dating a professor’s son, did I mishandle my time off request, and more

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

1. Dating a professor’s son

I’m writing in on behalf of my best friend, Margaery. She’s currently in her first year of her PhD program at a prestigious school, and the term just started. Within the first week, she met this guy, Robb, who she really likes and slept with him, and it sounds like they could be a good match. However, he is the son of one of the professors, Ned, in her program. Their research topics are different, so she does not anticipate having to work with Ned or take his classes in the future. That being said, he still has a lot of influence in her field and could impact her professional reputation, especially as she gets started with her career.

Margaery has asked around with people who have been in the program for a while, and all have advised her that getting involved with Robb is a bad idea. Their reasoning is that if she is serious about dating him (which I could see), it should be okay, but if things end badly, then things could turn nasty.

Margaery and Robb have discussed the situation, and both agree it’s not a good idea to get involved. However, they both really like each other, and want to continue seeing each other on the downlow. I think this is a really bad idea, at least for now while Margaery is so new to the program and hasn’t established her reputation. I have doubts they will be able to keep their relationship a secret, and Margaery has a history of relationships ending badly.

If it makes any difference, in her field it is very common for people to date each other, so it wouldn’t be the most scandalous thing. I’m torn between wanting to support my friend and having her be happy with a guy who seems like a great match, and wanting her to not sabotage her career this early on. What do you advise?

Well, if they want to date, they’re going to date, and I suspect you’re not going to have much influence over that.

That said, I don’t think it’s terribly likely to hurt her professionally unless they have a truly awful break-up. If they just date and break up like normal people and keep the whole thing low-key, it’s not likely to be a big deal. But the fact that she has a history of relationships ending badly is alarming (for more reasons than just this situation), and as a friend, the most helpful thing you can do is probably just to make sure she realizes she’ll have to navigate any future break-up with him more carefully and maturely. If she doesn’t trust herself (or him) to do that, I would be much more concerned.

2. How do I balance my employee’s mental health struggles with getting the work I need?

My employee has been working with my team for nearly two years. She’s bright, friendly, willing to learn, motivated, and hardworking — when she’s well. We have a friendly relationship, and she has disclosed to me that she suffers from bipolar disorder. She has not asked for official accommodations, but she’s recently taken advantage of her PTO and my flexibility by taking half days once or twice a week for doctor visits. For the past four months, she’s been tired, unfocused, unorganized, and not meeting deadlines. Her hygiene has suffered — not to the point where I need to send her home, but it is something I can spot as someone who knows her usual level of care. She oversleeps and comes in late at least once a week. It’s clear to me that she’s hit a pretty severe depression spell.

None of this has been a dire issue for her work yet, but we are in academia administration, and the academic year has just started. Deadlines are going to stop being as flexibile, and I need her to be more on the ball. I understand she has limited bandwidth and this is somewhat out of her control, but I also am concerned about the work. How can I balance being compassionate as she adjusts her treatment with being her boss and needing to proceed with projects?

The kindest thing you can do is to be straightforward about what you need her to do differently, so that she’s clear about the expectations she needs to meet. But you can frame that in a way that’s kind and supportive. For example: “My sense is that you’ve been having a tough time the last few months, and I’ve tried to be as flexible as I can about deadlines and time away from the office. Now that the academic year has started, I don’t have that same flexibility and will need you hitting deadlines and (insert whatever other changes you need to see). Are there things I can do on my end that will help?”

Also, if there are specific things you can offer her (like more flexible hours, the ability to work from home sometimes, or a longer lead time on deadlines), be proactive about suggesting them since she may not know those are options. You could also suggest that she file for intermittent FMLA if she needs it.

3. Did I mishandle my time off request?

I interviewed for a job, and before I found out that I got it, I booked plane tickets for a friend’s bachelorette party — we were going away for a week. I found out that I received the job, and on my first day, I told my supervisor, Jane that in a few months, I had plane tickets to be away for a week and asked if she thought it would be a problem. I gave Jane the dates and she told me it was fine and she put it into her calendar.

The dates of my trip were coming closer, and it came up in conversation with Jane. Jane told me that she understands that I am very young (I’m 22) and may not understand how things work, but that I should have asked her supervisor, Cathy (who interviewed me), about my vacation. Jane says that she told Cathy about my vacation and Cathy was very surprised that I was going on vacation so soon after joining the company. Jane says that it was wrong of me not to ask Cathy about taking vacation time. When I questioned Jane about why she didn’t mention this months ago when I first told her about my vacation, she said that she thought I had received permission from Cathy.

This really surprised me for a couple of reasons. Firstly, when I interviewed with Cathy, I didn’t know about the bachelorette party. I booked plane tickets and hotel reservations before I even knew that I got the job. Secondly, Jane is my supervisor. Maybe I’m just a dumb millennial, but I assumed that telling my supervisor about vacation is enough and that I didn’t also have to tell my boss’s boss. Is it normal to have to run your vacation time by a level above your boss? I apologized to Jane and I sent an email to Cathy apologizing as well, but I still don’t feel like I really did anything to apologize for. What do you think?

Nope, normally you’d ask your direct manager about vacation time, not your boss’s boss … unless for some reason that were the set-up in your office, but if that were the case, Jane should have told you that when you first brought it up with her.

My best guess here is that when you first mentioned the vacation time to Jane, she assumed you’d talked about it with Cathy as part of negotiating your offer and that Cathy had okayed it then (since she was the person who hired you). And then later, when Jane mentioned it to Cathy and found out Cathy didn’t know about it after all, Jane felt like she wouldn’t have okayed if she had realized it was the first time it was coming up.

But that would be a lot more likely if you’d just announced the vacation to Jane rather than asking about it. But you said you asked her so… Jane is being a little weird here.

It is true that a lot of employers wouldn’t want you take a week’s vacation soon after you start (although I don’t know how long you’ve been there now). And in general, it’s better to negotiate pre-planned time off as part of the offer negotiations, not raise it once you start. But this sounds like it might just all be a miscommunication. I’d just make sure you’re clear on how they want you to handle vacation time going forward and chalk this up to a misunderstanding somewhere in the mix.

4. Paying huge expenses up-front before getting reimbursed

My husband recently accepted a position at a nonprofit which is such a perfect fit for him that he took a slight paycut to take the job. I unfortunately had to have three surgeries and leave the workforce around the same time. I am recovering but not quite able to return to work, and my short-term disability ran out a while ago.

The projects my husband takes on are very cost intensive — up to $10K a month in materials. While his work always reimburses us … eventually … laying out thousands of dollars in funds and waiting months for reimbursement, on top of my medical bills and non-earning status, is killing us. His organization is very, very small and only has two people who are permitted to authorize expenses, and no company-issued credit cards. They mean well, but they are a small operation and their reality doesn’t match with ours.

Is there something I can do? I’ve explained the situation to the CFO, who was willing to advance us expenses since we have a 10+ year history working with them informally, but the chairman is not so on board.

I guess what is also irritating me is that my husband is very much in the artist role, and his boss knows I’m unable to work reliably full-time right now, and he has been successfully pressuring my husband to get me to work for them for free. I’ve done easily $20k in free work for them since my illness struck, based on my output and normal fees. I am more vigilant now, but I guess I really have two questions: (1) How do poor employees manage an employer that cannot provide materials but only reimburse expenses? (2) Is it reasonable for me to help out my husband’s employer for free (unwittingly) if I get him to agree to serve as a reference, which will help bridge my full-time employment gap?

Your husband should talk to his employer about covering expenses up-front, but you absolutely cannot do that on his behalf. This is his work for them, and he needs to handle it directly with them. It sounds like this is somewhat muddied by the fact that you’re also doing some work for him — but it’s his expenses and his work, and so he has to be the one having the conversation, not you.

He can explain to them that he’s not able to pay such large expenses up-front, and ask how they want to handle that. There are lots of options here — they can get a company credit card, they can cut a check up-front, they can buy the materials themselves, and so forth. But as long as he’s handling it himself, there’s no impetus for them to change their system. So he needs to talk to them and say he can’t lay out such large sums of money anymore, and that they’ll need a different system starting with the next purchase.

Whether or not it makes sense for you to do free work in exchange for a reference is a calculation only you can make (based on the strength of your other references and how much you need this one, your interest in volunteering for them, the amount of time you’re willing to invest, etc.). If they were a for-profit, you definitely shouldn’t do it — but many people do volunteer for nonprofits or do pro bono work for them. In this case, though, you’re using words like “unwittingly” and “pressuring,” and those aren’t great signs. If you decide you don’t want to do more, you can simply say, “I’ve taken on other commitments so can’t do further work.” It doesn’t matter that your husband’s boss knows you’re not working right now; you’re allowed to decide to have other ways you’ll spend your time.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. Applying for a job my friend wanted but isn’t eligible for

My childhood friend and I work at the same organization, although in different departments. Recently a supervisory position opened up in her department, which she told me she wanted to apply for, and I encouraged her to go for it. However, I later learned that she would not be considered for the position due to not meeting the eligibility requirements. She plans to further her education to be able to meet the eligibility requirements if the position opens up again in the future.

I have high aspirations for myself and I’m striving to be a supervisor, although I assumed I’d stay in my current department. Several coworkers have told me I’d do well in the position that’s currently open and they wish I’d apply, and now I’m interested and would like to apply. However I wouldn’t want my friend to feel like I’m betraying her. I know there’s no chance she’ll get the job now, but maybe she’d be considered for it in a few years. How should I go about navigating this situation? I don’t want to make things weird between us or make her angry.

She’s a few years away from being able to be considered for it, so it’s not like you’re snatching a job out from under her. Lots of things can change in a few years — either or both of you might not even still be at your company then! Or the role could change in ways that would make her not want it, or her interests might evolve in a different way, or who knows.

So be honest with her about it! You can explain you weren’t thinking about applying while she was considering it, but now that she’s not, you’re throwing your hat in the ring. One big caution: If getting the job would make you her manager, be sure that you want the job more than the friendship — because you won’t be able to maintain the friendship with her if you’re her boss, especially as a first-time manager.

{ 291 comments… read them below }

  1. Butter Makes Things Better*

    OP2, you sound like a great, caring boss. Thumbs up for looking to handle this in a kind way while laying out expectations. Alison’s advice is spot-on. I bet I’m not the only reader who wishes I could have had a boss like you who notices when a solid employee is struggling.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      I’m sure OP’s employee appreciates the flexibility they’ve been given so far, too. I have a coworker friend with bipolar disorder and even after asking for accommodations when having a bad period of time, she ended up getting pushed out because her other coworkers kept undermining her when she was out on intermittent FMLA, taking emails she had sent before leaving and twisting them around until they were misinterpreted 5 layers deep. She ended up getting written up for a variety of things that seemed really ridiculous, including not saying “Hi” or “Hello” at the beginning of a reply email to someone that coworkers complained about. Eventually they added up and she got fired.

      It can be really bad out there for people with bipolar, especially since it’s not well understood by most people unless they’ve seen it, and the unexpected time out can put stress on coworkers that can turn toxic. Please be upfront with her as soon as possible about the changes you need to see, but also keep an eye on how it’s affecting other employees so you can nip any resentment in the bud and make sure her work is distributed fairly when she’s out (if it can’t wait until she returns).

      1. irene adler*

        Dang! This really scares me!

        My sister is bipolar. She’s worked at a large hospital for over 2 decades. Management has been very supportive when she’s had to take time off to deal with medical issues. Talking a few hours for appointments and even a few months to get the meds right.

        But the stories she tells about some of her co-workers- wow. Now I’m wondering if they might do something like what you describe.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          It’s hard to know. The particular office (in a large organization) had a bad culture to begin with that likely contributed to the toxic behavior. The coworkers that complained were all from one small group doing one particular kind of work, and they had all been there a really long time. None of them had more than a high school education but had been there so long that they were making a ton of money (because you move up a paygrade step every year) and it was incredibly unlikely they’d be able to make anywhere near that much in another job, which meant they were pretty much stuck unless they went back to school.

          This created a group of 10 really bitter, resentful employees that were good at their particular jobs because they had been doing them for 15 years, but were bored and tired of each other and just sniped at each other and everyone all day. They had too much time on their hands that they spent it gossiping and, apparently, coming up with plans to do mean things to other people. They were the most hateful group of people I’ve ever worked with and just fed off each others’ negativity. Hopefully that kind of group is rare.

    2. Elfie*

      OP2, you sound like my boss, who is the best boss I have ever had. I don’t suffer from bipolar, but I do suffer from depression, and I’ve had to take significant time off work recently. My boss has totally had my back – she encouraged me to work from home if I needed to, she shielded me from anything particularly stressful or controversial, and she encouraged me to take as much time as I needed to get myself well. The result of that is that I am absolutely loyal to her, and I want to do my absolute best now that I’m back at work to repay her trust in me by being the best employee I can be.
      If you can’t do the things that my boss did, then just be supportive of what she’s going through, and believe in her mental health difficulties. If you can be lenient on timelines, or work locations (even if she can’t work from home, maybe she can work in a conference room or a quiet corner if she needs to), or tasks or excusing her from unimportant meetings – anything like that should help (if she’s anything like me, that is). But the best thing to do is ask her what she needs – she knows her situation better than anyone else, and if she is a conscientious employee then she probably has thoughts on how to make herself more productive. But you sound great, OP2, and all the best for you and for your employee.

      1. Hi there*

        This is really helpful. I was in OP #2’s situation much of last academic year with an employee who struggles with depression and was casting about wildly for ideas about how I could be supportive. I think I ended up doing most of what you suggested here. One hard thing was the day-to-day uncertainty around whether my employee would be up for carrying out her work or would end up needing to go home, which I let her do as much as I possibly could.

      2. PM Punk*

        I second Elfie’s comment. I can’t stress enough how positive the impact of having a supportive boss can be, especially when it comes to mental health. My boss has similarly been great in understanding my anxiety/depression and that the time I take away from the office for therapy and treatment is ultimately beneficial to my productivity. In turn, I think that level of trust has made me a better employee.

  2. cautious student*

    #1: I’m a grad student right now, and I would absolutely 100% never go anywhere near dating someone related to one of the professors in my department. Academia is already a small field compared to many (and kind of an incestuous one–just about everyone is within a couple degrees of separation from everyone else). A single department is even smaller, and professors have a lot more power in that little nook of the world than their students.

    Margaery’s colleagues are right–there’s always a chance that things work out fine, but if it goes sideways, it could get extremely messy very, very quickly. I think it could go that way even if she’s very careful to be mature about it; after all, she can’t control Robb’s reactions, and secrets tend to brew drama all on their own. Even if everything does go smoothly, she may still become known as ‘Ned’s son’s girlfriend’ rather than ‘the go-to expert in ____’, which isn’t exactly ideal. (This is different from dating another student in the field because Ned presumably is much better-known than a fellow student, so a personal connection to him has a really different effect on how she becomes known than a personal connection to some random fellow grad student.) There are so many ways this could impact her career, especially if she wants to stay in academia–I wouldn’t risk it.

    1. persimmon*

      Honestly it seems strange that this student is in his own father’s department in the first place. Most departments I know would try to avoid that, unless the two are in very separate subfields, and maybe even then.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think Robb is in the same program? I may be misreading, but my interpretation is that Margaery is starting in a department where Ned is an established prof. She also randomly met Robb out and about town, perhaps a la Meredith Grey.

      2. Close Bracket*

        I didn’t take away that Ned’s son was in Ned’s department, or even necessarily a student. My take away was that if things end badly with Ned’s son, that Ned could make things difficult for her bc parental solidarity.

        However, it has been known to happen. There was a father-daughter faculty pair at one of my alma maters.

        1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          I feel father-child, both faculty, is less weird than father-child faculty-student relationships, though, possibly because so many universities do spousal hires so there’s already sort of a setup for two family in the same department. Something about the power differential just makes it so much weirder- like, you can probably recuse yourself from the tenure process and such fairly successfully, but i think it would be too easy for junior faculty to feel pressured into treating a senior faculty member’s child differently than they would any other student.

        2. OP #1 (formerly OP #2)*

          It’s unclear if Robb is in the same department, but it’s well known he is Ned’s son, and he and Margaery met when she was out with her program friends

      3. lost academic*

        Not strange to me. My last department, nearly everyone was married to someone else in the department or a closely related one. It was actually a nice way to handle the two body problem and a lot of times the trailing spouse turned out to be a game changing rock star for us. I knew plenty of places where kids were in the same departments and subfields too. There’s plenty of places in academia where they realize the parent-child thing is idiotic but as many that look at it the opposite way and it’s pretty dysfunctional for everyone around it.

        1. Cassie the First*

          We have two married faculty couples, and a father-faculty son-student combo – not sure if the son is in the same field as the father, but definitely in the same dept. I’m sure there has got to have been other instances in the past – it’s not like they can or would prohibit a student from enrolling just because his/her father or mother was a professor in the dept. The only options would be for the student to change majors or go to a different school, which seems too extreme for a temporary problem. Now I’m sure it would be not a great idea for a kid to have his/her parent as a committee member (e.g. PhD committee), but I’m not sure if there are actual policies in place prohibiting it…

      4. JustaTech*

        One of my friends from high school got an MBA where her ex’s dad was one of the professors. Said ex (also a very nice person, they had as good a breakup as is likely to happen) also got an MBA through the same program (at a different time).

        The first day of class Professor Ex’s Dad gets up and says “You can’t teach your own kids in this program, but you can teach your kid’s ex.” Thankfully it was a very large class so my friend wasn’t ID’d, but my friend just wanted to crawl in a hole.

        So at some schools it’s allowed, but it runs the risk of being ugly.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree. Even if her burgeoning relationship with Robb ends in a totally normal and nondramatic manner, IME, academics are not the most predictable/rational in how they respond to issues that really don’t affect them. Academia is very small, incestuous (metaphorically), and gossipy. You can irritate all manner of people, including people who aren’t on your dissertation committee, aren’t your adviser, and aren’t in your field.

      And I cannot even begin to get into the idea that “dating doesn’t seem like a good idea, so let’s try it on the downlow.” I don’t mean to be rude, but is she serious?? I honestly don’t think it’s worth the risk, especially not in her first year.

      Margaery’s going to do what she wants to do, but trying to “date on the downlow” is a terrible idea. And as you note, she’s going to become known as the person dating Ned’s son, not the bright doctoral candidate in X field. All OP can do is give her honest counsel and let Margaery decide whether she prefers risking her professional reputation and academic placement/references for a secret relationship (that isn’t yet serious) with Robb.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Your point about dating and hiding it is exactly what jumped out at me. An awful lot of the time, when you think something is a bad idea so you decide to do it secretly, that’s a sign it’s an even worse idea than you originally thought.

      2. hbc*

        The secrecy was the worst part. It’s not like keeping a relationship on the downlow prevents noticeable fireworks if it goes screwy—no one who wants revenge will consider the vow of silence active once they (in their minds) have been betrayed. And then whatever claims the vengeful one makes aren’t even mitigated by the previous open, professional behavior everyone saw while they were dating. Being *discreet* is much, much better than being secretive.

        Frankly, the fact that Margaery thought this was a solution is the biggest indicator that she doesn’t have the relationship skills to cross the streams. Add that to her history of bad break ups, and I’m more concerned about the fallout for Robb.

        1. Cordoba*

          A “secret” relationship is interesting to the gossip mill, a “discreet” relationship is boring. In a case like this you want to be boring.

          I have been dating a co-worker for several years, our approach is explicitly “discreet but not secret”. We don’t advertise during the work day, but are openly each other’s dates to the Christmas party, etc. It’s fine. Nothing shuts down the peanut gallery like acting as though their dramatic discovery isn’t a big deal.

          It’s hard enough to find somebody who makes you happy and with whom you have a mutual attraction. I’m not inclined to let school/work get in the way of that.

          Margaery is getting a doctorate from a prestigious school. She’ll almost certainly be fine regardless of how things go with Robb and/or Ned.

          1. cautious student*

            Re: “Margaery is getting a doctorate from a prestigious school. She’ll almost certainly be fine regardless of how things go with Robb and/or Ned.”

            This isn’t necessarily true–it depends a lot on what Margaery is studying and what she wants to do with it. If she’s studying, say, biology and planning on going into industry, then maybe it won’t matter so much, I couldn’t say. But if she’s studying history and hoping to be a professor, that’s a different story. Academia is a small field and there are generally more new PhD graduates in a year than open professor positions, so it’s pretty competitive to find a job; a prestigious program helps, in no small part because it means you’re connected to prestigious mentors, but a bad reputation could quickly counteract that.

          2. JustaTech*

            “Margaery is getting a doctorate from a prestigious school. She’ll almost certainly be fine regardless of how things go with Robb and/or Ned.”

            Sadly this is not always the case. If Ned decides to be vindictive he could put a lot of roadblocks into Margeraery’s career. It’s one of the nasty things about academia, it’s very reputation driven, so if Ned is important enough, and wants to, he can make it very hard/impossible to get a postdoc or faculty position.

      3. NorthernSoutherner*

        And the worst attempt at keeping something on the downlow goes to: “Margaery has asked around with people who have been in the program for a while, and all have advised her that getting involved with Robb is a bad idea.”

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          Lol, yes, advertising it is about the worst way to keep a secret possible. Now people are going to start making popcorn and pulling up chairs.

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        I agree. I’ve been in academia, and let me tell you, there are no secrets. A department is essentially a small village, and everyone more or less knows everything about everyone else. I learned all manner of crazy details about other people’s lives, research, drama, etc without even trying. A student dating one of the professor’s sons? Yeah, that’s going to get around. There is no down low.

        If she’s going to date him, I’d suggest dating him openly and being adult about it instead of acting like two teenagers who have been forbidden to see each other. But she’s going to do what she wants and as her friend, you need to decide how supportive you’re going to be.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Mostly more, not less!

          I’m not in academia and but my brother is and, wow, the scandals. And he’s not somebody who is inclined to seek it out–he just can’t avoid it.

          I agree: Discreet, not secret. If this does any damage to her academic reputation, keeping it a secret will make it a lot worse. Far better to be open but discreet and yank that particular gossipy rug out from under people before they get started.

        2. WorkInAcademia*

          I honestly think this depends on the department. Not only are some departments huge to the point where that isn’t possible, some just aren’t that gossipy.

          1. Dr. Pepper*

            It really does depend. Where I did my grad work and was subsequently employed, this would have been a Thing. Perhaps not career-ruining, but definitely a Thing that would have made my life harder and made me less likely to be considered for certain opportunities.

            1. WorkInAcademia*

              Not to say I don’t believe you, I do, but I can’t imagine how dating the son of a professor (who you aren’t associated with) would be a Thing. I’m trying to wrap my head around it. What do you think it would’ve been like in your grad department?

              1. Dr. Pepper*

                My department was rather small, and while research groups didn’t overlap, all the profs were relatively tight knit. There were a couple who essentially ran the department, despite not actually being the chair. One in particular was someone you didn’t want to get on the wrong side of or have them think less than highly of you because that person had a lot of influence on various committees and had a large network within the industry. You would not know this as a new grad student, they kept quite a humble demeanor. If they got to hear that you were not focusing on your research because you were being stupid with a colleague’s son, or, heaven forbid, *their* son, you could look forward to not being chosen for scholarships, not being informed of job openings, and generally being passed over for opportunities. Not because this person or any other would deliberately set out to ruin you, but because you would be perceived as less serious about your work and therefore someone to be cautious about investing in.

                I know this because I watched this person exert their influence both for and not for other students, and you did not want to be one of the ones they “gave up on”. Add in a tendency to cattiness and gossip within the department, it would be folly to enmesh yourself on a personal level with any faculty member’s family, especially if you’re trying to be all “secret” whilst bleating on to everyone about it.

                1. Anonymeece*

                  I was in a large department and a small department, and this was my experience as well. Even the students knew all the gossip flying around about the professors in the small one; the large one, most of the worst stuff was kept to the faculty, but a few things sneaked out to the students.

    3. AcademiaNut*

      I’m an academic, married to an academic in the same department (this is very normal in my field – ~10% of my office is in a serious relationship with a colleague).

      Dating a professor in the same department when you’re a grad student is a bad idea, even if they’re not your supervisor. That’s a situation where you’ll be identified as Professor X’s girlfriend, rather than a scholar in your own right. But dating a relative of a professor you don’t work with is a relatively low risk situation, provided that you’re capable of conducting a relationship in a mature fashion. I mean, I don’t think I’ve ever met the adult offspring of any of my coworkers, and one of them dating a current graduate student would be something mildly interesting that would be immediately forgotten.

      In the somewhat incestuous world of academic dating it’s pretty common to be discreet in the early stages of a new relationship, and only come out to your colleagues when the relationship is becoming somewhat serious. In the case of the LW’s friend, I’d say to not hang out in the office together, don’t cuddle in the break-room, and don’t bring your boyfriend as a +1 to department events unless the relationship is stable and serious. But don’t try to sneak around as if this is a major secret to be hidden.

      However – if the LW’s friend is prone to drama filled breakups that tend to spill into her work life, that’s bad enough on its own, and it isn’t worth complicating by dating someone related to someone she works with.

      1. Julia*

        I agree. Especially since the professor isn’t her supervisor, it would be very hard to make a claim of nepotism and give OP’s friend a reputation of not having earned her degree.

        But I’m also someone who married a man I met in grad school (I was a first year M.A. student, he was a fifth year B.A. student who ended up in a language class I assisted in), so I may be a terrible judge of appropriateness.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        The context seems like it has the potential to be low-drama, but not necessarily when involving these two people.

      3. This prof says no*

        I am an academic married to someone in my field at another school. I also have kids of an age that they could conceivably date a grad student in my program. I am in a small department, and have seen some really negative situations arise when grad students become enmeshed in prof’s family situations. I am going to say I would urge my child to take a pass, and certainly not to undertake a secret relationship.

        There’s too much possibility that through contact with the family, the grad student would learn private familial information – not even things that are inappropriate, but are overly familiar. As well, as a faculty member, I might not supervise said person, but things happen between students and mentors that mean they may need to change supervisors or to add different people to their committees if projects move in different directions. In a small department, this can cause a lot of chaos and long-term problems between students and between faculty members themselves. Finally, if the faculty member rotates onto the grad studies committee or otherwise has input over the grad student’s funding or other important things, that prof could certainly recuse themselves, but it creates further opportunities for people to be armed with more gossip about the student. I just think it’s a recipe for long-lasting problems, and the effects may be felt amongst the faculty long after the student herself leaves the program.

      4. Seriously?*

        I think it might be ok after she has been in the field for bit and gained an academic reputation. As a new student, this is likely what people would start to define her by which would not be great.

      5. Academic Addie*

        I agree with this. Even if they fall in love and get married and stay together forever, this can have big repercussions. If they both intend to stay in the academy, tenure track jobs are hard to come by. Regardless of it being 2018, men and women are treated differently. Men often get more mentorship opportunities, are nominated for awards and prizes more, and generally thought of as more competent. And something I’ve seen play out with many female friends is that both partners are superstars, but the male person in their partnership gets offered more plum postdocs, or prizes that let them be more independent and establish themselves better as a researcher. With the end of grad school often coinciding with a good time to have kids, long distance relationships become harder, and the woman gets forced deeper and deeper into the “trailing spouse” role. With spousal full hires becoming less common, the man, having received more accolades and better mentorship, ends up TT and the woman non-TT.

        I never considered dating someone in academia, even if they weren’t in my field, for this reason. I really wanted to give myself a chance. But you’re not Margaery, OP. Mention your concerns once and move on.

      6. Dr. Pepper*

        I think it depends on the department. Some can get quite catty and petty. I don’t think I’ve ever met a group of people as peevish about little stupid things as college professors. On the other hand, it may be just fine and nobody might care very much. They’re all going to *know*, but the level of caring can vary widely.

      7. BigTenProfessor*

        My take is that it depends on where you are. When I taught in a major city, seeing any of my students outside of class was super weird. Now that I teach in a college town, it’s pretty much understood that outside interactions are unavoidable, and we can all just act like professional adults about it.

    4. Lollygags*

      Fellow current grad student here and I completely agree. Interestingly, the inverse of this situation happened in my partner’s program. One of the professors actually set up her son with her grad assistant and completely let her into her home, family, and life. The student turned out to be viciously abusive towards the prof’s son and now the professor has almost no contact with her son due to the abuse that he is still enduring. This student also disclosed a great deal of private information (that may or may not be completely accurate, she was also revealed to be a liar) to other students and essentially made this professor look horrible. People had warned the professor that she was being unethical by oversharing with her “future daughter in law” but she wouldn’t listen until it was too late. Now she’s trying to keep all of this hidden out of the fear that her son will be even further harmed if her (now) former student finds out.

      Students being heavily involved in their professor’s personal lives through whatever means usually seems to end in disaster. Now “Robb” may not be that close to his dad and it may not be a problem but it’s probably wise of your friend to find out first.

    5. Birch*

      Eh, I think it depends on how professional everyone in the scenario can be. It’s definitely a minefield, but IMO it can be navigated. But it depends on how Ned and Robb behave toward each other, and how tactful and aware each of them are. I’ve worked with plenty of couples and pairs of relations with no idea until much later that they were related, because they behaved professionally at work. It’s totally possible to do that, and as long as Robb isn’t already known as “Ned’s son” in the field, there’s no reason Margaery would get a reputation for being connected to Ned, especially since they aren’t working on the same projects and he’s not her supervisor. However, the comment about Margaery’s past relationships not ending well needs more elaboration, and maybe that speaks to the ability of everyone in the situation to act with good judgment. It also really depends on the culture of that particular department. Not all academic groups are gossipy and backstabbing, although some are. You just have to know which yours is and make decisions accordingly.

    6. Mynona*

      OP is a first year and other grads in her dept are warning her against it, right? I would listen to them because they know the dept better than OP. This is so field and dept dependent. I’m a PhD in one of those crazy humanities fields with no jobs, I’m now at an Ivy, and their grads aren’t getting jobs. Placements come down to who you know and how much they like you. Not fair, but there you go.

      1. CC*

        I got my PhD in a social science a year ago, and this doesn’t sound like a big deal to me. If the professor isn’t in my subfield I don’t see why they would ever have any input on my job prospects unless they REALLY went out of their way.

        It very well could depend on the field—humanities is tougher, hard sciences probably not a big deal.

        1. Emily Spinach*

          In my field (one of the humanities) it’s pretty common for our faculty to say, for example, “oh Dr. Blah went to/worked at University of Currently Hiring, ask if they’ll put in a word for you” even if Dr. Blah’s area is digital whatever and yours/the job’s is medieval something else. So it could be that a student never had a class with Dr. Blah but would still use them for help on the market. That’s not one way or the other on whether to date Dr. Blah’s kid, though. I literally can’t imagine that coming up in my department.

      2. CM*

        It’s not even OP, it’s her friend!
        If I were Margaery I’d worry more about OP#1, the friend who seems very invested in her love life and reputation, than this new relationship with Robb.

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        That’s what jumped out at me. If the other grad students are warning her away, I’d take that as a sign that this is much more likely to matter.

        It’s not even a case of people going out of their way to negatively impact your job prospects. It’s that you don’t want to lose the respect of those in your department before they even get a sense of your work. Basically, you want to be known for the right reasons. I’m in hard sciences, and you definitely want to be known as someone who works hard, figures out problems, and gets results, not for anything in your personal life. It may mean the difference between a lukewarm recommendation and a strong one.

    7. Murphy*

      Eh, it depends on the department. When I was in grad school, my department had 5 different grad programs and I rarely if ever interacted with the professors in the other concentrations. And that wasn’t even a particularly large department.

    8. the_scientist*

      As a counterpoint, in my very small graduate department two of the professors had been married to each other….for a long time; they had three children. They got divorced and subsequently married/forged long-term partnerships with other people while still working together in the same department. It was fine.

      I get that it’s a bit different since they were both tenured professors, but as long as everyone is reasonable and mature, I can’t see it being that big of a deal. I would hope that Ned would excuse himself from being on OP1’s friend’s committee to avoid any appearance of conflict of interest, maybe, and I would encourage OP1 to keep her research interests divergent from his.

      Yes, academia is a small field, but there are petty people everywhere and you can’t live your avoiding any perceived source of future conflict.

    9. Kes*

      I mean, it seems to me that it’s a situation where she does know it’s a bad idea practically speaking, but in practice she’s having a hard time staying away when she really likes him. Everyone is saying why it’s a bad idea and I agree, but it sounds to me that really, she already knows that, but in that kind of situation what you know rationally and what you feel can be two very different things and it can be difficult to ignore what you feel. And there’s not much her friend OP can really do about the situation either way, beyond giving her opinion that it’s a bad idea if asked.

      1. BigTenProfessor*

        If this is a college town, everyone knows everyone and this type of entanglement is unavoidable. If it’s a major city, I’d be much more likely to say there are other fish in the sea.

    10. Nesprin*

      Absolutely this- academia is a reputation game and a 1st year PhD student has no scientific reputation yet. Couple that with something mildly titillating and people who are not low drama, and you have a thing that will be gossiped.

  3. Greg NY*

    #3: The general rule of thumb is that a pre-planned vacation (one before you finalize your job offer) should be accommodated by your new employer. (The exception is if it truly conflicted with a busy period in which absolutely no one could be out, in which case they would tell you when you mentioned it.) You were perfectly in the right to mention the vacation with the expectation that it would be fine. Cathy may not have known that this was a pre-planned vacation, which might explain her surprise at you taking one so soon after joining the organization.

    The process for notifying about your vacation varies from organization to organization. Most of the time, you either tell your manager or block the days off in a vacation scheduling portal. It’s unusual to do it through the person you interviewed with, so I think you were correct in how you were feeling.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t agree with that — the OP did make a mistake by not mentioning the vacation until after she’d already started. She should have brought it up as part of the offer negotiations. By springing it on her manager after she’d already started (even though she’d known about it earlier), she put her manager in an awkward spot because there was inherent pressure for the manager to say yes. Ideally she would have mentioned it while the offer details were being worked out.

      The assumption when you start a new job isn’t “you can take any pre-planned vacations.” It’s “if you bring up pre-planned vacations during the offer period, we’ll see if we can work it out.”

      Her manager handled it weirdly though.

      1. Mookie*

        But we know from Jane she felt no pressure to say yes because she thought it was pre-approved (even though the LW asked if it would work rather than inform Jane she’d be out when and for how long). I agree that this was unintentional miscommunication, but Jane didn’t verify her assumption and there’s no way the LW could have discerned that that assumption was in play. Is Jane’s calendar not viewable to her own boss?

        Chalking this up to youthful ignorance seems buck-pass-y to me because Jane recognized a norm we’re all more or less aware of being flouted by a young, new employee but didn’t look closer or seek clarification.

        1. Mookie*

          “No pressure to say yes” in the sense that it would be an obvious problem for her but she was too gun-shy to stand her ground with a new employee.

        2. Seriously?*

          I think it depends on how the request was phrased. It is possible that the request was along the lines of “I have this preplanned vacation from X-Y and I already booked tickets. It’s still ok for me to go, right?” which does imply to the manager that it was approved. If the request was more “I booked this trip before I got the job offer. Is it ok to take the week of X-Y off?” then there isn’t really an implication that it was approved. It does seem like all this is simply miscommunication and the manager is being weird. She easily could have asked if the hiring manager already approved it if that was central to her decision.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I took it that way too. Something about “I asked if she thought it would be a problem” sounds like the OP acted like she was confirming a done deal, not asking permission.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I don’t agree, that’s the type of language I always use when asking my manager about PTO. “Hey I’m thinking of taking off Friday September 28, please let me know if you think this would be an issue!” Then her response is usually something along the lines of “no, that sounds great, have fun” but she has the ability to say “actually we would need you here on that day because of blah blah.”

          2. Genny*

            It’s also possible to ask “is it okay to do XYX?” in such a way that it sounds like you’re telling someone you’re going to do XYZ with a polite veneer of asking their permission.

      2. Audrey Puffins*

        I think this might vary on a country-to-country basis; here in the UK, I think it’s far more common for pre-booked holidays to be accommodated as a matter of course, but I’m well aware from reading your blog that it should be mentioned during the offer stage in the US. (I wouldn’t be surprised if it varied depending on industry either.)

      3. Big Bank*

        In this case she didn’t know about it during the interview and frankly I would find it odd if an employee called in before starting to discuss it, so on start date makes perfect sense to me. Additionally it doesn’t sound like the Op insisted, and if it had been denied would have dealt with that. To bring something like this to negotiations puts more weight on it, implying it might be a deal breaker, which it never was. I just really don’t see any error by the OP here; her manager failed in her job and tried to pass the buck.

          1. Lance*

            That, I feel, is the biggest takeaway for OP: don’t wait until you actually start to bring things like this up, if you knew it was happening when you got the actual offer. It would be acting in better faith to bring it up during final offer talks, so that everyone knows it’s happening (or that it might be a problem).

        1. Anon Assistant*

          She definitely knew about it when she accepted the position and did not bring it up. On the business side of this, it could look a little shady.

        2. Kate R*

          I think the point of bringing it up during negotiations is more to let them put the pressure back on the OP about how important the trip is. Once she starts, the employer may feel more obligated to accommodate it, whereas before she starts, they can more freely admit that they’d rather she not. I do understand why it feels weighty to bring it up at the negotiations when had they said no, OP would have been fine (if that’s the case), but it’s just like anything you’re trying to negotiate. You know that sometimes the employer will say no, and you just have to decide which are deal breakers.

      4. LurkieLoo*

        We’ve had almost every employee we’ve ever hired mention a pre-planned vacation during the offer stage. And we’ve accommodated them. From delayed start dates to “Our family always take this week in the summer and it’s non-negotiable because of reasons.”

        Since the vacation sounds like it was finalized between the interview and the actual offer, I think it probably should have been brought up during the offer interview/call.

        In our company, this would be an annoyance, but not a super big deal in and of itself. However, if there are other signs of not knowing “how things work” it could be a problem. I don’t necessarily agree that this is not knowing how things work due to age as much as it is not knowing how things work at your company.

      5. AKchic*

        I’m more concerned with the “I understand you’re young” jab. I almost feel like LW should be wary of Jane and watch out for more remarks about her youth whenever something happens that Jane doesn’t like.

        1. Jadelyn*

          That stuck out to me, too. It’s quite possible to tell an employee they need to handle something differently in the future, and even to make sure they know it’s a general norm rather than specific to you/your company, without bringing the employee’s age into it. That struck me as condescending and really pretty crappy of her to use that.

        2. Specialk9*

          That stuck out to me too.

          It felt like gaslighting – “I know I said yes, and I’m your manager but you should have KNOWN you had to ask Bob in accounting. No, no, Bob Schmidt. You haven’t met him? Well still. You’re very young and I disapprove of your flouting of the unwritten rules.”

          Eff that noise.

          I’d be inclined to be smiley and super upbeat … and cc the grandboss on *everything*.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      What? No. There’s no general rule that pre-planned vacation should be accommodated—I would argue that the opposite is the prevailing rule (no vacation, regardless whether pre-planned or not, during the first 3-6 months). The rule of thumb is that you should disclose and explicitly negotiate your pre-planned vacation as part of the offer process.

      It’s ok that OP’s wires got a little bit crossed, and her boss is certainly handling this weirdly. But I don’t think it’s accurate to counsel OP (or others) that their new employer is obligated to accommodate a pre-planned vacation.

      1. anon today and tomorrow*

        I would argue that no vacation at all for the first 3-6 months is a bit overboard, and to use our words, I don’t think it’s accurate to counsel people that no vacation at a new job is the norm either. A day off or a long weekend is acceptable, but two weeks isn’t. I know people want to make the best impression at a new job but I think it’s a bit extreme to say you couldn’t even take one day off.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I should have been clearer that vacations of one week or longer are not common in the first 3-6 months—I was thinking about the specific context of OP’s letter, but I didn’t spell out that assumption in my response.

          I will say that, IME, a pretty significant number of employers allow zero vacation days, other than federal holidays, during the first 3-6 months. I don’t think that’s fair/right, but it’s common enough that OP should be aware that a request to take a vacation of more than 1 day in the very beginning can read as “off” to a non-negligible number of employers.

          1. anon today and tomorrow*

            I’ve never encountered that, to be honest. Everywhere I’ve worked or any family or friends have worked haven’t had a problem taking one to three days off during the first 3 – 6 months. Maybe it varies by industry.

          2. Blue*

            In my industry, I’ve always seen pre-planned vacations honored, even if it involves being out a week during your first couple of months. In one case, the pre-planned vacation coincided with a quarterly deadline week that’s normally blacked out for vacation, and the boss still allowed it. Other vacation time early on is less common simply because you haven’t accrued the time yet, but if you have a good reason, it’s generally approved.

            1. CarrieT*

              I always see pre-planned vacations honored. A vacation is not a good enough reason to reject your top candidate. Unless (s)he’s going to be out during a week you specifically and unequivocally need them, like for a conference planner role.

          3. MLB*

            I’ve worked places where you don’t start accruing vacation until 90 days in, but NEVER been told you can’t take any days off in the first 3-6 months. That’s ludicrous. If you are offered a job, and have a pre-planned vacation, most companies will be fine with it. It’s not something you mention during an interview, but definitely once offered the job. OP made a mistake by waiting, but her boss made it weird by making assumptions.

            1. Paris Geller*

              I think this is pretty common in local government (which is my field). I am 5 months into my new job, and the probation period is 6 months. I started accruing vacation day 1, but can’t take any until October. We also have a PTO bucket of “personal leave”, though (4o hours a year), and that can be taken during the probationary period, so I actually have taken a (short) vacation already. Just one of those little weird quirks.

              1. doreen*

                I haven’t had any jobs where I couldn’t take any time off for my first six months – but I have had a couple where I couldn’t take time off in my first two or three months whether it was pre-planned or not. Like many other issues, this is going to depend on the specific field – it just happens that I’ve had a couple of jobs with 2-3 month long, full-time, classroom training programs and taking time off during the training was not permitted. People who said at the interview/offer stage that they needed a week off during the training were told they would be called for the next class, whenever that might be.

        2. Clare*

          In a lot of organizations employees really cannot take days off during their initial probation period, typically around 3 months. It’s not really clear what the LW means by the trip being a few months after starting. If it’s 3 or 4 months after starting, I can get why the boss isn’t thrilled. But 5 or 6 months after starting should be fine, especially since tbe LW did tell her boss the first day. I think the boss messed up by telling her it was okay and is now trying to put the blame on LW- and being condescending while doing so by throwing in the language about LW being too young to know anything.

          1. anon today and tomorrow*

            And in a lot of organizations it wouldn’t be a problem. My issue is more the idea that we have to state taking pre-planned vacation or never taking vacation for the first 6 months is a general rule when it really varies by company and industry. It does no one any good to tell them X is always done when that’s really not the case.

      2. Greg NY*

        I did overlook the part about them telling their manager their first day. It would’ve been better to explain it when the offer was made, but if they were to apologize to their manager for waiting until the first day (especially given their age), it shouldn’t be a big deal. The main reason to mention this at the time of the offer is because it’s a lot easier to find out that the vacation dates are a problem before the offer is accepted than to have to have an accommodation made after the fact in what could be a tough situation (a crunch period).

        Not taking vacation soon after starting is simply because you don’t want to make a bad impression when your manager doesn’t know as much about you as they will several months in. But other than logistics (making sure the employee’s vacation dates work for the manager), there isn’t a real reason (other than just a convention) that it suddenly becomes a problem to explain a pre-planned vacation on your first day. It’s time off soon after starting a job, regardless. There are some managers that think that no vacation should even be mentioned at the time of an offer (and all pre-planned trips should be canceled when accepting a job), but I don’t think you or most of our other posters feel that way.

        In any case, I’m sorry for the part I overlooked.

        1. Techworker*

          I’m assuming the OP is in the US as she called it a bachelorette but fwiw I reckon this would be more acceptable in some other countries… like in the UK definitely still better to bring up at offer time, but if it were 3-4 months away from starting then you would have accrued enough vacation anyway and ‘it being fine unless it’s a particularly busy time’ is probably accurate.

          (I know 2 weeks is standard in the US, I don’t know how you all survive ;) )

          1. Rosemary7391*

            Yes, I initially wondered if you were in the UK Greg. Here I would expect planned vacation to be accommodated unless it were really a pain. But we have to take off 4 weeks + bank holidays per year so it would be difficult to insist on no substantial vacation for the first 6 months – you’d just set up problems for the latter half of the year! Still better to bring it up at offer or interview time but it won’t make a bad impression to have a holiday planned.

        2. Nancy*

          It also depends upon the timing. Unless I am reading the letter incorrectly, the trip was booked after the interview and before she found out she had the job. How soon was her first day after her employment was confirmed? Was it a situation where the offer was weeks after the interview, with the request, can you start tomorrow? That kind of information factors into things and it was not apparent in the letter, unless I missed something. She said she was young (22) so this might be her first serious job, meaning “Thank you, now I need to give my current employer 2 weeks notice, can we negotiate a start date?” might not have been a factor. And, as pointed out, she did mention it on her first day.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Yes, she SHOULD have raised it in the offer stage. But it’s not the end of the world she waited until her first day.

            Perhaps it is the norm at this place that you clear vacation with boss’ boss. but then that is on Jane to know that, not OP. It was OP’s first day. Jane should have thought “Hmmm, this is the person’s first day, she probably doesn’t know our office procedures for vacation requests. Perhaps I should explain it to her.” Instead Jane just made a bunch of assumptions. Now Jane is making it OP’s fault for not knowing what only a more experienced person (like, I don’t know JANE) would know.

            1. KRM*

              That’s what got me. If I were OP and Jane said that to me, I’d say “I’m sorry, I had no idea I would have to raise it with Cathy. I thought that since you were my supervisor that you would be clearing all my vacation requests.”. Because it’s 100% correct that Jane should be the one explaining office norms to OP. To me it feels a little like Jane got spoken to by Cathy and is thus taking it out on the OP, who, even if she were 20 years into her working life, should not be expected to automatically know office norms (ie, Cathy, not direct supervisors, will approve all vacation for us) in a new situation.

              1. Elizabeth Jennings*

                Yep, that’s exactly how it reads to me too. Jane for whatever reason (thought it was already approved, didn’t want to say no to a brand-new employee, etc) said OK, Cathy said “why did you do that?” and instead of just taking the lumps, Jane is passing the buck to OP.

                I’d keep an eye on this — it suggests Jane might not be an experienced/confident manager or might be being micromanaged. You can’t fix either, but those are useful things to know to “manage up.” For example, if Cathy makes the big decisions, if you’re asking Jane for something down the road, you should make your case with points you think will appeal to Cathy as well as Jane.

        3. Anonanonanon*

          Definitely agree it should have been discussed when the job offer was made and they were discussing start date etc. However, I can see how someone may not have known that for their first professional job.
          Everywhere I’ve worked, it’s because you probably won’t have enough leave/PTO to miss an entire week of work until you’ve worked there a few months, and vacation is not an acceptable reason to take unpaid leave, UNLESS it was “negotiated” (basically just requested) during the offer stages. It’s more about the optics of other coworkers seeing you take an entire week off when they know there’s no possible way you have earned that much vacation time, and it’s easier to be able to tell them it was planned before the job and agreed upon before you started.

        4. Lexi Kate*

          Since op didn’t request the vacation during the offer op is most likely running up against needing to take time off without pay. Which depending on the size and policy for her company in the first 90 days for a non medical reason could be a fireable offense.

      3. Elfie*

        It really depends where you are. In the US, I defer to this commentarietat’s views. But in the UK, you can take time off whenever your manager lets you. I had a new grad start last year, and she took her first day off work to go to her sister’s hen party. She let us know, and it was fine. If the OP asked, and Jane said yes, then as far as I’m concerned, Jane’s the one in the wrong here. I’ve been working for nearly 20 years, and the OP behaved exactly as I would – I would never dream of looping my boss’es boss in to a pre-planned vacation (especially one that wasn’t planned at the point of interview). It obviously depends on your location, industry, etc – but to me, this is really weird on Jane’s part. She said that OP could have the holiday!! It was at the first point of being told about it that she should have mentioned norms, or she could have asked if OP had asked Cathy about it at the time. Instead, she assumed – and you know what assume does!
        Tl;dr – totally on Jane in my opinion.

        1. WellRed*

          Does that change, though, if your new grad asked for a week off? Not a day? I mean, I would probably be OK with the OP taking the week but I’d be a bit annoyed at how she handled it.

        2. anon today and tomorrow*

          Even in the US it really depends on the company. There’s no set rule about vacations at a new job in the US. We recently had someone new start who took a week and a half vacation after two months and it wasn’t an issue, and something similar happened at my last company.

      4. CaitlinM*

        Luckily 2 of the 3 jobs I have haven’t had that rule–I’ve started all my positions at the beginning of the summer so it would be a real drag not to be able to take a vacation, especially for someone with school-aged children.

      5. Zennish*

        All of this stuff is kind of workplace and profession specific. Where I’m at, most managers are okay with the pre-planned “previous life” stuff that comes during the first couple of months with a new employee, and will accommodate if possible.

        My suspicion is that Jane didn’t have a problem with the vacation time, but then got flak from her boss about approving it, and is looking for a way to back-peddle without admitting it. It is not normal to have to clear things with your grand-boss… that’s why you have a hierarchy in the first place. It’s normally the supervisor’s job to seek clarification from their management on what they can approve before they sign off on it, if they’re uncertain.

  4. Greg NY*

    #5: You really can’t betray your friend by applying for a position she can’t get at the current time. If you didn’t apply for it, someone else would get it, and she would still face the possibility of the position not being open when she attains the necessary qualifications. Your actions here don’t have any effect on your friend other than jealousy, but jealousy could also result from you leaving the organization for another position she is envious of. The only thing she has control over right now is getting those qualifications, and since it requires additional education to do so, it’s going to take her a certain amount of time no matter what.

    1. Specialk9*

      Her friend doesn’t own the job, so there is no betrayal. It’s not theirs to lose.

      It’s like that messed-up bro code. “Oh hey I sexed her so nobody else is allowed to touch her. She’s mine in perpetuity.”
      Except (in this case) your friend just had a crush on her and still thinks they own her. (This analogy is getting weird.)

      Bottom line – the only betrayal in this situation would be you betraying yourself by not advancing your career. A good friend would cheer you on.

  5. Zombeyonce*

    #4 has this line in Alison’s response: ” If they were a for-profit, you definitely shouldn’t do it — but many people do volunteer for nonprofits or do pro bono work for them.”

    Can someone explain why you shouldn’t do that kind of work for a non-profit? I’ve never worked for/with one so don’t know if there are laws or something against that and, aside from her not wanting to do free work, I don’t understand how it’s different from doing pro-bono work, which Alison says is okay. What am I missing here?

        1. Julia*

          I’ve definitely had people expecting me to volunteer for a for-profit. The other day someone asked for participants for a survey, promising a 5€ Amazon coupon in return. I responded that the link didn’t work, and the contact person gave me a tirade about being greedy, too many people participating just for the money and not out of the goodness of their hearts, etc. I responded saying I don’t usually do free labor for companies, and she ranted again how she thought Germans were more generous, loved volunteering, not so greedy, she was doing this as a volunteer as well etc. At that point I just ignored her, because she seemed seriously deranged.

          But since then, for-profit companies expecting free labor from people (customers, even) have kind of jumped out at me more. I would totally provide my services to non-profits if I had the opportunity, but not to a company who makes money off my help.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            In some industries in the US, it’s common. Usually illegal, but common. Staging in the restaurant industry, I believe, is a huge one.

      1. Jess*

        LW4 here.

        For reference, this non profit does have a legit 501c3 and has been in not-business for about 35 years. My husband is a television producer and that is why the costs are so exorbitant – this nonprofit makes children’s TV shows about anti-bullying, anti-racism, etc.

  6. Thinking Out Loud*

    For #3, is it possible that get supervisor (Jane) is not her direct manager, only a more senior person who assigns and reviews work? I have worked at some companies that used that terminology,and where the person who handled performance reviews, hiring, and firing would be the manager (Cathy). I can see the supervisor responding the way that Jane did in that kind of structure.

    1. Liane*

      No, if this the case, then Jane, as Alison said, needed to have explained this when OP first brought it up and *told OP the correct procedure*. Examples:
      “I know it’s unusual, but at OurCo grandbosses approve time off, so talk with Cathy. Email is fine.”
      “I am a team lead and can’t approve this, sorry. Cathy can. Do you need her email?”

      1. Thinking Out Loud*

        I should clarify – if this is the case, I still think that the supervisor should have confirmed that the letter writer had requested the time off from the hiring manager, but it at least makes the process itself more logical, in my mind.

  7. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #2: I’ve been your employee. I’m not bipolar, but I get severe depressive episodes. I was hospitalized four 4 months last year.

    There are some small things you can do to make things a bit more bearable for her.

    If at all possible, mover her next to a window and to an area of your office with less foot traffic. Daylight and fresh air can be very helpful. And I know that my ability to concentrate is completely shot when I’m in a depressive episode. I used to sit right next to the printer. Every time someone walked by I lost my train of thought.

    I’m lucky that I live in a country with very good and accessible health care.

    Even so finding mental health care while in the middle of a mental health crisis is extremely difficult.

    I don’t have to pay for the medications I take. I only have to pay prescription fees. Which adds up to about 60€ per quarter.

    If there are charities in your area that help with finding/paying for mental health care or assistance programs your employer offers, point her in that direction.

  8. Woodswoman*

    #4: I’ve worked for nonprofits almost exclusively for my entire career, and what you’re describing is way outside the norm. My colleagues and I have sometimes had expenses that we’ve covered and initially been reimbursed for, but if it’s a large amount then the nonprofit has a credit card that can be used do we don’t have a major personal expense up front. I’ve also never waited very long to be reimbursed.

    Something is really wrong with the management of this organization that they think it’s okay to have your husband spend thousands of dollars of his own money. And I wouldn’t give them one second of my time as a volunteer in your own role.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, this is weird for any nonprofit that has staff (even if it’s a staff of only 1-2 people). It’s really not ok for them to refuse to open a company credit card account or pay for materials up-front. Spending upwards of $10K is egregious, financially irresponsible and inappropriate.

      1. Mookie*

        I just about choked on that red-flag. This is colossally inadvisable in a very common-sense way. I don’t really get it.

      2. CR*

        Ugh, I work for a tiny nonprofit that refuses to start a company card (they are so paranoid about fraud, everything is done on paper with cheques). I won’t pay for anything up front anymore. Even when a lunch delivery arrived the other day, I found my boss and asked him to pay. It’s the only way I can work here and still afford my own bills.

        1. Ama*

          Not to make them more paranoid, but at my nonprofit last year someone stole a paper check for a vendor and then tried to forge checks on our account in huge sums and cash them — luckily we have a second level of approval required when large checks are cashed or deposited so it was caught right away.

          By contrast, I don’t think we’ve ever had an issue with fraud or attempted fraud on our corporate cards. I agree if your org is going to be stick in the muds about this that you should try to resist paying out of your own pocket for business expenses, though.

          1. Thany*

            Moral of the story: Fraud can happen no matter if it is digital or on paper. Just get the company card to make everyone’s lives easier.

      3. why not*

        If the non-profit is so set against a corporate credit card, the least they can do is apply for credit at the places the husband gets his materials (or whatever is costing 10k) from. Then they’ll be billed directly.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Completely agree. This nonprofit is making one spouse pay expenses in the tens of thousands of dollars up-front, while pressuring the other spouse, who is recovering from surgery, to work for them for free. This is way outside any norm or best practices for a nonprofit. It is past time for this household to re-think its dedication to this organization.

    3. Nita*

      Yeah. I think OP’s husband should make sure he’s been paid for all work done to date, and then never work for them again unless (1) he has a signed contract authorizing these huge expenses and (2) he gets the payment up front.

      I’m kind of wondering if the delays in payment may have something to do with a disconnect between how much the organization expects to spend vs how much the expenses actually come out to – hence the need for a contract if this hasn’t been the procedure so far. In any case, though, the nonprofit is behaving horribly toward a couple that’s struggling, and this “employer” may end up causing them financial disaster. Being involved with them is only a hair safer financially, then putting all that money into a scam. Suppose one day OP’s family has another unexpected expense, and the nonprofit team shrugs and says “oh, do we really owe you all that? We’re still procesding it, call us in three months.” Or suppose the nonprofit disbands – what happens to the money owed then?

      And I can’t believe OP is even considering doing free work for people who are not bothered in the least by the possibility that her family may go broke thanks to them.

      1. No Mas Pantalones*

        It sounds to me like the org may not be entirely financially stable if it’s expecting Husband to float $10k and then doesn’t reimburse immediately. If they had the money, they’d reimburse immediately or buy the materials on their own. Another red flag.

        1. Seriously?*

          Exactly. It is a terrible situation and can leave them in a horrible situation if the organization goes bankrupt.

      2. Nita*

        Oh. I somehow missed the fact that OP’s husband is an actual employee of the company, not a freelancer. So presumably, the nonprofit is setting out how the projects should be done, and is not being surprised by the expenses. Looks like that small pay cut the husband took is more like a massive pay cut in the tens of thousands! Sure, he gets paid eventually – probably after dealing with some nasty consequences of the delay, like credit card debt.

        I am not a lawyer, but I wonder if there are any legal requirements about timely reimbursement of expenses incurred on behalf of one’s job. I suppose it might also depend on what exactly the expenses are, and whether the employee contract/handbook say that these expenses will be reimbursed.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Oh wait, I missed that too. I mean I saw it, but it only registered when I read your comment. This is an EMPLOYEE, not a freelancer doing projects. A freelancer, sure you front the cost of materials or you put it in your contract how that works.. If it is an employee, the Organization should be buying the materials. Or the project they want doesn’t get done. If the budget can’t handle the cost of materials then that particular project doesn’t get done.

          The Husband should be job hunting. This org has shown who they really are.

    4. pleaset*


      To put a fine line on it about this fro mthe OP: “but the chairman is not so on board.”

      I can understand not wanting to *advance* employees large amounts of money – that is giving money to employees before expenses (other than travel) are incurred. But in that case, if the employees are not willing to, in effect, advance money to the organization, the organization should be paying the vendors directly.

    5. No Mas Pantalones*

      Also, #4 asked what poor employees would do if in the same situation. It’s simple: we’d find another job. There’s no way on earth I could afford to float $10k to my employer. Hell, I probably couldn’t even float $100. That’s why I have a job–because I need money in order to live!

      Husband needs to get out. This is not normal and I doubt it will change, given the long history you have with the company/owners.

      No. Not okay. Bad. F.

      1. Jess*

        LW here. It is chaotic and has really ruined our finances, even moreso than my being out of work has (and I’ve always earned north of 65% of the income).

        This is a social based charity, and they mean well, but I am a businessperson and my husband is an artist. I don’t call them con artists, but they pry on the “pure artist” types who have real funding.

        I will continue in the morning if that’s okay.

    6. Marley*

      Every bit of that post blew my mind–this isn’t a perfect role, in these circumstances, which is really sad.

    7. Marthooh*

      If they have to borrow 10K a month from the LW’s husband to make ends meet, they’re not a “perfect fit” for him… and that’s quite aside from expecting LW to volunteer her time and effort. They may be doing good work, but I doubt they’ll be doing it for long.

      1. Anon Assistant*

        It means the company is not financially stable. I’d get paid up and run. Don’t put in notice until the check is cashed.

    8. NW Mossy*

      It seems high-risk for the organization too. If their employee is buying all the materials for his work and the organization relies on what he creates from those materials to do its thing, they’re in a very tenuous spot. It doesn’t seem like there’s a contract in place that would give the organization recourse if the OP’s husband decided to quit and keep the materials he’d paid for.

    9. Kittymommy*

      I would be curious to see if they have 501.c (3) status and how that works to get around taxes. While I work for government do the rules may be different if we pay for something ordinary and then ask for reimbursement then we can’t use our exempt status for and sales tax. Which means either we get reimbursed for the tax (which NEVER happens) or we eat it. It’s one of the many reasons they actively discourage using personal cards.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s not quite the same for 501(c)(3)s because, in most states, they are not exempt from paying sales tax. With the feds it’s different because it’s a federalism issue (can a state levy taxes on the federal government?).

    10. Le Sigh*

      Yeah, I just want to add to the chorus that this is not normal, even for non-profits. Not everyone at my org has a CC, but the most I’ve ever had to front was a couple hundred (which would be too much for many people, but it’s not outrageous in this field either). And I got paid promptly after submitting my expense reports.

      I think this place is taking advantage of OP4 and her husband, big time. And it sounds like they know a lot about their unstable situation and are using it to their advantage against OP. Honestly, I’d get out of this whole situation as soon as it’s feasible.

    11. Lilo*

      I remember my husband’s employer was late reimbursing some expensive travel one month and it caused some trouble for us. I hated that my salary was used to prop up their terrible practices. It wasn’t the whole reason, but it was a large part of why he left. The points and miles are a nice perk but not at the expense of having to carry over a credit balance. This was a large fortune 500 company too.

    12. AKchic*

      All of this.

      There is absolutely no reason to be sinking that much expense up front (multiple times a year!) into a non-profit and then for them to wait a long time to reimburse for just expenses.
      Something smells off. Seriously off.

      Stop volunteering your time. Get a letter stating your “volunteer” hours though. You can use it as proof that you were doing something constructive.

    13. Nana*

      Just no, no, no! I did shopping for office supplies and kitchen supplies for a non-profit — and got a $200 up-front draw every single time. No way I would/could lay out even that ‘little’ bit of cash. And the bother of having to do that often (and then reconcile the receipts and change) led the non-profit to get a credit card for my use!

    14. Blue_eyes*

      Yep. This is ridiculous. $10K up front in one month? That’s a HUGE amount of money. I often incur expenses at work, usually around $1k/month. I normally get reimbursed about once a month, but I can get it sooner if I have a lot of expenses (like the day I put $1,200 on my personal credit card – I had a check in hand later that day). And if I couldn’t float the $1k/month, I could definitely get reimbursed more often. It’s super not ok to ask employees to front this much money. There has to be another way.

    15. Anonymeece*


      My boyfriend worked for a shady company that required expenses be paid by him, then reimbursed, and ended up losing $600.

      If this company say, went out of business, would your husband be okay with taking on that debt? Not likely. If you’re not willing to take it on, don’t front it.

    16. Something Clever*

      I’ve lost count of the number of sketchy issues at non-profits that I’ve seen on this site. This one just takes the cake. I now know better than to ever work for a non-profit.

      1. Woodswoman*

        That’s the thing that particularly galls me about this letter–the majority of nonprofits are responsible and reasonable places to work, with solid missions and dedicated staff–and letters like this make nonprofits look terrible. Sketchy workplaces are the norm on this site. That includes the private sector, and I think letter writers in those cases just don’t always identify their field.

    17. ..Kat..*

      Up to $10K a month and not reimbursing for several months! This could mean that her husband is floating the company an interest free loan of as much as $30 to $40K at a time! This is insane. Even more insane if this is on employee’s credit cards – that would mean employee is paying interest as well. Why is her husband willing to take such abuse financially from his company?

  9. tra la la*

    I’m pretty much with Alison re #1. If Margaery and Robb are going to date no matter what, Margaery should focus on establishing a solid relationship with her own advisor and potential committee members — and kicking ass in her classes — so that she has faculty allies in place if things would go bad and/or if Ned became a problem. Those are things you should be doing in grad school anyway. (I so do not miss being a grad student…)

  10. Professor X*

    #1 – professor at an R1 in the social sciences here. I’m going to disagree with the previous comments. A lot just…depends on the university, department, and discipline. How big is the department? How discrete are the various subfields of the discipline? For example, if Ned were in subfield A in my discipline, and Margarey’s research focus lies in subfield B, there’s a fairly good chance that he wouldn’t have any impact on Margarey’s grad school experience or potential career because the subfields are so distinct. Should the relationship crash and burn, it’s possible that Ned could ruin Margarey’s reputation just out of spite, but that isn’t really how most professors would act toward a junior scholar, and it’s hopefully not how most parents would choose to act when their adult child ends a relationship. And, honestly, most professors don’t care all that much about grad student drama.

    1. tra la la*

      Yes! I was thinking maaaaaybe it would be a problem if Ned were or became the director of grad studies or something like that. And there are other things going on if Ned responds to Robb’s breakup by ruining the ex-partner’s reputation (which is why Margaery should be cultivating her own relationships with faculty).

      The person in this story who Margaery should absolutely NOT date is would be… Ned.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Yeah, I’d advise against it if the father-professor had a reputation for vindictiveness and crushing his rivals or if the department was extremely small. And Margery can ask Robb whether she thinks his father is a reasonable person or not. Having the parent of an ex set out to ruin your life is something that can happen, but is generally a pretty rare occurrence, otherwise we’d be advising people to only date orphans.

      1. JustaTech*

        I would (very discretely) ask the other women in the department rather than/in addition to Robb. Robb is also a new student so the “professor” side of his dad might be new to him so he might not know what his dad is like at work.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think it’s less about vindictiveness and more about Margaery’s relationship becoming the focus of how her peers/professors see her instead of her work being the primary lens in how they view her. It’s not right or fair, and it’s certainly gendered, but it’s a non-negligible risk (especially since OP says she has a prior history of ending relationships badly).

      1. Birch*

        That’s two different problems though. One, what is the culture of that department? Is it one where everyone likes to gossip and draw weird attachments between people based on their personal life and not their work? And two, what is Margaery’s ability to be professional and discreet about her personal life at work? If it’s the former that’s the bigger risk, I say that’s not Margaery’s problem and can be fought with aggressive professionalism and shouldn’t be a reason not to date someone if she wants. If it’s the latter… well that’s a personal problem.

      2. WorkInAcademia*

        I don’t know how that would even happen beyond her friends in the department though. She isn’t dating a professor, she’s dating a guy who himself, has no ties to the department. As someone who worked with students in academia, it’s not like the professors have a notion (or care!) of who the students are dating. Her relationship would not be at the forefront, because this guy would never be around. It’s not like professors bring their kids to work constantly.

        Also as someone who brought my spouse to a lab dinner, I can report that my boss not only never learned his last name, but does in fact not remember his first name (which he did get!).

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, but those friends become professional colleagues one day. It impacts how you’re viewed by your peers for the purposes of project collaboration, grants, and post-graduation, professional advancement in the broader community of academics.

          The risk is hard to predict with the information we’ve been given—we don’t know enough about Margaery’s cohort or her department/institution to know its culture. But the fact that everyone has advised her against it suggests to me that her cohort thinks it’s either an immature or unwise choice. That indicates that the reputational risk is more than zero, and we don’t know if it will be severe or minor.

          I’m probably biased because I value my reputation and career more than a non-serious dating relationship in its infancy. But if this guy is perfect for her, he’ll be around after she finishes her first semester (I’d prefer the first year, but I get that that’s not realistic), and hopefully she’ll be better at breaking up in a less dramatic fashion.

          1. WorkInAcademia*

            >Yes, but those friends become professional colleagues one day.

            Eh, not always. Friends in the department don’t necessarily study the same thing and become colleagues. Friends in the lab, more likely, but still not for sure. I do agree we can’t be sure with the info we’re given, though! There’s really a shortage of critical info (probably because OP isn’t even the one involved!).

            I also would value my reputation and career more than that (not to mention avoiding drama) and probably wouldn’t pursue it. I suppose I’m just bothered by the notion that a woman will be judged for her relationships at work (which I feel happens more to women than men).

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        It depends on who is friends with who and how gossipy and petty any of these people are. It depends on the (often arbitrary) standards of professionalism these people have. I’ve seen levels of pettiness between university professors that would make Regina George blush. Conversely, I’ve seen professors so uninterested in anyone’s personal life that they forget that anyone *has* a personal life. The size of the department, how departments and research groups overlap and interact all has bearing. And being a female, you often face more scrutiny of your work then men do, unfortunately. Even unconsciously. This is yet another case of know your audience, and as a new grad student, you don’t.

    4. Dr. Pepper*

      It really is dependent on the department. Where my husband studied, the different research groups in the department were pretty distinct and insular, and drama from one group didn’t really travel much to the others. If a professor wasn’t directly involved in your work, they wouldn’t give you or anything they heard about your personal life a second thought. My department? Ha! Gossipy little cats, every last one of them. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but there was definitely a lot more gossip and a lot more pettiness to navigate. I’d say I would have been a fool to get involved with a professor’s son in my department, but in my husband’s, it probably wouldn’t be a thing at all if that had happened.

    5. WorkInAcademia*

      Yeah, as a non-student employee in a R1 science department, I honestly think everyone here is a bit off the mark. If their fields are distinct enough, it’s almost the equivalent of being in different divisions of a giant company… If one person is doing (for example) high energy physics and the other is doing super cooled quantum physics, there is almost no professional overlap post graduation. I would say she ought to be sure he wouldn’t have to be on her thesis committee (some departments like/require to have someone from each field in the department, and depending on the size of the department that could be an issue).

      I guess theoretically he could ruin her reputation, but not only is it unlikely he’d want to (because it would just make him look bad), what could he really do? I honestly can’t imagine how he’d sabotage her if he tried – lie about her cheating or something? If someone from a different field sent me an email trying to bash a student in my field I would think they were insane.

      Not to mention… the son isn’t in the department, his father is. Her friends might know she’s dating his son, but it’s not even like all the students in the department are friends – even in a small department! Much less a large one.

      1. OP #1 (formerly OP #2)*

        It’s a very small and niche field she’s in. And her field also has a lot of drama. One of her friends from a research project slept with an actual professor, who fell in love with her, offered to leave his wife and family, and after she rejected him, he listed her as a PI on a major project so she’d have to talk to him. So really Margaery and Robb’s situation is tame for this field

    6. Academic Addie*

      I’m a professor at a primarily undergrad, and I agree with you on the social aspects, for the most part. But, in STEM at least, there are major mentorship gaps between men and women. If both parties intend to stay in academia, it could be real problem. Spousal hires, again at least in my field, are decreasingly common, and the number of faculty positions is basically flat. Given that men tend to be nominated for awards more, get encouraged to apply for more grants, and on average are encouraged to publish more aggressively. This tends to lead to men getting more TT offers than women. I can count on my hands the number of academic couples in my field where the wife was not the one making career sacrifices so the family can all live together.

      1. WorkInAcademia*

        >Given that men tend to be nominated for awards more, get encouraged to apply for more grants, and on average are encouraged to publish more aggressively.

        Is there research on this you’re referring to? I’d be excited to check it out!

        1. Academic Addie*

          I’m not sure how to publish links here without my comment going to spam, but, yes, there is a lot of documentation about gendered differences in how people are mentored. If you google “women with women PIs publish more”, the first hit is to a 538 article that does a really nice job reviewing some of the literature on job placement. If you search “men more likely to be nominated for awards stem”, there’s a paper that I think is still in review, but is available online, and it should be the second hit; it covers the gap in awards and prizes. And on twitter, scientists log #manels and #YAMM, which are when all the invited speakers/keynotes in a conference session are male. And the AAUW research page logs its novel and synthetic work on the topic, as well.

          1. WorkInAcademia*

            You can put them as a link in your username by putting it in website (optional).

            For instance, I found this article about prejudice in academia in the article you mentioned googling. Yikes! :( Wish I could say I was surprised.

            1. Academic Addie*

              It really is a bummer. Without necessarily meaning harm, it’s possible to do harm to someone else. There are so many forces that push women out of academic jobs (and let’s be real, other jobs, too). Being partnered with a male academic makes women even more vulnerable to those sorts of biases. I didn’t have a single friend with an academic spouse get a spousal hire offered last job season. It’s all fine and good to go on about reputation, but the subtle ways in which academia punishes the female partner in a two-body situation is the far bigger concern, IMO.

              And I’m a biologist – biology is often a well-funded department! I can’t imagine how this looks in social sciences.

            2. Anonymous Ampersand*

              “You can put them as a link in your username by putting it in website (optional).”

              Alison’s asked us not to do that, though.

    7. Ex-Academic, Future Accountant*

      In principle, I agree. But I do also think Margaery has poisoned that well by talking about it to everyone, and that if she’s a bad breaker-upper, then that means she should be more careful about who she dates. If those things weren’t true, I could easily see her starting a relationship with Robb (keeping it very low-key at first), based on academic departments I’ve known. But these are red flags.

  11. Ruth (UK)*

    4. When I read ‘huge expenses’ in the title of 4 I was honestly expecting the amount to be something like £800. When I saw 10k I was so shocked. I can’t imagine how a company can think anyone can or should pay that upfront. I don’t think I know anyone who would have that much cash available up front at any given time.

    1. Rosemary7391*

      Not just me then! My credit card limit is £3.5k, and I thought that was pretty high. If I had £10k it’d be tied up in fixed term accounts. I really can’t imagine being able to front that expense, let alone expecting it!

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      But you gotta understand! It’s a charity (which is bleeding this household dry) and the mission (to get all of its professional work for free for as long as possible) is so important!

    3. Bea*

      Yeah….and with even two solid incomes 10k is easily your entire net income per month. It’s outrageous to say the least.

      I’ve seen travel expenses and such be put off but two people for two weeks is less than 5k so my mind cannot connect these massive money dots.

      1. Lilo*

        I remember reading that few Americans can dig up 1k on demand without taking out some kind of loan. 10k is utterly insane. That is a month of salary for 2 *six figure* incomes, after taxes.

    4. Clisby Williams*

      That was my thought! I’ve done business travel where I used a credit card to pay for a rental car and meals, and the company reimbursed me right away. They typically handled bigger ticket items like plane fare and hotel room. Nothing like $10K, even if I had paid for everything up front.

    5. Sally*

      I was shocked at $10k too! I just got a new job, and my company paid up to $1000 for me to get a new phone to use for work (they would pay for the phone if I bought it outright but not if I paid for it monthly). I was at the Verizon store, and at one point I realized that I was going to have to front the money. Aaaaaah! Fortunately, I got my final paycheck from my old job right after I left (instead of at the next usual payday), so I had the cash in my account. I don’t think I’ll be doing much traveling or spending for this job, but if that starts to happen, I’ll have to ask for a company credit card. I really can’t be fronting money and getting reimbursed. I’m earning more now, and I’m working on getting my finances in order, but they are definitely not at a place where I can shell out a lot for business expenses.

  12. WS*

    #2 It can be very helpful to know what is really critical and what isn’t, because when you’re depressed everything takes longer, and it’s very hard to prioritise when everything falls into the category of “Overwhelming” and “You Are A Failure”. So being really clear about deadlines and what is critical would be very helpful. If she needs to be present at particular times only, tell her that. Help her break things down into smaller steps if she’s having trouble getting started. That said, she should be able to get the work done, just with a much greater amount of effort.

    1. OP #2*

      Thank you! This is helpful. I could institute more quick check-ins to see if she needs some guidance on priorities. I appreciate the recommendation!

  13. Cordoba*

    For #4, are you at least taking full advantage of the current setup?

    I work for a for-profit employer and typically have $5k in travel expenses each month. I have the option of using the company credit card or using my own and then getting reimbursement. I always use my own, as the points/miles/cash benefits are worthwhile.

    $10K a month on a 2% cash back card adds up fast.

    Is the concern here that the work expenses make monthly budgeting difficult, or that you think someday the employer will be unable or unwilling to reimburse?

    If you’re concerned about their ethics or fiscal solvency to the point that you think they may not repay you then it may be time to find another job.

    1. TheNotoriousMCG*

      I think what the difference for OP and what your are describing is both cash flow and that the reimburseable work expenses strap their budget so much that they are having difficulty paying for normal life things as well as serious medical bills. Especially since she follows the reimburse language with ‘eventually’ it seems as though this org does not prioritize making employees whole with any kind of urgency and OP and her husband wait weeks to months to get back huge expenses. Your method is fine as long as it works for your income and life but that isn’t the case.

      1. Cordoba*

        I agree that the “eventually” part of this employer’s reimbursement is a problem; in all circumstances reimbursing any employee for anything needs to happen like clockwork.

        I wasn’t proposing that the LW accept the situation as-is and not try to change it; just saying that if this setup is going to be a fact of life for LW’s immediate future they may as well make sure they’re taking advantage of it to the greatest degree possible. $10k of reimbursed expenses each month is enough to produce significant secondary benefits.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think you missed this part: and waiting months for reimbursement.

          1) Racking up benefits on the card only works if you are able to pay off the amount in full every month. It is a massive money losing proposition when reimbursement takes 2-4 months, rather than a reliable 2 weeks.

          2) If she’s out of work and they have had a lot of medical expenses, they may not have been able to pay off their personal credit card expenses in full each month. So even if they were getting reimbursed rapidly for work expenses, if they are simultaneously floating thousands in medical charges on credit, then the additional thousands in work expenses would still have them paying interest on an average daily balance calculation.

          1. Lilo*

            That was our problem at my husband’s last employer. They had him travel internationally a lot but were late with reimbursements. We were able to cover it a lot of the time because we were trying to save for a house, but one month we couldn’t and got slammed on fees. For someone without a second income, it would have been impossible.

    2. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Personally floating $10K-plus per month for the organization is looney-tunes. Even if the household is at an income level where they could comfortably do it (!!), that number is eye-watering.

      1. pleaset*

        I’ve done it around $3K/month, but I could afford it and it helped me rack up points on my credit card. In the OP’s case, it’s different and terrible.

        1. blackcat*

          I’ve done ~6k on a low salary (grad student) for the points. But that’s because I have a large amount of liquid savings and a credit card with a good limit (established in my professional working years).

          The reason why the $$ amount was so high was that I paid upfront for the travel expenses of myself and three other grad students for a week long conference. The other three couldn’t float their shares since the way things work at the university is that you only get reimbursed once the travel is over. So if you buy plane tickets in advance, you need to float that. And that’s damn hard as a grad student making ~25k in a super high COL area.

          I happily took the credit card cash back AND the hotel points and used it them for a weekend away with my husband. I *think* my peers would have gone to a faculty member to try to get their expenses fronted if I hadn’t done it. But in that case, the faculty member would have been in the same position I was, floating the money for a few months. The main difference is that they make at least 3x what grad students do.

          But the “you only get reimbursed once you return from the travel” policy really bothers me. I guess it’s that the university doesn’t want to pay if you cancel your trip or something like that, but it makes things really tough for grad students, post docs, and young faculty who have to choose between floating the $$ and just not going to things that are super important for their careers.

          1. Cordoba*

            The “you only get reimbursed once you return from the travel” policy is also a barrier to people buying their tickets early and getting the best possible price.

            If the employer is going to make me float it until the trip is over they’re just encouraging me to buy a week before takeoff and pay $1,500 rather than 2 months ahead and pay $900. I get reimbursed the same either way, only in the first case I don’t have an outstanding -$900 loan to my employer for 8 weeks.

    3. MLB*

      Based on the letter, the husband is not getting reimbursed right away, so they’re having to pay interest on it that they won’t get back. Expecting an employee to front $10K worth of expenses is ludicrous, even if they can afford it.

  14. DieTrying*

    OP #1 (and friend): I’m a faculty member at a prestigious university (one of the dreaded Ivies) and can say with confidence that a Ph.D. student dating the offspring of a faculty member would … not really cross my radar, unless the student *made* it cross my radar. Students have personal lives (and so do faculty), and while I might meet someone’s spouse or kids at a departmental gathering or run into a student in the company of others in town, I wouldn’t think twice about the situation described unless it results in drama.

    Here’s the thing, though: it sounds like Margaery & Beau are already on their way towards drama — asking around about their situation, sneaking and hiding … and all that a scant few weeks into the semester (assuming you’re in North America)! THIS is what would concern me: that a student who should be investing all her energy into getting settled in a new locale, immersing herself in her scholarship and teaching, is investing this much energy into a new relationship. I realize transitions are difficult and a romance, especially a potentially “scandalous” one, is a wonderful distraction, but I would strongly encourage Margaery to put things on the backburner until at least her second semester, if not at all.

    1. Anonanonanon*

      ^This. Do adult professionals really get that invested in who their adult children date, to the point that they will set out to destroy someone when they break up? Not likely. The fact Margaery is sooooo worried about this, asking around, going back and forth, acting like she’s putting her entire reputation on the line, and creating this “we tried, but we just can’t stay away from each other!” storyline is… a lot.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes. It seems like the context could be low-drama with lots of people… but not with these twol

      2. EPLawyer*

        Yes, yes they do.

        We’ve seen it here. Parents calling about their kid’s travel, coming to the job, etc.

        I’ve seen it in law practice. Grown adults break up for whatever reason and the parents have their nose right in it making it worse. To the point of filing civil suits against the other person for whatever reason.

        Some parents are perfectly reasonable and let their grown up kids be grown ups and handle their lives. Other parents … not so much.

        1. Snickerdoodle*

          Excellent point.

          It goes both ways, too–My ex didn’t want me to come over to pick up my stuff when we broke up and tried to get my dad to do it instead, and my dad refused to get involved and told him to be an adult and deal with it. Understanding boundaries isn’t a generational thing.

      3. tra la la*

        Anonanonanon, this is what I was thinking too — and some of the commentary here reflects that problem (i.e. the concerns reflected here about M ruining her reputation). “On the downlow” is probably where this relationship should be, if “downlow” means quiet/discreet/low-key. It’s not on the downlow if Margaery is telling everyone that it is.

        1. OP #1 (formerly OP #2)*

          Tra La La – honestly I don’t know how they would define downlow, which is definitely a major factor

    2. Snickerdoodle*

      This. It sounds like they, or at least Margaery, are causing drama rather than avoiding it. Personally, I don’t care about other people’s relationships unless they make it a point that I do, at which point I’m only likely to be annoyed that they wouldn’t shut up about it.

      Also, as I already commented, the best way to keep a secret is not to tell it. Telling everyone “WE’RE ONLY *SECRETLY* DATING” isn’t how it works.

      I wonder a little about her “history of relationships ending badly.” It’s easy to interpret that as the common denominator thing (like guys who call all their exes crazy; it’s always the guy who’s the problem), but I also thought it might not mean anything sinister, more like she just takes it very hard and wouldn’t want to be around him at all if things went south, which could be difficult for her.

    3. Bea*

      My bells only went off when they decided to sneak around. That’s dramatic whereas openly dating most certainly is not.

      1. DieTrying*

        Agreed. The quickest way for Margeary to jeopardize her reputation is to behave unprofessionally. When I read “history of relationships ending badly,” I’m less concerned about Prof. Ned avenging his son’s hurt feelings, and more about a student distracted from her work, emotional in dealing with colleagues and faculty, etc. etc. Bad breakups happen — as do lots of other things that take us and our attention away from our jobs — and good mentors know and understand that. In this case, however, it sounds like Margeary may be setting herself up for making an early, unprofessional impression on her department.

        1. OP #1 (formerly OP #2)*

          As I mentioned above, I don’t know how Margaery and Robb are defining “downlow” which is a major factor.

          Also, I believe in Margaery’s ability to behave professionally and maturely should things go south, I just worry more about Robb and Ned, since there’s no way of knowing how they’d handle that situation

    4. Genny*

      Yeah, on the face of it, nothing about this setup seems particularly bad. It would take almost everything in this scenario going wrong for things to have more than a minor effect on Margaery’s long-term aspirations. The relationship would have to end badly, Ned would have to get vindictive about it, Robb would have to have limited ability to set clear boundaries with his dad, Ned would have to have enough clout outside of his sub-field to actually affect the way people view Margaery, and people would have to actually care about the relationship to let whatever Ned vindictively says about it affect their perceptions of Margaery. All of those things happening has to be on the end of the bell curve (though it does give me pause that everyone Margaery talked to recommended against the relationship).

      All that being said, these two people sound like drama llamas. They’re going to do what they’re going to do, and it’ll probably be done in the most dramatic way (a secret relationship because their love is so true they can’t possibly stay apart, is this high school?). LW, all you can do is share your opinion once and encourage your friend not to lose focus on her academic work.

  15. BRR*

    #4 that’s ridiculous. It’s ridiculous to expect and employee to shoulder that large of an amount (really any amount$ and it’s more ridiculous that it takes months to pay back. Your husband should strongly push back that they won’t be able to do this anymore. I would personally offer to be flexible with other options but insist that he needs an options that doesn’t involve him loaning the org tens of thousands of dollars.

  16. Overeducated*

    #5: this happens in my field and organization all the time. There are fewer jobs as you move up the ladder and you often compete against people you know; I beat out someone i thought was better qualified for my current job and have two former colleagues in other jobs I’d applied for. Nobody gets dibs.

    The important thing is to be gracious when you get the jobs, happy for others when you don’t, and keep those people a part of your network. When you have friends across your organization, it can only benefit you both for years in the future as you and she try to advance and be more effective.

  17. Argh!*

    Re: #2

    If she hasn’t failed to meet deadlines so far, and her time off doesn’t affect operations, it’s hard to justify saying something. She may cycle out of it before you reach the point when something *has* to be said.

    1. WellRed*

      I disagree. If you have seen a slip in performance it makes sense to address it kindly before it becomes an actual problem.

      1. Genny*

        Agreed. I’d rather be preemptively told what the standards and accommodations are than have that discussion after I’ve just made a major mistake, gotten really behind on my work, or given my manager a bad impression about me.

  18. Icontroltherobots*

    OP #3 – you didn’t do anything wrong. I once took a job and while *literally* accepting the offer, mentioned that I needed PTO the first WEEK of my employment. The fact that this trip was planned for a few months after your start date and barring any company policy like “no PTO in the first year” you did this correctly.

    I would make 100% sure you have the appropriate “vacation request” policy locked down, because it sounds like they may be back-sliding jerks in the future/discourage use of PTO all together/expect you to beg for time off. I’m projecting here based on some experiences I’ve had.

    1. SoSo*

      A related situation I just went through- I’ve had a week-long vacation planned for the last year (coming up this November), and recently accepted a position at the end of July. When I got the offer from the HR person, I immediately brought up my trip and asked how that would factor into their vacation policy. Her exact words were “Well HR doesn’t handle that sort of stuff- it should be fine, but you’ll want to bring it up with your supervisor as soon as you start. He’ll be able to work out the details with you.” I agree that OP didn’t do anything wrong. Would it have helped to mention it when they got the offer? Maybe a bit, but given that it’s several months out and not during the first phase of their employment, it shouldn’t have been that big of a deal. Jane is being weird about it, and I’d definitely look into the policy more to make sure that they don’t get weird about it again in the future.

    2. bonkerballs*

      Your situation and the OPs are actually quite different. It’s not about when you needed the time off, it’s when you mentioned it. You mentioned it during the job offer. That’s exactly the time you’re supposed to negotiate things like start date and pre-planned vacation – that way you can say “if this vacation time doesn’t work for you, I can’t accept this job offer” and they can say back “that’s literally when you’re biggest event of the year will be happening and we can’t have someone in this position miss it” and you part way amicably. OP told them she needed the time off on her first day, after all that negotiating should have been finished.

      1. SoSo*

        I understand that, and if you read again, I never said that our situations were the same. The point of my comment above was that in my experience, HR literally directed me to do the same thing that OP did- talk to my manager on my first day to let them know and work it out. And in my instance I wasn’t negotiating anything, I had verbally accepted and asked how it would factor into their policy as she was explaining some additional details. If she had told me that it wasn’t allowed that soon I still would have taken the job, but she didn’t because that was my manager’s decision. Which is exactly what the OP did and yet she still got burned.

  19. Tabitha*

    OP 3, you should try to edit ” Maybe I’m just a dumb millennial” out of your vocab. You need to advocate for yourself and your generation at work, and this kind of language is harmful.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I realize this could be nitpicking phrasing, but I think it ties to an earlier discussion about new workers from different backgrounds, and how they are able to incorporate negative feedback.

      “Maybe I’m just a dumb X” is the sort of phrase you toss off when you expect people to reassure you that you were absolutely right about whatever topic, almost requiring them to insist you’re not a dumb X, rather than say “actually she has a point, you should have done this differently.” But that is the sort of phrase one expects to heat at work, and especially when starting out in work–people have to convey norms to you. Sometimes you know everything about how to do the Stevenson account but not that the Stevensen account brings special compliance rules into play, and someone needs to tell you that when they trip over that hole in your knowledge.

      OP, if you use that phrase when asking people to explain how something works, it’s going to be off-putting. They want to be able to say “Yes, Darla is right–you have to request extra material at least 3 weeks out” without reassuring you about your intelligence, generation, and so on.

      1. Elizabeth Jennings*

        Yes. And this behavior makes them less likely to give you honest feedback down the road, because they know they’re going to have to cope with your reassurance-seeking behavior. The place to channel that kind of feeling, if you must, is after you’ve gotten the feedback: “I’m sorry, this is my first job out of college and I didn’t realize how the system worked. Next time, I will [whatever you will do next time].”

    2. pleaset*

      I really enjoyed that turn of phrase – it seemed at least in part mocking people who use it seriously.

      1. Tabitha*

        As an older millennial I’m bored of that sentiment, and found it off putting. I think Falling Diphthong above summed it up nicely. I think it’s valuable to learn to question your own judgement without throwing your generation under the bus- though I understand some people will think it’s petty semantics.

    3. CM*

      I read this as sarcasm — OP#3 feeling a bit offended at being told that she’s very young, and therefore she doesn’t understand how things work. In other words, feeling like she’s being treated as a “dumb millennial,” not actually calling herself one.

      If I were you, OP#3, I might check in with Jane next time you request PTO, and say, “Just so I understand, should I also be clearing my vacation time with Cathy?”

      I GUESS I can see how Jane assumed that OP#3 had already negotiated this weeklong vacation with Cathy at the offer stage, but it’s a big assumption. I totally agree with OP#3 that Jane should have brought it up at the time — Jane could have easily asked, “Did Cathy agree to this?” It’s unfair that Jane blamed the OP AND said it was because she was so young and didn’t understand.

      1. Genny*

        But OP is young and presumably doesn’t understand the norms of this office. I don’t think anyone is really a villain here. They all assumed things about the situation. OP assumed it was okay to ask about the PTO after she started and assumed the company handles PTO requests in a standard way instead of clarifying their procedures since she’s new to the office. Jane assumed the OP had already cleared it with Cathy instead of confirming that with either LW or Cathy and she assumed OP knew the PTO request procedures. I think this is just a situation where the new employee apologizes (which she did) and is extra careful going forward to ask about this company’s policies or procedures (which I’m sure she will be).

        1. CM*

          There isn’t a villain, but Jane is being unreasonable. And it’s condescending to say, “You’re young, you don’t know how things work,” rather than saying, “Since you’re new here, I want to tell you how we handle this.” I don’t think the OP really assumed anything — she asked if it was OK, and was told that it was fine. Months later she was told that she should have handled it differently.

          1. Anonymeece*

            Agreed. I’ve been working for many years, and I would not think to clear my vacation with a supervisor’s boss. If it is the case that Alison posited, then sure, but if it’s just a weird quirk of the office that vacations go through two levels, then that’s not something a lot of people would know, regardless of how long they’ve been working/generation.

          2. Genny*

            I think a lot of that interpretation depends on tone, and since we don’t have that here, I’m not going to assume Jane was being condescending. Plus, in the letter, she summarized Jane’s framing as “since you’re young and new to the workforce” you might not know how this works. LW is both of those things, and it’s okay for Jane to use them to soften the feedback about LW’s mistake. In fact, I think that can be a helpful way to correct a new, junior employee on a minor mistake so they don’t blow it out of proportion.

            Ultimately, Jane as a supervisor and senior officer should have done more upfront to address any possible misunderstandings/ensure LW understood the correct procedures, but there are lessons here for LW too, which could easily be missed (because I know I’ve missed them myself in similar situations) when people jump to “your boss was wrong and condescending”.

  20. John Rohan*

    Regarding OP#4, this issue is big enough I think it deserves its own column. $10K a month in out of pocket expenses is insane. As Allison suggested, a company credit card is the proper way to handle this. Here is another solution that could work for you – if your credit is good enough, get your own credit card and use it specifically for these expenses each month. The downside is that if reimbursement can sometimes take months, you are hit with interest payments. The upside is that rolling 10K through a credit card each month means you are racking up a LOT of cash back or other perks that you can keep for yourself.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      If reimbursement takes months, then the $10,000 is not being rolled through each month. Those reward programs that benefit the people who pay in full each month don’t get the money for the benefits out of nowhere–it comes from people who are paying far more in fees than they are gaining in bonuses.

      And if OP is out of work and just had a slew of expensive surgeries, her credit may not be feeling robust.

      1. John Rohan*

        If he’s paying 10k per month, and always being reimbursed eventually, then it still averages out to paying and using the card for 10k each month (in the long run).

        At least with my credit card, the perks don’t depend on paying off the entire balance every month, its just cash back for how much I use the card. As simple as that.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          That would work if the expense and reimbursement are on a very regular schedule, as in, he spends $10K every month, and gets reimbursed two months later, like clockwork. But it’s more likely that his expenses vary somewhat, since the OP said he pays up to $10k/month for materials. So, instead of paying $10K for materials in March and using the $10K reimbursement for his January expenses to cover that month’s CC bill, he might only be getting $5K from the company that month. And it also seems like the reimbursements don’t come on a regular basis, so the money he expects to pay the March bill might not actually show up until it’s too late. Theoretically, this could still work if he had a large sum of cash and could “borrow against himself” to make the payments, but this couple is not in that position.

        2. Colette*

          You will pay more in interest than you will get in cash back – so unless the business pays for the interest charges, it’ll still be a loss.

        3. Genny*

          This seems like a really precarious, stressful way to live. All it takes is the company missing a payment by a couple days to really screw up LW’s credit and finances. Not to mention, most cards average 15-22% interest depending on your credit score. I don’t think the $500 cash back they’d get (and I think 5% the upper end of what credit card companies pay out) is really going to matter when when they’re paying $1,500-2,200 in interest. That system becomes even less desirable if the credit card gives bonus miles or something intangible since it doesn’t sound like the OP has it in their budget to travel and probably doesn’t need a new TV (or whatever credit card points buy) when they’re this cash-strapped.

    2. Bea*

      Problem being you’re extending your personal credit here. Getting a credit card with a huge limit is difficult for anyone without a stellar rating.

      If they have a personal card, that’s taken into account as well.

      If they can not pay in full, interest starts kicking in. Good credit means you’ll pay about 10% interest on any balance carried.

      You changed 10k. You get 2% back. Woo $200 free cash.

      You pay 80% off. 2000 roll over balance. 10% interest. Damn, there is your $200 they gave you in rewards.

      Unless you can pay at least enough for those rewards to take up the interest, you’re still losing out. Still bleeding cash for a business expense. Still not getting paid back timely.

      Then there’s an issue when the company gets crazier and starts denying expenses one day. Lawd have mercy.

  21. Shiara*

    For LW3, I’m wondering if there’s the possibility that technically Jane isn’t actually her “boss” and Cathy is. For instance, my team lead handles day to day supervision and work delegation and I tend to think of him as my supervisor, but he’s not actually above me in the official company hierarchy, and all official power lies with my official manager who I rarely interact with.

    Even so, the way Jane handled this would still be viewed as odd at my company. Most of us hand off our vacation requests to our team lead and he takes them to our manager. And although “officially” he doesn’t have hiring/firing/etc power, our manager is mostly a rubber stamp to his decisions.

  22. LQ*

    #4 I worked for a very small (2 total!) nonprofit that occasionally (annually or so for us) had large expenses like that. When I first started my boss would cover it herself with her personal credit card for the first year. After than we had a relationship with a bank and she and I both had company cards and when we needed to get the large expenses items I was authorized to do that. They can, and SHOULD do better.
    (The reason we switched from doing on boss’s credit card was because our annual audit we had called that out as a problem. I love audits.)

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Oh, hey, that’s a good point. Has this organization been audited? What would an auditor say about their little scheme?

  23. NotASnowflake*

    I’ve been unemployed for several months and keep putting off buying plane tickets to visit family because I was worried about accepting a job offer and then going on a trip soon after starting being a problem. I’ve already missed a family reunion because of this.

    Would I probably be okay just booking the plane tickets for when I want, and if I get hired the employer would likely be okay with it even if I need to take off soon after starting as long as I bring it up during the offer stage? Or is it only acceptable if the time off is a few months after starting?

    1. Anon From Here*

      As someone who was un- and under-employed for most of the recent recession: do not put off these visits because you might get a job offer. If I’d done that, I would have stayed at home, waiting for an e-mail or phone call, for nearly a decade!

    2. Blue_eyes*

      When you buy the tickets, check the refund/cancellation/change policy. Different airlines have different policies, but it might be worth paying a tiny bit more for a flight that is refundable or cancelable. That way you’ll be covered in case you get a job and need to change travel plans. You could also buy travel insurance for the trip (usually only a few dollars). Some credit cards also come with travel insurance for any trips booked with the card, so check your credit card policy as well.

  24. TryingtoPhraseThis*

    For OP #1, I’m struggling to get past some of the comments here that imply Robb is being Done To versus being an adult making his own decisions, including consensual sex.

    Both Margaery and Robb sound like they’re in that hot-and-heavy period of a relationship where every day has a rainbow, and the belief that no one will notice their relationship is 100% solid in their eyes. So reasoning may fall by the wayside.

    It’s heartening that people dating each other seems like it’s not a big deal in itself. Yet I am concerned that Ned will be of the “Robb was Done To!” camp in case things end, so like Alison said, maybe the best you can hope for is that Margaery will handle any break-up carefully. And, well, PhD programs take a lot out of you, right? Maybe they’ll get too heads down and involved with classes and studying and important etceteras. :/

  25. Marley*

    OP 4’s situation gives me the heebee jeebees.

    That doesn’t sound like a responsible, functioning non-profit. I wonder about the over-arching financials–and I also wonder how the leadership will handle the OP’s husband setting some healthy boundaries when it comes to fronting money.

    1. SoSo*

      Yeah, if the organization can’t handle those costs up front, they’re doing something wrong. That kind of expense should NEVER be on the employee.

    2. LCL*

      OP 4, since you aren’t back in the workforce yet, you will have to be your family’s research person. From a public computer, like at a library. What can you find out about the company? Is it even registered as a charity? You say your husband has a 10+ year history with this company. How does that work, in the sense of taxes/payment/withholding? Are you and he square with the IRS? How do they pay him? Do they have him classified as an independent contractor? If so, there are laws, there is more involved than a classification. Once you and your husband have concrete answers and have discussed all of this, you will have a better idea of what to do.

      In my opinion, asking an employee to provide an interest free loan to a company, while said employee’s wife is temporarily disabled and has lost her income and the company knows this, is evil. And 10K at a time is real money, something fishy is going on.

  26. blue-and-bronze*

    OP #4 – I don’t want to be too doom-and-gloom, but get out of that situation as soon as you feasibly can. Reading your question was eerie for me, since this is exactly how my life was growing up. My father worked in a field where he was expected to do this sort of thing (purchasing parts, materials, etc) as well as business trips and customer dinners, all on his own dime with the promise of reimbursement later that usually never occurred or if it did, it wasn’t the full amounts. My mom ended up playing his (unpaid) secretary for a lot of different reasons. The whole situation ended up literally ruining my family – my dad ended up leaving the country to avoid debt collectors, my parents nearly divorced over the money, and the stress contributed to my mom’s fatal heart attack.

    Please please please, if it’s at all possible, get out of there.

  27. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*


    1) As a parent of adult children, my children’s personal lives are 10000% not my business. I might get attached to a kid’s SO, and feel sad if things end, but I cannot imagine myself somehow retaliating against the now-ex; even if the now-ex and I had a working relationship.

    2) I guess my overall opinion would also depend on what “having a history of relationships ending badly” means. I mean, doesn’t anyone who’s not married to their very first serious SO, have a history of things ending? How badly are we talking? Did they end badly in the sense that there were restraining orders involved, or did they end badly in the sense that everyone was sad for a while and then moved on? If it’s the latter, I’d give dating a shot if I were Margaery and Robb.

  28. Anon Assistant*

    I think because you did not mention the vacation when you accepted the position it looks a bit sneaky. A week is a long time for a new hire.

  29. Justin*

    Why do companies make employees pay for expenses up front like this? I worked for a company that made people do this for travel and I didn’t understand it. Is it just for the company’s convenience when doing accounting? Are companies worried that they won’t make it to the next month and this is a way to avoid having to pay those expenses if they go under? Seems shady.

    1. Colette*

      I think most times these things happen in small businesses, owned by someone who is afraid that giving people credit cards will result in trouble (because they will buy business-related or non-business-related things without authorization).

      And the people handling the reimbursement consider it just another business expense that will be handled via the normal process, but the employee considers it a much bigger deal.

        1. Colette*

          That’s not always practical – if the employee is the expert on what they need, it makes sense that they should buy it. And I agree the company should pay, but I don’t think that they’re trying to be malicious, they’re just not thinking about it from the employee’s perspective.

    2. Rat in the Sugar*

      I actually have handled travel reimbursements as part of my current job, and while my company provides a CC for airfare purchases and willingly gives travel advances for other expenses, I can see a few reasons why another company might not want to.

      Of course there’s always the money, but unless a company is really small or having some serious cash flow issues than the money probably isn’t the main problem. I think it’s usually just the amount of work it takes for Accounting to process/track them. We still have to process a travel claim after the trip to verify expenses and bill it to our contracts regardless of how employees get paid, so issuing an advance beforehand is just extra work. Now we have to make an extra ACH deposit/cut a check, track the advance in an Employee Advance account (which is now another account that must be reconciled at month end), and then spend time matching it up to the claim while processing. If your system is set up well for it it might not be that much of a hassle, but I know that in my department they create extra work for us and can sometimes be a headache if they get mixed up.

      Another issue is that if the travel ends up not happening for whatever reason, or ends up costing less than the estimated advance you now have to try to deal with taking money back, which is a process we always try to avoid as it can be awkward for us and unpleasant for the employee.

      We do advances despite all that because we are a company with employee-centric policies and would never expect them to come up with the money if they couldn’t afford it, but I can see other companies not wanting to bother setting up the processes and procedures for all of that and just leaving the employee stuck with the bill.

  30. JoJo*


    1. Your husband should stop fronting them money immediately.

    2. He needs to find another job ASAP.

    3. Send them a bill for the work you’ve already performed. Speak to a lawyer if necessary.

    1. Kes*

      Not sure they can really retroactively demand payment for work they already agreed to do for free, but I would definitely suggest insisting on being paid for any further work (if they are willing to do more work, which they are not required in any way to do)

      1. Anonymeece*

        I agree – I don’t think that demanding retroactive pay is a good move. I think making it clear, “Sure, I’d be happy to do that for you. My normal rate is $X. Would that work for you?”, from now on is the way to go.

        Or, if she doesn’t want to do the work, just letting them know she can’t.

        1. valentine*

          OP didn’t agree to nonpayment. If the husband arranged it, it’s in keeping with his lack of boundaries: telling the employer so many personal details and paying to work.

  31. Jaybeetee*

    #1: My understanding was that academia was rather “incestuous” in general – would these two dating (and possibly breaking up) really raise that many eyebrows?

    #2: What an unfortunate situation. I have a good friend with bipolar, severe enough that even with medication she can’t work full-time. It’s a challenging disorder. Since you don’t actually *know* what’s going on with her, my advice would be to avoid talking to her about her mental state specifically, and more address deadlines, etc, as they come up. In the end, it’s on her to find a way to make it work, or to let you know if she can’t. If something NEEDS to be done by a certain date, let her know. If she misses a deadline or makes mistakes, talk to her about it.

    #3: This seems a bit odd to me, but it might be cultural. “A few months” after starting doesn’t seem disastrously early to take a vacation, especially if it was planned before starting the job. Most employers understand that’s a thing that happens, and you brought it up to your supervisor on your first day as you should have. This sounds more like a miscommunication and that your supervisor is “blaming the new guy”.

    #4: Nooooo this is not normal or okay. To give some perspective: back in my museum days, I and others were often expected to pick up supplies for events, etc. The costs were usually quite low (>$50), but the people doing the picking-up were usually students or recent grads making a couple dollars over minimum wage at this job, located in a rural area requiring lots of gas. Those with big bills/student loans/supporting their partners noticed having to spend even that much and wait for reimbursement. They finally figured out to let us access petty cash for that sort of thing, and supervisor and up were eventually given company credit cards. $10 000 upfront in expenses is insane and most people wouldn’t even be able to do that, let alone wait months for the money to come back to them. Your husband needs to start raising hell, and should probably look for another job.

    1. OP #2*

      Thank you for this reminder – I think I sometimes get lost in empathizing with her and am soft on expectations because I can see her struggling. I could be more structured in setting priorities and deadlines.

    2. OP #1 (formerly OP #2)*

      I’m not sure if it would raise eyebrows, which is why I’m very grateful to all the people in academia and grad school writing in with their perspectives. And each area of academia can be so different!

  32. Consulting*

    #4 – this blows my mind. Whenever I’ve gotten reimbursed by a company I put reported my expenses and got it in the next paycheck. I’ve seen it when working as an independent contractor, but never as an employee. I would be absolutely terrified to put that much money on my own cards for work each month if reimbursement wasn’t in the next paycheck. I frankly would be looking for a new job! What if something happens and you end up on the hook for that kind of money?

  33. anonforthis*

    LW #1, you seem way too invested in your friend’s choices here. She’s an adult, Robb is an adult, and you don’t mention being in her PhD program. I think it’s weird that she’s asking people in her program to weigh in on her dating choices at all – I would definitely raise an eyebrow at a colleague who did that.

    You seem like a caring and supportive friend, but Margaery can decide this on her own.

  34. nnn*

    One thing for Margaery to think about is what would happen if there’s a bad breakup due to bad behaviour by Robb? For example, what if Robb does something reprehensible sexually? What if Robb ghosts her after 3 years then acts as though she’s a crazy stalker for trying to find out if he’s alive and okay? Yes, she thinks this won’t happen, but she should still think through what if it does?

    How would it affect Margaery’s career if Ned is on Robb’s side under these circumstances? And does Margaery have the acting skills to get through the day under these circumstances?

  35. Oh So Anon for This*

    OP #2…

    I had to re-read this letter several times just to make sure this wasn’t about me. I’m kind of paranoid now, to be honest.

    Being a bipolar academic staff member in this exact situation, I can tell you that I would appreciate having work from home be an option or more flexible hours. Getting up is hard for me, because bipolar tends to send your sleep schedule out of whack, and mornings are no bueno (hence the coming in late). Even adjusting hours (instead of 8 to 5, something like 9 to 6 or even 10 to 7) can be a huge help.

    Also, I would want to know and I would want my boss to tell me. One of the signs of my depression is that I get foggy thinking and low concentration. Trying to even remember tasks and deadlines is hard. I can’t even concentrate to make a list of tasks I need to get done. If you want to help, writing down tasks and deadlines she can follow is a good thing. I get a lot of scattered “I need you to do this” type of emails from my boss, and trying to find them all and put them into one place can be challenging. I know it feels a little juvenile, but that may be an option you can bring up with her to see if that would be helpful.

    Overall, you sound like your are compassionate and trying to help your employee, which is good, but she needs to know – and like I said, I would want to know – that she’s not hitting all the marks. Approaching it from a conversation of what she needs to do that is preferable; she probably already knows that she isn’t hitting the marks, and trust me, depression is telling her right now that she’s awful and going to be fired, so just knowing that you are aware and trying to help is preferable to rampant imaginings.

    1. Not just me*

      I was thinking this must be about me, as well (down to the nearly-two-year mark!). It’s nice to know there are more of us out there, lol. I would also agree with your suggestions and those posited by others here, especially the strategies for remembering deadlines. Sadly, I still struggle with day-to-day brain paralysis.

  36. E.*

    Re OP #3: I don’t think the issue here is that vacation time needs to be cleared by your boss’s boss (which would be odd and there would’ve been no way to know that). I think the issue is that your boss assumed you’d gotten the vacation approved before you accepted the offer, and it happens that her boss’s boss would have been the one to do that. For future requests, it sounds like your boss is still the person you’d go to, as is the norm.

    Also it’s reasonable that someone new to the workforce wouldn’t have known to bring up the vacation at the offer stage. And since it’s a few months out, this shouldn’t be a big issue unless it happens to fall during the company’s busiest week of the year or something. This would be a lot more egregious if the vacation was in a few weeks instead of a few months.

    1. Lexi Kate*

      It really depends on her companies vacation time policy, do they allow pto to be used in the first 90 days and will the op have a weeks worth of pto. Since this wasn’t negotiated in the offer the company most likely won’t allow time off without pay. (In large companies this would be a hr nightmare for the supervisor). This is also a life lesson to know who to ask for time off and who is the boss.

      1. E.*

        But OP knew who to ask and who was the boss. My point was that the life lesson was “Clear pre-planned vacations before accepting a job offer” and not “Your boss’s boss is the person to ask for time off.”

  37. Beatrice*

    #5 – I’ve been in the friend’s and the LW’s role in this story. You should apply for the job! Talk to your friend and let her know so she doesn’t get blindsided by it, but you need to do what’s best for you and a good friend won’t begrudge you that.

    I applied for a job that was a stretch for me, after my more experienced coworker was encouraged to apply and declined. The posting was tailored for her specifically, our corporate office was trying to woo her, but she hated change and didn’t want to go. I applied and interviewed well, then she changed her mind. She was really conflicted because she encouraged me to apply for it, but it was obviously the only right move for her. I was disappointed, because I knew I didn’t have a shot with her in the running, but I didn’t hold it against her.

    Later, I had a more experienced coworker in the same office who applied for a corporate job working for someone who had previously managed both of us. She was an obvious favorite – our old manager had been grooming her for a more advanced role for a long time and clearly loved her work. I didn’t consider applying because I didn’t want to compete with her and was pretty sure I wouldn’t win. But the job had an education requirement that she couldn’t meet, and HR wouldn’t allow her to be considered for the role at all. I met the requirement, so I applied and got the job. We were still on good terms! She was deeply disappointed in the way the process was handled and wound up leaving over it, but she didn’t hold it against me personally at all.

  38. Student*

    OP #1: Real adults do not actively hide their relationships unless:
    (1) Someone in the relationship may be actually, substantively harmed by the reveal. Not just worried about reputation/opinions from other adults – I’m talking physical danger of being attacked, or risk of homelessness-level loss of money/income/financial support.
    (2) They’re cheating and you are the side chick.

    Is Margaery sure she’s not the side chick? Is Robb the side chick? If not, are they characters in The Scarlet Letter, or perhaps Romeo and Juliet? If none of these apply, they shouldn’t be skulking about like naughty teenagers unless they want to be treated like naughty teenagers. Act like adults to get treated like adults – own the relationship and its risks, or decide it’s not worth the risks and don’t go through with it. Pretending you can have the relationship without the risks is a child’s thinking.

    1. OP #1 (formerly OP #2)*

      It’s unclear what they mean when they say “downlow.” It could mean hiding their relationship, or it could mean not flaunting their relationship and being professional, but not hiding it either

  39. Someone Else*

    #3 reads to me like it went down like this:
    Interview happened.
    OP3 found out about and booked trip for X months in future.
    Cathy offered OP3 the job. OP3 accepted.
    On OP3’s first day, has conversation with Jane. Jane misunderstands OP3 as the trip was discussed during offer negotiations and preliminarily approved by Cathy at that time, and thus says it’s fine because Jane has no personal objection.
    Jane mentions the time off to Cathy in passing and/or it’s put into the system as a real time off request and Cathy sees it and is all WTF Jane, no PTO so close to starting. Jane is all “Did OP3 not clear this with you prehire?” Cathy’s all “nope”.
    Jane gets all condescending at OP3 because she thinks OP3 was being intentionally vague earlier to make it sound pre-approved.
    Cathy is perterbed at Jane because she thinks Jane flouted policy about how soon one can take time off or something to that effect. Cathy is perterbed at OP3 because she thinks Op3 implied to Jane it was already OKed (because Jane told Cathy OP3 has implied that).
    Meanwhile OP3 is confused because she was not intending to imply any of these things, she thought she was just asking her supervisor as a normal matter of course, and got a yes, so what more should there be to it.

    So, it’s totally a misunderstanding. Everyone involved was making some sort of incorrect assumption and then holding it against the other parties. OP3 could’ve prevented irritating Cathy and Jane by bringing it up during the offer stage instead of day 1. Jane could’ve prevented irritating Cathy and Op3 by saying “did you clear this with Cathy before you accepted the position? If not, you need to clear it with her now.” when OP3 first mentioned the trip, and by not bringing snarky age comments into tit. Cathy could’ve (maybe) prevented irritating Jane and OP3 by either mentioning to OP3 during offer stage their normal process for requesting PTO during initial however long (assuming there is some policy specific to that) which would’ve maybe caused OP3 to bring it up sooner OR by asking for more info from OP3 or Jane when it was first raised to her (assuming that Jane’s later ruffledness was due to snippiness from Cathy, which is a guess at this point, but seems probable given the sequence of events). Or maybe Cathy has nothing to do with this mess. But it does seem like either Cathy or Jane or both think OP3 may have been intentionally asking forgiveness instead of permission in a roundabout way.

    1. AKchic*

      That’s how it all read to me too, and I didn’t want to type it all out because I was busy this morning.

      Yes, OP3 should have probably brought up the trip with Cathy when she was offered the job, but y’know what? That tends to slip your mind when you’re excited about getting hired.

  40. Serafina*

    OP # 2 (and Alison): I’m another one who could easily be the employee (and is lucky enough to also have as understanding and kind a boss as OP clearly is). While it’s hard to get any kind of negative feedback (and even the most neutral of feedback translates as doom and gloom during a hard time), you’d be within your rights to give it, and the way Alison proposes is good.

    The one thing I would push back on is doctor’s appointments. It is inconvenient for the employer when an employee has to take half days or time off to get to a doctor, but most doctors are only available during business hours. Not getting the care we (people like your employee and I) need will have negative repercussions for both employee and you.

    I’m also going through a particularly bad time. I have no doubt I’m showing many of the same issues OP has noted with their employee. Doctor visits are a hassle for all concerned, but they’re vital. I’m seeing several specialists trying to get my condition under control – and was unlucky enough to still be dealing with a long-term injury too, so right now I’m at doctors or therapists at least weekly, sometimes more. I plead with OP and all employer/managers out there to accommodate an employee for doctor/therapist/treatment-of-any-kind appointments as much as humanly possible (it’s hard to plead for anything to my own boss at times like this even though they’d almost certainly say yes). All these absences for treatment may seem excessive from the outside, but a mental health crisis is so hard to handle alone, patients may need a LOT of professional help from people trained to deal with it.

    If you can do nothing else for your employee, give her your blessing for treatment absences.

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