mandatory flu shots at work, helping a coworker through an international flight, and more

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

1. Can our employer require us to get an in-office flu shot?

In years past, my office has offered an in-office flu clinic for employees who were interested. As flu season is upon us, our office reached out about the flu clinic again, but this time they are saying participation is required from everyone, and if you don’t sign up for a time, one will be assigned to you for the clinic.

No one in the office is anti-vaccination by any means, but several of us are concerned because we prefer to get our flu shots elsewhere or do not want to disclose medical reasons for avoiding the shot. A few of us have tried to tactfully notify the VP running the clinic that we don’t want to participate, but she only responds with pressure to get the shot in-office and asking directly why we don’t want the shot in the office.

Are employers allowed to mandate participation in programs like this? And if not, what is your advice for discussing with a VP who seems to be pushing for pretty personal reasons as to why we’d like to get the shot elsewhere (or if at all)?

In most circumstances, employers can indeed require that employees receive flu shots (and it’s especially common for health care workers, to protect patients from flu-infected workers). There’s something of a growing backlash against this though, and some states have introduced legislation to ban this practice so you should check to see if you have more state-level protections than federal law gives you. But for most people, the answer is yes, employers can to this, although they’re legally required to accommodate you if you need an exemption for medical or religious reasons.

If you prefer to get your flu shot from your own doctor, I’d try saying to your pushy VP, “My doctor asks that I get the shot from her at my yearly physical, which is coming up soon, and I don’t want to ignore her instructions.” If you have medical reasons for not getting it, try saying, “My doctor has instructed me not to get the flu shot. I’m sure you know that some people with certain conditions are advised against it, but I don’t want to discuss private medical details at work.” If she pushes, you may need to offer to bring in documentation from your doctor (which only needs to say you can’t have the shot, not the reasons why).

And ideally someone — or even better, a group of you — would point out to her or to someone above you that it’s great to offer the flu shot to employees, but pushing for private medical details isn’t okay.

2. I’m anxious about helping a coworker through an international flight

I will be traveling internationally for work soon. A colleague who has an impairment to one of their senses will now be joining this trip and began asking me about traveling over on the same flight so I could help them navigate the arrival process, which includes visas and a special exception they had to get in relation to their management of their impairment.

I can’t empathize fully with their situation, I know that. I can sympathize with the challenges of life with this impairment, but I have not had those same challenges myself. I know my take on this is selfish. But being given the responsibility to navigate someone else through a foreign visa entry process feels completely overwhelming and is making me panic. Part of the context here is that I am anxious about travel in general, and particularly when it’s international travel with visas et al. I also know from recent travel experience where I had to get special accommodations for entry that that additional element may spiral me into an anxiety attack. I prefer traveling solo in order to control how much time I have to get to the airport, how I plan to get places, have responsibility for only my own stuff, etc. I understand work travel is different, so I try to just get over those elements that make me anxious when I travel for work.

They haven’t booked their flight yet, so it’s unclear if we’ll be on the same one. I suggested that perhaps they should contact the airline directly to get assistance upon entry rather than relying on my ability to help them navigate, given that I may not be able to assist them properly. Regardless of whether we’re on the same flight, I genuinely feel that their getting official assistance makes more sense so I don’t accidentally mess up some aspect of their entry process. Selfishly, this also would alleviate my anxiety about navigating them through this process.

Am I being an asshole to suggest that they get airline assistance regardless? Should I be completely fine with navigating this colleague through this process myself? I’m sure I’m seeking validation in requesting a response, but I’m torn on whether I’m completely in the wrong here or if this is actually the responsible thing to do.

If you weren’t dealing with anxiety and you just didn’t feel like doing this because it sounded like a pain or you wanted to be able to have a carefree flight with no responsibilities besides yourself, then yes, I’d say you were being callous and unkind.

But it sounds like you’re dealing with your own medical issue — anxiety. And to be clear, if this were just “eh, I’m a little anxious about being responsible for someone other than myself,” I’d tell you to put that aside in the interest of helping someone who has a genuine need for help. But if you’re truly worried about an anxiety attack, then that’s different — and frankly, if you’re at risk of an anxiety attack, you’re not well positioned to help your colleague anyway.

I do worry, though, that even if you explain the situation to your coworker, it may come across as “I can’t be bothered to do this.” I don’t know if there’s anything that can be to mitigate that, other than just sounding as kind and empathetic as possible when you talk to them.

3. Asking an interviewer how performance problems are handled

I’m interviewing for a new job this week. In my current job, problem employees are pretty much not disciplined at all and are left alone as long as they do the bare minimum. It’s killing morale. I’m wondering if there’s a good way to ask what kind of consequences are enforced for problem employees, without it sounding like I’m asking because I am a problem employee myself looking to avoid getting in trouble. Help?

I’m thinking I could ask the “what’s your management style” question and then ask a follow-up question like “how do you address problems when they come up?” if it’s not covered, but maybe that’s too vague to really get at the heart of what I want to know.

I wish there were a good way to find out about this in an interview, but there isn’t really a direct question that will reliably get at it. Bad managers are notoriously bad at assessing their own management style and are very likely to give you a reasonable-sounding, textbook-y answer to this that doesn’t reflect how things really play out. And people who do this aren’t generally trying to be deceptive; they really believe what they’re saying — except that the problem is in the details. Someone might tell you they have a very structured process for addressing problems, use progressive discipline and performance improvement plans, etc. — and that could all be true, but it might also be true that you’d have to kick the CEO in the face before they’d actually use that process.

Really, what would be great is if you could ask, “Who’s the lowest performer on your team, what makes you say that, how long has that been your assessment, what have you done about it so far, and why are they still here?” That would tell you a ton. But you can’t ask that.

Instead, the best way to find out about whether a manager actually manages is to do due diligence outside of the interview, like using your network to find people who have worked at the company or with the manager before and talking to them. You’re far more likely to get candid, accurate information that way.

4. Participating in medical research when you’re in HR

I work in academia in HR. I’m not in an employee relations role, but it is a small department and we all pitch in as needed. The school is reaching out to employees (and the public in general) for voluntary participation in a study specific to a medical issue I qualify for and would have real interest in talking about. (Nothing that I’d make a trip to the doctor for, but it does impact my day-to-day life in an annoying way.) The researchers involved are said to be making real strides in this area. The study would involve a pelvic exam.

I don’t know anyone involved in the study, and everything is confidential, but I have a knee-jerk reaction that employees shouldn’t see my insides, no matter how much I’d like to participate. Am I off-base?

I think it’s totally up to you and what you’re comfortable with! If you worked with the researchers, I’d advise more caution (although even then, a lot of people would tell you that people who do pelvic exams as part of their routine work wouldn’t be weirded out by doing one on someone they know). But in this case, where you don’t even know the people involved in the study, it’s really about your own comfort level with it. There’s no established protocol that being in HR would make this off-limits to you. I mean, if the details here were different and it was possible that you could be in a meeting helping to fire the person who was examining you while you were in stirrups the day before, that would be far more awkward — but it doesn’t sound like your job has you doing that kind of thing. I think you can go for it if you want to.

5. Should I mention that I could start a new job right away rather than needing to give two weeks notice?

I’m not working except for the occasional short-term contract. The agency I work for is fine with me leaving if I get a full-time job. In short, I’m available to start a permanent job right away. Is this something I should bring up in an interview? I think it could be a factor an potential employer might consider a plus, but perhaps it might also make someone wonder if I’m some sort of problem child.

I wouldn’t volunteer it unless your interview specifically asks when you can start or it otherwise seems really relevant. That’s because most employers are planning on people needing to give a notice period, and aren’t going to be hugely swayed by hearing you don’t need one. There are some employers who would be excited that you could start earlier, but not enough of them to make this worth raising on its own unless there’s an obvious reason to.

But if it does come up on its own or you’re asked about it, you can say, “I’m on a short-term contract right now, and my end date is flexible. I could do the standard two weeks, but I could also probably wrap up sooner than that if you needed me to.”

{ 482 comments… read them below }

  1. Intern Manager*

    OP 1, if you truly plan to get the flu shot anyway, and you know when the clinic will be held in your office, get it before that date and bring in paperwork to show you’ve gotten it. Your record will show only that you got it, not if you needed special accommodations for it, so your pushy VP’s goal is fulfilled, albeit not the way she wanted. Most primary care doctors in the US have been administering the flu shot for +/- 3 weeks already.

    1. valentine*

      I think the VP, if not the business, won’t be satisfied with extra-office flu shots, since she only responds with pressure to get the shot in-office and asking directly why we don’t want the shot in the office. Do businesses pay for clinics/vaccines?

      1. Doodle*

        I’m sure not always, but all of the businesses I know that offer them on site do pay for them for employees (and offer discounts for family members.)

      2. Queen Esmerelda*

        Probably because people will use that as an excuse to not get vaccinated–“Oh, my doc was out of flu vaccine; I have to go back later” and then never get vaccinated.

        1. Jadelyn*

          And? That’s still really not the employer’s business, unless they’re in healthcare or something where it’s directly relevant.

          I have nothing against getting my flu shot, but I have EVERYTHING against my employer getting involved in my decision to do so.

      3. LQ*

        Unless the VP is really really weird and clueless saying, “hey I already got it” than “I plan to get it”. You wouldn’t double up on the flu shot. Especially if you have a record for it.

        I think health insurance plays a role here but I’m not sure what exactly.

      4. LW #1*

        First LW here! As another comment mentioned we think there are financial benefits for 100% participation versus partial so that’s why there is pressure to get the shot in office. We don’t work in healthcare or with vulnerable populations — just a standard office. As Alison notes, the optics of forcing the flu shot versus offering it this year alarmed people (it hasn’t been “mandated” before per se), so several of us were wondering if that’s even allowed. Very glad Alison was able to answer and clarify for us!

        1. Kittymommy*

          I can tell you that our organization does not get any financial incentive for them, not do we get any credit from oru health insurance. I used to work in the clinic where we have them (about 1500 employees) and have them free to some sister organizations. We just built the cost into our budget. It’s just a perk that is offered, and other than weekly emails to remind people of hours and that some were still available, there wasn’t any pressure to get them.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            I don’t know if they’re actually getting any kind of credit or reward for 100% participation, but there is at least one commenter below that said their company used a clinic that charged based on the number of people vaccinated and gave discounts for large groups, which caused the company to push hard on their employees to participate so they could get enough people for the lower rate to apply. If those kinds of group discounts are common, I would bet that OP’s company doesn’t just build the cost into the budget the way yours does, and is trying to lower the expense by having more people participate.

        2. Observer*

          Any financial pressure would be for 100% vaccination rate, not 100% in office. So documentation that you actually got the shot should work for those purposes.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Aside from the 100% vaccination rate benefit, sometimes the financial benefit is from buying and administering the vaccines on-site and in bulk (kind of like state retiree and low-income health programs using their market power to negotiate cheaper Rx rates). So there are two sets of financial incentives for employers in non-healthcare fields, but it’s unclear which apply to OP’s context. I suspect it’s both.

        3. batman*

          Interesting. My office sometimes has nurses from our health insurance provider (Kaiser, so it’s an integrated insurance/provider model) come and give flu shots, but they’re only available to people with Kaiser coverage (some people get insurance through their spouse or parents, presumably), so I don’t think we pay anything, I think we just offer the space.

      5. Ginger G*

        We do, and it costs $30 – 35 per employee. We also reimburse employees who get it elsewhere or they can use their insurance (we’re self-insured so we pay for it either way). We encourage getting the vaccine, but I can’t imagine trying to make it mandatory.

    2. Greg NY*

      I was going to make a similar comment, but I’ll piggyback off yours. An employer can require vaccinations (or medical documentation that it’s contraindicated), but I don’t think they can mandate that a shot is given at the company clinic. It’s the same as requiring a company doctor to solely make the call regarding FMLA, disability, or some sick leave (although in some cases they can insist on a second opinion). Organizations need to accept documentation from a doctor in those situations, it’s the same here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Slight clarification here: There’s no law requiring that employers accept doctor’s notes outside of FMLA or ADA issues. It would be incredibly weird for them to insist someone get a second flu shot and it’s very unlikely that that would happen (and you could raise a huge stink if they did), but I wanted to correct the record about what they are and aren’t required to accept and when.

        1. Frick*

          FYI, there’s a lot of interesting reading on the OSHA website for anyone who wants to fall down the wormhole on this topic.

          There is this from 2009 (after bird flu):

          “However, although OSHA does not specifically require employees to take the vaccines, an employer may do so. In that case, an employee who refuses vaccination because of a reasonable belief that he or she has a medical condition that creates a real danger of serious illness or death (such as serious reaction to the vaccine) may be protected under Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 pertaining to whistle blower rights.”

          There’s also a lot on their site about encouraging compliance versus mandating it.

          A cursory check of lawsuits on the topic yields missed results. The employers who lost were not in healthcare, did not have an opt out, or did have one, but it was administered by HR and not a healthcare professional.

          Programs with opt outs administered by an outside healthcare pro who only reported the granting or denial of the exception (not the reasons why) seem to be upheld. As do programs in healthcare facilities.

          Also, the presence of a union makes it more difficult for the company to force compliance.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes! But Greg in NY was saying you could opt out with a doctor’s note, and that’s not strictly true (although it can be true in some specific circumstances). People tend to mistakenly believe employers are bound to follow doctors’ notes in situations where they’re not, so I wanted to correct that.

        2. Oxford Comma*

          I don’t know if this is uniform in all states, but every time I’ve gone for the free shot at work or a drug store, they take down my insurance info. I presume that information is reported to the insurance company and I’m guessing the insurance company would object to multiple shots.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I don’t think there’s anything (legally) that bars an employer from (1) requiring a vaccination [this varies by state], and then (2) requiring the vaccination to be given on site or at a company clinic. There’s also nothing that requires employers to accept medical notes documenting a flu vaccination obtained through a different provider (different story for someone being medically unable to get the vaccine), although it would certainly be weird to try to make someone get the vaccine twice. It’s definitely not analogous to FMLA, ADA or sick leave.

        1. Frick*

          That depends on the state. I just checked on my TR account. There is some caselaw that says there must be an opt out program run by an outside healthcare professional.

          It’s really, really location/jurisdiction dependent.

          It is also an area where the law is far from settled.

          We can’t really know what is or isn’t allowed where LW lives.

          He or she has to decide if it’s worth asking an attorney.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That’s why I explicitly said that a workplace requiring vaccination varies by state.

            It’s not very hard for OP to look up their state laws regarding mandated vaccination at work. Ideally this will not require hiring or paying an attorney.

        2. Yojo*

          What if you’ve already gotten it elsewhere? It would be irresponsible (and possibly illegal) to make someone get a second vaccination.

          (I get my flu shot at Target because they give you a $5 coupon, I’d be peeved at giving that up).

          1. Love Me My Vaccinations*

            There’s no danger in getting multiple flu shots. There’s no benefit, but there’s no danger, either.

            1. Someone Else*

              Well…the theoretical danger is not to oneself but potentially in years where there are a limited number of vaccines, I’ve seen warnings to let vulnerable populations get them first (or if you’re around someone compromised to also make sure to get one). So taking two, if there’s a chance the overall number of shots available in general is lower than the population who would/could get one, that’s its own sort of problem (when multiplied out across this happening in multiple orgs and whatnot. Luckily this doesn’t seem like a common thing, but I still think it’s crappy to take two.)

            2. Yojo*

              Even if it’s not dangerous it’s still an unnecessary medical procedure. I’m not keen on a needle in my arm when there doesn’t need to be a needle in my arm.

            3. batman*

              There may be no danger, but getting a shot is unpleasant (and the flu shot always makes my arm sore the rest of the day) so I would never do it.

              1. Jennifer Juniper*

                I get mild soreness in my arm the rest of the day, too. However, the flu is much, much, much more unpleasant and can send you to the hospital or the morgue.

                1. pleaset*

                  I’m the same with the soreness. A few times I even felt run down the second day after the shot (which maybe I was imagining).

                  But I still get one.

                2. Autumnheart*

                  The last time I got a flu shot was because a handful of my coworkers were parents of newborns at the time. I can stand a few days of a sore arm. Plus, the flu last winter was absolutely brutal. I swear I’m the only person on my 40-person team who did not catch it, and I have no idea how I managed it, because I wasn’t vaccinated and literally everyone around me was sick at one point or another. I had coworkers out for an entire week on PTO (highly unusual in my office–we can work from home if we’re germy but feel well enough to work), I had coworkers who caught it more than once. The office sounded like a plague ward all winter from all the coughing and hacking. My brother-in-law had a coworker who died–healthy middle-aged guy, not one who would qualify as vulnerable.

                  I’m no flu shot enthusiast, but if we have another flu season like last year, I’d way rather have a shot than be sick and coughing up a lung for an entire month. I think my employer offers a discount, but I can’t remember if they have a flu shot clinic on-site.

                3. batman*

                  @Autumnheart I’m not saying don’t get the flu shot at all, I’m saying that I’m not gonna get the flu shot twice. And I don’t think anyone else should either, regardless of how pushy their employer is.

              2. Love Me My Vaccinations*

                I did it once. The place I worked at had terrible insurance that didn’t cover flu shots. (This was over a decade ago, I’m not sure if coverage of vaccinations has changed.) I had much better insurance through my husband’s plan and had already gotten the flu shot when I was approached by a coworker who told me that if they could get one more person to participate, our employer would pay for someone to come into the office and administer them for free. So I got 2 flu shots that month so my coworkers could get theirs.

                I hate needles and my arm was sore, but sometimes you do things you don’t like for other people.

                1. SechsKatzen*

                  You’re a much better person than I am! I don’t do vaccinations (or IVs, or blood draws, or anything involving a needle for that matter) and would have said absolutely not.

            4. aNon*

              Don’t be 100% sure of that. It might not be statistically significant enough to matter but I have heard instances of people getting multiple flu shots (army kept losing the record and forcing them to get another) and they ended up having a pretty bad reaction. Again, anecdotal and may not be statistically significant but I would push back hard if an employer tried to make me get a second flu shot. If anything, it’s wasteful when there could potentially be a shortage in supply later in the season for people who could use it. Get your flu shot but just get the one.

        3. peachie*

          If you couldn’t, though, wouldn’t this be covered under ADA? There are definitely legitimate medical conditions that prevent people from getting vaccinations. (That’s why I always get vaccinated–I can, and it makes it safer for the people who can’t.)

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            What qualifies as a disability under the ADA is very specific, and it typically applies in this context if you already have an ADA-qualifying disability. For example, if you’re allergic to eggs, the ADA includes allergies as a disability, and you would have to be accommodated. But the accommodation isn’t always an exemption—it may be to obtain an egg-free vaccine, or to obtain the regular vaccine under medical supervision (i.e., in a hospital or clinical setting).

            Each state has provisions for when/how a person can opt-out, and a reasonable employer (and an ethical health provider) should not require vaccination that is medically contraindicated. But that doesn’t mean that they’re legally required to be reasonable or that an employee who wants to opt out has to provide the same kind of medical documentation that the FMLA/ADA may require (and each of those laws requires very different documentation).

        4. Michaela Westen*

          Ok, this is where I come in. I have an egg allergy that causes a regular flu shot to make me very sick.
          For the last few years my employer has been providing the egg-free flu vaccine, which works beautifully. I get no symptoms at all. (link in my user name)
          If I worked for such an employer, they would have to either provide the egg-free vaccine for me on site, give me an exception, or allow me to get it somewhere else – though last I checked not many providers were offering it.
          I don’t know what the legal ramifications of this are, but I’m not letting them force me to take a shot that will make me sick for at least a week and could bring on long-term problems with respiratory infections. They shouldn’t be allowed to mandate that!

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Generally speaking people who are contraindicated do not have to take a vaccine that would make them ill, but there’s varying case law on how aggressive an employer can be about requiring a different solution (as you note, like taking an egg-free vaccine). There are also certain very serious medical conditions that can be triggered or worsened by the flu shot, and generally those folks can be exempted with medical documentation. My point is that there’s no employer-related framework for what kind of documentation might be required (if any) to opt out of a particular vaccine. There are state-to-state requirements, but each state varies in terms of its vaccine-opt-out rules.

            But OP’s question was about legality, etc. In some states, what OP’s experiencing is entirely legal, and you can be terminated for refusing to obtain the vaccination in the manner the employer asks for (because most states are at-will, and you can be terminated for nearly anything).

            1. Michaela Westen*

              “you can be terminated for refusing to obtain the vaccination in the manner the employer asks for ”
              So this could be applied in very unfair ways, used to get rid of people for political purposes, etc. That sucks. :(

              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Yeah :( Unless it runs up against laws protecting employees from discrimination or retaliation (i.e., Title VII, age discrimination, ADA, FMLA), there are very few protections for employees.

                1. Not a libertarian*

                  A mandatory flu shut IS a protection for employees. It creates herd immunity and lessens the chance that employees will get sick. It decreases the risk that I will get sick because of some stupid anti-vaxxer. I completely support this policy.

                2. Slartibartfast*

                  Herd immunity is great, it’s the only way to protect members of the population who can’t be vaccinated. Unfortunately there’s no way to separate the ‘can’t’ people from the ‘don’t wanna’ people without major invasions of privacy.

                3. Michaela Westen*

                  I have no problem taking the flu shot if it doesn’t make me sick. It’s not like I want to catch the flu!
                  Unfortunately, OP’s employer doesn’t sound reasonable on this and I expect if I was there it would be “take this shot that has the potential to make you sick for 2-3 months, or you’re fired”. This is not reasonable! They should allow employees to get the shot elsewhere and bring documentation, or have medical exemptions. Unfortunately, there’s apparently no law forcing them to do this. :(

              2. Sarah N*

                Sure, but that’s true anyway — unless the reason is tied to a protected class, your employer is welcome to get rid of you for political purposes, even if it is “unfair.”

        5. Judy*

          I worked in healthcare where the flu shot was mandatory – I was told before I was hired and asked if I’d have a problem with it. However, they had no issue with us receiving the shots elsewhere (doctor’s office/CVS) as long as we had proper documentation. There was a big story in the news a few years ago about a nurse at Children’s Hospital in Boston who refused the shot (I think for religious reasons?). I think she was terminated, sued and lost.

    3. Aaron*

      If it’s a matter of the VP pushing it for a reason like having a loved one with cancer you might portray wanting to get it outside the office as valuing the same goals as them. Maybe say you believe it’s important but you have a routine of going to do it with friends?

      1. A. Schuyler*

        “Going to do it with friends” would seem very strange to me. Vaccinations aren’t a social occasion. I think the OP would be better served by saying they’d rather go to their usual general practitioner, which is a much more normal and defensible position.

        1. I coulda been a lawyer*

          I know it’s strange, but I do it anyway. It’s a good excuse to get together and stay healthy together. We do it for other routine annual things as well. There’s usually good Mexican food after

            1. Dragoning*

              Yeah, if someone pulled that on me as an excuse they’d have to be prepared for “…What?” and a heck of an explanation.

    4. Frick*

      I had a friend who went through this last year. Let’s call her Flo.

      The company was pushy. Flo said no. They asked why. Flo said “I can’t tell you without disclosing health information and other facts that would not be in the best interest of the company to know.” Flo asked for an out such as a doctor’s note. They refused and scheduled Flo for the shot.

      She went to the appointment and asked the nurse what would happen if she declined the shot. The nurse told Flo that she would not be given a shot against her will because, in that setting, it was both medically unethical and criminal (battery). The nurse wasn’t willing to do it. No shot.

      The vaccinating nurse told the company she didn’t administer he shot to Flo, but would not tell them why. They pressed. Nurse told the company that she could not ethically disclose that to them and that if they wanted her company back, they have to allow opt-outs and doctors notes.

      Outside a setting where one is working with the sick or vulnerable, medical professionals are not going to force this. They might try and persuade you. But it’s a violation of ethics to force treatment on otherwise healthy adults who don’t truly need it.

      Note, however, that if you work in healthcare or with the elderly, some states require you get the shot. Even then there is an opt-out process for those who have health issues. I don’t know of any state where vaccinations are mandated by law where there isn’t also a specific allowance for those who have a note from their doctor.

      Not having an opt-out process is a very bad idea. The optics aren’t good. You are also forcing medical professionals to vaccinate healthy adults who aren’t really willing, but consent under duress. None of the nurses I know who do these clinics want to vaccinate those who aren’t really willing.

      Regarding optics: one of Flo’s coworkers was pregnant with a high risk pregnancy being managed by her doctors carefully. They needed to be the ones to decide when that mother got shots of any kind,. That doctor wrote a very scathing letter to the company about the mandatory vaccine program and what a PR nightmare it would be for them if they forced someone into it and there was a bad outcome. While very rare, bad outcomes are generally very, very bad. It was also a problem for the company because the coworker didn’t want to reveal to anyone she was pregnant until she was sure it took. So bad vibes all around,

      There was no vaccine program this year.

      As it turns out, the company who gave the shots prices their rates based on how many people got the shots. It was a lot cheaper for the company if they got full compliance than if they only got 75% compliance, hence, the hardline.

      Lastly, the partner unit is an executive at one of the big four healthcare companies. They don’t mandate vaccines. So….

      Of course, if LWs company is impervious to logic and standard practice, OP has to decide whether to submit, elevate to a higher authority in the company, or go to the apppointment and decline.

      1. Quickbeam*

        I generally avoid flu shots but I was requio=red to get one when I (as an RN) worked with long term disabled patients. They didn’t care how I got it but were happy to do it for free and sent someone in on night shift at my convenience. OP seems to be indicating this is coming with emotional baggage from top down which is odd.

        1. Observer*

          This goes WAAAAY beyond “bad optics”! She’s lucky that she got off with just having to surrender her license!

        2. Lora*

          …And that’s why I never felt a tiny hint of guilt about giving Fs to the microbiology students in my classes who richly deserved it.

          1. Slartibartfast*

            I am glad you give F’s. ‘Sterilizing’ the syringe between patients??? What, she had an autoclave in her handbag?? It’s mind boggling she could get all the way to RN and not realize how bad this is.

            1. Lora*

              She was an LPN, not RN. LPNs get about a year of community college, whereas RNs usually have a bachelor’s degree. There’s a good chance the LPN had never seen an autoclave in her whole life…

              1. Slartibartfast*

                Thanks for the clarification. She should still know better. Reusing syringes is beyond dumb. Even if it was for the same patient, that’s a fireable offense.

      2. blackcat*

        Actually, even if there’s a compelling reason for health, a nurse can’t do a medical procedure against the will of an otherwise competent person. Tons of stuff backs up the right for a competent person to refuse even life-saving treatment.

        You can totes get fired for refusing a flu shot, but they can’t *make* you get it. No medical professional will do it against your consent. If they do, that’s grounds for revoking their license.

        At my old place of employment, they just had the health insurance company do it. Nurse was an employee of the insurance. This was a 100% free service provided by the health insurance company–cheaper for them to vaccinate ~200 employees than deal with even one hospitalization due to the flu.

        Anyone with insurance from the same company could get a shot. Since it was a school, that meant kids with permission slips and even parents could swing by at drop off and pick up and get a shot. It was super easy and convenient.

        Now, I’m at a university at that does a cattle call like vaccination round. They’re supposed to keep records but I’m not sure that they do. Basically, they have ALL staff nurses at the health center doing vaccines for a day. You get in a line of 200+ people, but the wait is only like 10-15 minutes. It’s highly efficient, if a little dehumanizing. They vaccinate several thousand people in a day.

        1. Bagpuss*

          My doctors surgery do it on set days.You are given a time slot, when you arrive you check in and are given a numbed ticket and then go when they call your number. It’s very efficient – I’m usually in and out in under 10 minutes. They normally do it over about 4 Saturdays, and they don’t do any other appointments (except emergencies) on those days.

          They definitely keep records, though.

          I’m in the UK and it is offered for free to the elderly and those (like me) who have medical conditions which mean we are sen as higher risk, and also to medical professionals and those working with high risk patients. I’m getting mine this weekend.

          I’m not opposed to it being mandatory for those such as health workers or care workers working with high risk groups, but agree that there needs to be a medical opt-out , and in a work situation, that should not include having to disclose any details of what the medical reason is.
          I would also not be happy if I had an employer who sought to insist that I had the shot at work rather than through my own doctor, if that was what I preferred.

          1. UKDancer*

            I agree with you. Also in the UK and I think it’s fine to make it mandatory for medical professionals and those who have conditions needing it, such as my father who has a compromised immune system. I always had a feeling that there wasn’t enough to go around so it should be prioritised for those at greatest need.

            If employers not in the healthcare sector want to offer it as an incentive that’s fine but it should have an opt out in my opinion. My previous employer offered it as a perk but it was up to each individual whether they wanted it.

            I am very squeamish about injections and really struggle with vaccinations and have no health reasons for having the vaccination. If I worked in a sector where this vaccination was required I would certainly not want to have a vaccination where my colleagues could see or hear because I tend to faint and get upset. I know it’s not logical but I had a really bad experience with my rubella vaccination at school and still find it traumatic.

            I would want to be able to go to a private sector clinic where nobody knew me and where I could have the vaccine in privacy and not as part of a queue of other people. I think it’s fine to mandate the vaccination but I think it should be possible for people to have it done in a setting of their own choosing if they wish to do so.

      3. Nita*

        Interesting about the pricing. I had a feeling this level of pressure (and pressure to get the shot specifically in the office) must somehow be about money – either the scenario you describe, or someone in the company doing the vaccination is related to the VP, or something like that…

      4. Kes*

        Yeah, I was wondering if the best option might be to let them schedule the appointments for everyone, go to the scheduled appointment, and just tell the nurse that you don’t want to/can’t get it, since as a medical professional they are likely to understand and be discreet.

      5. Michaela Westen*

        So all for money, the company put the health of at least two coworkers plus the unborn baby at risk. Charming! Are people lining up to work there? /s

    5. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I can confirm that primary care doctors are currently administering the flu shot. I had a physical last week and was offered the shot, but declined as our office offers (offers – not requires!) them for free on site for employees and members of their households. (And if the shot isn’t offered at work, I can also get it at my pharmacy.)

      1. CaitlinM*

        The easiest response, in my opinion, if you are planning on getting the flu shot anyway, would be to get it from your doctor prior to this clinic and bring a note that says you already have the flu shot. I can’t imagine they’d intend to force you to get a second dose…

      2. Anonymosity*

        Yep, I got mine last Monday (the 10th). I had a doc appointment anyway and they offered it, so I took it. I always get it because 1) I know other people can’t, and 2) I cannot afford to be that sick if I suddenly get a new job, nor do I want to be sick because bleah. My doctor’s office has a special program for low- and no-income folks where we can pay $10 for labs and anything they can do in-office.

        Exjob used to pay for them and we could get them at work. They never forced us to do it, but we did have to attend a biometric screening if we wanted to receive a discount on our health insurance. They offered the option to get the screening at your doctor’s office and turn in a form.

      3. Annoyed*

        Yup. I actually got mine the day they became available but at the pharmacy not the doctor. I stopoed in for a few things and figured ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m here, no line…5 minutes and done.

      4. BananaPants*

        Not all PCPs have them available now – our kids’ pediatricians aren’t scheduled to receive their vaccine until next week. Our state doesn’t allow pharmacists to vaccinate minors, so we wait until the ped starts holding flu shot clinics in the first week of October.

        But yes, if your PCP has it available now, get it now!

    6. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Isn’t there a non-shot option for the flu now? Like a nasal spray? What happens if someone would rather get that than the shot because they are afraid of needles? I’m curious what would happen if they pushed to be able to get it off-site because there are more options? I’m assuming your company isn’t offering the nasal spray.

      1. Bagpuss*

        There is – I think they offer it to children here instead of the jab. I don’t know how they compare in terms of cost or effectiveness.

      2. Competent Commenter*

        The nasal spray version was for children but they decided last year it wasn’t effective enough, so my 10 year old son had to get a shot. He’s utterly terrified of getting shots. I ended up offering that we could both play hooky from work and school if he got the shot first thing in the morning. We had a wonderful day together after he got it, baking cookies and feeling like truants. This post reminds me its time to do it again!

      3. June*

        As others have mentioned, there is indeed a spray approved for ages 2-49 that is administered in both nostrils. The past couple of flu seasons, ACIP did not recommend the nasal spray due to poor efficacy data, but for this season it is recommended as an option again (a new flu strain is being used in the vaccine this season which appears to produce the appropriate immune response).

        Unlike the flu shot, however, it is a live vaccine, meaning it’s not an appropriate option for immune compromised persons (including during pregnancy), and has a few other restrictions as well. It can sometimes also be a bit messy (running down the nose).

    7. KarenK*

      Healthcare here. We have an annual flu shot drive every fall. You are allowed to opt out, but there’s a form that must be filled out. I’m not sure what type of info it asks for, but it serves as a record that you have not received your flu shot. If you have not received a flu shot, you must wear a mask during flu season whenever you get within 6 feet of a patient. They also accept it if you get your shot from your doctor, pharmacy, or wherever.

      1. June*

        At my last hospital, vaccination was mandatory, but outside vaccines were accepted with documentation for those who wanted a different flu vaccine or just didn’t want to go through the cattle-call process.

        Exemptions were strictly regulated. Anyone who felt they didn’t qualify had to submit a written request, which were review by an ID physician and pharmacist, overseen by the hospital lawyer. The vast majority were rejected or sent back for additional information. Those who were exempted had to wear a mask for the full flu season in any area where patients could be encountered.

        1. bean*

          The hospital where I work is similar. Annual flu shots are mandatory for all hospital employees. They set up several dates when they offer them for free before the deadline; if you want to get the flu shot elsewhere, that’s fine as long as you bring in documentation before the deadline. They give us plenty of notice. Not sure exactly how it works if you need to opt out for medical reasons, but if there’s a medical reason you can’t get the vaccine I know there’s a process for it – and haven’t heard about it being a problem. I think it was one of the things they asked about during the pre-employment physical we had to have at employee health (when they also checked up on our vaccination status in general, checked titers, etc.).

          Working at a hospital, even people who aren’t clinicians share space with patients and will inevitably wind up not far from patients who are immunocompromised and vulnerable. Plus, just by definition, people come to us when they’re ill. It would just be flat-out irresponsible for people who work in that environment not to be vaccinated if we can be – to protect our patients and also to protect ourselves.

          I mean, I’m a psychologist, so I’m not doing physical exams but I’m with patients all the time. And I’m in a children’s hospital. I adore working with kids, but I do get sneezed on and coughed on ALL the time (and even though we ask families to reschedule if their kids are ill in order to keep everyone healthy, frequently the kid we’re seeing is fine so they’ll come in but the parents will bring along their siblings who stayed home from school due to fever or vomiting… and then tell us halfway through the appointment). I can’t wait till they tell us this year’s flu shot days!

    8. June*

      I get my free flu shot at a local grocery store that gives me a coupon for 10% off groceries. I use my coupon at Thanksgiving time (saves me serious money!). I would be very upset if my company wanted to take away my chance to save $$$. If it was me, I would get my flu shot from the grocery store, provide a copy of the receipt to my office, and walk away with no shame.

      1. Junebug*

        I just now realized that another poster uses the name June. My name is not common so it didn’t occur for me to look for any June’s before posting. :)

  2. Butter Makes Things Better*

    For the travel assistance OP, would you be comfortable sharing that you have your own health reason for not being able to help, without giving any specifics? Just a thought, if you’re concerned about coming across as can’t be bothered. Something like: “Unfortunately, because of a medical issue I have, I won’t be able to assist you with this matter.”

    1. Butter Makes Things Better*

      I just reread AAM’s advice and realized she mentions this solution (“even if you explain the situation to your coworker” … ), but I guess I may be more hopeful that referencing your own issue won’t sound dismissive or above helping. I’d say go for it in your kindest, most concerned tone possible, and good luck!

      1. Mad Baggins*

        Honestly, even if you weren’t dealing with anxiety, OP, I’d say it’s safe to call in extra help for (1) your coworker to navigate the airport and also (2) to handle their visa stuff. For example, if your coworker is blind and would need guidance to the correct gate, to their seat, etc. I would assume airport/plane staff can help them, and can probably do it better than you since they know where things are already. And I would definitely call in help for (2) even for someone with no impairments–I wouldn’t want to take responsibility for anyone else’s visa. But if your coworker doesn’t need as much assistance to get around the airport and the visa process is objectively not so hard (like, fill out a form and pay $50 on arrival) I think it would look better if you brought up the anxiety issue.

        1. Pumpkin Soup*

          “ I would assume airport/plane staff can help them“

          It’s fine if you can’t help them but we don’t live in a world where you can assume this.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            Upon reading E. Messily’s comment below, I’ve realized that this assumption was incorrect.

            In my country staff are usually very helpful and accommodating to guests/passengers but I see that not everywhere is like this.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              I understand if you aren’t comfortable sharing, but if you are, would you mind telling us which country this is?

        2. Sally*

          In my experience, people can sometimes be dismissive of anxiety or other “hidden” issues that others may be dealing with. If the OP thinks the coworker will understand why anxiety would prevent the OP from helping, then I’d say they should go ahead and tell their coworker about it. If not, I think it would be better to say that OP has a medical issue that prevents them from being able to help.

          1. Sins & Needles*

            I have had invisible medical issues downplayed, dismissed, or misunderstood. “A medical condition” is accurate and protects the OP. It’s how I explain things.

            Downthread, I saw another phrase I was going to suggest, “… and I wanted to let you know as soon as possible so you can make other arrangements.”

            Ah. And maybe add in some regretful language. And if you have the time, energy, and inclination, an offer of another, specific way to help.

            For example, “Unfortunetly, I have a medical condition which prevents me from helping you travel or navigate the process. However, I would be happy to help you Google resources/ evaluate options/ go with you to HR/ share with you my own, generalized travel tips / etc”

        3. Videogame Lurker*

          You make a fantastic point about how airport/plane staff would know where everything is better than the LW, and it could be used as a slight cushion.

          “I feel really bad about this, but going over the minute details for myself and you is starting to cause my medical condition to flare up with the stress. I think it would be best if we have you call in to arrange for airport/plane assistance – they would know where everything is, and exactly what is needed when, and how everything should be done to be as stress free as possible for you.”

          I’m not sure if that comes off as an “I don’t have time for this” or not, because as Sally said below, there are a large number of people who will dismiss anxiety (calling it a medical condition that flares up when stressed is slightly more vague, and could be used for an honest cover).

        4. Leaving for Paris*

          If you are flying into the USA there is a program called TSA cares that is designed specifically to provied this type of help.

          1. Catwoman*

            Yup. Airlines/TSA can assist with things like priority boarding, skipping to the front of the immigration line and other assistance (like transporting the coworker across the airport if walking this distance is too much). There is typically no extra cost for this, the company just needs to notify the airline.

            Not to trigger the OP’s anxiety, but it’s also important that the airline knows about the passengers disability in case of an emergency. The crew needs to be aware of passengers who may need extra assistance in evacuation, and they are better prepared to help your coworker than you are.

        5. doingmyjob*

          I would think if the travel is work related and the person has a bona fide disability then the company should provide assistance. It’s part of the accommodation for the disability.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Yeah, this.

            I would not be comfortable being responsible for this situation, which is basically what is happening here. Is the LW going to be held responsible for not knowing something that wasn’t actually part of her job description if something goes wrong?

            Side note: Is the LW officially responsible, or has she become default responsible because the colleague asked? Are the bosses sending them on this trip even aware of the situation? She doesn’t actually say she has been nominated to do this, just that the other person “began asking” for assistance.

          2. Genny*

            Agreed, I don’t think it’s reasonable to make LW the default accommodation for this person when that’s not LW’s job. I also disagree with Allison’s position on this. There’s nothing callous about not wanting to assist a coworker through the travel process. Travel, especially long-haul international travel is an exhausting process. It’s even more exhausting when you’re traveling for work, which comes with a more rigid set of expectations/schedules. Everyone I’ve worked with who has travel extensively says the same thing (and my own work travel has confirmed it): travel separately otherwise an unpleasant trip becomes even more unpleasant when you have to be “on” with a coworker or boss.

            LW, even if you didn’t have your anxiety to deal with, it’s 100% okay to set this boundary. You aren’t being callous or unkind for doing so.

            1. Patsy*

              I completely disagree.

              This is your coworker. They are asking for a reasonable help. To say its not your job? It’s not my job to hold open the door, or help someone carry something if their hands are full.

              I would hate to work with most of you. It’s all about YOU, despite an invconvenience. It is easy to say, “I can try, but may not be the best”

              And whoever said to travel alone for work trips? I have NEVER gotten a flight without a coworker on it. When you both fly to the same city from the same city, you stay at the same hotel your company booked, you dont just get your bag and run away. You usually wait and take a cab together, etc.

              1. Sarah N*

                I agree with this type of wording, saying something like “I have to be honest that travel makes me very anxious and I’m not sure I’ll be the best assistant in the moment.” By talking through things, it may become more clear exactly what assistance the coworker needs and how that can best be accomplished. It is hard for me to tell from the letter what level of assistance we’re talking about here, but if it’s something like “push a coworker’s wheelchair while they’re getting their passport checked” or “read signs outloud to a blind coworker,” I think it is going to be a pretty bad look to decline. Now, if it’s “become an expert on visa law and do all coordination with customs officials,” I think it is something of a different story and more appropriate to find a way to opt out/point the coworker to other resources. But it depends on a lot on what sort of assistance is being requested.

              2. Jadelyn*

                You know, there’s nothing wrong with disagreeing and saying so, but “I would hate to work with most of you” is downright rude and was uncalled-for.

                1. Micklak*

                  Yeah, it might have been a little harsh. But so many people here are bending over backwards to figure out a way not to help someone with an impairment. It’s not a good look.

                  I’m trying to imagine what my mom would tell me to do in this situation because she is my model for smart, compassionate, adult behavior . I think she would encourage me to do all that I could to help. That might mean walking the coworker to an official person that could help and then passively accompanying them through the process.

              3. Slartibartfast*

                But if your coworker asks you to help carry a heavy object, and you have a herniated disc, for your own health you can’t say yes. Then you have to decide if you want to reveal medical information about yourself or take the risk of looking like a glassbowl for keeping that private.

            2. Jadelyn*

              I agree. International travel is exhausting and stressful, with a lot of moving parts to manage, even if it’s just yourself – adding responsibility for a second person which includes getting special exceptions for things is a huge ask on top of that.

              If an accommodation is necessary the company should be working on that with the airline or airport management or customs or whichever systems are in place where they’re going. Those are people who (theoretically, anyway) actually know what the procedures are to accommodate a disabled traveler and have (again, theoretically) done this before, and they’ll be better at it than a random coworker who’s never done any of that before probably would be.

          3. ToS*

            I was in the airport a few weekends ago and a woman with a white cane and an auditory gps system was navigating the airport independently. Most people were taking it in stride, as there are a lot of near misses.

            There were also more than a few of WELL if she would only listen to ME and HARUMPF…with a subtext of how DARE she inelegantly get herself from point A to point B…but most people were gracious. Service animals take more than a year to become guide dogs, and people with disabilities are really, REALLY keen on assistance that does not come with a lot of awkward interactions. Matter of fact information helps when the cues (technological or canine) are thin. We’re lining up here for Airline Flight Number Destination at Gate #X can help.

            Presume that they will do their homework – like have a passport in Braille or use a reader that scans written documents and reads them into her earbuds, or use a video enlarger if the blindness is extreme low-vision.

            You want the airport to provide support according to her need. What might work out as being friendlier is to suggest meeting her on the other side of security/customs and proceeding together (sharing a car to the hotel, for example) because she will likely have to answer all of the security questions solo, anyway.

            1. Sarah N*

              I agree with the point that the airport/airline/strangers along the way have significant responsibilities to provide support here too. But, I think it is going to seem awfully weird to say to your coworker: “Please depend on total strangers at the gate to tell you “We’re lining up here for Airline Flight Number Destination at Gate #X,” because I refuse to talk to you.” Like yes, if the coworker were travelling alone, strangers and gate agents and the like would hopefully be helpful and gracious! But, a coworker who knows you should AT A MINIMUM be as helpful and gracious as a complete stranger.

        6. Annoyed*

          I don’t like the idea that OP should be required to help the coworker at all, anxiety or no anxiety.

          It basically makes her responsible for another adult who is competent enough to have a job and to travel.

          International stuff isn’t always simple. If OP missed something vis a vis the coworker’s visa, etc. then what? A write up? A PIP? Called on the carpet? Fired? For just trying to help…?!

          The airline and/or travel coordinator should be taking care of this.

      2. DesertRose*

        I would think that if LW2 explains it as “I don’t think I’d be able to assist you the way you need, and I’d rather we figure out a solution that gets [coworker] the best possible help than try to do it myself and end up doing it badly,” maybe leaning on the letter writer’s concern that coworker not be left hanging in the wind because the letter writer isn’t able to assist (without getting too specific about the reason, in case anxiety reads as “not a good enough reason” to the coworker or anyone else involved in planning the work trip), that might come off as kinder and/or more palatable.

    2. annon for this*

      If you have not personally taken on the responsibility of being the human assisting a disabled person during air travel, you cannot know how taxing this is. This is not a single act of kindness, it is hours and hours of tasks and responsibility. You are responsible for another human, their belongings, their navigation from point to point (and need extra time to do this, which impacts flights that are feasible) their documents, their trips to the restroom and their nutrition. There is zero mental down time, never a time when you can relax and read or zone out. You are on call and on duty. I have no problems with travel related anxiety and I find it absolutely miserable and exhausting to be thrust in this role for a co-worker. My sympathy is entirely with the writer.

      1. Disability Etiquette please...*

        Slow your roll for a minute. This is a gainfully employed adult person who is attending an international event. She gets to work every day without this co-worker’s help, AND does not need a personal aide. The person with a disability can handle herself. Your description makes her sound like a toddler. The person with a disability will want to “relax, read and zone out” too.

        So the person with a disability asks – I might need some assistance, could you help?

        LW responds: I find travel to be difficult myself, what would helping look like?

        Taking my elbow and walking next to me as we de-plane, get in line for customs, and once through, going to baggage claim.

        1. E. Messily*

          Seriously. I am really disappointed by the number of comments that jumped straight to “taking responsibility for another person is so huge and crushing how bout the company hires a full time aide”. That’s not what was asked for, I’m 99% sure it’s not necessary, and honestly I expected better from this crowd. You don’t need to tell the disabled coworker how to deal with this. If you wouldn’t want to (or cannot) help, say that. Please back off on all the “HOW DARE THEY BURDEN ME WITH THEIR WHOLE LIFE” drama.

          1. Prod Coor*

            I completely agree. I have a coworker who is legally blind, and therefore cannot drive. She sometimes asks for a lift. It’s a tiny bit out of my way, but personally I’m happy to help. The rest of the time she handles all her transportation, does all her work, and is a fully capable adult and employee, as many other disabled and working people are. For people to immediately assume that the coworker needs someone to do everything for them, and that LW should be allowed to shirk their coworker off on airport staff (which, if LW is here in America, absolutely sucks) is selfish to me. Travel isn’t easy, I agree, but to not help a coworker in need is wrong. LW 2 even says that some of their decision is for selfish reasons. If you already know that you’re being selfish, why ask for someone else to justify your selfishness?

            1. Annoyed*

              “…that LW should be allowed to shirk their coworker off on airport staff…”

              “Shirk” sounds so much like the coworker is OP’s actual responsibility and that by “shirking” OP isn’t doing her job.

              Unless it is her a actual job then there is no “shirking” going on at all even if OP doesn’t help one single jot.

        2. annon for this*

          Have you, personally, in fact, performed this service for another person? Because I have, multiple times. For a professionally educated person who navigates to work independently. Travel is entirely different from a familiar route to a single destination. Don’t scold me in a harsh tone if you have not, in fact, performed this task.

          1. E. Messily*

            What service? No one knows what the requested task(s) may be: you cannot possibly know whether or not you’ve performed it/them or how onerous the request is.

        3. BananaPants*

          YES. So much this. I find it kind of appalling that so many people interpret the OP’s description of the request as being all-encompassing, constant personal care. The colleague clearly hasn’t asked for anything resembling that.

      2. Hobbert*

        Whoa, this is very likely not to be the case. And I say that as someone in a sign language interpreter program so I’ve got more experience with “disabled” people than most. This person is a coworker. How do they function at work? Probably just like everybody else with a bit of auxiliary aids. When I hang out with Deaf friends, my “assistance” is just poking them if a loudspeaker announcement had something to do with them or something similar. It’s pretty limited because they’re functional adults and they get by in life just fine. Travel isn’t a typical thing and, honestly, I have to help my mom travel because she does it so rarely and she’s not disabled. It’s mostly “Mom, follow me” and “here, fill out this form”. I’m not saying the OP has to agree to help the coworker out but I do think they need to gather a lot more info before making a decision.

      3. BananaPants*

        The OP says that the coworker’s request to take the same flight is to “help them navigate the arrival process, which includes visas and a special exception they had to get in relation to their management of their impairment.” This reads to me like the colleague is asking the OP to steer them to the correct lane at passport control or to a disability access checkpoint for security screening. That’s a pretty minor ask and something that I’d gladly do for a total stranger as a matter of common courtesy.

        It strikes me as kind of infantilizing and insulting to just assume that the colleague is incapable of self-sufficiency in an airport when they’re clearly self-sufficient enough to hold down a job and be sent by their employer on an international business trip without a personal care assistant. A visual or auditory impairment (which I’m assuming is the case, given the OP’s description) does not render the colleague in need of constant personal care and literal hand-holding.

        Re: visa concerns – most companies of any size will give employees access to travel service providers like CIBT who handle passport and visa issues. The OP expresses anxiety about their own visa clearance, so they should speak to their supervisor about whether such a service is available.

  3. TL -*

    For the flu shot, if you’re getting it somewhere else you can either tell your boss you’ll bring in proof of vaccination from somewhere else.
    You could also just go to the booking with proof of vaccination and let the nurse know that you’ve already received the vaccine so you don’t need a second shot (include something about automatic booking and being unable to cancel the spot.) If the VP said something, just mention that you had an opportunity to get it done sooner and so you did.
    The same would be if you’re medically ineligible for the shot – you can let the nurse know your situation, mention that the system auto-booked you, and the nurse wouldn’t be allowed to pass on the reasons why you were ineligible.

    Going to the booking does not mean you consent to getting the shot and may be the path of least resistance.

    1. KR*

      This was my thought. An ethical health professional won’t vaccinate someone against their will. OP could attend the appointment and decline the shot.

      1. Frick*

        It’s also illegal in this context.

        It’s rare for doctors and nurses to face battery charges for jabbing so one without consent, but it has happened.

        So no nurse worth their salt is going to vaccinate someone against their will.

        The issue is what The company will do about the non-compliance when they find out

    2. Narise*

      Any thought on whether a company rep is going to try to be present during the vaccine? My company offers optional flu shots and it’s not in private rooms just in a large room where people wait at one end until it’s their turn.

      1. Pharmgirl*

        Either way, I’d still ask for privacy from the nurse! There are so many people who don’t dress appropriately for vaccines and may need to remove clothing. I’ve always made sure the privacy screen was up in the pharmacy, and the clinics I’ve done in businesses like these were in small, private conference rooms.

        1. KarenK*

          This. Our vaccination clinics have screens. I usually stop in on the spur of the moment, and I’m rarely dressed appropriately!

      2. LQ*

        It’s done in a single big room in our org, though there’s never someone from the org there unless they are actively getting their shot, it’s all just people from the vaccinating place.

      3. Kes*

        Like LQ, when I was at a company that did this (optionally, though) it was in one room, but it’s not like there was a company rep watching over it, and you could probably still go talk to the nurse quietly – people would see you weren’t getting the shot, it’s true, but you wouldn’t necessarily have to reveal why.

        I think you’re also not supposed to get the flu shot if you’re already not feeling well, so that could also possibly be an excuse if needed.

      4. a non non*

        I literally get my flu shot most years outside on the quad (I work on a college campus, and that one usually is the most convenient timing for me) but all of the mass flu shot events happen in fairly big open spaces where there are just a couple nurses with tables near the lines.

  4. Greg NY*

    #3: “Really, what would be great is if you could ask, “Who’s the lowest performer on your team, what makes you say that, how long has that been your assessment, what have you done about it so far, and why are they still here?” That would tell you a ton. But you can’t ask that.”

    Why can’t you ask that? That would force the interviewer to give an answer, which couldn’t be textbook-y without drawing follow-up questions from the LW. I would recommend the LW do exactly that. Interviews are a two-way street. And if they don’t get the answer they want, it can be a red flag.

    We had a letter less than 24 hours ago where Alison advised the LW to de-emphasize the stories of people who worked at the organization but no longer do. Why a total 180 here?

          1. Yojo*

            Agreed. It’s almost never wise to get into specific complaints in an interview, no matter how valid they are. That’s why people go with vague “looking for new challenges” and “nowhere to advance” explanations. Or talk about how much you think the position you’re interviewing for would be ideal for you, or what a good reputation the company has–it’s a really good idea to keep things positive. You really don’t want to seem dramatic or disloyal.

          2. As Close As Breakfast*

            Sure you can! If I’m interviewing you, you can totally ask this. I might even answer you with something vaguely truthful. What I won’t do though? I won’t hire you. I won’t hire you no matter how well the rest of the interview goes. I won’t hire you because part of me will be convinced that you are completely bananacrackers.

        1. Temperance*

          I think saying “I’m leaving my job because Joan doesn’t do anything and our manager doesn’t care” in a job interview just makes you look like a petty drama queen. Even if it’s valid, you’re supposed to be putting your best foot forward in an interview, and this is going to make it look like you’re a problem employee.

          1. Snark*

            Yeah. It would carry the scent of being that employee who isn’t and never will be management material, but who thinks they know better than the boss, and who always has a simmering, resentful grudge against people who don’t perform to their standards. In other words, it makes you look like A Handful.

        2. Snark*

          Even so. It’d be incredibly unusual, presumptuous, and invasive to demand that a hiring manager divulge personell evaluations and management decisions to someone who’s not even on the team yet. You’re not the boss. You won’t be the boss. You don’t get access to the personnel folder like the boss. Asking would be incredibly weird and would insta-DQ someone for simply not understanding professional roles and norms.

          1. LQ*

            This is a really good point. Even once you are in the job as an employee this isn’t stuff you’re going to always know. You’re going to know how the boss works with you. But if the boss maintains privacy well at all you’re not going to know a lot of how your coworkers are dealt with when they have problems. You might here from your coworkers or see other things, but a lot of it actually should be invisible to you if you have a coworker who isn’t performing.

            If you demand personnel information in the interview, what would you demand in the job?

          2. Genny*

            Yeah, no good boss is going to identify a low performer and then talk about how that’s being managed to anyone without a need to know, especially not to a potential teammate.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        It’s also requesting a lot of personnel information, which is going to seem extremely off. It also comes off as the kind of question a more senior manager might ask an interviewee who is junior to them. In most contexts, if an applicant asks questions like those, they’ll come off as though they don’t understand how interviews work.

        1. Greg NY*

          I do understand the part about personnel information (I should’ve clarified that they should ask in a more anonymous way, to identify what about them is the problem and what’s being done about it, without identifying who they are). What I don’t quite get is why the kinds of things asked in an interview are any different whether you are the interviewer or the interviewee. Both people ask the things that are relevant to what they’re looking for or what’s important to them (the interviewer re: the interviewee; the interviewee re: the organization and sometimes the interviewer themselves if they would be their direct manager). I could be missing something, but that’s always how I’ve approached interviews.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            An interview is for the benefit of both parties, but that doesn’t mean it gives either person carte blanche to ask boundary-pushing or intrusive questions. Using our very frequent dating analogy, there are some questions you cannot ask during the first date without looking like you don’t understand the norms of conversation and dating etiquette. That applies here, too.

            I don’t think there’s any way to ask the questions you’ve quoted in an “anonymous” way—it’s going to sound like you’re prying for confidential personnel information, and no decent manager would even entertain those questions, let alone answer them. There may be other approaches that are more effective and would help an interviewee obtain the information they want without freaking out the other party.

          2. Izzy*

            Well, for me the difference is that I want the interviewer to give me a job. So throughout the interview process I want to give the best impression of myself and not go out of my way to antagonise them. I’m very junior and maybe people feel more able to ask things like this as you gain seniority, but I would never ask a question like this in an interview – the chance of getting any useful information from it seems far less likely than the interviewer being weirded out by the invasiveness of the question, or assuming that you’re the habitual low performer and you’re trying to figure out how to get away with it, or thinking you’re a drama queen moaning about your old job.

    1. JR*

      I think the challenge is that it would be virtually impossible for the interviewer to answer the question without sharing an inappropriate amount of information about a colleague that you might end up working with. You could try to figure out how to ask the questions in an abstract way, but most people wouldn’t want to criticize one of their reports to someone who might end up working with them.

      1. Mad Baggins*

        Yeah, what if you got a genuine answer? “Well Fergus is our lowest performer, but his dad’s the CEO so we keep him around.” Are you more likely to take the job because of that honesty, and if you did, how would that impact your relationship with Fergus?

        Plus that would open the door for the interviewer to ask you, “So it looks like you’ve moved around a lot, why haven’t you found a job you can stick with, and what are you doing about it? Is that because you’re ambitious or because you’re insufferable?”

    2. Kiwi*

      If someone asked me who the lowest performer in the team was, they’d be asking for a massive privacy breach from me. There’s no way I’d hire someone who thought it was ok to ask that, even if they were a perfect match otherwise. I wouldn’t feel like I could trust their professional boundaries.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Because it would be incredibly inappropriate for them to divulge someone else’s private employment information. And you would look really bizarre for expecting them to.

      We had a letter less than 24 hours ago where Alison advised the LW to de-emphasize the stories of people who worked at the organization but no longer do. Why a total 180 here?

      Assuming you’re referring to this letter, that isn’t an accurate characterization of my advice there.

      1. Mookie*

        Could you then ask about how they’ve handled following up on poor performances in the past? Or does that not provide enough useful information to gauge whether a manager is good at this sort of thing?

        I think it’s a pretty conscientious line of inquiry, from an applicant’s perspective, no different from questions they’re expected to answer, and it doesn’t seem presumptuous to me, but I could have a warped view of normal interviewing practices.

        1. Illia*

          As Alison said in the post, you just can’t get reliable information this way. They may really believe thay do a great job handling poor perforamce, but the reality may not agree. People just are not great, generally, at judging their own performance in this way. You can ask, sure, but the asnwer you get isn’t likely to be accurate and thus basing your decisions on it is flawed.

          1. Mookie*

            Sure, of course, and one takes it with a grain of salt. But, again, applicants are asked similar questions about specific experiences all the time and are judged for how they answer just as much as they’re judged for the content of that answer. It can yield some good, but not infallible insight into a person’s thought process and temperament, in my opinion. Managers are always being interviewed, too. I tend to put weight on how they characterize things, the depth and breadth of their explanations (do they recognize nuance? do they appear motivated to truly manage and develop employees in addition to disciplining them?) and whether they seem both reasonable and thoughtful when talking about such experiences. And the more details you can wring out of them, the better.

            1. Hug a Tree*

              Yopu could ask, sure. But the risks of asking, and how they might take that, are probably too great for em to be willing to risk it for a result that is so likely to be of minimal value. I think there are better ways to assess the same thing that don’t run the same risks.

            2. JB (not in Houston)*

              Ask away! Alison didn’t say not to. She just said that you can’t rely on the information you get. And that’s true. If you try to “wring details out of them” to get a better sense of the accuracy of the answer, you are likely to run into the problem of asking them to disclose private employee information, which is something you don’t want to do.

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                While it’s common to want to avoid an office that’s bad in the same way your current office is bad, it’s really really hard to ask that and have it not land in a negative drama-magnet pre-victim way. Like people who want their new SO to pay for all the sins of the prior SO–these are not good dating or employing prospects.

                1. Someone Else*

                  Yeah, pretty much the only scenario where this type of question might land OK is one where one or the other company was recently in the news for Doing Bad Things. In that case, it is less likely to have it land in a way that reflects poorly on the asker, because in that context there’s very public information both parties are aware of, and so the “avoiding whatever newsworthy badness” becomes entirely reasonable. But even then, you potentially have the problem of the limits of self-awareness coloring an answer. Still “it was in the news” is much pretty the only exception that might make certain very specific questions not seem super invasive.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I think part of the trickiness is also that it could telegraph that you think you’re a low-performer or that you’ll have performance problems. I don’t think I’d want to plant that seed during an interview.

              It’s totally possible to ask about how the manager supports their staff or what that relationship looks like, but as Alison notes, unfortunately you’re unlikely to get accurate information (especially if the manager is not very good).

          2. Colette*

            Yes. It’s really common for people to make excuses for others they like or relate to- sure, he’s not great at getting those reports done, but he’s the sole support for his family; she may not be great at teapot spouts, but she’s trying so hard, etc. So when you’re asked about handling a poor performer, you don’t consider those people poor performers, even though their coworkers may.

          3. Falling Diphthong*

            “Oh, I just assign their work to other people, and explain that we have to be careful to tiptoe around their feelings and that’s just the way they are–it’s on the other employees to make sure work gets done around this one person’s intransigence.”

            For how many managers would this be an accurate self-assessment? How many of them a) recognize that; b) would say it aloud; c) to a total stranger?

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The problem is that with a bad manager, you’re very likely to get an answer that sounds good but is just wrong (like what I said in the post — they could recite their policy about PIPs, for example, but you won’t know that they only use PIPs in the most egregious of circumstances and generally let low performers languish for years). You’re much better off finding people who will give you real info about how it works there.

      2. Macedon*

        I think it’s fair game to ask a la, “Without naming specifics, can you tell me about an instance in your managing career where you dealt with poor employee performance?”

        I wouldn’t count on the answer as gospel, but the tone and approach should give you a lot of clues about the manager, their overall honesty, their method, etc.

        Long as you do it cucumber cool and stress you’re only asking because of witnessing a great deal of mismanagement in your previous roles, I can’t see how the manager could get around it without realising they’re sending a terrible signal.

        1. Holly*

          I still think that sounds like you’re interviewing the interviewer – like asking them behavioral questions! Which would be odd.

          1. Macedon*

            Why? An interview is a two-way street. We really need to move on from a hyper risk-adverse mentality where we involuntarily perpetuate the power imbalance between interviewer and interviewee.

            I’m coming in to talk to you about selling the most important commodity I own — my time, typically at least 40 hours a week. I get to ask questions too. By all means, defer to the interviwer for them to exhaust their questions first, but put together a three-point list of make-or-break issues for you and ask on them.

            1. Holly*

              Sure, but I think the question is posed in such a way that you wouldn’t be getting the information you want AND it comes off like you’re trying to figure out what would happen if you perform poorly, which isn’t the true purpose. You have to also come off as being aware of professional norms.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The problem is that what you really need to know is whether they have a high bar for performance or not. You could ask this question and get a reasonable sounding answer — because they did finally take action after an egregious problem went on for two years and they were pushed to handle it by someone above. You won’t hear that they have three other low performers on their team right now who they’re doing nothing about.

          What you really need to know is what their bar is for performance and what moves them to action in these situations, and that’s very hard to figure out by direct questioning as a candidate. You’ll get much more reliable info by asking other people.

          To ground this in real life: I interview managers all the time for a job I hire for (for a client) where being an excellent manager is a key qualification, and I’ve had to figure out ways to get at this very thing … and it does not work to ask “tell me about a time you dealt with poor performance” because of the reason above. With bad or mediocre managers, you’ll just get the one egregious case of their career. You’ve got to ask much more nuanced questions that get at how much urgency they feel to act, how quickly they want to bring problems to a resolution, how they do that, etc. I do that by giving them concrete scenarios to talk through (exercises, basically), which you can’t really do as a candidate.

          1. Macedon*

            I understand that — sincerely. But I’d argue you can apply this argument to most sensitive aspects about a workplace. For instance, you might be a woman starting in law and want to address your career options at a firm, in an industry renown for not promoting its women at the same rate as its men — you’d want to ask how this one firm is responding to this issue.

            You are guaranteed to get a PR-ified version of the truth, but your job as an interviewee is to glean what you can and, of course, factor in information from other people (though many interviewees walk into companies where they know no one, or not well enough to trust the insight at face value).

            But there are certainly signs. If I asked my interviewer on the above issue and got a long, inconvenienced pause, then a recital of the PR brochure, I’d factor that in.

            Certainly, it seems to me as if you lose nothing by asking. At worst, you just don’t gain.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The most likely scenario with bad managers isn’t “a long, inconvenienced pause, then a recital of the PR brochure.” It’s an answer that sounds reasonable but doesn’t actually accurately reflect how things work most of the time.

              The problem here is that it’s just an utterly unreliable source of info. If you want to ask and aren’t going to place any positive weight on the answer, then sure, go ahead (although I question people’s ability to keep themselves from being influenced by an answer that sounds good but isn’t actually accurate, and it doesn’t feel like a great use of interview time since you can’t place positive weight on it).

              But the question in the post was about how to find this info out, and that is not the way to do it.

              1. Antilles*

                The problem here is that it’s just an utterly unreliable source of info.
                Agreed. After all, if a terrible manager knew he was terrible, he’d already be working on fixing that! Instead, a bad manager usually genuinely and truly believes he’s doing it the right way.
                So when you ask how he handles performance issues, you’re going to get a nice detailed answer as to how the manager THINKS he handles performance issues fairly, decisively, and effectively…which may or may not bear the slightest resemblance to how he *actually* handles performance issues.

          2. Turquoisecow*

            Wouldn’t you also risk looking like a low performing candidate? Why do you need to know how the company or the manager hires low performing candidates? Are you planning to be one?

            It’s kind of like the student who asks about penalties for not doing homework or being late on the first day of class. Why do you need to know all the consequences for breaking the rules if you’re not planning to do so?

            It might cause the manager to think along those lines, or at the very least wonder if you’re going to be the type of employee who constantly questions or pushes back against the manager’s or the company’s policies.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yeah, I agree. I think there’s a distinction between saying, “What are your programs and efforts to address attrition and failure to promote women in law?” and “how do you deal with poor performance, and what did that look like, and did you fire the person,” etc. The latter signals that you’re a poor/low performer, which isn’t really the question (or information) that OP wants to pursue.

            2. AnotherJill*

              That was my first thought. If someone asked that of me in an interview, I would wonder if it was because they were a low performer and resented how they had been handled in the past.

    4. The Other Dawn*

      Because it comes across as an interrogation. And it’s inappropriate to expect a manager to disclose specific disciplinary issues and other private information to someone who has no business knowing it.

      I’d love to be able to ask something like this, as I’ve also seen poor performers just coast along until a good manager was hired, but I just don’t see a way to ask this without shooting myself in the foot.

      1. BRR*

        “It’s inappropriate to expect a manager to disclose specific disciplinary issues and other private information”

        I think this sums it up very well. It’s very similar to if my manager would disclose a coworker’s performance issues. Macedon, maybe flip it around and imagine your manager discussing your performance, without naming you, to a relative stranger.

    5. Doug Judy*

      The closest I have ever come to being able to find this out is I ask how they celebrate successes and how they give constructive feedback when ideas don’t work out. It’s not going to always get an accurate answer, but it’s something, and it’s not too weird or invasive. I also wouldn’t form too strong of an opinion on how they answer as it could be a bunch of bs.

      Unfortunately, low performers who stick around forever without consequence are always going to exist. Over time I have learned to ignore it as long as it’s not impacting me, and tactfully address it when it does.

    6. LJay*

      Because the person in the interview, if they were hired, would then be working with that person, So it would be inappropriate for the interviewer to reveal that much about their opinions on the performance and discipline of one of the person’s future coworkers.

      Would you really want your boss telling your new coworker that they thought that you were the lowest performer on the team, that you’ve been that way for 6 months and at first they thought you were just struggling to adapt to a new position but now it’s become clear that you just don’t have the skills needed to do the work, that you’ve gotten additional training but it hasn’t taken, and that you were on a PIP, and that they were just giving you enough rope to hang yourself with so you could be fired without HR having a concern?

      Because that’s the type of information you’re looking to have the manager reveal about someone on their team that the interviewee is going to be working with.

    7. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ok, since people don’t like that, how about looking at it from the positive?

      “I want to be in a team where my skills are improving and I am providing increasing benefits to the company, so I am curious about the team I might be joining. How are your employees encouraged to improve and excel? Do you think you have a high-performing team? If a teammate is having problems, how do you encourage them to improve?”

    8. Close Bracket*

      This is a question near and dear to my heart bc I have been on the receiving end of bad management regarding performance problems.
      If you asked my most immediate previous manager how they handled complaints about me, he would probably say that he spoke to me about it, and when he didn’t see improvement, he put me on a PIP. Sounds reasonable, right? On the surface, it is.
      If you asked me about it, what you would hear is that I had nothing but stellar reviews until I had a change in management and went from reporting to someone with many years of management experience to someone with none. This manager brought complaints to my attention in my yearly review, which was several months after he became my manager. He never met with me individually. The review was the first time we had a sit down conversation. He did not tell me what specifically the complaints were nor when they were made (i.e., how long had this been a problem). He also didn’t tell me how many complaints there had been. That would be the part where he spoke to me.
      I asked him to bring complaints to my attention when they happened. He agreed. I heard nothing for eight months (we still did not have any sit down, individual meetings), and then he put me on a PIP. The PIP contained no specifics, just “do better in this area.” That would be the part where he put me on a PIP after no improvement was seen.
      Someone else mentioned delving into gender issues. The area was my demeanor. I am a woman. It is well known and supported by evidence that women are harshly judged for behaviors that men get a pass on. I don’t want to include specific details bc I don’t want to write a novel, but while I may have been a bit salty at times, I was judged more harshly than the men. And there were plenty of salty men, including some of the ones who it later came out had complained about me.
      This was piss poor management. First, feedback needs to be immediate and specific. If there is an ongoing problem, there needs to be ongoing feedback. I didn’t get that, and that was bad management. Second, in interpersonal conflicts are not like other performance problems. Reports being late is an objective measure. Number of mistakes in a work product is an objective measure. Who is the saltiest and which salty behaviors cross a line is highly subjective (setting aside racism, etc., which was not at play here) even when gender isn’t a factor. So, you could ask my manager how he handled a problem employee and get what would sound like a good answer, but you wouldn’t hear any of the specifics which demonstrate that he handled this situation terribly.
      I would love to find ways to ask questions that would tell me whether a manager would handle something this poorly again. I never had these problems at other work places, and I would love to know how to screen for it. Like you, I think the interview is a two way process. If I do figure out a way to do a behavioral interview of a potential manager, I will wait until after I have an offer, though.

  5. Lacroix*

    Re #5

    Be careful about how you describe the fact that you don’t need to give notice. Some employers take serious note of how considerate you are about leaving your current employment – that may be them one day!

    I would suggest, if this comes up, that you emphasise that your current employment has voluntarily stated to you that notice is not required, and that you would wish to give them (or any employer) due care consideration in any other circumstance.

    1. Seriously?*

      I would guess that if they need someone sooner than two weeks, they will outright ask how soon the applicant can start. If they ask, be honest. If they don’t, then don’t volunteer the information. In fact, if they need someone ASAP they will most likely have the in the job post.

    2. Jennifer Thneed*

      OP5: many employers can’t have you start right away because they need time to follow their internal processes. You do NOT want to start your job only to find that you won’t get a computer for another week, trust me on this.

      The person who interviews you may not truly realize that some things take the amount of time they take and can’t be hurried. And again, you don’t want to be the person whose completely ordinary computer setup had to be expedited just because a manager somewhere didn’t understand the protocols. That might put you on a bad footing with the IT folks, even if they know it’s not your fault, and having them on your good side is useful.

    3. CM*

      Agreed. Also, in every single job interview I’ve had, they have asked me at some point before making an offer about when I’m available to start. So I think it’s safe to wait until the employer brings it up.

  6. E. Messily*

    Re: #2: The airline will (probably) not provide assistance, and the airport(s) probably won’t either.

    I’m deaf, and I’ve traveled internationally quite a bit. Even within the US, the “accommodations” provided are minimal to none and the staff assigned to disabled passengers get less than zero training (as in, they seem to be trained to do actively unhelpful things, and to ignore input from the actual passengers). There is definitely no automatic assistance with things like customs or visas or other non-wheelchair accommodations.

    That’s not to say you should feel obligated to help in this situation- you shouldn’t. But I would recommend disclosing your anxiety and asking if the person can ask someone else for help. If I had asked you for this favor, telling me that “the airline will provide it” would make me feel much worse about the interaction, and about you, than if you just said “I’m sorry, but I have really bad travel anxiety and I can’t handle both of our stuff.”

    1. Pumpkin Soup*

      Indeed. While you don’t mean it this way, it will seem dismissive if you just tell them the airline will help – chances are they’ve travelled before and have some idea of whether that’s realistically likely.

      By the way, it sounds like you’re expecting to help them figure out the visa. Are you sure they don’t just want you to read signs, or something?

      1. Not My Regular Username*

        You’d be surprised how little some people with travelling anxiety may know about airline accommodations. Someone I know has avoided flying for decades, doesn’t know how to navigate the modern airport process, and is too afraid/proud to investigate or ask questions – all of this reinforces their anxiety. For example, one of their fears of flying had to do with being concerned about injuring themselves while trying to get a heavy carry-on into the overhead compartments – this is not a stupid person, but they did not realize that they could ask for assistance or that it wouldn’t be unusual to do so.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          But they won’t get that help from the flight attendants, who have been directed to not help, so as to not risk injury to themselves. (Don’t know if this is true for every airline.) They’ll have to get the help from other passengers, who may or may not be gracious about it. On the other hand, they can choose to check their bag rather than carrying it on, which makes the whole boarding and debarking process so much easier.

          1. Sarah N*

            I definitely don’t think this is universally true…when I traveled while pregnant and with a young baby, flight attendants were definitely willing to help with my bags (and with holding the baby!)

        2. batman*

          Actually, some (maybe many) airlines don’t allow flight attendants to assist passengers in lifting their overhead luggage. It can cause injury to the flight attendant.
          I saw this happen once when I was randomly upgraded to first class. A woman who was also in first class asked (really, commanded) the flight attendant to put her bag in the overhead compartment and the attendant told her she wasn’t allowed to.

    2. E. Messily*

      I meant, ask another person on the work trip, but, re-reading, see that there may not be any. That doesn’t really change my answer, but I do think you should take into consideration the fact that there is not likely to be a readily available alternative. (Depends on the country, depends on the airport, depends on the disability and what specifically the coworker needs help navigating, obviously, but for the most part, foreign airports operate under the assumption that people with disabilities don’t travel, and if they do, they are traveling with an abled carer.)

      1. misspiggy*

        This is true in the Western world – but in most lower income countries, people have been amazingly helpful once they realise I have a disability.

      2. Friday*

        Someone definitely needs to take into consideration that there isn’t going to be a good alternative, but I think that someone needs to be the boss who is sending their reports on this trip, not the coworker with anxiety.

        1. E. Messily*

          There are some very different imaginings of the scenarios in play, here. One seems to be “this person will require my constant assistance and attention for the entirety of the trip; I cannot be expected to provide this as I am not a trained nurse.”

          Mine is “I’m going to have to ask someone to tell me when they call my number [or which line I need to be in, or what shuttle stop we’re at] and it’d be simpler if I had a person designated ahead of time to do that, rather than asking whichever random stranger is nearby.”

    3. Mad Baggins*

      Wow, I’m very surprised to hear that airports/airlines are so unhelpful. I’m sorry that has happened to you and thank you for sharing your experience.

      1. E. Messily*

        Thanks. I have many stories, but I think they would be off-topic and possibly guilt-trip-inducing. I really think the coworker is likely to be sympathetic and fine with the anxiety explanation. I ask people for this kind of help all the time, but I also travel solo all the time; I’d be fine with someone saying “no” as long as they didn’t tell me the airline would take care of me.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          Out of curiosity, where do you get help if you need it, when the airline won’t help and you’re traveling solo? I imagine you manage somehow, but I wonder now what kinds of resources/options do exist for people with various disabilities (I’m imagining how in my local airport there are carts that families/mobility-impaired travelers can use for free, or how elderly people can get wheeled around by airport staff–I’m realizing how much of these things are invisible until you need them).

          (Also please do not feel pressured to share any stories, but I think it would be helpful for OP and people without impairments like me who don’t have a good idea of what is/not out there!)

          1. misspiggy*

            Not E Messily, but I ask a spare member of staff for advice. Usually in Western airports the response ranges from bafflement to outright hostility, but often someone comes up with a solution. If not, I tend to grab a fellow passenger for help.

            Same for non-Western airports, but staff are generally much more willing to drop what they’re doing and prioritise someone asking for help.

            Amsterdam airport is incredible for disability friendly infrastructure, but if your needs are even slightly outside the box, the effort involved in getting people to help is incredible. Not as bad as the outright hostility I get from some British airport staff though.

          2. Jennifer Thneed*

            The real problem with those wheelchairs is that they are provided by the *airport*, not the airline. Which means that no matter how much the airline promises assistance, they’re still help captive by the airport’s staff. I’ve heard some nasty stories recently about people who waited forEVER for their wheelchairs, including one person who gave up and tried to crawl away and was prevented from doing so. Which, I get. It’s horrible to see an adult crawling on the floor, but I imagine the disabled person had run right out of fucks to give. (I’m goign to post links in a reply to this post.)

            1. Jennifer Thneed*

              Japanese airline forces disabled man to crawl aboard

              United Airlines apologizes after disabled man crawls off flight
              (You’ll be SHOCKED to learn that the man in question is African-American)

              “Until finally, he could wait no longer. As stunned flight attendants looked on, 29-year-old Neal fell to the floor and proceeded to drag himself roughly 50 feet to the airplane’s door, where his own wheelchair was waiting for him.” (I think this might be the one I was thinking of. Clearly I was wrong that anyone stopped him. Certainly nobody *helped* him.)


          3. E. Messily*

            I ask staff for help sometimes, but in my experience they are either incredibly overbearing or incredibly unreliable.

            Overbearing: I’ve had to argue more than once that I did NOT need a wheelchair (and, the times that I have needed a wheelchair due to back injury, was not permitted to make any decisions about shopping, eating, etc while the assigned person was supervising me). At Heathrow once, I had to debate for nearly half an hour in written English about whether or not I was allowed to get off the plane before a BSL interpreter arrived (the airport does not send interpreters to meet deaf passengers and I don’t know BSL anyway). I almost missed that connection, but didn’t. I almost missed another one because a gate agent in Paris thought it was unsafe for me to travel alone. There is a high chance that, if I ask anyone for any help, they will assign someone to me for the rest of my time in the airport who will talk to me very loudly nonstop, want to practice their ASL, tell me I’m not allowed to use the bathroom alone, and generally be a huge pain in the ass.


            Unreliable: I was nearly arrested because a gate agent, after telling me to preboard because I am deaf, called out to me from behind as I walked down the jetway and then freaked out and called security when I didn’t respond. I have acually literally missed multiple flights because I had asked a gate agent to tell me when it was time to board, and then they did not tell me when the flight moved to another gate (and no one changed the posted information.) I’ve been sent to the “TSA cares” booth when what I wanted was to know the revised ETA of my flight, and nearly missed the flight because of that. I’ve been told to sit and wait for help and then forgotten about too many times to count.


            I generally ask nearby passengers and/or improvise without asking anyone, instead. It is far less risky and stressful to have someone [hearing] travel with me and keep an ear out, but if I knew someone thought of me as the kind of burden people here are getting all huffy about, I would never ask a friend or coworker for help again.

            Luckily, I think most people faced with the actual type of help requests that are likely realize that it is not a soul-crushing babysitting responsibility. It’s a few minor favors for things that are hard for me and easy for you.

            1. E. Messily*

              (If a person with a visible & compatible disability is nearby, I always ask them first. They are way less likely to be shitty or weird about requests for assistance.)

    4. all aboard the anon train*

      I’m able-bodied, but I was going to say that as someone who has travelled a lot, most countries rarely have automatic assistance at customs or visas/immigration for disabled people. Even sometimes wheelchairs get no extra accommodations. This is even worse if you’re traveling to a country where customs or immigration doesn’t always do things legally.

      Again, this is only what I’ve seen and not experienced, but I’m not sure why people assume there’s automatic assistance at airports/airlines/customs/immigrations. As an able-bodied person, it’s hard enough to get help sometimes, so I can’t imagine how much more difficult it makes it if you need additional assistance.

      1. Not Australian*

        In the UK recently there have been a couple of egregious cases where a wheelchair-user couldn’t be taken from the plane because (a) they’d lost his wheelchair and (b) the staff bringing him his wheelchair got stuck in a lift for 45 minutes. There seems to be little or no joined-up thinking about assistance for people with disabilities anywhere on the public transport network – which is to say that, when it works, it works well, but the rest of the time it doesn’t work at all.

        1. Zip Silver*

          I feel for the wheelchair person, but I feel way worse for the staff member caught in the elevator for 45 minutes. That’s pretty much my worst irrational fear.

          1. Working with Professionals*

            Here in the US, the Atlanta airport shuts down their people movers and trains during the late night/early morning and reduce staff levels so my Mom, who had a severe heart condition, had to walk while pushing her transport chair quite a long way before someone took pity and pushed her in the chair the rest of the way. At that airport we are talking miles of walking. She was identified as needing assistance and yet was left alone on the plane, waiting for the promised help for forty minutes before giving up and trying to help herself. So even here where there are supposed to be accommodations and assistance, decisions are made that can seriously impact someone negatively who was depending on them.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              At that airport we are talking miles of walking.

              My heart goes out to your mom. We landed from an international flight in Atlanta, and they had signs that pretty much said “Don’t give up! This IS the path to customs.” Apparently at these points many persons beyond myself started to think that we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere back there, and consider turning around, and they had deployed signage appropriately to herd people back onto the trail.

              I did eventually make it out of the airport, but it was looking iffy for a while.

            2. Snark*

              We were in Rio de Janeiro this summer, and the walk from where Delta flights arrive to the customs line is seriously like half a mile – and not a wheelchair in sight. If I were mobility disabled, that would be my nightmare.

        2. Constanze*

          I mean… that sucks, but it is not really a good example of airports or airlines lacking procedures for disabled people. It kind of seems like a freak accident (or rather… kind of expected when you think about the amount of luggage airlines lose). Luggage gets lost all the time when you travel and it is frequently fragile or precious (think instruments…) and it happens to everybody.
          Getting stuck in an elevator is not really proof of an absence of procedures, it just happens.

          1. Bob*

            While Not Australian picked the example thats been in the news recently, there has been a lot about this;
            the BBC have a reporter who needs a wheelchair and he has documented the many, many bad experiences he has had. So while this was a freak accident, dont disregard the fact that its was just the cherry on top of a crap pie.

          2. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            The person in question (a reporter for the BBC) noted that it had happened to him consistently at Heathrow Airport, and not at others. He highlighted that it was due to procedures being lacking: “His wheelchair was unloaded from the hold and taken to the aircraft door. But for some reason before he could reach it, the wheelchair was removed by ground staff to baggage reclaim.”

          3. batman*

            Honestly, I think it’s worse when the airline loses a wheelchair (or something similar) than losing something else. A wheelchair is how the person GETS AROUND. They are stuck without it. There need to be procedures to make sure it never happens (e.g. why not but the wheelchair into the luggage compartment at the gate instead of making it go through with the checked luggage? or why not have a place to store wheelchairs on the plane itself?)

      2. Rat in the Sugar*

        Personally I assumed that there should be automatic assistance because I’ve traveled through the unaccompanied minor program many times as a kid and it was (almost) always well run and organized. Airlines are obviously capable of organizing assistance programs. Also I’ve seen airline employees pushing passengers in wheelchairs or calling carts people with mobility issues, and just assumed that it was part of some assistance program that had the same level of planning and organization as the unaccompanied minor program. I can see from quite a few comments here that that is not the case…

        1. Thursday Next*

          It is, sadly, not the case.

          These days at least, unaccompanied minors pay a surcharge, and I’m sure that helps ensure dedicated assistance.

          Accessibility accommodations in the U.S. are supposed to be free, and there’s such unevenness in training about accommodations as well as in publicizing available assistance.

          One airline denied me preboarding and made me leave my daughter’s wheelchair at the door to the gate, so she didn’t have it for the walkway onto the plane. I don’t fly that airline anymore.

          I have more stories, but it’s too early in the morning to stir my anger pot. ;)

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            Ohh, I didn’t even think about the fact that unaccompanied minor tickets cost more, that makes a lot of sense as to why that program isn’t really representative. I wish there was a way to incentivize airlines for disability assistance programs the same way without charging an extra fee to the traveler, but I don’t know what that would be…

        2. LJay*

          Unfortunately, the assistance that disabled individuals get tends to be operated by separate vendors from the airline.

          These companies tend to pay their employees minimum wage, and don’t seem to spend much money on organization and infrastructure either.

          If a plane has more disabled passengers than expected, then they may not have enough workers to handle all the passengers at once. It’s not like they tend to be notified ahead of time so they can ensure staffing.

          If they’re short staffed because they can’t hire enough people, the quality suffers. If an employee takes an extra-long break or has to suddenly go home early due to being sick, the quality suffers.

          I’ve seen plenty of wonderful, patient, caring employees. I’ve also seen ones who aren’t those things.

          So really it can be a good experience or it can be an awful one depending on the company, the staffing situation, and the individual employee involved.

          For the unaccompanied minor program, they’re all airline employees. They know when the ticket is booked that there will be an unaccompanied minor so staffing can be ensured, and they’re given specific training on how to handle the situation, and are compensated more than minimum wage. Also, the needs of an average kid are less variable than the needs of someone who has a disability and so it’s easier to train people to handle kids than it is to prepare them for any number of possible disabilities that may come through.

        3. Jennifer Thneed*

          There’s some HUGE legal issues for losing children or allowing them to be molested. And you get really really bad publicity. The general public is much less concerned about disabled adults than about children.

          I remember flying on my own at 9 years old to visit family. That was in 1971. I was completely on my own and nothing happened. But boy howdy, it sure could have. Fast forward a couple of decades and my 9-year-old cousin was being met at the airport by our grandfather. She was jumping up and down shrieking Grampa! Grampa! on the other side of the barrier while he was showing ID to the airport personnel. We all agreed that this was completely okay. What happened in between? Well, the 1970’s happened, with a WHOLE LOT of divorced couples whose children travelled between parents on a regular basis, for one.

      3. MLB*

        I am able-bodied as well, but travelling stresses me out. I love to travel, but the actual process of getting from A to B is very stressful to me. I don’t have anxiety, but I personally would not be comfortable assisting another person, who requires special accommodations, through an international flight. I am more than happy to help someone if I see them struggling in general, but I wouldn’t want to be obligated in this situation. If that makes me an asshole, then I’m an asshole, but I would politely decline.

        1. Annoyed*

          Agreed. I am a generally nice, kind, helpful person. I try to be the change I wish to see. But this is a huge ask and I would feel responsible for that person. Nothing they could say would lessen that feeling. I just couldn’t do it.

    5. Kella*

      Yes, I came to say this as well. I have thankfully never had to travel since becoming disabled but I’ve read many news stories of people with disabilities being neglected if not outright abused by airline staff and heard first-person stories from friends too. Even some cases where someone called ahead to make sure assistance was available, got documentation showing that they needed that assistance, then arrived and was told no such program for assistance existed even though their website clearly indicated it did. Airlines are awful to people with disabilities and there’s a good chance this is why the coworker requested assistance from someone she was traveling with.

      OP #2, I’d still encourage you to find out if it’s possible for someone else to assist her because you’re handling your own medical issue which is valid. However, if you find that it’s not possible and your coworker needs your help, I think a really helpful thing would be to sit down with her and get very clear instructions on what she expects. Often the things disabled people need are much simpler and easier than able-bodied people expect and they are capable of far more independence than is anticipated. That doesn’t mean anxiety won’t be something you’ll still have to manage, but I know with my anxiety, I find it really helpful to have clear expectations, thorough knowledge of my available resources, and focusing on the fact that someone else needs my help tends to help me too.

      1. Blue*

        This is the direction I’d go. I’d probably disclose that I have a tendency toward travel-related anxiety attacks and am worried about my ability to handle looking after both of us, and I’d ask if she could give me a very clear picture of the kind of help she’s looking for. You might find that nope, definitely don’t feel capable of helping in any of those ways, but it’s possible that there are certain aspects that you *can* manage and agree to help with or perhaps you can envision some alternatives that you could offer as possibilities. But asking for details means that you’re not giving a hard no unless you’re sure there’s no way you can realistically help.

      2. Thursday Next*

        I was also going to suggest asking your coworker what kind of help is necessary. If it’s a question of directing your coworker to the correct line for visa holders/non citizens, or repeating announcements about which zone of the plane is being boarded, I do think it wouldn’t look great if you said preemptively that you couldn’t take any such tasks on.

        Sometimes people see/hear “disability” and assume things about the kind of assistance necessary. It’s better to find out what those things are before saying you can’t do it.

        1. Hellanon*

          I was just going to say this – maybe find what she needs, have an honest conversation about what you need, and make a pact to help each other? Lots of upside, very little downside, way less guilt …

          1. Ophelia*

            Yes, I was also going to suggest that you talk about whether it’s possible to travel as a team and help each other – it might really not work out for OP’s anxiety, but if co-worker happens to be a whiz at visa paperwork and is experienced with X, but needs OP’s help for Y, then it might be a workable setup.

      3. nonymous*

        I wonder if it might be helpful to reduce op #2’s anxiety to work closely with her coworker in (over)-preparing for the trip?

        For example things like looking at the airport maps to learn about signage/bathroom locations/walking distance, reading up on what aid services are available, planning for how to ask for help (if co-worker is hard of hearing, maybe a cheat sheet of common questions/answers in English and local language so that locals can communicate back to her by pointing at the appropriate phrases), identifying the full packet of documents that will be needed, etc. My personal experience with international travel is that at some point customs wants to speak to adults individually, and it’s certainly a more robust preparation for coworker to be fully independent when they end up separated. It’s also very possible that international customs will pull OP aside if they find an issue with coworker’s visa if it’s obvious they are travelling for the same event.

        I think that having a game plan for if things go horrifically wrong is reasonable. For example, at what point should OP#2 assume that bad things have happened to coworker (and what action should be taken)? Given there are sensory impairments in play I would expect there to be a slightly longer process for coworker to get thru customs, but maybe she could text OP when getting started at the customs line and then if there isn’t an “all-clear” text within X hrs, OP will call their mutual supervisor?

        tldr; OP#2 can support her coworker without having to be responsible in the moment.

      4. ToS*


        Often the things disabled people need are much simpler and easier than able-bodied people expect and they are capable of far more independence than is anticipated.

        So ask and get your expectations in alignment. FWIW, my mom is SUPER anxious (retiring and having Foxnews as the backdrop to her homelife have added the “super”. She copes with air travel by getting to the airport 3+ hours ahead of time. We are often carry-on fliers. We agree to meet her at the gate.

        People with disabilities often budget time similarly as Murphy’s Law seems to stalk them. I’m thinking LW might, if everyone is low-key and managing themselves well, have a decent go of it if this is more peer-to-peer than expecting insurmountable dependency.

    6. Gen*

      My cousin has travelled extensively with a wheelchair and has never had a successful airport experience- left on planes, wheelchair parts damaged or missing, entire wheelchair sent to the wrong terminal, in-airport transport co-opted by other travellers etc. So I’d say not to rely on an airport to help even with physical aids.

      Often the second person isn’t there to do the work for the person with disabilities but to back them up, provide a witness and depending on the impairment to watch out for things the airport staff think they won’t notice. For example my cousin is always seated so she can’t necessarily see over check-in desks, other people travelling with them have had to stop airline staff throwing fragile items or trying to process the items with ordinary luggage when that’s not the proper process.

      Which isn’t to say that OP should do it, anxiety is awful in itself, but their coworker might not be expecting as much detailed assistance or the kind of assistance they think, but also the airport maybe worse than you expect which won’t help from an anxiety point of view.

    7. Mookie*

      Yes. I’m in the LW’s position, and I strongly recommend that she makes it clear to her colleague she won’t be able to assist her, but (provided the LW wants to do so, which I wouldn’t, simply because my anxiety requires my full attention and self-care) she can be a traveling companion and informal advocate. The colleague needs to know this sooner rather than later. This is truly no different, in my mind, from colleagues keeping their distance and independence when traveling in order to get some quiet, private time. Because this is both reasonable and common, I believe the colleague will be understanding here.

    8. OP#2*

      Hello, all – OP here. You all have been so thoughtful and well-informed in your comments, so I’ll try to respond to a few (and frankly just need a brain dump, as I was of course up until 3AM thinking about this).

      Since sending the letter, my colleague traveling with me has been almost 100% confirmed. To reiterate, they did expressly ask about traveling on the same flight so I could “help them with” the arrival/border entry process, and there is no one else from work who will be/can be there to support.

      On disclosing the anxiety: At this point, I’ve mentioned enough concerns about the travel process without explicitly mentioning my anxiety that I think I need to tell them, although I’d really prefer not to. Right now I just sound like a jerk who just doesn’t want to be helpful.
      On the logistics: Someone in the comments below mentioned that there might be some aspect of “infantilizing” the travel companion by assuming they can’t travel on their own, which has been some of my hesitation here. In my opinion, some of our colleagues sometimes act like that, and I’m sure I’m not perfect at it either but I try really hard to avoid it. So just like I wouldn’t want to be treated like I can’t handle something due to my anxiety, I don’t want to treat them like they can’t handle something due to their sense impairment and for me to then take over something they can manage themselves. Unfortunately, part of what helps me to restructure anxious thoughts is having all available information to mitigate potential problems, etc. – so for me to alleviate my anxiety in that way, I’d have to be inserting myself into their whole visa / exception setup.
      On whether this person can navigate on their own if I couldn’t support: They’re going to have to anyway on the way back, as I had preplanned and -approved vacation added onto this trip. Theoretically it will be an easier process for them, as they’re returning back to our home country, but I’m trying not to add too much thought on that onto my full anxiety plate!

      One or a couple of the commenters had an approach I liked, of explaining in brief my issues and basically having a “how do we make this work for both of us”-type conversation, where I ask what type of support they need of me and maybe I can share what works best for me in these situations.

      Which I’m about to do… wish me luck.

      1. fieldpoppy*

        I will just add, LW, that I have traveled to at least two dozen countries that require visas in the past five years, and I just want to reassure you for your own personal anxiety that as long as you know what they expect (3 main streams: prior visa all done and in your passport; e-visa approval with forms; pay $50 and go in at the airport) — it really isn’t anything that will throw you. (Not talking about having to help your colleague here, just reassuring you). I travel a LOT AND I have a lot of travel anxiety, and this is one of the things I’ve gotten more comfortable with — it feels onerous because it’s So! Official! but as long as you have the paperwork and remember that they are just going through routine questions, you will be okay yourself. Good luck.

      2. blackcat*

        Good luck!

        I do think framing it as “How do we get through this crappy situation together, given both of our special needs?” is likely to go over well.

        1. OP#2*

          Thank you all! blackcat – that’s almost exactly how I framed it. And they were really kind about it. I still feel really icky about having to share it and about the situation overall, but I suppose it speaks to the fact that it’s better to be open to try to solve problems rather than hold them in – though of course, sharing medical information in a work context is often not that simple.

          1. Kris*

            There’s also the possibility that your colleague, knowing about your travel anxiety, will be able to provide some support for you. Sending you positive thoughts, OP2.

          2. fposte*

            Oh, it sounds like we have a result within the span of comments time! Good for you, OP; I know this wasn’t easy (anxiety brings its own meta-anxiety so effectively, doesn’t it?) and it sounds like this was a good outcome.

          3. i woke up like this*

            Interdependence is a big thread in disability activism, the idea that people with the same and different disabilities can support each other in unique and powerful ways. I’m wondering if this conversation leads to how you can help each other–you with visual info, the other traveler with mitigating anxiety–to make this process easier for both of you!

          4. give me something I can use*

            I came to say – though I take your point about the lower stress of traveling solo, I personally really like traveling with a partner who can watch my bags while I take a pit stop, help me translate and navigate, and generally be a second set of eyes/hands/ideas. (I have anxiety, but not really around travel!)

            I hope you & your co-worker can figure out a way to make this trip a success :) It sounds like you haven’t worked closely with them before, which means you don’t have any interpersonal groundwork laid, alas. If you can, remind yourself that you are allowed to have and express your own needs, including building extra time into the schedule, or whatever makes you less stressed. Hopefully if it’s work travel, you have more leeway to just throw money at some problems.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I like this framing.

          OP, I truly sympathize with not wanting to disclose the anxiety, and how fraught that can be. But at this point, not doing so can make you look like you’re just refusing to help when it would be easy (since people can’t see why it would be hard). Which is also not a good look at work.

      3. Manchmal*

        I think that talking through the specific kinds of help your coworker will need would go miles to alleviating your anxiety. You haven’t mentioned the nature of your coworker’s disability, so it could range from the physical (pushing a wheelchair or guiding a visually impaired person through the airport) to the interpersonal (helping said visually impaired person fill out forms on the plane and helping them interact with the agents during the entry process. I don’t suffer from anxiety, so I’m not sure which kind of assistance would be more triggering for you, but it seemed from your original post that it was the not-knowing that was the worst. Presumably this person has traveled before and can describe any difficulties they anticipate encountering, and how they might need your assistance if they arise. I would go against the grain of a lot of the advice and think you can’t really just say “no” to any help without 1) seeming like a jerk and 2) jumping the gun without more information.

      4. Dr. Pepper*

        Would you feel more comfortable if you knew the *exact* type of assistance required? Like, knowing the precise job beforehand instead of a generalized “assistance”. I would panic too, not knowing really what I was supposed to be helping with or actually doing for this person. Often I find it’s the not knowing that’s the problem, and once the job is clearly defined I might not *like* it but I’m not anxious about it. Maybe have a more in depth conversation with your coworker about exactly what they would need from you, with concrete details and a plan of action. I find that if I know what’s going to happen, my anxiety is much lessened (but that’s just true for me, you may be different).

        I’m assuming, of course, that this conversation has not been had already. If that’s the case, my apologies.

      5. theletter*

        I don’t think there should be anything stopping your colleague from requesting help from the airline/airport regardless of whether she has a traveling coworker. Grandma always got a wheelchair or a motor cart when she traveled, even when it was with three able-bodied grandkids.

      6. Courageous cat*

        As someone with a lot of anxiety and panic attacks, and typically a lot of anxiety about flying, you have my 100% sympathy and empathy here. This would not sit well with my mental state. My recommendation would be to A, look up what you’ll need to do beforehand (I wrote out a step-by-step list of how I was going to navigate the airport when I was at my peak of fear of flying), and B, consider anxiolytics. Klonopin has made a world of difference for me.

    9. Kit-Kat*

      Yeah, I’m treated horribly at the airport. I’m very short, and airports are a prime example of why I consider it to be a disability. Even something as simple and obvious as *I can’t reach the overhead bins to put my bag up* results in sometimes outright disdain from flight attendants. If I go to the grocery store, people pull items off high shelves for me the minute they see me reaching but if I dare to ask a flight attendant to help me with my bag… so I just don’t anymore. I rely on random strangers lol. This among other issues I encounter at airports, idk why it is, but they are NOT accommodating at all.

      1. blackcat*

        Yep, my mom has two artificial shoulders. She can’t put a bag in a bin. She has learned to ask slightly younger women (in their 40s or so)–no matter their height–to help her because they always either help or find someone who can.

        1. Dot*

          Blackcat, I don’t fault your mom and I’d certainly be willing to help her or someone in her situation, but this comment made me and sad and tired: “She has learned to ask slightly younger women (in their 40s or so)–no matter their height–to help her because they always either help or find someone who can.”

          One more task being passed onto the (literal) shoulders of women who are assumed to be universally willing and able to help at all times. This used to be something we asked men to do, specifically young, able-bodied men. Now we ask women because women are “nice” and will get the job done without too much fuss.

          Just an aside, I’m a petite woman in my 30s and I bring a carry on that I can fit under my seat because I’m an introvert who hates all the scrambling around the bins.

      2. justcourt*

        I think I have read before that flight attendants are specifically trained/instructed not to help passengers loading their luggage into overhead bins. If flight attendants spent years lifting luggage into the bins most of them would probably develop some kind of repetitive movement injury (not to mention the one off injuries from lifting heavy bags), and airlines want to avoid paying worker’s compensation claims. So airlines have made it explicitly not part of flight attendants duties, and any flight attendant who lifts a bag and gets injured can be punished/terminated and not have their medical expenses covered.

        1. Kit-Kat*

          Oh interesting. That makes sense, though the attitude is definitely what bothers me the most (they could just politely explain).

          1. justcourt*

            Yeah, attitude is annoying and unnecessary, but I can see not wanting to explain things. I worked in customer service long enough to find out that some people see explanations as openings to negotiate.

    10. AngelicGamer the Visually Impaired Peep*

      I am going to knock on the wood / thank whatever is watching over me that I’ve never had a bad travel experience with being disabled. The only thing that I remember as towards the worst scale was a person in training (or just clueless) wanting to try and rip apart my cane because the bungee cord inside looked “off” to him. I basically went “excuse me, what the hell are you doing?! I want a supervisor. NOW.”. I had a spare cane with me but it was in my packed luggage and I was not about about go through O’Hare and then Dulles without my cane. My cane got rescanned by the supervisor and it was allowed to go through. Just… ugh.

      That said, OP 2, I am very happy that you’ve come clean with your co-worker. As a disabled person, I wouldn’t be relying on my co-workers for help because I feel like I’m imposing on them and there’s a ton of invisible disabilities. I have no clue if my co-worker has fibro or anxiety or MS so I err on the side of doing as much for myself as possible. If I need help, I have a very clear “this is what I need, could you help me with this or is it too much for you” conversation ASAP.

  7. LarsTheRealGirl*

    OP 1 – I think this may be good healthcare intentions gone bad. In a lot of cases, these events are sponsored by the insurance company, because it costs a lot less per person to do flu shots this way than to have everyone go to their own doctor. (Plus, it pressures people into getting them so hopefully less healthcare costs overall…)

    The VP could have been told “we need you to try to get EVERYONE here and we’ll give you a x% discount on premiums” or something of the sort and the VP just hasn’t handled it properly.

    (Not excusing the VP – they should know better – but this may explain the motivations.)

    1. Lisa*

      It could also be some kind of “As Measured By” metric for the flu shot program. The people running the flu shot program would be able to claim that it was more successful because 99% of employees participated, or because there was a 20% increase from last year. In some corporate cultures, that can be claimed as a job well done, be part of their annual accomplishments, play into success level, promotion and raises… even if it DIDN’T help the bottom line, save costs, etc.

      1. Seriously?*

        Although it seems like they could easily change the metric to be how many people got the flu shot at all, rather than at the clinic. Or, even better, how many ELIGIBLE employees were vaccinated so that they can count just not count those with exemptions.

    2. Kay*

      I would bet money that the office is getting a kickback from the clinic, given the level of pressure. I’m at a large academic institution, and every time they try to institute something mandatory like this, it turns out the administration is getting a kickback of some kind.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        That’s an insight. I wouldn’t have had any idea. But reading everyone else’s comments, I was starting to wonder if there was a link between the employer’s push for the shot and the rise in advertising medications.

  8. beth*

    #2: Anxiety is a legit medical issue (whether general or specific to a certain situation, e.g. travel), and as Alison says, if you’re concerned that there’s a possibility of a debilitating level of anxiety here, you really aren’t equipped to help your coworker in this situation. I deal with anxiety issues myself, and a severe enough anxiety attack can definitely impede my ability to navigate a situation myself, much less help someone else through it. You can’t support someone else very well when you’re on unsteady ground yourself, after all.

    I do think there are ways to explain this without it coming off as “I can’t be bothered,” though. The easiest way is probably to disclose your anxiety. “I get severe travel anxiety, to the extent that I really can’t guarantee I’ll be able to help you navigate this. I wanted to let you know as soon as possible so you can find more reliable assistance” is something most people would accept at face value, I think; your coworker might be disappointed, but they’re unlikely to feel like you’re just trying to ditch them. (“I have a medical condition that will make me unreliable as an assistant here” might also work if you don’t want to disclose that much detail.)

    You can also mitigate any hurt feelings by offering to help them navigate the process of requesting assistance from the airline, if that’s something you feel able to do. Depending on their impairment, things like finding the right form on a website (which aren’t always screen-reader-friendly) or making a phone call (which can be difficult for hard-of-hearing folks) might be much easier and faster for you to do than it would be for them. And it gives you a way to help a colleague out without committing to more than you can realistically do.

    1. beth*

      I’m seeing the comments about assistance from the airline not being a thing–that’s unfortunate. I wonder if your employer should be providing some kind of dedicated assistance for your coworker here? Since it’s a business trip, it feels like it’s the employer’s responsibility to make sure it’s feasible for their employee to get where they need to go for work purposes. (Or at least, it’s in their best interest to do so.) Instead of looking for airline support, maybe you could offer to help them see if there’s an internal process for requesting extra assistance on this kind of trip, or find another coworker who’s also going who they might be able to ask.

      1. Butter Makes Things Better*

        Good idea about looking to the employer to facilitate this — they’re both traveling to represent the company, so it stands to reason they should make this as easy as possible for the person needing assistance.

      2. E. Messily*

        My assumption would be that the coworker is able to travel unassisted and is asking for help that would be convenient but not essential. The amount of inconvenience that not having the help would cause might be anywhere from “I might have to ask someone to repeat something” to “I will have to have a bunch of self-advocacy arguments with a series of poorly informed people in a language neither of us is fluent in”, depending on the details.

        But I do not think the letter-writer (or the commenters) should assume that the coworker is unable to travel alone. If she is, then the letter-writer (and the commenters) should assume that the coworker knows how to go about getting whatever help she needs. Asking the letter-writer was one approach- if that’s not on the table, say so, and the coworker can do whatever else she needs to, to manager her own accommodations.

        People with disabilities generally do not need other people’s advice on how best to deal with their own disabilities. Just say you can’t help. You don’t need to tell her how to solve the problem (and you are highly unlikely to know more about how to solve this problem than she does, anyway).

        1. Mookie*

          Yep. I interpreted the request as asking for a favor, not revealing she has no capacity to travel independently when necessary. Both parties here have first-hand experience with navigating the accomodation / exception experience.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          That’s a good point. I have a co-worker who has minimal sight and recently accompanied him on an international trip. I know he travels occasionally and I know he manages just fine on his own, but I was happy to make things a little easier when I could (things like reading menus, directing him to the right security line, that kind of thing). If I hadn’t been there, I’m sure he still would have made it home.

          That’s not to say the OP has to do the same. My help made things run a bit more smoothly for my co-worker and for the rest of the group we were with, but I don’t have travel anxiety beyond the flight itself and I kind of enjoy navigating. I imagine that a directive of, “You must help your co-worker! He can’t do it alone!” is infantilizing and certainly the wrong approach, beyond putting a burden on the OP.

        3. boo bot*

          Yes, I wasn’t actually clear on whether the letter writer had asked what kind of assistance the coworker would need. I realize that asking feels like opening the door to negotiation, like giving someone reasons you can’t drive them home and cook them dinner every day or something, but in the context of explaining her own anxiety I think it might make sense.

          OP, if the assistance the coworker needs turns out to just be, “read signs out loud so I can get to the right kiosk,” or “look at me and repeat something if I miss it,” or “stay close when we’re at customs so they see I have someone with me and are less inclined to treat me poorly,” or “smell me and make sure I don’t need to stop for a shower before the meeting,” would you be willing to do that?

          I can be prone to anxiety (in the clinical sense, although not as severely as many people are) and for me, having an achievable task to focus on can sometimes actually help me; for me (and you may well be very different!) helping the coworker might actually help me through the trip.

          1. boo bot*

            Also: not to bright-side you too hard, but don’t discount the idea that your coworker might be able to assist you, too. If you’re anxious about visas and international travel, it sounds like your coworker has already had to do some planning around that and knows something about the process, and you’ll be going through most of it together – it’s not like you’ll have to manage them through it all and then go back to square one and start over for yourself.

          2. boo bot*

            Oh wow, I realized my last example probably sounds horribly offensive. The OP said “an impairment to one of their senses” and one of my best friends has no sense of smell, so I went to that automatically, even though it’s not likely the coworker’s issue.

            My sincere apologies!

        4. $!$!*

          Thank you so much especially for your last paragraph. I think people try to be helpful without being patronizing and it can be a difficult balance

  9. Akgal*

    Oh gosh vaccines. Really good for society really bad for me. I have horrible reactions to vaccines especially the flu vaccine. Twice I almost had to be hospitalized because of it. Then my doctor said that I should not get flu vaccine because for me the cure was worse than the disease. My oldest also has severe reactions to them. Not the rash at injection site but difficulty breathing type.
    The thing is that where I live you can either get all of your vaccines or none of them and the state doesn’t care but if you get some but not all you can get hauled before CPS for medical neglect. So now no one gets vaccinated in my household. It’s stupid and I wish that wasn’t the case but it’s what I have to do.
    It’s nerve wracking especially because Indian Health Service is or was talking about kicking everyone out who wasn’t fully vaccinated. They were even planning forcing people with egg allergies into being fully vaccinated. The plan was to hospitalized people then give them the vaccines than treat the allergic reaction.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      I have a really bad reaction to the flu vaccine as well, so I never get them. Fainting, vomiting, diarrhea, hives. It’s bad and not worth it for me. I’ve never once gotten the flu since I stopped getting the vaccine (but I rarely got the flu before I started the vaccine, so I guess I’m just lucky?). I’m up to date on all other necessary vaccines that are required/recommended, but I do skip the flu vaccine every year.

      I keep not getting it to myself because people treat me like I’m the worst person alive, even when I say how sick it makes me and that I have a doctor’s note recommending I not get it.

      1. Akgal*

        Oh I get keeping it to yourself. This is the first time I’ve admitted that to non family. Even my mother-in-law thinks I should just suck it up. My husband told her off though. That made me happy.
        Like I said if I could do the vaccines that didn’t cause trouble and not do the ones that did, I would do that.
        I’m not some crazy anti vaccer the thing with autism makes no sense to me. I just want to be treated with respect.

        1. Not a Mere Device*

          Situations like yours are why I get the flu vaccine every year, even though I don’t live or work with children or immune-compromised people: I’ve never had a bad reaction to the flu vaccine,so it feels like part of my responsibility to the community at large to get the vaccine and thus contribute to herd immunity.

          I’m sorry that the Indian Health Service has lost track of the idea that the goal is to improve public health, and that’s not served by making you have a vaccine that makes you sick, or by punishing you for getting your kid 2/3 of the standard vaccines instead of none.

      2. Baby Fishmouth*

        This is so weird to me because I’ve always thought the flu shot was an optional thing. Most people I know get it, but those people also get the flu way more often than me (even with the shot!). I don’t think I’ve ever gotten the flu in my life, and so my doctor has told me I don’t need the shot if I don’t want it. Obviously I’d do it if I worked with medically vulnerable people/in health care. But nobody has ever even remotely tried to make me feel guilty for not getting the flu shot.

        I am all for vaccines – I just was completely under the impression this was an optional one based on health/jobs/life circumstance. Is it not?

        1. Bye Academia*

          When it was first introduced, it was marketed as an optional thing. And it still is, in the sense that it’s not required for most schools/workplaces in the way that other vaccines are.

          However, it benefits society as a whole when more people opt in. It makes it harder for the vaccine to spread when the virus encounters more vaccinated people. While an unvaccinated person who is healthy like you may not come down with any flu like symptoms, it’s still possible for a healthy person to carry the virus and spread it to someone else who will get sick. Even those who do not work with medically vulnerable people encounter them without realizing it on public transportation, in the grocery store, being out in public in regular life.

          I’m not saying this to make you feel guilty or convince you to get a shot, just providing some perspective on why people feel strongly about increasing the vaccination rate. But people get to decide what is best for their own bodies. While it would be great if more people who are able to chose to get vaccinated, forcing people (especially those with medical contraindications!!) is no good.

        2. nonymous*

          About 25 years ago I was advised to get a flu shot only if I was high-risk or in a household with a high-risk person. I definitely got weird responses if I mentioned getting the flu shot back in elementary school! As I understand it, now it’s recommended for most people, unless there is a medical condition that precludes it.

          The benefit is that even if one gets the flu (there are many strains floating around, so the shot might not cover the specific one an individual gets exposed to) after the shot there is partial immunity to related strains. This is the reasoning why CDC does not advocate the quadrivalent over the trivalent formulations, even though the former has both type B strains likely to be circulating this season. Link in name.

        3. Dee*

          I think it’s probably a sign of the contentiousness of the larger vaccination argument, where people who are exasperated with anti-vax people are more sensitive to someone not getting a shot.

          The CDC does recommend that you get a flu vaccine, though it is obviously more important for certain groups of people. I will say, the memory of the one time I got the full-on miserable flu makes me really motivated to get my shot every year. I was useless for two weeks at least.

        4. Natalie*

          If you want to get real technical about it, all vaccines are optional (I’m speaking from an American perspective, for clarity). Antivaccination rhetoric aside, the main incentive used to encourage vaccination is school enrollment, and in plenty of states you can “philosophically” exempt your kids anyway. Some daycares and doctors offices require the normal vaccination schedule, but that’s private company policy.

        5. all aboard the anon train*

          It’s optional, but there were definitely times I felt pressured to get it because people have very strong feelings about getting every vaccination possible. I’m all for vaccinations and I think they’re great, but I was young and susceptible to people yelling at me that I needed a flu vaccination or else I was a horrible person who could kill someone if I got the flu and came into contact with an ill person. So I got them against the recommendations of doctors and my own health. Now I know better, and while I do understand why it’s great to get them, I’m not risking a severe reaction that could potentially cause me permanent harm.

        6. Not a libertarian*

          “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten the flu in my life, and so my doctor has told me I don’t need the shot if I don’t want it.”

          Then your doctor is extremely foolish. Immunizations not only protect the person getting the shot, but also the population generally by creating herd immunity.

        7. Courageous cat*

          Yeah, I never had the flu shot before (I’m getting it this year) and I have always told people and have never once had a bad or weird reaction. I do *not* think it’s on the same level of other vaccines.

          1. Courageous cat*

            Tbh I also don’t think the fervor over making sure people get flu shots was like this 5 years ago. I feel like its importance has been much more highly spoken of in recent years.

    2. Loose Seal*

      I can get the flu vaccine but because of its reaction with some meds I take, it has to be carefully planned as to when I get it. My doctor’s office works closely with me to get this timing right so I am off my meds as short a time as possible. (I can’t say I fully understand what’s happening there. They explained that my meds can make the flu shot not work as well. I just do exactly what they say and it works out.)

      If I had to deal with a VP blithefully ignoring me when I said I wasn’t going to take the office up on their clinic, I think my brain would explode. OP, I can’t wait for an update on this. I hope you lead an uprising.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        There are many drugs that suppress the immune system, useful if your immune system is actively making you sick but your immune system won’t recognize a vaccine while it’s suppressed. So yeah, taking you off meds just long enough for your body to respond to the vaccine and starting them back as soon as possible so your illness doesn’t relapse makes total sense for many medical conditions.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      That is horrifying. And racist, tbh. And now I hate antivaxers even more for making people with legitimate reasons not to get a vaccine (like yours) look bad.

    4. MsChanandlerBong*

      I am trying to decide whether to get the flu shot this year. I’m supposed to get it because I have heart disease, but I am allergic to something in it. It doesn’t cause an anaphylactic reaction, but within a few hours of the shot, the injection site swells up like I have the mother of all bug bites. I have a huge, itchy lump on my arm for about two weeks after I get it. I don’t know what triggers the reaction–I am not allergic to eggs. I must react to one of the preservatives in it or something. Plus, I get sick EVERY time I get the flu shot. I know people are going to try to tell me it’s all in my head or I must have already been getting sick before I got the shot, but I just don’t believe that I just happened to already be sick at the exact time I got the vaccine six years in a row. Once or twice, yes. Not every single time. Every time I get the flu shot, I come down with a fever (temp of 102-103), aches, chills, etc. that last two or three days.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Some people do have mild reactions to the flu shot or other vaccines. It’s not the flu (you cannot get the flu from your flu shot), but most likely your body’s normal immune response to have a foreign substance injected into it.

        I get allergy shots, and even when I don’t have a reaction to them, I get a big red bump on my arm that lasts for days. My skin just doesn’t like being injected with stuff, so it releases histamine any chance it gets.

      2. Dankar*

        I’m the same way. My arm also swells up from shoulder to elbow and I can’t lift it over shoulder-height. My doctor diagnosed whatever it is that I’m allergic to and put me under orders not to get the vaccine unless absolutely necessary. (So there is a medical explanation!)

        This year, I’ll be flying in the middle of flu season to visit my elderly grandmother, so I’m going to get the shot. I’ve already taken a couple of sick days to recover…

      3. Katie the Fed*

        My arm gets swollen and really painful for several days.

        But I also had swine flu in 2011 and it’s the closest I’ve come to death. It’s the worst thing I’ve lived through, so I push through and get the shot :/

      4. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I call that the pseudo-flu. It’s not in your head, it’s your body’s reaction to the flu antibodies or whatever. Also not contagious. It’s only happened to me once, but it was a doozy. Still, way better than having the real flu! I think that’s the trouble; for me, a fairly healthy person with paid sick leave, pseudo-flu is no big deal (I have had the actual flu and it was so much worse than I ever imagined). For you? I would discuss thoroughly with your doctor.

      5. I'm A Little Teapot*

        That really sucks. I know there are different methods of delivery, can you talk to your doctor and see if one of them might be less likely to give you that reaction? If it’s one of the inactive ingredients, and you can do a different brand/style that has different inactives…. might help. Or not!

        1. Dee*

          Yeah, isn’t there a nasal version? I think it’s less effective, but it’s got to be way better than being miserable for a week with an allergic reaction.

      6. Persimmons*

        Every year in which I got the flu shot, I had weird health problems for a month afterwards. Not hospital-worthy, but not fun: severe migraines that didn’t let up for days, sinusitis that wouldn’t respond to antibiotics, rashes and other skin problems, constant bitter taste in my mouth.

        I stopped getting flu shots after my immuno-compromised relative passed away, and haven’t had those issues since.

      7. Sandman*

        My husband had an absolutely terrible reaction to his tetanus booster a year or two ago – fever, body aches, the whole nine yards. He was SICK. (And of course, I was out of town and he had the kids on his own.) It was considered to be on the far end of a normal reaction.

    5. Bunny Girl*

      I’ve actually never had the flu shot, but it’s so rare that I get the flu that I never really bothered to find out. I’m up to date on everything else, but last year I got my Tdap and I was knocked down with a three day migraine. Then I got my rabies series earlier this year and Oh boy that was a fun one. So not serious reactions, but unpleasant. I’d personally rather have the flu than a three day migraine.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        Hello fellow vet med person! Rabies shots were the worst, I actually missed class after my final vacccination. Thank (insert deity of your preference) my titers are still good two decades later.

        Still worth it to not get rabies.

        1. Bunny Girl*

          Hello! I’m not Vetmed, but I do wildlife rehab in my spare time and my internship will be based in wildlife rehab. They said it was optional but strongly recommended and I took it. Really glad I did because you’re right. So much better than rabies! I hope your titers stay strong! I didn’t have too much of a problem with the first or third shot, but my middle one was a problem. Haha

    6. June*

      I’m so sorry you’re going through that – your state’s policy sounds very short-sighted.

      I did want to comment on egg allergy though – persons with egg allergy of any severity can indeed receive any recommended/age-appropriate vaccine (per CDC). For egg reactions more severe than hives it is recommended to have healthcare professional supervision, but it’s still not a contraindication.

      1. Akgal*

        The egg allergy was just an example. Most of my life I went to an Indian Health Clinic where I was respected by my primary care physician. So even though I wasn’t treated well by the other departments I really didn’t mind. Then we moved.
        Background. As a child I had sevear epilepsy. To cure it I had to have three brain surgeries. During the last one they had to remove my left side motorskills, leaving me permanently disabled. There is no genetic component to the disease I had.
        As a teen I asked if I could have kids and was told yes but your best shot would be between the mid twenties to early thirties. The disability I have is only really common in people who have had strokes so they could not really predict my long term future but
        I will probably live till at least my mid fifties.
        Anyway after I moved the Indian Health Clinic I went to kept trying to get me to agree to sterilization. After I had kids they moved to the kids must be vaccinated policy. Even after my oldest had such bad reactions. I was willing to give her the vaccines that didn’t cause too much trouble but when I suggested that they said we will call the authorities and have them taken from me. State law said all or nothing so do nothing. I am really frustrated about it but there is nothing I can do about it.

      2. Jerusha*

        June is absolutely correct. I do want to note, however, that this is a relatively recent change in the guidelines. So if you’d heard the opposite in the past, or been told so by a healthcare provider, it wasn’t /wrong/, it’s just no longer the current guidance.

    7. Raine*

      When I was younger I had terrible reactions to vaccines, and I still do have some adverse reactions, but since I can usually manage the adverse reactions now, I tend to get the vaccines because I don’t want someone who can’t get them like I couldn’t as a kid to get sick because of weakened herd immunity. Any program that forces everyone to get vaccinated is flawed because the point of vaccination is to create herd immunity for people who have strong immune systems already so we as a society don’t spread illnesses to vulnerable populations who would get sick just from the vaccination potentially.

    8. AngelicGamer the Visually Impaired Peep*

      While I do not have an egg allergy or get allergy symptoms from the flu vaccine, I will get the flu from having one. I don’t know how and neither do my doctors, but that’s what happens. It is a very mild case of the flu, so I’m sick a week instead of 2 with stomach issues added on, but I still get sick. And then I’ll get bronchitis no matter what. My doctor has basically said do not get a flu vaccine ever again, wear a mask when out in flu season, and wash my hands / keep hand sanitize on hand. It sucks but that’s how my body is.

  10. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

    #1: I’m surprised to hear that some US states would protect employee rights better than some European countries! I don’t know the details but I’ve read about the new law in Finland that requires all medical personnel to have a flu shot. There’s probably a possibility for a medical exemption, but there have been issues with people who don’t react badly enough to get any kind of official excemption from a doctor, but still feel that the vaccine has a negative impact on their health. Some employers have been a bit too eager to follow the law and haven’t let those people anywhere near the patients – I’m not sure but some may have even been fired. Some of those cases got a “that’s not what we meant” reaction from the legislators and it’s gotten a bit better but still it’s common to see the flu vaccine requirement in job postings for hospital jobs.

    #5: I think it would be normal to ask at some point, when can you start, and to answer it honestly. Sometimes some jobs are advertised as really urgent and want someone who can start immediately, and especially in those cases nobody would think anything bad about being able to do that, whether it’s because of a really flexible contract or unemployment.

    1. all aboard the anon train*

      Was your first sentence really necessary? I stopped reading AAM comments for a long time because it seemed like every post had comments about how crappy you all thought the US was compared to Europe. It’s exhausting. We get it.

      1. Yurrup*

        Amen to that. I am sick and tired of hearing about how Yurrup is a Worker’s Paradise. Lots of countries in this “worker’s paradise” have double-digit unemployment — how’s that 25% youth unemployment in France and Spain treating you?

    2. Knitting Cat Lady*

      #1: That there are only medical exemptions and no others for medical personnel is good health care practice.

      I don’t care if you feel icky for a few days. If you work with sick people all day you owe it to them to protect them from as many bugs you might transmit as possible.

      I know the flu vaccine is hit and miss, but it still works to lower the number of flu cases over all.

      This year was a bad flu season in Germany. I spent a week in hospital for something else at the height of flu season. I had to sleep in a hallway for a few days because there were no rooms left.

      So, if you’re some kind of medical personnel and don’t want to get the flu shot?

      Get a job that isn’t in health care.

      1. LW #1*

        OP here. We do not work in the healthcare industry or around vulnerable populations. Again, none of us are against the vaccine, but attempts to tell the VP we do not want to get the shot in the office for either medical or personal reasons is met with resistance and a lot of us feel our hand is forced on revealing personal medical info. That’s the problem at hand, and we are glad Alison took the time to respond.

        1. Constanze*

          To be honest, if I was the VP and I had instituted a completely reasonable mandatory flu shot policy and my employees were pushing back this much instead of bringing a doctor’s note saying that they either already got it or can’t get it for medical reasons, I would wonder whether you were an anti-vaxxer trying to get away with it.

          It seems weird to push back this much against the policy in itself, instead of just being matter-of-fact about each individual case : “Oh, I just got it”, “I can’t for medical reasons, but I will bring you a doctor’s note”.

          1. Constanze*

            Not to be dismissive of your issue, of course. But I was just wondering. Then again, you might just have a pushy VP.

          2. Lynn Marie*

            But the VP is insisting the vaccination can only happen in the workplace and won’t accept a doctor’s note.

          3. Raine*

            As someone who is very pro vaccination, does it really matter if the reason that an individual in this specific situation who isn’t working with any sort of vulnerable populations doesn’t want to get the vaccination because their beliefs lead them to be against it? The flu shot is very different from something like the MMR vaccine, which we can already see that with fewer people receiving this vaccine there have been outbreaks of measles, and I think it would be a violation of that individuals bodily autonomy if they were forced to get a flu shot simply because their manager didn’t agree with their anti-vax politics.

            1. Constanze*

              I think it does, yes. I won’t get into a scientific debate here on its efficiency compared to others vaccines etc… but the point is that it is reasonable for the workplace to make it mandatory, because it works most of the time, herd immunity makes it that much efficient and the flu can be really serious / deadly for vulnerable people.
              So I don’t think you get a pass for being anti-vaxxer just on this particular vaccine. I would certainly wonder in the VP’s place (assuming hejust wants to make sure his office is safe by having his employees vaccinated, and not just a controlling jackass) why so much push back.

            2. Constanze*

              I had answered to your question, but has been deleted, not sure why.
              In a nutshell, it does matter, because the policy is reasonable in itself, and not outrageous.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I haven’t deleted anything here. I think it may have simply gone to moderation originally so you didn’t see it appear right away… (I’m clarifying this because I don’t want people to think their comments will be randomly deleted! Although I do delete things that are egregious violations of the comments rules, and if you’ve replied to one of those, your reply may disappear when the comment you were replying to is removed.)

          4. Genny*

            It’s not a reasonable policy because whether or not I choose to get a flu shot shouldn’t be up to my employer when there’s no job-related reason to get one. It’s inappropriate to make mandatory medical decisions for your staff. I’m not an anti-vaxxer, but I’m not big on the flu shot and it’s not my employer’s business to judge that.

            1. Constanze*

              I don’t think it is fair to characterize the employer as violating bodily autonomy on such a reasonable issue. The form might be really off, of course, but not the crux of the issue.

              1. Genny*

                It’s my body and I get decide what goes into it or not. Unless work has a compelling reason to override that (i.e. you work with populations who are particularly vulnerable to getting the flu), then it is a matter of respecting basic bodily autonomy. I don’t care if they have the best of intentions or the best reasoning, I still have final say over my body and it’s a gross misuse of power to try to circumvent that. Again, I support vaccines in general, but I also support people being able to choose for themselves what medical interventions they want.

                1. Not a libertarian*

                  “It’s my body and I get decide what goes into it or not. ”

                  Not always. For instance, if you travel to certain parts of sub-saharan Africa, you are required to present evidence you have been vaccinated against yellow fever. If you don’t have evidence, you will be given a mandatory vaccine at customs. It is likely that if there is ever a Zika vaccine, Brazil and other tropical countries would adopt a similar policy.

                2. Geoffrey B*

                  The idea that everybody should have complete autonomy over their bodies is great as a general principle. But it’s inapplicable in the context of contagious diseases, because your decisions about vaccination have consequences for other people’s bodies.

                  Some people can’t protect themselves adequately with the flu vaccine – either they’re allergic to it, or they have weakened immune systems and it just doesn’t take. When the rest of us who *could* get the vaccine choose not to, and come into work anyway, we are making the choice to risk putting flu into somebody else’s bodies.

              2. Jadelyn*

                How is it not? An employer is trying to tell employees what medical care they are *required* to get. Medical decisions should be between me and my doctor, not me and my boss. To try to force employees to get a vaccine, is absolutely taking away the employee’s right to control their own body (by choosing whether to get a particular shot). And to then label those who push back on such a policy as “stealth anti-vaxxers” is ridiculous – I’ll probably get the flu shot when my workplace does its fall health fair, since they do them onsite for free, but if they were to make it a requirement I’d be fighting that tooth and nail. My boss does not get a say in my medical care. Ever.

        2. Not a libertarian*

          LW#1, do you have kids in school? They’re required to get vaccinated and I see nothing wrong with your employer requiring you to get vaccinated. Just because your co-workers are not elderly does not mean they are not susceptible to the flu.

          In law school there was some dude who refused to get vaccinated and came down with measles in the middle of bar exam prep, thus potentially infecting 200+ students and preventing them from taking the bar exam. Fortunately, it did not come to that, but it could have. There are very sound reasons for requiring vaccinations in schools, and I see no reason why the same logic shouldn’t apply to adults.

          I don’t particularly feel that your employer should insist you must have it done on-site, but the purpose of the on-site clinic is (1) to make vaccination convenient, and (2) to lower its cost by ordering vaccines in bulk.

    3. MK*

      The OP is not medical personnel and Alison’s answer didn’t pertain to that; it’s probable these “protections” don’t apply to hospital workers.

      1. Seriously?*

        I work at a hospital. We are allowed to skip the flu shot if we submit a doctor’s note saying we can’t get it.

    4. Akcipitrokulo*

      Finland’s new law is that if you work as a medical/care professional in direct contact with vulnerable groups, you need to be vaccinated. If you’re not, your employer can’t let you near vulnerable patients. They have to try to find you other, non contact work if possible, but can let you go if it isn’t.

      That is about protecting patients.

      1. Beaded Librarian*

        Interesting, I worked in a hospital kitchen for years and the last year that I worked they started instituting a policy that if they did not have proof that you had the flu vaccine you had to wear a mask at all times in while in the hospital for the duration of flu season even if you didn’t appear to have any symptoms. This was for ALL employees and contract employees even those who had minimal patient contact.

        1. Raine*

          This seems reasonable because in a hospital setting, especially if you are serving food, but even if you have any contact with patients or are in the areas where patients will be. Even if you are asymptomatic, wiping your nose or sneezing and then touching a doorknob could introduce the risk of infection to any patient that comes into contact with that doorknob. It seems reasonable to require anyone who works in a setting with so many immunologically vulnerable people to take extra measures to prevent spreading disease that wouldn’t be reasonable for people in an office setting where the number of vulnerable people that you come into contact with is much lower.

    5. Mookie*

      In the US, a lot of this is based on an information gap. The health care staff and professionals most likely to voluntarily and faithfully vaccinate are those in close and regular contact with patients, primarily because they understand the risks to patients, their colleagues, and themselves. When polled about their views and practices, those that don’t do so cite skepticism or outright disbelief in vaccinations “working” (although there is some indication the same people don’t understand what “working” might look like) than because they fear risky outcomes.

      1. Mookie*

        Also, labor rights cuts both ways here because workers are entitled to a safe workspace where the employer is obliged to mitigate certain obvious risks. The compromise of re-assigning or informally ‘quarantining’ the unvaccinated* protects patients, many hospital and clinic visitors, and their colleagues, while preserving individual rights. I don’t really see this as any different from PPE: the employer needs to provide it, fairly and indiscriminately regulate and enforce the regulations that govern it, and accommodate those who can’t abide in the safest fashion. Also, sick workers are generally advised to stay at home for similar reasons and this is accepted with minimal fuss or hand-wringing.

        *this is standard practice for ill patients, of course; you do your best to keep them isolated and don’t go wheeling them around an entire building needlessly

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yes – if you can’t get a vaccine for medical reasons – I don’t think “allow the risk of unvaccinated person to be near patients” counts as a reasonable accommodation.

        2. Alton*

          I think this is a good point. I work in academia, not healthcare, but it seems like the flu and other viral illnesses get passed around a lot, probably because of how many students there are living on campus and making use of campus facilities while they’re contagious. I wouldn’t want anyone to get the flu shot if they feel it would be unsafe for them, but since I started working in this field, I’ve gotten the flu much more often than I used to, which is a danger for me because I have family members who are prone to severe flu complications.

          I made sure to get my flu shot early this year and have been as proactive as possible about avoiding crowded areas, washing my hands, etc. But I hope others who can get vaccinated do so to lessen the risk to the community.

    6. Constanze*

      I don’t really feel that it is “protecting” the employees to let them get away with vaccines just because they feel like it.
      OP’s employer is right in its idea ; they should certainly let people get their own shots wherever they want and believing doctor’s note for people who can’t get them (assuming that these doctors are not the kind who give anti-vaxxers bogus notes to keep their clients) but requiring that everyone is vaccinated is smart and should be mainstream.

    7. Not a libertarian*

      As an American living in Singapore, I fully support mandatory vaccination policies.

      Back in 2009, during the Mexican swine flu scare, people arriving at Changi Airport had their temperature taken. If they were running a fever or showed other flu-like symptoms, they were put into mandatory quarantine. This was absolutely the correct response. When Mexico City was shut down for two days, Singapore was not. Singapore was and is ready to meet the challenge of pandemic flu.

      Kids in the US must get vaccinated to attend school. No one except the anti-vax movement complains (and policy needs to be based on science, not anti-vax hysteria). So what is wrong with the same policy for employers?

  11. Been There, Done That*

    I don’t think LW#2 is selfish or an a-hole. Being helpful is one thing, being made responsible for someone’s else’s well-being, even for a short time, is another matter altogether. Also, I don’t believe LW#2 should have to spill their own medical/emotional issues if they don’t want to.

    Being the coworker of someone with a mental or emotional condition doesn’t make someone a mental health attendant any more than being the coworker of someone with a physical accommodation makes someone a nurse. I once worked with a man with a severe mental illness. 80% of the time he was okay. When he wasn’t, he’d come into my office while I was trying to make deadline, and pace and pace and pace. My manager essentially shoved it onto me to look after this fellow because he’d worn everyone else out.

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah. I’m a very frequent flyer (expat’s kid, raised in multiple countries, currently working abroad, often traveling) but being responsible for someone else like that would turn me into a Nervous Helper Dog.

      1. Not a libertarian*

        I too am an expat and fly intercontinentally very frequently, about once every three weeks if not more. I would go much further than Alison. There is no obligation for a co-worker to turn into a personal caregiver. If someone has such a disability that they cannot fly, they need to get accommodations from the airline or a professional caregiver, not foisting it off on an unwilling co-worker-cum-chaperone. AAM seems think this attitude is “selfish” (unless you have travel anxiety, for which you get a pass). That is horribly unreasonable.

        On more than one occasion, AAM advised US workers with carpooling issues simply to say “I don’t carpool, because I need my ‘me’ time.” For those of us who travel internationally, long-haul flights are the equivalent “me” time.

    2. Temperance*

      That’s absolutely unacceptable. Being exposed to someone else’s issues like that would 100% trigger my anxiety issues, and then there would be 2 people not getting any work done. (I react in anger, too, so I would have screamed at him to get out of my office.)

      I’m so sorry that happened to you.

    3. MLB*

      I feel the same and commented on a thread above about not wanting to be responsible for another person on 1. an international flight and 2. someone who needs accommodations. I am always one who sees a stranger in need and is willing to help if I’m able, but this seems like a big obligation for a colleague.

    4. pleaset*

      I agree the OP’s not selfish or an-hole, but I don’t like this escalation of being asked to help to being “made responsible for someone’s else’s well-being”

      Yes, it’s a serious ask, but the ask as for “help” not being responsible. There can be overlap between the two, but they’re not the same.

      1. pleaset*

        Think about this:

        Q: “Can you help with that project tomorrow?”

        A: “I don’t want to be made responsible for the project.”

        1. Belle of the Midwest*

          True, but before I say, “yes, I will help,” I would want to know specifically what help is needed that I can provide. I have had more than one request for help that morphs into being responsible for the project because whoever is in charge has left a mess and is really asking me to help clean it up.

          1. nonegiven*

            Will you do me a favor?
            You won’t?
            No. You tell me what the favor is and I’ll tell you yes or no. I don’t agree to do some nameless thing until I know what it is.

            I’ve had this discussion with my husband after he springs some thing I absolutely will not do, on me as a favor. No more.

            It’s the same with my mom and ‘call me back’ on vm. Tell me on the vm if you just want to tell me somethings, so it can wait, or if I need to come take you to the emergency room right away. She ended up driving herself, once I had cleared some time to talk and called her back, she had already gone.

        2. Been There, Done That*

          However, I wouldn’t equate or compare a project–ie, a set of tasks and decisions–isn’t the same ad a person with specialized needs.

    5. Abigael*

      I completely agree. I was surprised by Alison’s response on this one. I travel internationally frequently for work (15 countries in the past 6 months in Asia, Middle East, and South America). I don’t have anxiety, but these trips are incredibly stressful and it’s hard enough to keep track of your own travel details re: visa, flights, hotels, appointments, etc. Needing to help someone else through an unfamiliar visa process and any other unknown international travel complications seems like a huge ask.

      Perhaps one caveat would be the *type* of international travel that is happening. For example, if it’s fairly straightforward (between US and Canada, for example), then it seems less strenuous and I wouldn’t be as stressed out about it.

  12. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1… is it possible there’s some kind of metric that can be tweaked? Like instead of “how many got the jab from our nurse” to “how many were confirmed by our nurse to have had the jab”?

  13. Frequent Traveler Abroad*

    LW2: I also have a bit of anxiety when it comes to travel and the landing/passport control/visa process. I found one of the best things I can do to reduce my anxiety is to be as fully aware as possible about what will happen from deplaning to arriving at my hotel. If you’re a US citizen, use this website ( to research the visa regulations, safety info, etc. for your destination. Then you know exactly what you’ll need to provide to get through passport control (enough blank pages in your passport, money for the visa, a particular form completed, etc.) so you can have everything in a folder ready to go and you won’t need to do anything except follow the signs through the lines. I also read the safety info on the country so I know if I should avoid certain forms of transportation ( many countries have illegal “black”taxis at the airport that will scam you and should be avoided) or certain areas of the city I will be staying in.
    I also have the Google Translate app on my phone and download the language package for the country I’m visiting so I can use it offline if needed, and I star important destinations in google maps and download the offline version of the map so I can navigate without WiFi or cell service.
    Most major airports also have a section of their website with arrival information, and I read that to know all of my transport options, accommodations for disabilities, porter services, etc. Also, though the airline will be unlikely to have someone who will walk your coworker through the arrival process, they may actually contract with a ground staff service who can be waiting at the arrival gate to help your coworker. It is still worth your coworker contacting the airline to see if there are any services they can connect them with or suggest they contact themselves. You/ your coworker could also contact your country’s embassy or consulate nearest to your destination to get information about the arrival process and accommodations for disabilities at the airport and in the city itself. Embassies and consulates usually have info on their websites or that they can explain or email to you about navigating the country for people with specific needs.

  14. cncx*

    re OP2, i also have bad travel anxiety and i’m introverted. i hate not being able to control when i get to the airport (i like to be there super early), and i really hate the pressure to be social and “on” during a flight, particularly a long one. having to take an international flight with a coworker, even one i wasn’t helping, would be my own personal hell. I sympathize with the coworker but we don’t owe our colleagues to be attendants or nurses. i feel like it is management’s responsibility to figure out how to accomodate someone who is travelling, not let someone sort it out with their colleagues. Note i didn’t say that the colleague shouldn’t go because of their issues, which is ableist- just that the onus shouldnt’ be on them to hit up their colleagues for help. If it’s a work trip, then work needs to find accomodation.

    1. OP#2*

      OP #2 here – yeah, I should mention that you can add a “healthy” layer of introversion to my personality, and this really is my personal hell. Tack on 7 full days of socializing with important partners immediately upon departure from the airport… Sigh.

      1. usual*

        I really agree with cncx here. It’s a LOT to ask. I’m a really competent experienced traveller and a nice person (!) and I too would be really irked by this. I also think that the co-worker should get you a nice gift to thank you, frankly.

    2. EditorInChief*

      I agree. This should not be OP’s burden. Their job should find and make appropriate accommodations for this employee’s trip. I travel extensively, both domestic and internationally, and have no issues with airports, figuring out visas, etc. but I would not want to have to be forced by my job to have to navigate these things for someone else. I would not want to be responsible if something were to go wrong and get blamed for it.

      1. skunklet*

        but again, we don’t know what the actual ‘burden’ is – is the coworker blind completely? or just without a sense of smell? the assistance required could easily be something so minimal, as others have postulated, that it would be something done in the normal course of conversation with another coworker…

        fwiw, if the assistance the OP would have had to provide is so significant, it seems that the coworker wouldn’t actually be able to work – but again, that’s speculation as we don’t know the disability.

        1. EditorInChief*

          It doesn’t matter what the burden is. OP is not this person’s caretaker. If there is a business need for this person to take this trip then the business needs to provide the accommodations required and not put it on the back of another coworker.

          1. skunklet*

            That’s making one excessive leap, however; again, this ‘disabled person’ is capable of holding a job that the OP holds (or at least at the same company); to jump to the ‘no I can’t do it’ without even knowing, concretely, what the disability is, is, frankly, unprofessional. Are there things the business could/should do? Quite probably yes, but again, without knowing what the issue is, why would OP jump to negative automatically?

  15. March Madness*

    I’m in a non- medical field and have never gotten a flu vaccine. In contrast to other vaccines, which immunize you 100%, this one just lowers your risk…but since I never get the flu anyway (knock on wood), I never get the vaccine either.

    If my work required me to get a shot, I’d do it though… I don’t think it’s a big deal (unless you have medical preconditions, of course).

    1. Violet Fox*

      Or how about that you just want to get your medical care through your doctor rather then having it done at work? For some of us that is a very big deal.

      One of the other big issues here is that for people who have a medical reason not to get a flu shot, it might mean them having to disclose private medical information to their employeer that they would otherwise keep to themselves (as is their right to do so). It can also make people who do not get the shot at work for whatever reason visibly singled out. It doesn’t have to matter the why for the medical reason, but that is something that can very easily become a problem down the line.

      Offering is one thing, requiring is another thing all together.

      *I’m obviously talking about non-medical fields here.*

      1. Works at place that requires vaccines*

        The only thing you need is a note from your doctor saying you can’t get the shot for medical reasons. No further detail needed.

    2. Holly*

      Please stick to advising the LW on her particular situation and not your personal opinion of the flu shot. Suggesting people do not need to take the flu shot is really dangerous – I’m glad it’s worked out for you so far, but especially children and older people can die from the flu related to complications that the flu shot can mitigate.

    3. Not a Mere Device*

      Most vaccines “only” lower your individual risk of getting the disease. But if your chance of getting mumps (for example) is 1/8 what it would be without the vaccine, being vaccinated also means you’re much less likely to transmit the virus–you can’t transmit what you don’t have. When almost everyone gets that vaccine, community immunity means that instead of almost every child getting mumps, fewer than 1% do. Little or nothing is 100% effective, but the useful comparison isn’t between the effectiveness of the vaccine and a mythical perfect immunization: it’s between the effectiveness of the vaccine and the risk of getting sick without it.

      The flu vaccine is less effective than many, because the virus mutates so rapidly. Yes, in a bad year it might be only 10% effective. I get the vaccine every year, even not knowing whether this year’s is 70% effective or 15%, since doing so is twenty minutes out of my day, conveniently available at many pharmacies, and doesn’t cost me a penny.

      1. Antilles*

        Yes, in a bad year it might be only 10% effective. I get the vaccine every year, even not knowing whether this year’s is 70% effective or 15%, since doing so is twenty minutes out of my day, conveniently available at many pharmacies, and doesn’t cost me a penny.
        I legitimately have never understood when people make the argument about the effectiveness. 10% less chance of getting the flu is 10% less chance of getting the flu – it might not be perfect, but 10%>0%.

        1. June*

          Also the effectiveness stats don’t account for the people who get the flu but it’s less severe thanks to the vaccine.

          1. all the candycorn*

            I was one of those people one year!

            I got this mild cold. It was so mild! I was slightly tired and a little stuffy, but otherwise I felt ready and rarin’ to go. I went to work, where I interacted with my pregnant boss, a bunch of little kids, and a whole bunch of seniors. Then my then-boyfriend got sick with the same symptoms. I thought he was being dramatic, but he went to the doctor and was promptly banned from his college campus because he had the flu.

            So I was so not sick, I…exposed a whole bunch of other people to the flu. I felt bad.

      2. Laura H.*

        I got vaccinated and still got the flu, and while it still packed an oomph!- it was considerably less of one than if I hadn’t been vaccinated.

        As for LW1 you need to do what’s best for you, but take the necessary precautions that accompany whatever that best for you choice is…

        1. Holly*

          This is key. The vaccine may not prevent you from getting the flu, but it will prevent you from getting an EXTREMELY BAD FLU – which otherwise healthy people can really die from, it happens, and it’s really sad.

      3. Katie the Fed*

        It would help if people didn’t play fast and loose with the term “flu.”

        Real flu is GOD AWFUL. I had swine flu and it’s the worst thing I’ve lived through. I was so weak I couldn’t even stand.

        I think anyone who has had that understands the severity of it and won’t screw around with avoiding the vaccine.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I didn’t have the swine flu, just the regular flu, and it was also absolutely AWFUL. Until then, I never got the shot. Then? Hoo boy, every year. I lived alone, and this was back when you usually had to pay for food delivery with cash, so I basically ate only bread for five days because I had little else and no energy to get to the store. That was the minor part. I could only stand for long enough to get to the bathroom, I could barely hold my head up, and going to get some water and get back to my bed was so exhausting I couldn’t actually drink the water. I was lucky enough to be healthy otherwise and it was still the worst thing I’ve ever dealt with. I didn’t want that swine flu!

          1. Kelly L.*

            Ice cream. I lived on ice cream during the swine flu. I was too tired to go get anything else, and my throat hurt too much to eat anything else anyway, so I was fortunate to have a decent supply of ice cream in the freezer.

            There was a joke at the time about how to tell a cold from the flu: if someone tells you there’s a $100 bill on your front porch, and you get up to look, it’s a cold. I related so hard.

            1. nonegiven*

              Mine is, if my skin hurts, it’s either flu or pneumonia, if not it’s a cold.

              My husband said he had flu last year then I came down with a mild cold, I had the shot and he didn’t.

        2. June*

          Yeah, one thing that people should remember is that “flu season” is also “cold and other assorted respiratory viruses season” (which obviously the flu vaccine doesn’t protect against) but people who get the “real” flu usually know it (“God awful” is about right).

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      In contrast to other vaccines, which immunize you 100%

      I don’t think you understand how vaccines work.

    5. Constanze*

      ” since I never get the flu anyway (knock on wood), I never get the vaccine either.”

      Sure, who cares about all these immunodepressed people ?

      Your personal opinions are not only useless to the OP but harmful and uninformed.

  16. September*

    With #2, I think it’s a bad idea to be responsible for someone else’s visa, special exemption etc when it’s not something you’re personally familiar with or particularly knowledgeable about. That’s an anxiety-inducing situation for someone without an anxiety disorder. There are so many things that can get messed up (e.g. you could make a mistake on one particular form out of a stack of them for a service animal, etc).

    If it was just helping them navigate the airport then I’d be more inclined to agree with Alison’s response, but that’s not even the current issue. Coworker might even be on a separate flights. IMO the visa/entry requirements side of it really isn’t an appropriate thing to handle for a coworker unless you’re an expert on the topic, and even then I’m dubious. If the coworker needs help then that should be provided by your company in the form of somebody who knows the ins and outs of the process and can walk your coworker through everything. That’s going to be less stressful for the coworker too, I think.

    The airline is definitely the wrong place to ask about visas and stuff like that, though. An airline employee could tell you what documentation you need to pass through immigration, but they probably wouldn’t know anything about how to get it, because that’s not part of their job. Airlines can get you someone to help you physically through customs but that’s about it. The embassy/consulate for the destination country would probably be a better place to start.

    1. Birch*

      This. It’s the company’s responsibility to set up accommodations both for the visa issues and the impairment. If what coworker is asking for is a buddy for comfort reasons that’s one thing, but OP should not take on the responsibility of logistics. And really in most cases the visa situation should be sorted out beforehand, between the company and the coworker.

      1. Temperance*

        I obviously can’t speak for OP, because I’m not her, but being stuck on an international flight with someone who was relying on me for assistance would be anxiety-inducing on its own. Even if they lowered the severity of the request from “I need help getting through customs” to “having someone I know with me is very helpful”, it would be very anxiety-triggering. Because realistically speaking, if you aren’t the official person rendering aid on this issue, you’re there as a de facto backup and you’re going to be tapped to help if for whatever reason it doesn’t work out. This would probably be just as bad for LW’s anxiety.

        1. Birch*

          Well yeah, that was my point. There’s a difference between just preferring to have a friend and actually relying on that person. OP shouldn’t be responsible for any accommodation; whether they prefer to fly alone is a separate question. Being a flight buddy to someone who doesn’t need accommodation is stressful in its own right and it sounds like OP doesn’t even want to do that, but it’s essentially a different question than the accommodation one.

      2. OP#2*

        OP #2 here – The organization has supported my coworker’s research and actions to get the assistance and exemptions they need, but as far as I can tell they’ve not proactively sought solutions (e.g. liaised with the country in question about the impairment-related exemption) for my coworker directly. The coworker did indicate at first that they planned not to make the trip based on thinking the exemption wasn’t possible. As far as I can tell the coworker then continued to pursue it on their own. (For context: It involves actual laws of the visiting country that would have required specific actions taken by the employee before they started with the company–so, not something the company could necessarily have prevented/changed/addressed).

        It does make me wonder how much a company can be expected to step in for these types of situations, particularly when it requires exemptions they could not have predicted or mitigated. In this situation there is the competing factor, too, of “reasonable accommodation” laws in regards to someone with an impairment such as my coworker has. As always, I wish there was a clear manual everyone could follow to get things done appropriately at work and know what they can ask for (because laws are confusing). :( I guess that’s what I use AAM for…

        1. Birch*

          Unfortunately I think sometimes it falls on the employees to say, wait a minute, this shouldn’t be my responsibility, or this is what I need, instead of waiting for the employer to act. As far as I’ve gleaned about reasonable accommodation, your employer can’t force you to do something that’s uncomfortable or problematic for you in order to accommodate someone else–we’ve seen enough letters here about competing accommodations to make that clear. So you do have the leeway to push back based on your own needs, but it’s going to be your responsibility to do that if you want to.

          You definitely shouldn’t be involved in any of your coworker’s visa processing or paperwork, even if they ask for accommodation in that–that is not your job and you aren’t trained to do that work for someone else.

        2. JessicaC*

          I know you’re trying to protect your colleague’s medical information, but I am having a really hard time wrapping my head around exactly what kind of exemption your colleague needs, especially because you said their impairment is to their senses. Like, is there a requirement to respond verbally to customs questions and your coworker is exempt? Or the ability to bring certain medications with them?

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, I actually find the thought of handling someone else’s visa stuff – a coworker’s, no less, not even a friend’s or family member’s! – incredibly daunting, and I’m someone who’s naturally pretty good at finding information and handling new bureaucratic situations competently. But my goodness, I would not want to be responsible for something going wrong with someone else’s visa!

    3. Tardigrade*

      Yeah, I’m not a frequent air traveler and certainly wouldn’t know the first thing about visas or how to help someone else through that. That’s a lot of responsibility, even for someone without anxiety, and it seems reasonable to suggest that there’s a better way to assist the other employee.

  17. Nurse Ratchet*

    I do a side gig each year doing in-office flu shot clinics. If pushing back doesn’t work, know that due to privacy laws the nurse administering the shot is only allowed to tell the employer how many shots were given, not the specific people who got them. Every year there’s a boss or two who tries to take my paperwork to see who got the shot. I also get a few employees who come with their paperwork, and once they’re back in my little cubby say that for whatever reason they don’t want the shot but they “have” to participate in the clinic. So I just shred their form, give them a sticker anyway, and send them on their merry way. No ethical healthcare professional will vaccinate you against your will, and our safety protocol is so tight that a history of any reaction is a deferral to a clinic where there’s more emergency resources available.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Nurse Righteous! And I mean that in the 1980s sense of fricking awesome. Thank you for protecting people from the intentions of zealous jackasses.

    2. Erin*

      You’re right it’s a huge HIPPA violation. To tell employers about employee private medical information. Even to get tested for drugs you have to sign a waiver that says your employer can view the results of this test.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      I would love you with every fiber of my being if you were the one doing the flu shots at work. I do not get the flu shot for personal reasons, and having a mandated in-office flu shot clinic would probably trigger a panic attack for me. I’ve been in a situation where what was essentially a brand new and experimental vaccine was pushed on me and it was a horrible experience.

  18. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Sort of wondering if anyone asked the employee with the impairment what, if anything, she needs, or if the employer just assumed and assigned the OP to help.

    1. Natalie*

      It sounds like it’s the employee in question who asked: “A colleague […] will now be joining this trip and began asking me about traveling over on the same flight so I could help them navigate the arrival process.”

  19. Stuck But Happy*

    OP 2: Be proactive. Assume you will be tasked with this responsibility and go with it. Assume the role of assistant. Stress assist! Speak to coworker about official accommodations. Ask what they are, how you can help with them, where you will be useful, things like that. Making it clear that you are (can’t stress enough) assisting with the official process

    Total transparency, I traveled from US to Europe once. I too suffered from a panic attack, ruined the whole trip. Never left the country again. So I really, really get it.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        In practical terms, bowing out is something that is understood when there’s a clear, visible reason why. When it’s just because you don’t want to–you could, and it would clearly help your work, you just don’t wanna–it gets judged much more harshly.

        Unfortunately, disclosing mental/emotional handicaps can also be judged harshly, or have unwanted overflow to other areas, where disclosing an invisible purely physical problem like a bad knee gets an “oh, okay.”

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I agree. I’ll go so far as to see reasonable accommodations for a disability should never include the employer voluntelling a coworker that they are now the accommodation. Remember the person who was hired to replace a woman who wouldn’t postpone her wedding in case coworker needs and FMLA day? Because there was also the letter from someone who was doing insane hours to cover for a woman who went to part time. When that OP went to management about it, she found out that coworker was breaking her agreement and sticking OP with work manager never approved. Has OP been told or inferred from a conversation with a manager that this is an expectation? If not, step away. If so, then I stand by being proactive to learn expectations.

    1. Bookartist*

      Disabled people have enough stress in life without being saddled with an unwilling assistant. Because LW#2 is not capable of assisting, she absolutely should not offer to do so.

  20. Drama Llama*

    “Who’s the lowest performer on your team, what makes you say that, how long has that been your assessment, what have you done about it so far, and why are they still here?”

    Wait, these sound like great questions. Why would it be wrong to ask them? Even just a couple of them?

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Because no manager who respected their staff and their personal information would divulge that. If a manager did answer those questions, I would never work for them.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Yeah, that could be OK from a respecting privacy point of view. I think those are the types of questions Alison was suggesting earlier in answer – and I think she’s probably right that the answers may not tell you what you need to know!

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Or asking it in a way that isn’t asking about specific employees, i.e., how do you deal with low performers?

    2. London Calling*

      I have to say that Alison’s advice about networking and due diligence to find this information out outside the interview is just not practicable for most people. In a small town with a couple of significant employers, maybe. In somewhere like London with tens of thousands of employers? it’s not even workable in a medium sized city.

      1. Lora*

        It is, but you have to do networking *within your field*. I’m in the Boston area, and while we have many employers in my field, everyone is no more than a couple degrees of separation – there’s always someone who knows someone to ask. And word gets around quickly. We have many professional events specific to the field where everyone gets together for networking (read: beer) and talks shop. The trick is really knowing that the events exist, where they are, how to get on the mailing lists for them.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        This is what LinkedIn is for. The assumption isn’t that one of your connections will know, but someone several degrees of separation away from one of your connections may. It’s actually crazy how big your network actually is when you broaden it to your connections’ connections’ connections.

        1. Judy (since 2010)*

          I can’t seem to find the numbers on linked in now, but I remember a few years ago, I had about 400 connections, and the 2nd degree connections were in the high tens of thousands (like 80k) and the 3rd degree connections were in the millions (like 4m). But I have professional and social contacts in my network, and I’ve worked with international teams.

      3. Holly*

        I live in a major large city and I use linkedin or search workplace websites with employee information for any alums of schools I went to. Then I reach out as an alum and ask if I can chat. This is very common.

      4. Courageous cat*

        Yeah. Even in my big-but-not-huge city this would not work very well, I feel like. Even through LinkedIn.

    3. Close Bracket*

      Because the answer won’t necessarily tell you anything. This is a question near and dear to my heart bc I have been on the receiving end of bad management regarding performance problems.
      If you asked my most immediate previous manager how they handled complaints about me, he would probably say that he spoke to me about it, and when he didn’t see improvement, he put me on a PIP. Sounds reasonable, right? On the surface, it is.
      If you asked me about it, what you would hear is that I had nothing but stellar reviews until I had a change in management and went from reporting to someone with many years of management experience to someone with none. This manager brought complaints to my attention in my yearly review, which was several months after he became my manager. He never met with me individually. The review was the first time we had a sit down conversation. He did not tell me what specifically the complaints were nor when they were made (i.e., how long had this been a problem). He also didn’t tell me how many complaints there had been. That would be the part where he spoke to me.
      I asked him to bring complaints to my attention when they happened. He agreed. I heard nothing for eight months (we still did not have any sit down, individual meetings), and then he put me on a PIP. The PIP contained no specifics, just “do better in this area.” That would be the part where he put me on a PIP after no improvement was seen.
      One person brought up using these questions to delve into how they handle gender issues. The area was my demeanor. I am a woman. It is well known and supported by evidence that women are harshly judged for behaviors that men get a pass on. I don’t want to include specific details bc I don’t want to write (more of) a novel, but while I may have been salty at times, I was judged more harshly than the men. And there were plenty of salty men, including some of the ones who it later came out had complained about me.
      This was piss poor management. First, feedback needs to be immediate and specific. If there is an ongoing problem, there needs to be ongoing feedback. I didn’t get that, and that was bad management. Second, in interpersonal conflicts are not like other performance problems. Reports being late is an objective measure. Number of mistakes in a work product is an objective measure. Who is the saltiest and which salty behaviors cross a line is highly subjective (setting aside racism, etc., which was not at play here) even when gender isn’t a factor. So, you could ask my manager how he handled a problem employee and get what would sound like a good answer, but you wouldn’t hear any of the specifics which demonstrate that he handled this situation terribly.
      I would love to find ways to ask questions that would tell me whether a manager would handle something this poorly again. I never had these problems at other work places, and I would love to know how to screen for it. Like you, I think the interview is a two way process. If I do figure out a way to do a behavioral interview of a potential manager, I will wait until after I have an offer, though.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Yes. It’s a cringeworthy fact that rotten managers have PIP authority and don’t always use it appropriately. My current manager was promoted out of sales 4 months before I was transferred to their dept. The nicest thing I can say is that Boss made all the beginner mistakes w/ me and a couple of others hired at that time. The new hires are long gone. I’m looking. I’m unhappy about it because I love the company. But Boss has made it impossible.

  21. Drama Llama*

    OP2. I feel for you! My husband has travel anxiety as well. He freezes up on planes and is in no position to take care of anybody.

    You’re not under any obligation to disclose your anxiety. It would be perfectly fine to talk to your manager and mention you can’t offer assistance because of your own medical restrictions. I hope it all works out.

  22. Shay the Fae*

    2 – as someone who is disabled and requires travel assistance, I’d like to throw my 2 cents in.

    I much prefer to travel with my family, friends, or another person going to the same event. I think one of the reasons this might be is because I don’t like feeling like a burden to strangers and because I don’t feel as safe being assisted by strangers as I do people I know.

    I recently had a great experience going to a museum and requesting a wheelchair. I didn’t even have to ask – despite looking very young and the only indication of my disability being my cane – I was offered a chair as soon as I stepped in. The security guard helped me into it and wheeled me over to where my friends were waiting. It was very sweet, but also very stressful and activating for me.

    When I travel with friends and family I just need someone to stand by my side so I feel less overwhelmed and so if an problems come up I have an unimpaired person to help me problem solve them. I also let them know what they can do to make traveling easier if I have a minor medical issue. This can still be a lot to ask of someone.

    When I got to the part about your anxiety my heart really went out to you. If I were you, I would explain the anxiety, and say you would be happy to travel with them if they are willing to arrange official assistance from the airport. That is, if you are willing to do that.

  23. Temperance*

    LW2: only you know your colleague and whether he/she will take your inability (NOT unwillingness) to provide assistance well. If you’re comfortable, I would just lay it out honestly. If you’re not, which I totally relate to as well, I might encourage you to ask your colleague to work with the company and the airline to sort this out. If your coworker needs to travel for work even though they have this disability, your company should have a process to make it easier.

    I have anxiety, and this would be a huge trigger for me. I hate being responsible for other people, and having to navigate the visa process in a foreign country with a person who needed help would not work for me. OP, are you also expected to handle other pieces of the travel for your disabled colleague?

    1. OP#2*

      OP #2 here: It’s really hard to tell if that is an expectation, based on the logistics of arranging travel at my organization and the dynamics within the team. Everyone at the company is struggling with arranging travel logistics due to a not-great system–so someone is always asking for help in that regard! But some of our colleagues are also, as mentioned in a previous comment, sometimes infantilizing with their assistance for this person or how they talk about this person. So I’m trying to avoid doing that while still being helpful.

      I suppose it’s different for everyone, but I wonder if this speaks to whether one should offer support or ask if support is needed, or if it’s best to wait for someone needing support to ask? I’m struggling with this a lot with this coworker.

      1. Temperance*

        I would err on the side of letting your colleague ask for help with what they need, but I absolutely understand how anxiety can fuel making that seem like a less-than-wonderful option.

  24. drpuma*

    Skimming the question titles, I misread “Asking an interviewer how performance problems are handled” to be “Asking an interviewer how perfume problems are handled”. I realized my mistake, but now I’m really curious about perfume problems!

  25. Mockingjay*

    OP #5: If your circumstances permit, you might want a week or two buffer in between Temp Job and New Job. In most permanent jobs you will have to accrue leave for a few months before you can take time off for appointments, vacation, family visits, etc.

    1. JSPA*

      Start sooner = paycheck sooner (and benefits like medical, sooner). For someone who’s been working temp / short projects, there’s likely been more free time and less paycheck (and less medical coverage) than desirable.

  26. Goya de la Mancha*

    #1: Employer mandated health items are starting to drive me batty! There needs to be a waiver option somehow. Either to opt out per your doctor for various medical reasons or to give the option to have the appointment done at your own location (with sign-off of whoever administered the shot if need be).

    I get WHY businesses generally want to do these things (insurance costs, health of customers, etc.), but the lack of flexibility is seriously a problem. Our company requires “biometric” screening once per year. They throw several people into a room behind a screen and a nurse goes through several tests, there is ZERO privacy. It’s not “mandatory” but if you don’t participate, then your personal premium goes up something like 10+%. Again, I get the thought process between the insurance costs, early detection and all that jazz. It’s FANTASTIC that companies offer this quicker process for those who are generally healthy or don’t go to the doctor often enough. But if I’m someone who visits my dr. yearly for a physical (required for my medical issues) and they do ALL the same work and then some at this appointment. WHY on this green earth do I need to do it again – especially when needles/pain only jack up my anxiety to make it a SUPER fun event for me.

  27. Annoyed*

    I am super pto flu shot, and vaccines in general, jut how is it ok for an employer to get this much into personal medical stuff to the point of insisting one not get their flu shot from their regular foctor?

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Agreed – depending on workplace and risks to others, saying “you must have it (unless valid medical reason)” can be OK. Saying “you must get it FROM THIS PLACE” isn’t.

  28. RabbitRabbit*

    Regarding #4:

    I work in research regulations and compliance in an academic medical setting. Since we have a hospital/medical center attached, other employees can and have ‘seen my insides’ and outsides on a semi-regular basis, as I get my health care done where I work. So it’s not as uncommon as you think! I understand it might feel different in a more wholly academic setting, though.

    That being said, any medical research that specifically recruits employees/students (even adult students) generally has to consider them as a semi-protected class, as they are more subject to coercion and other concerns, such as privacy.

    1. Public Health Nerd*

      Correct. If they are allowed to recruit employees, they are also being required to follow procedures to protect them. It’s a bigger deal for a person signing up to be in their boss’ study, rather than HR. But just tell them you’re in HR in case they have any funny restrictions.

  29. JSPA*

    Current guidance from the US CDC is…stalled at the 2017-2018 recommendations. They state that the currently available US flu vaccines are universally broadly safe, even for most people with egg allergies. (Those being a sizeable proportion of the people who had bad reactions to flu shots previously, though of course, not all.) In fact, “people with egg allergies no longer need to be observed for an allergic reaction for 30 minutes after receiving a flu vaccine.”

    More recently, many news sources have reported that all of this year’s vaccines are recombinant, and not produced in eggs, and are thus “safe.” (Though as with any allergy, “not produced in” is not the same as “no possible contamination with.” Compare “no gluten ingredients listed” vs “certified Gluten Free” vs “independent lab immunological tests to detect gluten performed on each batch,” for foods.)

    The CDC guidance below that top level statement is still the same as it was previously, and actually contradicts the above:


    Recommendations for flu vaccination of persons with egg allergy have not changed since the 2016-2017 flu season.

    CDC recommends:

    Persons with a history of egg allergy who have experienced only hives after exposure to egg should receive flu vaccine. Any licensed and recommended flu vaccine (i.e., any form of IIV or RIV) that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status may be used.

    Persons who report having had reactions to egg involving symptoms other than hives, such as angioedema, respiratory distress, lightheadedness, or recurrent emesis; or who required epinephrine or another emergency medical intervention, may similarly receive any licensed and recommended flu vaccine (i.e., any form of IIV or RIV) that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status. The selected vaccine should be administered in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting (including, but not necessarily limited to hospitals, clinics, health departments, and physician offices). Vaccine administration should be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.

    A previous severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, is a contraindication to future receipt of the vaccine.


    For the person upthread who’s dealing with Native American specific health services, I would not actually assume what you’re getting is the same as the rest of US-standard, without cross-checking. It’s honestly sometimes like a different country / different rules.

    The Australian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy still warns that the OZ version of the vaccine may contain minute amounts of egg protein (far less than in yellow fever and Q fever vaccines, so that people who have reacted badly to those, may still be able to receive the flu vaccine).

    The top level, “everyone should now get it unless they’re unable to get all vaccines” (and the hidden asterisks) may be leading more people to assume that the flu vaccine is now both safe and useful for absolutely everyone, just because it’s now both safe and useful for the vast, vast majority of people.

    They may not realize that, among all the reasons for not being able to get the vaccine (or only being able to get it under controlled circumstances) include an ever-increasing percentage are the sort of thing that people might strongly prefer not to share with their workplace. (Or worse, they may realize, and be using it as a tool to probe people’s deeper health issues.) Basically, extreme egg allergy is something people might quite likely want to have known, for their own safety. Immune conditions and certain treatments that suppress the immune system, eg for Lupus? So very much not the business of Manager, nor Larry-next-cube.

    Having a strong “correct” response to a vaccine can also be more than passingly uncomfortable (like a day or two or three days of a mild case of the disease.) This is a feature.* For me, the new shingles vaccine was pretty intense for three days–half hour after I got it, the fever started, and an hour after that, I was in my car, shaking so hard that it was probably not safe for me to drive home (but I did, anyway, and stayed in bed for two days; really the worst reaction I’ve had). Yellow fever vaccine: the trots, food aversion, aches, pounding headache, low grade fever for a couple of days. Tetanus–reliably, a really sore, somewhat swollen arm and often low grade fever for three days. I either take a sick day (if I really can’t function) or…suck it up, glad that I know the vaccine is working, and that I therefore won’t be having the full version of that particular disease.

    When you talk to your boss, be prepared for the “it’s supposed to be fine for everyone now” presumption (and be educated about the degree to which this is more true than it was). And also the “you just don’t like feeling the vaccine work” argument (many people don’t! But that’s separate from an actual allergy to the components).

    For those who are curious, the reason for the new, “don’t ask about egg allergies, just give the vaccine” guidance is because most batches of vaccine have no egg, at least not at levels that will cause reactions in people with egg allergies (generally defined). Egg allergies are very common (estimated at 2 of every hundred children, and roughly 6 out of every thousand adults.) People who will have problems with any particular dose of vaccine are now very rare. Furthermore, it’s becoming recognized that anaphylaxis, if it happens, can happen with up to 24 hours delay (so there’s not much point to having tens of thousands of people wait for half an hour in a medical setting).

    Again from the CDC:

    “In a Vaccine Safety Datalink study of more than 25.1 million doses of vaccines of various types given to children and adults over 3 years, only 33 people had anaphylaxis. Of patients with a documented time to onset of symptoms, eight cases had onset within 30 minutes of vaccination, while in another 21 cases, symptoms were delayed more than 30 minutes following vaccination, including one case with symptom onset on the following day.”

    So people who know they’re allergic to eggs because eggs always made them puke as a kid? Not a contra-indication. People who had hives, when they got a flu vaccine 10 years ago (which was almost certainly made in eggs, and had a huge whopping dose of egg proteins)? Not a contra-indication. People who previously had a strong (e.g. anaphylaxis-level) allergic reaction to flu vaccine? Still considered a strong contra-indication (even though it’s actually a sort of Russian roulette–many doses of the vaccine will happen to be truly egg-free, while others will not–your workplace absolutely should not be forcing people to engage in that).

    You can show your boss the CDC guidance (even if that’s not actually YOUR particular medical issue).

    study link:

    *I was going to say it’s not a bug, but for live killed or attenuated vaccines–as opposed to the current flu vaccine, it kind of is a bug.

  30. Overachiever*

    Re OP3, maybe asking the flip side of this question will get you some relevant information. I have asked in interviews, ‘what does an excellent performance look like in this job?’ It can lead to a good discussion, not only of what excellence looks like, but of how / whether excellence is rewarded.

    1. Yojo*

      Oh man, that’s great! I usually ask something similar but more specific (“what kind of candidate would thrive in this position”) but I think your phrasing is a subtle way of broadening it to the whole team.

    2. irene adler*

      Yeah I ask this as well.

      I also ask the potential boss “How do you support your reports?”
      If I get a jokey answer, that tells me they aren’t going to be in my corner at crunch time. Pass.

      1. Been There, Done That*

        Thank you thank you thank you for this suggestion. I’m job hunting in large part to get away from the most clueless boss I’ve ever had. I’m sure she’d be blown away by the suggestion that underlings need support from The Manager. :)

  31. just me*

    “Bad managers are notoriously bad at assessing their own management style and are very likely to give you a reasonable-sounding, textbook-y answer to this that doesn’t reflect how things really play out. ”

    1000x this!!! My previous boss was just like this. And they even like/comment on positively on LinkedIn posts supporting the opposite behavior then they actually possess. Least self-aware person I’ve ever met.

  32. Granny K*

    Maybe this is already posted but if you are allergic to eggs, you can’t get a flu shot. I’ve gotten one and it always makes me feel a bit flu-like for a few days so I tend to get one on a Thursday or Friday, and then have no plans that weekend. By Monday I’m fine.

    1. Book Lover*

      Recommendations for flu vaccination of persons with egg allergy have not changed since the 2016-2017 flu season. CDC recommends:

      Persons with a history of egg allergy who have experienced only hives after exposure to egg should receive flu vaccine. Any licensed and recommended flu vaccine (i.e., any form of IIV or RIV) that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status may be used.
      Persons who report having had reactions to egg involving symptoms other than hives, such as angioedema, respiratory distress, lightheadedness, or recurrent emesis; or who required epinephrine or another emergency medical intervention, may similarly receive any licensed and recommended flu vaccine (i.e., any form of IIV or RIV) that is otherwise appropriate for the recipient’s age and health status. The selected vaccine should be administered in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting (including, but not necessarily limited to hospitals, clinics, health departments, and physician offices). Vaccine administration should be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic conditions.
      A previous severe allergic reaction to flu vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, is a contraindication to future receipt of the vaccine.

      1. Raine*

        IANAD, but I believe there are nose spray like versions of the flu vaccine that don’t include the ingredients that cause the egg related reaction, but these are contraindicated if you have any sort of cardio-vascular condition or respiratory condition. Just something to look into if you hate needles or can’t get the injection but still want to get vaccinated.

    2. Natalie*

      This is no longer the case, egg allergies are not contraindicated for any US vaccine including flu. For people who have had a severe reaction to eggs, they just recommend you be vaccinated by a health professional who can recognize and manage a allergic conditions.

  33. Database Developer Dude*

    OH. MY. GOD. Even in the freaking ARMY RESERVE…the MILITARY, if you already have the shot this season, and you have documentation, you won’t be forced to get it again. How do civilian workplaces not get this???

    I speak, to some degree, five languages, and there is not enough profanity in my vocabulary for workplaces that would try to force an employee to double up on flu shots just to fill their numbers.

    1. Book Lover*

      Perhaps I missed a comment above. Is that something that has already happened? If the op wants her doctor’s office to provide the flu shot, she can do that and then take documentation to the work clinic. Full compliance (at my clinic) means that people get the flu shot or show documentation they have received it or cannot get it. Of course if they still want to duplicate, push back, but that would be atypical.

      1. Someone Else*

        OP mentioned that the boss seemed resistant/unsatisfied at the “I’m going to get it at my own doctor first” idea, so there’s been some speculation that Boss is not reasonable enough to accept “Here’s my note that says I already got a flu shot”. There’s already been some atypical pushback, albeit pre-emptively. I don’t believe the clinic (or the OP’s shot elsewhere) has happened yet. Just that the boss seems to have already ruffled at the very reasonable idea of getting it elsewhere.

  34. Robin*

    Re: #1 – Flu shots.
    Don’t get me started on this…my company also brings in a company to administer flu shots; fortunately, it is completely voluntary.

    I am extremely squeamish when it comes to anything that has to do with needles and have a tendency to pass out when exposed – even if it’s not me!! Just being around everyone having it done can cause me to faint. Therefore, I typically take a day of PTO on that day. (Some people tell me to just not go to the area where they’re doing it, but it’s not that simple – it’s easier to just take the day off and not take a risk.)

    That being said, my doctor knows this and doesn’t force it on me either. If I do decide to get one, I would much rather get it in the privacy of my doctors office where they are able to accommodate my issue.

    1. Cakezilla*

      This! If I have to get a shot, I always do it somewhere where I can be in private and my partner can support me (like, literally support me when I get dizzy so I do not fall over). The fact that I have control over the how/when/who comes with me takes it down from unbearable to just… extremely uncomfortable.

      If someone tried to make me get it at work, well… they better be ready for me to have a panic attack and/or pass out at work.

      1. Robin*

        Yes, these things got a little easier when I got married and hubby could drive me there. When I was single I would have to take a day off work so I could take public transportation, so I didn’t risk passing out while driving home.

  35. Matilda Jefferies*

    OP2, from my (very!) limited understanding of working with people with disabilities, it seems to me that being a support person of any kind is usually a job in itself. Not necessarily a paid job, but a dedicated role – the support person’s primary focus is helping the person with the disability navigate the airport and customs control and so on. It’s not something you just tack on to someone else’s role in a “you can help Mary out since you’re going to be there anyway” kind of thing. I don’t know if there’s any specific training required – I imagine that would depend on the specific needs of the person with the disability – but there’s definitely more to it than just showing the person to the gate and helping them find their seat.

    What does your colleague think of all this? Does she need a support person, and does she have a good idea of what this person needs to do? Presumably yes! I would suggest talking to her first, to see what she actually needs, then go to your employers together and propose a better plan than what’s currently in place.

    Some questions you should ask:
    ~What exactly are you expected to do to help this person? What is out of scope?
    ~Does this person have any medical needs beyond the sensory impairment, that you would need to know about? (I would ask your colleague, rather than your employer about this one!) What are you expected to do if something comes up there?
    ~What if there are problems with your colleague’s visa, and she is delayed getting into the country or can’t get in at all? Are you expected to stay with her for as long as it takes to resolve? What is your role in helping resolve the problems?
    ~What if there are problems with *your* visa?
    ~Assuming you and your colleague are both basically decent people, you’re not likely to leave each other stuck at the airport – so what happens to the work you’re supposed to be doing? Will someone else do it, will your stay be extended, etc?
    ~What happens if you have to leave early due to a medical or family emergency of your own? Will someone else take over as the support person? Who?

    You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned your own anxiety here – that’s because I think this is a bad idea regardless. Obviously it’s something you’ll need to take into account when you’re talking to TPTB about this, but I think the idea is problematic enough on its own that hopefully you’ll get some traction just by asking all these contingency questions.

    1. Raine*

      I agree with all of this. Open up a dialogue with your coworker so you can explicitly agree on what you can do and what you can’t to help them. The company sending you two on this trip should be responsible for covering all the other situations by hiring someone like an aide or consulting with a group that specializes in access and international travel so they can provide this employee with the resources they need to do this part of their job.

      Don’t sacrifice your health to support your coworker, OP! One of the key principles of Disability Justice is understanding unique bodymind circumstances and working to find solutions that allow for holistic access, which should mean that helping one disabled person shouldn’t hurt anyone else, and vice versa.

    2. AnotherSarah*

      These were also my questions–any number of routine glitches can happen at airports, and generally speaking, non-family members are not supposed to be in, say, immigration questioning rooms with a person being questioned.

      And certainly, your colleague isn’t the only person in their situation–you don’t mention exactly what the issues will likely be, but SOMEONE has the solution, and it’s your workplace’s job to find the relevant info. And if it’s more than at the level of friendly helping-out, then someone else needs to be paid to assist.

      If the issue is more along the lines of comfort, navigation, language, I would highly recommend calling both the airline(s) and airport(s). We successfully got a friend who has never flown overseas, needed a visa, and doesn’t speak any widely-spoken languages to the US and back by doing this. (I would not recommend YOU call–this should be the company’s responsibility.)

  36. Matilda Jefferies*

    OP4, it’s entirely up to your comfort level, but I would think you’ll be fine from a privacy/ confidentiality perspective. IANAL, and I am probably not in your jurisdiction, but in Ontario, you’d be protected in all kinds of ways.

    A pelvic exam is a “controlled act” under our health legislation, which can only be performed by certain licenced professionals – primarily nurses and doctors, but also midwives and a handful of others. So it’s not going to be some random colleague doing the exam, but a licenced medical professional who is subject to all the usual codes of ethics and confidentiality of her profession. We also have health information legislation (similar to HIPAA) that protects what information can be shared with whom – this includes information that is collected for research purposes, as well as for direct medical care.

    So your specific legislative environment is probably going to be different from mine, but I would expect that there are similar protections where you are. There should also be a research protocol describing exactly what will be done and why, as well as the confidentiality requirements of the researchers. And you’ll likely have to sign a detailed consent form that ensures that all this has been explained to you by someone who is actually involved in the research. ;)

    I definitely understand the “squick” factor of having a colleague poking around your insides, though! But given the context of academic research and health legislation, there should be lots of opportunity to ask questions and get all the information you need to make a decision you’re comfortable with.

  37. Database Developer Dude*

    How is it even legal for a workplace to try to force you to get a SECOND flu shot in a season if you’ve already got one, nevermind a civilian workplace forcing you to in the first place….

  38. Raine*

    In response to the airport question, as someone who has disabilities that sometimes mean I need assistance in airports, I can testify that airports provide pretty terrible accommodation services in most cases. However, I think it is inappropriate for the manager to require this employee to be the facilitator for their disabled coworkers needs on this trip. It seems like OP would be willing to help in some capacity but is concerned about what they can do. I would highly recommend speaking directly to your coworker about what they may need in advance so you can tell them what you can and can’t do. Also, from the letter it seems unclear if the disabled coworker has only raised this issue by talking to OP or if this has also been addressed with the higher ups in the company. If it hasn’t, then OP should encourage their coworker to speak with their boss about other possible solutions as well. Beyond that, the company should look for an alternative solution, likely one that begins by contacting someone in the other country who can formally provide assistance even if this is not through the airline.

  39. Dobermom*

    Re #5… Over 8 years ago, I was passed over for a job because I had to give two-weeks’ notice at my then-current position. The candidate they chose over me could start immediately. About three months later, I got a call to come and interview again because that candidate didn’t end up working out. I guess they were willing to wait two weeks for me this time… and I’ve been at the company (in a different role now) ever since.

  40. Works at place that requires vaccines*

    At my organization, flu shots are offered free of charge, and if employees get the shot omewhere else, they can bring in proof of getting the shot. If they have a medical reason, they can bring in a doctor’s note. You don’t have to be specific if you don’t want to tell people what your medical reason is, but this is important enough that you do need a reason. As someone who had a severe allergic reaction (full body hives!) To the first course of a three course vaccine, and was advised to not get the other two doses, I would not want to work with people who don’t take getting vaccinated seriously. Herd immunity is important, because a healthy person’s minor inconvenience is someone else’s near death experience.

    Honestly, if they’re offering a free vaccine why not take them up on it?

    1. Jennifer Juniper*

      Thank you! I actually cheered when my spouse and I got our flu shots last Thursday. I don’t want the flu, because it’s nasty and time-consuming, even in a healthy adult. I don’t want to be Typhoid Mary, either.


    2. LW #1*

      LW #1 here! Again, none of us have any issues or bad feelings about flu shots or vaccines in general, but when we’ve raised wanting to get them with our personal doctor or indicated there are medical reasons for not wanting to do the flu clinic, the VP is pressing for more details and pressuring people to get the in-office shot despite that. There are also broader issues and history of management being very heavy handed with policies. Given that some of us were concerned because it’s less management being helpful at that point and more management getting very involved with how we make our own medical decisions.

  41. MassMatt*

    #3 I think this is the sort of information you can best get by talking to people at the job. Most interviews I have gone to (and conducted myself) allowed for some sort of shadowing or talking with people doing the job—your future coworkers, in other words. Some people I have shadowed with seemed to very much give a company line but most have been pretty candid. You can ask questions about how bad performance is handled, what’s the worst thing about the job, etc. and get a more realistic picture than from the hiring manager.

  42. WafflesForPresident*

    To OP#2, I truly empathize with you. If I have the ability to control my travel arrangements I can travel anxiety free, but I find that traveling with anyone (even my fully able partner of four years) adds a certain cloud of general malaise over me. I couldn’t imagine feeling responsible for another person of any ability level.

    You ARE NOT an ***hole. Heck, even if you didn’t have anxiety, you would not be an ***hole for not wanting to be responsible for another human being. I disagree with Alison on this point and I want to stress that you SHOULD NOT have to disclose your anxiety if you do not want to. Alison is correct that it may help garner some understanding from your colleague, but that is only a possibility and your personal information is yours.

    Also, try not to take the mentality of this being a “crappy situation” that some other people recommended. That may create a self fulfilling prophecy. Simply express your kindest regrets and plan your own travel.

  43. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP2: You are not being selfish. As someone with three anxiety disorders, I can empathize with you! You would not be a good candidate to help the other person even if you wanted to. Perhaps telling them about your medical issues (if you wish) may help soften the blow.

  44. Formerly Known As*

    For #2, I just want to thank Alison for recognizing anxiety as a medical issue. I suffer debilitating anxiety attacks and take maintenance medication daily. One of my triggers is air travel. I typically have to take a small dose of my acute medication to get through airports. I recently got PreCheck, which has helped a great deal. Too often, those of us with anxiety are blown off and told to just calm down or get over it, and we can’t. It’s so much bigger than that.

    To OP #2, good luck. I know you want to do the right thing, but you also need to take care of yourself. You can be kind to your coworker while also doing what you need to do to keep an anxiety attack at bay.

  45. Random Thought*

    #3 Thinking out loud here. Wondering if you could ask “Tell me about a time when you had to address a performance issue on your team.” You’re not asking for details on any specific person, and you’re not really asking about what the problem was – this might get you insight into how that manager thinks about performance issues, and how (they think) they handled it. Take it with a grain of salt, but a concrete example might get you farther than asking generally about how they view their management style. However, I still think this is likely to be kind of off-putting. It shouldn’t be, but?

  46. Random Thought*

    #1 Why not ask/suggest that you travel together and both get help from the airline upon arrival? If your colleague does get help, you can be the friendly face nearby (so to speak) but you’re both relying on the airline for assistance. It sounds like this would make you feel better too.

    1. fposte*

      It sounds upthread like assistance isn’t something you can rely on the airline or airport to provide, unfortunately.

    2. Temperance*

      Not OP#2, but a person with anxiety. To you this sounds like a nice, friendly offer. To me, it sounds like I’m going to be stuck not only managing my travel, which is stressful, but managing things for a person with a serious disability without having planned to do so.

      Because here is what will happen: OP#2’s coworker might make a call, maybe she won’t, but the airline’s customer service is non-existent, so OP#2 will be stuck holding the bag. She’ll have to manage her own anxiety as well as a person with a disability.

      1. E. Messily*

        Alternatively, here’s what will happen: OP#2 will have an anxiety attack, and the coworker will be stuck holding the bag. She’ll have to manage her own travel, which due to a sensory deficit is stressful, as well as managing things for a person with a serious disability [anxiety] without having planned to do so.

        THE HORROR

  47. Dana M Elliott*

    Re #5

    Sometimes employers need that time to get new hires set up in their systems, added to payroll, etc. They often aren’t able to accommodate somebody starting the day after an offer is accepted.

  48. PersonalJeebus*

    Anecdata for OP1: My wife recently got back into the healthcare field, and as part of the onboarding process at her new hospital job, she was required to get several immunizations. (I know for a fact that it’s possible to refuse the immunizations if you have reasons, but in most cases people go along with it.) My wife got her initial shots at her doctor and then the booster shots at her new workplace right before she started. The following week, she got dizzy and ill at work and was escorted to the ER. Turned out she had viral meningitis (not as scary as the bacterial kind, but still a serious illness). She had to miss a week of work with no PTO, because she hadn’t accrued any yet, and her employer-provided health insurance hadn’t yet taken effect because she was so new. Workers compensation paid for her ER and other medical bills, and she’s about to receive a settlement from workers comp, because an official medical evaluation concluded that her illness was caused by the MMR vaccine. There’s a documented link between that vaccination and aseptic (viral) meningitis.

    So make sure your employer is aware that if employees experience any adverse effects or incur any costs as a result of reactions to the flu shot, they’ll probably be liable. Even more so if the shot is performed in the workplace, I imagine!

  49. Essess*

    I would simply tell coworker that you will have your hands full dealing with a private medical issue that impacts you while you are travelling so you wouldn’t be in a position to be able to assist her as well. If anyone presses for what the condition is, you can respond that you already said that it is private and is between you and your doctor.

  50. Genevieve in NZ*

    For OP #2, I hope the conversation with your co worker went well (I saw in the comments you have talked to them). Just wanted to reassure you for yourself that getting a visa at the airport is usually very straightforward – my husband and I spent 2 years travelling the world and went to 50 countries and getting the visa was one of the least stressful things about travelling!

  51. Collingswood*

    My office offers a flu shot clinic, but I only go to my own doctor now due to a bad experience with the clinic shot providers. The clinic person gave me the shot too high on my shoulder and I had pain and motion limitations for over 6 months. Now I will only go places with experienced shot providers. I would be pretty upset if I was forced to get a shot at the clinic

  52. Triple Anon*

    Another option to consider: The flu shot provider might accept a doctor’s note for opting out and give you a non-medicated shot so that it’s not obvious. Blood drives do that, so maybe flu shot providers would too? Seems like it could be an option for people who need to opt out but don’t want to draw attention to it.

  53. Typhon Worker Bee*

    OP4, I’ve participated in research studies run by my employer, although they only needed some very basic information and a blood draw. It was fine.

    On the other hand, I used to have a job that involved working very closely with literally all of the breast cancer specialists in my city. I used to joke that if I got breast cancer while working in that job, I was going to have to move to another province. My sister is in a similar situation – her job brings her into contact with most of the OBGYNs in her city, and she had a hell of a time finding a doctor she was comfortable with when she got pregnant! So IME it depends on how closely you work with the people who are running the study. If you’d never usually run into them in your day-to-day work, it should be absolutely fine.

  54. yorkjj*

    #2 – OP, please consider the possibility that travelling with someone else might actually help lessen anxiety by giving you something else to focus on – helping them. It also gives you, the OP, the chance to get to know this person better, let them get to know you as well, and help each other through a situation which many people find anxious – international travel. Sometimes, sharing our fears and anxieties helps put them into perspective, bounding them as manageable problems instead of larger than life monsters.

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