren’t expected to use their vacation time for them because they’re not on vacation, they’re working.

      2. Jen*

        Being “on” for ten full days on a cruise sounds like an utter nightmare.

        I have also heard way, way too many norovirus stories from friends to ever want to go on a cruise.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Sure, it’s easy to do your own thing if you feel empowered to do so. But if the OP only goes because she feels like she has to, how likely is it that she’ll then feel empowered to turn down the boss’s suggestion that they all dine together, hit the sun deck together, go on this excursion together, etc.?

            1. Anon for this*

              Yeah….the problem with these trips is that there’s pressure to be “on.” You’re there with colleagues. You’re there with your boss. It’s harder and riskier to let your hair down. You have to be careful about the things you say or do because people will remember. Vacations, for me at least, are about relaxing and getting away.

              While generous and likely well meant on the boss’ part, this does not sound like a fun trip to me.

          2. AsItIs*

            Not if the Boss has “plans” for everyone because, you know, they paid for their employees to be there so…

        1. ThatGirl*

          I agree, ten days with co-workers on a cruise sounds like a nightmare. However, it is pretty easy to do your own thing, most of the time – that’s how I’ve survived cruises with my in-laws. And norovirus is pretty easy to prevent.

          1. AsItIs*

            What if the Boss decides that they paid for employees to be there so they get to make the itinerary?

        2. KellyAF*

          I went on a cruise once. I did indeed get Norovirus, and the only saving grace of the cruise ship was that the bathroom was small enough to both sit on the toilet and have my head in the sink at the same time.

          LW, could you develop a germ phobia? Cruise ships are germy as heck.

        3. mrs__peel*

          My sister used to work on cruise ships as a musician, and (from what she told me) they’re basically enormous floating petri dishes of the most disgusting bacteria.

          (I have OCD and there is literally no amount of money that would coax me to go).

        4. Dove*

          Depending on the cruise line, I’d be inclined to regard the horror stories of norovirus with a grain of salt – I’ve gone on a cruise for a few years in a row now, and the only time there’s been an issue with sickness is the most recent one where a few people tried to evade quarantine and there were a lot more small children than we’ve had in previous years. The ship employees are *very* emphatic (within the bounds they’re required to stay inside if they don’t want to get fired) about making sure anyone who goes near food is washing their hands or at least scrubbing their hands with sanitizer, and you’re required to self-report before you board whether you’ve been feeling ill in ways that might be symptomatic of norovirus or the flu.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I really, really don’t think it’s true in this case that the OP “needs to put in the face time.” Many, many bosses are capable of offering excursions without penalizing people who choose not to go, particularly when it’s something like a 10-day cruise. Absent other signs that the boss will be punitive about this, we shouldn’t encourage the OP to fear it will torpedo her career there. It would be very, very normal for someone to choose not to go on a 10-day cruise.

        1. Fiennes*

          I wouldn’t say skipping a holiday party would “torpedo someone’s career” either. There’s a really wide gray area between “mandatory” and “completely skippable,” as many letters of demonstrated.

    4. Kat in VA*

      I also would not want to go. There’s other things I might want to spend that thousand bucks on, husband would have to get PTO, someone would have to watch the kids, and the thought of cruises in general (much less one with my office mates) would send me screaming into the night.

      OP, don’t JADE on this one (justify, argue, defend, explain). You don’t want to go. He wants your reasons for not going – not because he’s terribly interested in your psyche, but so he can argue and beat down any reason you give him (PTO, cash issues, etc.)

      Just “I would prefer not to, but thank you for the lovely offer” should be enough…although it rarely is. :(

      1. Specialk9*

        “Never JADE!” is great advice for pathological boundary-violators and active addicts. It’s terrible advice for every other social situation.

          1. Antilles*

            The difference though is that this is OP’s boss’ boss and OP (presumably?) wants to maintain that relationship.
            The whole reason people normally provide JADE after saying no is because not doing so comes off extremely harsh. Refusing to give an explanation or argument is something that you can only safely do if you legitimately don’t care about future interactions with the person – either because it’s someone who you’ll never see again (e.g., telemarketer) OR because it’s someone who’s so far over the line and toxic that it’s fine even if you do napalm a bridge behind you.
            By all indications from OP’s post, the boss is coming at this from a place of caring and generosity – misguided and inappropriate, but from a good place…so if OP just simply says no and refuses to explain, it will *absolutely* feel like a slap in the face. If OP instead includes an explanation, then it doesn’t come off nearly as harsh.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes. There’s nothing here indicating that the boss wants to “argue and beat down any reason for not going.” There’s every indication he’d like to make it possible for her to go if her real reasons are money and vacation time, two things he is willing to help her with, so she needs to give a different explanation.

              1. Kat in VA*

                I’d say in a usual exchange, if someone says something like, “Hey, I don’t have the PTO” and the answer is “I’ll give you some of mine” and then the second reply is “I don’t have the money”…

                People don’t generally want to say NAH I DON’T WANNA.

                Does she really need to offer a third reason? Or is he just determined to make her go no matter what?

                I’ve been around a lot of boundary pushers, which is why I used the JADE remark. More often than not, unless they’re completely oblivious, when someone gives you more than one reason they don’t want to do something, it’s usually because they don’t want to DO IT AT ALL.

                Obviously my personal interactions with boundary-pushers have colored my reaction to this scenario. He may truly think she just has some obstacles that he can remove. In which case, she might want to tell him the real reason she doesn’t want to go – is that she doesn’t want to go, period.

                Social niceties are such a PITA sometimes.

                1. Dr. Pepper*

                  That’s what I was thinking. It’s generally considered ungracious to refuse a generous offer on the grounds of “I don’t want to”. People usually demand reasons, which is exactly what is happening here. “But I’m being so nice and wonderful, why aren’t you thrilled to accept??”

                  But honestly, 10 days on international waters with the entire office including multiple bosses? Doesn’t sound like a very generous offer to me. Even if I adored cruises and the ship was huge, I wouldn’t be able to relax very much.

              2. JB (not in Houston)*

                Right, from her answers to him, he may think she *wants* to go but can’t, and so he’s trying to help her figure out how to make it possible. If she’s not comfortable telling him that she just doesn’t want to go, she needs to give him an answer he can’t fix.

              3. Kate*

                Alison, really, you don’t think suggesting a 10-day cruise to an entire group of employees (and, however kindly, trying to shoot down their legitimate reasons for not going) is a boundary violation? This is serious, creepy Michael Scott-esque territory here.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I think it’s very weird, as I said in the post. What I said above is that I do not see evidence that the boss wants to “argue and beat down any reason for not going.”

                2. Totally Minnie*

                  I think this is a lot like the boss who wanted to give his employee a kidney. He could very well be a truly nice guy wanting to do something nice for his employees, who just hasn’t thought out all the reasons that this particular thing is probably not the best idea. I’m not comfortable assigning bad motives without any further information from the OP.

              4. NYCJessa*

                I think a great excuse would be the Zika virus. The cruise is going to Mexico where they still have a risk of Zika there and so it’s a perfect excuse for a young person who hasn’t started a family yet. Without getting into too much detail about the family planning, the OP could just say they are concerned about the risk of Zika and will be staying behind. They could even act as though they just remembered it was a thing and they would have gone if not for that pesky zika! ;)

                1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

                  Yeah, as someone who is currently looking to start a family and wishes to do a beach vacation, it’s worth noting that the CDC just downgraded the length of time to wait between Zika and pregnancy to 2 months for women and 6 months for men. If I were the boss I would definitely then be thinking the employee is planning a family very soon. I think some of the other suggested excuses would be better.

              5. Courageous cat*

                I think he’s arguing and beating down every reason by countering with a reason why her “no” shouldn’t be an issue. People should be more socially aware to stop trying to block everyone’s outs. If he wants her to know he’s willing to help if that’s the only reason, he should be able to convey that while also conveying that it’s ok if there are other reasons.

                I guess this touches a nerve because I absolutely hate when people do this shit to me. It’s like, I’m trying to politely rebuff you, please stop making this more awkward than it needs to be.

      2. Allison*

        Right, for $1000 my boyfriend and I could go on a great, albeit smaller, trip somewhere we really want to go, with no coworkers or bosses around, and not have to take as much PTO to make it work.

      3. Heynonniemouse*

        This, x1000. No excuses, because as you’ve already discovered that will lead to unwanted problem solving. Keep singing the It Just It’s Possible For Me Chorus forever.

        “Thank you so much for the generous invitation, but I’m afraid it just isn’t possible for me to make it.”

        “I know everyone will have an amazing time, but it just isn’t possible for me.”

        “Oh, it’s so kind of you to offer to [yet another helpful idea], but it just isn’t possible for me.”

    5. Trout 'Waver*

      My partner’s boss did a cruise with her office several years ago. The boss paid for everything, including incidentals and it was only a 4-day cruise. Everyone (except one) went, had a good time, and there was no pressure to hang out together on the cruise. The one person who stayed back wasn’t penalized or ostracized in any way. The cruise was also scheduled for a time when the business would otherwise be shut down for external reasons, so the person who stayed back wasn’t doing the jobs of the whole office. Also, the boss knew ahead of time that everyone in the office (5 people) enjoyed cruises and would be receptive and appreciative. She wasn’t guessing or imposing.

      So, it can be done without being a huge boundary-crossing ordeal. However, 10 days? That’s a huge amount of time. I’d say no on that basis alone.

      1. Washi*

        Yes, 10 days is SO much time. If I were the fiancé in this situation, I would definitely be on the “no” side of this. $1000 and 10 of my own vacation days so I can spend two weeks on a boat ostensibly to celebrate my partner’s boss’s wife’s birthday with a bunch of people I don’t know and will probably rarely see again? No thank you.

        (And I can see why the OP doesn’t want to go alone, if everyone else will be bringing partners and it seems like probably going to do a lot of activities together.)

        1. Bunny Girl*

          10 days is way too much time. I don’t like to travel (at all) and this would be my worst nightmare. I also wouldn’t expect my partner to take that much time and come with me. We also have a lot of pets that we couldn’t leave for that long. We certainly couldn’t afford to board all of them for that amount of time, and we don’t have anyone to watch them for that long. What are people doing with their kids? When is this trip? Is a passport required? Maybe that could be LW’s way out. She doesn’t have a passport and doesn’t have the time/money to get one.

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        I too would say “no” just because it’s a 10 day cruise. On paper, it sounds great. In practice? Not so much.

        I went through a similar situation with my in-laws. They wanted to take a huge two week family vacation overseas, and they wanted EVERYONE to come. We couldn’t afford it financially or logistically and graciously declined. “Oh no problem, we’ll pay for your plane tickets and hotel rooms! Problem solved!” Um, no. There’s a lot more to travel expenses than lodging and plane tickets. Also, my husband had recently started a new job and did not have enough PTO to cover it. We remained firm in our gracious declining. They took it okay, but there was a lot of whining and cajoling and “but we want to seee yoooouuuu!” and “c’mon, how many opportunities do you get to see (foreign country)???” Well, none, as we can’t afford it period. And if you really wanted to see us, you’d plan a trip that was far shorter and much closer to home.

      3. Anna*

        That’s what I was thinking. If it were a short cruise, I could see making the argument to go. But 10 days is a HUGE time commitment. I don’t think I’d want to be on a boat with my husband for that long, let alone everyone I work with.

        1. whingedrinking*

          I went on a cruise of the “floating music festival” variety a couple years ago. My message to my partner about a day and a half in was, “I have never had so much fun in my life. Good thing it’s only three days, it’d probably kill me otherwise.”
          Ten days on a ship with my coworkers would definitely end me.

          1. Dove*

            Yep. I go on an annual cruise with a group of people that’s *sort of* the “floating music festival” variety, but it doesn’t run longer than 8 days. I think it used to run 10 days, but the organizers asked for feedback and the general consensus was that about a week is as much as anyone participating can take before it’s too exhausting to be enjoyable any more.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I think a large part of this puzzle is being at different points on the sliding scale of “money you can spend without thinking about it.” (So dubbed by my spouse, at a point where this had moved from $5 to $20 and just recently $100.) As you move into the upper ends–I’m guessing the veep can drop a few thousand without thinking about it–it can be hard to remember what it felt like to be carefully weighing $10 purchases. If the veep could come up with $10,000 in a pinch to seize a rare opportunity that arose, then he figures his employees can come up with $1000 in a pinch and for the youngest, he’ll help her out. He isn’t thinking of a $10 cocktail as something that still might derail the event.

      Since it’s not unheard of to expand your understanding and see things from someone else’s point of view, and the veep seems receptive on this point, I would actually be inclined to talk to him about the constraints on her end and see if they can work it out. Largely due to my midlife view that seizing any travel opportunities that come up is a good thing, and it sounds like the people and destination are fine, it really is just the cost in money and pto. (I mean “just” in that those aren’t fig leaves she’s holding over loathing the idea of cruises and time with her coworkers.)

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        Yes. All of this. That’s a really good way to think about it. I go through this with my parents. Spending $100 has not been a big deal to them for a very long time, and spending $1000 would be something to discuss but not something to boggle over. Whereas for me, spending $100 is something to be carefully considered and spending $1000 on something “extra” would be out of the question. It’s a question of scale and proportion.

    7. CherryGirl*

      I agree! LW1: You are going to spend the rest of your life paying bills, college loans, mortgages, etc. Right now, someone wants to send you on a 10-day cruise! How long do you think it would be before you could afford to do that on your own? If it’s 10 days of sitting in the sun on the deck on someone else’s dime, that sounds like a great trip to me. A cruise may not appeal to everyone – I’ve enjoyed them in the past, even though it’s not my favorite vacation mode – but they can really be fun.

      You do need to get more detail on what you’d be responsible for; people are absolutely right that cruises can nickel and dime you to death. Also ask about whether people will largely be on their own or if they are thinking about a lot of group activities (and who will pay for them – some shore excursions can be expensive). If your fiance can go, that’s great. If he can’t, you can still get in some [relatively] free R&R with sun and sea and sky.

    8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I disagree. First, this is such a bizarre offer, and honestly, it’s even more bizarre in the university context. It’s boundary-violating, inappropriate, and terrible in terms of optics. Second, this sounds like it would be a real hardship for OP, and the downsides of not participating are not significant, imo. (I don’t think declining to attend would be “career suicide” or lead to ostracization.)

      And not to be a total downer, but I would not want to be stuck on international waters with my boss. The legal protections at sea are extremely thin, if not non-existent. And what if OP ended up on the notorious poop cruise? The list of things that can be wrong so far outnumber the benefits of participating that I think OP can extricate themselves without losing political cache.

      1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        Yes, I think most commenters (and maybe even Alison) have glossed over that this is one office IN A UNIVERSITY. I think there’s a real risk of career suicide by attending.

        1. Bumblebee*

          Yes. At a public university, this is a scandal-in-waiting. You do NOT want to be on the list of people who went on this cruise. I am curious as to how the PTO is working here; at my university there’s a huge swath of staff who ONLY get 10 days a year. It doesn’t go up until after 5 years of employment. So even if there are two weekends involved, that’s still a large portion of your PTO, particularly if you are saving up for something. Additionally, it’s usually taboo for a university office to completely shut down for more than a day or two for training (and even then, the office might come in for criticism).

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Even at a private university this would be scandalous. There would be long articles about how admins are overcompensated while students drown in debt, or how the university is spending money (even if it’s the VP spending his funds, not university funds) on lavish, non-mission-or-education-advancing frivolities.

          2. Oxford Comma*

            Our PTO is incredibly generous at my university, but I’m baffled that there’s an office at a university that can afford to shut down for 10 days. Even in the summer and winter break, most offices are staffed.

        2. irritable vowel*

          Agreed. This situation would be bizarre in a corporate context (why are the boss and his wife inviting the boss’s staff instead of their own family/friends?) but in the context of a university advancement office it looks extremely problematic. My first thought was money laundering, honestly. The OP does not want to be implicated in the fallout from this situation, whatever it is.

    9. Kes*

      I agree. If OP really doesn’t want to go they can come up with some excuse, but if it’s more the concerns they stated about money and vacation time, it sounds like the VP is willing to help make this possible. While I know I would have some concerns about spending 10 days on a cruise with coworkers, I would suggest going and just making sure some time is spent hanging out with them but also that some time is spent off doing your own thing, which should be possible on a huge boat.

      I don’t think the boss and coworkers will necessarily ostracize OP for not going or anything like that, but they will be missing out on a key team experience while their coworkers and bosses will be bonding, and it might put them at a disadvantage.

  7. C Average*

    LW 1: if you’re a competent white-liar, you might confess to the VP that you’ve only been on the water once, on your uncle’s sailboat, and you suffered such sevseasickness tgat the family had to turn the boat around. This really wasn’t surprising; you’re horribly prone to motion sickness, and none of the available remedies have ever helped. You’ve puked prolifically on planes, trains, automobiles, moving sidewalks. You just don’t think you could survive a 10-day cruise.

    1. Julia*

      I was going to suggest something similar. Either fear of open water or terrible seasickness. Of course, if you then want to go on your own cruise five years later, you might have a problem.

      1. On Fire*

        Doesn’t even have to be as dramatic as seasickness. I won’t do cruises because I have control issues. A flight for a few hours is okay, but several days at sea, under someone else’s control? Nope. Not happening. And if forced, I would *not* be pleasant to be around. (I don’t even like to ride in a vehicle someone else is driving – even my spouse.)

        1. Mockingjay*

          This. It drives me batsh*t not to be able to get off the boat when I want. My husband loves cruises, but he served in the Navy. I tolerate cruises for his sake.

          Also, while cruises can be fun, they are not restful. Music 24/7, lights, activities. Even meals have dinner shows. Not my preferred vacation.

      2. KellyAF*

        I was thinking she should attribute a phobia (germs, water, small spaces) to her fiance! Easier to stick with so you don’t need to edit any future stories about your life around it.

        1. mrs__peel*

          Maybe do a Seinfeld and tell the boss that her husband was traumatized by the sinking of the SS Andrea Doria.

    2. pcake*

      I was going to suggest the same thing, only in my case, I really DO get horribly seasick even on large, stabilized ships. Dramamine takes away part of the nausea, but makes me feet unwell in other ways. I’d have to say “No, but thank you” in this situation, and hopefully the OP can, also.

      1. Cristina in England (visiting Scotland)*

        Yes, I wouldn’t want to be around my bosses on Dramamine, it makes me really sleepy and detached (even the “less drowsy” formula)

      2. hermit crab*

        Speaking as an extremely motion-sickness-prone person myself, I can confirm that it is indeed a rather effective way to get out of all sorts of stuff you didn’t want to do anyway. (And people do try to convince you that you won’t get sick on a big ship – but oh, is it possible. Believe me, I know.)

        1. PB*

          Yes, motion sickness on a cruise ship is real. For me, it was much worse. Sure, I can get mild carsickness, but most car trips end in a few hours, at most. Cruises last days and days and days. I think this would be a legitimate excuse to give, and would work with most reasonable people. Whether OP’s boss is reasonable, however, is another question, since he’s been resistant to her reasons so far.

          1. JessaB*

            And on a car trip you can pull over, rest at a rest stop, stop at a restaurant and have tea or something to calm you down. You can stop driving, you can’t stop a cruise ship unless it’s in port, and all the cabin attendant delivered ginger ale, ginger tea and ginger pastiles aren’t often enough.

            Also, I’m mobility impaired, a normal cruise ship is impossible for me to navigate without a motorised wheelchair or scooter and I do not own one of those, not usually going around locales where I need them (most supermarkets and larger places now supply them for customers who can’t walk through a giant location.)

            1. Dove*

              And even if the cruise line offers mobility scooters for passengers who need them (which I’m embarrassed to realize I’ve never had to wonder about and am not sure they do), that still doesn’t fix the problem of motion sickness. Especially since the ship’s motion is often *more* noticeable when it’s in port and when it’s leaving port – the only time it’s more noticeable than that, to me, is when there’s rough seas.

              But you’re not wrong that a cruise ship is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to navigate for anyone who has mobility impairments – or any other reason for finding stairs difficult to cope with, or difficulties walking long distances. There aren’t any ramps and the ships are *massive* – even if I’m using an elevator, I’ve usually gotten in a full 10k steps on my pedometer by halfway through the day even if all I’m doing is relaxing and wandering from breakfast and then going to the game room or finding somewhere to read or knit, and then going to find lunch, and then going to dinner. It’s not as noticeable in the moment, but it’s exhausting even if you don’t have mobility impairments.

          2. Amanda*

            So a cruise ship is basically like morning sickness — poorly named because for many women it is “I felt nauseous all the time for ten weeks”. And there’s no way to “get off” that ride, not if you want to keep being pregnant.

    3. Mewo*

      I don’t think this is a good excuse. I have terrible motion sickness, much worse than most people I know, to the point where I don’t enjoy amusement parks at all (never have) because almost all rides make me wanna puke. But I’m completely fine on a big boat, such as a cruise ship. Small boats are hell and pure torture but big boat are just smooth sailing. Well, I’ve met people who get motion sickness on a train, so I guess it’s possible that cruise ships make some people puke but I still have my doubts.

      1. Sue Wilson*

        Seasickness is something cruises have to deal with all the time, so you don’t need to have doubts.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s a perfectly fine excuse! The boss isn’t going to demand documentation. The OP could just say, “It’s so nice of you, but I can’t risk 10 days of agony.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Also, if she feels weird that she didn’t bring up seasickness originally, she could always say her fiance reminded her of a horrible long-ago boat ride.

      3. Marion Ravenwood*

        +1 to seasickness. That would be my excuse (although with me it’s a fear of boats/rough water/drowning, but people take seasickness more seriously in my experience).

        1. Marion Ravenwood*

          Aaand I just realised I replied to the wrong bit of the thread – this was meant in response to C Average’s original reply!

      4. Lady Jay*

        I have a close family member who got seasick in a wave pool. It’s possible to get seasick anywhere water-related.

              1. Julia*

                Weirdly, the one I had of my head didn’t have that effect on me, but it might have been because I too busy trying not to panic at how claustrophobic I felt, or because they had a different model of machine.

        1. AlexandrinaVictoria*

          I get seasick in wave pools too. No way would I go on a boat/ship even for 5 minutes!

      5. myfemmebot*

        I spent 1 night on an undulating cruise ship and the next 3 days swaying back and forth, all the time my anxiety increasing over when the torture would end. So yeah, when the big boss suggested the whole office take a cruise as a team building activity I nopped out of that real hard and flew to the destination instead.

      6. Queen Esmerelda*

        My DIL gets horrible sea sickness on cruise ships. My other son had a destination wedding on a cruise, and while the water was so smooth that most of the time I couldn’t tell we were on the ocean, my DIL spent the whole time hopped up on drugs and still queasy. It was horrible for her

      7. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s a fantastic excuse, imo.

        I’m someone who developed motion sickness as I got older, and I can tell you that being on literally all ships of all sizes now makes me extraordinarily nauseated. Dramamine and acupressure does not make it bearable; they just make me less likely to vomit. These experiences are so widespread among people with motion sickness (even if it’s not your experience) that I don’t think the boss will be able to debate whether OP will “feel” the currents on a large ship.

      8. Dove*

        Motion sickness on a cruise ship is, believe me, absolutely possible. To the point where there were a couple times, when I’ve gone on cruises, that the ship wasn’t prepared for how many people would be desperately hoping gingerale would help and it ran out *twice*.

        I’m used to boats and ships, and I’m usually fine after the first day or so once my body’s adjusted to the movement, with nothing worse than being moderately queasy. (It gets worse when we’re in port, though.) My partner, however, is often laid up for the first couple of days if it passes at all.

    4. Language Lover*


      As someone who gets seasick looking at rolling waves on TV, that’d be my excuse out of it. That said, I can’t tell if you want to go or not. You have reasons why you think you shouldn’t go but what do you want?

      You are right to worry about potential boundary crossing. Can you still see him as just a boss after he does this? On the other hand, it could simply be that the boss wanted to reward his long time staff and you benefited from his desire to treat the whole office instead of single out specific workers. You and your gut would know better what is closer to the truth. The one good thing about a cruise is that I suspect the boat is rather large with a lot of activities/ports of call. So unless he expects you’d all hang out every day (seriously, figure this part out), you might not be tripping over one another the whole time.

      And being practical with your finances is laudable but you’re not too young to start trying to find a balance between the practical and the “impractical” (or experiences rather than tangible things), especially if it’s considered a good deal. I wouldn’t presume to know anything about your finances but let’s say you and your fiance each save $125/month for four months to raise the $1,000 for the trip. Now, that $1,000 is not going to go to your house down payment so you’ve essentially delayed putting a down payment down on your house by about four months. In the 50 or so years of your marriage, what are you going to value more? A trip you took together (*one that carries some risk given how it came to you) or the fact that you bought a house at 28.33 years of age vs. 28?

      Only you can answer the question if you’d like to go. Only you know if going on the trip would mean missing payments on things like loans or car payments. And only you would know whether or not you’d be glad you went on the trip and delayed some other goals or whether those other goals are more appealing. For all I know, you’re already well traveled.

    5. Vauxhall Prefect*

      I wouldn’t go with seasickness, only because OP 1 mentions wanting to move up in the company. If she stays there long term then there’s always the chance that somebody is going to notice at some point that she doesn’t really get seasick, or she’ll need to keep up that pretence for a while.

      I don’t think that getting ‘found out’ is terribly likely, but it just seems to have more potential downsides than claiming a prior commitment. Or another kind of excuse that relates to more of a one-off event rather than an ongoing thing about her.

      1. Fiennes*

        If OP1 ever wants to take a cruise in future, or ever goes boating on weekends/holidays, the excuse could become a trap.

        1. hermit crab*

          Eh, medical treatments and personal susceptibility (and combinations thereof) are constantly changing for this sort of thing. I really, really wouldn’t worry about that aspect.

          1. Jaydee*

            Depending on the weather, speed, road conditions (esp. curves and hills), how recently I’ve eaten, temperature in the car, whether it’s day or night, my husband’s mood (it affects his driving style), and a variety of other factors that I can’t seem to pinpoint, I can either read/play around on my phone or iPad for hours in the car or I get motion sick within minutes if I try to look on Google maps to find a lunch spot in the next city we are going to drive through.

            If someone really wants to call the LW out as a liar because she claimed motion sickness to avoid this cruise and then later did something else that could prompt motion sickness, that person is maybe a jerk.

        2. Laini*

          How would they know if she goes on a cruise/boating in future? She doesn’t have to tell them.

        3. Washi*

          I get very motion sick on large boats, but kayaking doesn’t make me sick, nor does a few hours in a car. (It’s the gentle rocking I can’t stand.) I think as long as OP doesn’t absolutely love cruises and specifically want to go on cruises for vacation in the next couple years, the motion sick excuse would work out fine.

      2. Indie*

        But unless her bosses are completely unreasonable they will excuse a polite social lie. She says her bosses are kind; and presumably know that not everyone who opts out of a social event with an excuse is being 100 pc truthful. Would they really put her in the stocks or would they just assume they shouldn’t pry and accept the face saving demmural?

      3. Nita*

        I think it works in funny ways sometimes. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone can get seasick but have no other motion sickness. One of my kids is kind of like that – feels sick in the car, but is perfectly fine in buses, trains, and all kinds of boats.

      4. SarahTheEntwife*

        How often is she going to be on boats around her coworkers? That seems like a really easy pretense to keep up, especially if she’s not into boating as a hobby or anything like that.

        1. OP #1*

          Hahaha. Thank you all. This would be an excellent excuse, EXCEPT I was actually heavily involved in a local sailing organization and taught lessons throughout college for extra $$… I even ran the kids camp. It was a nonprofit, so I kept it on my resume and I know I’ve mentioned it a few times at work. Not sure if anyone would remember that kind of thing, but not a great white lie for me anyway.

          I think I’ll just go with “It’s not in the cards for me, but thank you so much and I can’t wait to hear all about it when you all return.” If pressured, I’ll say I can’t get a dog/cat sitter (I have both) and we’re in the process of planning a family trip (true, but it’s planned for months after the cruise)”

          1. mrs__peel*

            “Yes, I taught at sailing camp, but I shouted instructions from shore due to my terrible affliction”. :)

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think she’ll have to worry if this is her excuse. People’s bodies shift and do strange things over time. It’s possible to have the conditions of your motion sickness change, or your treatment approach change.

    6. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Inventing stories about why LW can’t go is unnecessary and opens LW to being caught in a stupid lie. I don’t agree with this or Allison’s advice to make things up.

      1. Michelle*

        Agreed. making stuff up is the WORST way to get out of something, because you are stuck with that lie forever. I read comment randomly somewhere about a woman who hates all forms of peanutbutter and told people she was allergic to avoid the inevitable mockery and push back and turns out tho she LOVES peanut m and m’s and now has to eat them in secret.

        and BTW, am i the only one that notices the irony of a university VP that has that much cash to blow on employees and the OP has student loans?

        anyhoo- I would be direct. ” while this is a fantastic offer, I wont be able to go. thanks for thinking of me, I’ll work hard while you guys are gone”

        if you’ve got the balls I’d add ” would you consider using the money you would have paid for me towards my student loans?”

        1. Specialk9*

          I was so struck by that. This sounds like startup-struck-rich behavior (the kind of people who literally make it rain cash), not university administration behavior!

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I totally had the same reaction and immediately wanted to know where this person is VP, because it boggles my mind that they’re rich enough to take their office on a cruise. Talk about really shitty optics and the risk of media blowback for the university if this story comes out and the whole office actually goes on the cruise.

        3. Dr. Pepper*

          Yup. If you lie, you’ve got to live that lie forever. Most people are terrible at doing that. Far easier to tell the truth, there’s much less to remember.

          You are not the only one who notices the irony. As someone who has worked in academia, I find it absolutely appalling to the point of obscenity that high level administrative people and athletic coaches get fat, fat paychecks while the rest of us scrounge for grant funding, cut costs at every turn, and sacrifice much to make sure research gets done to the best of our ability. The idea of an academic employee having enough money to easily pay for multiple people to go on a 10 day cruise while I’ve had to choose between paying wages or buying supplies makes me ill.

          1. EddieSherbert*

            +1 I also don’t think lying is the way to go; though I understand why Alison suggested a simple one like a one-time-family-commitment, since a lot of people have a hard time standing their ground and just saying “no” when someone is hounding you for details / offering to cover expenses / etc.

            If you DO need to fib, OP, stick with Alison’s simple lie of a prior commitment. Better yet, maybe you even CAN plan something with your family or a visit to grandma or an afternoon with your favorite cousin during that time, so it’s not even a lie!

          2. JessaB*

            It’s perfectly possible that this VP married money, inherited money, won the lottery, etc. It’s not necessarily true that their salary is that much better than anyone else around them. They may have other sources of money.

            It is also possible that they intend to go into debt for this trip, they may be terrible with finances and want to show off. But the fact that they can pay, or can’t and are going to borrow is less important than the fact that a ten day cruise can be a huge hardship for other people, and perhaps their awareness level is suffering.

      2. CAA*

        Agreed. He gave them until Monday to say no, and I think she can just say that after thinking about and talking it over with her fiance, they really appreciate this very generous offer, but it just doesn’t fit into their plans right now. She hopes everyone who goes will have a fabulous time though.

        She is going to hear a lot about it before and after the trip, and she has to be cheerful and friendly around all the excitement.

      3. Chalupa Batman*

        I don’t necessarily look down on anyone who decides that a no-harm lie is the best way to resolve their particular situation, but I am a terrible liar. I’m just not comfortable with it, at all. Advice to make something up might be reasonable, but it wouldn’t work for me.

        Until we talked about my salary goals directly, my boss (also at a university) literally thought I made thousands more per year than I do because our pay structure means someone else is in charge of cutting the checks for people in my role. I think crying poverty is the way to go here. OP says they have other financial priorities, and it’s just not reasonable to think that you could spend 10 days out of the country and spend no more than you would have had you stayed home. It’s fair to say that you appreciate the willingness to work with you, but taking any unplanned trip isn’t financially feasible right now. Repeat as needed. It doesn’t sound like OP’s boss is being weird about this (aside from the offer itself), so unless they all survive a shipwreck together or something, I’d expect it to blow over without any major career blips fairly quickly.

        1. EddieSherbert*

          And, if anything, I kind of expect the “career blips” to occur on the boat!

          I mean, 10 days with basically anyone is too much for me! I’d be the weirdo who didn’t hang out with everyone the whole time. Plus, there’s drinking…. are people sharing rooms?… Does anyone have a spouse with bad social skills?… etc.

    7. Laura*

      Please don’t lie! There’s no need to lie, white or otherwise. You can simply say, “After considering your kind offer, I’ve decided this really isn’t something I can do right now.” That really should be no enough. However, if the response comes back why not, the answer is, “There are some personal reasons that means it’s just not going to work for me to be able to go. But thank you so much for the kind offer.” (Which honestly I don’t think is such a kind offer, but that’s me.)

  8. bookartist*

    LW#3 – the fourth option is if your employee is a skeptic, their opinion of you will suffer if you relay to them that you believe that you have prophetic dreams.

    1. Traveling Teacher*

      +1! I would seriously doubt someone’s judgement if they told me about this dream (or any dream) and sincerely believed it would come true. Not the sort of thing you share outside of psychic/religious circles.

      1. PollyQ*

        +1 more! It would absolutely torpedo my opinion of whoever told it to me, and if that someone were my boss, and I had any notion of looking for another job, this might well sell me on that.

      2. Constanze*

        Same. I would have trouble not laughing out loud and I would absolutely question their judgement.
        This would just be so… bizarre.

        1. Indie*

          And in Tarot, the death card simply means a huge life change. Even if the OP believes her dream was significant, dreams aren’t usually supposed to be literal in meaning by even the most credulent.

      3. Baby Fishmouth*

        My sister in law will call us to tell us the dreams she’s had about us because she genuinely believes she is psychic. It’s so crazy sometimes that my husband and I just roll our eyes when we see her name on the caller ID. One example: “don’t be freaked out, but I had a dream that an angry old man died in your apartment once, and is now haunting the building. I’m sure that everything is okay, but have you noticed anything weird lately? He really seems to want people to get out of ‘his apartment’.”

        1. Symptoms to Watch For*

          My SIL did that for a little while. She was calling at all hours of the day and night to share her dreams. She claimed she dreamed a major airplane crash accurately to the last detail days before it happened. She would try to tell me what colors to wear, or prevent me from leaving the house at certain times, based on her dreams.

          It turned out her medication had stopped working and she was in a manic episode. The dreams stopped after the new meds kicked in.

          So, if my boss told me they had dreamed the exact date of my death, I would have serious concerns about their mental health. Best to leave things unsaid.

      4. CultKid*

        This kind of thing seems totally normal to me, but I did grow up in a cult, so YMMV.

        We had a lot of babbling (praying in tongues), shaking hands and sometimes whole bodies (the Holy Spirit!), tons of prophetic messages from God… and of course a heaping overlay of spiritual and financial abuse, with some creepy things toward women.

          1. CultKid*

            Oh definitely! I grew up in a cult, but got out and had lots of therapy. I just wanted to let OP know that there are cultures in which this kind of thing is normal – but do they really want to imitate a cult?

    2. Foreign Octopus*

      If someone told me about a dream where they predicted my exact death date and then they told me that date, I would be very annoyed. Why are you telling me this? There’s no need for it.

      Let it pass, OP.

      1. PB*

        Agreed. I wouldn’t believe that it meant I would actually die that day, but it would absolutely be in the back of my head until that date passed. And this is six years(!) out.

    3. Fiennes*

      I’m a skeptic, but I wouldn’t think less of anyone for this. It’s a rare person who hasn’t had an experience that shook them in some way, even if they rationally realize how unlikely it is. Also, I think a big—and often ignored—aspect of skepticism is keeping a healthy respect for other people’s beliefs, so long as those beliefs are not harmful to others. (Once you believe you’re right, the end, you aren’t a skeptic. You just have a new belief system with you at the center.) So if someone believes in dreams, okay, fine.

      That said, this one is so spooky that I’d keep it to myself. Best case scenario is that the coworker is weirded out. Worst case could be severe anxiety on one end, so-called “rational” contempt on the other.

      1. Constanze*

        (Once you believe you’re right, the end, you aren’t a skeptic. You just have a new belief system with you at the center.) So if someone believes in dreams, okay, fine.
        That is not what skepticism is. Not the place to talk about this, but if you are interested, you might consider reading a bit more on this, especially in order to understand the difference between a belief system and science based theories. They are not comparable.

        In any case, there is no reason whatsoever to share this kind of belief / absence of belief with an employee. The OP doesn’t know how the employee will react, and whatever his reaction, it can’t be good.

    4. Jen*

      Honestly, I would be extremely turned off by someone who did this. What on earth are you supposed to do with that information? Or ehat reaction are they expecting? It just seems designed to upset you and for no good reason whatsoever. It is not okay to do that to someone.

    5. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Yes. If you want to believe in prophetic dreams, etc, that’s fine. But if you mention it around me, you’re gonna get a mental tag of “possibility of unreliable decision process, illogical thoughts, and general WOO type behaviors”. None of which I view as a positive.

    6. 5 Leaf Clover*

      As someone who doesn’t believe in the supernatural at all, but still can’t shake superstition sometimes, if my boss told me something like this I would BOTH think less of them AND worry for the next 6 years. Even if the dream were 100% true, why would anyone want to know the date of their death??

  9. Drew*

    OP#1: I like Alison’s approach of “Wow, sorry, that’s the week my family has our annual llama grooming party and I’ve already promised to groom Gramma’s llama since we lost her earlier this year,” but I fear it could backfire if it ever comes out that Gramma is fine and you’ve never even seen a llama.

    Have you said, flat out, “This is kind and generous and I appreciate the gesture more than I can say, but I’ve decided I can’t go”? I mean, they’re trampling all over your reasons (and they are GOOD reasons); maybe it’s time for a refusal with no reasons beyond “It’s not right for me”? It’s pretty clear that every reason you offer is being seen as a minor challenge, easily surmounted.

    I was originally going to say, “I discussed this with Fiancé and we decided,” but I think this is one you have to own or they’ll resent him for not letting you go, no matter how unfair that view is and how much you say that you agree with the decision you made together.

    I wish you luck with this. I admit, it’s a bit lovely to see someone whose problem is that her bosses are TOO kind and TOO generous…

    1. Afiendishthingy*

      Speaking as a really terrible liar, I would try to find a real event but maybe exaggerate its importance— like you have to go to your cousin’s baptism (but really you’re not close and it’s not a big deal if you don’t make it). I’d also probably double up on excuses— like, you have the family event and ALSO you get horribly seasick and just wouldn’t be able to enjoy a cruise anyway.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      I was also thinking house-sitting, pet-sitting, or baby-sitting. You can shift it every time your boss changes the dates. “Oh, that’s a shame, my sister needs me to watch her dogs again and I simply can’t leave her hanging.” If your boss really doesn’t get it he may press you as to why she can’t hire a sitter, but if you don’t feel like making up details of your sister’s dogs’ particular needs, you can just say, “I’m afraid it’s not an option” and immediately go into how devastated you are that unfortunately you cannot go on the cruise, but you hope they have a lovely time, don’t forget your sunscreen and all that.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*


      No lies, no stories. Just “I’m sorry but it’s not in the cards for me. I’m sure everyone will have a great time.”

    4. Jules the 3rd*

      This is what I came here to say. LW1, you don’t have to lie, and there’s always a chance that lies will come back to bite you. Just emphasize how kind they are to offer, and what a neat idea it sounds like, but it doesn’t work for you at this time / stage of your life. No more details or reasons than that.

      The one down side is that they may make up reasons, and as you are an engaged person, they may start expecting a baby announcement soon, but that will fade within a few months. Just be polite, firm, and enthusiastically support them. No jokes about ‘holding down the fort’ while they’re gone, jokes are too ambiguous. Focus on what you’ll be doing (‘going to put into place Miss Lemon’s Perfect Filing System!’) so they don’t think they’ll be paying you to sit around while the boss’s are gone, and how much you’re looking forward to the slide shows when they get back.

      1. Specialk9*

        I think this is an important bit of advice: recognize, verbally, what an incredibly kind gesture this is. (It’s also awkward for all the reasons you’ve gone into, but the boss’ heart sounds good.) Recognize that part, and you are unlikely to burn bridges.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        I wouldn’t lie. It’s too easy to get caught or trapped. I would do what Jules the 3rd suggests. Thank them, but decline.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      This comes up with family gatherings all the time–money is a valid reason to say no, but if it’s the actual reason and someone offers to fix it for you then you should say yes.

      It’s not always possible to tell if the excuse someone is presenting is a soluble problem they believe to be insoluble, and you can help, or a fig leaf that you are supposed to leave intact.

      1. Specialk9*

        I often struggle with that. I could help find solutions, cuz I’m can-do, but maybe they just don’t like me or hate the idea for some reason and are being polite.

    6. LJay*

      I think there’s a difference between trampling all over reasons, and trying to make good faith efforts to actually fix issues someone has raised.

      The partner has no way of knowing that letter writer really doesn’t want to go.

      So far all she’s said is that she’s concerned about price and time off, and has been told “We can take care of that for you,” because they’re assuming she wants to go and just needs a way around those financial issues, and they’re able to take care of those financial issues.

      I think trampling over her reasons would be more like saying, “Come on, surely you have $1000 to go. If not just stop buying avocado toast for a week and you’ll be fine, or “What could be more important top spend your vacation time on than this?”

      But yeah, I would still recommend just saying that she doesn’t want to go, because otherwise a family event that can’t be moved may just result in, “Well, we’ll just change the week we’re going on the cruise,” or whatever.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Make good faith efforts to actually fix issues someone has raised.

        This. Many years back my in-laws put in a pool, explaining it was to lure children and grandchildren to visit. Our annual family membership at a much larger pool 5 minutes from our house cost about one round-trip plane ticket, and there were four of us. Our generation pointed this out–that our trips to visit were constrained by vacation time and money, not aquatic opportunities. Their generation started picking up the cost of visits home, meaning that our generation was then inclined to visit whenever we could make time.

        And I think we do all have experience with people who say “Well I can’t because X, which is completely insoluble” and X is pretty simple to fix, they have just gotten into a mindset that it cannot even be dented. If you say “I’d love to but I don’t own a life vest, so it’s not possible” and people respond “Oh, we have spare life vests, that’s not a problem” they are trying to solve what you told them was the problem–that’s not mean or unreasonable of them.

        1. Specialk9*

          Right! It’s not mean or unreasonable to try to help solve problems. I’ve noticed that people here often default to rules appropriate for egregious boundary stompers, but that kind of hard nosed no-budging approach is great for the average person. (I get it, I have my own lenses that I jump to quickly.)

          1. Specialk9*

            /I’ve noticed that people here often default to rules appropriate for egregious boundary stompers, but that kind of hard nosed no-budging approach is NOT great for the average person.

    7. Snark*

      I kind of agree. It’s tempting to go “I can’t because X,” where X is some conflicting event or sickness or something, but I feel like OP gave a pretty great reason right there in her letter: we’d have to pass on personal plans later in the winter, husband can’t take that time off, financial goals we’re trying to meet this year. Done. And then hold the line. It’s just not the time for them to take an unplanned vacation.

      1. Lauren*

        This! It’s not up to OTHER people to tell her how she needs to spend her vacation or her $1000 dollars. And if she doesn’t want to go without her boyfriend then she doesn’t want to go without her boyfriend. If she wanted to she would go!!

        1. Snark*

          Exactly! This is not up for debate. You decide how you spend your money and your time.

          “It’s so kind of you to offer, and it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but we’ve still reached the conclusion that this isn’t in the cards. Thanks for understanding.”

      2. Dr. Pepper*

        It’s one of those “soften the blow” techniques we all employ from time to time. In our society, “I don’t want to” is generally not considered a valid reason to decline generosity. It’s perceived as ungrateful, and nobody wants to be ungrateful, so we trot out “I can’t” instead. I can’t go because of money, or time, or Great Aunt Susie’s 100th birthday, or whatever.

    8. CM*

      I agree with this — deflect, deflect, deflect. Much easier than lies and stories.
      “I’m so sorry that I won’t be able to go.”
      “Thank you so much, but I’ll have to decline.”
      “Cruises aren’t for me.”
      “I really appreciate your kind offer, but I won’t be going.”
      “This just isn’t my thing.”
      “I hope you all have a wonderful time.”

      1. pleaset*


        And frankly the ones that are closest to saying “I don’t want to go” – like not liking cruises – are strongest in the long run – there is no argument against them.

    9. pleaset*

      Somebody offering more PTO in response to a concern about not having enough PTO is not trampling over the reason – that’s responding to the reason. That’s trying to address the stated problem.

      That’s a good thing, not a bad thing.

      That’s how I want people to respond to me – if I say I have a problem they try to solve that problem.

      1. Snark*

        At the same time, though, there can be a sort of willful ignorance of boundaries when the offeror doesn’t recognize when they’re being turned down gently. There’s a difference between kindly offering to assist with a small bump in the road and blithely jumping hurdles deliberately placed in the way.

    10. Sciencer*

      Yeah, the family-event lie makes me queasy, not because I’m opposed to a little white lie but because of how far she’d have to take it. She’d have to *actually* book vacation days for the event, be careful about her social media use during those days, perpetuate the lie when boss/coworkers ask about the event, have a reason for not having any photos to share… it’s just so likely to become uncomfortable and unwieldy, and being caught in that lie (or even suspected of lying) would be SO much worse for her rapport with the bosses than saying simply, “I really appreciate your offer, but I just don’t think this is the best time for me to go on a long cruise. I can’t wait to hear all about it after you get back though!”

      If she’s worried about VP pushing more after a refusal like that, she can have a backup white-lie plan. Claiming something like seasickness (or even just a *fear* of seasickness) or punting to fiancé’s limited PTO is simpler than concocting a can’t-miss event.

      1. bonkerballs*

        I mean, it’s a ten day cruise so there will be weekend days. And a family event can just be an afternoon in town. I’ve used that excuse to get out things loads of times.

        I do think it’s best to say this cruise just isn’t going to work for you, thanks but no thanks, but a little white lie doesn’t have to become this crazy ruse you’ll have to maintain for years to come.

  10. Traveling Teacher*

    LW1: I’m worried that any explanation you give will get twisted around by your boss. If dates for the trip aren’t set in stone, is it possible to just offer your regrets sincerely? “I’m so sorry, but I will not be able to go on your wife’s birthday cruise,” and repeat as needed, offering no explanations.

    This is where an old-fashioned RSVP would be handy: “I regret that I will not be able to attend your wife’s 10 day birthday cruise.” Just typing that out makes me cringe.

    Have you tried to talk with any of your other bosses who were invited, just asking them what they think about it? Maybe no one wants to go, and you can all respond as a group?

    Also, when the cruise does happen, could you please update us with stories from your colleagues if any do decide to go? The drama!

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      I would bet good money that not everybody in the office is going or wants to go. Cruises aren’t actually everyone’s idea of a great vacation in the first place — never mind with the boss.

      And yes, no excuses. Just “regrets, can’t go.”

    2. 2horseygirls*

      THIS ^^^

      My husband would never go on a cruise, and it has honestly never been on my radar either.

      The funding/alumni/development office at the college I worked for had a revolving door on it (and still does), so my experience has not been that it is a long-term position. Maybe it is diffrent in other institutions?

      From someone way further down the career path, I will be honest – I cannot think of a single position I have held at which I would want to go on a 10-day cruise with co-workers and bosses.

      Forced generosity, while I am sure originating from a kind and well-meaning heart, is still forced nonetheless.

      My husband was out of town for work about 5 hours away intermittently for a total of 242 days in 2017. The one owner of my company wanted to do something nice so he offered to pay for a weekend visit and to go to the theatre to see a musical (“just charge it all to the company card”).

      Hubby was staying in a million dollar house (funny AirBNB story for an open thread one day), and we are not musical people. I finally had to be very clear and say “Husband is staying in a million dollar house, so there is no need for the hotel offer. We wiuld rather spend the time together where we can talk and catch up instead of at a theatre production where we cannot talk.”

      There was never a cash substitute offer on the table. So it was quite similar to someone giving you a gift that it is not to your taste, interests, or liking, but is rather exactly what THEY would love to get as a gift.

      The owner was monumentally insulted that I did not jump on this offer, and still brings it up over a year later. It does not affect me professionally because I am the only person who does what I do in a small 6-person firm.

    3. Snark*

      That language seems awfully stiff. I’d still be tempted to soften the delivery – such a kind offer, thanks for the opportunity – but still hold very firm that it’s not in the cards.

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      Exactly. People who want to be generous can fall into the trap of assuming that everyone will be thrilled with their generosity. Therefore any excuses not to take them up on their offer are seen as mere obstacles to overcome, not as the polite dodges that they often are. Why wouldn’t anyone want to go on a 10 day cruise??

      I would decline, graciously, but without giving an excuse. The boss has already demonstrated that he doesn’t understand that the “no” isn’t conditional, and thus any excuse for not going that can be “fixed” will not get the message across of “no, I can’t go and I don’t want to go, have fun without me”.

  11. bunniferous*

    To the dreamer: Lots of times a dream that seems really straightforward is actually symbolic. Are you concerned about your best employee maybe wanting to find a different job? Do you have greater work stress right now than you normally do? That sort of thing.

    Do NOT tell your employee. But if you truly are rattled about it, know that in at least some faith communities the proper response to a dream like that is to pray for the person that they would be safe.
    If I dreamed that I would just assume the fortune teller in my dream was lying, so there’s that.

    1. Turquoisecow*

      Yes, this. I’ve had dreams of the “future” before and none of them have come true. I’ve also had a number of dreams about loved ones dying, and usually they’re just a reflection of the fact that I don’t want to lose them, and the dream is reminding me, or maybe making me realize it for the first time.

      A therapist once told me that most dreams are a reflection of what we really *want* or *don’t want* to happen. Since OP says this is a favorite employee, I imagine it’s a reflection of a fear of losing the employee.

    2. Glowcat*

      Yes, I came to suggest the same! Also, it might stem from worry: if for example the employee is am enthusiastic smoker OP may be worried that he might develop cancer. But in this case I would put anti-smoke posters in the break room, not certainly talk to him about dreams; that’s too weird, especially if he’s a skeptic.

      1. That Cat Lady*

        I had a dream once that one of my colleagues died and it stemmed from the fact that she had been mysteriously ill recently and had been going to the doctor a lot. Turns out she was just having a bad flare up of a chronic but non-fatal condition and I wasn’t even consciously aware of being that concerned about it but having that dream mad me aware of how much it had been worrying me subconsciously. I could very well believe that maybe the LW has noticed some background behaviour/ symptom that could effect the employees health and has subconsciously taken that on board.

    3. Les G*

      Ehhh, I don’t think we need to encourage the OP to read the tea leaves more than she already is. Most dreams mean something if you really squint and turn your head to the side, but folks will project and find the meaning they want to find. My wife has had several dreams about me dying in a pretty graphic way, has had dreams that she’s married to my sister, that we have to suddenly move to Antarctica…it doesn’t mean anything.

      1. Jen*

        There is some evidence that dreams are a side effect of your brain storing long term memories. But it doesn’t work like a logical or ordered process so basically you can just have the result of a mix of jumbled memories of real events and say, what you watched on tv three days ago.

        1. Specialk9*

          I’ve studied psychology enough to know that human brains filter out a TON of information from our conscious perception, to help us stay sane, but that means that sometimes the only way those valid but filtered perceptions can get through is through our emotions (sixth sense, just had a bad feeling about something) and
          I would guess also sometimes squirting into dreams. (It’s kind of a crap way of alerting us to potential danger, though, because those same emotions are also easily hijacked by racism, sexism, classism, etc)

          1. Sacred Ground*

            There’s also a difference between what a person actually dreams and what they remember of the dream the next day. The actual dream may just be a jumble of unconnected images/events/emotions that the waking mind then reassembles into a coherent narrative.

      2. Airy*

        Some years later, AAM receives an update from Les G’s widow, now married to her former sister-in-law, letting us all know of Les’ tragic demise, pecked to death by Adelie penguins…

    4. curly sue*

      I had a similar sort of dream once – not death-related, but it involved an extraordinarily vivid image of my sister in law repeating a date over and over again and the phrase “this is a very important day for him” (referring to my brother).

      I remembered it when I woke up, and because this is the kind of relationship we have, texted my brother about it. He didn’t have anything planned for that day – about three months in the future. Then the day came and went… and absolutely nothing of significance happened to anyone in the family.

      I did transpose my SIL’s birthday dates that year (off by two days), so maybe that was my subconscious trying to kick me for it. [shrugs]

      In any case, unless it’s 1) someone you’re close to, 2) who would get a positive kick out of hearing about something like that, I wouldn’t say a thing.

    5. Lily Rowan*

      Yeah, if my boss told me they had had that dream about me, I wouldn’t think anything bad about them, but I WOULD think that they were so afraid I would leave that it was invading their sleep. And since throughout my career, I’ve mostly been on the verge of leaving any given job at any given time, that would just make me feel bad.

    6. The Hobbit*

      Fully agree there. I’ve read somewhere dreams about death are often rooted in uncomfortable/fear-inducing change. Psychologically, I’m definitely not going into the supernatural side of stuff. Probably because death is ‘the ultimate change’ for everyone involved, it often slips into our dreams during moments of change we’re not particularly okay with/having a hard time with.

      I dream about death (usually mine) all the time when I’m going through changes in my career or personal life, and I totally get it would be unsettling to have a super vivid dream with someone you know well, but yeah, I wouldn’t tell the employee either. Just try to work out where the change that makes me uncomfortable is.

      Obligatory disclaimer: IANAP (I am not a pachyderm, I believe is the accepted wording)

    7. Interviewer*

      OP, I agree that you should not tell the employee about this dream. You are interpreting the dream literally, and letting it frighten you – instead, that dream should be viewed as a metaphor. Whether you are afraid the employee will leave your company, or if you think the relationship is not as strong at the moment – this dream is about your thoughts & feelings about your employee, and your fears of how things will change – not an actual psychic prediction of your employee’s future.

  12. I have a boat*

    OP #1: Sorry, that is quite a problem. I hope your bosses would accept the white lies. I could tell you from direct experience that telling the truth actually doesn’t help in this case. My ex-company set up something similar – a holiday for the entire company paid for by the CEO, but also with the stipulation of using employee annual leave for the event. My coworker felt this was unfair, and wrote directly to the CEO who planned this saying as such. The CEO threw a huge tantrum and cancelled the whole thing, blaming it directly on “certain ungrateful employees”.
    (Worst off situation, I’d say maybe you can go solo? Just bring along a book and the 10 days should pass before you know it)

    1. pleaset*

      I’m not sure you finished your story. Did the coworker feel this is a bad outcome? Or suffer at the job later? If the OP doesn’t want to go this seems like a good outcome. What’s the rest of the story?

      1. I have a boat*

        Oh sorry. In our case, our trip was cancelled and nobody had to spend their annual leave. (Other teams who didn’t complain got to enjoy the holiday). The CEO was angry, but I am pretty sure the coworker didn’t suffer a lot, career-wise. She was quite a go getter and remained an great performer in our team.

        1. pleaset*

          That sounds to me to be an example of telling the truth helping the person in question – the opposite of your conclusion.

          1. Kes*

            It sounds like it helped that coworker, but potentially hurt others on the team who might have wanted to go

    2. Almost Violet Miller*

      We had a similar story at my previous company. We used to have quartely meetings all around Europe in pretty nice locations which sounds lovely, right?
      Well, the hotels were often 3-5 hours from the airport and we never had any time to take advantage of the locations because the meetings wouldn’t finish before dinner, dinner was always an hour away at another nice location, and because of the no-laptop policy we had to at least check e-mails after the official program for the day was over, so 1-2am. (And the meetings were just 75% useless, I must add, chewing fat and listening to unrelated business lines’s problems in regions we don’t work with.)
      So my colleague decided to write an e-mail with suggestions on how to make these events more efficient. It was a well-written e-mail that expressed gratitude but also recommended we spend less time traveling and separate business lines.
      He made the mistake of hitting ‘reply all’ so the management felt attacked. He didn’t care because he was an overperformer (120% on already ambitious sales targets in millions) and also didn’t want to stay for too long.
      What followed was an absolute sh.storm. There was crying (asst. to the manager who was the organizer), shouting, screaming, blaming (manager) BUT the next meeting was so much better. The team agreed with all the changes (wouldn’t say it because that workplace was toxic and opinions were seen as dangerous).
      The bottom-line is: speaking up worked in his case because
      1) the team shared his opinion (and noone would be mad at him for taking away such a ‘perk’ even though management pointed out whom we should thank for it multiple times)
      2) he was so good at his job they couldn’t fire/punish him
      3) he wasn’t afraid of losing his job anyway because he had plans of leaving anyway in less than a year

      1. I have a boat*

        Your outcome is also quite similar to mine. There were much tantrums by management, but in the end they could tell that punishing a good performer for pointing out a logical issue would make them look bad. Our team simply didn’t go to the holiday (nobody really minded much).

      2. MK*

        I don’t really think this is similar, since these were work meetings. Was the nice location supposedly a perk? If so, it was appropriate to point out that the meetings were inefficient and the perk made useless by the location. In the first example, it’s only unfair to have to use PTO if it’s supposed to be a team-building event or something. If it’s just the gift of a holiday, well the CEO didn’t handle it maturely, but it was pretty ungrateful of the employee to demand extra PTO on top of it. If someone gives you a gift you cannot take advantage of, you should decline politely, not ask them to accommodate you.

        1. Alexander*

          I guess you misunderstood.. the employee is not really interested in going, and tried using a lack of PTO as an argument NOT to go.. and they offered more PTO in response, negating her argument.

          This is not trying to pull something from the company, this is trying to get out of an uncomfortable social situation…

          1. MK*

            I didn’t misunderstand the letter, but my comment wasn’t refering to that. It was a response to I-have-a-boat’s comment upthread.

    3. cncx*

      yes, something similar happened in my company before i arrived but the event happened. the US office was invited along with the European office to a weekend offsite in Europe. Which was fine for the Europeans, because it was like an hour flight, but the US office had two connecting flights at a minimum, like 12+ hours travel, luggage got lost, they lost two days PTO travelling, jet lag, etc. Someone from the US office complained about their flight being late and luggage lost and got strung up by the CEO for being ungrateful, when, if you think about it, even if it was paid, how do you put a price on the flight, travel time and jet lag compared to the European employees? I mean it was an amazing gesture and hey free trip to Europe but at the same time, the US employees were more out of pocket than the Euro ones

      1. Sacred Ground*

        Wait, was this an obligatory work trip (you say “invited” but were they free to decline without penalty) but they were required to use their PTO for time spent traveling?

  13. Turquoisecow*

    OP2, my old company was in dire straights, froze salaries, and eventually went bankrupt. But when I got a promotion, I got a raise.

    I was new to the workforce at the time, so I probably would not have turned down the promotion if a raise was not included. But if a similar thing happened now (at a different company), I would definitely want more money for more responsibility. Especially if the director job requires more hours, and potential on-call type work, do not do that on a coordinator’s pay. I know non-profits are not known for generous salaries, but if they really want you to do the job, they should be willing to pay you the same as they’d pay a new person, and they definitely wouldn’t hire a new director at a coordinator’s salary!

    1. Sara without an H*

      True. There’s something distinctly off about this whole situation. If I were OP#2, I’d already be job searching.

      1. OP2*

        OP#2 Here: I totally agree with all of the feedback here and for being shortchanged. I appreciate the perspective. The context I didn’t give was that I was basically doing the Manager’s job anyway, so I knew that the title and “promotion” would look good on my resume. I also was grateful for the extra time off.

        I also LOVE my job, which was worth more to me than the money at that time. I am able to feel like I’m making a huge impact in people’s lives every single day and get to do a job I feel great about.

        Obviously I realized something is amiss, which caused me to write in. I truly appreciate your response and support.

  14. Dalila*

    Op 3, I would be furious if someone told me they had a dream like that about me. I don’t believe in psychics, but I have anxiety and this could trigger it.
    Besides, why do you want to warn him? What can he possibly do about it?

    1. There All Is Aching*

      Exactly. I have anxiety/depression/obsessiveness issues too, and a former colleague once casually joked at a social dinner that I was going to age horribly one day. Ever since then, even though I knew it wasn’t fact or prophecy or rational — that it was a *joke* — it’s stuck in my head and has been creating a self-fulfilling situation that on some days has left me totally demoralized. (I’m a woman pushing 50 — which already comes with having to grapple with age/vanity acceptance — who has sleep issues that, since the cruel comment, are showing up as dark undereye bags.) I can only imagine if he told me he knew the date I would die, even if I share your skepticism re: psychics. *shudder*

      Though oddly, when an ex emailed me in a panic to say he was worried about me because he had just had a dream where something horrible happened to me, I was able to hear it as him still feeling connected and wanting the best for me vs. worrying about my fate. I’d guess it’s because he was one of my favorite exes and it was nice to hear he was thinking about me after nearly 10 years. :)

        1. Indie*

          That is an AWFUL joke and a terrible, unsocial way to respond to the compliment paid to you. It really doesn’t matter whether it was ‘just’ thoughtlessness.

          1. There All Is Aching*

            Thanks for underscoring this. I was wondering if context made it less bad, but no.

            1. Indie*

              Nope it made it worse; also as someone who gets told ‘you look young!’ or ‘still the same’ I really like those comments and their intentions, but I a) wish we lived in a world where we complimented people on looking their age, or it becoming them (because ageing is attractive) and b) realised it’s NSFW (the ‘old as dirt’ comment isn’t suitable for polite company anywhere).
              So- if ageing is a topic that can go south at work, how much more unsuitable is death!

              1. Julia*

                I wish we could just stop commenting on people’s looks wrt/ their ages at all. Actually, at least at work, no comments about looks would be totally fine by me.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Removed an off-topic thread here about mean jokes.

        Y’all, please resist the temptation to go off on reply tangents that don’t relate to the letter.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I could see this coming off as the dreamee feeling they were obligated to reassure the dreamer that they were NOT terrified, NOT paralyzed, really the report of this possibly prophetic (or not) dream had not ruined their life, it’s okay….

      Don’t do that to your employees. Or anyone, but especially anyone who feels obligated to placate you.

  15. Hipkat*

    A group vacation can be a wonderful perk if it’s done right. I worked at a small (25 or so employees) publishing company, and every other year we’d all escape the cold February weather in Colorado for the beaches of Cabo. The boss was awesome — he would pick up airfare and condos for us and our significant other, but we’d be on our own for dining (though he threw a couple of big dinner parties during the week where we’d eat & drink for free). The week didn’t count against our vacay time, and he usually threw some bonus cash in for walking-around money. It was not only a great vacation, it was an amazing team-building exercise.

    1. There All Is Aching*

      That sounds amazing. I guess it depends on how comfortable you are around your colleagues. At my old job, I’d hear about the good old days when the company (multinational, publishing) would foot the bill for work retreats in warm, fruity-drink locales and how much fun everyone had bonding. Was kinda sad to have missed out.

      1. Foreign Octopus*

        This is an excellent point.

        My level of comfort around my colleagues extended to the mandated, once monthly team lunch we all had together. I felt awkward at the Christmas party, which I tried to get out of but was steamrolled into going, and I would have jumped overboard rather than spend ten days with my colleagues on a boat I was trapped on.

    2. Constanze*

      This sounds great.

      Having the company basically call the shots on your personal PTO is not.

      1. Lookin' a gift horse in the mouth*

        But the company is (probably) not calling the shots on OP’s PTO.

        The VP has offered to “gift” PTO to her. Admittedly, that’s not 100% unambiguous. So that there’s no ambiguity, I would, in OPs place, confirm in writing that this means her PTO will not be charged.

        But by the best interpretation of what OP wrote, PTO is not an issue.

        1. Lauren*

          But he only offered to “gift” the time after she said she couldn’t go. So yeah they are. So are the other people using their vacation time? Then it’s not fair. And how does he gift it? Is this a case where some vague thing is said and never happens and then she’s out vacation days that she needs? In which case this is even worse than the first offer which was pretty bad on it’s own.

    3. Laura*

      This raises a very good point: if the entire office is going, is this a work event? And if it’s a work event, it shouldn’t require you to use PTO.

      This offer may be kindly meant, but I just think it’s a bad idea all around. Because of the power dynamics, your boss has put you (and all of his employees) in a very difficult position. Is this work? Is this not work? What happens if I say no? Will those who go gain an advantage? I genuinely wish he’d thought more about those issues before making the offer.

      (I also wonder, because I’m cynical, if this might be a tax write-off or deal with the cruise company.)

  16. The Fairy Goodmanager*

    OP. 1: take Alison advice. Locked those days, at least a couple of them, with another event and feel free to lie if needed. I was in your shoes twice, with the same boss. The 1st time I was perplexed, but fearful to ruin my career and I went with my boss and her family to their Spanish estate. All the office felt pressured to accept her invitation to the “Very Special Team Building Week”, I kid you not, she wrote that on the email. It was as awkward as you can imagine. The 2nd time the boss tried to do this, you have no idea how many weddings, medical appointmens and relatives-very-important-events happened in my office during that week as half of us rush to kindly refuse. In retrospective, I realized how bizarre the entire culture in that place was and I left as soon as I could. I wish you all the best for your career, but nobody world feel pressured to go in a holiday with their boss to have a successful career (and no boss should ever propose it).
    OP 3: yeah, my friend’s boss warned he dreamt about my friend’s father being killed. She was perplexed to say the least, and also a bit embarrassed. What was she supposed to say?? Thank you? Find someone to complete my X project because I’ll be grieving? Her father is still fine and the story has become their family anecdote. On the bright side, in my culture when you dream that someone is going to die we think you made their life longer!

    1. MK*

      In my culture too, death in a dream is a positive prophecy. If the OP had dreamt of fish or a wedding dress, though, the employee would have been doomed!

    2. OP #1*

      Thank you! Thank you all for all the advice. It seems the commenters are just as conflicted as I am….

      The part I didn’t include in my original letter is that we’ve been planning, for a long time now, to take a trip to the South with my inlaws. That trip would be the first time Fiance gets to introduce me to his extended family, which I think qualifies as a Big Deal. We’re planning it for late spring/early summer, so it doesn’t directly conflict with the trip but is something I’d want to save my vacation time for. I brought up the PTO problem to VP in this context, and that was when he said “we all have PTO saved up that we can gift you”. He’s a very generous and kind man, again, but he has a problem with thinking through the logistics of some things he’s said. For one, no one else has agreed to gift their vacation time. I’m not even sure this is possible… I’m a “foundation” employee in an office full of state employees. I’m the lowest compensated, with the worst benefits… and I’m not complaining, because I’m at the start of my career and all, but I don’t think he’s taking that into consideration. Saving even an additional 125 per month for Fiance and I is tough, and it seriously means forgoing purchases and trips that we’ve been planning for months. Unfortunately, I already told him the trip to Texas was scheduled for different dates, otherwise, I would have stuck to my guns with that one.

      Fiance works in law enforcement, and it would be really tough for him to get approved for what would be about two weeks worth of vacation. He has a regular caseload with weekly responsibilities, so we struggle to plan even weekend trips sometimes! But VP is pressuring us to go without our partners, because in his words: “you women are always doing for your husbands, you should think about taking this trip just for you.” Which is lovely in theory, except Fiance is my best friend and I don’t want to go to Mexico without him! Those memories are only worth it for me if he can share them…

      I’m hesitant to talk to anyone else about my concerns. I’d like to talk to the AVP because I work directly for her and VP and we have a mentor/mentee relationship. But AVP has worked with VP in the past at prior institutions and they have a very tight relationship. My other boss is so excited about the cruise, too. I’m going to try to ask around with other coworkers today. If would be easier to decline if I knew at least one other person was going to.

      1. Dr. Pepper*

        A trip just for you would be just that, a trip just for you. NOT a cruise with your entire office including your boss and your boss’s boss. It’s actually slightly offensive to me that he would think that such a trip would be good “me time” or whatever for you. It sounds almost sexist. Personally, I spend time with my husband and would want to go on a trip with him because I LIKE him, not because I’m “doing for him” or whatever out of duty/obligation as his wife.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Honestly, it is enough to just say, “It’s a lovely offer, but I can’t take you up on it. I hope you have an amazing time.”

        If he pushes about why (and he may not), you can say, “Oh, a bunch of conflicts — need to save my PTO for a different upcoming trip, fiancee can’t get the time off work, and a bunch of other stuff I won’t bore you with. I’m so excited for you though — I bet you’ll have a great time.”

      3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        OP, is there any way you could talk to HR, and ask that they leave your name out of it? Since it’s a state university, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a rule against some/all of it, but also I wouldn’t be surprised if HR wouldn’t know it’s happening if nobody told them.

      4. Khlovia*

        For goodness sake, your perfect reply to your grandboss is right there in this comment! Anybody who doesn’t go “D’awww!” upon being told “My fiance is my best friend and I wouldn’t want to go without him! Those memories are only worth it for me if he can share them” is beyond hope. Now, if he and his wife have gotten to the point that they’d rather do a birthday cruise with a passel of outsiders than alone together, they may have forgotten how it feels to be first-time-smitten-and-committed. If he continues to push back after you say that, give him a reproachful look and remind him. “Mexico would be forever ruined for me if I had to experience it for the first time without my sweetie! I’d be missing him the whole time! It’s truly a generous offer, but honestly I’d rather stick to my usual routine here. You never know, we might get some phone calls that need handling.” You might get some teasing from your colleagues for being a starry-eyed lovebird, but that will wear off eventually.

        As ill-advised boss-promoted bonding experiences go, this is certainly one of the splashiest. But it’s still ill-advised. Swallow hard and own your decision, whether anyone else declines or not.

        1. OP #1*

          Thank you!!! I hear what others are saying about those feelings wearing off, but man, tease away because I would be all sad the whole time, end up feeling like “the kid” among my 40 and 50 y/o coworkers, and make weird boat friends and proooobably come back -1 kidney.

  17. Chocolate Teapot*

    1. It does sound like this cruise has been sprung on the office unexpectedly. I book my (personal) cruises quite a long time in advance, and I know some people have booked special occasion (birthday or anniversary) cruises several year beforehand.

    That aside, it does sound like a generous offer and if the OP is the only person in the office who does not attend, it could make things tricky in the future. Perhaps there are others who also are not in a position to attend?

    1. Afiendishthingy*

      I’m curious whether any of OP’s coworkers are having the same sort of misgivings.

      1. pleaset*

        Good question.

        While I don’t feel all that “normal” at work, I believe that I’m not unique, and in situations like this would assume that at least a small minority of coworkers feel the same way as I do about most things. This attitude can be quite empowering to me. It makes me more willing to speak up.

      2. Lookin' a gift horse in the mouth*

        Are you insinuating that OP corral a small group of employees and try to get this trip cancelled for the entire office? That would be exceedingly bad advice. If OP succeeds, the employees who *do* want to take advantage of this generous offer will ostracize her, and with good reason.

        If OP absolutely cannot stomach the thought of a paid vacation, evidently with PTO covered, then she should politely decline instead of trying to torpedo it for everyone else.

        1. pleaset*

          “Are you insinuating that OP corral a small group of employees and try to get this trip cancelled for the entire office?”

          I know you are asking a question but it’s quite a huge jump from finding out if others don’t want to go to trying to get the trip cancelled for the entire office.

          If it was me, with 10 people, I’d assume at least one other person doesn’t want to go also, and that not going wouldn’t be such a huge deal. That’s all. It’s data to know how hard to push to not go yourself. If 1 other person doesn’t, that’s good in. If 8 don’t, that’s even better news.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      Also the short deadline on when to give him a yes or no would surely impact others’ plans. Not sure when the letter came in, but less than a weeks’ notice to suddenly budget and schedule a 10-day cruise? Even if I could afford the money and PTO, I might say no just due to feeling rushed and worried that something didn’t make it onto my calendar or might come up.

    3. Snark*

      I think avoiding “trickiness” is a bad reason to let someone lunge over your boundaries and guilt you into spending money you weren’t planning to spend.

  18. Mark132*

    @LW1, you may want just say no, politely but firmly and just don’t give him a reason, or simply tell him you have other plans for your vacation without telling him what they are.

    1. alice*

      I’m actually surprised Alison didn’t just suggest this. Normal people don’t want to be told how to take their vacation days. A simple No would be totally fine I think, no reason needed, although saying you have other plans for how you want to use your vacation days is perfect.

      1. Lookin' a gift horse in the mouth*

        Since VP has — apparently — offered to cover the PTO, no-one is being told how to take vacation days.

        (Yes, I’d be crystal clear about this with the VP and get it in writing.)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not her vacation days anymore because the VP has offered to cover those. She offered up an objection, he said he could take care of that and fix it, and so now she needs to explain that no, it’s not going to work after all. But she can absolutely go with a warm “we’re thought about it and it won’t work but thank you so much.”

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Yessssssss. “For personal reasons, I just can’t go. I’m sure it will be lovely and everyone will have a great time.”

    3. CR*

      Agreed. Just say no thank you. All these crazy excuses/lies to get out of going are going to come back to haunt you.

      1. mark132*

        And it gives them something they can grasp onto to “fix” the problem. And it sounds the LW doesn’t want the problem “fixed”.

        And about excuses/lies it starts to feel like a particular bad episode of Hannah Montana (or insert awful Disney/Nickolodean show of your choice).

  19. Mommy MD*

    Your boss is incredibly generous offering you a paid cruise. $1000 is not a lot for an add on. Also if the whole office is out, can you still work? If you feel uncomfortable gently decline but I’d go in a heartbeat.

    1. MK*

      I don’t know, everything else aside, I would feel really uncomfortable accepting such an expensive gift from a boss (or anyone not a close family member or best friend, really).

    2. Julia*

      1000$ is a LOT of money for those who don’t have it, and just because someone offers you a generous gift doesn’t mean you have to take it if you wouldn’t like it.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        Yeah, the OP says she can’t afford to take unpaid time off, so I would assume saving is a priority.

        And for a lot of people, even if they could afford $1k, they’d probably rather spend it on either a vacation without their coworkers, or something else they get to choose themselves!

        1. Julia*

          Oh, definitely. I would not spend 1000$ on ten days with my co-workers, even if had 1000$ of spare cash lying around.

          I also wonder what the rest of the university/HR would think about the entire department being out at once?!

    3. Mad Baggins*

      Good point, LW should confirm what she should do if everyone else goes. Will the office close or can she get work done?

    4. Foreign Octopus*

      I have to disagree that $1000 is not a lot. I don’t have that sitting around to spare unfortunately and if someone at work told me that I could bring my fiancé for only $1000, I would feel embarrassed about having to explain that my finances just couldn’t cut it, particularly as I budget for everything.

      However (and I think this might have been your point but I’m not sure) $1000 to add your partner into the cruise seems reasonable – I haven’t taken a cruise, I don’t know – but don’t feel pressured by your boss to go if you don’t want to go.

      1. Sam.*

        I’ve never been on a cruise, either, but a lot of them seem quite pricey. I imagine that $1000 for two people is a fantastic deal for a 10-day cruise, and I’d be tempted to try to take advantage of that, if possible, since I’m definitely not paying standard cost for a cruise anytime soon. But $1000 is not an insignificant amount of money, especially if you haven’t planned for it. (Plus: 10 days with coworkers is a LOT, even if you get along well. I would need a lot of alone time.)

        OP knows her boss best, but I think I’d feel comfortable telling any reasonable boss I’ve had, “Thank you for such a generous gesture. I really appreciate the thought. Unfortunately, it’s not realistic for Fiance or I to devote PTO or savings to an unexpected vacation right now, so I won’t be coming along. I hope you all have a wonderful time!” and then repeat the, “I can’t make it but can’t wait to hear all about it!” part as necessary.

        1. PhyllisB*

          I think this was already mentioned, but can fiance’ GET 10 days to go? Even if he can, this is probably his only PTO for the year and there would none left for other plans they might like to make.

    5. Constanze*

      It is not generous. It is misguided at best to force your employees to spend the very few vacation days they have with their boss and colleagues, without considering that they might be embarassed to refuse.

      It is weird, self-centered and soooo old-fashioned.

        1. Constanze*

          Absolutely. I guess there is a possibility here that the boss is a genuinely nice person, and all of this is just too much enthusiasm and a case of foot-in-mouth, but… I don’t think this is the likeliest explanation.

          1. Aveline*

            Sexism and paternalism are committed by “genuinely nice person(s)” all the time.

            Just because his intent might be kind does not make this ok.

            (I don’t think you disagree with this, just pointing out his intent is not magic).

            1. Constanze*

              Yes, I completely agree with you. I am 99% sure that this is at best “benevolent sexism / paternalism”.

    6. Poor Person*

      $1000 dollars is a LOT of money to many people. How lovely for you that you are priviledged enough that you could spend that on such a trip without worrying. I’m very happy for you. Many of us are not in such a comfortable position in life, unfortunately.

      1. BRR*

        I believe mommy MD specifically means it’s not a lot for the fiancé to attend a cruise. But its still a huge expense. Let’s say it usually costs $2,000; You’re not saving $1,000, you’re still spending $1,000.

        1. Baby Fishmouth*

          Yeah people really have skewed ideas about discounts sometimes. My mom is queen of the “it’s too cheap NOT to buy it” crowd – and doesn’t understand when I point out that it’s not actually saving her any money if she wouldn’t have bought that product at full price.

          $1000 is a great price for two people to go on a cruise – but unless they were planning on taking a cruise either way (which they weren’t), and didn’t want to spend the money on something else (which they do), and wanted to spend 10 days with OP’s coworkers (which they don’t), it’s actually a real hardship.

    7. Ashloo*

      From WaPo, but this is easy to look up if you don’t like the source: “About 46 percent of Americans said they did not have enough money to cover a $400 emergency expense.”

      $1000 might be a great deal on a cruise, but it’s a lot to splurge on when you’re in the demographic that would struggle with a “life happens” problem. Add in the fact that it would obliterate all vacation days for the rest of the year. Other people have made great points about add-on expenses during the cruise, and frankly even the desirability of a cruise as a vacation. It seems like a tone deaf offer if there’s a real expectation that all employees will joyfully accept.

    8. Snark*

      What you’re not factoring in is, it’s never “all-inclusive.” There’s transportation to port, possibly pet- or housesitting, parking, drinks, tips, fees, and other random crap that could easily add up….if you’re saving every spare penny for a down payment or a vacation you actually want to go on, a grand or two is a significant hit.

    9. Aveline*

      I could burn $1000 in small bills now and not have it impact my life one whit.*

      I still would not think giving me a free vacation and then asking me to spend $1000 to bring my husband along would be a generous thing. Even though I could easily afford it.

      Most people can’t. Even the affluent ones driving BMWs. So many people live paycheck to paycheck. More than half of Americans have no retirement savings.

      Plus, there are a lot of places I’d rather spend that $1000. Wine. Supplies for my hobbies. Books. The local program that provides food to underprivileged schoolchildren. My local library literacy program.

      Of course, I would not want to go on this cruise even if both my husband and I could go free. The only person on the planet I want to vacation with is him. Ok, maybe Colin Firth of Jack Davenport if I could get a hall pass.

      This isn’t just about the money. It’s about time. Time is our most precious resource. Our employers get to tell us how to spend it when working for them because they pay us. They should not get to tell us how to spend our off hours. They should not pressure us about how to spend our off hours by offering vacations at their expense.

      It is not generous but instead presumptuous to by a present like this for anyone who is not your spouse, life partner, or your issue. And then it’s only generous if you KNOW they will like the gift and you are not attaching strings to it.

      Far too often, people give gifts that are grand gestures of generosity but that, in reality, place huge burdens on the recipient. Burdens the recipient did not ask for. These include travel, animals, and dinners/parties the recipient doesn’t get to plan (not including surprise parties in that).

      These are not generous gifts. They are something else in insidious disguise.

      I think the fact that so many people are pushing back here about this might make anyone clinging to this as a generous gesture rethink their position.

      *Have been fairly lucky to go from homeless to affluent and secure in my lifetime. I know I’m lucky.

      1. Courageous cat*

        “This isn’t just about the money. It’s about time. Time is our most precious resource. Our employers get to tell us how to spend it when working for them because they pay us. They should not get to tell us how to spend our off hours. They should not pressure us about how to spend our off hours by offering vacations at their expense.”

        Well said, I think this really gets to the heart of the issue.

    10. mrs__peel*

      “$1000 is not a lot for an add on”

      That’s more than many people have in the bank! Especially early in their careers.

      That’s a huge amount for me, and it would be a financial hardship if I needed to come up with it for an actual emergency. For a non-essential thing? Not happening.

  20. Mommy MD*

    He said he discussed the cruise with his wife and she wanted coworkers invited. They sound like a generous couple. She may like having people around.

      1. Aveline*

        Unless she has alienated all her friends and do husband is buying her a birthday entourage who can’t say no to excursions and dinners…,

        1. OP #1*

          THIS. This is a major concern for me. Yes, from everything I’ve heard they’re an incredibly kind and generous couple. They really live philanthropy. But, at the same time, with VP actively discouraging us to bring our SO’s it seems a biiiiit like he’s trying to surround his wife with other women for her birthday. That’s the first thought that popped into my head… But I tend to dismiss stuff like that because I’m 23 and what do I know.

          I found out that two of the three other “lower level” employees plan to go. The other’s sister is having a baby soon after the cruise would end, so she’s going to hang back.

          As for fiance getting PTO, yeah it would be super tricky. Unlike my job, he works a caseload and would have to get his coworkers to cover for him for approx. 2 weeks. I’m the only person who does my job, so if VP and AVP say I can go then I can go. I schedule all their fundraising appts for them, so my job is as flexible as they want it to be. That’s another reason I’m feeling obligated…

          I personally think it’s rather unfair of him to encourage us to go without our partners when no one in their right mind would say to him: “I want to invite you on a 10-day trip and you should consider not bringing your wife.”

          And yes, the extra expenses are what worries me most. On the actually boat, food is provided but not drinks. And if everyone is drinking, I’m going to feel pretty odd saying “I can’t afford that 10 dollar coctail”. 1k could turn into 2k over ten days with 4 spent in various cities.

          Then again, of COURSE I want to go to Mexico for half the price it would originally cost me. But, couldn’t I just plan a trip for Fiance and myself that is full of things we actually want to do instead of spending 10 days on a cruise with people far above our age range and in a completely different socioeconomic condition? I mean, no one in my family has EVER been on a cruise. I’m was a first gen graduate and paid my way through school. Being smart with the money I now have is a major concern for me and I don’t to go into debt or forgo plans for purchases I actually want to make because of a surprise vacation, even if Fiance could get the time off.

          1. Nita*

            Yeah, that trip really sounds wrong for you – wrong timing, wrong people, and then there are the expenses and the blurred boundaries (who wants to start out their career with the boss paying for their trip, drinks and entertainment?) Never mind that it would ruin your own plans, which really come before your boss’s need to make sure his wife has someone to do manicures with. You really shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no and not even giving reasons beyond “Thank you for the offer, but I’m sorry, this doesn’t work out for me!”

          2. Aveline*

            I’ve got a quarter century on you.

            You aren’t seeing a red flag because of your youth and inexperience.

            Trust your gut.

          3. Aveline*

            PS If you do go, make damn sure it is spelled out ahead of time what group activities are required, suggested, etc. Does he intend for you to be with them 100% of your free time? Or are you 100% free?

            PPS “I’m was a first gen graduate and paid my way through school. Being smart with the money I now have is a major concern for me and I don’t to go into debt or forgo plans for purchases I actually want to make because of a surprise vacation, even if Fiance could get the time off.”

            Girl, that was me 25 years ago. I had to learn to tell the affluent, older people I know “no” even when they offered to pay and when to accept the help (because it was meant with no strings).

            It is not easy. Particularly if you are not just navigating age and class, but the whole educated v. not thing.

            I highly suggest the book Limbo by Alfred Lubrano if you feel like an alien in this world.

            1. Aveline*

              I don’t mean girl as what you are, just a term of slang for the tone.

              Reading it on the page now I want to clarify that was my intent and not to call you a girl when you are a woman.

          4. Aveline*

            Some practical advice on cruising, since you have never been and I’ve done loads:

            For all evening meals and potentially all lunch meals, you WILL be sat with the rest of “your party.” So you’d be eating most of your meals with the boss. Some cruises allow you to go elsewhere (e.g., Crystal), but if it’s a cruise where you can add a party for $1000, then it’s likely not one of those.

            If it’s wife’s birthday, they will notify the ship and ya’ll will be getting cake, singing to her, and generally making a spectacle of it.

            Any shore excursions really need to be booked ahead of time. Your boss, if he’s buying the tickets, will be asked what shore excursions you guys want. He can quite easily book all your time for you, leaving you no time on your own. And booking excursions you don’t want to do. Is he paying for them as well? For any extra costs such as lunches off ship? Tips?

            Most of the amenities on the larger lines (such as spas), need to be booked before you get on the ship. If you wait until you are onboard, you may find no appointment times left.

            Even the very large ships can become quite small if you have an asshole or two on the ship. Or if you have a klingon or stalker. (Klingon is someone who decides they like you and magically turns up wherever you are).

            Beware “at sea” days. Just because you are “at sea” does not mean you’d be free to sit in your room and read. Instead of “excursions,” there would be planned events. He might sign you up for those. Interested in ballroom dancing? Tough. He just signed you up.

            In Mexico, if you do any excursions with the locals as guides, you are expected to tip them. The amount depends upon what you do. If, for example, you are taken on a tour of the rain forest canopy, a minimum of $20 would be considered polite. See how that could add up? The tipping is a fact even on high-end, all-inclusive lines such as Crystal and Symphony.

            Is he also taking care of drinks on board? Excursions? Spas? Tips for your maid and other service providers? Is he expecting you to do that.

            Even on a cheap, cheap line, you would need a few hundred dollars for tips and other incidentals. And that is without drinking or any non-included excursions.

            1. Aveline*

              Just realized I probably should have put this over on one of the weekend open threads as I don’t want to get too derailed here.

              OP – If you do decide to go or are still tempted, please post over in one of the weekend threads and get advice from the community as to what to expect and dos and don’ts for cruising. I’m sure you can get a lot of good advice that would help if you decided to go.

            2. OP #1*

              Aveline: thank you SO much for all this advice. I read “girl” as slang, no worries, but thanks for the clarification :)

              I appreciate you and everyone else validating “my gut”. I’m def struggling with a little imposter syndrome around here, and grandiose gestures like taking everyone on a cruise is SO strange and pretty tough to say “no” to.

              I didn’t even realize that excursions would be an extra cost. And that all that stuff had to be booked ahead by VP. He pitched it like we could do whatever we want… although he did say that we would need formal clothes for dinner so that probably does mean dinner with VP and VP’s wife. And that’s an added expense because the only formal wear Fiance has is his court suit! Hah. I know literally nothing about cruises… even my Grandpa (who owns STOCK *gasp* as the most affluent family member) hasn’t ever been on a cruise.

              I get the feeling that he is not taking care of drinks, excursions, activities etc. I don’t know if it would be included with the ticket… that’s the vibe he gave off, but he also said something to the affect of: “You don’t have to spend any money on the ship if you don’t want to, and in the city (wife) and I do things pretty cheap because we like to live as the locals do”. I don’t have the kind of relationship with him where I could verify this info without it seeming too “business” for a more personal vacation offer.

              I’m going to look into that book, Limbo. Sounds a lot like Hillbilly Elegy, which I loooooved (and made me cry a little). Good if you haven’t come across it.

              1. Aveline*

                Anytime you feel like you have imposter syndrome, come here or to the community at Captain Awkward and ask for advice.

                If you go read through the weekend threads here, you will see a lot of people in the same boat. You will also see a lot of support.

            3. Mad Baggins*

              Thank you for your very detailed and helpful advice on this thread. I bet the VP and his wife are at the financial point where they can say, “Hey, let’s take this food tour?” “Sounds great!” and not even ask about price because they can probably afford it. Even if they plan to “live like the locals do” as OP said below, the prices you mentioned above (life onboard the ship, the activities they participate in, tips…) are not what the locals do! That’s why they’re at home taking your tourist dollars instead of going on cruises!

          5. Rat in the Sugar*

            Woah, they’re encouraging you to leave spouses at home? That def feels a little weird to me. I think your instincts about this are right, this trip sure as hell doesn’t seem like a treat. (Well, maybe for the boss’s wife it is…)

          6. Aveline*

            ” The other’s sister is having a baby soon after the cruise would end, so she’s going to hang back.”

            You could always tell the boss that a family member or friend is “in crisis” but you can’t reveal the nature of it without betraying their confidence. Alas, it would be too difficult for you to deal with from a cruise ship.

            “In crisis” is a very nebulous term.

            If he’s accepting “new kid” as a valid reason to opt-out, then he is accepting reasons. So don’t present him with a problem he can solve such as $$$, present him with one he can’t solve b/c he can’t know what it is.

          7. Time to get that arranged marriage my parents want*

            What a condescending and totally off topic comment.

    1. eplawyer*

      I wonder if the wife REALLY said okay. Or she just went along with hubby’s over enthusiatic plan to invite HIS co-workers on HER birthday cruise.

    2. Aveline*

      It’s supremely weird to me that she wants to spend time with his employees. Do they not have family? Friends?

      What in the world is she actually getting out of this?

      Absent some agenda that I just can’t see, it makes no sense to me.

      If all she wants is to be surrounded by company, I see the fact she doesn’t have her own friends to invite as a red flag.

      Even if she has had some odd tragedy (eg her besties are dead) that deprived her of friends, why her husband’s employed? Why not invite a bunch of old ladies from the nursing home? Some underprivileged kids? Why these women?

      Could it be that she knows they won’t say no?
      It’s a power thing?

      There is no way an employee can go in the cruise and do their own thing if bid is paying for it.

      It is not a gift for the employees. It’s payment that creates obligations of performance (ie show up and make my wife feel special).

      A gift would be cruise vouchers to use on their own terms.

      This is something else.

      Reminds me of a friend whose grandparents paid to have all 20 kids and grandkids on a cruise. Why? So they could force everyone to have each meal w them, go on all the prearranged outings, etc. They were all captives to what Grandma wanted to do. Made Grandma feel loved.

      None of them were allowed to do fun excursions too onerous for grandma or eat at any of the cool onboard restaurants. The entire agenda was set to the tatstes and abilities of a 90 year old Midwestern woman who though garlic was too spicy.

      She even prearranged some of the dinners so they had no choice in the food they ate.

      Any attempt st circumventing this was met with “we paid for it” and “Don’t you love us?” manipulation.

      Anyone deciding to go on a vacation another person pays for needs to be very clear what they purchase expects in return.

      The only reason I expect boss is paying for this is so that wife has an entourage to follow her around and do what she wants.

        1. Khlovia*

          I kinda get the notion that what the purchaser expects in this case is not to have to be alone with his wife for ten days.

          And I don’t think OP should have to pay for that.

      1. Dr. Pepper*


        That is way too reminiscent of a big family trip (two weeks! overseas!) that my in-laws planned. They were willing to pay for everyone to come along on this lavish vacation, and it was basically a way to force the family to be together and make grandma feel loved. Which honestly I just found rather sad. We weren’t able to go for a lot of reasons, and the guilt trips we got were unreal. “But we want to see you!” Um, yeah, about that. Maybe if they’d visited us, like, at all, ever, I’d believe that, but as it was all I could think of was something more like a hostage situation than a happy family trip. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad people and I believe they really truly wanted to have a fun, memorable family vacation, but this was just way too big and forced. They had fun without us, and thankfully haven’t brought it up since.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      But if they’re on a cruise, there are already plenty of people around. I haven’t been on a cruise but I’m guessing that they can make temporary friends there to explore when they are on land and do activities on the ship. It doesn’t sound like the wife knows the OP and the coworkers, so it seems odd.

  21. Ruth (UK)*

    3. As someone who regularly has vivid dreams and has occasionally shared when I’ve dreamed about people, I would definitely not share this one! The sort of dream that’s ok to share is ‘I dreamed everyone in our office ended up in Australia and had to get the bus back to England but the driver wouldn’t let us on cause we only had french francs’ (I made this up). Not anything worrying, upsetting, or sex related, and never phrased as though you feel it could have been some sort of foretelling or anything other than your brain just giving you funny dreams.

    1. Indie*

      Ooh the sex comparison is on point. You would never tell anyone you had a sex dream about them.

    2. Delta Delta*

      I also have very vivid dreams and they almost always combine people from my life that aren’t normally grouped together. Recently I dreamed that one of my colleagues decided to go back to college and I had to help her move in to her dorm room. She lived in the same floor with the kid who sat next to me in 7th grade science class (and who has since died), and my first boss. I told the colleague the college part, because I knew she would find the idea of her living in a dorm room at age 45 hilarious. I could tell it in one sentence with a laugh. We laughed, and that was the end of it.

      1. LizB*

        Yeah, whenever I tell anyone (usually my SO) about a dream I had, it’s because it was a funny dream that I can summarize in one sentence and then the conversation can move on. I’ve had dreams that felt super vivid and disturbing and stuck with me for a couple days, that I desperately wanted to get out of my system… but telling other people would not have been an appropriate route to do that. Especially not someone at work!

  22. Throwaway*

    OP #1 – Based on the wording in the letter, it’s possible your boss interpreted these concerns as problems to be fixed instead of reasons you don’t want to/can’t attend.

    Simply stating my fiance and are unable to attend but thank you for the generous offer may be all you really need to say.

    It sounds like your boss is a generous person, and will do what they can to help you go if they get the impression that’s what you want. Being straight and to the point doesn’t leave an opening for them to offer to help. Bonus: you can avoid telling your entire office a pretty big like about a large family gathering.

  23. Tamz*

    What is with American offices and cruises? I cannot imagine a UK company taking us on a team holiday unless we were spectacularly close friends. Conferences in exotic locales – yes. But a holiday, on a boat no less, where you can’t even escape? That is just so bizarre to me.

    Is this normal in America!

    1. Star*

      Well, Alison started her answer by saying “This is not normal. It is very, very unusual”, so I guess it’s very much not normal.

      I mean, I get it, I’m not from the USA either and sometimes there’s a huge cultural disconnect when I read about USA workplaces on this blog, but it seems pretty clear that this particular scenario isn’t an ‘America’ thing.

    2. March Madness*

      On top of that cruises are one of the worst things you can do for the environment.

      “Cruise ships can emit as much particulate matter as a million cars every day and the air quality on deck can be as bad as the world’s most polluted cities.”

      I really wish cruise companies would get pressured into moderninzing/becoming more eco-friendly, but that’s difficult to achieve because so many countries would have to act in concert. Cruises aren’t an office-appropriate gift for a lot of reasons, including this one.

      1. hermit crab*

        Not to mention there’s a nonzero chance of everyone getting norovirus… not something I’d like to experience while with coworkers.

    3. Afiendishthingy*

      What is with American offices and cruises? Nothing. It’s not a thing. Just OP’s office

    4. Ladysplainer*

      IME a lot of American companies (bosses) get uncomfortable at the idea of an employee – even a temp- having priorities and ties outside their job. It’s easier to gaslight and control that way; not to mention that there is maximum devastation to families when laid off. Employees with identities outside the office are more likely to Find spouses, community ties, other opportunities, and more things that are inconvenient for employers.
      It’s like an abusive relationship.

        1. Ladysplainer*

          I work in a rather toxic niche where it’s not unheard-of for a manager to want that level of control over an employee’s life – all your friends, volunteer activities, free time, books you read, etc, must be related to the company. Ran into a major cock-up once because management made major plans on the assumption I could be guilted into cancelling a trip (for a sibling’s wedding!)… I could not.

          And yes, isolation and control are signs of an abusive relationship – romantic or employment.

    5. Waiting for the Sun*

      To me, it sounds like a plot from a workplace sitcom, or an episode of “The Love Boat.”

    6. Very tired*

      My last company, in Langley near Slough (UK) did trips like this. I’ve never been so happy to be in a field location that was frequently forgotten about as when those trips came up.

    7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Not normal. I’ve been working in the US for over 20 years, and have never been on a team holiday like that, and have only heard of one once. A coworker told us about how, back in the 90s, at his old job, the company sent the entire team and their SOs on a cruise for a week. (Everyone’s reaction to the story was pretty much “wow, that sounds awful” – not even as much the mandatory cruise part as the being trapped on a ship with coworkers and their spouses for a week part.)

    8. Aveline*

      About 25 years ago, a boss paid for a 3 day cruise from LA to Mexico for the team. We were all young and enjoyed drinking and dancing. All the dudes were the types not to be inappropriate w the women on the team.

      One guy could not go bc he had a new baby. He was given an alternative reward he wanted and used. I think it was a cleaning service for a month.

      This was, at the time, unheard of in the company and in my fiend group.

      The only reason it worked was that the boss made it very clear no one need feel compelled to go. No one who went would be compelled to hang w him or their coworkers.

      He also made it clear we would be able to let loose w no consequences, but he wouldn’t tolerate any disrespectful bs toward the women in the group from anyone going and anyone we came in contact with.

    9. Barbara*

      I come from France and live in the UK. I have the same impression as you. USA employers seem to be big on team building compared to us.

  24. Marion Ravenwood*

    OP #1: I’m not sure if this is just how the question is phrased (Alison please take this down if it’s too much speculating), but my understanding is that, in your boss’ ideal world, your whole office would be out for 10 days. Can they really afford to leave the place completely empty for that long? If it were me, I’d be saying something along the lines of, “surely you’ll need someone to hold the fort whilst you’re away in case anything comes up? I’m happy to do that’. Granted that might not be the best move, as you’re the youngest and newest employee and it might set a precedent for the future, but perhaps if it’s pitched as a business need then it might work.

    (Of course I might be reading too much into the use of ‘office’ and that might just mean ‘team’. But still, a whole team of least seven people being gone for that amount of time seems like an awful lot. Unless they expect you to work on this cruise, but again I’m aware that might be speculating too much.)

    1. Temperance*

      It might be a really small org or medical office, dependent on the boss being there to be open. For example, one of my friends works for an audiologist, and when the doctors aren’t in, there is no reason to have the office open. The answering service takes calls and schedules.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        OP has said it’s the development office of a university in which she (and a few other lower level staff, I guess?) is an employee of the foundation while the other more senior coworkers are state employees.

        Which, as some others pointed out upthread, could mean this whole situation may run afoul of university/state ethics policies regarding personal gifts to subordinates. I’d think that such policies exist in the first place precisely to avoid situations like this, where an employee feels obligated to give back part of their compensation (PTO in this case), or incur personal expenses just to stay on good terms with the boss.

    2. Aveline*

      Where I live a lot of doctors and attorneys shut down entirely for a few weeks in July and then again the last week of December-January 5.

      It’s not uncommon for this to happen.

      Depends upon the type of business.

  25. Sleepy Recruiter*

    Regarding cover letters for recruiters- I don’t know about the culture in the US, but a British recruiter just plain won’t read it, it’s all about the CV you present and the conversation you have with them based around that and what you’re looking for. If you send a Cl it won’t get passed on unless it is AMAZING, and even then it is unlikely!

    1. Mad Baggins*

      My rule of thumb (not US or UK) is if there was a specific job posted, I would write a cover letter and include it with the resume, as a single document if they only allowed one attachment. But if it was a connection with a recruiting company, there’s not much to aim a cover letter at if there’s no job, and the recruiter will do all the talking for me so I just sent a resume.

      Either way I suppose it doesn’t hurt. Might not be worth your time and effort in the end, but doesn’t hurt.

      1. Julia*

        Yeah, this. Recruiters or general job-hunting sites get my resume/CV, and then I can always write a cover letter tailored to whatever job they introduce me to later.

    2. londonedit*

      Hmm, I don’t know – could be industry-specific but I’m also in the UK and whenever I’ve had a conversation with a recruiter about a job listing, they’ve always asked me to send them my up-to-date CV and a cover letter tailored for that job. Yes, there’s the talk with the recruiter about experience and why you’d be a good fit for the job, but they’ve always then asked me to put all of that in writing, in usual cover letter format. I guess that’s when there’s a specific job that I’ve contacted them about, though – if I was just approaching a recruiter with the aim of getting myself on their books so they could send me relevant job opportunities, I wouldn’t send a cover letter.

      1. Sleepy Recruiter*

        I’ve worked in HR and recruitment on both sides of the equation (in house and agency), in private, public and NPO sectors, for over ten years, and only two hiring managers I’ve ever worked with have read cover letters. Trust me, I know of what I speak.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      When I get resumes from hr, they don’t even have cover letters. I assume they strip them to save hiring managers time, and they have already screened the applications to pass on the ones that I see. I personally have taken a nonstandard career path in my industry and like to weave that story into my cover letter, so it bums me out that this happens, but it also makes it more important to customize each resume.

    4. Ducky*

      My sister works (well is interning) in HR and says none of the recruiters or managers read cover letters. I used to think not including one looked lazy or unenthusiastic but in my current search I’ve found I’ve had a higher response rate just sending my resume without a letter. It makes me wonder/worry that I might have missed out on some opportunities I really wanted simply because a recruiter opened my application and was annoyed to see a cover letter there.

  26. Pip*

    OP 3, why would you even want to share this with your employee? I mean, what’s your goal here? And why promise to tell us in six years whether the employee has carked it or not? Are we supposed to start a betting pool?

    Honestly this feels like OP is excited, not concerned (or whatever reason you might have to tell your employee you predicted their date of death, idk). I’d be freaked out if my boss did it, but not for the reason OP probably thinks.

    1. Just Employed Here*

      I’d be looking for a new job if my boss told me about a dream like this, both because of what it says about my boss’s judgement and boundaries and because it would simply freak me out.

      And I’d make sure not to be in touch with this particular ex-boss by that date — it’s none of their business whether the dream came true or not!

      1. Femme D'Afrique*

        Exactly. My initial thoughts would be: 1) why are you having dreams about me? 2) Why are you having dreams about me DYING? 3) What do you want me to do about it? 4) WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU??

        1. Just Employed Here*

          To be fair, they can’t help 1 or 2 (or kind of 4, either). But they really, really can help 3.

          This is not an employee thing, this is absolutely a boss thing. Nothing to do with the employee, at all.

          1. Femme D'Afrique*

            It’s ABSOLUTELY a boss thing. And so bizarre and weird that I seriously can’t imagine how OP thought it could possibly play out.

  27. nnn*

    If this were science fiction, telling the employee about your dream would be what causes them to engage in the behaviour that ultimately leads to their death.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I just read it last year – good point, OP3, you might want to hold off on telling your employee your dream for that reason alone!

    1. Christmas Carol*

      Heck, not only science fiction (double feature) but bad self-fulfilling prophecy goes back at least to Sophocles . See: Oedipus Rex

  28. Jay*

    O.P. #2: Yes, you are very likely being taken advantage of here. The only ways that promotion make sense are if A) you get a raise along with it (big enough to make up for the lack of a raise from your previous ‘promotion’), B) you expect to get the kind of exposure that will lead to a much, much better job in very short order (the phrase ‘youngest ever director’ looks really NICE on a resume), or C) you can expect to receive the kind of expensive, hard to acquire training and experience that will prove to be worth more than the salary itself.
    I personally turned down a ‘C’ situation early on in my career. The lost opportunity haunts me to this day.

    1. OP2*

      OP#2 here:

      Thank you for your thoughtful response. It has opened my eyes to affirm that I am, indeed, being taken advantage of. Your points B and C are great perspectives too! I will definitely advocate for myself going forward!

      Sorry to hear about your own regrets. Sleep easy knowing you did the best you could with the information you had at the time. You live and you learn!

  29. Here we go again*

    OP 1 – I would hate this. Who wants to use up all their vacation time with work people? What if you don’t like cruises? It’s really kind of a giant power play by the boss and crosses boundaries in my opinion. I think making up a lie leaves you open to having it solved for you and then what? I’m sorry they put you in this very awkward position.

    1. jackers*

      Exactly. A vacation that is NOT an escape from work? My nightmare and probably also my hill to die on. I would never do this.

    2. Lookin' a gift horse in the mouth*

      “Who wants to use up all their vacation time with work people?”

      OP is not being asked to use her vacation time. See above.

      “What if you don’t like cruises? ”

      Decline the offer with thanks.

      “It’s really kind of a giant power play by the boss and crosses boundaries in my opinion.”

      And what if it’s really a generous offer, and you torpedo it for your co-workers?

      1. Temperance*

        She is being asked to use her PTO. The boss offered to spot her some to cover the difference between her balance and the trip.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          Yes, unless the boss making this demand is offering to replace ALL her PTO and pay ALL expenses then this objection stands. She should not have to feel obligated to use ANY of her own time OR money on the boss’s boss’s wife’s birthday.

          Also, “I don’t like cruises” ought to be a perfectly acceptable reason not to go all on its own.

  30. Flash Bristow*

    Lw1 could you offer to be the one looking after the office while others are away?

    If that’s not possible, and you don’t go, you might be made to take leave then anyway because if your boss and team are away, I’m guessing the office will be pretty much shut down?

  31. Owler*

    OP#1: I’m in favor of being honest.

    Dear Boss, this is an amazing offer. You are an incredibly kind, hard-working, and generous man to include me on such a vacation, but being that I’m so early in my career and my fiance and I both are still paying off our debts from school, i just don’t feel comfortable accepting such a gift. I wish I was in a place in my life where I could accept it with the same grace you are offering it but I can’t. Please consider my offer to be the staff member who stays behind to keep the office available for our clients. I would happily keep the office running during the cruise.”

      1. Indie*

        Yeah and considering the boss currently has a benevolence complex it’d probably just inspire him to gratitude-chase; to throw OPs wedding and turn the cruise into a honeymoon.

          1. Indie*

            Starring Steve Martin who sets off lots of cruise-based fiascos like falling overboard and falling prey to sharks.

            1. Constanze*

              I was specifically thinking of Michael Scott during “Phyllis’ wedding”, but this will work too !

      2. Nerdgal*

        I don’t think it’s sycophantic. The boss DOES sound kind and generous. I like that kind of firm but sympathetic honesty. The OP will learn some valuable things about her workplace culture if she goes with that wording.

      3. Owler*

        I actually used verbage from the letter. “VP is an incredibly kind, hard-working, and generous man but I’m so early in my career, my fiance and I both are still paying off our debts from school, and this is tough to think about doing because it certainly means putting off any personal plans we had for the winter.”

    1. Mobuy*

      I think this is a great response. The boss IS being incredibly kind and generous. If OP doesn’t want to go, she should acknowledge that and thank him but tell him she can’t go. I have no idea why this is such a hard (or distasteful) concept.

      1. Constanze*

        Because it is not really a gift if it is an imposition, if there is a power imbalance making it potentially difficult to say not, if it is a financial or practical hardship for the recipient. All of which are true in this case.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          But what would it hurt to tailor your thanks-but-no to how he thinks he’s acting as opposed to how you think he’s acting?

          You’re turning it down either way. I like Owler’s phrasing.

        2. Obvious point*

          Removed. Please don’t use multiple user names here; it makes it look like you’re attempting to engage in sock puppetry and I’m removing the other incidents of it that I find.

        3. Khlovia*

          Sure, but she doesn’t want to point that out as she does her little gracious-refusal dance. And I totally agree with you that it isn’t appropriate that she is being forced to do the little dance. But she’d better just put on her dancing shoes and start steppin’ and get it over with.

      2. Tableau Wizard*

        Either way, this response reads as really disingenuous to me. It probably depends heavily on the OP’s normal tone and writing style, but i would read that as over the top and insincere.

        And I agree that the boss THINKS he’s being incredibly kind and generous, but it doesn’t actually come across that way to the recipient who has to make sacrifices in order to accept the gift.

        1. Owler*

          I actually copy/pasted from the OP’s letter:
          “VP is an incredibly kind, hard-working, and generous man but I’m so early in my career, my fiance and I both are still paying off our debts from school, and this is tough to think about doing because it certainly means putting off any personal plans we had for the winter.”

  32. Glomarization, Esq.*

    Why give any excuses about not going on the cruise? It just invites a reply, reasonable or not, from the boss.

    “Wow, what an invitation! No, thank you. It sounds wonderful but I won’t be able to go.”

    “I just can’t, I’m sorry. I’m sure it will be a great time.”

    This is challenging for a younger-career person but just go for it. LW will not be the only person in the office who doesn’t go on the cruise.

    1. Foreign Octopus*

      Because some people take no as an opportunity to get a yes.

      When I was working my first office job a few years ago, there was the annual Christmas party. It wasn’t mandatory and so I decided not to go because I knew that it would be something I wouldn’t enjoy and I was the youngest person in the office by a good ten years. I told the office manager I wouldn’t be attending, she accepted that but then told a colleague who grabbed me on my way back from lunch and told me that of course I should go and I could spend the night at hers, and she would make me breakfast in the morning, and wouldn’t that be fun?

      I could not think of anything I would rather do more so I chose the lesser of two evils and attended the Christmas party whilst refusing her offer. I had an awful time – my boss got drunk, I was stuck in the corner talking to the husbands of my colleagues all evening, and when I tried to leave, I felt pressured to stay for longer.

      I left the job soon after for other reasons but I really, really wish that I’d used a family event as an excuse ather than simply saying I didn’t enjoy such activities. Everyone always thinks theirs will be the exception but it really won’t be. People accept family commitments more easily.

    2. stump*


      Or even if you feel pressured to give a reason, you can say, “I have plans.” Your plans might be parking the ol carcass on the couch in front of Netflix, but there’s zero reason to give anybody details they can argue with or try to logic you out of.

      Personally, my go to phrasing would be, “I’m sorry, I can’t. Have a great time!”

    3. AnotherAlison*

      This boss has many indications of being an inappropriate boundary crosser. People like that don’t just accept a “no.” She can try to keep giving a plain “no” without an indisputable reason, but the boss is going to badger her about it. I think it depends if she wants to say no 23 times or make up a polite excuse.

      1. Lookin' a gift horse in the mouth*

        The boss has zero indications of being a boundary crosser. OP brought up a problem (finances, PTO) that allegedly prevented her from going; boss fixed the problem. If OP flat out doesn’t want to go, that’s what she should say.

        1. pleaset*

          I had the same impression regarding the PTO and finances issue, though his not being explicit about finances could be an issue. Still, a group vacation is a boundary crossing frankly.

        2. Courageous cat*

          I think not reading the subtext behind a person giving you two reasons is reason to believe he’s a boundary crosser. If you don’t want to cross boundaries, give people a graceful way to bow out, knowing that obviously most “no”s are going to come in the form of “oh I can’t come because of [practical reason]” to be polite.

          I get what people are saying with this, but it needs to be handled with more nuance. Right now it just sounds like he’s trying to egg her into saying yes. I know lots of people like this and that’s how they are, so it’s coloring my view too.

        3. Sacred Ground*

          Zero indications? Really?

          First, an invitation to a subordinate to spend more than a week in a non-work-related event for personal reasons, to celebrate his wife’s birthday, is already crossing boundaries. This is HIS wife’s birthday, nobody else has any reason to go on this cruise.

          Second, OP gave reasons not to go and instead of respecting those reasons, boss is working around them and trying to change her mind about her decision about how she spends her personal time.

          Third, the boss is discouraging them all from bringing spouses because he thinks the ladies spend too much time and effort on their husbands. This is a huge boundary violation, whether boss realizes it or not. Even if he’s right (and there’s no evidence he is), it’s so much not his business, he shouldn’t even mention it. He has no right to express opinions about how a subordinate manages her own marriage.

          Also, the people who run university development foundations are in the business of soliciting large donations from businesses and rich alumni. It’s like high level sales but without an actual product to sell. The mindset of “Don’t take no for an answer” is very much a part of that business. (My mother retired a few years ago after decades working in this field, she complained all the time about this aspect of it. The Venn diagram of “development officers” and “pushy salespeople” has a wide overlap).

          People who “don’t take no for an answer” are boundary crossers, full stop. When someone tells me they don’t take no for answer, my first thought is what are they like on a date?

      2. Mobuy*

        “Many indications of being a boundary crosser?” You are making stuff up. All the boss has done is offer a trip. OP can say yes or no. Why is this so hard?

        1. pleaset*

          Too many problems expressed here are like that: someone asked me or offered the OP something and s/he is not not willing or able to say “no.”

          But really – it’s evident that saying no is hard for some people – sometimes due to the power dynamics of relations with bosses, and sometimes other reasons.

        2. Just Employed Here*

          All the boss has done is offer a *very long trip* in a setting where you *can’t leave* to *employees* to celebrate a *family event*, and not taking the first *no* for an answer.

          Seems pretty boundary-crossy to me. Nowhere near “worst boss” level (or even “I dream about you dying” level), but not great, either.

    4. gecko*

      Your first is great as a first response! I think that ship (!) has sailed though. The second is great for refusing an evening out but is rudely vague for a 10-day extravaganza.

      An option along those lines is, “It turns out I can’t join you all on the cruise. Thank you so much for the offer though!”

      A vague excuse could be, “my life is so hectic right now I’m afraid I can’t take much time away,” or “I have a ton of appointments that month I can’t reallt miss.”

      1. Sacred Ground*

        Honestly, “I don’t want to go on a cruise, but thanks” is all anyone should have to say.

  33. Birch*

    Why does LW1 need an excuse? Even if everyone else thinks it’s a good idea, that doesn’t matter. Being on a cruise with all my workmates (who I actually like most of the time) sounds like my personal hell. Do you actually want to go at all? If so, then figure out if you can bring your husband. But if not, just say cruises are not your thing, but thanks very much for the offer and you hope everyone has a great time. Just because someone with power over you makes you a generous offer doesn’t mean you have to take it. You might miss out on some team bonding time, but in the long run is that worth the anxiety and discomfort?

      1. Birch*

        Right, which I totally support, but this part makes me think boss is not going to take a white lie for an answer:
        I shared some of my concerns, about money and vacation time, and VP said that he would “gift” me his extra vacation time and not to worry about the money and we could work something out.

        At that point you gotta just say no and not give people any cracks to wiggle through.

    1. Indie*

      This works with some people. When you get people who still push back on your saying no, then lies are completely on the table.

    2. Networker*

      “You might miss out on some team bonding time, but in the long run is that worth the anxiety and discomfort?”

      This is a reasonable point and if OP1 doesn’t want to go, she ultimately shouldn’t — but don’t dismiss the importance of “team bonding time” when it comes to determining who gets the plum assignments. And this isn’t the kind of thing that causes “anxiety and discomfort” to ambitious, up-and-coming employees, to whom the sacrifice (if it is indeed a sacrifice) is very much worth it.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        If it’s about team building time, then it isn’t a vacation at all. It’s work. None of them should be using PTO for that. But it explicitly isn’t that, it’s entirely personal to the boss. If it were only inviting their subordinates (and their spouses) to their home for a birthday dinner, that would be fine, though even in that case, they all should still feel free to decline without having to justify themselves. This is 10 days at sea, overseas, plus other travel expenses, plus other incidental expenses, plus burning through the OP’s husband’s PTO.

        That’s a hard no. And any pushback, no matter how “nice” they are about it, and any negative consequences after, ought to be reported to the university HR.

        This isn’t a group of employees deciding together to take a vacation together. This is Grandboss pressuring subordinates to give up their vacation time to entertain his wife.

      2. Sacred Ground*

        If it’s about team building time, then it isn’t a vacation at all. It’s work. None of them should be using PTO for that. But it explicitly isn’t that, it’s entirely personal to the boss. If it were only inviting their subordinates (and their spouses) to their home for a birthday dinner, that would be fine, though even in that case, they all should still feel free to decline without having to justify themselves. This is 10 days at sea, overseas, plus other travel expenses, plus other incidental expenses, plus burning through the OP’s husband’s PTO.

        That’s a hard no. And any pushback, no matter how “nice” they are about it, and any negative consequences after, ought to be reported to the university HR.

        This isn’t a group of employees deciding together to take a vacation together. This is Grandboss pressuring subordinates to give up their vacation time to entertain his wife.

  34. Annie*

    I’m sorry, but I can’t get over the fact the boss’s boss is spending tens of thousands of dollars of his own money to take a bunch of people he doesn’t even know on vacation. That’s a huge red flag. Either he’s some kind of eccentric millionaire philanthropist, or there’s something else going on.

    That is literally the opening scene of I Still Know What You Did Last Summer btw (“We’re going to Rio, the capital of Brazil!!”)

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      I wouldn’t be surprised if BossBoss or Spouse were to try and recruit the captive audience into a cult…

      Or try to sell them some MLM shit.

      1. Persimmons*

        My brain went to kidney harvesting. I think the liver donor letter is still too prominent in my thoughts.

      2. Pickwick*

        Scientology has a cruise ship.. although by all accounts it’s as far removed from luxury as you can imagine. But still..

        10 days on a ship which is falling apart & staffed by “volunteers” *and* all the crazy sci-fi cult worship I could eat? Sign me up!

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          The Free Winds is not open to the public. You have to have reached a certain level in Scientology to be eligible for a cruise.

          But I think Knitting Cat Lady could be on to something and I would definitely be wary.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Hmmm, you’re right! There’s really no good explanation of why anyone would decide (as Boss’s wife apparently did) that the best gift their spouse could give them for their birthday is to send them on a ten-day cruise with all of spouse’s employees and their significant others!

        My brain went to “this sounds like one of those scams where someone transfers a million dollars into your account, but first you have to pay them 10K for the transfer to happen”, meaning it was a very strange setup, but I could not understand why Boss was wanting to do it in the first place. I bet you’re right.

      4. strawberries and raspberries*

        Or he and/or his wife want to have sex with them. Think about it- he only asked the women in the office, and mentioned that they could bring their partners if they wanted to.

    2. RedSonja*

      I temped at a company where the boss did this on a regular (every few years) basis. It turned out he was embezzling from the company. Not saying that’s what’s happening here, but it’s a datapoint.

      1. Lookin’ a gift horse in the mouth*

        It’s not a datapoint. The plural of anecdote isn’t data, quite literally here. It’s unwarranted guilt by association (aka “spurious correlation”).

    3. Nita*

      I’m with you on that! This is so bizarre there must be something going on behind the scenes. Anything ranging from “the office has been through something very difficult before OP was hired, and boss thinks they need a big vacation” to “the offer is really meant for that one coworker who’s having an affair with the boss.”

    4. Blue*

      I just assumed he was one of those people with more money than they know what to do with. But yeah, I would be uncomfortable with literally anyone spending this much money on me.

    5. mrs__peel*

      “Either he’s some kind of eccentric millionaire philanthropist, or there’s something else going on”

      Maybe he’s planning to play “the most dangerous game”….?

  35. Liss*

    LW#1 Go to HR and have them put a stop to this. There is nothing normal about it. Here in Canada at least, where universities are publicly funded, it is impossible for such an I appropriate offer to exist. Not sure where you are. If HR doesn’t know about this, they need to. Pleasure trips cannot be a condition of employment. Ever. This is one of the most shocking letters I’ve ever read. This guy needs to be stopped. His employees are not his playmates. He doesn’t own your vacation time. This is not generosity it is a very weird power play.

    1. Mobuy*

      First, it’s not university money. Second, it’s not a condition of employment. Going to HR to complain would be downright weird.

      1. Pollygrammer*

        Given that people must have been putting in their vacation time requests, it seems pretty impossible that HR wouldn’t know about it.

    2. Lookin' a gift horse in the mouth*

      To channel that television ad, this is, like, the Worst Advice in the History of Earth.

      That’s primarily because there is zero indication of any wrongdoing here. The VP is not using university money to finance the trip. The VP has never said he “owns” his employees’ vacation time. On the contrary, he has said that the trip would not count against OP’s vacation time, and I’m not convinced *anyone’s* vacation time is being docked in this office. Similarly, there is no indication that taking the trip is a condition of employment — that’s the Liss gloss on things, and frankly, one that I think may be partly motivated by jealousy. (And of course, if PTO isn’t involved, the employer *can* make travel a condition of employment, although again, I don’t see evidence of that here.)

      (To be clear, if facts emerged to the contrary, i.e., that the VP was somehow requiring employees to relinquish vacation time, I’d think differently.)

      Perhaps you think HR will object to the ten-day closure of the department. Maybe. But VPs are generally given latitude as to how they run their departments; they have bottom-line responsibility, and are held accountable for financial results. Presumably this VP has decided the vacation is consistent with this goal. Perhaps it’s less of a factor in an academic environment, particularly if it’s taking place outside of the academic calendar.

      If OP complains to HR and HR says, “that’s OK,” which is likely given the facts described, she’s cost herself a lot of political capital, when she could just have easily politely declined the offer.

      Finally, if you think this — an employer offering to pay for an office vacation — is the most shocking letter you’ve ever read, you must have slept through the letters by employees with bosses demanding kidney donations, etc.

      1. The Dark Fantastic*

        “Not to mention it will use up every hour of vacation time I’ve saved and then some — and I can’t afford unpaid time off!”

        Vacation time is clearly being used.

      2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        He’s putting undue pressure on his employees to use their vacation time for his wife’s trip. And he didn’t say it wouldn’t count against OP’s vacation time- he said he’d gift her his extra to cover what she couldn’t! Your advice is very bad.

    3. Annenonymous*

      Employers in Canada can dictate when an employee uses vacation time in all provinces and territories, provided they give the employee a certain amount of notice (notice period varies by province/territory).

      I can’t think of any legislation/Employment Standards that would make it impossible for a pleasure trip paid for by your employer* to be a condition of employment – particularly since an employee can be terminated at any time, for any reason or no reason at all, provided the legislated notice is provided or equivalent lieu of notice is paid out. You might be subjected to a labour board investigation or the threat of a civil suit, but I’m not convinced there would be an actual issue there.

      *while it’s apparently being paid out of pocket by the VP rather than from company funds, he’s still a representative of the employer rather than a personal friend, so I can’t see CRA not considering this a cash-like gift from the employer and not a taxable benefit.

  36. Four lights*

    LW 1:. I second what was said above about additional cruise expenses. Those drinks add up a lot.

    Someone mentioned dinners…it may be you share your dinner table with your coworkers and that you couldn’t get out of it.

    Excuses-what about saying your fiance can’t get out of work and you don’t want to go on vacation without him? I know I wouldn’t want to be away from my husband for that long if I could help it. Especially for something fun, there’s always the feeling that everything isn’t as nice without him there.

    Money: Your boss said you could work something out… you’re right it’s very vague. That sounds like he’ll pay and offer you a repayment plan, which would be another can of worms.

    1. Four Lights*

      More thoughts…What if the boss is expecting that everyone will participate in the same activities? You could be stuck in the same boat of an activity you can’t afford vs. being the only one not participating.

  37. Katie the Fed*

    Have we addressed this particular weirdness of Letter 1?

    “On Monday, our VP (my boss’s boss) called us all into a meeting. He said he needed to ‘get the ladies’ opinion’ on his gift for his wife’s birthday”

    Dude…no. My uterus doesn’t require me to take on your special project.

    1. Indie*

      Oh thank goodness someone else noticed.

      I know that was just a ruse to get them together, but anyone who can string those words together is….ick.

      Not to mention that he actually wants to give the ‘ladies’ of the office the exact same gift that he gives his wife….and resultingly spend ten days basking in everyone’s gratitude. Yuk.

      I completely believe OP when she says her boss is kind, but I’ve met many kind sexists before, and they want lots of applause for their kindness.

      1. BRR*

        Yeah he could have used any ruse. I’m horrified at this situation, although not as enraged as others seem to be, but this has so many different points that were easily avoidable including asking the “ladies” about his wife’s birthday gift.

      2. Birch*

        Yep this makes it extra gross. Sounds like he’s doing that thing where the boss is making employees his “work wives” or “work daughters” which is crossing waaaaay too many boundaries. It’s weird enough to get “the ladies” together to ask advice about a personal thing–maybe asking one, privately, if she thought it was a good idea, but even then it’s treating women like a homogeneous mass.

        1. Indie*

          “Look at how romantic I am, ladies! Aaaaaaaaand I am going to be just as caring towards all of you!”
          *Cue The Loveboat Theme Music as glamorous assistants throw tropical flowers and glitter around and it feels like the presentation turned into a bad 70s sitcom.
          He couldn’t have just sent an email? No, no he could not.

        2. Annie Moose*

          If there was one woman in the office who knew his wife or who he thought had a similar style/opinions as his wife, I can see privately going, “hey, you know what my wife is like, do you think she would like this?” and getting a second opinion. That’s not outrageous.

          But asking a random woman who has no particular connection to his wife simply because she too is female–and especially asking a GROUP of random women with no connection to his wife!!–is not really the same thing and is definitely weird!

    2. nep*

      Of COURSE.
      LW, did he really say he wanted to get the ladies’ opinion? Christ what is wrong with people.

      1. OP #1*

        Nep: Yes. He said exactly that. And the meeting went as you all expected… lots of “you’re the best husband ever” “how sweet” etc. I played along because, shoot, I’m not going to be the only one going this is weird when a positive reference from this guy could literally make my career.

        He also suggested that we don’t bring our husbands because “we need to do something for ourselves since as ladies we’re always doing for our husbands.” In his defense, he’s not from here originally and I think this sort of attitude is more the right attitude in his original culture. Not so much here though. And IDK, I *LIKE* my fiance…

        1. Indie*

          See, I thought so, but hearing you actually describe the admiration dance makes me so depressed.

          1. OP #1*

            It was kind of like a game show. “Not only am I the Best Husband Ever, but I’m taking all of yooooouuuuuu with me!!”

    3. Overreacting much?*

      Fer crying out loud, being asked “do you think my wife would like this gift” is hardly being asked to take on a special project. Sheesh.

      1. Indie*

        “I dunno mate, because she’s your wife, not mine. Also, I did not join a cheesy pop group called ‘The Laydeez Who Knows What The Ladeez likes’, also you are not the Milk Tray Man.”

      2. Katie the Fed*

        I’m at work to do my job, not be pulled into a meeting that I qualify for by special virtue of being a woman. I’m not your life coach, I’m your employee.

        1. Merida Ann*

          LW says there are four people on the administrative staff, including her – it sounds like they just all happen to be women. It doesn’t sound like there were any men on the team who weren’t invited to the meeting, so the boss didn’t go out of his way to only have women and they didn’t “qualify by special virtue of being a woman” – he called the whole team in and they happened to all be women.

          1. Indie*

            I considered it might just be that too, but he DID go out of his way to conflate his female team with his female partner. “You’re like my wife/I will treat you like my wife” is not an unavoidable, hard-to-avoid or even reasonable message.

        2. Sacred Ground*

          At work to do your job, yes. Thank you.

          Turn it around: how would he react if a subordinate pulled everyone away from their actual work to hold a meeting about the gift they got for their spouse?

          I may genuinely want their input, if I’ve known them for years and they know my spouse well enough to have an informed opinion. And in a small established organization that may even be true for all but one or two of them. So I would come to them individually outside their working time, like in the break room or at the water cooler or when they’re between tasks or something, as I would for any personal stuff that has nothing to do with the organization. What I wouldn’t do is call an office meeting in the middle of their work time, because they’re here to work, not help me manage my marriage. LW1 and her coworkers aren’t their to manage his.

          And the comment about them spending too much time and energy on their husbands? Even if he thinks that’s true, it’s not his place to say. He’s not there to manage their marriages either.

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        Do I know your wife? If not, why on earth would I know better than you what she’d like?

      4. Temperance*

        I think it’s the general idea that all women know what other women like because ladies be simple and always be shopping. Like, if someone knew me well and their wife/girlfriend had similar interests, that would be one thing and I’d be happy to help (and have).

        1. mrs__peel*

          Ha, all of my female friends and family and I are giant weirdos. I could just imagine…

          Boss: “You’re a woman, you must know what she’d like. What gift would you want?”

          Me: “A taxidermied sloth it is! Or a history of 19th century female poisoners.”

    4. 2horseygirls*

      It is not uncommon in higher ed to have entire departments made up of only women.

      While still …. not entirely correct, it could be compared to a NASCAR race where all the drivers are male, and the starter says “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Just a factual description of the group assembled.

      I would hazard a guess that Boss and Wife might be of an older generation too.

      Which would make it odd that they would not be inviting children and grandchildren, or other family and friends…..

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Eh, I’ll let it slide as one of those “you’re a woman, tell me what a woman would like as a gift because I’m an old school man, and do not speak woman.”

      Really curious though, did any of the “ladies” actually suggest the weird-as-all-get-out gift that he did come up with in the end? I cannot imagine that happening.

      1. Indie*

        No he showed them pics of a cruise he’d already picked out/paid for so as to get lots of polite ‘woo’ noises from people whose pay cheque he signs. Then he announced they’d be going too! Cue silent despair and awkwardness… I mean it’s fairly sad because he thinks he’s the office hero but it’s just eye watering desperate and thoughtless. I’m sure he’s a kindly gent but it’s epically clueless.

  38. Lemon Bars*

    #1 This has been common in my experience in the medical/dental small office field, (I worked as a dental front office through college, and my sister works as a RN for a small plastic surgery office currently) the offices take a yearly trip that the office covers for employees (not the heads wife’s birthday) it was always an office shut down week so it did not go against our PTO time and we were paid to go. Spouses could come at their own expense but no children. For ours they were usually planned by a travel agent who was getting a deal for them for the amount of people going (usually 15-20), so the date may be locked but definitely ask first because I’m not sure your boss is doing that. There was only one person I remember ever turning down the free vacation and hers was due to kids.

  39. BRR*

    #1 I was going to originally suggest you could just acknowledge how uncomfortable/awkward it is to accept such an extravagant gift from your boss but I’m on board with many other’s suggestion of just say you can’t go. “It’s very kind and generous of you but unfortunately I won’t be able to go.” Then don’t elaborate.

    #3 Bring up salary early in the process. Something like “I’m interested in learning more about the position” then in the discussion ask what the salary would be for the position. I would also tonsome digging to figure out what the position SHOULD pay. I can see them lowballing you. Remember that is what they would pay if they hired an external candidate.

    1. nep*

      (Apologies–I know not supposed to speculate on legitimacy of letters. Shot that off quickly…just can’t fathom. Delete all this if need be.)

      1. Annie Moose*

        Actually Alison no longer has a rule against speculating on whether or not letters are real. But I don’t know how helpful it is to just say you think something is a hoax without explaining why–have you never had weird dreams about people you know? I sure have, and at least once it did involve someone I knew dying! (she isn’t dead and I obviously never told her about my dream, though)

    2. ThatGirl*

      My aunt actually called my mom a few weeks ago to tell her she had a dream about mom getting into a serious car accident, so I believe people like that exist. It was weird enough for my aunt to tell my mom, though; a coworker seems very inappropriate.

    3. Ethyl*

      Not at all. This actually happened to me as the coworker dreamed about. I worked as an event planner for a religious organization*, which may have been why this coworker felt like it was an ok thing to share, and the head of a different department called me into her office. She shut the door and very seriously explained to me that she had a dream that I was being pursued by evil forces. It was inappropriate, awkward, and just flat-out bizarre. There’s absolutely no good way to respond in the moment, and it made working around her very awkward for a while.

      *NB: this particular religion doesn’t encourage stuff like visions or prophecies, although there are some members that get into that stuff with a religious angle.

      1. Khlovia*

        “Okay then! Thanks for the head’s-up! I’ll certainly be on the look-out from now on!”

  40. Rebecca*

    The cruise letter is especially odd (but *could* work to the person’s advantage?) because she works in a university advancement office. This means, usually: pretty firm HR policies regarding PTO, lots of concern about compliance and avoiding conflicts of interest, bribes, etc. In a university setting, generally speaking, even a high level admin doesn’t have the power to “gift” vacation time and certainly giving money would be frowned upon, if not forbidden. It’s not like a private corporation or a family owned company. You just can’t *do* that. I wonder if even saying “Hm, I’d need to check with HR because I have some questions about how my paid time off works” would make the whole thing go away. This is super sketchy under any conditions but, like, seems totally beyond the pale in a university administration setting.

    1. Guacamole Bob*


      It’s one thing for a small business owner to do something like this, but for a boss within one department of a larger institution it’s just weird. So the university is okay with that department not being staffed during that time? Are they handling the PTO transfer off the books, or is payroll able to account for it officially? Is the cruise part of compensation that needs to be run through the university as taxable?

      Universities are weird places, but in any large institution I’ve ever been involved with this would have been done kind of under the radar, and that would make me really uncomfortable.

  41. LW4*

    Thanks so much for answering my question about sending cover letters to recruiters, Alison! And thank you for your other posts on writing cover letters – I’ve felt a bit out of my depth job-hunting for the first time in ten years and your advice on this site has helped me feel less overwhelmed.

    1. JLCBL*

      It is also common to essentially write your cover letter in the body of the email. So that would mean you don’t have a second attachment if that’s not what they want, but still give you the opportunity to make your case for why you should be hired.

  42. Penny*

    OP#1 You need to verify that if you do not go that you can still work that week, with your entire office out and you being relatively new you may have to take PTO or unpaid leave even if you don’t go. So please verify that in advance.

    Also if this is a trip you and your fiance will not be able to take on your own in the foreseeable future and they are places you want to see I would think about making an exception. Saving money and paying off bills are something that should definitely be a top priority but a trip isn’t like buying shoes your creating memories. I mean if you can afford the credit card payment or however you would pay your fiances way with would not be in place of paying your rent, car payment or other bills. You can do a cruise cheaply after the room and board is paid for there are lots of free stuff to do, alcohol will be off limits, as will planned excursions but there are usually places to sightsee at ports that don’t cost anything to walk through.

    1. Ladysplainer*

      No. If she wanted to go on a cruise OP wouldn’t be writing into AAM asking how to get out of it. Come on! Her boss doesn’t get to decide her financial on vacation priorities.
      YOU might be excited at such an offer. However this is OP’s life.

      1. Penny*

        Follow your own advice that it is OP’s life not yours either she owes it to herself to examine both sides for herself. All of OP’s objections are money based, she never says she doesn’t want to go on the cruise. She doesn’t want to go without her Fiance, and doesn’t want to go in debt more and risk having no PTO. She is just out of college working in a job that likely doesn’t pay well enough against the cost of starting a life. She is likely going to have a financially tight next 3-5 years, its not earth shattering to contemplate a different option. You might try seeing things from a different angle, before policing your opinion on everyone.

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah, this. My vacations are a big priority for me and we spend lots of time and effort planning them. I dislike destination weddings for the same reason – I don’t want to spend my vacation on some god-forsaken all-inclusive resort in cancun. I’d rather be taking a bus through Laos. And plenty of people would hate my idea of a vacation, which is fine. But it’s about personal preference.

    2. Lookin' a gift horse in the mouth*

      “OP#1 You need to verify that if you do not go that you can still work that week, with your entire office out and you being relatively new you may have to take PTO or unpaid leave even if you don’t go. So please verify that in advance.”

      While I’m definitely in Camp “Take the Damned Trip,” this would be equally wrong.

      1. Four Lights*

        It would be wrong. If it were the case, then I think it would definitely be a job for HR, or some higher up.

  43. Delta Delta*

    #1 Ten days is a LONG time. If it were one of those 2 day “cruise to nowhere” cruises I might be on Team Go On The Cruise For Career Reasons (weird team name, I know) because a couple days isn’t the worst. But crikey – ten days.

    Also, who else is going? Is the boss’s wife’s whole office also going? I don’t know that that should make a difference but something is a little weird about boss celebrating his wife’s birthday with his coworkers. At sea. For 10 days.

    Last, has this already been booked? If so, would OP be on the hook for cancellation costs if she decides not to go?

    1. BRR*

      Ten days stuck out to me as well. Not only in the use of PTO but that’s a long cruise and a long time to be away from home. My husband has an annual two-week business trip and it’s incredibly disruptive.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I agree. It’s incredibly generous, and I’ve had times in my life when I would have been really excited to go off for an extra 10 day trip. But now that I have young kids, I’d really prefer to plan vacations based on what will actually be relaxing to do with them (I know cruises can be good for kids, but they aren’t quite old enough for the drop-off programs). So either I’d be away from my family for over a week (not an option unless it’s an emergency), or I’m bringing my whole family on a vacation that isn’t what I would have chosen and may require a fair amount of planning and packing and schlepping and sharing sleeping space with my delightful offspring. Plus taking turns with my spouse skipping anything in the evening to sit in a dark cabin with sleeping kids after their early bedtime. Vacations are exhausting at this point in my life – we still take them, but I want them to be on my terms, and we mostly visit friends and family and do shorter trips. To rental houses where I can sleep in a separate room from my kids. And where we have a kitchen.

        People with pets, other family care responsibilities, who are taking classes in the evenings, who have regular volunteer commitments, who are in the middle of a home remodeling project, who work a second job, etc. may also have reasons for not wanting to take an extra long trip during the year.

  44. What's with today, today?*

    # 1) I’m on our local small town Chamber of Commerce board and the office trip is more common in small buisness atmospheres. My dentist takes his entire staff to Cancun every February, and I know our local Century 21 does cruises for their real estate agents and support staff during successful years. It’s not as rare here for an attorney to send his office staff on a long weekend, or something similar.

    1. Mini Cooper*

      Yes, I guess there is not a lot of realtors, nurses and dental hygienist that read this. That was always a perk that made working in a doctors office better than the hospital for me.

      1. Sacred Ground*

        I can see how annual group vacations for the whole office in such a small business could be a cool perk, but 1) you know about it ahead of time from the beginning, it’s not pulled on you as a surprise. 2) it’s specifically a thing for the office, likely funded by the business, not for your boss’s spouse and funded out of the boss’s own pocket and yours. 3) you probably don’t have to burn up your own PTO such that you don’t get any other time off for the year. 4) It’s probably not 10 days. With travel time to and from the ship, preparation, and rest/recovery before returning to work, that’s easily two whole weeks with an empty office.

  45. Persimmons*

    LW #1, you mention the cruise being to Mexico. Do you have a current valid passport? If you don’t, it would be a darned shame if you “forgot” to renew it or apply for one in time to go on the cruise.

    Or, if you’re good at deadpan humor and work for someone who appreciates it, say what I did when my boss tried to send me on a pointless trip to Canada: “Sorry, it will be seven to ten years until I can cross international borders again.”

    1. BRR*

      Oooh this might be my favorite excuse. Add in that I think your passport has to be valid for six months after its expiration date.

    2. Merida Ann*

      Typically, cruises within the Caribbean don’t actually require a passport if they leave from and return to the same US port – you can just use an ID and birth certificate. It’s still a good idea to have a passport in case you have an emergency during the cruise, because you can’t fly back without the passport, but it’s not a requirement for cruising.

  46. Argh!*

    LW 1, the appropriateness of this may depend on whether this is a public or private university. There’s a lot more leeway in a private organization.

    A legal question for those who have done this: do you have to report the value of the trip as part of your salary for the year? Or as a gift?

    My boss is a rather unsocial creature, so I can’t imagine something like that where I work. If your office does a lot of socializing, it would be a normal extension of your relationships. If not, it could be uncomfortable. I have had bosses I socialized with, and some I didn’t want to spend even one minute with off the clock. That would probably be the determination for me, since the adventure sounds appealing.

  47. Sara without an H*

    OP#2: Yes, they are taking advantage of you. Do some math: you never, never make up lost income.

    You’ve been at this place for four years, and it sounds as though you’ve built up an excellent professional record. So, update your resume (check AAM’s archives for good suggestions) and see what else is out there.

    Oh, and when you do get an offer, be sure you read Alison’s advice about why you shouldn’t take counter offers. You will probably get one, but it won’t change the fact that your employers have a history of underpaying employees. Your counter offer might be the last raise you ever get.

      1. Persimmons*

        Hmm, hadn’t thought of that. I wonder if taking the promotion and THEN leaving is better or worse. Wouldn’t she have to put in some time in a director role to have it be seen as relevant to a new company?

        1. Lil Fidget*

          I also don’t feel like the Director title is right around the corner for OP. People always linger forever when somebody else is lined up for their job! If she had the offer in hand, yes I’d say take the title bump and use it to start job searching – but at this point, I wouldn’t advise waiting around for it.

          1. Sara without an H*

            Agreed. Unless the director has announced a firm retirement date, and the succession plans are ready to be made public, I really wouldn’t count on this.

    1. Ali G*

      This so much. Why should the OP sit around and wait for her boss to retire to find out if they are going to give them a long overdue raise?
      OP, this is your first job out of college and it won’t be your last. You’ve put in a good 4 years, gotten a promotion, so you have proved you have the skills and the ability to move up in your field. Time to see what that can get you elsewhere.
      And on a personal note, as someone who’s worked in NP for the bulk of my career, it’s orgs like this that really get my hackles up. Many NP orgs can and do pay market rate to their employees. OP don’t fall into the trap that you have to settle “because it’s a NP.” It’s just not true.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        Yep, they’re counting on your passion for the mission (and maybe your naivety) to “hook” you into feeling like the org can’t make do without you and you just need to roll up your sleeves like a martyr. But in my experience, this comes crashing down when you see them hire some fundraising consultant or ED who does zilch, or throws a gala every year that loses more money than you make – and suddenly is able to come up with that cash no problem. Most of them have the ability to pay you if they really, really wanted to. They just know they don’t have to.

      2. OP2*

        OP 2 here: Woah, woah, woah. Please slow down with your assumptions here. This is *not* my first job out of college. I have also proudly negotiated many pay raises throughout my career. I also negotiated a higher than usual starting salary for a coordinator level. I have had a long history with nonprofit organizations, many of which have paid me fair market rate. This, however, happens to be the first job I have that gives me an abundance of satisfaction. I absolutely LOVE what I’m doing, and for me the love (and the extra PTO) made up for the lack of raise.

        Thank you the support in encouraging me to look for something new. I obviously acknowledge something is amiss and I agree that if -and when- this promotion occurs I need to be sure to familiarize myself with market rate FOR THAT ROLE and get that amount.

        I am also amused so many commenters assume I am a “she”.

  48. drpuma*

    OP1, as Captain Awkward says, reasons are for reasonable people. The sheer unusualness of this offer as well as your boss’s insistence that he can resolve your financial concerns about your fiancé coming demonstrate how not-reasonable your boss is about this. “I’m so disappointed, but we won’t be able to come on the cruise.” Repeat repeat repeat, but giving reasons implies that it might be possible, which is not what it sounds like you want here.

  49. NYWeasel*

    OP#1: I’m apparently way more in the minority than I expected to be, but I am surprised at how this offer is being perceived by so many people. I think my perspective is greatly shaped by having taken a cruise with a group of around 50 people—we *wanted* to hang out with each other the whole time, and yet I often went days without seeing certain people in our group. So while I would be horrified at the one offer a boss made to have everyone stay in some big mountain cabin together, I would NOT lump a cruise ship into the same type of forced face time. It’s VERY easy to have to suddenly pop back to your room for something you forgot and dodge people you don’t want to hang out with. I also don’t find his offer particularly egregious—in my early career, I worked for a number of smaller businesses, and found it common that bosses would surprise the team with these types of extravagant gifts. Sure, cash money is way more practical, and yes, if your office is as dysfunctional as the mountain cabin one, then yes there is a *potential* for boundary crossing. But I don’t see the offer itself as problematic absent other red flags.

    That said, I totally get your very valid concerns about additional costs and vacation days. If your boss is someone who you’ve found to be straightforward and reasonable, I would take the offer of extra days at face value as a very nice gesture. My experiences with booking cruises is that solo passengers are only minimally cheaper than two passengers, so I highly doubt the actual cost is $1000 to add a spouse. However, I would still want some clarity over whether the boss intends to actually cover the costs himself, or if he means that he’ll offer you extra work or something to make up the difference. The bigger issue to me is the travel TO the cruise ship—I’ve found at times that those costs can even surpass the costs of a cruise itself, especially if airfare and hotels are involved. As people have pointed out, there also can be a lot of small charges on board that can add up, but I’ve found it super easy to keep those to a minimum. I’ve made it easily through more than one cruise without spending a single extra cent, and I didn’t feel deprived. My best tip is to friend everyone who bought the unlimited drink packages, and they’ll keep you in free drinks so that they can brag about how many they got for the cost of the package!

    If your workplace is generally reasonable, I don’t think that this offer is in and of iteself proof of dysfunction. Cruise ships pride themselves on being floating cities, and unless there’s already talk of coordinating a shared schedule of activities, I wouldn’t expect this to be anything more than occasionally seeing a big boss on an elevator or at the buffet. But I wholeheartedly support your right to say “no” if the other costs are onerous or if you simply don’t want to go on a cruise ship. I’d follow Alison’s advice, but I might add that I’d pin the family obligation on my spouse since you didn’t mention it upfront when you were talking about the costs and vacation time.

    1. Sack of Benevolent Trash Marsupials*

      I am wondering whether these 10 days will really count against the PTO allotment? I mean, I think they should be paid, but as a PTO bonus, rather than coming out of whatever people have (I certainly wouldn’t want to lose 10 days! And I am also at a university that has generous PTO). That is a point boss may not have thought of, might be a good idea to bring that up.

      I second everyone who says that if OP is considering this at all, to pin the boss down as to specifics on what “can be arranged” for the OP. She says she’s by far the most junior, so he may be willing to pay for some of all of fiance’s ticket also.

      Since it sounds like OP has already spoken to boss and not brought up a family thing, she could always go with, Oh no, my family reunion on my father’s side that only happens once every 10 years just got scheduled right in the middle of the cruise!

      I am also in the minority, this sounds amazing to me, my kind of team building, but I get that for a lot of people, it sounds like a lower circle of hell.

      1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        Of course they will count- this isn’t an officially sanctioned university trip.

    2. McWhadden*

      I wouldn’t want to go. But people really do seem to be twisting themselves up into pretzels to make this dude seem nefarious or ungenerous.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I don’t think he’s nefarious or ungenerous at all. But I do think it’s a bit… thoughtless? Out of touch? I’m sure he does want to do something nice for his employees, but he doesn’t realize that there are a fair number of people for whom this grand gesture would be inconvenient, expensive, or otherwise just not to their taste. There’s also something a bit out of touch about offering such a huge perk out of his own pocket while his employees are paying down loans and trying to make ends meet. The “eh, we’ll work something out” about the financial and PTO issues OP raised is also pretty clueless – she needs clear answers about her out of pocket costs and the impact on her other time off in order to make a decision, and he doesn’t recognize that she might be in a position where the money involved here is really significant.

        So no, he’s not nefarious. But he is reminding a lot of commenters of other well-off people they’ve run across who are oblivious about what other people’s finances look like, or people who are really caught up in being seen as generous while not really giving enough thought to the actual recipient.

        1. mrs__peel*

          I think the comments above about benevolent sexism are right on the money, especially since it seems like he wants adulation from the female employers for his “generosity”.

        2. Sacred Ground*

          I don’t think most here are questioning his intentions. I’m questioning his judgement.

    3. doreen*

      I’m a also a little surprised also that people think it’s likely that everyone will be forced to spend every minute together- sure, it could happen. But that doesn’t mean it’s likely- I bet for every Grandma who insists that her family of 20 spend every moment together, there are probably a couple of hundred who don’t expect more than a single meal with everyone present.

    4. Angeldrac*

      Yeah, as a person with 3 young children who works as a nurse (not a lot of “fancy” perks offered in nursing) who hasn’t had a holiday in 7 years (not complaining about my life, but it does have it’s restrictions)…..I would sign up before boss had finished speaking. And probs wouldn’t worry about bringing the boyfriend, especially if the Cory is so prohibitive.
      While I am totally understanding of OP’s concerns and the “weirdness” of the entire situation, I really am, I think it’s worth just having a think about…making the most of your “young carefree years” and all. Food someone else cooked, quiet reading time, watching the ocean, drinks and social time with adults in the evening – they *might* be things OP misses one day, maybe.
      (I realise I am totally seeing this through my own person lens, but I think it is a valid perspective nonetheless).

    5. Sacred Ground*

      This isn’t 50 people though. This is two bosses, four office staff, boss’s wife, and some other spouses, though likely not all. At least 7, at most 12. One’s absence from the group will be noticed. It’s also clear that at least part of the expenses, including the time off, is being paid by the invitees, and that none of this has anything to do with the organization, it’s strictly a social event, the big boss’s wife’s birthday.

      A 10 day birthday party for someone I don’t know. That will cost me. And cost my fiancée. “Thanks, but no thanks” worded politely, is a perfectly reasonable response. It would be my response even if I liked cruise ships, which I don’t. And if the boss is pressuring me to change my mind, by offering workarounds to my excuses and not letting me politely decline, then “I hate cruise ships and don’t want to go” would be next response. It’s a bit rude, but this boss has already overstepped by not accepting LW’s stated reasons for not going.

  50. doingmyjob*

    #3 conventional wisdom is that every character in our dream is us. So this wasn’t about your coworker at all………

  51. SigneL*

    I suffer from severe motion sickness, even when driving a car, so a cruise of any kind wouldn’t be possible for me (even though I love the idea of going on a cruise!). If I were LW, I’d probably go by myself BUT I’d talk to my boss about vacation time – I’d love to go, but I don’t have enough vacation and taking unpaid vacation isn’t an option for me. Your boss should be able to understand that.

    And yes, TEN DAYS is a very long time. But I wouldn’t worry about going alone, and I’d try to make it work.

    1. SigneL*

      And now I see that extra vacation has been offered. Yes, I’d go. As others say, you can always retreat to your cabin if you need some alone time.

      1. Just Employed Here*

        Extra vacation time has been offered (although the details of this are not yet clear), but she’d still be using up all her existing vacation time, preventing her from using it on a vacation she picked herself at a time that suits her.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          Yes, the boss has offered to donate his extra vacation time. It’s unclear just how much that is, it’s probably not all 10 days. LW also said in comments above that she works for the foundation while the higher ups are state employees, so the boss may not even be able to donate his time to her if they work for different entities, not uncommon in university foundations.

          She should check with university HR department to see if this is even possible. Boss may be making a promise he can’t keep. It happens.

    2. boop the first*

      Yeah, I was thinking that OP has the entire rest of her life to spend with the spouse. I’m sure I used to feel the same way about going anywhere without, but then having pets means we now have to take trips alone EVERY time because someone always has to be home. It’s not that bad. Except the occasional jealousy, I guess! haha.

  52. Annab*

    #1 – I have a phobia of being on cruise ships. Weird, I know, but just the idea of being stuck out in the middle of a vast expanse of water – no matter how big the ship – gives me the creeps. Maybe use some version of this as an excuse? Some type of boating incident in your childhood that’s affected you to this day? Too many viewings of Titanic? Just an overall fear of deep water? An excuse like this might be easier than having to keep coming up with family-type reasons if the boss keeps moving the dates to accommodate you.

  53. Fishgal*

    Unsure if it’s been pointed out or not but LW1 mentioned working at a university. If it’s a state university then the cruise would probably be classified as a gift and state employees can not accept gifts over a certain dollar value. If that’s the case, that’s an easy excuse to get out of the trip.

    Also the state I work for we cannot gift time off unless it’s for an FMLA request so that might be the case there too.

    Its a great thought by the boss, but I wouldn’t go

    1. epi*

      This rules are generally for gifts from people outside the organization, not from anyone anywhere. The idea is inappropriate, but this is not why.

      In the OP’s position they would definitely be expected to understand that. Using this as an excuse would not look good for them. They need to find a normal reason, or give no reason, for refund rather than grasping for excuses in policies it’s their job to there better than this.

      1. Alton*

        Yeah, problematic gifts are usually ones from outside the organization, especially if they can be connected to your work as a state employee in some way (like accepting gifts or perks from someone whom you’re in a position to hire or endorse). This situation doesn’t sound like it would count.

        1. Fishgal*

          My agency might have an overly strict ethics code then, but this wouldn’t fly. Ours applies to gifts no matter what with the only exception being agency sponsored charity and health incentive drives. But even then it’s capped at 100.00 or so for value

      2. doreen*

        The rules in government agencies don’t generally prohibit gifts from anyone anywhere, but there are often rules regarding gifts between subordinates and supervisors. Sometimes it’s both ways- neither the supervisor nor the subordinate can accept a gift of more than minimal value. Other times it’s one way- I can’t give my supervisor a gift but she can give one to me.

  54. PacketPlumber*

    LW1, I’m not sure if this has been mentioned yet, but seasickness would be a totally valid excuse. I went on one cruise, used the Scopolamine patch, and still got violently seasick. If my boss was paying me $10,000 to go on a cruise, I would still decline.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes… it is. Some people also have an unreasonable fear of the ocean & boats in general.
      But, you know I hate the lie and would avoid it unless that really IS true. And the financial concerns, even with the generous offer from the VP, around this trip really ARE true for the OP and possibly her fiancé. I would stick with that.

  55. Ladyphoenix*

    #1: This feels all kinds of icky… and yet it feels like you have to go because everyone else might and it would be a networking opportunity.

    I would talk to the others about rhwir own feeings and try to bring up the concerns as a group.

    This isn’t as bad as the jerk op a couple weeks ago who whined about how unfair it was that he can’t have a boys only beach event that he had to cancel it and how we are just THE WORSE because qe a sjw’s blah blah blah… but it is certainly creeping its way up there.

    It certainly doesn’t help that it started with the the guy asking all the “ladies” about an opinion on his present to his wife.

  56. Ladyphoenix*

    #3: Don’t.

    Either you’ll be viewed as crazy and people will question your proffesional judgement… or the dude is gonna take it as a threat.

    I have had pretty vivid dreams too, only for shit to not happen. I just shrug it off as a deep seated worry or fear, wake up when things get too much. That or I get super weird nonsensical dreams that I immediately forget.

    Then there are my friends who have dreams about us dating/marrying My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Characters. According to their dreams I have a nice poly thing going on with the 2 spa ponies. I always suggest the poly option for love triangles…

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My best friend did once inform me that she’d had a dream about the two of us making sweet love. We were two straight females in our 20s. I had no idea what I was supposed to say to that. Agree, our dreams are best kept to ourselves (maybe shared with our therapist, or turned into fiction stories/movies if they are super vivid and scary and we are super creative).

  57. Jaybeetee*

    LW2, you need to be raising a LOT more hell about the fact that you’ve been underpaid in your position for years now. No, that’s not cool or okay. That said, if you’ve had this job and title for awhile, it should be easier for you to at least make a “lateral” move (with the actual correct pay). If you want to play the “long game”, go ahead and take the promotion, knowing you’ll likely still be underpaid, and after you’ve stuck in it a year or so, make a “lateral” move then.

    And spare a thought for those of us working for the Canadian government still dealing with Phoenix – I took a job two notches above my previous one four months ago, and my pay still hasn’t caught up. I’m still being paid at my previous position, close to $10 000/yr less than I should be making. I’ve been told it could take a year or more to sort it out. Someday in my future there will be some handsome backpay for me, but in the meantime I simmer…

  58. MissDisplaced*

    Because OP#1’s concerns seemed to be more about the financial aspect of going on the cruise (PTO, costs, etc.) and not so much about “I hate these people and don’t want to go,” I think they need to have further discussion with the manager to clarify what some of the expenses will be before making a final decision (are there ANY work activities or meetings planned, or is it purely a vacation?). And yes, the cruise will likely have unforeseen costs, all travel does.
    Once you have a better understanding, if you still don’t think you can afford to go, I would say that after carefully discussing this with your fiancé you simply cannot go on a trip at this time, even with the generous offer he’s making.

    It does seem kind of weird that VP is willing to foot the bill for the entire office… but I get some smaller personal workplaces can be this way (doctors, law, etc.) or they make a mix of business & pleasure on the trip. If your only objection truly IS financial, I would try to see if there is a way for you to go and enjoy the vacation and not worry about it, but of course you shouldn’t do that if it will ultimately hurt your finances to a point where you can’t pay your bills or rent.

  59. Oilpress*

    OP#1 – Your boss is really weird. Let’s be honest here. You can probably swing this financially because he will make sure that you can. The reality is that you just don’t want to go because it’s weird, and I fully agree with you. Ten days with your boss, your coworkers, and their families. YUCK!

    Make your seasick excuse and wish them all a good time. You may find others back out as well.

  60. Justin PBG*

    OP2, look elsewhere if you can. That’s quite literally why I left my last job (was coordinator, became manager, was facing a literal paycut because, once we passed a certain salary barrier, benefits got twice as expensive, and my “raise” over this barrier was less than the increase in benefit costs).

    Nonprofits can be that way. Not always, but can be. Look around, and good luck!

  61. Yvonne*

    OP1, if you dont want to go, dont go. Even if your boss gives you the extra time and money (which would make me super uncomfortable and make me feel way more beholden than I’d like) you still have associated costs to consider. Plus as you say you have debts to consider, presumably you and your fiance have non work things you’re planning (you mention your own upcoming plans) etc. On paper the boss saying hey everybody, let’s go on a cruise is really nice but in reality it can present a lot of difficulty. If he’s at all reasonable he will accept a genuine “thank you so much for this generous offer but it really isnt going to be feasible for us.” You cant be a party pooper because unless your boss wants you all to hang out with each other all the time you’d all be off doing your own thing anyway.

  62. Rusty Shackelford*

    I’m going to strongly disagree with Alison’s advice on #1, because I don’t think this is a white lie situation. And also, announcing you can’t go after the dates are set in stone would only mean that the tickets had already been purchased, which would make you look really, really bad for suddenly saying “whoops, another commitment!”

    Here’s what I think. This guy and his wife (if we believe him) want to go on a cruise with a bunch of other people. And apparently they don’t have any friends or family who are willing to go with them. That’s a red flag. It suggests to me that you are expected to fill the friends/family role, and probably not just this one time.

    And yeah, he’s a boundary stomper. You gave him a perfectly reasonable “no” and he refused to accept it. And quite honestly, his ways around your “no” are sketchy at best. He’ll “gift” you his vacation time? Is that even possible? I know in public universities, leave-sharing can be an option, but in my experience it’s only done under very specific circumstances, and “I want to take a nice long vacation” isn’t one of them. Maybe this is a private school and it’s a done thing. Fine. But also “we’ll work something out” about the $1000? That’s not good. Either he plans to loan it to you (which means you’re still spending money you didn’t want to spend) or give it to you (which means you’re accepting an even larger gift from him than your coworkers are).

    Some things to keep in mind…

    1. When someone does something “for you” after you’ve told them you don’t want it, they’re not doing it for you. They’re doing it to you. So don’t frame this in your mind as “awesome generous guy.” Frame it as “someone who is probably nice and well-meaning and generous but will also go to extreme lengths to ignore my no and get me to do what he wants me to do.”

    2. Now you’re saying “wait, that’s not fair, I didn’t exactly tell him I don’t want to go.” Which is true. You gave him a soft no, and some folks require a hard no. So tell him, now. “I appreciate the amazingly generous offer, but my fiance have other plans for our vacation time.” His reaction to that will let you know if you’re dealing with #1.

    3. The way to deal with a boundary stomper, even the most nice and well-meaning and generous boundary-stomper, is begin as you mean to go on. If you let him slide your “no” out from under you today, you’re showing him that he can do that in the future. I’m afraid Alison’s suggestion tells him “I’d love to go on this cruise with you, if only my pesky schedule didn’t get in the way” instead of “You’re a nice guy, but I’m not taking vacations with my coworkers, regardless of circumstance.”

    4. Ignore the people upthread saying $1000 is a great deal, and you’ll probably love it even if you leave your fiance behind, and this is probably a good team-building experience, and blah blah blah. None of that is the point. The point is that this man has asked a huge, inappropriate thing, and you need to be able to say “no.”

    1. Lauren*

      Bingo! Soooo spot on. I see huge red flags in the “we are gifting you something but you have to use up your vacation days and pay to bring your spouse along” What the what? That is so unreasonable it’s not even laughable. And he is not a generous guy. He’s just not. Generosity doesn’t come with strings and excuses and soft promises as to why the gift must be used.

      1. Ladyphoenix*

        This whole thing gives me the skeeves. Almost, if not as bad, as the LW that whined about not having a guys weekend to go play hold and not invite the female coworkers.

        Also doesn’t help that this LW started everything by corralling all the female coworkers for their opinion on this gift for his wife and suddenly thrning it to an “everyone can come”.

        I would give the boss a hard, “Thanks but no thanks.” Be firm. Get HR involved if this dude doesn’t cut this crap or tries to punish you for not accepting his “gift”.

        And I would be checking around the job sites because this place gives me the instacreeps.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Agree, Rusty. This is all fishy. May even violate university policy. Firm but polite NO. The boss can’t make OP do anything. No lies or excuses.

  63. CoveredInBees*

    OP2, if you don’t already know what the outgoing director is being paid, check your organization’s 990 tax forms, if you’re in the US. They have to be made public (try Guidestar) and list the 5 highest paid employees in the organization. Even if that director isn’t listed, you should get a good idea of what you should be asking for.

  64. Grey*

    #3: When you start interviewing replacements in early 2024, avoid telling the new candidates why you’re hiring. Some might see that as a red flag.

    1. Copier Admin Girl*

      “Oh yes, we’re interested in filling the position of Teapot Handle Inspector because six years back a prophetic dream informed us of the impending death of our current Handle Inspector. She should pass by the end of September. Are you available to begin training around that time?”

      In all seriousness, OP, please do not convey this. I so appreciate your concern, but that is something too jarring to discuss with coworkers/ employees. I totally agree with Allison- write this off! Dreams are dreams and are not meant to be taken at face value. I wish your employee and you long, happy, fulfilling lives!

  65. Sunflower*

    OP#3: Many moons ago, I had a vivid dream about Lou Gossett Jr. passing away. I remember sitting and reading his lovingly-written obituary, and the age of his passing– 77. The dream felt so totally real and prophetic than I spent years after that keeping track of Lou Gossett Jr and counting down to his 77th birthday.

    Mr. Gossett is 82 today and completely fine. Which is to say, dreams are weird, feel weird, but don’t usually mean anything, so don’t waste too much energy thinking about it.

    1. Mpls*

      +1 – you don’t have a track record with prophetic dreams, so there’s nothing saying this one is accurate. Vivid =/= accurate :) Don’t say anything to the co-worker.

      You do tell your friends that you are having super vivid dreams, and may be a psychic now and then you all have a good laugh and discussions about the weird dreams everyone has had.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        I have supervivid dreams at times. It’s a side effect of a medication I take. I regularly dream that I’ve done something incredibly stupid at the job I took to pay for my library degree. Four decades ago. Or that I have a very short time to get a suitable Christmas gift for my father, who’s been dead for over a decade. The dreams involving rows of brightly colored flowers blooming in my bedroom are amusing, at least.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        +100 the most vivid dream I’ve had as an adult, was a few years ago, about my most toxic ex, who had dumped me a year or two before in the most obscene way, suddenly back in my life and coming on to me. In my dream, I pushed/kicked the ex around a room we were both in, yelling in his face: “This is not my job! This is (his next girlfriend)’s job now!! Not mine!!!” It was very lifelike, I woke up from it with a huge smile on my face, it made my whole week, but it never came true! And I’ve got to say it had far higher odds of coming true than OP’s dream of their employee dropping dead (obligatory knock on wood). Just… no. Who knows what combinations of our subconscious, food we’ve eaten for dinner, news we’ve read the day before, and a million other things come together to result in a weird dream we happened to have? doesn’t mean anything whatsoever.

        1. Khlovia*

          Well, I say it was *very* true. It was the best kind of true. It was your subconscious having figured out that indeed the jerk was no longer yours to deal with, and kicking up into your conscious with a lovely epiphany that put a smile on your face.

  66. Queen of the File*

    OP#3 I had a dream like this when I was 14, but the fortune teller was predicting the date of my death. It was so vivid and unlike any other dream I had had that despite my normally cynical and rational attitude I admit my thoughts returned to it periodically during the 10 years I had to wait to see if it would come true (it didn’t).

    I told people about it now and then when the subject came up and I am sure people thought I was bananas. And that was about me! So not even the extra angle of putting the burden of definitely-nothing-but-what-if-it-does-come-true death anxiety on someone else. Definitely, definitely don’t tell the person.

  67. Wow*

    OP #3 needs help. None of this is normal. If anyone told me this I would get as far away as I could and never interact with them again. There are mental health resources that can help with this. Delusions like this are not normal. I can’t believe more people aren’t saying this.

    1. LQ*

      It’s just a dream. I think this is really absurd to think this is a delusion. I mean, yeah if someone told me I’d be really about getting away but just because I think they have horrible judgement about sharing stuff. If this was sent in first the in the morning (think writing the email in bed when it’s all fresh and nothing else has happened) after the dream? That seems really normal. I’d guess that by the end of the day the LW here would have known to not mention it, heck after shower and brushing teeth they likely knew.

      1. McWhadden*

        They knew at the time they sent it, really. The reason she sent the letter is she had an inkling that it would be a really bad idea to share.

        1. LQ*

          Really good point! And frankly an advice column where you are anonymous is probably a good person to share something like this with if you’re feeling compelled but you know it’s a bad idea to share it.

    2. Julia*

      Wow back. It’s really inappropriate to diagnose people with mental health issues over the internet. Not every weird superstition means someone needs professional help.

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        Yeah, and it’s not like dream interpretation was a cornerstone of the entire field of psychology or anything. /s

        1. Just Employed Here*

          I think *was* is the key word in that sentence.

          holder of a terminal degree in Psychology

  68. chica*

    #1 – my boss did this with our office. It was a little weird? But actually not bad. We (the group) met up for dinner, but other than that didn’t see each other much: everyone pretty much did their own thing. Ours was only for a 4 day though. Can’t even imagine 10 days! It is incredible generous although misguided. The other big difference is that our family was welcome so it didn’t cost anything at all, except for any excursions we wanted to do. The only person who paid extra was a co worker who wanted to upgrade the cabin. So, all that to say, it might not be as bad as you think — a boat is a big place and you don’t have to things together (unless they are planning group activities too, OMG).

  69. Photographer*

    I would be SO MAD if someone had that dream and didn’t tell me. I could get my affairs in order, travel, and live a full life. If they were wrong? Oh well; I got to go to the Grand Canyon instead of waiting for “someday.”

    1. LQ*

      …I can’t tell if you’re serious or not. But if you want to live a full life…do. If you want to go to the Grand Canyon, go. You can get your affairs in order, travel, and live a full life today. Are you waiting for someone to tell you that you will die.

      You will die. I predict in the next 80 years, you will die. You should go forth and live your life as if each day is precious.

  70. McWhadden*

    Honestly, never tell anyone about any dream you have ever. No one wants to hear about your dreams.

      1. Ladyphoenix*

        Or the most creepy.

        Any dude that says they are dreaming about me that isn’t a boyfriend is gonna make me head over the hills and far away.

    1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I strongly agree about that in a work context. Never tell a co-worker that you had a dream about him/her.

    2. Alton*

      I like hearing about dreams, but yeah, it’s not a great workplace topic, and it’s not something I’d bring up in many other contexts, either. Dreams can feel very personal sometimes.

  71. Lauren*

    #1 is ridiculous. If they are making the whole office go on the trip the time and expenses need to be paid for. You shouldn’t have to use your measly vacation days and money on a trip you didn’t want and didn’t plan for. $1000 is a lot of money.

  72. Caramel & Cheddar*

    I feel like I read #2 differently from everyone else, namely this line: “I am worried that there will be no pay raise again when they offer me this new position, as we were informed that managers will not be getting raises this year.” It sounds like she’s worried that this will be the case but that anything to do with salary hasn’t been confirmed. I can see being fearful based on the past experience of not getting a raise when making the jump from coordinator to manager; it definitely set an expectation for this to happen again!

    I think instead of worrying about something unconfirmed, though, this seems like it’s definitely worth talking about with HR or whoever is hiring for that job. Something like “I’m excited about the possibility of a promotion to a director-level position, but I wanted to confirm that the management salary freeze exempts people moving from one management level to another, since there’s a large gap between those two salary ranges and I’d be taking on much more responsibility in this new role.” If they *are* giving you a raise, I’m guessing it’s still less than what they’d pay an outsider, which is common of terrible practise and not necessarily an indication that they’re trying to exploit you.

    If they say that no, you won’t be getting a raise, then that’s concrete information to work with. You can, as others have suggested, start job searching. If it’s a possibility, you can decline the promotion and say that you’re happy with your level of responsibility given your current compensation level. Or, if you think it would work, you can push back and remind them that you’re still on a coordinator level salary; I feel like it’s very possible that the people who declared “no management increases” are people outside your direct reporting line and won’t necessarily have paid much attention to what you as an individual are being paid as opposed to what the average management salaries are at each level.

    1. Ali G*

      Your last point is a good one. It’s quite possible that only the OPs boss knows exactly what is going on with the salary, and just by bringing it up could spark a change.
      I remember a situation where I thought I should be getting a raise and no one ended up saying anything to me. I didn’t say anything either (young, naive). When bonus time rolled around the COO called me up to tell me what bonus I would be getting. I thanked him and then asked him if a salary bump was on the table too. He was like “What? Didn’t you just get a raise?” I told him I had not. Him: “WHAT??!! I’ll call you back.”
      Turns out between him, my boss (VP) and the CEO, each thought that someone else had processed my salary increase. They all apologized, we had a good laugh and they gave me my bump and increased my bonus to cover some of the lost wages in the mix up (yes this was all at a non-profit too).

    2. OP2*

      All fair points! I am also amused you are assuming I’m a “she”. Thank you for weighing in!

      1. Just Employed Here*

        We’re not assuming you actually are one, we’re just using it as a default pronoun (since it wasn’t clear from the question, or relevant for it, anyway). Like “he” used to be used.

  73. Dr. Doll*

    If I were a donor to LW 1’s university, I would wonder if they are spending my donations wisely, if the bad judgment extends beyond this VP. He’s very nice, to be sure, but his judgment is awful.

  74. ChaufferMeChaufferYou*

    #1 Aw, I think it’s nice. I’m not sure why Allison says it’s divorce worthy. I’ve worked in small family businesses where the only two employees besides family members were often included in outings like this. It was a wonderful environment that oddly was able to stay very functional even with how much we saw each other in casual settings.

    You should 100% say no if you don’t want to go. It SHOULDNT be committing career suicide. If your boss looks down on you for saying no, I’d look for another job. It should just be a super nice perk!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’ve worked in small family businesses where the only two employees besides family members were often included in outings like this.

      I think that’s actually pretty different from what’s being discussed here, though.

  75. Phony Genius*

    There are probably tax implications to #1, which is another expense on top of the $1,000. Not sure if you can use this as another excuse.

  76. CalculatedSpontaneity*

    When people tell me things that they dreamed about me, I find myself wondering what they think about me in real life that makes them dream those things. For instance one morning I came in to work and a coworker was all excited to share with me that she’d dreamed that I was pregnant. I hadn’t been at that job long yet, and barely knew her, so it made me wonder things about how she and others in my office perceived me, like: does she not realize how old I am? (I was almost 50), and if she thinks I’m a lot younger than I really am then does she also maybe think I’m a lot less experienced than I am?, or does she just think I’m fat?, or does she secretly hope I’ll go on maternity leave and never come back?
    So, if my boss were to tell me that he dreamed that I died, then I’d worry about whether he had some subconscious or not-so-subconscious wish that I wasn’t here or that harm would befall me – or maybe the opposite: a fear that I’ll leave. If I thought about the latter reason too much I might start to worry about whether he’s too dependent on me, or too personally attached.
    All of these would of course be my thoughts and worries, that I’m projecting onto the dreamer – but you can see how it would be better for coworkers to just not tell me those sorts of things. In the case of the coworker who thought I was pregnant, she was laid off shortly after that but I still run into her from time to time, and that dream comment is always immediately what I think back to. So telling someone this could impact their thoughts about you for a long time – and chances are this person’s coworker will actually enjoy a long life beyond September 25, 2024, but still be thinking that the letter writer is weird.

  77. Rey*

    I wonder if this is one of those things were the boss is trying to nicely recognize everyone’s hard work, but is ever-so-slightly tone deaf to what his employees would actually appreciate.

    1. OP #1*

      I think so. It’s super sweet. I’m sure it’s a gift he’d appreciate receiving! He said “I know I’m not an easy guy to work with and I just want to reward your all for all that you do.” It’s super sweet, but just not right for me and, if it’s a reward, I don’t want pay another 1k to be able to enjoy it. And I don’t want to spend ten days hiding in my (SHARED) room with a book. Esp. if I get the norovirus everyone’s talking about.

      1. Khlovia*

        OMG on top of everything else you have to share a cabin with a colleague? This is sounding less and less like a nice if misconceived vacation and more like a work retreat. The one at the mountain cabin would be preferable. If you absolutely have to escape, you can walk down a mountain with better likelihood of survival than you can swim to shore from a ship far out to sea. Maybe confirm with your boss that it is *not* a work retreat? And if it isn’t, just tell him what you said above about not wanting to see Mexico for the first time without your fiancé. It has the advantage of being both true and inarguable.

  78. Avocado Toast*

    Unsure if this has already been mentioned, but OP#1 – will the entire office just shut down for 10 days?! This seems bizarre to me. I worked in a dean’s office for awhile and there were certainly slower periods of time but there’s no way we could’ve left the office unstaffed for 10 days. Is the university really ok with this??

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      It’s not uncommon for universities to shut down between semesters, and since the OP said this cruise was planned for the winter (or that it would interfere with her other winter plans), I wonder if it’s happening during a university shutdown.

  79. Amber Rose*

    My dreams often are so vivid they feel like memories. I also feel pain from damage I take in nightmares, sometimes so bad I wake up sobbing. The whole thing about sleep paralysis is about how the unconscious leaks into our conscious experience. The power of your mind over your body is phenomenal.

    You are not having prophetic dreams, just vivid ones. The only people who are possibly interested in that are people running sleep studies.

  80. Sally Forth*

    Re the trip. As generous as it is, I wonder what the university would say about it? It is no different than paying a bonus out of your own money.

  81. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#1: This all sounds really peculiar and very inappropriate to me. Even a bit FISHY. I am sorry you have been put in this very awkward situation. Even his statement that he is going to “gift” you his extra vacation time and “work out” the money situation is awkward and fishy, and even if that is possible under University policy, would be very unfair to other employees. Speaking of University policy, do you believe this is even permitted under University policy? I have to conclude that this VP is not a very sophisticated thinker. To present this as a personal and very expensive gift that requires you to vacation with him and co-workers… Good grief. I personally don’t want to hang out with co-workers in my bathing suit!

    You can absolutely respectfully and tactfully decline, while also expressing gratitude for the generous offer. I would not recommend lying about it. You don’t need to lie or make up excuses. And you certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to do this–this is so out of whack. You should absolutely feel free to decline to accept this lavish personal gift. Geez, I can’t get over how weird this all is. So sorry, OP. Please post an update later.

  82. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Op#3: Absolutely not, especially given the content of the dream! In fact, you probably shouldn’t be telling any co-worker that you had a dream about him/her, regardless of content. By the way, you are not clairvoyant. It’s just a dream.

  83. Kate*

    #1. To all the people saying this could be a genuinely kind offer from the boss, isn’t a boundary violation, etc.

    The more I think about it, the higher ed context makes clear that this boss’s judgment is WAY off. Higher ed institutions are nonprofits. If I were a potential donor, and found out boss had been splashing around money on his entire staff like it’s a Silicon Valley startup, I would seriously question this office’s capacity for responsible stewardship of funds. In fact, I would encourage the uni to look into mismanagement.

    1. Mini Cooper*

      op doesnt state if the university she works for is for profit or non-profit. The boss is using his own money not the institutions funds.

      1. Kate*

        A for profit uni wouldn’t have an advancement office, because they can’t request donations.

    2. Alton*

      I’m guessing that the director is using his personal money for this. You never know, of course, and misappropriation of university funds and grant funds can happen, but taking the entire office on a “business trip” on a cruise would likely raise red flags.

    3. bonkerballs*

      And you would be the kind of donor everyone at the non profit would roll their eyes at. You don’t get a say in what the boss does with his own money on his own time. And you don’t get to decide that the employees of the place you’re donating to don’t get to have nice things.

    4. Kate*

      Assuming OP is in the US, I can pretty much guarantee that the academic side of her university is currently being asked to swallow reduced staff, frozen salaries and slashed budgets in the name of the bottom line. I don’t care if Boss is spending his own money: one small admin department getting such a lavish perk is a very, very bad look in higher ed right now, both to donors and to fellow employees. His own management shouldn’t allow it.

      1. OP #1*

        Yep! It’s above my pay grade to worry about stuff like that (hah) but there HAVE been protests over his salary in the (very) recent past around here…. I do wonder how the rest of our department will feel. I think it’s supposed to be hush-hush right now. I do think it’s a kind offer and meant from the very best place. But super out of touch with both our political climate right now and also his employees, considering he makes like 4x what most do in a year PLUS bonuses that none of us get (including the frontline fundraisers).

        The more I think about it, the more I worry that accepting would make me more unpopular with the other people in our department than I care to be. Plus the tax thing, which I’m clueless about but definitely don’t want to tangle with.

  84. Lucille2*

    #3 – are you taking some medication that could be affecting your dreams? I’m not saying this to be snarky, I really mean it. I took medication to prevent malaria when I travelled to S.America and I had some crazy, vivid dreams. Fortunately, my doctor warned me this would be a side affect, so I thought nothing of the dreams. It might give you comfort knowing this isn’t a prophetic dream if it is simply a side affect of something else.

    #1 – As much as I would love the opportunity to take a 10 day cruise to Mexico with the spouse, I think going with coworkers would just give me anxiety. For me, the best case scenario it would feel like a business trip where I have to be on morning, day, and night. I’ve done plenty of those, they’re not vacations. Worst case scenario, the kind of drama that comes from traveling with a group of people emerges, but these are coworkers and not close friends.

  85. Coconut pudding tree*

    Document the dream in a diary, journal or some sort of personal online private calendar. Put a date stamp on it and include as many details as you remember. This is for you – in case you want to refer back and compare it to an actual life event later. Having the notes can guide you on how to process, park, and file it. I have had a few dreams that I have noted over the years and did come back to the notes later.

  86. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#2: I’m afraid you have already been shot in the foot at your current salary. Future raises will (theoretically) be a percentage of your current salary, although it sounds like your employer isn’t even giving raises. Future employers will try to base their offers off your current salary, although you can refuse to disclose your current salary.

    You have not been offered the director job/promotion, so I would ignore that issue for now–it is not real yet. And don’t be fooled by vague promises–that promotion is not yours yet. Your problem is that you are underpaid for your current role, so try to address the problem at hand by asking for a market adjustment to your current salary (which means you need to know the market salary data) in order to reflect your actual responsibilities and good performance, or… get a new job. Frankly, I think you should be actively looking for a new job. Do you really want to work in a place that has treated you like that, compensation wise?

    1. OP2*

      All fair points! Thank you for weighing in! For me, the fact that I LOVE my job has been worth so much more than the dollars and cents, but yes it’s at a point that I should address that I am not getting paid market value and what I am worth.

    2. Michaela Westen*

      I don’t know if it’s the case for non-profits, but there are employers who base their offer on market value and don’t ask about current salary. That’s how it was when I got my job. They never asked – they offered me substantially more than I had ever made before and asked if it was ok. :)

  87. Colorado*

    OP #1: I don’t think I’d lie about having other plans but simply say 10 days is a long time for x reasons. My fiancé can’t get that much time off, I have no one to watch my 5 dogs, 3 cats, house, kid, lizard, fish, etc. Even as a personal vacation 10 days is a long time to plan for being away. Hubby and I rarely get to do that because of all I’ve mentioned above not including the horses, donkey, chickens, ducks, etc. It’s very generous indeed but also very out of touch to think you can put your life on hold that long for that kind of thing. And a cruise, no thanks. I’d plan 10 days for a trip to South America or New Zealand ;-)

  88. LiveAndLetDie*

    Re: the cruise, I find it particularly onerous that the boss would expect his employees to use their PTO on a 10-day trip that is planned around his wife, his schedule, his plans for the year. PTO is for you to use as you see fit, and everyone has their own familial obligations and vacation plans (and occasional ‘screw it I want a day off’ ideas, even!), and for the boss to essentially be telling his entire office to take this trip… IMO he should be telling them it would not be counted against their PTO, especially if it’s going to impact people’s reputations at work to say no to the trip.

  89. Phil Hughes*

    I’ve got to disagree with most folks regarding LW#1. Go back and reread the letter. It sounds like a decent place to work, she likes her coworkers and states “VP is an incredibly kind, hard-working, and generous man”. Maybe he has done really well financially or has had a windfall come his way. Maybe he feels that his staff is underpaid or they don’t have great benefits. Maybe they don’t have a lot of family or close friends that could take the trip. It is a very generous offer and 10 days is a long time. Maybe he does actually remember what it was like to be starting out and his offer of vacation time and money to help her out is heartfelt and altruistic. I’m almost 50 and have never been offered anything even remotely like this in my line of work. I’m thinking of the letter writer looking back years from now kicking herself for not taking advantage of this opportunity. A vacation for two for $1000 plus most likely some expenses. There has been an awful lot of negativity and reading of nefarious intentions in the comments. Sometimes a generous offer is just what it seems. To the LW, if you really don’t want to go then don’t go. If you have seasickness issues or other issues that present a real hardship then don’t go. You have your whole life to work and pay bills-it never ends. As time goes on you will likely never have this opportunity again, or necessarily the freedom to take it. If you like the people you work with and don’t think it’s going to be all work folks all the time then I would say to strongly try to find a way to make it work. You will earn more PTO in the future-opportunities like this don’t grow on trees. Maybe if your fiancee comes along you use this is a honeymoon type vacation and when you are actually married don’t be over extravagant on your real honey moon and bank that money instead. I really don’t think you will be committing career suicide by not going, and if this is that type of place, you would be looking to get out shortly anyways. I vote for a little Dead Poets Society here. Carpe Diem!

    1. Indie*

      I mentioned the boss making this her honeymoon as a joke further up. He’s actually not THAT bad. But, according to OP’s update in the comments bossman actually wants this to be for ‘the ladies’ as payback for their being ladies and the way they ‘do everything for men’.

      So that’s not as much of a practical imposition as ‘honeymoon boss’ would be, but ‘paternalistic with sexist assumptions’ boss is still fairly hard on the ears.

  90. loslothluin*

    I guess I don’t find the cruise thing odd since a local attorney (with a large practice) takes his entire staff on a 2 week cruise each year.

    1. mrs__peel*

      That situation seems a bit less Weird and Problematic if it’s a small business owner with a small staff (who probably has the authority to grant as much paid leave as they want at their discretion) versus a larger institution where employees have a fixed amount of PTO and policies in place around the use of it.

      Even so, I hope his employees feel free to decline if they don’t want to go! Personally, I hate the very idea of cruises and many other people do, too.

      1. loslothluin*

        He has one of the largest firms in the state and makes money hand over fist. He has a LOT of employees but I forget how many. From what I’ve been told by the paralegals, they all love it and look forward to it every year. It’s not part of their PTO when they close down, either.

  91. Neena*

    1. My husband’s aunt did this for years. She owned a trucking consolidation company and invited the entire staff of 8 or 10 on cruises (SOs too, I believe). Everyone loved it, folks did activities in groups or solo/with SOs. Most everyone went but those declining were respected. But she owned her own business, which isn’t the case here. And grandboss seems intent on enabling attendance, which while nice should have a limit.

  92. I'd Rather Not Say*

    #1 If you university has an ethics hotline, you may want to anonymously report this. It’s possible the whole thing would then go away. Good intentions, or not, it’s just not appropriate in a public university setting, regardless of him paying for it from his personal funds. It’s not going to look good to a lot of people who won’t necessarily know where the money came from, and it may create ill-will with other departments whose employees are not treated to such lavish gifts. Plus all the other points people have brought up.

  93. LadyCop*

    #1 On my soap-box for a second, can we stop calling it an “adult” job? it’s not any different than when Alison had shared her thoughts on the term “big girl job.” It’s wrong for all the same reasons to me…

    Anyway, also wanted to mention, as a single lady…that I would be /not thrilled/ to be stuck on a cruise with everyone coupled off, and me “by myself.” So even without a partner needing to shell out $1,000, it’s less than ideal for many people.

    And I can’t help but wonder what the social vibe is with the boss anyway? I mean, I am close with many of my coworkers, but I grill with them, not take freaking vacations!

    1. chickaletta*

      Haha! I briefly dated a man in his early 30’s who kept referring to his job as his “adult” job. Turned out he had the emotional maturity of a 15 year old. He made six figures, but his personality hadn’t changed since his teens. I’d also love for people to stop talking about “adulting” (as in “I adulted today and made my bed”) but I seem to be against the tide on that one.

  94. chickaletta*

    #1 Here’s my answers to your questions.

    Is this normal??
    No. God no.

    What do I do??
    Do what YOU want to do. Go. Don’t go. One thing I’ve learned is that you can’t control other people’s reactions. In other words, if you don’t want to go, don’t, and how your boss reacts is on him.

    Can I tactfully say “no thank you” without it offending him?
    Sure. This is an art form that will serve you well in life. Emphasise how incredibly generous and kind he’s being. Next, be brief but honest about your situation: You’re young, saving for this and that, and frankly have other plans for your time off (hopefully with fiance). Unless he’s an ass, he should be fine with that. Imagine an older, male employee turning down the offer as well – your boss should treat you the same way. God, nothing’s worse than an older male boss coercing a younger female employee into doing something. It doesn’t have to be sexual. It’s the whole “I made a decision about your personal life and it’s your job to see things my way and be grateful for it” bullshit. Age, senority, and gender comes into play here, dont’ tell me it doesn’t. I’m getting worked up just thinking about it.

    Or should I start saving?
    Nah, not unless the cruise is a thing you’re excited about. Sounds like it’s not, so no.

  95. Khlovia*

    #3: When a dream informs you that Coworker should buy a lottery ticket next Wednesday at the gas station three blocks from his house, and then you see a series of numbers, share that one. And get a signed and witnessed promissory note that you will get 10% commission if he hits.

    But don’t share this one.

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