my boss is annoyed that I stayed out late drinking during a three-day work event

A reader writes:

I am a designer for an architectural firm and I was assigned to assist in a trade show, as our firm was one of the exhibitors. The show was held in my hometown so we needed to fly for the event.

The show proper is from 9 AM to 7 PM and fell on a weekend, starting on a Friday. As it was my hometown and my friends were living where the show was held, I decided to catch up with them for drinks after we ended the first day of the event. It was a way for me to de-stress as well. I went out at 10 PM, way after the first day ended, and ended up going back to our hotel at 5 the next morning, but I wasn’t drunk. Tipsy, yes. Blackout drunk, no. After that, I still managed to go to the show at exactly 9 AM. From 9 AM to 7 PM, I was fully-functional in manning our booth, fulfilling inquiries, and any other chores our boss needed me to do without a hitch. He even complimented my work for that day. We closed down our booth, and our boss and my coworkers went out to dinner.

During dinner, my boss asked me what time I got home, as I had asked permission from him if I could go out, which he allowed me to. I told him 5 AM and then he got mad. This is a non-verbatim flow of our conversation:

Boss: You shouldn’t have gone home at 5 AM because we are in the middle of a three-day event. If you didn’t go out, you could’ve done better today. You didn’t give out your full potential.

Me: Sir, I was at our booth at exactly 9 AM, answered inquiries diligently, fulfilled orders, and manned the booth with the way I do in the past shows.

Boss: You’re missing the point here. I’m not saying you didn’t do good today. If something happened to you in this city, which we are unfamiliar with, I am liable.

Me: Sir, this is my hometown. I know the city by heart.

Boss: Don’t argue with me. Going out for drinks even after work hours in a business trip is unprofessional.

His scolding continued and he was changing his points as I defended myself. I eventually shut up so that it wouldn’t escalate any further.

I was fully-functional and fulfilling work to be done on the day without any problems. My question is, was I really unprofessional for going out after work hours in this situation?

I wouldn’t say it was unprofessional exactly, but it didn’t show great judgment.

Going out after a work event is fine. But coming back to the hotel drunk at 5 a.m. when you need to staff an all-day event that starts four hours later isn’t the wisest thing to do.

Maybe you were 100% on your game and no one would have been able to tell that you were running on a few hours of drunken sleep. But for a lot of people, that would have affected their ability to be fully on for a full-day event, which tend to be pretty exhausting. It’s not surprising that your boss would want you to show up fully rested, or that he thought you were being cavalier about your work responsibilities. I’d agree with him there; it does sound you were being cavalier about them.

But your boss is also being weird in the way he’s explaining his objections — but probably more accurately, he’s just not explaining his objections well.

For the record, the thing about being liable for you in an unfamiliar city is weird. (And if you were a woman, it would sounds grossly sexist and paternalistic, but I think from your email that you’re a man so we’ll stick to just weird and paternalistic.) And the idea that it’s always unprofessional to go out for drinks on a work trip is silly. People go out for drinks on work trips all the time, and it’s fine — as long as they’re reasonably well-rested and not hungover the next day.

But I suspect that he’s not articulating his concerns well and that they really just boil down to: “While you’re on a work trip, I expect work to be your first priority, which means that you should prioritize showing up well-rested and not hungover after going out drinking with friends. Even if you’re telling me you were fine the next day, there was enough of a risk that you wouldn’t be fine that this isn’t okay to do.”

And that’s absolutely reasonable, and it’s probably something he’s annoyed to have to tell you.

{ 718 comments… read them below }

  1. Czhorat*

    The title didn’t quite do the situation justice.

    “Mad about going out late” sounds at least a bit controlling. “Mad that you stayed out until FIVE AM the day before you were supposed to work from 9AM to 7PM)” is really, really reasonable.

    I also find it hard to believe that you’d function as well with about three hours of sleep as you would given close to a full night. If you went out for a cocktail or two and were back in your room by midnight then I’d agree that he’s overstepping a bit. Your behaviour doesn’t fit what I see as reasonable norms.

    1. ANon.*

      Intuitively, I agree. But I also wonder if that response would change if OP normally got very few hours of sleep? Say OP regularly functioned on 4 hours of sleep. Surely, no boss has the standing to require that an employee must get a full 8 hours of sleep, assuming the employee is always showing up to work on time and has no performance issues! Why would it matter now?

      Again, this is hypothetical. I certainly agree it does not show good judgement if OP does not normally get 3-4 hours of sleep each night.

      1. BF50*

        I can function at 95% on 4 hours sleep for a day, but it catches up to me eventually. I would not be surprised if this kid functioned fine on Saturday morning and afternoon, but was completely useless by dinner or the next day.

        I also think it’s not professional, or smart, to candidly tell your boss that you stayed out until 5 and then worked the next day. If you are going to engage in the type of behaviors that will make you look irresponsible, you should not advertise them.

        That said, results should matter more than perception. If he was good on Saturday, spent Sunday traveling, not working, and went to bed early enough to be fully functional on Monday, then it shouldn’t matter that much.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*

          Yeah… I would have lied. Lied hard. Lied bald-faced.

          This is just not something your boss needs to know.

          1. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

            Yup — I *never* would have copped to getting in at 5. I would have said something like “oh, not too late, I got plenty of sleep” and if pressed would fudged even further. No need for my boss to know that, ever.

          2. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

            Same. I would have said something like, “Not too late” because WTF, why is an adult asking another adult what time they got home?

            1. Autumnheart*

              Why is an adult having to ask another adult to go out in the evening in the first place? What justifies having to ask your boss for permission to go out after the workday is complete, even at a work event? That seems even weirder and more paternalistic.

              1. TooTiredToThink*

                I noticed that as well. It seems controlling. And reminds me of the weird dynamics when I was young and everyone treated me like I was their child rather than as an adult.

                Should the LW have stayed out until 5am? No, that wasn’t wise for a lot of reasons; but I wouldn’t be saying that about 2am. But then, I am a night owl.

                And I would also say this; there have been a lot of times where insomnia has hit me and I don’t fall asleep until 5am but still am up and ready to go for work. Granted; that can only happen one or two days in a row, but its fine.

              2. RUKiddingMe*

                Yeah the whole needing to ask permission to go out on one’s off work time, and then to be grilled about what time you came in, and lectured about it…all rubs me the wrong way.

              3. GlitsyGus*

                My only thought that would make this reasonable is if it were more of a, “hey Boss, are there any evening events you need me to attend on Friday? A few childhood friends would like to meet up if I’m free.” “Nope, your time is your own after 7. Have a good time!” That would make sense, and I have done that, better to be safe than sorry if you aren’t certain about the schedule. If OP really needed “permission” though, that would be odd.

          3. Cringing 24/7*

            My first thought was “Why did you answer honestly?” It was truly a what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him type of situation.
            Even if you have an issue with a direct lie, a vague “Oh, I didn’t pay attention to the time.” would have sufficed.

          4. Patrick J Maloney*

            If s/he had been breathalyzed at Nine am the next morning she would have, most likely, failed.
            How can one be fit for work if you are not fit to drive?

            1. JS*

              There is a lot of functioning alcoholics out there. Just because something isn’t a norm to you doesn’t mean it isn’t to others. My roommate in college was a 4.0 honors student in biology but she smoked and was high 24/7, that was her normal. Functioned completely fine. Eyes didn’t even get glazed over or red ever, you wouldn’t be able to tell ever. Unlike me and a few hits knocks me on my butt.

        2. CM*

          But results AND perception matter.
          The OP didn’t have to say 5 am — she should have realized that this would look bad. She should have said something like, “Not too late.” This boss was obviously flustered by that answer, and angry even though he couldn’t quite articulate why.

          1. RS*

            However, I am guessing that if the boss asked, it is because:

            A: OP was not as “on” as they thought they were.
            B: He had reason to believe that OP came in at 5am (someone saw them and said something, for example).
            I wouldn’t want to own up to coming in at 5am either, but lying wouldn’t necessarily make this better.

            1. Hammered by Dawn*

              Depends on the lie, doesn’t it?
              “I stayed over with one of my friends from the old neighborhood last night, then came in at 5 to change my clothes and get ready for day two.”
              That’s a serviceable lie, one adult to another.

            2. Confused*

              Exactly. I doubt this conversation would have even occurred if OP was actually performing as well as they thought they did. OP was probably functional, which is fine for a normal workday, but conferences are more external facing and you need to be performing at better than functional. Most people are tired on 3 hours of sleep and it was probably beyond obvious that OP was not on their game.

        3. Hey Nonnie*

          Yeah, you know, if Boss was pleased with OP’s performance, and only became displeased upon finding out his sleep habits, Boss is over-stepping. Boss might suggest that it’s not generally a good idea to go without sleep because it can and would eventually affect job performance, but that’s really as far as he should go in dictating how his employees spend their non-working time. Dressing the employee down (while also moving the goalposts, which tells me that Boss was objecting “on principal” and not because he could see or articulate any legitimate business reason for his objection) was out of line. It’s up to individual people to manage their sleep and personal lives. The Boss gets to manage his work performance; that’s it.

          If Boss hadn’t already been complimenting his performance, if OP had not already been living up to expectations, Boss might have a point. But arguing about this even though he already got the results he wanted is pointless and really, really petty.

          1. Rumbakalao*

            Seconded. I think there are enough people wondering why OP felt the need to admit to his/her boss that they were out until 5am in the first place. Both parties are in the wrong here, considering the boss really had no reason to lay into OP about when they got to sleep after the fact knowing that their performance was apparently unaffected. The only reason I can think of the boss having a real point here is if OP is overestimating how well s/he was running on less than 4 hours of sleep. If I were the boss I would also question my employee’s judgement, but I wouldn’t be as upset as this boss seems to be if they were really as on their game as OP says.

        4. Jasnah*

          Agreed. OP made two mistakes, one is going out partying all night (even if that’s OK for you it doesn’t show great judgment/indicate that work is your first priority), and two is telling the boss that! Nobody respects you more after hearing how much you drank/how late you were out, this is not college and that’s not a topic anyone cares about. Plus as you saw it can send the wrong impression to your boss that you are irresponsible and would rather party than rest up for work. It doesn’t matter if that’s true or not…don’t you want to look good for your boss?

      2. Naomi*

        I find it highly unlikely that someone regularly getting 3-4 hours of sleep would have no resulting performance issues–and in that case, a boss would be completely reasonable to take the employee aside and tell them they need to show up at work fully rested.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          Margaret Thatcher was pretty efficient…for better or for worse.

          I’ve not slept properly for years due to having young kids, and I was suprisingly fine on a recent international work trip which involved early flights and a busy program. Sure, I might be even more efficient and fabulous if I would get more sleep, but I’m kind of used to functioning on less.

          Which doesn’t mean that I don’t think the OP was pretty irresponsible and unprofessional here. He was lucky that his work didn’t suffer, but his relationship with his boss seems to have suffered anyway.

          1. SusieCruisie*

            There’s also a difference in regularly getting 3-4 hours of sleep and getting 3-4 hours of sleep (even if that’s your regular schedule) when you’ve been drinking up until those 3-4 hours.

              1. JS*

                It’s another YMMV thing because I usually am a light sleeper and anything can disrupt me. I also have adhd so I can rarely sleep more than 6.5 hours before my body decides I need to wake up. I need blackout curtians or I wake up with the sun. But drinking knocks me out like a light, have slept through my ex-roommate screaming breakup match with her bf and curtains being wide open eastern facing for a full 8-9hrs.

          2. Emily*

            I just got (lightly) chewed out by my psychiatrist last week when I revealed that I had solved my ongoing time management/overscheduling myself problem by just deciding I could get by on 6 hours of sleep instead of 8 a night, reasoning that “I’ll be a little bit tired all the time, but I’ll get more done and be less stressed out as a result and happier overall.”

            I was truly not expecting any pushback and had been rather proud of myself for making what I viewed as a smart, disciplined decision to sacrifice a small measure of comfort so that I could better meet my adult obligations…but he was very adamant that while it might work for a few weeks, this could not be my long-term solution because I can’t get around biological reality and my cognitive processes and immune system will start to deteriorate under long-term sleep deprivation, even if it’s only mild deprivation – it will add up over time.

            So, back to the drawing board on that problem…

            1. Alienor*

              I can’t even imagine getting 8 hours of sleep every night. When I go to bed early, even with a full dose of melatonin on board, I wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and start getting sleepy again around the time I have to get up for the day at 6. (The worst is when I actually do manage to fall asleep again, because then I’m all groggy and miserable when the alarm goes off.) This has been going on for years, so my cognitive processes must be a wreck by now!

              1. TooTiredToThink*

                Alienor – look up about sleeping in two shifts; apparently it used to be how people slept.

                1. BF50*

                  Exactly what i was going to say. Polyphasic sleeping might be your more natural sleep pattern.

                  My dad did this (unintentionally) when I was a kid. He’d wake in the middle of the night and not be able to go back to sleep, so he’d work for a couple hours then sleep again and get up at 6. He says his middle of the night work was often his best. My husband also does this sometimes, though he watches TV.

                2. RUKiddingMe*

                  And it is apparently what my body has decided to do as a normal thing. I honestly can’t remember the last time I slept more than three hours at one stretch.

                3. Rater Z*

                  And it’s also what truck deicers tend to do unless that has been changed in the past few years.
                  I’ve never heard the term before so I need to check it out.

            2. she was a fast machine*

              I just want to be a reinforcement to your dr because I used to function on very little sleep and now that I’m getting a full night again I feel like a totally different person. I got sick so often, was so forgetful and generally absentminded, and was just really not functioning well when I wasn’t sleeping a full night. I didn’t even realize how bad it had gotten until I could sleep again and now I feel like Superman compared to how I was before.

              1. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

                I dunno, that whole Everyone MUST get 8 hours of sleep ALL THE TIME doesn’t work for me. There might be days where I sleep 10 hours, there might be days when I sleep 4, wake up for 2, go back for 3, wake up, work, afternoon nap… it varies, depending on how my chronic fatigue syndrome wants to play b.all. I literally have to take amitryptaline to sleep continuously through the night, which I’d stopped doing in grade school, for some reason. And the longer I sleep, the more exhausted I am. I literally cannot function on what others consider to be ‘proper’ sleep. In fact, tonight, I am likely to not go to bed before midnight. I /might/ be asleep by one am. Guarandamnteed, though, I will be awake by 6 am, whether I want to be or not. I’ve learned that between 5 and 6 hours is optimal for me, or I’m going to be unpleasant without coffee (okay, it”s not guaranteed I won’t be grouchy as hell even AFTER coffee, but since I’m a dogwalker, it doesn’t matter. My dog babies don’t care if I’m not sunshine and roses, as long as I take them out to pee. And, well, a slight grouchiness is actually very effective on my one knuckleheaded puppy, who doesn’t behave for super cheerful types, but will straighten up nicely if you growl a little. lol)

                1. P*

                  It just depends on the person.
                  Someone who would want to sleep 8 hrs will have problems if they chronically only get 6 hrs; usually things like weight gain, mood changes, etc. But there are some people who only want 6 hrs of sleep and it’s just fine for them; again though if they got less than they need then they’d probably have similar effects.

        2. CastIrony*

          I agree. I’m like this. In fact, I got this amount of sleep last night, and I notice myself making mistakes (and correcting them).

        3. aebhel*

          Sure, yeah, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here; the boss actually complimented the employee’s work until he learned how little sleep he’d gotten, so clearly it wasn’t an actual problem with performance.

          1. Lady H*

            The boss might have given a bland compliment that was more of a “thanks for putting in a long day” — I’m not going to second-guess the OP because that’s not okay, but we don’t know if the compliment was sincere or what. The boss seems controlling but I also think they’re correct in being concerned about the judgement of someone who goes out drinking all night before a weekend of hard work.

        4. Mayati*

          The New York Times (I think) had a recent article about how some people just need a few hours sleep and can perform just fine…but how the number of people who can really do that is way, way smaller than the number of people who think they can do that.

          1. Lord Gouldian Finch*

            Amount of sleep needed can be a bit of a bell curve and there are some people who just need four hours of sleep (I think Isaac Asimov, for example, was such a person). But those are rare and I think if LW was one of them he’d have said as much.

            I do agree 5 am is a bit much for a business trip. If LW had told his boss “1am” even I think he’d have had a much more mild talking-to.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I read a book called “Sleep Thieves” by Stanley Coren, and the research he reported on indicated that most of those people actually DO catch up on sleep on the weekend.

            Or, they are catching naps that they don’t report.

            1. Julia*

              Yeah, my husband is one of those. “Fine” with six hours during the week (fine meaning it takes him an hour to wake up fully, though), but then sleeps until noon on Saturday and Sunday. I’m glad it works for him, but it sucks if you’re someone who needs regular 8 hours and live in a small apartment.

      3. Psyche*

        It is still a bad look to be out until 5 if you need to be at work at 9. Especially if you were out drinking. Most likely the alcohol wouldn’t even be completely out of his system if he was drinking that late. It takes on average 5.5 hours for a blood alcohol content of 0.08 to return to 0. Even if the OP was functional, it shows very bad judgement and an employees behavior on a work trip is very much the boss’s business.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          When I’ve met up with old friends, we usually end up talking long after we’ve stopped drinking.

          1. CoveredInBees*

            The OP’s own description was that they were “tipsy” upon returning to the hotel. That is a pretty imprecise term and in my experience drunk people underestimate how drunk they are, but still, using 0.08 doesn’t seem so off to me.

            1. MatKnifeNinja*

              My friend working in the ER automatically tack on 2 to 4 more drinks to people who say *tipsy/couple of beers/few glasses of wine.*

              People almost never tell the truth about how much they party harty, at least to police or health care workers.

              1. Elizabeth Rochelle Dickson*

                I would hate your friend… I don’t drink, so 2 beers would, indeed, make me tipsy — and has. Him making it look like I had six? Nope. I wouldn’t have that many, EVER. And I hate being told I’m a liar just because other people are alcohol guzzlers.

          2. Observer*

            Well, either they were drinking A LOT earlier, or they kept drinking till close to 5 because the OP says that they came back “tipsy”. And by tipsy, I think they really mean “noticeably drunk, because they contrast it with “blackout drunk.”

                1. Zillah*

                  It’s not reasonable to assume that someone who says they were tipsy was actually very drunk, especially when we’re supposed to take OPs at their word.

            1. yasmara*

              @Observer, I am with you on this – normal, average drinkers don’t qualify their drinking as “I was drunk but not blackout drunk.” It is a red flag for me for problem behavior around drinking…which I think staying out until 5am, coming back to the hotel drunk/impaired, and having to work an extended day conference *with your boss* qualifies as.

      4. Mia*

        I have awful insomnia and regularly getting very few hours of sleep makes it easier to function that way, but IME there’s a big difference between being up til 5 staring at the ceiling and being up til 5 and actually being out and about. But even if I was able to function at 100% after being out til 5, I’d probably still lie to save face and say I got in at a more reasonable hour.

      5. Frankie*

        Mmm…even then, you add in alcohol and it’s not a night of insomnia, it’s a full day of work after insomnia + a hangover for an event that’s kind of higher stakes than a typical day at the office.

        And the truth is, most people don’t function as well as they could if they routinely get 3-4 hours of sleep. Some people can but those people are exceptions.

            1. ANon.*

              I have to disagree. I use “tipsy” to mean 100% functional, just a bit more animated, chatty, effervescent . To me, “drunk” would be can’t walk straight, speaking loudly and, on the more extreme end, feeling like the room is spinning/having a headache, etc. I see no reason why we shouldn’t take OP’s word, and are instead jumping to conclusions that s/he must have been more drunk than described.

              1. Zillah*

                Ditto. I have also been drunk without having a hangover the next day. Jumping to the conclusion that the OP was very drunk and hungover when both go directly counter to what he said is basically calling him a liar.

      6. Jennifer Juniper*

        I’m guessing it’s a matter of optics, particularly if the OP is a woman. It may look bad for the brand to have customers see employees appear to be carousing. I’m mentioning gender here because people hold women to stricter standards of respectability than men. I’m assuming the OP is American.

    2. Sloan Kittering*

      Still, OP’s mistake in my opinion was telling the boss something that would make them look bad. If they really did perform great the next day and didn’t get in any trouble, it wasn’t the bosses business when OP got back to the room, and in order to keep the bosses nose out of it, I would’ve said something like, “Oh, not that late.”

    3. Mommy MD*

      Boss is right. Staying out all night is very poor judgement especially admitting to generally being drunk.

  2. Arielle*

    I mean, the OP knows their own capacity, but betting on being totally fine the next day after staying out until 5 AM seems risky. As someone who had to dismantle, pack, and ship an entire conference booth by myself because my coworker stayed out all night and was deathly hungover the next morning, I’m kind of on the boss’s side here.

    1. Thor*

      Yeah, it just shows they’re not prioritizing work. Being willing to risk working on three hours of sleep shows lack of judgement, even if the risk payed off. It’s almost like using company money to gamble, then saying it’s ok because you won the bet.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        It displays a shocking lack of judgment on the LW’s part and I suspect boss won’t be taking him along to future conferences/events.

        1. Liet-Kinda*

          I wouldn’t call it shocking, necessarily. It was just a “hey, I can hold my likker!” bravado move when it really made more sense to come in around 12:30 and get some sleep. It’s not unfathomable, it’s just also not surprising that boss was pissed.

        2. Belle8bete*

          The fact he kept arguing with his boss on this was not great. Clearly boss had an issue with it, if you wanted to push back that was definitely not the moment to do so…

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            Agree with this. As soon as it became clear that Boss was not okay with your behavior, even if you thought you had a point, the better move was to apologize and shut up. It’s bad enough that boss is annoyed with you for your behavior, but now boss is annoyed with you both for your behavior and for being obstinate about said behavior.

            As others have noted, even if you were fine at the event, staying out partying until 5 AM definitely made it appear that your focus was not on work, during a 3-day stretch when you needed to be on for most of it, and your company was paying a lot of money (flight, hotel, per diem) for you to be so. Meeting a friend for dinner or a drink or two is fine, but raging all night was a terrible look. Rare is the boss who would be thrilled with any variation of that.

            1. teclatrans*

              Right. And honestly, sleep deprivation can impair your functions as badly as alcohol (though young folks tend to have more leeway), so even if he had been out until 5am without a single drink, I would still have been really upset if he were my employee.

              At a minimum, OP should learn that this looks bad, and shouldn’t be casually shared with the boss or colleagues.

          2. EmKay*

            He strikes me as the type of dude who will argue with strangers on the internet “because they’re wrong”.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree. Combined with the arguing, this was not a good look, and they make OP look naive/unaware/unreliable. Boss did not articulate himself well and kind of came up with some outlandish norms to justify why he was upset, but the core concern (when on a work trip, I expect work to be your top priority) is a reasonable request/mandate.

        4. MatKnifeNinja*

          We had a *I’m fine on 4 hours of sleep, and all night Jaeger Bombs* co workers who pulled that at a 3 day seminar. It was no fun tearing down things and packing when you are short two people.

          That’s the nonsense an intern pulls, who has no sense. Neither of the two Mr. Jaeger Bombs went to seminars/conferences for a good long time.

        5. yasmara*

          I’m with @Detective Amy Santiago here. It is a pretty shocking lack of judgement. This is not college, this is a professional career.

      2. Bulbasaur*

        There is a good piece in Cryptonomicon about the difference between risk and outcomes. One of the characters is a man who was responsible for managing the pension fund for the state dentist’s association. He generated a massive return – I forget what it was in the book, but it was something like a 10-100 fold increase in the space of a few years – and made himself very wealthy in the process. He was admired by many for this, but the book’s protagonists viewed him as an unscrupulous crook, because he could not have achieved returns that high without taking on a level of risk that was vastly inappropriate for the manager of a pension fund.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      This reminds me a little of when I started driving. My Dad said: “look, no one leaves the party *planning* to get in an accident on the way home”.

      Basically – people don’t plan to run themselves too hard and cause a headache for their colleagues. We all know our bandwidth for partying until we don’t, and it can be affected by all sorts of things – an oncoming virus, what we had to eat that day, how stressful the next day will be.

      I’m not necessarily opposed to the occasional AM return home, but it’s a pretty big gamble to do it midway through a conference like that.

    3. Czhorat*

      I think we’ll all be.

      I’m sympathetic to the OP wanting to go out and have some fun, but “back in the room at 5” is really not a great look. Even if they were OK, it looks very, very bad. If an early-rising client saw OP arriving at the hotel when they should have been waking up they’d unprofessional.

      1. Artemesia*

        Which brings us to why would he say he got back at 5 am. This is like a college frat boy bragging about drinking all night. Your boss asks this question and you say ‘oh a little after midnight’ and then move on. By saying he got in at 5 am he invited the push back. And yeah, he could easily have been unable to show the next day by doing that; he is lucky he wasn’t in the bathroom barfing at 9 am — and it is not always predictable when a night like that will take you there. Bad judgment to drink all night. And extraordinarily bad judgment for telling his boss exactly when he got in.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Exactly. When you get away with something stupid (or bordering on stupid), the mature thing is to keep it to yourself.

          1. Catgirl123*

            That is exactly what I was thinking. I think the bigger issue is not that the LW screwed up by staying out but not realizing it would be an issue.

            1. hermit crab*

              I this this is where I land too. The going-out part ended up being a sort of “no harm, no foul” situation, but there’s a difference between doing that and then saying to yourself, “whew, that ended up being OK this time but it might not have” (or even “I might not be able to get away with this next time”) and doubling down on it with the boss.

            2. LGC*


              Like, I know Alison endorses being honest and direct in workplace conversation, but I don’t think this is what she means by that.

              Plus, Artemesia’s framing is pretty spot on – I think LW was expecting his (or her – Alison does note that she thinks LW is male, but it’s 2018 and everyone can be dumb) boss to be impressed by his stamina, when the real message he was transmitting was his recklessness.

        2. Czhorat*

          If I’m giving advice, I’d rather advise “Don’t do something unprofessional and risky” rather than “do something unprofessional and risky, then lie about it”.

          If OP was seen late at night or arriving early in the AM then telling a lie could really hurt their standing with their boss. If others talk to the boss later it could be a mark on their professional reputatation.

          1. BF50*

            I wouldn’t lie, but also, if I made a poor choice like staying out until 5 am on a work night, I also wouldn’t tell my boss that. You can dodge the question.

            “I got in pretty late, but not so late that I couldn’t work today.”

            I’m not saying that staying out until 5 am was ok. I’m saying that the mistake was compounded by not realizing it was a mistake, then telling his boss about it, then arguing with his boss about it.

            You shouldn’t hide your work mistakes, but I don’t think you need to be so transparent with your personal life mistakes.

            1. Observer*

              Well, this wasn’t a “personal life mistake”, it WAS a work mistake – this was a working trip.

            2. Jasnah*

              I agree. I guarantee the boss doesn’t actually care what time he got home, he just wanted to check up on OP “as I had asked permission from him if I could go out, which he allowed me to”. Instead of assuring boss that he used this permission wisely, he brags about how late he was out. This is how the honesty comes across and it looks like an abuse of permission.

                1. Jasnah*

                  They shouldn’t, but if you know you’re asking for something big with someone you know is unreasonable, you don’t then take a mile and tell your boss you did so. That’s not how you preserve relationships (hopefully while jobhunting for a less micromanaging boss). The boss didn’t handle this well and not paying for the hotel are major red flags, but OP is the one who wrote in and OP didn’t handle this well either.

          2. Keema*

            That’s why saying not too late should be a better “lie” than giving a specific time. He wouldn’t actually be lying because he was on time for the event. And it would be weird for the boss to request an exact time after that statement.

            1. Stone Cold Bitch*

              Yeah, and as long as the job gets done I don’t see why the boss has an issue with this.

              1. Thor*

                The work got done *this time*. Someone who is running on 3 hours of sleep is much more likely to screw up than someone who isn’t.

        3. Jenn*

          I hate to say if, but this letter really reminds me of fraternity/sorority stuff from college. And not in a good way. Yes, we all knew the guy who showed up hung over to his midterm and still did fine. But that didn’t mean it was a good idea.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            Plus, that person often got away with it once, bragged about it, and got the idea that that’s How Things Are Done.

            They often got a rude awakening the second or third time they tried it.

            OP may have been fine this time, but next time, when they tipsily set their alarm for 8:15 PM instead of AM; oversleep wildly; show up to the booth hung over, late, and frantic; and get fired, it won’t be such a fun adventure.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Exactly this. Or you say “we lost track of time, but it was so nice to reconnect with old friends” or something like that. Saying 5 a.m. is either bravado or a rookie move.

          1. aebhel*

            Yep. Maybe don’t flat-out lie about it, but OP should have known how that was going to look.

            (Boss is being weird about this, too, but his annoyance is reasonable).

        5. Zillah*

          I don’t know that we should jump to bragging – some people just tend to be candid and don’t necessarily exercise caution when they probably should. It’s something that’s worth learning to curb, but it’s not evidence that you’re inclined to brag.

          1. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

            And honestly, it could just be that OP is a bad liar. Some people are. Maybe he has (or used to have, or thought he had) a good relationship with his boss. Maybe his previous boss was a big conference drinker and OP felt their actions were entirely normal (which, to be fair, it *is* extremely normal in a lot of industries to drink at conferences). Could be a combination anything that would motivate OP to decide to just be honest in the moment, in a line of questioning he may well have not expected.

        6. Former Admin Turned Project Manager*

          I think my reply to being asked how late I got back would have been to deflect (“Oh, I didn’t notice the time, but maybe later than I’d originally planned…tonight I’ll have a quiet night to recharge” or whatever). Own up to staying out late on the first night, but emphasize that it’s not a pattern. Proudly owning return from drinking in the wee hours of morning does not belong in this setting.

        7. LJay*

          Unless the boss saw/heard him come in at 5am, or a client saw him come in at 5am and mentioned it to the boss or something. Then the boss knows he was both irresponsible and willing to lie about it.

      2. Oryx*

        The comment about the early rising client is a good one because I think it brings up a good point about these situations which is that even if you aren’t working you are still there in a professional capacity and representing the company. I go to several trade shows a year and, due to my role, am recognized even when not “on the clock.” It’s important to still maintain a level of professionalism outside of core work hours and coming back tipsy at 5 am isn’t really the best way to do that.

        1. Jenn*

          I have travelled for work and you are just never really “off the clock”. There is networking and rep made at those events. There have been incidents of inappropriate drinking and that stuff gets around.

          1. yasmara*

            @Jenn, I agree 100%. Work travel is for work. Everyone needs down time, sure, but in the end it is a work trip and this shows a pretty serious lack of judgement by the OP.

        1. OfficerAerynSun*

          Maybe that would have worked and the boss would have been none the wiser. But it would be hard for the letter writer to know for 100% certain that he wasn’t seen out late or coming back to the hotel by someone who mentioned it to his boss. If that were the case he then has a much bigger problem of having been caught lying to his boss. In my book (and many other people’s) that is far far worse than a youthful(?) misjudgement about professionalism while travelling for work. Professional standards can be taught, integrity can’t.

    4. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      I am guessing that the OP is just really young. It’s pretty immature to go out drinking all night on a work night, and the fact that OP still pulled off a full day of at-capacity work says to me they have not hit that mid-twenties hangover wall where that just.. stops working. There is also the language around “asking permission,” the boner move of telling the boss exactly when you got home (it’s not a curfew! be vague!) and the arguing back and forth with them.

      The whole interaction feels kind of parent/child. Those are fraught and weird dynamics that don’t work to your advantage. You want your interactions with the boss to be professional to professional, not daddy to wayward son. Pull out of that pattern and get a different model in your head from now on when dealing with work.

      1. Trig*

        Yep yep yep. The “calling the boss Sir” thing pinged for me too, though maybe that’s a field/cultural/regional norm.

        This dynamic is bad, even if OP is young and trying to be respectful. (It’s possible the boss expects/demands this kind of deference/relationship, which would weird me the heck out. I have never called any of my bosses ma’am, and I think they would laugh at me if I tried.)

        1. LJay*

          I think the venn diagram of bosses I’ve had that I would consider calling Sir, and the bosses I’ve had where I would consider telling them I was out until 5am, has zero overlap.

          Like, I’ve had both. But the sir thing to me indicates a sort of detached formality that would mean that I would not consider confiding my drunken shenanigans in him.

        2. Genny*

          That struck me too. The only boss I’ve ever called “sir” had a rank equivalent to a three-star general. I can’t even imagine calling my current boss “sir”.

      2. Smithy*

        I have to say – feeling compelled to answer so honestly seems like the real oopsies to me as well as part of the overall maturity aspect.

        Had the OP said, “oh a bit after midnight” or just diverted with “it was really nice to catch up with old friends – but didn’t get back so late” – I have a hard time seeing the boss responding like that.

        I work in an industry where people drinking “late” after work conferences/out of town events is very common. But saying you were out until 5am would be unprofessional. Even if someone you know was still at the hotel bar drinking at 2am and they get to the next morning’s 9am session a bit bleery and said “gee jetlag has been killing me” – that’s fine. But to say “oh, went out drinking til 5am” – that wouldn’t be perceived the same way.

        The OP’s boss may be micromanaging – but if there’s overall concern about the OP’s professional norms – staying out until 5am and admitted you were out that late is a rough double whammy.

        1. BF50*

          I suspect the OP’s boss is micromanaging because the OP is very young and possibly has demonstrated poor judgement and understanding of professional norms.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            Good point. This probably is not the first time OP has showed a little bit of immaturity / poor judgment.

            1. For real*

              There is zero evidence to support that. I thought we were supposed to take LWs at their word?

              I agree that staying out until 5 a.m. (and then arguing with the boss about it) isn’t the most professional thing he could have done, but it doesn’t mean we can assume he’s an immature asshole who frequently displays poor judgment.

              1. BF50*

                His letter read as immature. That is the conclusion that I drew directly from his own works. No no place did I say he was an asshole. Nor would I and I don’t appreciate you implying that I did.

                1. Jenn*

                  The text he provided of his side of the convo sounded immature to me as well. I am a trainer and have dealt with pushback and how you do it really affects how you are perceived.

    5. Blossom*

      Yep. What struck me was that this happened on the first night. As my dad always said about late nights, “it’s not the next day it hits you, it’s the day after that”. I mean, sure, everybody’s different, but it must be an unusual body that can withstand a whole night of lost sleep without any adverse effects over the following days. This looks like cavalier behaviour.

    6. Sender*

      Hi im the letter sender

      And yes I know my body’s capacity. I was out until 5 as I was catching up with old friends not necessarily drinking until 5. And to add, I’ve been a brand ambassador before which would require me to go out until 3 to 5 am and wake up at 10 am for another event. That was my usual schedule prior to getting this job.

      My boss micromanages which is why I had to ask permission. Which is very weird for me to ask permission after work hours. He constantly messages us where we are or are we already asleep even after the event. I know people who have bosses who micromanages would understand how draining and stressful it is.

      1. MuseumChick*

        Hi sender, thank you for the updates. You stated that you were tipsy when you got back to your room, that mean you had to have been drinking until fairly shortly before you returned to you room.

        You boss being a micromanage is one issue. The question of if it is professional/ok to stay out until 5am drinking with friends and showing up on limited sleep is a separate issue. As state in a thread below, more often than not, this is something that just is not done.

        Your boss is being weird about how he is handling this be the bottom line is you behaved in away that most manager would be annoyed by.

        1. Amtelope*

          Believing that “your body’s capacity” allows you to function at 100% without adequate rest isn’t a great look, frankly. You did a 10 hour day, followed by 7 hours of drinking/hanging out with friends ending at 5 in the morning, followed by something like 3 hours of sleep, followed by another 10 hour day. If I were your boss, I’d have serious questions about your judgment.

          1. Antilles*

            Agreed. 5 am is 5 am. No matter how confident you are in your body’s capacity, no matter if you’ve done something similar in the past, no matter how much/little you were drinking…5 am is still 5 am and human physiology is still human physiology. There is no way you’re going to convince your boss that you *really* were 100% that second day.
            Interestingly, it doesn’t actually matter to the situation if you truly were 100% or not. Because your boss isn’t going to believe you’re normal and will therefore view everything you do on Saturday in a negative light.
            >Did you trip on the power cord? That’s not normal human frailty, it’s because you were up all night.
            >Did you forget something while talking to a booth visitor? That’s not everyday human memory flaws, it’s because you were up all night.
            >Did you stumble over your words? That’s not because of a minor tongue slip, it’s because you were up all night.
            >Did you get irritated at someone who just kept asking dumb questions? That’s not because ‘anyone would have been irritated by that’, it’s because you’re tired and irritable due to being up all night.
            And so on.

            1. Lynn Whitehat*

              Adrenaline can override a lot for a few days. I went to a work thing in Belfast, and I barely slept the entire week because of the jet lag and excitement. But I was perfectly functional the whole time. Crashed hard when I got home. So I can absolutely believe OP was functional after one short night.

              1. CM*

                I think Antilles’ point is that even if OP does an amazing job, the boss will perceive OP as being impaired. And we can see that from the letter — boss praised OP’s performance before finding out about the 5 a.m. night out, and then as soon as he found out, he immediately said OP should have done better.

                1. Antilles*

                  Correct, my point is that it doesn’t really matter if OP was fully functional or not…the Boss’ perception is “OP was impaired, hung over, and tired” and everything that happened on that Saturday is getting filtered through that lens.

                2. Emily*

                  Yep. I usually make a point to praise hard work when an employee has just completed a project that’s unusually strenuous or involves unusually long/late hours. Even if they weren’t performing at my 100% ideal standard, assuming there weren’t any serious screw-ups, I’ll usually make allowances in my mind for the fact that “performance naturally deteriorates after the 8th straight hour of work” or “it’s natural to feel tired after being on feet all day for two days, the second of which was the sixth straight day of work, and while jetlagged” and not criticize the employee for small, understandable mistakes.

                  If I later learned that the employee had been out partying all night and had shown up to work hungover, I’m suddenly much less inclined to excuse the small mistakes as a natural consequence of the unusually strenuous demands placed on the employee. It’s not that I didn’t notice the mistakes before, it’s that mistakes do happen even with top performers and therefore the reason the mistake were made matters. If the mistakes resulted from something beyond the employee’s control I’m certainly not going to give them a hard time about it, but if I found out the employee had knowingly made choices that increased their risk of making mistakes at work, it reframes those mistakes as avoidable. Maybe they would have happened anyway, maybe they wouldn’t have – by making poor choices the employee forfeits the right to benefit of the doubt that their poor choices weren’t the reason for their mistakes.

            2. Archaeopteryx*

              Attempting to downplay 5am as a not-outrageous return time (on a work night, and after starting about 6 hours earlier) may also make the boss worried you might be an alcoholic. So he might also have been trying to signal that that should not be as normal for you as you were making it sound.

        2. Decima Dewey*

          “I went out at 10 PM, way after the first day ended, and ended up going back to our hotel at 5 the next morning, but I wasn’t drunk. Tipsy, yes. Blackout drunk, no.”

          Tipsy is drunk. That it wasn’t blackout drunk is not much of a mitigating factor.

          1. Autumnheart*

            Blackout drunk is extreme behavior anyway. It’s not like the norm is “blackout” and any amount of drunkenness below that is only minor.

          2. Mia*

            Yeah, this part stood out to me as well. Your standard for drinking while traveling for work shouldn’t be “not blackout drunk.”

        3. Mike C.*

          that mean you had to have been drinking until fairly shortly before you returned to you room

          No, it doesn’t.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            But it does mean OP had been drinking enough to still be metabolizing alcohol shortly before they returned to their room. The point isn’t the timing of the drinking but the lack of awareness about advertising being out until 5 a.m. (as people are going to assume you were drinking until that time, even if you weren’t).

              1. Autumnheart*

                But your response is largely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what time someone stopped drinking, if they’re still drunk 4 hours before they have to be on the clock.

      2. No Mas Pantalones*

        Yeah, this is gonna be an issue going forward then. You may have to set boundaries and prepare for the tantrum when he doesn’t like said boundaries. “At 8pm, my phone goes on Do Not Disturb and I will not see or hear any texts or phone calls.” I’d be surprised if that flew though. Micromanagers are always going to be soul suckers.

      3. Dust Bunny*

        When you’re at a multi-day-long event you’re never fully off the clock because you still have to be functional later. There is a lot less leeway since the expectation is that you’re not going to do anything that might lead to having to call in “sick” the next day, since you know perfectly well that this isn’t a routine work day.

        (I would also hazard a guess that, while you may believe yourself to have been running at full capacity and your work the next day may have been good, it may not have been your best to those who know what you can do when you haven’t been out all night. Don’t get too comfortable with the thought that you can hide this completely.)

        1. Bacon Pancakes*

          And by his own admission OP “managed” to make it to the event on time. When I am on work events… even ones where I left the bar BEFORE my boss… I wouldn’t use the term “managed” to be at the event on time and then argue I was in the right if he got mad.

        2. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

          Right — I have done a LOT of extended work travel, and quite a bit of that has been with people whose mantra was “work hard, play hard” — but the rule is ALWAYS that you can’t let the play interfere with work. You can’t even give the impression of the play potentially interfering with the work!

          You’re still AT WORK on a trip even if you’re at the bar. And if you aren’t at your best the next day, it is noted. The goal of the trip is to work, the play is just a fringe benefit.

      4. TheBeetsMotel*

        In my book, it’s super inappropriate for my boss to think he can weigh in that heavily on my downtime.

        Yes, the lines between “on” and “off the clock” are, necessarily, a bit blurred on a business trip. One shouldn’t assume that hey, it’s after five! Time to get loud and rowdy at the hotel bar in front of the same higher-ups/ industry movers and shakers I was just using my Professional Face with 10 minutes earlier! However, at the other end of the spectrum, the idea of having to ask my daddy- sorry; boss, if I’m allowed to go out once the work day is over is gross, weird and laughable. I’m a grown adult; I’ll be making my own decisions about my free time, thanks- while bearing fully in mind that this is a work trip, and “my own decisions” may have to look a bit different or tempered from what I’d do on a normal workday evening.

        In short; both “drinking till 5am” and “asking my boss permission to be a grown up” both receive a big fat NO, in my opinion. Maturity is demonstrated by navigating to the middle.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This is a great comment.

          On a business trip, if you are on the company dime, you are never truly ‘off the clock’ even when you have down time. Everything you do is representing your company.

          1. large marge*

            So- if she tripped coming down the stairs and was injured coming down form her room, would it be workmen’s comp? Or would her own insurance company pick up the tab?

            Rule #1- don’t tell them you were out.
            Rule#2- if they pressure you- lie.
            Rule #4: If you come in at 5:00 Am- you slink in under the radar.

            He’s a control freak, and this is just the beginning.

        2. aebhel*

          Yep, this. The boss is being weird and overstepping boundaries, and the OP should have known better. I’ll trust them to know their own limits (this is something I probably could have pulled off in my early 20’s without much trouble), but the optics of this are terrible, and optics matter.

          1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            Very true. While I’ve always been the nerdy type and would never have been out drinking, at 5 am or any other time, I have definitely pulled off workdays where I was up writing until 4am and then up again by 8. I sure don’t tell people what kept me up; i either roll a bluff check or, if there’s no hiding it, I say it was insomnia. (It doesn’t happen any longer because my son means sleep is a valuable commidity.)

          2. Jo*

            This is something I really would love to have a bigger discussion on here. Maybe Alison can weigh in or has a letter that highlights it. But this whole “perception/optics” thing…well, it makes me bristle. A lot.

            “Perception is reality.” It just seems to insane that the facts don’t matter. Truth is irrelevant. Reality means nothing. No, how something LOOKS, that’s what’s REALLY important.

            Like…why is life like this? Why is work like this? I really, truly have tried to wrap my head around this and I just don’t understand why the onus always seems to be on the person in question to manage others’ perception of them, rather than on the others to learn the facts, learn the truth, and adjust their opinions/views accordingly.

            If I perceive something as bad, and it’s because I don’t have all the facts, that’s really not the other person’s fault, nor should it be their responsibility to manage my perception of something by jumping through hoops to make sure there’s no way it can “look bad” to me. It’s on ME to learn the truth, and adjust how I view something. I can ask questions, I can poke around, I can do a lot to discover what the actual reality of something is. And then – this is important – when someone tells me the reason, if it seems sincere (as it did here) I believe them. I see no reason why the boss couldn’t just say, “okay, they say they were fine, and all throughout the day their performance was great, as I told them in the moment the day of. Looks like I was wrong.” We flat out know that the boss was pleased as punch with his performance, and only changed his tune when he learned about being out so late.

            Perception ISN’T reality, and I feel like that is used so much as a copout for people to…I don’t know, save face? Not have to admit fault? Not have to fess up to jumping to conclusions? Protect their egos, or re-write a story/circumstance to suit their preferences?

            I’m not sure if I’m alone here, but this is something that has always stuck in my craw.

            1. Jasnah*

              I mean, none of us know what objective truth or reality is. How do you even determine the reality of this situation? OP claims he performed adequately and was not too drunk. Maybe his friends would claim he was not too drunk, or that he was wasted. His boss claimed he performed adequately, until he learned of the late night and now says it wasn’t enough. Which of these is reality? Who determines it?

              Everyone is filtering reality through their own experience. OP could be comparing his drunken level to college parties when he blacked out or came to work hungover, so it’s “not that bad”. His friends could be comparing it to their own drunken state, how accurate would that be? The boss could have been giving OP the benefit of the doubt after a long first day, but now he learns that it’s not work-tired, it’s party-tired, and he is less lenient. Or he is viewing this one story as part of a pattern of irresponsibility that we and OP can’t see. All of these people could be right, they could all be lying or could all be biased based on their own perspectives and experiences. That’s how the world works. There is no ACTUAL reality, there is only the kaleidoscope of perceptions and intentions and actions and feelings that we categorize and store in our memories, or don’t and forget it. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that others are not perceiving things the way we are, and have their own goals and thoughts and feelings that affect their perception. We can only attempt to influence their perception by considering how our actions might appear to others, and I think that makes us all kinder people (rather than assuming our view is the Actual Reality and everyone else is lying or confused).

      5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        The micromanaging is a problem, and that may be muddling the waters because it’s so annoying. I agree that it’s bizarre that he makes you ask permission to go out after work hours and texts you after an event. Frankly, I would ignore his texts and tell him you were asleep next time (or that you don’t answer non-emergency work communications after hours, if you can get away with that).

        But independently of his strange desire to control and micromanage, if you can avoid being out that late during work events, it would probably help. As others have noted, it’s not about knowing your body—it’s about things like dealing with your micromanaging boss, or the risk of running into a client seeing you come in late and drawing unfair conclusions about you and your professionalism. When you’re working a conventional job, you shouldn’t keep brand ambassador hours if you can avoid it (or if you keep those hours, don’t advertise that you do). And in the future, be as vague as possible with your boss, because it sounds like he’s already overly invasive. His complaint wasn’t unreasonable, even if the way he framed it was a bit absurd.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If someone texted me “Are you asleep?”, I’d probably reply “Well, I *was* but there’s nothing like a midnight emergency to wake me up permanently. What did you need to ask me?”

          And the next day I would comment that I’d had so much trouble getting back to sleep that I’m going to set my phone to do-not-disturb after 10pm from now on. And do it…even if it’s just that one person’s phone number.

      6. Lynn*

        Lots of hungover people don’t realize they smell like alcohol the next day. I see it not infrequently in my line of work. I’m going to assume that by “brand ambassador”, your former job had something to do with alcohol. Sounds like your current job is a much more professional position that requires a different mind set regarding after hours behavior while on work trips. I’ve been the one saddled with a hungover and tired coworker who thought they were just fine and they really were not.

        1. Professional Merchandiser*

          I went back to college in my 40’s and was in class with much younger people. Our program takes part in a conference in our capitol city every year and any student is welcome to come; expenses paid. (Well, hotel and conference fees. Food and incidentals are not.) Anyway, this was the first time a lot of them had been on an overnight trip or stayed in a hotel. Well, they went a little wild in the evening. Wasn’t a problem for most of them, but one young woman partied too hearty and couldn’t get out of bed the next morning. When the instructor realized she wasn’t there, she barreled up to her room, pounded on the door, and told her she had 15 minutes to get ready. First she tried to say she was sick. Didn’t fly. Then she gave the excuse of no hose. (This was professional dress events.) Instructor gave her some of hers. She was there on time. Deathly pale and shaking like a leaf, but she was there. Needless to say, the next year some strict rules were in force.

      7. Czhorat*

        THe unfortunate thing is that you likely made the micromanaging worse; he now will continue to question you both because you showed poor judgement in staying out until 5AM and then doubled-down on that poor decision by arguing with his -in his mind (and in most of ours) – reasonable contention that you shouldn’t have been out until 5AM.

        At this point, if I were in your shoes I’d be doing two things:

        1) Look for another job. The dual relationship you have with your boss does not seem to be working well for either of you.

        2) Even if you dont’ think you’re wrong, he does. You need to acknowledge that and, I would think, apologize. Something along the lines of, “I was thinking about our discussion the other day, and I realized you were right; even if I did feel comfortable in this city, it wasn’t a professional or responsible choice to stay out that late in the middle of an event”.

        I know that you don’t believe you should need to apologize, but doing so doesn’t cost you anything and does let him walk away with the feeling that his reasonable suggestion made an impact with you. This might help him start to loosen the reigns a bit, or at the very least not tighten them more.

      8. Lord Gouldian Finch*

        Alison has mentioned many times how a bad work experience can screw your expectations moving forward. Given you said you were a “brand ambassador” in your prior job I’m wondering if a similar-ish thing is going on where your expectations aren’t the same as your employer’s.

        It’s entirely possible that being a brand ambassador does require that sort of life and your employer would expect you to, perhaps, be a bit groggy the next day but still give 100%. It is also possible your current employer does not agree with that and feels you need a full night’s rest. If so your new employer is not wrong to think so and it’s not something you should be arguing with them about.

        Although fitting into a business’ culture can be a code-word sort of thing, this also might be something to consider.

      9. Party Parrot*

        I kind of thought you’ve probably had the kind of schedule that keeps you out until 5 regularly in the past, actually. I think to people who have worked 9-5 most of their lives and are in bed by midnight at the latest, getting in at 5am is shocking, but your norms kind of adapt when those are your working hours for a while and you stop thinking of that time as obscenely late.

        1. Frankie*

          Eh, I don’t know about this characterization. I’ve worked 9-5 and more flexible schedules and have had lifelong sleep issues, so for me it’s not that 5am is shocking or not in the norm. It’s that nights I’ve lain awake until 5am when I had to be up and on in an hour or two did not set me up for a great work day, whatever schedule I had. This wasn’t even adding booze into the mix. So maybe OP is used to pulling all-nighters, but the chance is very small that it’s not impacting performance in some ways.

      10. LGC*

        So, I finally found your response, and bruh. Like, the stereotypical AAM commentariat answer is “GET A NEW JOB YOUR BOSS IS FULL OF EVIL BEES,” but…get a new job your boss is full of evil bees

        A lot of people have covered your inappropriate behavior, so I’m not going to rehash that – well, here, anyway. But also, maybe it’s my cultural perspective (American – not sure if you are as well), but that is…pretty egregious “micromanaging.” I would probably say “controlling and potentially abusive,” instead – he wants to make it explicit that he’s in charge and you’re under his control for the duration of this trip. (Which…okay, yeah, he’s your boss, but also he’s sending you constant reminders of that, even after hours. That’s pretty messed up, IMO.) I’m hopeful you can find another brand ambassador position where your supervisor doesn’t text you fifty times a day asking about your whereabouts and whether you’re in bed yet.

        (And yeah, I’m using really strong language to describe the boss’s behavior. But the boss’s behavior is highly inappropriate.)

    7. Quickbeam*

      Been there…worked a lot of professional conference booths where my co-worker either never showed up or came late and still drunk. And honestly, I never really trusted those people’s judgment again. Nor did our boss.

      1. uranus wars*

        But this co-worker did show up. I think if the boss thought he did a good job that day and only changed his opinion after he learned of how late the OP stayed out the conversation should have been more of a teaching moment “hey, it worked out this time but is really frowned upon by the company” vs. “i take back everything i said about your performance and now think you did a horrible job”

        FWIW, I do think that it’s not something that is done in most instances but I also think the way the boss is approaching this is weird.

        Also, what OP said upthread about this being his prior schedule of events and the way things in old industry were done also opens the door for this to be a teachable moment, not a scolding.

    8. AnotherAlison*

      There was also an opportunity for the boss to tack on a task before the 9 am start. The OP didn’t leave any margin for changes, planned or unplanned. That’s the problem.

      I have been attending a tradeshow and expecting to do XYZ all day, received a phone call in the middle of the opening keynote, and been sent back to my room to do work all day instead. You never know.

      1. Julia*

        If the boss wanted someone to come in earlier, they would have to communicate that at least the night before. What if OP had been asleep until 8 am because it takes them only an hour to get ready and get there, and woken up to boss texting at 7 “can you be here in 30?” That wouldn’t be okay, and likely wouldn’t work out.

    9. Tallulah in the Sky*

      But since the OP did a good job the next day, it maybe means they know their limits and what they can handle ? I agree in general, this isn’t a good idea. But I also know that when I’m well rested the day before, if I’m having a shorter night the day after it’s no big deal. Even more so if I’m in a stimulating environment. Some people also need less sleep, so if you usually sleep 6 hours or 9 hours, there’s a big difference in what amount of sleep you actually lose.

      It’s not something to do regularly, or to do lightly, but if you know yourself it’s ok (for me). Just don’t tell your boss ! This was a really stupid move, because at the least it does look unprofessional. And in many cases it is.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        We don’t know if OP did a good job the next day. All we know is they think they did a good job the next day. But more than the “know your limits, know the norms, you’re always representing your company when at a work trip” advice, OP should have been more vague about their return time. There’s no need to disclose you were out until 5 a.m.

        1. aebhel*

          We know the boss complimented them on how they did and only backtracked when he learned what time they got in, so there’s independent verification.

          1. Zillah*

            There are many, many people who will soften criticism by adding some kind of positive before it. We don’t know whether that was the case here, but it’s not impossible that it was.

            1. aebhel*

              If so, that’s really poor communication on the boss’s part. ‘You did really well today, but actually I need to talk about your performance because it was subpar.’ I mean, that makes no sense.

              1. Zillah*

                I’m not saying it’s a good or effective way to communicate – just that it’s fairly common.

          2. Observer*

            Actually, that’s not really true – the boss didn’t quite backtrack.

            Also, I suspect that the OP didn’t anywhere near as well as they think they did. I’m wondering if the OP didn’t look bad, so the boss figured that he’s doing well considering that he wasn’t feeling well. When he found out that the reason that the OP looked like he did, he flipped.

            I can’t say that this is actually what happened, but it’s totally possible based on what the OP says – and the explanation here doesn’t really change anything in this respect.

          3. Emily*

            A boss’s feedback is not always based on an objective rubric, though. As a manager I consider effort and may praise an employee’s less-than-perfect performance when I believe they were making a good faith effort and working diligently. Particularly in a situation like a business trip, I would tend to go easy on someone who is working unusually long hours while jet-lagged.

            To use a quantifiable example, if an employee normally works 8 hours to produce 80 widgets, and one week they have to work 10-hour days, I’m more likely to compliment than criticize their performance even if they only produced 90 or 95 widgets a day because I recognize the effort that was made and am willing to be reasonable about how long hours might impact productivity.

            That formula for leniency changes when it doesn’t appear that the employee was making the best effort they could. It’s not exactly that I’d be “backtracking” on my earlier assessment, it’s that my earlier assessment is now colored by information I didn’t have before.

            A parallel could be coming home to find your kid/spouse/roommate had made a big mess and they had tried to clean it up but some of the mess was still there. If some of the mess is there because the vacuum cleaner is broken, that’s not kid/spouse/roommates’ fault and I’m not going to be the ogre who berates them for something beyond their control. If some of the mess is still there because kid/spouse/roommate didn’t feel like carrying the vacuum downstairs, I’m definitely going to be ticked off at the lack of effort. Even though the end result – a half-cleaned mess – is the same, my assessment and response to the other person is going to be different depending on the context the mess emerged from.

    10. Mommy MD*

      Many people who drink THINK they know their own capacity. All the drunk driving accidents shows many are clearly wrong.

  3. SarahTheEntwife*

    Is the boss normally someone who’s micromanage-y or otherwise checks up unnecessarily on schedules? If not, the fact that he asked when you got in suggests that it might have been clearer than you were hoping that you didn’t get enough sleep.

    1. Alucius*

      Yeah it’s pretty easy to overestimate how “fine” you are, when you’ve got a compelling reason to rationalize your behavior.

      Another thing to consider: maybe it’s possible to power through that day on something close to auto-pilot, but you wouldn’t have much in the way of mental/physical reserves if something unexpected had taken place. A minor semi-related example. I once flew out really really early on the same day I was giving a conference presentation. The presentation went fine, but I fumbled in the Q&A session because my fuzzy, tired brain just could not process the questions. Lesson learned.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Also, sometimes people don’t think they smell of booze because they’ve showered and sobered up, when actually every pore is sweating odeur de Mad Dog 2020.

      1. Doug Judy*

        This. Being “tipsy” at 5am and going to work at 7am doesn’t leave much time to get the booze out of your system.

        Your standard of professionalism should be higher than “not blackout drunk”.

      2. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

        This is what I was going to say.

        Even if the blush of youth allows a person to function at a reasonable level after being up all night drinking, it won’t help with the post-boozefest funk that lingers on a person.

        I almost wonder if the OP revealed the 5 AM return time thinking that boss would be impressed with his ability to stay out all night and still do a reasonable job at work, and was surprised when that wasn’t the reaction. To me that could explain why the OP argued with boss.

        OP, in the future, should you be in similar circumstances, a little white lie is appropriate here. Say you got in at 1 after catching up with your school chums and let it go. I think for some, being able to party all night and still put in a full day of work is a badge of honour, but most folks age out of that so be aware of who you’re bragging to.

        1. Sender*

          I was just being honest as I didn’t want to lie. I wasn’t bragging as I am not such person. But lesson learned!

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            This is in the same ballpark as “do these pants make me look fat?” and those workplace personality tests where they want you to say that you would rat out a coworker caught stealing paperclips. There is a correct answer (nothing later than around midnight or 1). You should stick to the correct answer even if it means a white lie. Being honest gets you nothing.

    3. Alton*

      I was wondering that, too. If the boss just asked randomly to check up on his employees, that would be weird and paternalistic to me. But the fact that he thought to ask could indicate that he observed something and the LW wasn’t as subtle as they thought.

      In that case, though, I wish the boss would have been clearer about that. If the problem was that the LW smelled like booze or was noisy coming back to the hotel or seemed “off” in the morning, those are concrete things that would affect how the LW came across. It would also be fair, I think, to warn employees about the possibility of an issue like this arising. Framing it as a liability issue and a “because I said so” thing was less helpful.

      1. Jadelyn*

        This – I agree that the OP’s behavior wasn’t a display of particularly great judgment, but I think the boss approached this in completely the wrong way (and particularly, in a weirdly paternalistic way) by making it about going out for drinks at all versus being about OP’s performance/appearance/mannerisms that resulted from it.

      2. Anna*

        I think the really telling thing for the boss’ part in this is that the OP had to “ask permission” to meet up with friends. That’s not normal.

        1. uranus wars*

          Right? I have never had to check in with a boss or ask permission for what I did in the off hours as long as I showed up on time and did my work well. I also agree with Jadelyn that the boss’ handling of this is so off – it really should have been brought up as an issue if there was some time of issue that stemmed from it, not simply from knowledge of when he got back to his room.

        2. miss_chevious*

          Yeah, I absolutely wouldn’t have asked permission in the first place and I wouldn’t have told the truth about my return time in the second place. Certainly, a boss has every right to ask about questionable performance if the OP seemed off or smelled of booze or whatever, but I don’t justify my whereabouts to my employer when I’m off the clock when they don’t impact my work.

        3. For real*

          I don’t know that I would necessarily call it asking permission, but I have been on work trips where I’ve said to my boss or colleagues, “I’m going to meet up with an old friend while we’re in town, unless you have some specific work tasks that you’ll need me for. Is that OK?”

      3. LJay*

        This was my thought as well.

        Like, I guess I could see it being a part of casual conversation. Or if the boss is just weirdly micro-managery about everything.

        But I could also see it as a lead-in to a discussion about noticing that they weren’t at 100% in some way.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      That’s what I was thinking. It seems odd to ask about the time the letter writer returned, unless there were indicators the letter writer wasn’t as sober as he had hoped.

      1. For real*

        You don’t think a conversational, “Did you have fun with your friends last night? What time did you get in?” happens without there being overt suspicion?

          1. Zillah*

            That’s not at all my experience. I’ve definitely had bosses and coworkers ask me things like “how was your flight? What time did you get in?” as part of a friendly conversation, and I can see myself asking someone that in a similar situation without there being any suspicion there.

            1. Scarlet*

              Asking about a flight’s arrival time is not nearly in the same ballpark as asking what time you got back after having drinks with your friends though.

  4. Mazzy*

    completely with the boss here. How did you know how the alcohol would impact your health, performance, appearance. Heck, I wouldn’t normally say this but odor comes up on here a lot, people who drink a lot also have a certain body odor, and how can you be certain that you wouldn’t have that smell the next day? How did you know drinking that much wouldn’t have gotten you sick? Given you blood shot eyes? I used to party a lot and so I totally get the urge to go out, but I also realized I have no control how my body reacted so stopped all drinking and smoking. Ten times, I’d be fine. Then the eleventh time, is be very sick. Never figured out why.

    1. Liet-Kinda*

      And even if you’re not super sick and hungover – I can go out one Saturday night, have three beers, and feel great the next day, and I can go out the next week and feel grumpy and achy all day. Kind of hard to predict exactly how much it’ll take it out of you, particularly if you’re traveling and maybe in a different time zone or under stress or whatever.

      1. Someone Else*

        The other thing is it was a 3 day event that started on Friday. OP could’ve come back 5am Saturday, been fine all day Saturday, and then even with normal rest Saturday night, felt like hell starting on Sunday. That’s usually how it hits me. So even if they got away with it the middle day, they might’ve tanked their third day without realizing it yet at the time the discussion was happening.

    2. I'll say it*

      The one thing I thought of immediately when I read this letter is that unmistakable smell that a person has after they’ve been drinking. The people he saw at 9a were probably….not thrilled. I hate that smell! It’s like a mixture of booze, onion/garlic (even if you didn’t eat them, which is weird) and regret.

    3. Lucille2*

      Agree with this. It might’ve been more obvious than the OP realizes that he was out late drinking the night before. And that doesn’t mean he’s wrong about being on time and on task throughout the day. My husband never seems to believe me, but I always know when he’s had a few too many the night before even if I wasn’t around to witness it. I can just see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice, and his body odor is distinctly different.

    4. uranus wars*

      I get all your reasons for what might have happened and why staying out until 5 a.m. is a bad choice, definitely agree on all counts. BUT I still am struggling with siding with the boss in the way he handled this.

      I am reading it as “OP made bad choice, OP had no repercussions and received good feedback with boss, boss found out OP stayed out until 5, boss then took back good feedback and told employee he performed horribly”

      1. InfoSec SemiPro*

        The boss is also a screw up here. Everyone involved handled this poorly.

        The boss is micromanaging adults, which makes competent adults less capable of using their own judgement to further business goals. They flubbed being able to explain professional norms and expectations to a staff member who obviously needed some basics explained. (then again, if you’re used to staff who will stay out until 5 am and get back still drunk for a 9 am event, maybe some extra attention to schedules is in order.)

        The LW screwed up the purpose of business travel, which is almost never the delight and joy of the traveler, but rather appropriate management of work assets (namely oneself) in a place outside the office. Prioritizing personal socialization on work time is always going to be a bit dicey, but the line for reasonable is much closer to “dinner and a couple of drinks for 3 hours” than “out until 5 am, grabbing a shower and calling myself good for the day”. That’s taking an unnecessary risk, even if it pays off, with company assets. Don’t do it, it makes you a tool. If you fail to have decent judgement, don’t argue about it later. (My advice if you find yourself in the position of stumbling back to the hotel at 5 am is to say “Oh, I stayed out a bit later than I probably should have, but I rallied today and I should be 100% tomorrow.” Admit you screwed up, but maybe not how badly, and that you are working to fix any repercussions. Demonstrate judgement and self awareness in how you handle the lapse, and make it clear that you’re taking the company’s best interests at heart.)

        The arguing about it afterward is basically a slap fight where no one wins and everyone embarrasses themselves.

      2. Someone Else*

        For me, I do not side with the boss on the way he handled it, not even close. But I do side with the boss on the general premise that OP made a poor choice here. The boss bungled the message, but it wasn’t wrong of him to want to express that he’d have preferred OP not done what he did.

    5. Zillah*

      How did you know how the alcohol would impact your health, performance, appearance.

      Do most people genuinely not know this? I have a pretty good guess for how drinking and/or not sleeping will affect me. I’ve never been really off-base when I had something important to do the next day – that wasn’t by luck, it was by design. I haven’t met a whole lot of people who drink semi-regularly who get taken by surprise by how alcohol affects them.

  5. AK*

    I wonder if OP wasn’t on his game as much as he thinks, which is why his manager asked what time he got home. It could’ve been idle chit-chat “oh how was your night?” type stuff, but it may have been more pointed with the intention of leading into this conversation.

    1. kittymommy*

      That’s the first thing I thought of as well. I suspect that getting back after 7 hours of drinking with old friends made him less on his game than he suspects and, as alcohol is wont to do, severely colored his ability to accurately assess his work product. Yeah, I can see the boss’s POV here.

    2. Jenn*

      I have to agree with this. I have known people in college to brag that they were fine in lab after a night of drinking and… uh, no, you aren’t, I just had to save you from sticking your hand in the x-ray machine.

      1. AK*

        I don’t think it specifically mattered when he got in, if OP showed up to the event a little disheveled or looking tired then “how late were you out last night” would’ve been a roundabout way to start the conversation that the boss wanted to have. The answer wouldn’t really have mattered, OP could’ve said 1am or 8am but it gave the boss a way in to the discussion that wasn’t “hey you were a hot mess today”

        1. Liet-Kinda*

          Exactly. That was not a literal request for schedule information, it was “So you look a little raggedy, dude, just how late were you out drinking last night?”

            1. Sender*

              Hi im the sender.

              He asked that question not because of how I looked as I looked good that day (received compliments even from clients on what I was wearing that day). He asked that because he expected us to stay in our hotel after the event. I asked permission because he doesn’t like us going out of the hotel. The fact that I was out the hotel resulted to the question being asked not because of my performance nor how I looked.

              As he said during our conversation “You’re missing the point here. I’m not saying you didn’t do good today. If something happened to you in this city, which we are unfamiliar with, I am liable.”

              1. Justin*

                I might be the only one, but I’m on your side here. You shouldn’t have had to ask “permission” to leave the hotel after your work hours are over, and your boss only knew about how late you were out because he was inserting himself where he doesn’t belong.

                Now I agree with the commentators that if you actually were off your game, and people noticed, that’d be a problem. But the solution from your boss’s perspective shouldn’t be to chastise your choices about going out, but focusing on the performance issue. After all, if you were off your game because you stayed up in your hotel room watching TV until 5am instead, he’d have the right to say something, but only about the problems with your work. He (and we) can disagree with your choices but his jurisdiction is only over your work, not your personal life IMO.

              2. Working Mom Having It All*

                I agree that, most likely, this wasn’t a case of your boss noticing poor performance and using the question of how late you were out as an entry-point. I also agree that it’s not reasonable for him to expect you to ask for permission for things you do on your own time, and no, he’s not “liable” for anything that happens to you during business travel. (I also am guessing he doesn’t know what the word “liable” means.)

                However, you also did some wrong here, and you should learn from this situation to keep after-work events more low key and also that adult life isn’t a “tell the truth at all costs” type of world. You’re expected to lie about stuff like this to an extent, and the fact that you said 5 probably caused your boss to hear “I came in directly from partying and was still drunk for half the day”.

              3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                Your boss is being obnoxiously controlling. The point isn’t that he’s liable—that’s just flat-out wrong and also kind of a dumb/empty threat. I think the larger point is about whether he perceives you to be prioritizing work during a work trip, which is a reasonable request. The hard part is that he’s so unreasonable on all other levels that it’s hard to figure out where to set the meter because he makes it all-or-nothing when this is more of a sliding scale issue.

              4. zinzarin*

                This should have been an entirely different letter!

                “My boss makes me pay for my own travel costs to conferences and trade shows but makes me ask permission to leave the hotel at night”

                1. LizB*

                  This is sounding more and more to me like one of those Person In Unprofessional Workplace Ends Up Behaving Not Super Professionally letters. The boss’s ideas of appropriate work trip behavior are way outside the norm in one direction, and the LW’s ideas are somewhat outside the norm in a different direction.

                  I think the takeaways for the LW could be something like:
                  – Your boss’s boundaries are out of whack, and because of that you may need to set stricter-than-normal boundaries for yourself (i.e. don’t tell them your personal business).
                  – It’s generally not super professional to be out and about until 5 AM on a work trip for a preventable reason.

              5. NW Mossy*

                His point about “liable” is a bit clunky, but I think what he’s driving at is that he does have oversight responsibility over you while you’re traveling and being aware of where you are/when you plan to return is part of that.

                Let’s say, for example, that some minor but derailing mishap befell you while out with friends (like a lost wallet/phone or a sprained ankle) and you didn’t make it back to the hotel as you planned. Your boss is now standing around at the venue, wondering where you are and frantically trying to come up with a backup plan while also worrying that your no-show is a sign that something really really bad happened to you. That’s a crappy situation to put him in, and it’s not crazy that he’d want a bit of oversight to insure against it.

                He may be making the point clumsily, but the core is this – he’s looking out for both you and the interests of the company that employs both of you. That can sometimes mean that your wings get clipped a bit, but that’s part of being a professional adult with obligations to people other than ourselves.

                1. Anna*

                  That is absolutely not true if the OP is an adult of majority age. I have traveled for work and gone out with friends who lived in the area. At no point would my boss, who I traveled with, be responsible “for” me if I did something foolish while I was out with friends. If I didn’t show up after going out, I would hope the #1 concern for my boss wouldn’t be that there wasn’t someone to cover such and such business thing, but rather that I was safe, which shouldn’t be a concern unless I didn’t show up where I was supposed to be.

              6. Observer*

                Compliments on what you wore don’t mean the you looked good to anyone who knew you, though.

                According to you, he also said a lot of things. “You’re missing the point” is 100% true.

                As for the liability thing, he may be thinking workers comp, which is quite possibly true.

              7. Mommy MD*

                Nevertheless. And you can’t know exactly what your Boss was thinking. You were probably more affected than you realize.

              8. Anita Brayke*

                Find a new job. I agree with the people who say your boss was too invasive. Did he go around the table at dinner and ask everyone, men AND women, of all ages (I’m assuming your of legal age) the same question? Unless he clearly outlined what time you were supposed to be back in your room, and even then, he’s out of line. This isn’t high school; you’re a grown person, and you shouldn’t have a curfew unless a) he’s paying you extra for that, and b) you agreed to that.

      2. Jenn*

        Your company pays for your flight and hotels, it’s their business that you are endangering the investment they made getting you to the conference.

          1. Jenn*

            The hotel thing is a sign of a bad company, they should cover travel costs.

            But they did pay for your flight, right?

            1. Anna*

              You realize you’re finely slicing hair here so your point still stands when it seems like it shouldn’t.

          2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

            Oh. This is actually kind of an issue. Can I ask how you are paid? I think a lot of people have been assuming you are in a salaried job, but reading your responses, it’s starting to look like you are in one of those commission sales “contract employment” deals. That changes the game a lot. If you are a salaried employee on a business trip, you’re doing it wrong. But if you are earning only commission and paying for your hotels, there are potentially issues with your boss closely micromanaging your time.

      3. Liet-Kinda*

        When he bought the plane tickets, paid the conference fee, and paid OP to stand there in the booth and represent his company. In other words, it was always, and literally, his business.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Um, no? Those things make OP’s work performance during the conference the boss’s business, same as OP’s work performance is the boss’s business during a normal workday. It doesn’t make the OP’s schedule outside of working hours the boss’s business, any more than OP working for the boss in general means the boss should have any say in how OP manages their outside-of-work schedule while at home.

          1. $!$!*

            I agree with you. How would this be different if OP had stayed up too late bc they couldn’t sleep in an unfamiliar bed? And the boss himself said that OP did a good job so I’m doubting he stank of alcohol or was stumbling around.

              1. Yorick*

                It would also be different because you still get more rest if you lie awake in bed/lounge in your hotel room than if you go out drinking

          2. Emily*

            Activities outside of work hours become your boss’s concern when they impact your performance at work in a way that could have been avoided.

            This situation has a tinge of ambiguity in that LW doesn’t believe their performance at work was impacted, but in reality there’s some amount of overlap between “low end of acceptable performance for unimpaired employee” and “high end of performance for impaired employee,” and “out drinking until 5 AM” is something that most managers are going to view as impacting performance in a way that could have been avoided and cause them to see the performance as “high end of impaired” rather than “low end of acceptable.”

        2. Tardigrade*

          I can’t agree with the “but they’re paying” argument. It’s a business need to send and lodge employees near a conference or job site, and those employees should certainly attend the conference or perform their duties on site. I can also agree that after-hours networking obligations and the like should be considered, but paying for my room doesn’t give anyone the right to dictate how much time I spend in it.

          I agree people shouldn’t do things after work hours that would impair their performance during work hours, but that’s true whether you’re traveling or not.

        3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          Except the OP has started replying, and the hotel wasn’t paid for. It’s not clear whether the flight was either. It also sounds like they might be paid solely on commission. Oh, and the boss is a best friend’s uncle, or some such thing. There are some big red flags popping up that the boss wants to treat the OP like an employee in terms of micromanaging his time, but not in terms of compensation or legal protections.

      4. Jadelyn*

        It wasn’t, and the boss was approaching this poorly to frame it that way. If he had concerns about OP’s performance during the day, he needed to address that specifically, which he…didn’t.

      5. Anna*

        I think your answer lies here:
        as I had asked permission from him if I could go out, which he allowed me to.
        There are some weird things going on with this boss and while the OP probably didn’t show the best judgment in coming back at 5am, the boss seems to think he has a lot more power over the OP than is normal.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      If OP hadn’t specifically mentioned that the boss complimented them on their work I would be thinking the same thing.

      1. gladfe*

        Yeah, but it’s really common for bosses to pad criticism with so much praise that their employees miss the point. I think a lot of people would say, “Good work today,” in acknowledgment of a long day of work, even if there were also problems they meant to discuss later.

      2. AKchic*

        Okay, but did the boss compliment them compliment them, or did the boss compliment them for doing well enough despite the fact they looked like a raggedy booze-soaked hairball puked up by the cat?

        I know, speculation on my part, but really, the context does matter. And this boss could also be operating on the “Compliment then discipline” Method.

        1. AnotherKate*

          Would love to hear more about this method. It sounds…passive-aggressive, ineffective, and pretty much un-documentable. “Well, HR, you see, I told him ‘nice work’ but I meant it super sarcastically!”

          1. aebhel*

            Yep. If my boss tells me that I did a good job, I’m going to tend to assume… that I did a good job. Which isn’t an assumption, as it is in fact what he said.

            OP isn’t in the right here, but the boss handled pretty much every aspect of this badly.

      3. iambadatusernames*

        I’m really curious on what the compliment was. Was it “Hey, did a good job today.” which could mean that he was able to be upright and answer questions (aka – did the minimum)? Or was it “Wow, I am so impressed with you today. Seriously, you went above and beyond.”? I’d love to know the context, because it really changes my perception of the boss asking about when he got in.

        1. Sender*

          Hi im the sender.

          The compliment was because I locked in a deal with a big exporter that day and locked in deals more than my other colleagues. And I looked good that day too as I received compliments as well to the way I look from clients.

          1. Green great dragon*

            Well, clearly you were doing some things right. But closing deals and dressing well don’t prove you weren’t also looking a bit off your game more generally, or perhaps starting well but flagging. As a mother of small children I add to the chorus saying being able to function in the high-stakes deal is not the same as on top of your game all day.

            1. Quackeen*

              As a mother of small children I add to the chorus saying being able to function in the high-stakes deal is not the same as on top of your game all day.

              What on earth do your small children have to do with it? Are they salesmen and brand ambassadors as well?

                1. Green great dragon*

                  Quackeen – it would seem lack of sleep doesn’t do my communication skills much good ;)

              1. Nita*

                Unfortunately I know what Green great dragon means, and children have plenty to do with it. Thanks to a very high-strung toddler, I had to work on about four hours of broken sleep for almost a year. I’m happy to say it’s doable, but very unpleasant.

                Having tried working while sleep-deprived, I believe it when OP says that they know their limits and were able to function the next day. It still wasn’t a good idea though – it’s great that the outing went as planned, but if OP was, for example, more jet-lagged than they realized, their next day would have been ruined big time. And it definitely doesn’t look good, because most people can’t be on top of their game after partying that late, and it can create an appearance of being very unprofessional.

    4. Anna*

      But he says that the manager complemented his work before knowing about him going out. So maybe the manager doesn’t like the idea, but this employee really was fine.

  6. Health Insurance Nerd*

    I’m confused, why would the LW need permission from his boss to go out after work hours? Is this not their own time?

    1. EddieSherbert*

      I’m guessing the OP is a young professional or this is one of their first work trips, and they asked because they weren’t sure what is appropriate on a work trip.

      Relatedly though, I’ve been on work trips / to conferences that had late evening networking events (like a cocktail party), and it’d be totally inappropriate to skip that to visit friends (even if I’ve been working all day and would normally be off the clock at that time).

    2. fposte*

      There’s often no clear-cut notion of “work hours” when you’re at a conference or convention. (Also true in general if you’re an exempt employee.) “Permission” could just mean asking “Are we doing planning or assembly tonight or am I free?”

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Exactly. There’s often an expectation of going out with co-workers and/or superiors during a business trip. “Do you mind if I meet a friend for dinner?” is a courtesy and really just a way to align expectations.

      2. Anna*

        Except the answers provided by the OP seem to indicate it wasn’t something as low-key as that. He specifically said the boss doesn’t like them to leave the hotel (WHAT) after the end of the day.

    3. JB*

      The fact that it is OP’s ‘own time’ doesn’t change the fact that they were being stupid and irresponsible. Especially considering that the boss is the one paying for the trip.

      1. Let Me*

        That’s not what Health Insurance Nerd asked. Whether or not the behavior was right doesn’t indicate why an employee has to get permission to go out on their own time.
        How do we know boss paid for the trip? (not rhetorical, I read it twice but I may have missed this)

      2. Health Insurance Nerd*

        Right, but that’s not what I asked. It’s a reasonable assumption that the company is covering the cost of the trip, but even during work travel employees are entitled to down time (unless they are being paid for 24 hours of work per day for the duration of the trip, which is highly unlikely).

      3. Jenn*

        I also think the ends don’t justify the risk. “I did something reckless but it turned out okay” isn’t a good look on anyone. Like “yeah I procrastinated on this project but I turned it in at 11:59 and it turned out fine” isn’t a good look at work either. Bosses can 100% criticize doing something that is a risk, even if it ultimately turns out fine.

        1. Decima Dewey*

          Yeah, risky thing worked out okay this time. But next time the computers could crash at 11:58, or you could fall down the stairs the day before…

      4. aebhel*

        It would be stupid and irresponsible for me to stay up until 5AM and drink in my own living room, but that doesn’t mean that I need to ask my boss’s permission to do it. This is still paternalistic and weird.

    4. LSP*

      Yeah, I travel to DC a couple times a year for work. I have some friends in that area, as well as family, and I will often make plans during the evenings for dinner and/or drinks. I have never felt compelled to ask permission, though I will occasionally ask my manager if there are drinks or dinner planned with the team for any specific nights, so that I can better figure out my plans.

      All that being said, if OP was doing work so well that his boss actually commented on him doing a good job throughout the day, I think I still would have erred on the side of not telling my boss I got in at 5 a.m. It’s just not a good look. Just say midnight or 1 a.m., which, while still late, still meets most people’s expectations of an ok time to get to bed for an early workday.

    5. Czhorat*

      Sometimes conferences and such have networking opportunities/evenings out after hours. It could be “you can go out and do your own thing rather than join us and various business partners for drinks and dinner”.

      Either way, the boss is right; being out until the next morning really isn’t all that profesisonal.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yeah, I can’t tell from the letter if this is a “you have permission to leave the hotel because I’m being weirdly controlling” permission or a “yeah, go ahead and do your own thing tonight; there’s nothing else we need you for” permission.

        1. Czhorat*

          Either way, staying until 5 is something most of us would see as unreasonable – or at the very least questionable.

          Llike it or not, the Sender gave the micromanaging boss more reason to question extra-curricular activities during business trips.

    6. Jenn*

      I do think that they can have an interest when they are paying for your travel, though. My spouse once had a coworker miss an international flight because he had stayed out drinking the night before and it caused a huge headache for those on the work trip.

      There are a certain set of expectations. OP sounds like they aren’t quite in tune with them.

  7. Mystery Bookworm*

    It’s also worth noting that a lot of people can get tired or stressed or frazzled working an event like that — even if they’re also doing good work that deserves props. If you seemed stressed out, and your boss or colleague pitched in to help, assuming the stress was from the event, they might feel a bit put out to later discover it was due to your drinking.

    That said, I agree that his arguments aren’t great.

    1. JustaTech*

      There’s also that the Boss’s comments might be intended as a warning “don’t do that again”. OP might be capable to working the booth well after one night of staying out ’til 5, but two nights in a row and OP might not be able to function the next day.

      And a lack of sleep increases your risk of getting sick, which is already much higher because you’re at a convention. The Boss might be worried the OP is going to come down with a nasty cold and miss a bunch of work when they get back.

  8. Liet-Kinda*

    I’m also assuming he was getting a little annoyed because you were attempting to litigate just how tired you were and just how familiar with the town you are instead of picking up what he was putting down.

    It really isn’t professional to be out till 5am when you need to be on your A-game four hours later, even if you managed to soldier through and didn’t smell like booze or look a little rough or flag a little at the end of the day….which, well, hey, I’ll take your word for, maybe you’re better at soldiering through than I am. Like Alison says, in your boss’ shoes, I’d be annoyed at you taking the risk of not being a hundred percent even if you carried this one off.

    1. ACDC*

      Totally agree. Boss gave OP permission to go out, but probably wasn’t intending OP to be out until 5am…

      This might sound bad, but I personally would have lied about what time I got in. The boss gave OP permission to go out, and I think it was bad judgement to stay out that late, even if it did turn out OK for the event the next day. I probably would have said, “Oh I was just out a couple of hours, it was great to catch up with friends.”

      1. Ashley*

        I agree about fudging details or trying to imply you crashed somewhere in between. The problem with these events includes all the other people out partying who your boss might now and so the story can get back unless you drink at someone’s house.
        This also would probably read a little less bad if it was before the last day of the event. My experience is assume when you travel for a work conference assume you are always representing your company until you are locked in your hotel room alone.

      2. Anna*

        For sure. Boss doesn’t need to know what time you came back or where you went. In fact if there was a work issue he should have said that – “you weren’t attentive enough at the booth today” – but not try to police the out of work stuff

    2. neverjaunty*

      Exactly. There’s a LOT of rationalization and rules-lawyering in the LW’s recounting is events. (Not just to her boss, but in her letter; she wasn’t drunk because it wasn’t a blackout drunk; describing an all-night drinkfest with friends as just going out for a drinks socially). I suspect “yes, I was out with friends, but it didn’t affect my work today; I thought an evening out would be OK and I’m sorry if I misunderstood” would have gone down a lot better than playing Plug the Loophole.

  9. EddieSherbert*

    I would add, that if OP is a young professional, this could be your boss trying to teach you about “office norms” (namely, don’t stay out drinking until 5AM before a 9AM work event) and just isn’t very articulate.

    Very much a “trying to teach you this for the sake of teaching you it” situation, which can be annoying, but still has value! Even if I did exactly what you did, OP, I’d fib and tell my boss I wasn’t out too late!

    1. Audrey Puffins*

      You could really twist it round and phrase it as something like “I’m not sure precisely, but I do remember it was surprisingly early”. Sounds like you called it a night at a very respectable hour, but not *technically* a lie as 5am *is* early (and 5am is a very surprising time to get to sleep when you’re back working at 9am).

      1. Zillah*

        Ehhh, I think that if the boss realizes the time, “surprisingly early” will read as either lying or being indicative of worse judgment – I’d be worried if someone thought that 5am was early.

        I think a better response would’ve been, “I don’t remember when exactly I got in, but I lost track of time and definitely got in later than I intended to – if I wasn’t at my best today, I’m so sorry. In the future, I’ll be much more cognizant of how I’m managing my after-hours time while we’re at a conference and err on the side of caution.”

        Or something along those lines.

        1. Zillah*

          ^ To be clear, that’s if OP performed poorly and the boss had concerns about it.

          Otherwise, a simple “a little later than I intended, but it was really nice to catch up with people” would be fine.

    2. rogue axolotl*

      I feel for the LW here, because it sounds like he comes from a hard-drinking work culture previously, and now is kind of at the opposite end of the spectrum with what sounds like a pretty controlling and paternalistic boss. In that situation it’s probably not easy to get a sense of what the average expectations are around this kind of stuff. I’d say the conference is a bit of a red herring (as are the boss’s generally weird expectations) and it’s just a good rule of thumb not to stay out drinking late if you have to work the next day.

  10. Loopy*

    If I gave permission for someone to go out after work, I would assume they would not be out until 5 AM and I would be very unhappy as well. Your first priority was the work event and going on less than four hours if sleep and being out after drinking until 5 AM shows me pretty clearly you were not taking of your work responsibilities very seriously, regardless of how well you pulled it off. If I know I have a full day of interacting in a professional environment, I’d make a effort to balance seeing friends with being well rested. I think that was an assumption when OP was given permission.

    I would firmly fall on the manager’s side.

    1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      Why would you have to give permission though? It’s not a supervised school trip.

      1. Smithy*

        I think it really depends on the kind of work trip and specifically if you’re traveling with your boss. Your boss might have in mind a debrief session, networking activities, or “back at the office” activities they’d want to get address with a subordinate.

        I wouldn’t necessarily see it so much as permission but rather confirming that you’re done for the night.

      2. EPLawyer*

        I think we are getting hung up on the word choice. I don’t think the OP meant permission as in “please may I go out for drinks with friends” but more along the lines of “Is it okay if I hang out with friends, or is there some work event happening I need to attend?” People who are writing in are not thinking of every little permutation of their word choice, but just using what seems to flow with the story they are telling.

    2. Jadelyn*

      Yeah but this is still treating it like it’s reasonable for the boss to have any right to give or withhold “permission” to go out after work. Once the working day is done – including any networking events or setup/prep work for the next day – the employee’s time is their own, and that doesn’t change just because the work location has changed.

      This, to me, falls under the “address the result, not the cause” rule for work performance issues caused by non-work stuff. If I were suddenly coming in late to work every day because I’d stayed up late the night before playing Warframe with my friends, and my boss asked me why I was late every day then followed that up with “Then I need you to log off and go to bed by 10pm” I’d laugh in his face. It’s reasonable, though, to say “I need you to be on time,” and let me work out what I need to do to make that happen. Same here – the boss doesn’t get to approve or deny an employee’s non-work plans, but it’s entirely reasonable for the boss to say “You need to be on time and on your game, which you weren’t today, even if you think you were.”

      1. aebhel*

        This. The boss can address work concerns, including the optics if the OP was seen wandering around the conference hotel drunk at 5AM. It is way out of line to expect to micromanage how employees spend their non-work time, though.

  11. Sunshine Brite*

    Having a few drinks with friends is one thing. Stay out ’til 5am is sketchy at best when the start time is 9am for a 10 hour work day, particularly since you needed to have permission to even go out. Tipsy generally is drunk and 4 hours is generally not enough rest. I’m surprised that you were able to keep up the energy for the day and it did sound like quality work. I would say generally unprofessional since work trips should stay low key IMHO.

    1. Liet-Kinda*

      And if you’re spacing it out, you can have QUITE a lot to drink by 5am and still be “tipsy,” but still look bleary and smell like a distillery the next day.

  12. AnotherKate*

    Honestly? Don’t be honest. He’d already complimented your work; telling him you got in at 5 only serves to make you look bad in his eyes. Next time just say “oh, not too late” if you don’t want to outright lie about a time. (This wasn’t, in fact, “too late” for you, as evidenced by your work output the next day).

    Your boss is responsible for making sure your work is done well. It was. Everything outside of that is none of his business. When you’re off the clock, you’re off the clock. (I actually wouldn’t have asked permission to go out, either–what’s he, your mother?)

    Lesson learned, this is not the kind of boss you can be honest with about that kind of thing. In my experience, it’s always better safe than sorry with any authority figure. Keep them on a need-to-know basis with your personal life, especially if they can take any opportunity to twist that into some reason why you’re “unprofessional.”

    1. ACDC*

      I said this exact thing about lying about the actual time on an earlier comment! I don’t know if OP thought it would be funny or something to share what time they actually got in, but no good can come from telling your boss you got in at 5am…

      1. Anon Anon Anon*

        Yeah. I guess I missed that part of the letter (see my comment below). There is no reason to answer that question. Just say, “Why do you ask?” and then change the subject. Make a joke. Say something really vague. Try to find out where the boss is coming from, if they have any useful feedback, without making yourself look bad.

    2. Colette*

      I disagree. It worked out OK for the OP this time, in that he was able to work effectively, but it could have gone very differently.

      How was the OP on day 3? Even if he was just fine the day after he basically didn’t sleep, a lot of people find the second day is worse.

      This was an inappropriate way to behave on a work trip – he wasn’t on a personal trip, he was there to work. If the OP continues to do stuff like this, it will hurt his reputation.

      1. Roscoe*

        So are you going to give people a curfew then? A max number of drinks? Because again, everyone functions differently. I have a high tolerance, so 5 drinks for me may be very different than 5 drinks for someone else.

        1. Colette*

          I’m not suggesting the boss give the OP a curfew – but I think the OP should give himself one that allows him at least 8 hours between his return to the hotel and the start of work the next day.

          And if he is unable to do that, perhaps the boss should give the travel to someone else, or evaluate whether the OP should be in the job.

          1. Roscoe*

            I mean 8 hours isn’t always realistic. Hell, I was travelling for work last week. I had to be at the conference at 7am. I was out past 11pm the night before. Is that “unprofessional” in your opinion?

            1. Colette*

              Were you out at a work event, or were you drinking with your buddies? It makes a difference.

              If it was a social thing unrelated to work, then yes, I think you should have been back at the hotel by 11.

            2. EPLawyer*

              Well yes it was. You knew you had to be at the conference at 7 am. Unless circumstances were beyond your control, you needed to ensure adequate sleep which is 7-9 hours.

              When you are at a conference or a trade show, you are not there in your own personal capacity. You are representing the company 24/7. There IS no downtime. If you have a loud party in your hotel room and the cops get called at 2 a.m., your boss won’t care that you were “off the clock.” You made the company look bad.

              This is about repping the company well. This is not “but it’s MY TIME, I should get to do what I want.” You are there because the company sent you — you are NOT on vacation.

              1. Lynn*

                For the most part, I agree with your sentiment, but “requiring” 7-9 hours of sleep just isn’t going to work for everyone. Even if I know i have to be up early, I just cannot fall asleep early without taking something to put me to sleep. I do just fine on 6 hours a night, which is my usual. Sometimes laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, is worse than going to bed once tired.

                1. Mommy MD*

                  That’s a far cry from three hours of sleep after being out all night drinking. Before an important ten hour work day.

          1. Anna*

            Exactly. I work conventions a few times a year for a volunteer organization and even at the one convention where I get to go home after, and go to bed at a reasonable time in my own bed, by day three I’m pretty strung out. The OP’s performance on the third day would probably not be as great as the first day no matter what. It’s not relevant here.

        1. Whoop*

          He does, though:

          “From 9 AM to 7 PM, I was fully-functional in manning our booth, fulfilling inquiries, and any other chores our boss needed me to do without a hitch. He even complimented my work for that day.”

            1. Whoop*

              I just re-read, and it’s not, it’s after he was out with friends. Here’s the full quote:

              “I went out at 10 PM, way after the first day ended, and ended up going back to our hotel at 5 the next morning, but I wasn’t drunk. Tipsy, yes. Blackout drunk, no. After that, I still managed to go to the show at exactly 9 AM. From 9 AM to 7 PM, I was fully-functional in manning our booth, fulfilling inquiries, and any other chores our boss needed me to do without a hitch. He even complimented my work for that day.”

              I mean, getting home at 5am when you need to be on stand at 9am? Definitely not a good idea, and it sounds from comments below that OP gets that, but he wasn’t deliberately eliding details about his work on the last day. He was on time, he did the job, boss complimented him. Of course there could be more going on there, but that’s what the OP gives us.

              1. Sender*

                Hi im the sender.

                That was the only time he reprimanded me. I locked in about 20 deals for the whole event. More than my other colleagues so I guess I was doing better than others. But I totally get the point of me answering specifically the time I went back to the hotel.

                1. $!$!*

                  For the record I want to say that I think you did absolutely nothing wrong. If you had stank of booze or acted loopy your boss wouldn’t have complimented you and you wouldn’t have done so well. And for the record I never sleep well on business trips so I usually operate on very little sleep and no one has ever mentioned it to me

            2. No Mas Pantalones*

              Right, which was directly after OP went out with friends, the same day that OP was complimented for a job well done, UNTIL boss heard about when OP got in. Boss’s opinion changed once 5am came into play, never mind that OP’s work was compliment-worthy before that knowledge.

    3. anna green*

      Yeah, this was going to be my response too. It sounds really bad to say you got in at 5am. Don’t say that. For all the reasons listed above, it just makes it seem like work isn’t a priority. Your boss doesn’t need to know how late you were out.

    4. AnotherKate*

      To be clear, do I think it’s WISE to stay out till 5 before you have to be at a work event at 9? No, I do not. But my point stands that it’s the manager’s job to ensure the work gets done smoothly; interrogating your exact whereabouts is beside the point and a roundabout way of communicating if, in fact, he WAS upset with your work that day. (You say he complimented you, so I don’t think that’s the case. I think he just has an inflated sense of how much authority he has over you).

      To me, it’s the admitting it that’s unprofessional, not the fact of it (given that you managed just fine despite your Big Night). If you had performed poorly this would be a totally different reply, but I’m not with anyone who suggests that your party night is proof you aren’t “prioritizing” work–I mean, so? Apparently your job is easy enough to do hungover on 3 hours’ sleep. That’s the job, and I assume the pay is commensurate, frankly. If bosses want total dedication, the way to ensure that is by making the job hard enough to require it (and paying accordingly).

    5. EddieSherbert*

      Agreed. If staying out late on “work nights” is something you tend to do (in general, just at conferences, just that once, whatever), and you still do awesome work, that’s great! But don’t share that information with your boss or coworkers, as it will likely just make them think you’re unprofessional and/or immature (especially if you’re a young professional).

      That may not be fair, but that’s the truth of it. And quite frankly, there’s no advantage to sharing that information with them anyways, so why not play it safe?

      1. EddieSherbert*

        I’ll echo AnotherKate and say I also do NOT think drinking until late before a workday is a good idea!

        It’d be better if they didn’t do that – a lot of people already said that. But even now, I have a decent amount of late 20s / early 30s friends who still regularly go to the bar until past midnight, and then get up early for work. Heck, I do it every once in a blue moon! But I don’t tell the office about it the next day and I still get my job done.

    6. Liet-Kinda*

      “Everything outside of that is none of his business.”

      I partially disagree. This was travel on his dime, for his business, and he has a right to expect that the people he’s got working for him are prioritizing his business needs over their desire to go get schwasted with their hometown buddies until 5am. He was fine with OP going out, he was just not fine with OP taking advantage of the situation in a way that had a decent chance of leaving him a bleary wreck the final two days he needed to be on deck.

      1. AnotherKate*

        I can see this perspective, but what I can’t accept is the policing of an employee’s off-time. Look, I’m in my 30s and if I happen to get less than 7 hours of sleep–sober–I’m a distracted mess the next day. I’d never in a million years stay out till 5 with my buddies during a big work event. But when I was 23? Let’s just say my body was more resilient then. I probably could’ve swung one night like this and then turned in early the next night and been back on my A+ game for the next day.

        My point is, “prioritizing the business’s needs” just looks like competent performance, from a boss’s perspective. In the event that the employee showed up half-blitzed and did a shitty job, the conversation would be “I need you to do what you have to do to show up to these things ready to perform,” not “now, now, going drinking and staying out late is unprofessional.” It IS, when it results in bad work! But I firmly believe it’s not a manager’s place to tell their employees HOW they need to “be ready to perform,” just that they have the right to expect good work.

        1. Jadelyn*

          This. I really don’t get the mentality of “the boss paid for travel therefore they get to dictate the employee’s schedule 24 hrs/day while they’re traveling” that seems to be popping up in a surprising number of comments.

            1. Jadelyn*

              You’re one of the strongest proponents of that mentality, actually. Multiple times you’ve outright said you think the boss has a right to give employees a curfew on work travel – not a specific time, but there’s a definite mentality of “what the employee does after work hours is within the boss’s purview” that you’ve espoused multiple times in these threads.

              1. Liet-Kinda*

                So I’m not actually advocating what you say I’m advocating, I’m advocating something that’s crucially different and more nuanced than that, but, oh, gee, let’s just round it up for rhetorical purposes anyway? F that noise.

                You’re usually not this unreasonable in how you argue your points.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            Prioritizing the needs of the business by not stumbling back to the hotel drunk (excuse me – just “tipsy,” but not blackout drunk!) at 5am for a 9am start is nowhere near a 24 hr/day schedule dictation, though.

      2. uranus wars*

        So, the OP actually paid for his own hotel. Does this change your opinion of how much of it is his bosses business?

          1. uranus wars*

            But if what the OP did in his off hours didn’t (in this instance) affect work performance – he closed 20 clients, he got good marks for the day and didn’t miss any events why does it matter?

            I do think it wasn’t a great decision to stay out until 5 a.m., but I think the boss handles this as a perception/learning moment, not a “I get to dictate what you do you have to ask my permission 24/7 on a work trip” mentality.

          2. Anna*

            You literally just said four or five comments prior that this was travel on the boss’ dime. Except it wasn’t. And frankly it’s starting to sound like the OP is getting taken advantage of pretty seriously here.

    7. Wednesday's Child*

      Unless the boss already was aware that you rolled in at 5 a.m., and now you have lying to the boss in addition to something that the boss thought was unprofessional/unacceptable for a business event.

    8. Jenn*

      If they pay for your travel and hotel, they do get some stay (stuff that happens off the clock can 100% be a legitimate firing too, such as if you are in a viral video doing something bad like yelling at a waiter, you can be fired for that).

      My spouse actually gets training in international travel especially (it is not uncommon to be targeted for corporate espionage). He has to be very careful about his behavior “off the clock”.

      1. AnotherKate*

        This is a totally good point. But in this particular case, “I went drinking with friends and came back at 5” is the only information the boss had. There’s nothing to indicate the employee was otherwise participating in bad behavior that would’ve been a fire-able offense on its face.

      2. Doug Judy*

        Yes when I travel for work our evenings are free to do as we please, with the understanding that even though we’re not working we are still representing the company and are to behave appropriately. Having drinks with friends, totally fine. Drinking all night and coming back to the hotel at 5 am, yeah not so much.

          1. Red Or Dead*

            No, the boss expects their employees to behave responsibly and professionally on a work trip. Big difference!

            1. Roscoe*

              But you can do both. I guess here is the thing. Its very possibly that YOU need to be home by 11pm and not have a drop of alcohol in order to function the next day. Its also possible that I can function better than you coming home at 1am after drinking for a few hours. The off hours things aren’t unprofessional. What is professional or not is how you behave at the conference.

              1. AnotherKate*

                Thank you. Is the job done well? Then nothing else matters. If it’s not done well, the conversation is “do what you need to to not perform this badly again,” not nitpicking about the logistics of the employee’s night. We’d think it was grossly inappropriate for a boss to say “well, you should’ve brought your own pillow on the off-chance the hotel pillows made you sleep poorly” if something non-party-related had caused an issue, but people are clutching their pearls over this, I think, because it involves someone daring to have fun and take a risk in their off-time. (I acknowledge this behavior is risky; I wouldn’t advocate testing my luck a second time, but ultimately, NOTHING BAD HAPPENED HERE and the boss is out of line).

                1. Academic Addie*

                  > but people are clutching their pearls over this, I think, because it involves someone daring to have fun and take a risk in their off-time.

                  If I had an employee show up still tipsy on a research trip, I would have to fire them. Full stop. First offense. It doesn’t simply matter that the job is done well. If an employee of mine was out drinking until 5 am, and the alcohol moved through a little slower because they stopped for a burger before the last round, they could lose their job. I’d rather not have someone lose their job, so I’m going to get a bit in their face if I find out they were drinking that late.

              2. Genny*

                There are two problems with that 1) people tend to overestimate their skills, so it’s quite possible that someone assumes they can operate efficiently on 3 hours of sleep when they really can’t and 2) human physiology can be a weird thing and it is a risk to stay up late or to drink a lot during a work trip. It sounds like it turned out okay for LW this time, but it could just have easily gone wrong. If I’m the boss, I’m not waiting for it to go wrong before I tell you what my expectations are.

                1. Anna*

                  That’s literally not the issue, though. The issue is what happened with this employee. And with this employee everything seemed to be fine until the boss found out what time he rolled in. It could have just as easily gone wrong, but also a tornado could have struck and the building could have blow up. However, none of those things happened, so why are we still talking about what *could* have happened?

          2. Jam Today*

            No, boss expects that you’ll behave as a company representative when you’re on a business trip. Its up to adults to modulate their own behavior accordingly. Go read up on Gerald Finneran if you question the wisdom of that.

    9. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. You probably shouldn’t have been out until 5, but you definitely should have kept your mouth shut about that.

    10. Liet-Kinda*

      Also, it bears mention: this was not a literal request to know precisely when you arrived back at the hotel. This was, in a gently oblique but ostensibly obvious manner, letting OP know that he wasn’t as fully functional as he believed himself to be, and that while he powered through, he was not presenting himself as well as he could have and maybe don’t do the thing again. Answering “Uh well I think it was around 5am” was not only overly honest but also missing the point entirely.

      1. bonkerballs*

        OP has said numerous times in the comments that Boss complemented him both on his job performance and his appearance during the day. So your assumption that Boss was trying to infer that OP wasn’t on point makes no sense.

      1. Zillah*

        I can actually see it both ways – either the boss was asking a question he already knew, or that he was making light conversation and then was like “wait what?”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My money’s on the “he was making light conversation”. How could he know that OP had gotten in at five AM, unless he himself was out at five AM?

    11. No Mas Pantalones*

      This was my first thought too. “Not too late.” “A little after midnight.” Everyone’s concepts of both phrases will be different. OP was functional to do the job, and indeed was and complimented for it.

    12. Gen*

      Yep. Three hours sleep is my average amount of sleep. Doesn’t matter why I don’t sleep, telling my boss “I only got three hours sleep” is still going to look unprofessional to people who think it’s not enough. In a work-is-life or a heavy-drinking work culture it’ll be less contentious because everyone is running on no sleep. OP might have had only two drinks and just spent the whole night talking with friends he hasn’t seen in years, or he could have been drunk and just good at hiding a hangover, but it doesn’t really matter, he went out drinking and got home at a time most people will think of as way too late in the morning. I agree with AnotherKate this isn’t a boss to share that kind of stuff with, and it’s probably best to carry that forward into other jobs unless you find yourself in one with a proper party culture. Even then the oneupmanship is best avoided.

    13. Kiki*

      Yeah, I think that it’s only your business how late you stayed up/ out if you perform well the next way, but I would also be worried if a direct report told me they stayed out until 5am before a 9am start. I don’t personally advocate for staying out that late, but people do it and get along just fine; discretion is key here. An easy thing to say is, “I was tired and didn’t check the time before I fell asleep.” Then talk about how comfy the hotel bed felt and transition to something else.

  13. Amber Rose*

    I don’t know what all your event entailed, but if there was any chance you would’ve needed to drive anywhere, as your boss I would have been livid. You can’t drive tipsy, and even if you’d just stayed up with no alcohol, fatigue counts as impairment.

    OP, you sound very much like the thousands of teenagers pulled over by cops who swear they were fine to drive because they only had a couple beers. With that little sleep and with alcohol in your system, I have a hard time believing that you were as fine as you think you were, and your judgement was certainly not at the level it should have been.

    Even if you really were fine by some unlikely fluke, this was an incredibly poor judgement call on your behalf and reflects badly on you.

    1. SansaStark*

      I’ve attended and worked at upwards of 50 conferences and never, not one time, have I been even offered the opportunity to drive, let alone been needed to drive. I don’t weight train or have an emergency medical certificate on the off-chance that I would have to lift a 180 pound box or attend to a medical emergency either. While it’s maybe not the greatest judgement to stay out so late when you have to work in the morning, having to drive is so unlikely that I don’t think that’s the standard to use when making decisions when you’re traveling.

      1. Amber Rose*

        You are one person, in one industry, offering a single data point. Driving is the norm for shows that our company goes to. I don’t know if it’s the norm on average, but I wouldn’t call it that unlikely.

        Regardless, working while impaired is unacceptable. If anything happens as a result of being allowed to work while impaired, her boss would absolutely be held liable. Not so much at night, obviously, but definitely during the day.

        1. Anna*

          And you are one person, in one industry, offering a single data point. I think you’re adding a layer of whataboutism that isn’t necessary with the information we already have.

          1. serenity*

            This is…an unkind comment and doesn’t seem to be in line with Alison’s commenting guidelines.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree. OP says that they flew in. I highly doubt that OP got their own rental car, or that the boss was, “sure, you can go out with my friends, here are my car keys”.

    2. Anna*

      I think we can assume the OP would have known ahead of time if they would have had to drive. This really doesn’t have anything to do with what has been presented. And making this about drunk driving is ridiculous when it’s not even something the OP said COULD have happened.

    3. Yorick*

      The OP probably didn’t have to drive, so I’m not gonna run with that. But there’s a decent chance someone who was drinking til 5am was still drunk at 9am when the event started, and as the boss I would be plenty mad about that.

  14. Murphy*

    I don’t think it’s unprofessional to go out for drinks after a work event. That’s your own time and as long as you’re not in the hotel bar embarrassing your company, you’re fine. The liability stuff is kind of weird as well. I do understand your bosses concern about basically staying out all night though. Even if you were able to handle it, that’s not the best move when you know you’re supposed to be on all day representing your employer.

    1. Anna*

      Right. It wasn’t the going out for drinks that was unprofessional. It was the staying out until 5am when you had to be back on the floor at 9am.

  15. Jenn*

    I have to agree with the boss here. Maybe OP really was fine, but it is not unreasonable to expect a diminished performance from staying out that late and continuing to drink that late. A slight miscalculation could have left OP still impaired at 9 AM. They are paying OP to be there, OP should not risk endangering their performance.

    Sorry, OP, but this does demonstrate very poor judgment.

    1. ACDC*

      Definitely. I mean there’s a million what-ifs that probably ran through the boss’s mind when they heard this, but the fact of the matter is that it turned out OK…this time. I would be concerned that my employee would do this again in the future and maybe that time it wouldn’t turn out so great.

    2. Jadelyn*

      “They are paying OP to be there, OP should not risk endangering their performance.”

      Okay, but by this logic, one’s every decision outside of work should be made with a focus on “not risking endangering one’s performance,” since the boss is paying you to be there at the home office just as much as at a conference. I still think this is giving one’s employer too much say in one’s off-hours.

      1. Jenn*

        Well, if you show up to work tired every day from partying, you will be fired eventually.

        Travel is an exception here because it is a perk and your company has paid extra for you. Being on travel means there is less backup. It demonstrates trust. Risking that is stupid.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Yes, you will. That still doesn’t mean the boss gets to tell you to cut back on your partying at home. The boss’s control starts and ends with the boundaries of the workday, yes, even while traveling. Your work performance within those hours is the boss’s business. Your conduct outside those hours, even if that conduct is what is affecting said performance, is not. The boss can address the performance, but has no standing to concern himself with the cause. That’s on you to decide how to handle it to get the performance improvement you need.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think ‘off hours’ on a business trip are different from off hours when you’re at home.

        1. Genny*

          Agreed. If someone comes in exhausted on a normal business day, maybe they just do some light work or re-shuffle priorities to leave earlier than normal. When you come to work exhausted while traveling, there’s really not much you can do to adjust the workload for that. If your exhaustion means you only lock in five sales instead of 15 or your presentation is lackluster, then the trip was a waste of money.

  16. Utoh!*

    Yeah, I can see both perspectives here, and perhaps because you are on a work trip that should be your first priority. While you said you did not get drunk, but were tipsy, that’s being impaired, and anything could have happened to you between the bar and the hotel. You put yourself into a position to be non-functional during the time when you were needed. Boss feels responsible for you as his employee, especially under the context of being on a work-related trip. Not sure if you want to die on this hill, a little understanding on your part can go a long way here.

  17. MuseumChick*

    OP, neither you or your boss are fully right or wrong here. He’s being a bit weird about this and you showed a lack of judgement by 1) staying at till 5am when you had to work at 9am 2) Telling you boss that you didn’t roll in until 5am.

    It sounds like your boss was worried something bad could have happened to you being out in the city that late. He is probably also worried how it will reflect on your company,

    1. Roscoe*

      I mean, its not on the boss to be worried about what happens to OP in his hometown. Also, is the boss going to tell the OP on a Tuesday he must be in bed by midnight? He is way overstepping here.

      1. MuseumChick*

        I disagree. Yes, the boss is being weird about this but I completely understand why he was annoyed when he learned what time the OP got back. They were on a work trip, representing their company in a city. That is not the time to stay out until 5am drinking with friends.

        1. Roscoe*

          Was he wearing a shirt that had the company logo? Did people know he was with the company at that time, or did they think he is “Mike from 6th street”. What time in your opinion is “too late” because I would argue that even that would vary from person to person. Why not let people who know their bodies figure out how much sleep they need to be functional the next day

          1. EddieSherbert*

            Okay, we get it, Roscoe, you think the boss is completely out of line. And maybe you’re right!

            But the fact of the matter is that there Aare A LOT of people out there that agree with the OP’s boss and that would see this as an unprofessional incident. Our personal decisions CAN affect our work lives (especially if you tell your boss and coworkers about those decisions).

            It’s on the OP (and each individual person) to decide for themselves if they care about that or think it’s worth avoiding in the future.

        2. Anna*

          But being annoyed about what time he rolled in is not the same as being concerned about being out in the big bad city. The OP addressed the concern. “This is my hometown. I know this city by heart.” The boss wanted to show concern and used the wrong thing to be concerned about when in reality if he were annoyed about the OP coming back so late, that’s enough.

      2. Yorick*

        I think there’s a big difference between giving someone a specific early curfew and expecting them to not be out partying until 5am

  18. Middle School Teacher*

    I mean, I used to do this too… when I was 20 and working a fast food job, not representing my company at a trade fair. C’mon OP.

    1. Roscoe*

      Oh please, I’ve been to plenty of trade fairs where people drink. Also, it was his hometown, so there is a good chance he wasn’t out somewhere where people from the conference would see him. And finally, who cares. He did fine the next day.

      1. CheeryO*

        I see where you’re coming from, but the line of “How late to stay out while on a business trip” is SO far ahead of 5:00AM that it’s really, really bad judgement to (1) stay out that late and (2) admit to the boss that you stayed out that late.

      2. Middle School Teacher*

        HE says he did fine the next day. I’m not convinced the boss thought he did a great job.

        Going out for a few drinks? Fine. Partying literally all night? Unprofessional.

        1. bonkerballs*

          From the original letter: “[Boss] even complimented my work for that day.” Why compliment if you don’t think the person is actually doing a good job?

          1. Middle School Teacher*

            What compliment precisely? All OP says is that they got complimented, but what did boss actually say? “That went fairly well” is not much of a compliment.

            Sorry, but I just think partying all night when you’re representing your company is unprofessional and shows poor judgement.

    2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      I would do this too, in my 20s, minus the drinking (really didn’t start drinking until I hit 30…) And I was fine. And I was repping at a trade show. I would quite regularly stay out until the wee hours on a Friday, then be at work on Saturday.

      Currently, I go to bed around 9:30 and swear at my alarm clock in the morning even though I’ve got way more than the standard 8 hours, but that’s the difference between 20 and 37…

    3. gk*

      Me too… 5 am and then 6:30 am breakfast at the hotel I worked at. Don’t know how I managed it!

      When you’re working tradeshows though it’s different. As someone who’s organized attendance, the booth, the marketing materials and everything else. There’s nothing I hate more than having to pick up slack for colleagues who are just there for the tradeshow itself – you know, the guys that think they are the face and voice of the company. Maybe OP was slow and didn’t realize how bad?

      At one sales meeting I had to share a room with someone. I went up to bed at about 10 and chilled out for a while, she said she wouldn’t be long. It got late so I put the latch on as you do in a hotel room, sent her a message and asked her to call me when she was ready to come back because I had latched the door. Hours later there’s a knock at the door and giggling. I let her in around 4 am.

      Later found out she was in the lounge having a major flirt session with the man she later left her husband for. She was the talk of the office.

      Anyway… my message for OP is to be careful about the impression they are giving their colleagues. It could hinder advancement opportunities.

  19. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Your letter is kind of confusing, and I’m left assuming you’re only a few years out of college.

    Why did you feel you had to “ask permission” to go out? AAM is right that he was acting oddly paternalistic, but you set up that way by asking for his approval to do something that had nothing to do with work. If you want to go out after work, then go out. You’re an adult. Which brings me to my next point…

    Why did you tell your boss the whole truth? Again, this is playing into the paternalistic set up here. Just because he asked doesn’t mean you have to be explicitly honest with him. When my boss asked me how happy hour went, I don’t tell her that it ran until 3 AM, everyone was blotto, and one of us barfed in the cab. I say, “Fun! We all had a good time.” You could have said, “Not too late!” Your boss saw nothing awry until you told him the ugly truth.

    Staying out late for drinks after work hours is NOT unprofessional. Making it obvious that you did either by being too honest or displaying drunken/hungover behavior is what makes everything unprofessional.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am also thinking that the boss would have probably preferred not to know. Now that he knows, he feels he’s obligated to say something.

  20. Roscoe*

    So I’m going to push back a bit on this answer. I feel like often people like to look at how THEY would react in a situation, like being out until 5 am and project that onto others. Everyone knows how their own body works, and if OP knew that he could function on 4 hours of sleep, I don’t think its unprofessional to do that. What if he was up binging netflix and drinking in the hotel, would that have been a problem too? To be clear, I’m in my 30s and know I couldn’t function well on 4 hours of sleep, but in my mid 20s, I could have absolutely done so.

    The boss seems way out of line to me. If, for whatever reason, he noticed at like noon that you were clearly off your A game, he would have reason to say something. But just saying its unprofessional because its not a decision he would have made is ridiculous.

    1. CheeryO*

      The assumption is that while you’re on a business trip, that’s the priority. Yes, you can have some time for yourself, but you should also make sure you’re rested and ready for whatever the day might bring. I’ve never been on a business trip where people didn’t tuck in for the night at a semi-reasonable hour, and people usually make a show of talking about needing their 8 hours, wanting to go for a run in the morning, etc. Staying out until the wee hours just looks bad, regardless of your personal sleep needs, because most people can’t function on that little sleep, or at least can’t function well.

    2. Cass*

      Agreed. Up and until the boss knew what time OP rolled in his performance was fine, even complimented. The mistake was being so candid about what time OP got back to the hotel.

      1. Zibidibodel*

        I think we’re leaning on assumptions from what the (unreliable) LW told us here pretty hard. The person that was drinking until 5am and then working at 9am thinks he did a great job. A lot of people THINK they are great at performing on no sleep and/or hungover but then if they watch that day on camera they’d be embarassed. I have an idea that the boss asking that question at dinner had more of a reason than casual conversation. It feels like he wondered if something was off so he asked.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          The boss complimented the LW on their performance that day, though.

          Re the people not being able to work properly on too little sleep. I’ve seen people (myself included) work all day after an all-nighter, or be up working most of the night and back in the office the next morning. They are working on a few hours of sleep or no sleep, yet no one in the workplace bats an eye. They are praised as hard workers, even. Not saying that this is normal or that most of us could do it on a regular basis, just saying that being able to work on a few hours of sleep is not unheard of.

          1. Someone Else*

            I think without the specifics of the compliment, it’s not mutually exclusive that the OP was both complimented and conspicuously not 100%. Like, if this is a sales gig, and OP closed the number of deals expected going into the conference…OK boss would say “good job” to that. You were supposed to sell X widgets and you sold X widgets. At the same time, maybe OP sold X widgets despite bloodshot eyes or looking unwell. Like, I can’t not give you credit for selling X widgets, you were supposed to and you did, but I’d have rather you not looked hung over while doing it. I mean, that’s a hypothetical. We don’t know if OP looked hung over or not (and compliments on one’s outfit also do not rule out looking hungover), but that’s where I’m coming from on the whole “but compliments!” vs maybe looking conspicuously like someone who had been out all night. Both can be true.

        2. Roscoe*

          Its so interesting to me that the OP says he was complimented and did well, yet he is unreliable.

          Yet when people talk about how good their work is, we are supposed to take them at their word, and they are reliable. Because we know EVERYONE is totally unbiased about their own performance.

          He said he wasn’t drunk, just was out til 5. Trust me, I can be out late and stop drinking early and be fine

          1. Hiring Mgr*

            It’s complete hypocrisy. Bottom line is you take every OP at their word, or none of them (as per the rules of this site)

          2. Perse's Mom*

            But he admitted he was still tipsy AT 5. Tipsy is still intoxicated -> tipsy is still drunk.

            1. Roscoe*

              Your definition of Tipsy may be a little outdated. Tipsy may mean he still felt the effects of alcohol. That alone still doesn’t mean he wasn’t fine by 9

        3. Cass*

          Fair enough, but I also think it’s on the boss to be direct about a problem if there is one. Don’t compliment work performance and then passively probe for information because you think your employee wasn’t at 100%.

        4. madge*

          The commenting rules for this site specifically say to give letter writers the benefit of the doubt. Can we please take people at their word that they know their own bodies and what they can handle?

        5. bonkerballs*

          This OP is no more unreliable than any other OP who writes in here. And let’s not forget, we’re supposed to take OPs at their word. He says he was fully functional and that the Boss complemented him on his performance. So believe him.

        6. Yorick*

          I think it’s totally possible that the LW both did a pretty good job that day and was obviously recovering from a late night of partying, which is unprofessional.

    3. Rachael*

      I agree. The boss was fine all day until he learned what time the OP got into work. The OP is an adult and, as long as their work isn’t impacted, I wouldn’t care if they stayed up all night. (Also, it would be none of my business).

      OP, going forward just keep in mind your boss is treating you like a child and answer accordingly to any invasive questions.

    4. Bostonian*

      I’m with you that I don’t think this is that big of a deal. I do think staying out until to 5am showed bad judgement, simply because it had the potential to cause problems for work the next day, even if OP usually is fine in those situations. That being said, since the OP was able to get to work on time and function at a normal level (taking the OP’s word, here), there really wasn’t any harm done. The boss was way out of line in the way he handled it. He couldn’t even give a straight answer as to why it was a bad idea, which makes me think he was getting mad for the sake of getting mad.

    5. Robin Sparkles*

      I agree with you and I am surprised at how many people are siding with the boss. The boss is being really weird and inappropriate here. I mean OP was doing great right until they revealed they were out until 5:00a? That just strikes me as odd. The OP should have just kept that piece of information to himself and stopped arguing with the boss but ultimately I would question this company where OP had to pay for the hotel himself and gets a parental lecture about staying out too late.

    6. CM*

      This. The boss is being super judgemental about something that’s none of his business.

      I agree that staying up until 5 AM before working a stressful shift — whether you’re hanging out with friends, or watching Netflix, or playing video games, or whatever — is setting yourself up for a bad day, but there’s a difference between saying, “Seems like a risky choice to me” and “You chose wrong.”

      Even if there were a performance issue, it’s over-reaching to tell somebody how to manage their own sleep schedule — you’d just talk about what the issue was and ask them to try to do better next time.

    7. Yorick*

      Sure, we should treat people like reasonable adults, but if everybody knew how their body would react to a night of drinking and planned accordingly, then no one would ever have a hangover. Many people are really bad at that estimation, especially when they’re young.

    8. DaniCalifornia*

      100% agree. We usually take OP at their word since they are the ones writing to Alison and they said they weren’t drunk and her answer included that OP was. The giving permission thing was weird and how the boss reacted was weird especially since they had complimented OP on their work that day. There have been plenty of nights where I could not sleep and ended up falling asleep in the wee hours of the morning. What if it had been due to anxiety or discomfort at not being in their own bed.

      I’m surprised at the number of comments that think it’s okay to police people’s activities on their own time when the OP did not do anything or fail to do their job. Sounds like an after school special. There have been plenty of nights I’ve stayed out with friends until 5am and no one was drinking.

      1. Perse's Mom*

        The LW admitted he was still tipsy when he returned to the hotel at 5am. Tipsy is still intoxicated, much as some people would like to think otherwise.

  21. Akcipitrokulo*

    I suspect you were noticeably not at your best, which is why your boss asked. Competent, yes – at your best? Unlikely.

    The way he approached it was a bit weird, but no, that’s not OK to do on a trip. Any more than it would be OK to turn up to a normal day’s work after being out til 5 drinking with mates.

  22. samiratou*

    So, let me get this straight:

    1. Boss had no problem with employee going out (or at least gave permission when LW asked)
    2. Complimented LW’s work during the day
    3. Seemed fine with the whole thing until she asked LW when he got back.
    4. Lost it only upon finding out when he got back.

    So…what time, exactly, would she have been OK with him coming back? Midnight? 1am? 3am? Would it have mattered if his performance had been the same?

    It seems to me like boss was more concerned with the time he came back, not with his performance. I agree that 5am is awfully late to stay out, and if his performance at the event had suffered Boss would have been in the right to read him the riot act, but if they live far from hometown I’d be inclined to cut an employee a bit of slack on one night out, assuming their work was fine the next day. I don’t really buy the argument that “a lot of people” wouldn’t have been able to handle that, as it seems like LW was fine.

    1. Roscoe*

      Exactly. People on here are dangerously close to saying boss has a right to give a curfew and a “lights out” time while people are on a work trip.

      1. ACDC*

        And I feel like there are a lot of comments in the realm of “well X could have happened,” or “what if Y had happened?!” The reality is neither X nor Y happened, and Z actually happened. I get the impression that OP realizes this was a bad call now (based on their comments) and won’t do it again, prevent X or Y from happening in the future, too. Seems silly to harp on hypothetical situations when we already know the facts of what actually happened.

      2. Liet-Kinda*

        …..yeah? I mean, not to the specific extent of specifying a particilar time, but he does have a right to expect that you’re rested and sober enough to reliably maintain performance over a few long work days.

        1. Roscoe*

          But again, that will vary based on the person. Maybe Jane NEEDS 8 hours of sleep to be functional yet John only needs 4. Do you tell them that they all have to be home at a certain time? Are these adults or children here? OP was complimented on his performance, so it sounds like 4 hours was fine for him.

          1. Liet-Kinda*

            It sounds like he was able to function and get the job done, which is part of it, but if he smelled like booze….

            And as for adults or children? I get that you’re being rhetorical, but if your judgment is such that you say out drinking till 5 before a 10-hour conference work day…well, here I am trailing off again.

            1. Roscoe*

              But what makes you think he smelled like booze? You are making assumptions. Trust me, I’ve done my share of drinking. I know I do smell like booze sometimes and other times, my friends have said “jeez roscoe, how are you functioning, you were pounding shots last night and you look fine”

              I thought we weren’t supposed to make these assumptions about letter writers?

            2. Robin Sparkles*

              But he clearly didn’t smell like booze – I am really not understanding this issue here. The OP was doing OK until and up to the point that they “revealed” to the boss the time they came home. If that point was left out -then there would be no issue for anyone because the OP did well enough that the boss complimented them. Sure if the boss had asked them what time they came home because they looked like hell and smelled like booze that would have been the issue- not what time they came home.

          2. Amtelope*

            There isn’t actually a variety of human who doesn’t require rest. When you’re pulling 10 hour days at a trade show, 3-4 hours of sleep (OP got in at 5 and hit the trade show floor at 9 having showered, so that can’t be more than 3 1/2 hours of actual sleep) isn’t enough for anyone. If you’re trying to get enough sleep and you can’t, that’s unfortunate, but it happens. If you don’t even try, because you think you’re fine staying up all night and working all day? I’d be questioning your professional judgment.

        2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

          …which the OP *was* so I’m not seeing the point of all the pearl clutching, either by the boss or the commentariate.

          1. Liet-Kinda*

            I am confident assuming that while the OP was capable of powering through, he was probably not as rested, on the ball, and presentable as someone with a reasonably full night of sleep and a moderate few drinks the night before.

            1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

              We’re supposed to believe OPs statements about themselves. Or does that only apply when you approve of their behavior?

              1. Amtelope*

                I don’t think there’s an obligation to believe that OPs have perfect insight. People may sincerely believe they aren’t impaired by lack of sleep, just as they may sincerely believe they’re not impaired by being under the influence of alcohol; that belief is often untrue.

                1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

                  Or, here’s a thought: some people aren’t all that impaired by having one short night of sleep every once in a while, and if this *had* been insomnia instead of drinking with friends, the OP would be getting sympathy instead of pearl clutching.

                2. Amtelope*

                  If this had been insomnia, it wouldn’t have been a result of making deliberately reckless choices. Do you not see a difference? You do not get to make the choice to do something that carries a significant risk of your work performance being impaired the next day while you are representing your company at a trade show or conference. That’s not a time when it’s acceptable to take risks.

                3. Liet-Kinda*

                  Yeah, well, people don’t choose insomnia, so don’t ignore context just to indulge in contrariness.

                4. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

                  Seeing as half the advice is to not be so frank and honest next time, I think that *results* are what should be looked at, so no, I’m not seeing the difference.

                5. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I agree with Amtelope here. As the person who’s the author of the “take letter writers at their word” rule, that doesn’t mean you can’t say “you know, it’s easy to think you seem fine in this context, but really frequently that’s not the case” in situations like this one, where that’s really commonly going to be true.

                6. madge*

                  It’s not “deliberately reckless” if they know (as they have explained in the comments) from experience they function effectively on only a few hours of sleep.

              2. Roscoe*

                Yep, that’s exactly it. It only matter’s what the OP says when its some behavior that the the commenters agree with. When they are being treated in a way most people think is unfair, we should take them at their word. But when people think they are wrong, then “clearly they aren’t looking objectively?

                1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

                  Plus, an analogy: “I’m cold.” “No you’re not! It’s not cold in here!” “Yes…I am. I know my body and I’m freezing my bum off.” “No human being could possibly be cold under these circumstances, so you’re not cold!”

                  …do people really not see how this sounds?

                2. Perse's Mom*

                  @Rebecca – the difference here is that people who are intoxicated or exhausted are generally not thinking entirely clearly, even if THEY think they are. That’s not an issue for people who are merely cold.

              3. Liet-Kinda*

                We’re encouraged to take OPs at their word, but the entire point of advice is to present a perspective the asker might not have fully considered, and in my experience this is a reasonable and defensible assumption.

                1. serenity*

                  And when someone is inebriated there is a fair opportunity to say “You may not have been the best judge of how, in fact, you presented to others”. That’s not the same as insomnia at all.

                2. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

                  Except the boss was praising them throughout the day! I don’t know about you, but I don’t generally go around saying “gosh, your behavior was exemplary! …why, what did you do last night??”

        3. Jadelyn*

          Only to the same extent that the boss has the right to expect those things of you back at the office, and that doesn’t extend to having a single iota of influence over how you spend your non-work time, either on the road or at home. If you’re meeting expectations for performance, it’s none of your boss’s business how late you were out or when you went to bed.

          I mean, maybe I’m being unusually fiercely independent about this, but I cannot fathom my boss having any say in when I should be going to bed just because I’m staying in a hotel rather than in my own home.

      3. Rachael*

        Yes! And people seem particularly horrified that the OP was (gasp!) drinking. What would they think if it was a game night full of wholesome fun? Obviously, the OP wasn’t drunk enough to be noticeable to his boss.

      4. Temperance*

        I mean, I’m fine with that. When I travel for work, I’m working and preparing to work. If one of my clients was up for an early AM run, and they ran into me in last night’s clothes, clearly drunk or a little drunk, it would reflect so poorly on my org, and me individually.

        1. bonkerballs*

          Okay, but a client up for a morning run could run into you coming home drunk in last night’s clothes in your own town. So do you think your company gets to dictate your behavior on your own time when you’re at home, too?

          1. Yorick*

            It’s much less likely than when you’re all staying in the same hotel, and it’s less of a big deal when they’re not planning on meeting with you in 4 hours.

      5. Catherine*

        I’ve had various jobs that involved 20 – 50% travel and when I was (much) younger, on a small number of occasions I stayed out very late / all night, and got horrendously drunk while travelling. Mostly with colleagues / fellow attendees – work travel can be incredibly dull. I never ever missed a days’ work, never had any negative incidents or performance issues.

        Would I recommend it? No. Would I do it now? No. But LW handled it OK. Personally I found hangovers and tiredness enough of a deterrent, I don’t need a lecture from a boss or anyone else about it.

        In recent years, I travelled with a team who reported to me, I had early nights and room service and left the team to get on with it, knowing they probably wouldn’t want me hanging around. I rarely inquired – not my business how they spent their down time. If there is a performance issue, that’s different. Otherwise – we’re all grown ups and have to manage our lives whether at home or away.

        Rookie mistake to admit it though, LW! Learn from that mistake!

    2. Artemesia*

      He was lucky to be fine; he could easily have been too hung over and exhausted to work well. He was grossly irresponsible. And of course he was naive to tell the boss the actual time as if it were a high school brag. ‘tobin and me — sooooo wasted.’

      1. Sender*

        Hi Im the question sender.

        I am a responsible drinker. I didn’t drink all out. The reason why I ended up going back to the hotel at 5 AM was because I was catching up with old friends. Catching up with old friends doesn’t necessarily mean drinking until 5 AM.

        And as for my naivety, my boss is my best friend’s uncle so I was frank with him. And I wasn’t bragging I was just telling him honestly which was my mistake

        1. Liet-Kinda*

          “Catching up with old friends doesn’t necessarily mean drinking until 5 AM”

          You said you were tipsy at 5am. Either you were drinking steadily but pacing yourself, or you were drunk early and spent the rest of the night drinking club soda, but either way, you’re doing the “let’s litigate the wording here” thing that pissed off your boss.

          1. serenity*

            Exactly. This answer, and others, is full of excuse-making. As are comments from others.

            Sender, use this as a learning moment. Events or trade shows may or may not make up a large part of your work, but a full day event where you are representing your company requires more than ~4 hours of sleep after a night of partying/drinking.

            As someone who used to staff all-day functions and events, you are kidding yourself if you think this behavior doesn’t in some way impact your ability to think, process things, speak, drive, and (as others have mentioned) smell presentable. The point isn’t “I shouldn’t have told my boss the full truth” or “No one could tell, so it’s ok what’s the big deal?” – it’s, how do I exhibit good judgement for both myself and my employer? You exhibited none here.

        2. Sunshine Brite*

          Ah, the personal connection seems to make more sense with the dynamic. Do you know if he’s as paternalistic with others?

        3. Jenn*

          Lack of sleep can be just as impairing as alcohol. My Dad once almost missed that his engine caught fire driving home from one of those horrific 36 hour medical resident shifts.

          You’re not looking good here. 5 AM totally sober still would have been massively inappropriate.

          1. Zillah*

            I feel like there’s room to moderate this a little. Especially if the OP is young, it’s entirely possible that he’s able to perform without getting enough sleep one night; many, many people do that occasionally. There’s a world of difference between “I only got three hours of sleep” and “I worked for 36 hours.”

          2. Le’Veon Bell is seizing the means of production*

            Whoa, nah, I disagree. I am pretty firmly on Sender’s side generally, but the idea that my employer should be able to get pissy with me because I was up till 5am the previous night *for absolutely any reason* is absurd. OP did not just come out of a 36 hour medical resident shift. They did some light drinking, stayed up late talking with friends, and was totally fine for work the next day. I would find it wildly inappropriate for a boss to take issue with me for any of that.

        4. No Mas Pantalones*

          I totally get how you’d be out that late catching up with friends. I very rarely drink because it just makes me feel crappy, even if it’s half of a watery beer. However, club soda in hand, I could easily laugh with my friends until sunrise without even realising the time.

          So now you know to be more vague about times. Here’s one more protip, free and worth the price. :-) Separate your work and personal relationships, even if they’re with the same person. When your boss asked the time, he was asking as your boss, not as your best mate’s uncle. Don’t blur the lines between those two. It’s hard when you know your boss socially, but you have to develop boundaries between work and regular life. Don’t talk about work in a social situation (that isn’t work-sponsored). Don’t talk about social stuff at work. And if he follows any of your social media profiles, unfollow, filter, and lock down your profiles. Separate work and social. Including social media.

          We all have to learn lessons like this when navigating the work-world. It happens. Now you know. Just go forward and keep being awesome.

        5. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          Hi Sender. Hearing that you have a strong personal connection to your boss sends many flags about boundaries. The fact that he is a micromanager doesn’t help the situation.

          Bear the following in mind for the future:
          1. You need boundaries with your boss. You need to treat him as your boss and keep the role professional. Limit the information you share as much as you can. Ask yourself if you would have shared the information with someone with whom you do not have a personal connection.
          2. That being said, when asked a direct question–as happened–honesty is the best policy. Particularly because your boss may have heard about your 5:00am return from a personal connection. Oversharing information is bad, but lying is way worse.
          3. Which leads me to the point made by others: your boss does have a valid point about a 5:00am return on the first night of the conference. Yes, you were productive. Yes, you closed deals. But going on less than four hours of sleep during a work conference is not professional. If you want to see friends in your hometown, do it at the end of the conference or ensure you are home at a decent time. Remember, it’s not that you underperformed that day. It’s that you put yourself (and therefore, the company), at risk you would underperform.

          If you don’t want to be in a position where you share bad information with your micromanaging boss with boundary issues, don’t act in ways that put you at risk of doing so. Besides, I assure you as others have: as you get older, you will feel like death on four hours of sleep. Trust me, it happens to all of us.

        6. Essess*

          You are on a work trip. You might have been feeling “ok” this time, but you and your boss dodged a bullet this time. He’s trying to tell you that there had been a good chance that you wouldn’t have been perfectly fine after drinking all night and he’s making sure you know that it inappropriate to take that risk when on a work trip. If you did this and ended up not performing well, it is the company’s reputation that pays the consequence. You were not on a reunion vacation, you were paid to be there as a fully functioning company representative which you put at risk.

    3. MuseumChick*

      This can also reflect poorly on the company. The boss probably doesn’t want to be know as “the company with the person who likes to party it up until 5am.”

      And, it very likely the OP was not on their top game (after drinking until 5am and then getting less than 4 hours of sleep how could he be?).

    4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think a large part of lesson learned here is indeed about professionalism, as in, how much information you need to share with your boss. Not that much. And how to gracefully give vague but general answers that satisfy higher ups without creating further discussion.
      When did you get in last night?
      Later than I planned, fortunately, I could still get the sleep I needed!
      Because the boss is 1) boundary challenged, you belong to me. 2) concerned on behalf of the company because you gave him a reason to be 3) heard something and wanted to clear it up.
      Sounds like this boss is a variation of 1. He could say exactly why he didn’t like LW coming in at 5 AM, but he didn’t like. But LW should realize that boss isn’t going to like it (because it’s a work trip) and either not do it, or not put it out there.

    5. Lucille2*

      I think there is a question of what the boss was really asking. Was Boss casually asking about OP’s night out or concerned about how OP was spending his free time? In that case, the OP’s honesty obviously backfired. Or was OP not as polished the next day as he thought, and Boss was leading into a discussion about professionalism while on a business trip. If the latter is true, then Boss should be more forthcoming about the feedback as the OP clearly missed the mark. However, OP should realize that he was probably lucky this time around. This kind of behavior at work trips will catch up eventually. Sometimes it’s possible to soldier on after a crazy night, other times, it gets the best of you.

  23. Boo Hoo*

    Staying out that late was insanely unprofessional. Even if you were chatting with friends i would lie about what time I got home as it just doesn’t look mature. The chances of you not making it to the show on time were insanely high. Frankly I am shocked you were able to function well at all. Boss didn’t articulate himself well but he was right. You represent your company while there and are to be on your best behavior. If you really wanted to see friends you should have stayed an extra day. MANY businesses allow this. Since the flight is already being paid for they will often allow you an extra day or more if you pay for the additional hotel days and take vacation days if needed. Most businesses totally understand that someone might want an extra day somewhere, especially if it is your home town.

  24. Celeste*

    I’m on your boss’s side. You did use bad judgement in staying up all night drinking when you had to work the next day. I feel like you gave yourself a pass because it was your hometown, it was a weekend, it was with old friends, and you wanted to de-stress, etc. But truly, it was a work night. You doubled down and said he gave you permission. I would argue that he did not give you permission to stay up all night drinking before work.

    You’re on a slippery slope with your thinking. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

    1. Roscoe*

      Seriously, the amount of people who think that the boss has a say in what an employee does on a “work night” is staggering. I work M-F. My boss has no right to tell me what to do outside of work. Period, full stop. If he wants to discuss my performance during the day as a result of my previous night, that is fair. But he doesn’t give me permission to do anything or not do anything on my time.

      1. Liet-Kinda*

        If you’re traveling for work, it’s not really your time. There are still professional obligations that apply in that situation that don’t when you’re leaving work on a regular work day.

        1. Roscoe*

          Nope, its still my time. I have to be at professional obligations for a certain amount of time that day, and anything I do outside of that, they have no say in. If my professional obligations go to 10pm, that is fine, but after 10 and before whatever time my next obligation is, its for me.

          1. Liet-Kinda*

            You’re being really literal about this. They have an interest in your performance, level of alertness and restedness, and professional presentation over the course of a long day with a lot of face time with potential clients. Whatever you do in your time is your business, sure, but if it affects you in the time that is not your time, it’s still reasonable for a boss to be pissed that one’s employee was out drinking till dawn, their time or not.

            1. $!$!*

              You’re being really literal about this. What if an elderly parent called OP? What if OP had a sick family member ? There are literally a million reasons that some one could stay up that late and still function well at work

              1. An Amazing Detective-Slash-Genius*

                A family emergency is not the same as making a judgement call to stay out drinking until 5am. And, presumably, if such an emergency were to happen, the employee would leave the business trip and THEN what they do is no longer the employer’s business. But business trips have higher stakes than normal weeknights, and this was the OP’s judgement that got them into this situation.

                1. Anna*

                  The point is there are a lot of people making whataboutism comments when none of those things happened. It comes off as just wanting the OP to apologize for being so senseless and irresponsible and promise to not do again.

          2. Jenn*

            My spouse has worked with a few people who hard core party on travel. They don’t get to travel for long.

            Conferences often have networking and dinners and bad “off the clock” behavior does get noticed by clients. It is just the wrong perspective to have, when you are at an event, you are part of the face of your org the entire time. That is why employers are often so very careful about who they pick to travel.

          3. Woodchuck*

            Nope, doesn’t work like that. Not for most companies and most such trips. And claiming it does is unhelpful, unrealistic and unreasonable.

      2. Hobbert*

        Sure your boss has a right to tell you what to do outside of work. Here are some thing I can’t do outside of work: smoke, use marijuana, work part-time, be near alcohol in work attire, use social media in exactly the way I choose, and generally be a jerk. That’s the trade off for me staying employed and I suspect there are things you could do in your private life that would result in firing.

        I do take your point but work time/ personal time just aren’t that cut and dried, especially when you’re traveling for work. I think the OP could stand to be a bit more circumspect in his answers next time and things would work out differently.

      3. Essess*

        The boss has a say on what an employee does on a work trip when it has the potential to impact the employee’s performance during the work events on that trip.

  25. Hiring Mgr*

    I was assuming the boss is a micro-manager and that’s why the OP felt the need to ask permission. As a boss myself, I’m not policing people’s off hours lives. Doesn’t matter to me what they do as long as they show up and are productive. Obviously regularly drinking ’til 5am isn’t great, but assuming it was a one time thing, to me the boss overreacted

  26. Anon From Here*

    LW treated an expenses-paid work trip as an opportunity to go out and party with old friends.

    LW was almost certainly not actually 100% on top of his game the next day. He probably had a distinct odor of alcohol coming out of his pores as well.

    Then LW tried to argue with his boss about exactly how unprofessional his conduct was, when he should have just kept his mouth shut and said something along the lines of, “Yes, sir, sorry, you’re right, won’t happen again.”

    1. Roscoe*

      I’m glad you were able to figure out the smell of this person based on a letter. That is some expert detective work

    2. Sender*

      Hi Im the sender and to clarify

      The trip wasn’t actually all expenses-paid. I paid for my own hotel as my boss didn’t want to spend on that matter.

      I was 100% on my game as I have experience before as a brand ambassador and I even locked in a deal with a major exporter on the same day. Boss and colleagues congratulated and complimented me on the same day.

      And I agree with you on the last part I should’ve just shut up

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        And this is how we learn. Honestly, I would have done the same thing early in my career. I thought that when the boss was asking me a personal question it was a personal conversation. It isn’t. Always be aware that your boss is speaking to you as your boss.

      2. Jenn*

        I urge you to reconsider your perspective, here. If I was your boss and found out through the grapevine l that you repeated this behavior, I would consider serious disciplinary action.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        The point here is that staying out until 5am for any reason (short of being in an emergency room) when you are on a work trip is against professional norms.

      4. Zillah*

        Your boss “didn’t want to spend on that matter”??

        That’s actually a huge, huge issue! This was a work trip where you apparently benefited your company a lot – your boss doesn’t just get to opt out of giving you accommodations. You still showed poor judgment in going out, but your boss is starting to look super shady.

      5. WellRed*

        “I paid for my own hotel as my boss didn’t want to spend on that matter”

        Dust off your resume and get out. We hear appallingly often here about having to share hotel rooms but if your boss wants you to go to conferences, he needs to pay for hotel rooms. I mean, what else are you supposed to do? Camp out in the booth?

  27. Sender*

    Hi im the question sender and I totally get all of your point.

    I really wanted to go out for drinks just to relieve stress from the week long preparation prior to the event. And it was disappointing that I needed permission from my boss to go out during my time. To add a point, our boss is micromanages, which for some of you who has a similar boss can be draining at times stressful.

    To answer the questions if did I really do a great job. Yes I did, as I stated he complimented me for the day’s work. I’m a person who doesn’t like to look bad on events as I’ve been a brand ambassador for some brands in the past. I showed up fresh and clean. To add, I even locked in a deal with a big exporter on the same day.

    My problem here is I didn’t get the point of him requiring me to ask permission to go out. The event was my priority and I needed to destress. But I get your point guys I should’ve not said I went back to the hotel at 5.

    To add, the bar I was drinking was just a 2-minute walk from my hotel.

    1. ACDC*

      I don’t think anyone is questioning your decision to go out and get drinks. I think most of the comments are coming from how long you stayed out, and then how it was handled after.

      It sounds like you realize to some extent that you should have handled this situation better, and now you will next time around!

    2. Roscoe*

      So you have a lot of super judgy people on here, which isn’t really a surprise. I think your best bet would’ve been to not be totally up front with your boss. I don’t think you did anything wrong particulary, but its the whole thing of being 100% honest isn’t always the best thing to do when it comes to answering questions from your boss.

      1. ACDC*

        Agreed with the judgy comments. OP has already acknowledged that this was stupid, so it seems unnecessary to go on about how bad of a decision it was. It’s in the past, OP can’t change it, OP can only change what they do going forward. We’ve all done stupid things, but OP was brave enough to write in and try to learn from it.

        1. serenity*

          OP has done nothing of the kind. His main concern seems to be that the boss questioned his judgement (albeit in a weird and not super helpful way). He’s doubled down, in fact, and said that the bar was a 2-min walk from his hotel so no biggie.

          There is some spectacularly bad advice here from commenters about this episode. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – a couple of years back there was a letter which revolved around drinking after work and I remember there was a lot of sensitivity around people who thought the mere act of drinking was being judged (it wasn’t). No one is doing that. But brushing off concerns about an all-night drinking session before a 10-hour work event/trade show is not a great idea on a site call “Ask a Manager”.

    3. Liet-Kinda*

      I mean, yeah, you shouldn’t have said that, but….you also shouldn’t have gone back to the hotel at 5 in the first place. One stressful week does not merit an all-night drinking session in the middle of the event you were preparing for.

      And let me clarify another point that has been made: Yes, you locked in a deal, and he was probably pleased with that, and you probably soldiered through acceptably well. But,…my dude. When he asked you what time you got in, he was not inquiring as to your schedule. He was telling you, in a gentle way, that you were in some way not entirely presentable, and asking you to not do that again. Answering truthfully and then arguing with him was to miss the point.

    4. Sunshine Brite*

      Drinking to destress is something that I’ll still go back to sometimes but mostly have grown out of. Drinking to destress in the middle of an event isn’t the time to do so. Catching up with friends is the part that is more destressing but could have wrapped up much earlier without getting too tipsy.

      Particularly since you identify that your boss is a micromanager and cared that you went out at all, it wouldn’t be a leap to think there would be a problem with a late night and lack of sleep.

    5. Laura*

      It sounds like there are multiple issues going on here. The first is whether it was truly unprofessional to stay out til 5, and that’s been covered quite a bit above. (And the stuff about needing to destress and that the bar was close to the hotel doesn’t really mitigate the issue, unfortunately.)

      The second issue is whether you should’ve asked permission to go out, and yeah, it is super weird that he expected you to ask permission. Even on a work trip, your time “off-hours” is your own.

    6. Zillah*

      Actually, the bar being that close would be a little more concerning to me – it’s more likely that someone who was out early on a jog or something would have seen you leaving the bar, which doesn’t give any wriggle room for where you’d been or what you’d been doing. (As opposed to pulling up in a lyft, where like… who knows where you’d been.)

      I wasn’t there, but I think it’s really plausible that while your boss complimented your work, he also noticed that you were a little off – a lot of people like to soften criticism a little.

      1. Doug Judy*

        This. Being out until 5 am close to the hotel isn’t a good look. Someone else at the conference could have seen them and then it becomes “Someone from XYX Inc was out at the bar until 5 am” It’s just a bad look.

        When your travel for work your are always representing the company, even on your down time.

      2. 1.0*

        This strikes me as a really weird concern, honestly — I’ve always been in industries with a reputation for partying hard, and I can’t imagine anybody caring, unless said person was higher up the food chain or infamous for some reason. Depending on industry, “out until 5 AM” is like – standard conference practice for a subset of people.

    7. Kelly L.*

      Yeah, it definitely reads to me like he was fine with your work product in the moment, and only objected later when he casually asked how late you’d been out and got an answer that surprised him. I think your work was fine and he just knee-jerk reacted.

    8. H.C.*

      “My problem here is I didn’t get the point of him requiring me to ask permission to go out.”

      As others mentioned above, at conferences and conventions it’s somewhat common to participate in post-meeting events (could be anything from a quick reception to a full on dinner and show, or even a post-meeting to debrief, regroup and prepare for upcoming days).

      A lot of it can be scheduled ahead of time, but sometimes last-minute stuff just pops up (esp if it involves a potential/current client.) Your boss may just be asking for you to be available for those possibilities up until the day of & he know there’s no post-meeting affair to attend to.

      1. Sender*


        To clarify, we had a post-meeting to debrief before I went out. I would never go out if it meant missing those meetings. And, to add, no meeting happened during the time I was out.

        But I totally get your point. Thank you for this!

    9. serenity*

      You’re really missing the point here. And I do have to wonder your age, given some of what you’re saying.

      It’s nice that you think you had a 100% productive day – maybe you did and maybe you didn’t, but you’re not objective at all. And if, as your employer, I heard that your method of “de-stressing” before a 10-hour work conference or event was to have an all-night drinking session I would seriously question your judgement. Regardless of where the bar was located in relation to your hotel (that is a completely irrelevant detail).

    10. bookartist*

      Ignore the bluenoses here. Your boss has no say over your off hours, especially when you are paying for your own hotel room(!!!). The best lesson to learn from this is to not volunteer info that is not required to share. Good on you for crushing your quota.

      1. H.C.*

        Yeah, the paying for your own hotel room struck me too – but that’s a separate issue that needs to be addressed for future work trips.

    11. Merlin*

      Regardless of whether one believes it is “your own time” or “the company’s time” for future reference you need to acquire and carefully review your company’s code of conduct SOP or whatever they call it – trust me, HR will know exactly what you mean.

      I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that it contains language that when on a business trip you represent the company at all times and even in off-hours your are responsible for your demeanor and actions. I’ll wager you signed a copy stating you understood it and agreed to abide by it. And, in this “capture everything” Facebook era, if anyone took pictures of you carousing with your buddies, it COULD be used against you in a PIP or termination action if they wanted too. There is a Superior Court ruling that upheld a law firm’s firing of a female employee who got “tipsy” and rowdy at a function she was attending on her own time not on the clock, and the firm stated that she represents the firm at all times and can be held accountable for her actions after hours and fired her. She sued on the “it’s my own time” defense but as she had signed the agreement upon her hire it was binding.

      Just saying.

    12. Colette*

      A compliment on your work could have an implied “given that you look like you’re about to fall asleep” at the end of it.

      Maybe you were completely flawless. But maybe your rough night did show, and because you also did a reasonably good job, your boss didn’t want to address it without more information.

      I’d have more sympathy if this had happened the last night of the conference, but purposely spending a night with little/no sleep at the beginning of the conference is really, really a bad idea. The alcohol makes it an even worse idea.

    13. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Jumping in to comment.

      1. You’re boss is a little over the top to expect to grant permission for what you do in your off time. That being said they do have a responsibility to make sure their employees are safe and not in harmful situations. Let me put this in perspective. At work, it is 100% my responsibility to make sure an employee is using a ladder to change a light bulb and not standing on the arms of a chair on castors. I wouldn’t dream of telling an employee how they should change light bulbs at their own home… by all means stand one legged on a unicycle while holding a running a chainsaw in your other hand. Work trips are a bit in the gray area. Yes you are an adult and get to be ‘off’, but it’s a work trip so your boss does still have that obligation to make sure that nothing bad happens to you.

      2. You were well within your rights and purview to hang out with friends drinking until 5 in the morning. However, just as if it happened at home your boss can and should question your judgement by doing so and telling them. This falls under the natural consequences heading. It’s pretty self explanatory actually.

      3. You are an adult who should be able to figure out how much to drink and how much to sleep in order to get your job done. According to you (and I have no reason not to believe you) you have that covered.

      4. Be aware that seemingly innocuous choices can affect the perception of those you work with and for. Err on the side of conservative as a general rule. – This has served me well in my career –

      5. Don’t hesitate to set healthy boundaries with your employer. It’s weird that your boss grants permission for your off time. It’s common courtesy to let fellow travelers know if you’ll be heading out on your own after all of the days work and events are done. But I’m not sure I’d be comfortable having to ask permission to do so.

    14. Lucille2*

      After reading through your comments, your boss seems way off IMO. In my industry, it would be really weird for someone to ask their boss permission to do something away from the hotel in their down time. I’ve done tons of work travel: conferences, client visits, visiting global offices, etc. Drinking with colleagues has always been part of the travel. And I have had some bosses who are the stay-out-til-5am sort. It can be a risk to your reputation and safety, but most get along unscathed by their bad behavior. Just keep an eye on your limits while traveling at a work function.

      But I’m seeing red flags with your boss. If you have the self-awareness to really know you performed well despite the party night, and your boss is truly this micromanagy, time to get the resume together. And you have a family connection? I don’t think you’ll be able to resolve this with your boss unless you’re willing to strictly comply with his expectations.

  28. LadyByTheLake*

    In terms of professional norms — staying out all night drinking with friends at a work event is Not Done. It is totally common to go out after close of business, but the general expectation would be that you would be back and resting for the next day by 1am or so at the latest. I just about choked when I saw the 5am. That is completely outside what professionals due.

    1. LizB*

      This is pretty much where I land as well. As a boss, I certainly wouldn’t insist that my employee ask permission to go out, but if they did ask or if they casually told me they had plans to hang out with friends, I would expect them to observe professional norms and stay out for a couple hours at most. I’d be shocked if they stayed out drinking until 4 hours before the start of the workday.

      I suppose it changes a bit if the OP is in a place where staying out till 5am isn’t all that remarkable (Buenos Aires comes to mind, and I’m sure other places I haven’t traveled are similar), but I think anywhere in the US, 5am is well outside the norm.

    2. MuseumChick*

      This is a really good take on this situation. This is one of those things it’s common to not know/understand when you are new to the workforce. Just because you might be capable of being fully functional after a night of drinking and little sleep doesn’t mean it’s something you should do. As you say, it simply Not Done.

    3. caryatis*

      You think professionals don’t stay up late drinking? Haven’t met a lot of professionals, have you? People vary. I know some people with professional jobs who would never dream of staying up late drinking–others–well, are more fun.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I’m assuming you are being deliberately provocative by implying that people who don’t go out drinking are not fun, but in most industries, it is against professional norms to stay out partying all night and clearly that is the case for LW or boss wouldn’t have reacted the way he did.

  29. Anon for this*

    My only response to this is … why the F did you tell him you got back at 5am?? If as you say you were totally on the ball, indistinguishable from a day where you’ve had a full nights sleep – there’s no reason he needed to have that particular information! What you do on your own time is your business, but you need better professional boundaries with your boss.

  30. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    I’m wondering if part of the problem is that OP seemed overly cavalier about how late they stayed out? The few times I’ve stayed out late (like, 2am, not 5 am) on a work trip and my coworkers asked me what time I got in, I just chuckled and said “a bit too late” or something like that, then changed the subject. Proudly admitting to being out til 5am on the day of a conference, to your boss, would make me question someone’s judgement too. Not that I’m encouraging anyone to lie, of course, but just… keep the truth somewhat professional, just like we do every day at work.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yep. It was the time that set him off, not the work itself, so vagueness could probably have avoided it.

  31. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    We had a co-worker who did this fairly often. He’d roll into work after being out all night drinking. He believed he was sober and under control. Truthfully, the alcohol smell on him was strong and his work was okay….but slow and deliberate as he made sure that he wasn’t making mistakes so he was slowing everyone else down. Your boss didn’t explain his reasoning well but he was correct to reprimand you.

  32. Catgirl123*

    This isn’t staying out late, this is staying out all night. If I were him I would be concerned you might still be tipsy at 9 when you were working after only 4 hours.

  33. RJ the Newbie*

    I’ve been in the interior design/architectural/engineering industry for over twenty and this situation is a very common occurrence. That being said, just because it’s common doesn’t make it entirely right for either party and I’ve been in discussions on both sides of this, OP. It’s not realistic to expect you NOT to go out at trade events after hours- these are major events and major opportunities for networking, future projections and project collaborations. You were out pretty late though and IMO, you should have called it a night earlier that 5am.

  34. Madame Secretary*

    If I were the boss I wouldn’t be pleased, but nor would I take such a parental tone. I might have said something like, that wasn’t the wisest thing in the world, and you’re lucky you didn’t oversleep or whatever, and then ask LW to don’t do that in the future.

    1. Karyn*

      There we go. This is the right response. “That was not a good decision. It worked out this time, but I need you to be more careful in the future.”

  35. Cassandra*

    I want to look at a different piece of this situation: how the conversation afterwards went.

    As a general rule — and I know this one from sad experience — a conversation with authority that degenerates into rules-lawyering the way this one did is a Bad Thing. It usually denotes a conversation where each party is In It To Win It, and the thing about workplaces is, non-authorities mostly can’t win and end up worse off for trying to. (Did arguing with your boss make them think better of you? … I doubt it.)

    So, OP, if you weren’t trying to Win this conversation with your boss, what might your goal have been and how would you have worked toward it? I’d suggest that a reasonable goal is for your boss to think of you as someone who owns and learns from their mistakes (yes, whether or not you actually think you made one!). The fast road there, I think, would have been “I’m sorry! I’m glad the day still went well, and I won’t give you cause to worry about this again.”

  36. Greg NY*

    I’m entirely on the LW’s side, with one exception.

    Even on a work trip, your free time is your own. Now, “free time” may be nonexistent on some work trips, due to mandatory or quasi-mandatory business or team events, but true free time is yours to do what you want. Would it have been any more “professional” to play video games until 5 AM? The boss has no right to tell you how much sleep to get or when to go to sleep, they have the right only to expect you to be functional the next day. What about those who fly in for a business meeting on an early morning flight (or a red eye) and haven’t gotten proper sleep? It’s not really any different. While it may not be good long term, people know their bodies better than anyone else does.

    And the LW was tipsy, not totally drunk. Isn’t tipsy what some people get after happy hour (which is often on a work night)? Is it considered unprofessional to drink alcohol at all (more than one drink) even at home on a work night? So it must be unprofessional to have several beers during a Sunday night football game. It’s micromanagement.

    The exception is this: if you might’ve needed to do something that required full sobriety, such as driving or a hazardous moving of something, it would’ve been reasonable to expect you not to drink for those particular days, although it still would’ve been unreasonable to expect you not to go out. But even then, it would have to be a defined, temporary timeframe. Are employees who are truly on call 24/7/365 never, ever allowed to drink, even if they don’t need to drive to work? There’s a threshold in which an employer takes up too much of an employee’s personal life.

    1. Doug Judy*

      If you’re up until 4 am watching TV/ playing video games no ones going to know. No chance of someone doing something that could embarrass the company. At the bar until 5 am? Competitors, clients and other people might see this and it reflects poorly on the company. That’s their concern. Even if the OP was stone cold sober it just looks bad. And OP behaved appropriately the next day, this time. And even if they never did anything inappropriate, someone else might. It’s a slippery slope. I don’t think it’s out of line at all for a company to expect employees to not be at a bar all night while attending a work conference.

    2. Colette*

      No, playing video games until 5 am (another optional activity) would not be much better.

      People tend to think they can do without sleep. As a general rule, they are wrong. They will be sleepy during the day, have fuzzier thinking, and be more likely to catch a virus. All of those are bad things when you’re on a business trip.

      The alcohol doesn’t help – not because he had a drink at 10, but because he was still showing the effects of the alcohol 4 hours before starting work again.

    3. Antilles*

      I think you’re over-exaggerating the argument a bit. There’s a difference between having a couple beers on a week night and being tipsy four hours before you have to work. There’s a difference between “being tipsy at a happy hour” (12+ hours to recover) and “being tipsy at 5 am” (4 hours to recover). I don’t think people are arguing that OP was unprofessional to drink, it’s that OP shouldn’t have had so much and for so long. If OP’s post had instead said “I went to bed at midnight after three beers”, the commentariat and Alison would have likely had a drastically different reaction.
      Are employees who are truly on call 24/7/365 never, ever allowed to drink, even if they don’t need to drive to work?
      If you’ve accepted a job where you’re truly on call 24/7, then you’ve given up a lot of your personal life for the hours/days you’re on call. The general definition of “on call” is that you need to be ready to come in at something close to 100% at any instant your phone rings. And so you need to arrange your time while on-call in a way that allows you to satisfy that – even if you’re not actively working, you have to be prepared to do so on a few minutes’ notice.
      That means you need to stay relatively close to your phone and a means of transit, that means you need to be ready to drop what you’re doing at any time when the call comes in, and yes, that means you’re limited to only having one beer, two at absolute most.

  37. Cass*

    The mistake here was not coming in at 5AM drunk, the mistake was telling your boss about it. Up until that point your performance for the day was fine. You should have kept that information to yourself and been vague about what time you got home, or jut flat out lie.

  38. Sarabene*

    Had the OP been out with their parents in their home town, I doubt their boss would have said anything.

    The boss only gets to complain if the work is compromised. He doesn’t get to complain if it wasn’t. He said it wasn’t and then proceeded to complain anyway.

    While I think the OP would have done better getting back to bed earlier, I think the boss is being patronizing and is a bit out there. I think the OP is going to have trouble respecting the boss as much in the future, and I think that’s on the boss.

  39. CupcakeCounter*

    Staying out with friends, drinking or not, until 5am after an all day trade show and before 2 more full days of said trade show isn’t great on any level. Sounds like OP still managed to put in a great effort the next day and was complimented by the boss for their contribution. Great – it worked out. This time.
    I’m guessing boss was shocked by the time and had a hard time expressing the what and why. It is also possible that boss is now concerned that OP will be doing this regularly (although it seems like it was more of a one off because of location than just a basic desire to party) and now had to rethink about whether or not to send OP to any more of these shows.
    What boss should have said was:
    Wow – I’m shocked you would do that during this professional event. My expectations are that you will be 100% ready each day of this show and prioritize this event and your responsibilities over social fun with your local friends. You did good today but now I have some concerns over sending you to future events based on your judgement here.

    Boss also should have done this in private, not at dinner.
    So basically, I think OP got lucky that they reacted well after basically pulling an all-nighter post college. Boss is right to be concerned as it does show some lack of judgement but seem to have trouble articulating it. The whole liability thing was probably them freaking out about what would have happened if you did get blackout drunk somewhere and no-showed. They would have had no idea where you were or if you were ok.
    Getting drinks with friends after work is totally fine and normal. Usually that lasts 2-3 hours. Staying out until 5am for personal reasons while on a work trip is not.

  40. Jam Today*

    Life isn’t fair, people have hangups that you don’t have, when you work for someone you have limited latitude to do what you want especially if you’re on a business trip they’re paying for, and that’s just the way it is. Here’s a handy phrase to keep in your back pocket:

    “Understood. It won’t happen again.”

    Learn it, know it, live it.

    1. Greg NY*

      I’m not in total agreement on this. You are not on the clock 24 hours a day while on a business trip. If you are an hourly employee, you literally are probably not getting paid during the overnight hours (and often enough, the evening hours). That’s a good barometer to use here. If an hourly employee would be paid during the time in question, you can have reasonable restrictions on your activity, but if they wouldn’t be paid, you should be free to do what you want. This boss would have no right to tell an hourly employee not to leave the hotel or what time they needed to go to sleep.

      1. ACDC*

        In a perfect world yes, but it sounds like OP’s boss has some control/micromanaging issues. IMHO it’s sometimes better to appease the boss by saying something like this than to fight back.

      2. Jam Today*

        You need to decide, as the employee, if that is the hill you want to die on. The fact is, when you are on a business trip, you are representing the company at all times, even in your “free time”. I’ve seen people fired for shenanigans they got up to while technically off the clock, but still under the aegis of a company-sponsored trip. So, if you want to take that risk be my guest, but I think my advice stands. Life isn’t fair and while some unfairness is definitely worth pushing back on — staying out drinking til 5am with your high school friends four hours before you need to be face to face with clients and prospects as the face of your company is probably not one of them

      3. Jasnah*

        I mean, free to do what you want… within reason. If your company does drug checks, you can’t smoke weed. If your company has rules against having a part-time job, you can’t work part-time. If your company is protective of its brand, you can’t post whatever you want on social media, or harass people online and expect to keep your job. These are all common expectations, so if you want to debate whether they SHOULD be expected that’s one thing, but this is how it is and the boss isn’t wrong to expect that (though he approached it wrong).

        But Jan brings up the most important point, which is that sometimes the best way to win an argument with your superior is to acknowledge understanding, and promise it won’t happen again. Even if you disagree, this shows maturity and a gracious attitude. Even if you continue to do the thing, you do it quietly and don’t tell your boss. I know you have issues with hierarchy but at the end of the day, if your boss can fire you or make your work life difficult, you put your head down and quietly do what you want, not get aggressive and argumentative like OP did.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is where I land. I might have said it more softly, but… yeah. A business trip isn’t a regular trip, and sometimes bosses or companies just have norms that we don’t always love. I’ve been there, and it’s a good lesson.

  41. Sender*

    Hi guys! I’m the sender.

    To add, he doesn’t want us out of the hotel after the event. Which gives you an idea of how a micromanager he is :)

    1. Fergus*

      Sender, what you do on our time is your business so after you clarified, every time he would ask me a question outside his realm, my question would be Why do you ask? And you are so allowed to leave your hotel, it’s a hotel not a prison and you can have extra guac. But 5 am could be a little late but I’m not 20. I used to stay up 3 days in row at 20

    2. MuseumChick*

      Hi Sender, I posted this above but wanted to put it down here as well:

      You boss being a micromanage is one issue. The question of if it is professional/ok to stay out until 5am drinking with friends and showing up on limited sleep is a separate issue. As state in a thread below, more often than not, this is something that just is not done.

      Your boss is being weird about how he is handling this be the bottom line is you behaved in away that most manager would be annoyed by.

    3. RJ the Newbie*

      Yeah, that’s a hard stop for me. I’ve been at these events and that is NOT possible. You’re expected to be out and about at various hotels/places.

    4. AnonyMouse*

      Do you mind answering the question that’s on all of our minds… why did you decide to tell the truth instead of being vague/outright lying about when you got back? The way you described it, it sounds like it wouldn’t have been as big of a problem if you had said you were back earlier.

      Also, for my own curiosities sake- was Alison right about the gender dynamic (you’re female, boss is male)? I might be in a similar situation as you in my current work environment (male boss is micromanaging female staff to the point where it’s borderline sexist/paternalistic), so I can commiserate!

    5. Jam Today*

      Did he say that before or after you stayed out until 5am?

      If he said it before: you contravened his instructions. Regardless of what you think of the instructions, that’s what they were and you disregarded them.

      If he said it after: you are probably the reason for that. You do not want to be the reason for corporate policy changes.

      1. VintageLydia*

        He didn’t disregard the rule. He *asked permission* so even if that’s a standing rule, he got an exception granted by the boss in question. Regardless, this rule is really patronizing no matter the reason for it. You’d be totally cool restricted to your hotel, *that you paid for,* all night long? What if you just wanted to blow off steam by, I dunno, going to a movie? Checking out a nice/unusual restaurant? Normal things that don’t necessarily involve drinking or even socializing? Yeah OP probably shouldn’t stay up that late during a conference in the future but he was still able to outperform his colleagues and he will likely do better next time.

      2. Zillah*

        If corporate policy changed because one person was out too late one night, that’s a reflection on the corporation and not something that’s the OP’s responsibility.

    6. E*

      Boss won’t pay for the hotel costs but wants to control what you’re doing off hours? I think it’s time for a new job with better office norms because this job has plenty of flags on how employer-employee work relationships should not be handled.

    7. rogue axolotl*

      Yeah, your boss isn’t coming off well here for a number of reasons. If I were you I’d be considering looking for another job! But it is a pretty common expectation that managers won’t be happy about you staying out late drinking when you have to work the next day–I’d separate that part out from his otherwise unreasonable expectations.

  42. TypityTypeType*

    Oh, dear, OP — the thing to do here was to obfuscate, if not lie, as many others have pointed out. It’s even kind of striking that it wasn’t instinctive in a case like this. “I was out drinking until 5am” is never going to be a good answer unless you’re establishing an alibi.

    1. Agreed*

      As I read this, I thought of all the times I showed up to work hungover when I was in college. I’m not saying that this was excusable… but never once was I about to tell the truth! I’d pawn it off on being sick, stressed about exams, insomnia, etc. They all probably knew/suspected something in hindsight, but they also didn’t dig any further.

  43. KarenBlue*

    I was at an international conference last week which included partying to 3am then staffing a booth at 8am. I wasn’t drunk but I didn’t feel great and as my immune system was down, I ended up with a rotten cold

  44. Let Me*

    OP, I understand why you are annoyed. I’m puzzled why boss has any say over your off the clock hours.

    Everyone’s saying maybe it was their way of hinting you were off your game, but if that was so, they wouldn’t have complimented your work earlier! And they would have had examples of your poor behavior to refer to when reprimanding you. I hate that the most, when people change their previously unbiased view on something based on unrelated factors. You have my sympathy.
    That, and why are they reprimanding you in front of other employees? That’s unprofessional.
    I think that’s why you couldn’t just say ‘okay sorry’ and let it go cause they’ve got you on the defensive out of nowhere. I understand that.

    Now, although I’m on your side in terms of being annoyed with how boss reacted, they have a point about not staying out so late on a work trip.
    Boundaries blurred mentally since it’s your home but even if you were in perfect shape, it’s not worth the risk. It’s not a vacation.
    I would’ve asked if I could come back a day late so I could see everyone at home.
    I agree with both Allison and the people that say you should have lied.
    No matter how friendly you are, anything that sounds like ‘wild’ behavior
    should never be told to your boss. Or even your coworkers, in most cases.
    But try to skip it altogether.

    1. Green great dragon*

      I’m not convinced one compliment means everything’s fine. Maybe he handled a tricky conversation really well, and closed a great deal, and was complimented for those, but also was noticeably less on the ball than usual in the afternoon.

      1. Jiboashu*

        On what basis are you not convinced ? This comment is bizarre given that you weren’t there.
        If you told a friend “Yesterday I did great on a project” and their response was “hmm are you sure? I don’t think so.” and they weren’t there, what would you think about that response? You’re projecting based on how you feel about the op’s actions , which doesn’t help anything. Take him at his word.

    2. rogue axolotl*

      I do think people are taking “off the clock hours” somewhat too literally in this case, maybe because it’s a work trip rather than regular working hours. I think it is reasonable for managers to have expectations about maintaining a baseline of professionalism when not actually at work–like not getting into fistfights with coworkers, not making fun of the company on social media, and not drinking late into the night when you have to work the next morning.

  45. Allison*

    OP, I have two thoughts:

    1) Sometimes you’re sleep deprived or hungover, and you don’t realize it, or maybe you kinda feel it but figure it’s not bad enough to notice, but your performance really is diminished and people can absolutely tell you’re “off” that day. I remember telling my mom I rarely get hungover, and she told me there have been mornings after I’ve been drinking where I was obviously not myself. So maybe you thought you were totally fine, but your boss felt you weren’t at your best.

    2) You won’t be young forever. When you’re in your mid-late 20’s (and I say this as a 29 year old who still feels fine after most nights of heavy drinking), you can get through a workday after drinking a lot and sleeping a little, and your capacity may be diminished but it’s not a big deal. As you get older, this will probably be much harder to do, and your boss probably doesn’t want you developing a habit that will eventually cause you to be completely useless on the job, and the change may be so gradual that again, you don’t notice it right away, but others do. It’s really hard to address behavior that’s gone on for years, your boss doesn’t want to deal with some degree of “What are you talking about? You know I always do this when we’re in my hometown! It’s never been a problem before, so why are you suddenly making a big deal of it? What did I do wrong? No really, what did I DO?” and by saying something now, he’s preventing this from becoming a bigger issue further down the road.

    Look, he might be a micromanager, and that’s not good, but it’s totally valid for him to think that 5AM is way too late to be getting in during an event weekend.

  46. Leslie knope*

    So, I’m confused as to why all the people saying the OP wasn’t as put together as he thinks are not getting the usual barrage or comments about taking op at their word and not inventing hypotheticals.

    1. WellRed*

      I think because when “daemon alcohol” comes up, some of the comments on here tend to get rather puritanical.

    2. Roscoe*

      Because they don’t agree with his behavior. So OF COURSE he must not be seeing things wrong, because you see the commenters know ALL and he couldn’t possibly know what happened in his own experience.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Almost no one here is our game got going out for drinks on a work night is inherently bad. But for people with healthy drinking habits that would mean getting it at, say, 2 AM at the latest. The fact that the OP is talking about a 6-7 hour late night bar session as if that’s a standard amour of time to unwind with friends, work night or no, is why people are trying to convey alarm. He sounds like he’s not understanding the qualitative difference between “going for drinks” and being out all night. So that’s what people are responding to mostly.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Because it’s not hypothetical. And OP is not reliable. OP had alcohol in his/her system at work (even if they felt fine, a blood test only 4 hours after stopping drinking would prove the alcohol level wasn’t zero) and minimal sleep. No one is fully functional at that point. Even if OP was able to pull it off, OP still couldn’t have been functioning at OP’s norm.

      Just because you make it home safely driving from the bar doesn’t mean it was okay for you to drive in the first place. It’s just good luck.

      1. Caryatis*

        Most people metabolize about one drink an hour, so if you stop drinking at5, the alcohol will most likely be out of your system by 9. Of course, there are exceptions, but you can’t possibly conclude what you did.

      2. McWhadden*

        So now you know when he stopped drinking and his blood alcohol level? Big Brother really is watching.

      3. Zillah*

        The OP never suggested that he drove while drunk, and he’s explicitly said he was at a bar close to the hotel. Even if he hadn’t been, cabs/lyfts/ubers exist. The jump you’re making is incredibly unfair, problematic, and unhelpful.

        1. Zillah*

          Also, there’s such a huge range when it comes to processing alcohol and functioning on not-enough-sleep that the flat “no OP is wrong” is really misplaced.

    4. Green great dragon*

      Because it’s an easy thing to misinterpret? OP says above he was complimented for closing deals and for his outfit, neither of which mean he was on top of his game. It appears Boss is not the greatest communicator in the world, so I think it’s useful advice to an OP to say one compliment from Boss doesn’t mean everything is peachy.

    5. AnotherJill*

      Comments on this question are a perfect example of people extrapolating facts not in evidence from the letter. From the letter and comments from the LW, it sounds like he was fully functioning well at the event and that the boss is something of a micromanager. Yet commentators are sure that they know just how much he had to drink, just how impaired he was, and just how terrible and unprofessional he was.

      I don’t think it sounds like he did anything wrong this time, but hopefully learned the lesson that he has to conform to his managers expectations of professionalism in these cases and not his own.

      1. Leslie knope*

        Yeah, I mean he obviously showed some poor judgment in a) staying out late and b) telling the boss how late he stayed out, but some of the comments are about drinking and driving (?) and other things that are totally out of the scope, but not getting the usual aggressive smack down about it. Very weird.

      2. Zillah*

        I think it’s reasonable to question whether he was functioning as well as he thought at the event – we can’t always tell when we’re noticeably off our game, and alternate explanations can be legitimately helpful sometimes. However, I agree that there are a lot of people who are taking it waaaay too far.

      3. Oranges*

        A) We are extrapolating from our own lives and most of us couldn’t do this
        B) We are remembering all the people who thought they were okay after a night like this and really really weren’t.
        C) Alcohol and sleep deprivation warp our judgement
        D) Your own job performance is usually a tricky thing to judge when sober.

        That’s why some of us are going “were you reeeeaaallly as put together as you think?”

        Regardless, the LW needs to learn professional norms. Their boss being a micromanager is a separate issue.

  47. Ok_Fortune*

    I’ve been the only one able to function among a group of coworkers on a Saturday morning at conferences. It’s not fun. It’s a rare person who would truly be able to drink all night, sleep a handful of hours, and function completely normally.

  48. CRM*

    OP, it sounds like your boss was getting flustered because he was surprised that you were actually defending your actions instead of admitting that what you did was a little unprofessional and apologizing.

    Try to put yourself in your boss’s shoes. While you may be able to party all night and still perform well the next day, the vast majority of people can’t. To make matters worse, it wasn’t just a regular work day where you could hide behind your computer all day. You were at a trade show, representing your entire company and their work. That’s a pretty big deal! So from your boss’s perspective, you were willing to sacrifice a very important event for your firm to stay out late with your buddies. To him, it probably looks like you don’t care about your job- and maybe you don’t! But if you want to keep your job, you definitely can’t let your boss know that.

  49. Cass*

    I already submitted an original comment, but I do want to share a different perspective so hopefully I’m in the clear submitting another comment without clogging up the thread.

    I think the manager’s reaction is unremarkable for a micromanager, but my concern is with all of the commenters that side with the boss here. Why do you care what the OP does after the event? Assuming he didn’t do anything to damage the reputation of the company (it doesn’t state that in the letter and I of course won’t speculate). What if OP had stayed up all night reading a book or on the phone dealing with a family emergency? OP states that his manager complimented his performance so clearly there was no issue. Could there have been a problem? Sure. But the OP could also have messed up during the event after going to bed immediately after and waking up to exercise and have a smart breakfast.

    1. Amtelope*

      I would care because I would expect the employee to make an effort to be rested for the second day of the event. Obviously sometimes people can’t sleep even when they try, and sometimes people have family emergencies, or delayed flights, or other unavoidable emergencies that require functioning during important events on very little sleep.

      But hanging out with friends is not an emergency, and I don’t think it’s stuffy micromanaging to expect that 7 or 8 hours before the start of the next day’s programming, everyone on your team will be back in the hotel so that it is possible for them to get some reasonable amount of sleep.

      1. Zillah*

        That’s really paternalistic. Your expectation should be that your employees perform well. It’s not really on you to manage their sleep cycles or pass judgment on what a “good reason” is.

        1. Amtelope*

          My expectation is that my employees not take unreasonable risks while on work travel, even if they are lucky and those risks don’t impact their work. They won’t be lucky every time.

          1. Sue Wilson*

            That’s not your business. It’s not your business what risks they take off work hours if they don’t impact your business. It’s your business how they are impacting your company, and that’s it. You can address how they are impacting the company, and anything else is an overstep.

    2. CRM*

      I’m only siding with the boss in that I do think what OP did was, objectively, a little unprofessional. Most people can’t stay up partying until 5am and then represent their company well at a trade show, and doing so indicates that he isn’t being contentious lacks good judgement. It wasn’t unreasonable for his boss to be upset, regardless of whether or not the boss is a micromanager.

    3. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      The big difference would be if you blood tested the insomniacs or readers they wouldn’t have alcohol in their blood. The OP would. It’s a bit unprofessional to be under the influence at a work event.

      Would you let a surgeon operate on your mom who had been drinking until 5 am the night before? Even if he “felt” fine? Why is this different? You are expected to be rested and not intoxicated at work – it’s not a high bar to clear. If OP did this Friday and didn’t have to work until Monday then no problem. That’s not the situation.

      1. bonkerballs*

        1. Your surgeon point is completely moot because OP is not a surgeon. Where I currently work, my coworkers will frequently have drinks during lunch. When I used to work at a preschool, I would have been fired. Different jobs have different expectations and rules and comparing them is useless.

        2. Isn’t it pretty common for people in hospitals and other emergency staff to work 24-36 hour shifts? So…we don’t actually expect people like that to be well rested.

      2. 1.0*

        Have you ever come to work tired or not feeling well? Would you let a surgeon operate on your mother in similar states, even if they “felt” fine? Surgeons and bomb squad and cavers and office workers at a trade show are four very different occupations with very different requirements.

        Also, depending on industry – I have worked in offices with beer fridges where people start drinking at 1 PM on Fridays. I’ve written emergency code at 2 am after coming home from a night out with friends.

    4. LadyByTheLake*

      Also, if an employee told me that they had stayed up all night during a work event reading a murder mystery, that would not go over well with me since that would be a choice to not prioritize being well rested for a long work day (conferences are exhausting) and would, again, be outside professional norms. Emergencies are different.

    5. LadyByTheLake*

      I should also note that I am an insomniac, so often I can’t get enough sleep — but at least I am trying to sleep and showing my employer that I prioritize being well rested, rather than showing my employer that I blew off the expectation that I would be well rested for personal reasons.

    6. Zillah*

      What if OP had stayed up all night reading a book or on the phone dealing with a family emergency?

      Yeah. I think it’s not super professional to stay out that late when you’re at a conference (for the optics if nothing else), but the idea that not sleeping enough for one night makes you incapable of functioning or is deeply unprofessional is just… bizarre.

    7. Oranges*

      All night reading a book: no. (I’m actually guilty of this around once a year)

      Family emergency: yes.

  50. Tessa Ryan*

    Yep, going out for an hour or two is one thing. Staying out all night is another. Wait till you hit your thirties… even thinking about attempting to stay out all night on a work night makes me cringe.

    1. Bea*

      Lol I was done in my late 20s.

      I went too far election night 2009 and had to tell my boss I was going home sick because I wasn’t shaking it. Thankfully it was just a standard business day and he laughed it off. We were super close and he loved wine.

  51. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    Also bear in mind that alcohol has zero order metabolism kinetics. In other words, it takes WAY longer to burn off than you think and way longer than you *feel* drunk. Don’t believe me? Buy a cheap breathalyzer. Most people after a night of heavy drinking still have alcohol on board in the morning even if they feel fine. Someone out drinking until 5 am even if not *drunk* would surely still have alcohol in their blood. That’s why you smell of booze.

    So, yeah, you showed up to a work conference on little sleep with alcohol still in your system. And you told your boss as much. It’s a mystery why the boss was mad?

  52. SongbirdT*

    I haven’t read through all the comments, so this may be echoed elsewhere….

    This letter was interesting to me because I sort of had the exact opposite situation at a big work conference a few weeks ago. The culture at my company and at the conference in general overall is that the daytime activities are great, but the after parties are epic. So you’re kind of expected in certain roles to go all day in sessions then most of the night hopping from party to party. Me? I was wiped out every day and in bed by 10pm nearly every night. And I kinda felt like the oddball because I wasn’t the out partying every night. I was at the client dinners and had a glass of wine or two, but there was no way I was going to be able to have a buzz, go to bed late, and function the next day. I’m not sure how my colleagues managed it.

    So, cultures vary from place to place. And learning the art of drinking in a professional setting entails understanding the culture where you are. It’s always best your first few times out to take the lead from several people who have been doing it for a while to make sure you know what’s acceptable and what isn’t. And when in doubt, err on the side of less drinking.

    1. ragazza*

      But to be clear, I don’t think it’s a good idea to stay out til 5 AM when you have to work the next day, let alone at an out-of-town event. Let this be a lesson in professionalism for the OP.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        OP’s boss can be a micromanager and OP staying out until 5 AM can both be true.

        Unexpected things do happen. A story from my drinking days: I went out drinking with a colleague after work. Colleague was obnoxious, and the bartender got the idea I was colleague’s long-suffering girlfriend instead of his drinking buddy. So my drinks got stronger and stronger…

        Next morning I had a hangover, but went to work. After all, back then on Thursdays we didn’t open to the public until 1 pm and I’d be fine doing something quiet until then.

        But a coworker, Ruth, was retiring next week, and boss’s wife put together a song for all of Ruth’s coworkers to sing at her retirement party. And since we wouldn’t be opening until 1 and Ruth was out, what a perfect opportunity to rehearse the number (which was basically the title song from “Mame” with “Ruth” substituted for Mame)…

  53. LadyPhoenix*

    I work as a restaurant supplier and do a super big expo with a bar crawl AND a cocktail party… and we are still informed to know our limits. My limit tends to be one drink, and then I add dinner. After that, I heard back to the hotel room to get ready for the next day.

  54. Former Retail Manager*

    Just on the note about the boss’ statement that he is liable. I think he could have meant a couple of things. 1) He is liable for your performance and presentation during the work trip and it will definitely reflect on him if you’re not up to par because you stayed out too late. Or 2) Boss/the company could actually be held legally liable for your safety if something were to happen to you on this trip. I’m not the least bit versed in the legality of this statement, but maybe there could be some truth to it?

    Either way, I think the boss was just trying to convey that you should indeed exercise better judgment on work trips and adjust your priorities. I think midnight or 1 am would be reasonable, but 5 am is a bit much. (And that’s from someone who LOVES to drink and have fun.) In the future, I’d refrain from doing it again and maybe make casual mention to the boss that you caught up on some TV watching or took the evening to go over some work related stuff, should the issue come up again.

    1. CoveredInBees*

      Depending on the applicable state, injuries incurred on the trip could be claimed under Workers Comp. Even if Workers Comp didn’t apply, there’s the possibility that the company’s name gets dragged out if OP did something stupid while out late drinking.

    2. Anon for this*

      Worker comp may play into this. I was on a business trip, and on my return home, as I deplaned, I slipped and twisted my knee. It got bad fast, and the next day I went to a clinic and was dignosed with a torn ligament. I called in sick to work, and when my boss found out it occurred on the plane, it immediately became a workers comp situation. Since I am lucky enough to have good insurance I tried to back out of the claim, stating that I was on my way home, it was commuting, it was late at night, not work time. Nope. It’s workers comp. Which can impact annual bonuses, etc in my company.

      Now, had I slipped and fell during my trip, would it have mattered if it were during the meeting or after hours? I don’t know.

  55. Dance-y Reagan*

    Being out until X o’clock and drinking Y amount are red herrings and not really worth debating.

    Based on LW’s updates throughout the comment section, this boss is a micromanaging dillweed. Learn the fine art of paltering, stop being brutally honest at work, and find a better job.

    1. Jenn*

      There are definitely some red flags avout this employer BUT OP should know that this isn’t a good life choice for future employers.

  56. kjdubreuil*

    It is just weird that the boss involved himself in the after hours activities whatsoever. If the employee was on call, or was an intern or student or the boss was in some capacity in loco parentis then I could see it. Otherwise the adult employee can manage themselves and if their performance is not acceptable then they can be disciplined for that. ps I am a boss

  57. Card Captor*

    Any one here not really have an issue with this but also understand the professional implications of telling your boss this? Whether or not you agree on their bed time and drinking, telling your boss with whom you don’t have that kind of relationship is just a bad look. They would have been better with just lying and giving a more reasonable time. They did well during the day, so really all of that could have been avoided with just keeping their boss out of it.

  58. Bea*

    If you come into work hungover or worse, still tipsy after a night of drinking you’re asking for trouble. You did well but something inside him pinged to ask you when you got back. So you have given him reason to question your judgement

    I wonder what he would have said if you fibbed.

    I feel like he knew you were out all night and would have caught you in a lie. “Oh. Not late? I saw you arrive back at 5am…so. Hm.”

    When on work trips you are representing the company the entire time.

  59. Janet (not a robot)*

    The takeaway for me is not whether or not what OP/Sender did was reasonable, or whether or not Boss’ reaction was reasonable. I think the lesson to be learned here is that the boss said that he was not okay with the way Sender behaved, so Sender needs to take that as specific instruction to not do that again.

    You can agree or disagree with the instruction or the reasons behind it, and you can even choose not to follow the instruction at all if you don’t want to. But are you willing to risk the consequences, if you don’t? Knowing your boss does’t like it, what would he do if he found out you were out late drinking again? Would he send you home early? Take you off future trips? Fire you?

    The thing is, he’s your boss, and he’s allowed to give you instructions – and he’s also allowed to impose consequences if you don’t follow them. So whether or not you agree with what he’s asking you to do, it’s up to you to decide if the benefit of staying out late is worth the risk of whatever might happen if you were caught.

    1. uranus wars*

      This is a great response and great advice on how to handle things you don’t like about work but that you adjust to in spite of that.

      I think sometimes we (and by we I mean I get caught up in who was right vs. not. This comment was a good check to get back to the root question and address is with a simple answer and without emotion.

    2. Greg NY*

      The question is how much power he has with regard to the LW’s activities during his free time. I think that’s where I, and some others, disagree. He has power to give him instructions for his work activities, but you would be going down a slippery slope with that logic. Using that line of reasoning, where does it stop? Does he have the power to tell the LW what to do and not do in his free time while not on a business trip (e.g. on a Sunday, given that Monday is a work day)? I think most people would say “no” to that.

      1. Janet (not a robot)*

        That’s exactly what I mean, though – I think the boss does have that power, and it’s up to the OP to decide how to respond. I don’t know the specific legalities in this situation, but I’m coming down on the side of Alison’s traditional advice of “even if it’s ridiculous, he’s still allowed to require it.”

        So in that case, the OP needs to decide where this falls on the scale of “annoying things that I’m willing to put up with” and “absolute dealbreakers and I’m walking out the door immediately.” Is this really the hill they’re willing to die on? Maybe it is – although from the vantage point of someone in her mid-forties with two kids and a mortgage, that’s certainly not the hill I would choose. ;) But for someone in a different situation, with more flexibility, it might be worth choosing to have the night out at the expense of annoying the boss and potentially losing out on future work trips or whatever.

        The key thing is that the OP now knows that the boss doesn’t like this behaviour. However ridiculous it might be, the boss is allowed to impose consequences for the OP’s nights out. So now it’s up to OP to do some risk/reward analysis on whether it’s worth it for next time.

      2. Perse's Mom*

        Most people, if they thought about it, would say yes – to a degree. Most of us by now recognize that racist tirades on twitter can get you fired, even if your company’s not mentioned in your twitter bio, even if it’s on your own time. Show up reeking of pot. Show up after pulling an all-nighter on that new AAA video game, too exhausted and grainy-eyed to function.

        There are a lot of personal behaviors we moderate to meet professional norms. Many of them start, by necessity, in “our” time. Hell, consider dress codes. Even really casual ones still don’t want people to show up unwashed and stinking. How dare your boss tell you to bathe!

  60. Boredatwork*

    Wow LW –

    I’ve read your responses and some of the comments:

    your boss is being hyper critical and nit-picky. It’s not his business what you do after a work event. Showing some human concern/wanting to know who is in/out of the hotel is okay. That’s just a safety check, making you ask permission to leave – that’s creepy.

    You did behave somewhat irresponsibly. I think it’s fine for you to stay out as late as you want. I personally want to sleep for 10+ hours a night but my s/o sleeps maybe 4 hours a night. Also, given that you know how your body reacts to late nights + early mornings, you get a pass.

    Where you were irresponsible is you should have cut off your drinking earlier/had some additional water. Coming back “tipsy”at 5am means you were probably still too drunk to drive a car at 9am.

    Next time, cut the drinking off earlier, maybe come back at 3 instead of 5 am?

    1. Mm*

      “Coming back “tipsy”at 5am means you were probably still too drunk to drive a car at 9am.”

      No it doesn’t. I get that these words are amorphous, but people use tipsy to mean only slightly drunk—maybe the way a person feels after about 2 drinks. Four hours later, you could easily be completely sober again.

  61. Anon Anon Anon*

    How did the boss know the LW was out until 5am? Were they sharing a hotel room? Did someone else tip him off? Was there some kind of evidence? It seems that could be part of the problem, a key part of the story that’s missing.

    If you’re sharing accomodations with your boss, of course it makes sense to use different judgment or just be super discreet about anything that could be frowned upon. In theory, that shouldn’t be the case, but in practice, it’s in the best interest of your career.

    If he did something to make the boss aware of it, that, to me, would be the main issue. And if someone else was involved, that just makes the story more complicated.

    What you do on your own time is your own business, but if your employer or others in your industry have reason to be aware of it, then the line gets blurry and it arguably, situationally, is their business.

  62. Caryatis*

    Next time, just don’t tell him what time you were back. Or lie. That’s completely justified in my mind since your outside-of-work socializing is none of the boss’s business.

    Of course, you shouldn’t be drunk at work, but tipsy at five probably means you had enough time to sober up by 9.

  63. Yet Even Another Alison*

    I did not read all the comments here word-for-word so this may have been mentioned. I tend to give my management, when responding to non-work related matters, only what they absolutely need to know. From the OP’s letter, it appears that the boss asked the OP directly what time he got in the night before. When someone in this context asks me something like this – my antenna goes up because it is really none of their business. As someone else stated, telling them it was late should be all they boss needs to hear. Telling the boss it was 5 am, although it was the truth, is something that the boss does not need to know. (And no way should the OP lie and mention an earlier time as the boss may be testing them – yes, call me paranoid but some people are like that and the boss could have been up at that hour and noticed the OP walking in) And, no good can come of telling the boss this information. And, it is not really business related (IMO) Yes, the boss, as long as the OP does their job well, should not judge or make comments, but most people will. The less your boss knows about your non-work related – outside of the usual – married, single, kids – the more head space they will have for your work related accomplishments and the less opportunity they will have for “other” information possibly to negatively color their perception of you.

  64. Queen of Alpha*

    As a corporate road warrior, this is 100% out of line from the boss. The sentence that the boss “gave him permission” to leave the hotel after the event is over at 7PM ON A FRIDAY NIGHT is ridiculous on its own. That’s where the conversation should have stopped.

    Did the employee show poor judgement? Not really, if they are managing their alcohol intake and are accustomed to sleeping 4 hrs (many of us are, thank you very much) then that’s on them.

    Unbelievable what corporate overlords believe they have privy to the little underling employee’s lives.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      I added a few caveats in my response up ^ there somewhere, but I mostly agree with you.

      Weirdly I think it’s the alcohol that is tipping most people here into the admonishment camp. I think it would have been a totally different reaction if the OP had been sober gaming at a friends house until 5 am.

      1. Birch*

        It’s not the alcohol, it’s the choice. OP made a choice to put their performance at risk, which would be the same if they were (as others have mentioned) completely sober, stayed up reading a murder mystery, watching tv, etc. but not the same as an emergency or insomnia. The alcohol just contributes to the “bad optics” of the whole situation in the case that OP was recognized because while drinking alcohol is fine, being seen at a bar 4 hours before a work event shows really bad judgment.

        1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          You may think that way, but most of the comments here are zeroing in on the consumption of alcohol.

          1. ThankYouRoman*

            Consumption of alcohol 4 hours before work begins is a horse of a different color.

            If he had longer to metabolize the intoxicating effects, by all means, indulge.

              1. Perse's Mom*

                You can, perhaps, but with that history of drinking, you surely realize that ‘tipsy’ isn’t a word that means the same to everyone, metabolism of alcohol varies a lot from person to person, and there may be other mitigating factors (what else you ate and/or drank over the course of the night, if you threw up at all, etc).

  65. LadyPhoenix*

    Reading some of the sender comments:

    1) Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Just cause your boss is a micromanaging jerk does NOT mean you are in the clear for drinking and staying up way too late. It dowsn’t matter if you didn’t get things wrong THIS time—that is a bad habit and a slippery slope that can mess you up next time.

    2) Your manager sucks and you need to gtfo.

    1. Alton*

      Yeah, I think this is a good example of how a bad manager can make it hard to learn. I’m on the sender’s side that their manager sounds like a major micromanager. And I wouldn’t be shocked if the manager would have objected even if the sender got back before midnight. And the specific justifications the manager gave don’t make sense (it sounds like the manager is treating his employees like teens on a school trip). But there are a couple lessons the OP can learn here. One is that maintaining boundaries is good (especially if you know your boss is controlling) and the other is that staying out until 5 AM can make a bad impression sometimes, even if the manager here is wrong.

  66. Shay*

    This is poor judgement on the part of OP but I don’t understand why permission was asked (???) and note to self, which asked what time you got it, answer, “I’m not sure – not late.”
    You don’t need permission and don’t owe explanation but next time, a little more sleep will likely leave you in top condition for the booth.

  67. JLH*

    I have never been able to regulate a sleep schedule- I think I fully ruined my body in college with all-nighters (primarily of the homework kind). Even with more of a regular in my bed and waking up rotation, I still am a night owl by nature and can’t always *fall asleep* at the same time or guarantee the quality of sleep- it’s a hit or miss from day to day. I’ve had days where three hours cut it, seven didn’t, vice versa and so on. Add in concerts, movies, drinking, etc. that keep me out late- doesn’t truly make a difference due to the unpredictable sleep I get to begin with.

    All that to say, this seems clearly to me like a one off situation where you were catching up with old friends and, drinking or not, I’ve always found that those nights fly by so much more quickly than I want them to. If you truly managed to complete your job in a professional manner (which your stressing of closing deals and receiving compliments would indicate), your boss probably had sticker shock more than anything when you mentioned the time. So, to the future, this is a lesson in honest bullshittery – I would have totally gone with a “I got in a little later than I intended, it’s crazy how much time flies when you’re catching up with old friends” and then moved on. I also agree that it probably was a moment for you to say, “My apologies, it won’t happen again/won’t be a regular occurrence” rather than argue your points, although I understand the compulsion to do so.

    I’m a little taken aback by the response in some of the comments as they relate to ideals of how you spend your time at a conference, but don’t feel the need to harp further on that.

  68. Nita*

    Leaving the late night out aside, because OP has gotten a ton of good feedback about that, the micromanaging boss is really not good. In OP’s shoes, I’d stick around a few more months, get all those accomplishments (and a few new ones) on my resume, and start hunting around for a new job. It just seems a little over the top to have the boss trying to keep employees from leaving the hotel, or texting them to see if they’ve gone to bed. And having to pay for a hotel room out of pocket doesn’t seem typical for a work conference, as far as I know.

    And the fact that the boss has no boundaries AND is a best friend’s uncle is a recipe for disaster. I’ve run into so many problems when trying to set boundaries with someone who also knows my family. It’s a thousand times harder when you’re trying to be selective about what information you’re sharing with them, but if you don’t tell them something that doesn’t concern them at all, they can go to your mom/cousin/buddy and weasel the info out of them.

  69. gawaine42*

    I may have missed these points, so apologies if I’m doubling up. But in addition everything else everyone may have said; if you’re on a work trip, your behavior is a reflection on your boss and your company. If there’s a perception that you’re using company money to go party – not a few drinks and a light dinner, but going on a bender and getting in at 5am – that’s the kind of thing that gets people’s travel budget cancelled when it gets back to upper management. Look at what’s happening to Government travel right now – it’s highly restricted, in part because of a few people who had too much fun at taxpayer expense, which is leading to all sorts of second order effects on science and tech.

    Generally there is some assumption that your boss is responsible for you. Not just for your safety, but for making sure that you represent the company well. When a customer walks up to him and says, “I was going out for my 5am run, and I saw one of your guys staggering into the hotel, completely wasted. I think he tried to make out with the lamp in the lobby. He smelled like a distillery. What kind of people do you hire?” – or worse, says that to his boss – there are far reaching implications to his judgement in hiring you and approving your travel. Worse, at a trade show, it’s going to be one of your competitors saying that to your customers.

    In terms of getting permission to leave a compound, there are events and industries where this would be normal, because of the kinds of things above. There are also times where I’d want to know what someone’s doing because I’ve already got someone who’s borderline travelling with me. I can only imagine a few times in many years of travel that I would have micromanaged that way, but it would have been with people who were already about to go on a PIP for their behavior, where I needed to make sure I knew what was going on with them. (The guy who decided he had a brain tumor in the middle of a trip and flew home without telling anyone, or the guy who was still drunk driving the rental car with the experimental gear inside, come to mind).

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      Your first paragraph is a little odd. I don’t think it’s much of a concern for the average joe work traveler.

      Yes, in some instances the perception can cause problems, but at your own statement that travel budgets and restrictions are in place because people did actually charge too much entertainment on the company/taxpayer dime. But unless Sender/OP was decked out in all his corporate gear, and actually did use the corporate card to buy rounds this isn’t going to be an issue.

      Your second paragraph is really over the top hyperbole. Surely the OP might have mentioned their love affair with random lobby furniture if that actually happened. And again, chances of anyone else wandering around at 5 am is pretty slim.

      Based on your last paragraph it sounds like you have some issues with certain employees that is coloring your perception. Please be careful with this. The best way to chase off great employees is to paint them with the same brush as your crappy ones.

      I regularly travel with my employees and other coworkers. Yes there is usually one drunken person story. You know what I tell my group. Don’t ever let that be you. Use your best judgement and understand that your professional reputation is at stake.

  70. anon4this*

    Huh, is it not strange an adult is asking for permission from his boss to go out after a work event has ended? When they’re presumably staying in different hotel rooms (and clearly didn’t have follow-up plans that night)?

    And who cares what time the OP came back the night before, well after the work event the next day? The boss’s arguments appear a bit moot and unreasonable at this point in the game.

    Next time OP, I would try to read the optics a bit better and while you should not lie, you could be more vague about when you got in, i.e. “I don’t really remember, it was a little late”.

  71. Imaginary Number*

    I think what probably bugged OP’s boss is the fact that it appeared they appeared to care more about hanging out in their hometown than the event they came for. And, like Alison said, they probably just weren’t articulating that well. It’s perfectly reasonable to spend off hours on a work trip to explore or visit friends in the area. But when it looks like that was your primary motivation for even going, it looks unprofessional, even if said visiting didn’t actually interfere with work.

  72. YoungTen*

    As a manager at a venue where people are going to experience our “brand” for the first time, it would worry me that one of my key employees who held a major function at said event. What if it did effect you? Thats the main concern. In a less dangerous way, its kind of like the person who drives home a bit drunk, they’d say “Well, nothing happen so everything is fine. I was fully in control”. The issue there is that you only seem to have concern if and when something does go wrong. like making a bad impression on people at the event. When it comes to company image, Managers cant afford to take chances. And like Alison said, your attitude doesn’t seem to convey, the full scope of the situation. Just try to think about it form the manages perspective.

  73. ShortT*

    I’m thinking that the boss either A)saw his employee returning late or B)a client saw him returning late and commented.

  74. Observer*

    OP, I haven’t read all of the comments, so please forgive me if I am repeating something.

    There are two separate issues here.

    One is your boss. He’s a micromanager, and not a terribly good boss in some other respects as well. Do yourself a favor and start reading / talking to people to gain / retain a sense of how functional workplaces and good bosses operate. And think about a plan to move on sooner rather than later.

    The other is your behavior. I have read your responses, and I have to say that they raise a lot of red flags for me. For on thing, you seem to be in a fair amount of denial about the drinking itself. If you were tipsy when you got into the hotel, you WERE drinking a lot – either in length (pretty much up to the time you decided to leave) or you were drinking VERY heavily till a couple of hours prior. That’s a really, really bad idea. And it makes me wonder a bit about some of the other things you say.

    You say that you know your body’s limits. That may be true, but this was still a really risky thing to do. There is always a first time or getting hit harder by drink than you expected, especially since you had had a really long and tiring day. It also didn’t allow any leeway for unexpected stuff. And, to anyone else, it looks really cavalier.

    Telling your boss was a mistake. Arguing about it was a bigger mistake. And your arguments could easily convince even a reasonable boss that you really don’t get it. Sure, you performed well, but you really couldn’t know that, and you really don’t address that at all. Also, while the boss is probably not liable in the typical sense, there is a real risk to the company – probably workers comp and definitely a reputational risk.

    1. Charles*

      Take a moment and search signs-may-be-alcoholic. See how many fit.

      It sounds like you’ve pretty much blown any credibility you may have had with that employer.

  75. Ha2*

    I think this is a case where the natural tendency to pick who is “right” will lead us astray. Both were unprofessional.

    Boss, obviously, should not be interrogating an employee about off hours. A boss doesn’t get to set a curfew or dictate what someone does in off hours. If there were a problem with job performance, he should have addressed that directly.

    But the employee also seems not to get workplace norms yet. “I stayed up to 5am drinking” communicates “I didn’t care about my performance the next days”, even if that person in particular can function fine after that.

  76. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    The boss complimented OP’s work, so he clearly had no problem with OP’s performance. He had a problem with the IDEA of OP staying out until 5, which is none of his business unless OP’s performance suffers. Now OP knows he should lie to his boss about what he does on his own time.

  77. Stranger than fiction*

    I actually thought there was liability issues with employees drinking and work functions?
    Or maybe this is just another California thing, because we’re not even allowed to use our own transportation to grt too and from work related functions.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      It wasn’t a work function. The OP met friends on their own time.

  78. AllReihledUp*

    I suspect your boss knew exactly what time to you got back to your room. Either he saw you, a client saw you, or one of your boss’s many industry contacts saw you, and someone commented on it. Lying would only have exacerbated the situation. Point is, when you travel for business, especially at trade shows, there are eyes everywhere. You need to show good judgment, even when you’re “off the clock.”

  79. Bigintodogs*

    I work in consulting, and for a lot of people there is heavy travel to the client site. When you’re done for the day at the client site, you usually go out to dinner with your team from your company. I know people who have gone out and partied hard, but you can NEVER appear that way to the client. You would certainly never tell the client, your project manager, or anyone like that what you were up to. The client cares only that you’re in the office on time and that you’re fully functional. They don’t want to know that you’ve been out until 5 am the night before, because that skews their perception of your work and of your company.

    1. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

      So it’s a good thing that the only person who knew was the OP/Sender’s boss. Who only knew because he asked him directly.

      1. Bigintodogs*

        Some people said maybe a client or a competitor saw him come in at 5 am and that’s why the boss asked–because maybe he already knew.

  80. Sunnyside*

    I’m curious – does this boss also give one-year maternity leave to new mothers? Because if he’s that concerned about how much sleep his employees get, there’s a group that is definitely operating on a chronic sleep deficit and with a 6-week leave (if that), I’m sure there are many employees getting barely 4 hours…

    I get that the optics here may have bothered the boss, but I don’t think it’s reasonable to reprimand a grown-up about how much sleep they’re getting or what they do in their off-hours. And, unless the employee is being paid for 24-hour presence, this is their off-hours, even while on a business trip.

    1. stitchinthyme*

      I was going to say pretty much the same thing. The OP says the boss had no issues with their work that day, and even paid them a compliment. It would be different if the OP’s work had noticeably suffered due to the sleep deprivation, but it doesn’t sound like that was the case; it seems like the boss would never have had any idea how late the OP came back if the OP hadn’t told him. Therefore, it was really none of his business how late they stayed out.

    2. stitchinthyme*

      I was surprised at how harsh Alison and many of the commenters were towards the OP. No, I couldn’t function properly on that little sleep, but there are plenty of people who can and do.

    3. Nita*

      Ha, good question! Considering this is a boss who won’t pay for his employee’s hotel room on a work trip, probably not. He may, however, be the kind of boss who stays far, far away from hiring new mothers. Just imagine how much more there is to micromanage! Pumping breaks, sick days, insurance bills, you name it. Poor boss would run himself ragged trying to keep an eye on all of that.

    4. LGC*

      Like…to go into it, I don’t think it’s the crime so much as the cover-up (or lack thereof). It reads like LW was presenting his really late night out as reasonable, or at least he was surprised when his boss did not think that staying out until 5 the night before a big show was reasonable.

      Sender’s boss is terrible, I’ll admit. But even a terrible boss can be right every so often (I mean, I’m right sometimes, I can extend Sender’s boss that same grace). The best option would have been for Sender to have the catch-up after the show, or to limit his time with his friends so he got back at a more reasonable hour. Barring that, Sender should have realized that a huge majority of us who are over the age of 25 (and a lot of us under it) don’t find it admirable to drink enough that you’re still drunk a few hours before showing up to work.

  81. Hunny*

    I don’t understand why OP can’t be trusted to be an adult and manage his own sleep however he chooses. If there’s an issue with his performance, it should be addressed, otherwise he can’t stay up all night, every night as much as he wants.

  82. MissDisplaced*

    Maybe staying out until 5am wasn’t the wisest choice in judgment. However, if OP did their work and performed without ill effects, which is possible for some people, I don’t see why boss made this into a much larger issue than it needed to be. It seems a bit of overreach, though bear in mind OP that trade shows are sometimes considered “work time” the entire time you’re there. I often spend the day at the booth, then go back to my room to work another 2-3 hours in the evenings doing my “regular” work. So maybe that’s what your boss was trying to get at.

  83. Ronners*

    See this is where a little white lie (okay, a bigger, grey lie) saves everyone a lot of face. It’s your time off, you can use it how you see fit. Your boss obviously doesn’t see it that way, so what he doesn’t know won’t set him off (and hurt you!).

    Actually telling him you got in at 5:00 am is a total rookie mistake. NEVER admit stuff like that to a superior! It’s just opening to the door for trouble.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yeah… this was definitely a time when a vague “What time did I get in? Oh, I’m not quite sure, sort of late? But I got plenty of sleep.”

  84. chickaletta*

    I’m on the OP’s side, as long as the story about him being fully functional and awake the next day is true. Who cares? It was his own time. The fact that he rolled in at 5am is more of a cultural/personal preference of what time a person should be home.

    Also, I have a feeling a lot of the argument against the OP has to do with his age because we’re assuming that he’s “still learning”. Ahem. Well, I have a 50 year old supervisor who regularly (once a month or so) comes in to work several hours late after going to a concert the night before. Nobody says anything. In other words, this grown woman with adult children of her own is NOT functional on a weekday because she stayed out until midnight the night before. She’s the kind of employee who lacks judgement, and yet she’s older with lots of work experience behind her and came home at what many more people would consider a reasonable time. So the arguements against OP don’t hold up in my book.

    1. Observer*

      You’re making a lot of assumptions here. No one said it’s a problem because the OP is young. Some people are assuming that the OP is probably young based on the lack of judgement and the fact that they were able to function after a night of drinking, which is less likely to happen at a later age.

      But, it would be a problem regardless of their age. The fact that someone who is theoretically old enough to know better regularly over extends herself in ways that directly affect her work doesn’t mean that it’s ok for someone else *of any age* to stay out all night drinking while working a conference. It was just stupid and showed a significant lack of judgement. Arguing with the boss just exacerbated it.

  85. Sender*

    Hi I’m the sender and to clarify

    1.) I’m 25 and my previous job required me to go out and interact with potential clients up until 4 or so AM and wake up at 10 AM for another event.

    2.) Yes I know my limit with alcohol intake. My friends and I stopped drinking by 2 and our day ended at 5 AM because we were catching up with each other. Which means that, no alcohol drinking happened from 2 AM onward.

    3.) I didn’t look hungover as per my closest colleagues nor did I smell like alcohol (I know what you mean guys I don’t like it neither because I’m a very hygienic person)

    4.) I think there is a cultural barrier here in terms of my usage of the word “tipsy”. Trust me when I say, I was fully okay when I got back to the hotel. I wasn’t even hungover. And for those saying that it could’ve hit me 2 days after. It didn’t. I had very little to drink.

    5.) As I’ve said in my previous comments, I needed to ask “permission” from my boss because he usually wants to know where we are at specific times even after work hours. Which, IMHO, is truly unnecessary.

    6.) We had a 1st-day debriefing form 7 PM to 10 PM which is why I wasn’t able to go out earlier.

    7.) Although he came in at 1 PM for an event which started at 9 AM, my boss was happy with our performance for that day. His mood changed only until I admitted to going home at 5. Which brings me to my last point

    8.) Thank you for all of your comments. I truly understand where everyone is coming from and I admit that I was wrong for 1.) Going back to the hotel at 5 AM (but I truly know my body’s capacity), and 2.) Admitting to my boss for going home at 5.

    What’s truly shady for me is, I am an adult and I do not need permission to do what I want to do during my off-time at work. He constantly messages us regarding our whereabouts even after work. To add, the deal prior to going to the event was us having 2-hour breaks during the event proper but he insisted on us not taking those breaks because it was unnecessary. As a result, we only had about 20 minutes to take our lunch in our booth as for us not to go out of the venue.

    Thank you for all your insights! I am learning from this experience. All your replies are helping me decide as well if I need to find another company. Thank you!

    1. stitchinthyme*

      Thanks for the follow-up. I’m one of the few who don’t think you did anything wrong — I agree with you that what you do on your own time is no one else’s business as long as you had no performance issues the next day (which it sounds like you didn’t). It’s totally unreasonable of your boss to inquire about your activities or whereabouts when you’re not at work; if my boss did that, I’d be looking for another job…and either lying or refusing to answer his questions in the meantime.

    2. ANon.*

      Hi, Sender.

      I’m on your side, too. I think a lot of the comments are giving you flack because they’re putting themselves in your shoes (“I could NEVER get home at 5am and be functional at 9am!”) and trying to read between the lines (“If Sender wrote ‘tipsy’ they MUST have actually been super drunk!”). Generally, relating in this way can be helpful, but I feel like this time it’s missing the point. What your question boils down to is: does my boss have the right to manage how I spend my time outside of work (especially when I’m a top performer). And the answer? Generally, no. It sounds like your boss is a micromanaging jerk – but you already know that.

      But on a deeper level, your question also boils down to: “Does my employment require that I always work to the absolute best of my abilities at all time?” Or, worded as an example: “If I can put in 80% effort and still exceed my job expectations, can I decide to do that rather than putting in 100% and exceeding them by even more?” And honestly, I’d argue it’s your choice. If your boss is happy with your work when you put in 80% and you want to expend that other 20% on side hobbies, that’s up to you! If you can close a big deal, get compliments on your work, do better than all your coworkers and STILL have done that on only a few hours of sleep – good for you!

      That said, based on all the comments I think you’ve learned the valuable lesson that white lies are going to be necessary for dealing with your boss. Because even if you know yourself, know your limits, constantly exceed expectations, people will always assume that in the situation you described, there’s no way you could have performed satisfactorily.

    3. Zillah*

      The more you elaborate, the more on your side I am.

      I was wondering whether you were using “tipsy” in that sense – I agree that it might be a cultural thing. If I say that I’m tipsy, I mean that I’m tipsy, not drunk, and I use “tipsy” until I’m totally 100% sober. I do get that some people minimize their drinking, but many of us don’t. I also think that a lot of people are overstating the “risk” – as someone who just turned 30 and frequently goes without enough sleep, it’s not ideal but not a catastrophe waiting to happen, and it especially wasn’t when I was in my early/mid-twenties.

      Going out until 5am wasn’t ideal, and neither was admitting it to your boss – but I think that you have a broader and more overarching boss problem.

    4. Justin*

      The part about having to ask permission to go out, and where the boss was totally fine until he learned about the 5am detail, and the weird remark about being responsible for you in a different city…that all suggested to me that he’s being paternal and it wasn’t an issue with your work performance that day. I think your only mistake was not lying about what time you got in.

    5. TreatYoSelf*

      I’m going to just say that your boss sounds terrible.

      The ONLY thing you did wrong was admit you were out until 5am. That’s it. As long as you did your job, who cares if you got any sleep? People function on little/no sleep all the time. And let’s be real, having booth duty isn’t the same as performing surgery or driving a car or operating heavy machinery. You’re answering questions and smiling, usually while sucking in the recirculated air of a convention center.

      I’m sure I’ll get a lot of shit for this — but I don’t really understand the policing and shaming happening in the comments. What happens outside of work hours doesn’t have any bearing on what happens at work as long as the work is still done and done well. If I decide to get drunk (not tipsy, but drunk) at night, as long as I’m sober while working and doing what I need to do the next day, that’s not my company’s business.

      Not that any job I’ve ever had would care anyway. Perhaps the places I’ve worked are really unprofessional (although I currently work for one of the biggest corporations on the planet in terms of market cap) — and maybe I’m *super* unprofessional — but when I go to work conferences (which is often), staying out late is almost expected. And I’m not even in sales!

      I’m not saying I frequently return at 5am for a 9am call time (I’m also no longer 25), but as long as the work is done and everyone is sober in the morning, it’s no one’s business what you’re doing after work hours, especially if you’re not in front of clients.

      OP, you don’t need this shit. Having to ask permission to leave your hotel room, to me, is a huge red flag. You can find plenty of other places and plenty of other bosses that won’t judge you.

    6. Doubleh*

      I’m on your side. Your boss sounds like a control freak. He should address performance and not what time you came back.
      You’re not a child, he doesn’t know what kind of sleep you need, and your performance didn’t even suffer, which HE admitted. He’s making an issue when there isn’t one. If your performance were crap that day, then sure, he’d have every right to lay into you.
      But he wants to know where you are when you’re not at work?! Oh, hell no. Get out, get out, get out.

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