I can’t get my own hotel room even if I pay for it, I cried in a meeting, and more

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

1. I can’t get my own hotel room even if I pay for it

I’ve been at a new workplace for about a year and am getting ready to take some business trips this summer. My department’s travel policy doesn’t require us to have roommates, but so far our travel coordinator won’t let me book a hotel room without naming one. I’ve offered to pay for half of the room, or even the entire hotel bill, but she won’t get off my back.

This isn’t just a whim of mine. I have IBS and really, really don’t want a coworker to observe everything that entails for me. At home I follow a strict diet that keeps my symptoms in check, but eating out at restaurants for every meal during work trips really does a number on my stomach. It’s bad enough running to the toilet three times in an hour when I’m in the hotel room by myself—I don’t know how I could look a coworker in the eye if they were in the room with me.

What else can I say at work to make them drop the roommate business? “I have a medical condition that I prefer to keep private” might raise more questions than it answers, and I’d die of shame if I had to talk about poop with my boss. Help!

It’s bizarre that she won’t let you get a single room even if you offer to pay the difference (let alone the entire fee — what the hell?).

You don’t need to name IBS or talk about poop in order to get this resolved. If you say, “I have a medical situation that means I will need to to book a single room,” no sensible employer is going to insist that you describe the details. (And in fact, if the condition is covered under the ADA, there are legal regulations governing exactly what they can ask, so they should tread carefully.)

At this point, though, I would go over the travel coordinator’s head, either to her boss or your own boss, and say this: “I have a medical condition that means I can’t share a hotel room, but Jane is telling me I can’t book a single room, even if I pay for the cost difference myself. Do I need to explain to her that this is a medical accommodation, or how should I proceed here?”

2. I cried at work and worry I missed something important when it happened

I screwed up at work. Thanks to reading your blog for so long, I was able to handle the screw-up immediately and appropriately to make things right. Fortunately, I was not fired for the offense, although I was given a formal write-up. During the write-up, I sat up straight, looked my boss and grand-boss in the eyes, and held my head up — basically, I realized this was business and not personal, instead of cowering or running away as I would have previously in my career. They were both respectful and professional during the meeting, expressing what happened, what went wrong, addressing that it was corrected immediately, expectations going forward, and how they would both me helping me to move forward. I appreciate being given another chance, in addition to being soberingly humbled by my mistake.

However, I started crying in the meeting. I’ve never cried at this job before. My boss and grand-boss ignored the tears, continued to treat me with respect, and the meeting wrapped up (it was almost over). Unfortunately, I don’t remember what was said to me during the time I was crying. I was trying so hard to keep control over myself and maintain myself, I lost focus on the discussion. I know what I did wrong and how to move forward from it positively, and I’m not concerned it is going to haunt me or be held over my head unreasonably.

So, do I need to go back and tell them I missed part of it? I remember hearing my grand-boss expressing disappointment on a professional level. But I don’t know what else he said for another 3-7 minutes. I don’t know if the rest was professional feedback, I don’t know if it was instruction on how to make amends to the client, I don’t have any clue what it was. What do I do? And if I have to go back and say I didn’t hear him, HOW do I say that?

If you think there’s any chance that you missed instructions or something else important, then yes, go back and correct that! All you have to say is, “I really appreciated you talking to me about the X situation the other day. Because I was stressed by the situation, I want to be absolutely sure that I didn’t miss any action items for me, particularly from the end of the conversation when my stress was at its highest. Can I confirm with you my plan for moving forward and make sure this sounds comprehensive to you? I plan to do X, Y, and Z. Is there anything I missed?”

Or, you can be even more straightforward about it, replacing that second sentence with, “I’m sure you noticed I got a little emotional toward the end of the meeting. My apologies — it was a stressful situation, but I really appreciated how you handled it. I want to be realistic that getting emotional toward the end may have diluted my focus and I want to be sure I didn’t miss anything I should have taken away.”

And don’t be too mortified. People sometimes cry in serious meetings about mistakes. It happens! Your boss and grand-boss have probably seen it before. As long as you handle it professionally now, it should be fine.

3. I was rejected because the employer thought I wouldn’t do well in a small start-up

I am from a large multinational company but was just recently rejected from a small start-up company and received the email below. I seemed to impress them but was rejected, and the hiring manager wanted to “stay in touch.” I don’t get it. I’ve been feeling down about this, and I just keep sulking over it. Please help provide any insight and what this really means. What did I do wrong?

This is the email: “Hi Jane. We thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and appreciated your taking time to come by the office. We love your portfolio and experience. In particular your process and analysis skills are some of the best we have seen! As much as we’d love to add you to our team, we feel the move from such a big company like X to such a small operation as ours will be a tough transition and your skills would much better serve a business that has already reached some scale. I encourage you to connect with me on LinkedIn and I would like it if we could stay in touch. I wish you the very best in your job search!”

I would take it at face value: They think you’re great, and they also think you won’t thrive in a small operation like theirs. That could mean anything from “We’re still figuring things out and we need someone entrepreneurial who’s comfortable setting up systems from scratch and working with a tiny budget, and we don’t think that’s where you’d shine” to “Because we’re small, we’d need you wearing 100 different hats here, pitching in on things like reception duty and inventory, and we don’t think you’d love that — and even if you say you’d be fine with it, we’re not willing to take the risk that we’re right” to all sorts of other things. In other words, think of all the reasons someone might not thrive in a small start-up when they’re used to a huge company, and there are your possible answers.

People get rejected for jobs all the time because while they’re qualified in many ways, they’re not quite the right fit in other ways. That doesn’t mean you did anything wrong; it just means hiring is about lots of things beyond just your actual skills.

4. Can my employer force me to work from the office when I’ve been largely remote?

I have been working for the same organization for approximately five years, and have it in writing that I can work from home for a large portion of my work.

However, we have a new manager who wants me to be in the office more than I have been previously. I have compromised on this somewhat (to be in the office a few more hours than normal) but if she continues to want me in the office more, I am unable to do so.

If this occurs, are they able to force me to work from the office? And if they do and I am not interested in doing that, can they terminate me? If so, would I be eligible for unemployment?

My work has always been excellent, and I have never had a problem with my work arrangements with previous managers.

Yes, your employer can indeed require you to be in the office more than you have previously, or even revoke the work-from-home arrangement entirely. But whether this particular manager can do that is a little hazier; it will depend on how committed your employer overall is to remote work (and whether someone above her or in HR is willing to push back) and how much weight they’ll put on the written agreement you have.

If this was a condition of your job initially, your position is stronger. They can still revoke the arrangement and say their needs have changed, but you can try pushing back and seeing what happens. To do that, say something like this to your manager: “Working from home X percentage of the time was something I had negotiated when I originally accepted the offer here, and we even put it in writing to make sure it was clear what we were agreeing to. Keeping that agreement is really important to me, since it was one of the reasons I accepted the job.” If she says the needs of the work have changed, your next stop is HR, to explain that you while respect your manager’s desire to have you in the office more often, here’s your written agreement which you’d like to hold to, and how should you proceed from here? They may tell you that managers can change those agreements at any time (which is true), in which case you’d explain that you’re not in a position to alter your schedule more than you already have, and wait to see what they do.

They can indeed fire you over this; whether or not they will is a different question. If they do, your eligibility to collect unemployment will depend on whether the unemployment agency considers this a significant enough change in the terms of your employment. That can vary depending on the details, but you can contact the agency ahead of time and try to find out.

5. Name dropping in a cover letter

I’m on the job hunt and I’ve been using all your fantastic advice to improve my applications. I have a question about what to include in cover letters. Through my current job and social circle I have been able to meet and chat with people who work at a lot of the organizations I am applying to. Yesterday I spoke with a friend of a friend who is the departing incumbent of a job I am about to apply for and was able to learn a lot more about the position and organization. My question is whether it is appropriate to name drop in a cover letter off the back of this conversation, whether I need to get the person’s permission or it’s actually better not to do it at all?

I wanted to include something along the lines of: “I recently had the privilege of speaking with X, a teapot designer at Teapot Inc. I was really struck by her enthusiasm for the company.”

I don’t want to imply that they can vouch for me or that they encouraged me to apply. I’d be interested to hear your perspective as a hiring manager — how would you react to this sort of name dropping if you read it in a cover letter?

Simply saying that you talked to someone and found her enthusiastic about the company doesn’t make you a stronger candidate. So my question back to you: What are you hoping to gain by including that? On some level I assume is about implying that person encouraged you to apply, or that they might vouch for you in some way, or that in some amorphous way it will get the company to take a closer look at your resume. If it’s not … why are you really putting in there?

That said, there’s nothing wrong with saying something like, “I recently spoke with X about the role and after hearing her perspective on Y and Z am even more excited to apply for this role.” It’s still not going to add much to your application (honestly, it probably adds close to zero), but it’s clearer framing (and it gets rid of the “had the privilege of speaking to” bit, which at least to me reads as too obsequious).

{ 425 comments… read them below }

  1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    OP1, I’m sorry your travel coordinator is giving you so much grief. I would send her a copy of your department policies (you specified that they do not require you to share rooms) and tell her you’ll not be having a roommate. If she still refuses after this and using Alison’s scripts, definitely escalate to either her boss or yours.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t think sending the travel coordinator a copy of the department policies will work. This person has ignored or negated all of OP’s more polite requests to room solo.

      Alison’s script is perfect. If OP wants to go to the travel coordinator one last time, I would be really frank and say, “I’d really like to room by myself. Our travel policy is clear that we can room solo. Can you help me understand why you’re rejecting all my requests for a solo room?” But at this point, I think it’s justified to go over the travel coordinator’s head. If OP wants to invoke an unnamed medical condition when going up the chain, that’s perfectly reasonable and shouldn’t require disclosure of OP’s diagnosis.

      And as Alison noted, OP may be better served by the ADA, here. IBS is considered an impairment under the ADA. Depending on the frequency and severity of OP’s symptoms, IBS can be considered an impairment that affects a major life activity, which brings OP under the accommodation umbrella. But hopefully OP won’t have to invoke The Law for their employer to behave decently and intercede before it escalates.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          But he was also in a world where the 2008 ADA amendments hadn’t yet been passed, nor the DOL’s interpretive letter on GI impairments and the ADA. ;)

          1. SignalLost*

            Dude, it’s Guacamole Bob. Such things are beneath his efforts to get a promotion. :) (Also, it sounds like OP hasn’t disclosed that a medical issue is in play.)

            1. OP #1*

              I’m really embarrassed by my IBS, so I hadn’t mentioned to the travel coordinator that I was seeking a medical accommodation. I had no idea it would be covered by the ADA. With that in mind, I’m going to give the coordinator one last chance before going over her head.

              1. Blue Eagle*

                If you don’t want to invoke a medical condition, how about invoking snoring. Lots of people loudly snore, so your “snoring” shouldn’t be embarrassing.

                1. Kat in VA*

                  I just bantered with a coworker about sharing a room. We’re going to a conference where the room blocks sold out very early. She managed to secure a room for herself and for me, but I would be short one night. Both of us have double beds in our rooms, and she playfully said I could sleep on one of the beds for one night.

                  I talk – sometimes loudly – in my sleep, grind my teeth, and have a curious condition called “catathrenia” where I hold my breath and verrrrry slowly let it out, groaning like a porn star…sometimes as long as 30 or 40 seconds*. I told her she definitely did not want to spend the night with me.

                  (To be clear, sharing isn’t actually an option – but I’ll admit to a tiny frisson of OH NO NO NO NEVER when she jokingly suggested it)

                  *porn star comparison is per my husband’s observation.

      1. MLB*

        Before using Alison’s script, I would go to my boss, and ask if there’s a reason the travel coordinator isn’t letting her book a single room based on the department policies before mentioning a medical condition. If the department policy is no roommate required, she shouldn’t have to mention it. If they won’t let it go, then mention the medical condition per Alison’s script.

        Sharing a room with co-workers isn’t cool whether there’s a legitimate reason or not. I realize companies are trying to save money, but if I have to travel for work, I need my own space for down time. I had a business trip once and they forced me to share a room. Thankfully it was with a friend, but it was still difficult.

        1. Lilian*

          Ideally it -should- be fine whether there is a legitimate reason or not, but unfortunately the travel coordinator might just perceive it as OP being difficult and it might (even unconsciously) spur their attitude towards OP. I’d still state a medical condition as a reason. This would bring the possibility that others might be dealing with similar issues to the travel coordinator’s attention and be helpful for others in the future as well.

          1. Frustrated 1*

            The travel coordinator is violating policy, and has let a little power go to her head. She won’t be the first person to think the company money is theirs to guard. I would reveal nothing. My only inquiry would be to her supervisor regarding why she is adding her own spin on company policy.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              I don’t know that it’s true she’s violating policy. The fact that the OP doesn’t see a written mention of it doesn’t mean that it’s not still the company’s practice. (In fact, it’s likely that it is, given the travel coordinator’s rigidity on this.)

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                But isn’t it a little weird that the OP isn’t given the option to pay for the private room herself? I mean, my employer’s travel policy requires sharing rooms under some circumstances, but if you choose to pay the difference yourself, no one bats an eye (in fact, that’s an option offered to us).

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes, it’s extremely weird, but it could be an overzealous travel coordinator who’s been told people must share rooms and doesn’t realize she doesn’t have to be so rigid.

                2. TootsNYC*

                  well, her paying for the extra half to get her own room may leave her roommate without a roommate, so the company has to pay for a full room for THAT person instead of the half they’d planned on per-person; things are breaking unevenly.

                3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  She offered to pay for the entire room though. So from the finances standpoint, the company would not be spending any extra money for the roommate’s room. Of course, the balance of the roommates would then be disrupted, which they might consider A BAD THING.

              2. OP #1*

                I’m firmly in the camp of “if it’s not written down, it’s unenforceable.” I wouldn’t be surprised if the travel coordinator was instructed to push people to have roommates, but surely there’s a line. I’m hopeful that the medical accommodation angle will work.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I wouldn’t lean too hard on “it’s not written down, it’s not enforceable.” Loads of policies and practices aren’t written down; they’re still enforceable. Lean on the medical issue instead.

        2. RandomusernamebecauseIwasboredwiththelastone*

          Agreed… Honestly I’m not sure I’d allow the coordinator that much power in this dynamic. OP needs to talk to their boss first and find out what’s going on.

          OP: Boss, I’m running into a snag booking my trip. Coordinator Connie won’t book my room unless I tell her who I’m rooming with. I’m really confused, as nobody has mentioned roommates before. Even weirder is that when I offered to pay 1/2 I was told I couldn’t. Am I missing something?

          Chances are, unless you’re in an industry that room sharing is common (shudder), Coordinator Connie has it wrong. Even if you are in an industry where room sharing is common (double shudder) then you offering to pay the difference should have been the end of it. I am getting the whiff of a long lost relative of Guacamole Bob or Napoleon (the little dictator).

        3. Knuddel Daddeldu*

          Sometimes, it’s a necessity to share. I had a few visits last year to offshore drilling rigs, where almost all cabins are shared by two people (using bunk beds with a curtain for privacy), and two cabins share a bathroom with shower. There is just not that much space; fortunately, heavy-duty ear plugs are readily available.

    2. Terry*

      I agree. I’ve got IBS and it really is so inconvenient and annoying, and then to have to share a room would just add more stress. Who is to say that the roomate is free of IBS too. Double trouble!

      1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        I have ulcerative colitis and when I am in the middle of a flair up and have to wait to use a bathroom it is torture. Even if the other person is taking just normal amount of time to shower and get ready for the day, or brush their teeth and get ready for bed – if you need to go at that moment it would be horrible. For me it’s not the kind of pain you can cover up either. Roommate would come out of the bathroom and I would be laying on the floor right outside clutching my stomach. That would be so humiliating. OP should go over whatever heads they need to to get this sorted out. No one should have to go through that.

      2. Elemeno P.*

        I also have IBS, and making someone share a room with me during a flare-up would be cruel to that person.

      3. Bend & Snap*

        I have anxiety, which doesn’t really physically manifest, and the roommate arrangement would send me over the edge. Everyone needs a place to decompress and have some alone time, especially if you have a sensitive medical issue.

      4. OP #1*

        I appreciate the commiseration in this thread. I had no idea IBS would fall under the ADA, so hopefully the medical accommodation angle will work!

    3. fuzzbucket*

      I started a new job a few years ago and my new boss expected me to room with another new employee – a total stranger I would meet at the airport. I really wanted the job and went with it, but all new employees from me on totally refused this arrangement (as they should). Never again!

    4. WellRed*

      I am guessing the policy doesn’t actually state anything about roommates at all, leaving it to interpretation.

    5. Laurelma01*

      I’ll never forget a boss of mine willing to pay lodging for a conference for graduate students if they were 4 to a room. They were graduate assistants, they worked for as well as were enrolled in the program. Bad enough to share a room, but share a bed. Gag.

      1. GladIleftthatplace*

        I was in this situation, but as the postdoc (and therefore supervisor to the other three– grad students and undergraduates). To top it off, I was 5 months pregnant and expected to share a bed with our undergraduate volunteer, who I managed. And when I objected, I was met with incredulity and told I was deliberately being difficult, even though I was offering to pay for my own room.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        This happened where my husband was in graduate school too! Somehow, the men all managed to score double-double suites with a foldout couch and a rollaway cot or roomed with a married couple so there were 3 people to 2 beds, and somehow all the women ended up 2 to a bed and quietly seething.

    6. OP #1*

      I had no idea IBS might fall under the ADA, so I have another angle to work. As Princess Consuela Banana Hammock (nice!) says below, the coordinator doesn’t seem to care that our travel policy doesn’t require us to have roommates. If she still won’t relent even when I ask for a medical accommodation, I’ll definitely ask my immediate supervisor for backup and then, if necessary, talk to the coordinator’s boss.

      1. Laurelma01*

        You might want to inquire about the budget for the conference. They could be underestimating the lodging cost. Is the travel coordinator new? They may come from a prior job that was stingy and is in the mode of applying the prior employer’s policies. Or the individual / department over the budget for business travel. My employer does $1400 per year for professional development. But she stingy as the get go, so there is a great deal of justification to get the full $1400 even if the trip costs a couple of thousand. She will turn around and say “whatever justification she can come up with” to not give them the full amount.

        Look who manages the budget, could be the coordinator is trying to stay within in it, or is gun ho on saving the company money. Let us know how it rolls out. I wouldn’t wait to tell your manager about the issue. Your manager needs to know that the travel coordinator may be interpreting the travel policies incorrectly. I see no reason for you to back with ADA accommodation unless you have to.

    7. Suzy*

      Since you are willing to pay for your own room, can you just let the company pay for a shared room but separately book your own private room in the same hotel and then just use that room? Its silly for you to have to pay, but if you are willing to do that, can you as a last resort? “They can pay for my shared room but they cant make me sleep in it!”

      1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I’d be really careful about this. I worked somewhere where, for part of an internal certification, people had to do a two-night retreat at a hotel. Even the people who lived in the same city as the hotel, had to stay at the hotel. Even if they had a reasonable accommodation where commuting 25 minutes to home made way more sense than staying at the hotel. It required a barrage of special permissions, as if the employees were a child on an overnight trip for school.

  2. Typewritergirl*

    #5 Alison didn’t address the part about asking permission. It would be good if you did, because mentioning someone in that way implies you have their permission and to some extent their endorsement.

    Someone once namedropped me in this way, without telling me. My boss asked me how I knew them – not knowing they had mentioned me in their cover letter, I reacted with genuine surprise and said I didn’t really know the person, why? I wouldn’t risk something similar happening. It didn’t speak well to their judgement – and it made things awkward for me.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it depends on what the exact mention is. If it’s “I recently spoke with X about the role…” that’s factually accurate and isn’t claiming or implying more of a relationship or endorsement than exists. She doesn’t need X’s permission to do that. (And I get candidates doing that all time without having first explicitly sought the person’s permission and no one cares.) But if she were writing “X encouraged me to apply for the role,” you’d want to get X’s okay first (in part because “encouraged me to apply” can mean different things to different people, and X might not think she actually did that).

      1. Artemesia*

        I really think most people would be offended if someone dropped their name without a heads up especially if it is someone they don’t know well. Why mention it at all except because you hope it will impress the hiring manager who will think you are being supported by this person for the job. Why else mention it. If a colleague mentioned that Fergus had dropped my name in his application and it was news to me, I’d think a lot less of Fergus and I might also be motivated to torpedo the application if I was not that impressed with him.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I agree. There’s an implicit vouch when you drop a name, even if the technical description is correct. I wouldn’t be embarrassed that the person had namedropped me without getting permission, but I would certainly be slightly miffed, especially if we don’t really know each other. And if anyone asked about our connection, I would be brutally honest. A good friend’s Horrid Ex once namedropped me, and when my former boss asked about it, I pulled a Mariah Carey and made it clear that I didn’t know him.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I had someone who had always been rude and inconsiderate try to connect with me on LinkedIn. Oh, just wait till he tries to namedrop me… ;)

        2. PB*

          Hmm, I don’t know that I’d be offended, but I’d be asking the same question Alison posed in her post: what are they hoping to get out of it? If I heard a candidate included my name in their cover letter in this way, I think I’d be bemused, and I’d be honest about the relationship (or lack thereof) with the search chair. I would also probably wonder about the judgment of the person writing the cover letter. Like, do they think my name is a magic bullet to get an interview? Do they think an informational interview has way more weight than it does in actuality?

          I don’t think I’d reach any definitive conclusions about the person one way or the other, but I’d definitely be wondering.

        3. Doodle*

          I’d have a problem with it too. I talk to all sorts of people about my job — I would be surprised if someone used my name in a cover letter without letting me know. In a letter whose purpose is to get a hiring committee to select the writer for an interview, any name drop like this implies “Doodle vouches for me.” When in fact, I may just have answered questions for someone I don’t even know. Or even for someone I think is an incompetent boob — it would be weird not to answer straightforward questions about my job or employer.

          If the questioner lets me know there’s a specific job, I may say, please use my name. If I don’t say so, it means, don’t use my name.

          Using my name like that is trading on *my* reputation.

          OP, absolutely ask first.

        4. AMPG*

          I disagree; if I speak with someone about a role they might apply for, I sort of assume they’re going to mention that I gave them info about the role or the company. As long as they represent the conversation accurately, why would I care?

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Interesting to hear the disagreement. Maybe it varies by field? I couldn’t care less if someone does that to me (and they do it all the time). It seems a little … precious to me to be bothered that someone factually relayed the nature of their interaction with you! I think anyone who reads a lot of cover letters knows to take any name dropping with a huge grain of salt anyway and never assume it indicates actual vouching (I will always just check with the person being name dropped if I want to know one way or the other). But clearly there’s diversity of opinions on this.

        1. Zillah*

          FWIW, I wouldn’t be offended if someone said “I spoke with Zillah about your work, and it sounds interesting because of XYZ!” It’s just factual.

          1. Airy*

            And if I were the employer, although I wouldn’t be thinking “What gumption! Sign ’em up, by golly!” I’d at least be thinking “It’s good that they take initiative to find out more.”

            1. Observer*

              Exactly this. It would not occur to me that “Zillah is vuoching for them.” But I would be thinking “At least they actually found out a bit about the job and company, which is useful.”

              1. R.D.*

                I wouldn’t assume “Zillah is vouching for them”, but I would think “I wonder if Zillah would vouch for them?”, so it is worth mentioning to Zillah in case she wouldn’t.

          2. Lily Rowan*

            In most places I’ve been hiring, it would be a slight plus, because sometimes the work I’m doing is pretty obscure, and it’s useful if the applicant actually has some idea of what we’re actually doing and what it’s like here.

        2. AwkwardOctopus*

          I think the specific wording would be important… saying they spoke to them about the role indicates they might’ve talked about the possibility of OP being in the role, as opposed to a more general “I learned about what she did at the last job.” It’s a bit like you said – if taken at face value, the correct value, it means nothing… so the best case scenario is it isn’t misinterpreted and it does nothing. Worst case scenario is it is.

          1. BRR*

            My feelings on it sway with the wording. I would be ok if the conversation really covered the department or position and didn’t hint at me providing a referral.

          2. Emily K*

            I could see it tilting towards positive if it indicated they had come to understand something unique/important about our company or our team that was relevant to their history or caused them become more interested as a result. Like, “Jane told me the department is in the middle of a 5-year effort to modernize the llama grooming facilities, which piqued my interest because I worked on a similar modernization project a few years ago at Llama Barn and found the work extremely rewarding,” or something like that. No way I would construe that as Jane endorsing the candidate in any way, but it’d be a positive that they learned something specific about the role that wasn’t in the job ad and it caused them to highlight experience they otherwise might not have.

        3. OP 5*

          Thanks for posting my question!

          I think what I was really trying to convey in the cover letter was pretty much your suggested script but it felt so forced that I didn’t really know how to word it.

          I didn’t end up including the name drop in the end, mostly because I realised that I wrote a much better cover letter just based on the information my contact told me about the job. I figured it would be pretty stupid to blow that advantage by taking an unnecessary risk.

          I was trying to work out why it was in the back of my brain that name dropping is a good idea. I finally remembered that at uni when I thought I wanted to be a lawyer the advice was to go along to open events to speak with current lawyers and then name drop them in your application to make it stand out.

          1. Quackeen*

            That’s great that you thought about your cover letter so critically and picked the best version. Good luck in your search!

          2. always in email jail*

            I think you made the right choice with the cover letter, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with mentioning it in your interview if the opportunity arises. If they ask why you want to work there, in addition to your regular answer, you could even say “coincidentally, I recently got to chat with one of your former employees with whom I share a mutual friend, and she had really positive things to say about the culture of the company, which was very encouraging!” or something

          3. Elle Kay*

            Ok- this makes sense.
            My understanding is that law is a #superweird profession and that this kind of name-dropping is a “thing” that you do & that it’s totally normal.
            But the problem with this kind of advice is when it gets crossed into a position/field where that’s not the norm and it counts against you

        4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          In my field, the expectation is that if a candidate plans to use your name in their job hunt, they will inform you beforehand. To fail to do so is considered a red flag.

        5. snowglobe*

          I just think it would be risky. Many hiring managers might think that a relationship with the name-droppee is implied, and would ask about the relationship. There may be a negative impression if they find out that they barely know one another and that the candidate dropped the name after just one phone conversation, even if nothing in the cover letter directly stated otherwise. As Alison said, why include the name if you don’t think there is an advantage? And many managers would be turned off by that.

          1. Colette*

            And the OP doesn’t know how her contact is perceived there – it could be anything from extremely positive to extremely negative. She’s opening herself up to concerns for little benefit.

        6. The Other Dawn*

          As long as it’s factual, I wouldn’t care either if someone mentioned my name. Now, if that person mentioned my name and somehow implied that I’d be a reference when they hadn’t asked me first, or that I told them to apply when I didn’t, then I’d be annoyed and would make sure the hiring manager knew the actual facts.

        7. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I think it does vary by field and function, and I do get offended when someone drops my name in their cover or intro letter. I’m in corporate staffing, and when people have used my as a reference point, most of the recipients took them more seriously. They later told me they assumed I told the candidate to introduce themselves, or that I at least endorsed their skills. In most of these cases, I didn’t even know the person writing the cover letter, but they ‘knew’ me because I spoke at an event or volunteered at a job search club.

        8. Michaela Westen*

          Alison, I think you’re more realistic and aware than many managers. I’ve known managers who would take the name-drop at face value and not follow up.

        9. Anonymeece*

          I wouldn’t be offended per se, but there’s a good chance my boss would bring it up as a “Hey, did you talk to so-and-so?” and catch me off-guard, which would annoy me.

    2. Blunt Bunny*

      Yes but I would think in the Letter writers case the other person would just say we have a mutual contact and they reached out to hear more about the role. It’s not an endorsement or a referral it would be weird if it was a stranger who just contacted you on LinkedIn or similar. I think including it shows that you have better clarity of what the role involves besides what it said on the job description. For big companies the job descriptions aren’t usually written by the person actually doing the hiring so they don’t always convey everything they are looking for and what the job entails. I have found meeting with hiring managers or people previously in the role before applying to internal roles helpful as you can find out how much time is spent on the different activities and how much they will interact with different departments. You can distinguish between different roles that looked very similar in terms of requirements to help you find something that is better suited to you.

    3. HalloweenCat*

      I would, at the very least, have a conversation where you mention that you’d like to include them in the cover letter or what have you to get their reaction. It’s a little different, but I had this happen when I was listed as a reference for someone I would never under any circumstances vouch for. I was the editor of my school newspaper and then went on to work at a local tv station. One of the writers from the newspaper put me down as a reference when she applied at the tv station. Based on the number of conversations we had about the substandard quality of her work and professionalism I was shocked she’d include me. If she had reached out to me beforehand, I would have asked not to be used.

      1. Lucy*

        If you have a functioning recruitment process (“if”) then this can work against the cheeky one – I can’t be the only one who has been asked informally, “Hey, I understand you used to work with Fergus. Do you think we should interview/hire him?” and had an opportunity to say, “Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeell I don’t know that I’d endorse him based on having worked with him, but who knows what might have changed in the meantime …”

        1. HalloweenCat*

          That’s more or less how I found out I was a reference. We had no real recruitment process, one of our executive producers did the interviewing. He came up to me and goes “Rapunzel listed you as a reference. Is she any good?” (he was not subtle in general) and I was so caught off guard that my response wasn’t nearly as polite and diplomatic as yours

    4. Bend & Snap*

      Ask first. I had someone call me, give me like a 2-hour window for approval to name drop me which i missed or a would have said no, and then she did it and got hired. And then she got fired and I looked terrible for “endorsing her” because she wouldn’t have gotten in the door without my name. Even though I expressed reservations about hiring her.

      She made my work life a mess and I don’t speak to her anymore.

    5. Elle Kay*

      I agree. The implication here is “I talked to X & you (the hiring mgr) should go ask X about me”
      It basically implies that you & person X are familiar enough that *you’re* confident that should HR ask X about you that X will give you a positive recommendation.
      Since we all know that leveraging your network helps you get jobs, and assuming that employer liked X, you’re -at the very least- implying that X will support this application.
      AND, if X doens’t know that this is coming, and is blindsided by it it will end up counting against you instead of in support

    6. Government Mule*

      I had a colleague list me – more than once! – as a reference, for both external and internal jobs. They didn’t give me a courtesy call or email. I let it slide once, but only once.

  3. Engineer Girl*

    #3 – Small startups can be very chaotic. Things are always changing and you have to take control and wear many hats. Things change by the hour. It’s very very very different from working in a multinational corporation where things are defined and organized.

    “your skills would much better serve a business that has already reached some scale” means that the company has not arrived at that level of organization. They don’t think you’ll do well in chaos and a lack of definition. They may be very interested in you if they grow and become more organized in the future.

    But believe them. It’s a bad fit unless you’ve built something completely from scratch at some point in your career.

    This isn’t a rejection of you or your skill set. You don’t have the skill set they need at this time. It’s about fit.

    1. Willis*

      OP didn’t say whether the topic of salary had come up, but I could see that being part of it. If you came from Big Company where they know you were well-compensated for your skills, they may know this job is not comparable, possibly because its going to involve some lower level work and thus isnt going to come close on salary. Basically, they could think your work is great but that you fit in a higher level/higher pay role than what they have.

      1. Startup fan*

        It’s a bad fit unless you’ve built something completely from scratch at some point in your career.

        This is a hasty generalization. Plenty of people in Silicon Valley have gone from big companies to startups.

        1. snowglobe*

          It may be more accurate to say that other candidates have demonstrated that they have experience building something from scratch; but the LW is unproven in this area.

    2. Sneakys*

      I worked for a start up out of college. I will say that people who succeeded at the start up tended to be younger/less experienced. I suspect it was a combination of a) we had nothing to compare it to; b) we were willing to tolerate a lot of…questionable practices that a more experienced person would flag; c) we had no children/spouses and would tolerate crazy long hours and weekend work; d) we were willing to work for peanuts.At this stage in my career, I would never go back to a start up, but it was a good gig for a 23 year old.

      1. deets*

        Did we work at the same start-up? That basically describes my first job out of school, complete with my boss telling us that we were imagining any concerns we raised because it was our first job and we didn’t understand how the professional world works. (And really the company had been around long enough that it couldn’t be considered a start-up anymore, it had shifted into “small company that can’t get its shit together and grow,” which has made me actually enjoy the bureaucracy at my new job.)

      2. The Vulture*

        I will admit that my first thought was basically “we could tell that we wouldn’t be about to take advantage of you because have experience and you aren’t going to tolerate all the bullshit that comes along with this gig accompanied by less pay than your current position”

        1. NotTheSameAaron*

          I was thinking more along the lines of “We’re worried that with your experience and know-how, you are just going to come in and take things over. Thanks, but we like working for [founder] and we feel you would not be a good fit.”

        2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

          Yes, this certainly does happen at start-ups: targeting young inexperienced people who, basically, don’t know any better because they have no basis for comparison. Start-ups like that can actually have problems when they get to the point where they really need experienced employees, because the organization is so dysfunctional, it can’t attract experienced people.

      3. n*

        Yep, I worked at a start-up when I was 25. The hiring manager straight-up told me that they hired me over someone with more experience because I seemed more comfortable with ambiguity. The more experienced person wanted a more clearly defined role. Whereas, I was at the point in my life where I’d do anything because everything is new and interesting!

        And I really did have to learn how to do *everything*, from art production to accounting to technical support. It was a fun learning experience, but I think I *had* to be 25 to enjoy it. Now that I’m older, I don’t think I’d have the energy for something like that again.

    3. GermanGirl*

      My significant other recently made the move from a mid sized corporation to a small just grown out of startup company and while he expected and welcomed a lot of the differences, he did underestimate some of them.

      Mostly the different reasons for some projects not progressing:

      In the big corporation it was often either too much bureaucracy or political difficulties between managers that stood in the way.

      In the small company it’s that management is too hands off about planning so everybody just does what they think is important at the moment, which might not be the same project that the colleagues deem important.

      Yet both companies get a lot done and thrive, it just takes a different type of employee to make it happen.

      If they don’t think you are a good cultural fit, yet, then they may have gotten the impression that you can make things happen in a fairly structured company, where you know how to use the structure to get things done and when and how to manage around it, which is a great skill to have if there is structure to work with but useless if it’s more of a creative chaos at the moment.

      1. MassMatt*

        Great post. IMO there tends to be a bias against small companies in the comments. It’s definitely a case of trade offs.

      2. Independent George*

        Totally agree. I recently went from large, bureaucratic organization to startup. I suffer in bureaucracy. I can’t handle the legacy processes and procedures and red tape. I need a little room to flex and try new things. So startup is my jam. However, what you state is pretty spot on. Where bureaucracy creates bottlenecks, in startups it’s about producing on shoestring resources. People don’t usually thrive in both environments. You might be a person who loves structure or ambiguity, but you can’t really be both.

    4. Jen S. 2.0*


      OP 3: you can be qualified and wonderful and awesome and still not be the right fit. Them not offering you a job doesn’t mean you suck.

    5. Thrown into the fire new manager*

      Your skills are great and they liked you. Corporate can be predictable and managed. If you came across as conservative(not politically) or at all inflexible, they may have decided you wouldn’t fit well…because small start ups can be crazy. We hired someone from a large corporation because he had the skills we needed. However, because of his personality and his history of large corporations, I was hesitant he would fit in. He has the skills we need but fitting in and adjusting to how our business runs has been more of a challenge. You can see that he is used to more “water cooler” chatting when we are still in “emergency gotta get this done” mode. He seems to be adjusting but definitely doesn’t have the same energy as everyone else.

      1. BadWolf*

        And then it must depend on the big company and small company.

        When a friend of mine left our MegaCorp to a small company, I was baffled by his descriptions of the office. Everyone lining up when the coffee cart for a mid afternoon break to order lattes. Waiting for the in house chef to make your meal. Complaining about cutbacks in the snack cabinet.

        Meanwhile, we were snarfing lunch at desks while on conference calls.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I mentioned below that I worked at a tiny startup bank and the environment was pretty chaotic most of the time. We definitely did not have the perks your friend mentioned; however, we also weren’t on conference calls all day either. One person we hired from large bank said that at that bank, she spent probably 90% of her week in meetings. She’d go from one to the next with no break in between, scarf her lunch at her desk if she actually had the time, and then onto the next meeting or call. She was senior management, though not C-level. She said a lot depended on your level within the company and the culture coming from the top.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I agree with this. I was with a very small startup bank and we hired people from big banks several times. Most of these people had a very hard time adjusting to environment and eventually left. They were used to a more organized, structured environment where they had to people to do certain things for them and could be a bit more leisurely about getting things done. In a startup/tiny bank, you need to be someone who just dives right in where needed and can get things done without much direction (often no direction in my case). That’s not to say people can’t make the adjustment–we had a couple people work out well–but it can be rough after being in a large org for many years.

      3. Thrown into the fire new manager*

        Definitely depends on the company. we are trying to be people-friendly but there is definitely no money in the budget for a chef.

      4. OP #3*

        My corporate life was similar to Badwolf’s where it was continuous chaos with no time to eat. Always working day and night while absorbing the workload from my manager and teammates all in an effort to help my team stay afloat. And I was okay with it because I’m a millennial with no kids. I built my team from almost the ground up because it was a newer addition. I was the expert that created and refined processes and documentations. Salary was never discussed because they stated that they offered competitive wages which I was fine with (I know it can be different everywhere). But I was just more excited to get a chance to be a part of a little family and knowing that at least my efforts would be for the greater good (ie helping a company and its people grow). I know it sounds cheesy, but instead of making a rich company richer, I’d rather help the little ones. I was just so passionate about it, and that’s probably why I’m so bummed. & now I’m just seeking advice on how to improve to be a better candidate.

    6. Even Steven*

      Seconded! There is a lovely little book by author Shoya Zichy called Career Match that has a very simple quiz that helps you drill down to determine your strengths and most importantly, the work environment you need to thrive. After I did the test, gamely working in a chaotic startup and asking myself, “Why am I so miserable here?” I felt a strong ping of recognition when my “Blue/Gold Introvert” status (from Zichy’s book) suggested that I prefer structure and predictability and established policies and org chart – all of which come in large companies, and are rare in startups, at least for a very long time. Startups can be in start mode for years. This book (and the wonderful commentariat here and Alison) kicked off a life-changing career change for me. OP’s interviewers may not be right about his or her preferences, but maybe the book will give OP some framework for their assumptions.

      And to mention – I have no financial stake in the Zichy book’s success. I would also say I am a bit leery of quizzes generally (like the MBTI, although I will accept that one, since I share Mr. Spock’s alleged ISTJ-ness, LOL), but the Zichy book is more general, more about work than personality, and gave me lots of food for thought. Maybe look into it, OP? And don’t feel too stung by the interviewers – you will have other opportunities to shine!

    7. Rezia*

      Another interpretation has nothing to do with relative chaos or organization, but just that while your skill set is great — but they don’t need it immediately, because the company isn’t big enough to be at the stage of using your skills. E.g. your skill is herding large numbers of sheep across vast countrysides, but the company only has 10 sheep and doesn’t need to move them much at the moment.

    8. Gazebo Slayer*

      There are a *lot* of downsides to startups. A lot a lot. Often including “you can never take a sick day except maybe in real emergencies, or a vacation, because you’re literally the only person who can do your job” (some people I know, including my brother and one of my clients), “your boss is a 22-year-old techbro dbag with no idea what he’s doing who just got handed lots of venture capital,” or “your boss doesn’t bother with totally stuffy corporate things like labor laws or collecting money from deadbeat clients or actually paying people” (hello, bad job of my youth).

      1. Artemesia*

        Or the dbag bro is really ‘into’ wholeocracy — holocracy — and no one is in charge of the most vital functions like marketing product or recruiting clients because ‘everyone’ is responsible for that and everyone either doesn’t do it or does it differently and in an uncoordinated way — and yes this company failed in a rich environment for their services because someone forget to recruit clients.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Sure…because dudebro bosses don’t find themselves in large businesses. Whatever, this comment is nonsense and extremely slanted.

    9. M. Albertine*

      All this. My startup hired a sales guy who was used to the structure of a big corporation, and he chaffed at the lack of organization and policies and procedures. I mean, we got our first sale and were like “Sh&$! How do we fill this order?” And then had to develop the processes for taking payment and shipping product and all the communication that entails. By the end he had started throwing temper tantrums when things weren’t going the way he thought they should go and there was a mutual parting of ways. He also was not doing well selling the product, which contributed to his stress and ours, and we still haven’t recovered from the mismatch in fit. I wish we had had the foresight your interviewer had.

      1. Startup fan*

        …because once one person fails to adjust to a startup, which does happen, it means no one will?

        I struggle to think of any successful startup that had never hired from industry.

        1. M. Albertine*

          That’s not what I said at all. I said we experienced a mismatch based on his and our expectations that stemmed from his inability to adjust. If we had paid more attention to the cultural fit, we wouldn’t have gotten into that predicament.

    10. Turquoisecow*

      My husband works at a small but growing startup and they have absolutely concerned themselves with culture fit when hiring.

      This is the second start up my husband and some of the other founders have worked at. The first was sold to a large company and my husband went to work with them for a time. He had a couple of great employees there, and when a former colleague approached him with an idea for a new startup (the current company), he thought one of his employees at Big Company would be a great fit.

      He was not. The guy excelled at the large company, but was not a good culture fit at the small one. He didn’t take initiative, he didn’t jump in to see things that needed to be done, he waited for someone to tell him to do it, he didn’t move at as great a speed as the company needed, and he didn’t come back to proactively tell someone when he was blocked on a task, he waited until someone asked how it was going. All this was fine in a large company where he was working on a team and had a boss checking in with him constantly, but he did not work well without that oversight. They eventually let him go and he’s apparently quite happy working for another large company.

      Husband is in tech so maybe this is less an issue in other industries, but in his business you need to be willing to take initiative, think for yourself, and really work hard in a way I think a lot of larger companies don’t require, or don’t require as much of. If it’s a small company, you really stand out a lot more, for both good reasons and bad. For some people, this is great, and for others it’s a death knell basically.

      Also, the money thing, and a lot of big tech companies offer stock options and bonuses that small companies can’t. People might say they’re okay with a pay cut, but then six months down the road want a raise that the company can’t afford.

      1. OP #3*

        I definitely understand that, but the disconnect was that I emphasized and showed that I took initiative and worked day & night absorbing additional workload to keep my team afloat. To ease their minds, I provided a work portfolio and shared my most recent performance review (while blacking out confidential info) which stated all of those things and more. Salary was also never brought up because the company stated that they were offering competitive salaries. I crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s in these interviews, but I suppose something was just missing. I’ve said this previously in my other post, but I practically built my team from ground up and just wanted to contribute to the little guys as opposed to the rich billionaires. I’m looking to move to a smaller company but not sure what else I need to do to show my skills, work ethic, and passion.

    11. MissDisplaced*

      Yes indeed! I’m actually having that problem in the opposite way. I’m coming from smaller companies and I struggle to fit in with the rigid hierarchy and structure of a large multinational company where people literally do one small piece of the work.

  4. The joys of remote work*

    Can I piggyback on number 4 to ask a question I have been meaning to send in to Alison?

    I have a similar situation with my job, with the major plot twist that we live abroad for my wife’s job. When she was first send abroad, I assumed I would quit my job to follow; instead, it was so hard to fill my niche skill set that my company asked me (some might say begged) to stay on and work remotely. This set-up has suited both sides very well for ten years.

    A new grand-boss started about four months ago, and their assumption is that I will be physically in the office a lot more. To give you an idea of scale, while our remote working arrangement provides for three paid trips a year if necessary, we usually use one, maybe two. I’ve now been asked to do four in the past three months, necessitating 12 hour+ flights and a significant toll on my wife’s job— the whole reason we are living here in the first place.

    If push comes to shove and the new grand-boss wants me to relocate back to “home base”, the choice is likely pretty simple. We are here for my wife’s job and our kid is settled in school, I will need to quit.

    But what can I do at this stage, before we reach that point? Is there a way to have a conversation that basically says “I love this job, I am committed to this job, but I can’t be running back to North America every three weeks, it’s not realistic and it’s not what we agreed to”?

    1. Someone Else*

      I’d say you should use something very similar to the scripts Alison gave #4 but instead of saying “one of the reasons I accepted the job” say “one of the reasons I stayed on” or something to that effect, but it’s basically the same conversation. You’re only still in the job right now because of the previous travel arrangement, so you’re getting clarification on whether they really NEED it change now, and understand that if it does, that won’t work for you and you’re going to walk over it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, same basic script, just adapted for these circumstances. But I’m going to ask that we leave it here since it’s a bit off-topic (not so much that I’d remove it but enough that I don’t want it to detract from the letters) — thank you!

        1. The joys of remote work*

          My apologies. I thought it would be close enough but I’ll it for the Friday open thread instead!

    2. Kiwi*

      I’d be iffy about a manager who thinks 4 trips in 3 months is okay to ask. The jetlag must be killing you! Just something to think about – is the manager reasonable in every other way?

      1. CastIrony*

        Yeah, that’s a good question _the joys of remote work_ should consider. Just in case, they may want to update their resumé and at least see what related jobs are available for them in the country they are in now (e.g. teapot-making jobs even though their niche skills are in coffee maker-making)

        For the record, I don’t agree with Alison leaving it here entirely, though I understand and like how professional she was about it. I thought it was close enough to answer here (if we stuck to this comment thread).

    3. Startup fan*

      I will say that there are a lot of people who do travel internationally every three weeks or even more often. That is of course not to say it works for the advice poster, of course, but only that it it isn’t a priori unreasonable.

  5. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

    I’m a travel coordinator for a company with 14,000 employees. We have strict rules about requesting their own rooms because of the sheer quantity of requests we deal with on a daily basis. That said, I find the coordinator’s refusal to the OP ridiculous. Absolutely go above their head and to a manager. Allison brings up a very good point of this also possibly being an ADA issue.

    1. Private Rhiannon*

      I don’t understand how any company can enforce room sharing? It’s private time and habits you are having to forcibly expose to someone who is not on your private life. What the heck. People leave sexual encounters to shower at home because they don’t want to share intimacy with strangers – how can your employer mandate you show your pajamas and apnea machine to your coworkers?? Is everywhere a communist Russia now?

      1. Alexander*

        This also baffles me. I have never even considered room-sharing on a business trip to be even on the table at all – I’m traveling for the company, away from my wife, my kids, my home, and everything I usually do in my spare time – and still I can’t bill that time (out of the meeting/office) to the company as the time in the evening/the hotel is considered my private time. And my private time is MINE, and that includes the space where I’m staying. I snore, someone else might be using a respirator, and maybe you want to watch some good old porn in the evening – it is your spare time after all. I couldn’t even get even on the TV channel to watch with a colleague most likely…

        1. Quackeen*

          In Way Long Ago Job, at a non-profit (but a very well-funded one), we had a few people going on a trip to another state, and the Project Director tried to get them all to stay at his relatives’ house in that state. The pushback was immediate and successful—and done in such a way that he was able to accept some good-natured ribbing about it in subsequent years.

          I’m firmly in the I Room Alone camp. I, too, would pay extra for it if it came down to it. That moment when you can close the door on your coworkers and being “on” for the day is precious.

      2. Ginger ale for all*

        There are different norms for different fields. I work in a state university library and everyone shares a room if they have to travel. Even an assistant Dean had to share.

        1. Ginger ale for all*

          This is not to say special circumstances can change the arrangement but that it is the automatic default arrangement. I am certain you could get a private room, especially since you offered up some reasonable and sane ways to get it done.

          1. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

            Yes, this is how it works in my field for new hires. You can get your own room, but the default is to share.

      3. Need a Beach*

        Agreed. It may be the norm in some industries, but I won’t work in those industries. Total deal breaker. I and I alone choose who I trust enough to be unconscious in front of–period.

        1. Startup fan*

          Exactly, thank God for the private sector, where we don’t do this, and not working at a nonprofit or academia!

          1. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

            I work in the private sector and sharing rooms is the norm across all companies in our industry, for initial new hire training.

        2. an infinite number of monkeys*

          This is my objection too. Sleep is vulnerable and private, and sleeping with someone (albeit in the platonic sense) completely obliterates professional boundaries, in my opinion.

        1. Me*

          Then they can’t afford for anyone to travel. Sorry but if it’s that important that multiple employees go, then it’s that important to budget the funds for them to have private space. Otherwise send fewer employees or realize the travel isn’t a necessity.

      4. Gazebo Slayer*

        It’s bizarre that the company won’t let OP have her own room *even if she pays the difference*. Tight budgets don’t explain that. This is some higher-up’s idea of “bonding.”

        1. JustaTech*

          Or maybe “it will look bad” to either the other employees (“Why does OP get her own room?” “Oh god, OP won’t room with me, what’s wrong with me?” “OP is so stuck up!” etc etc) or possibly OP’s travel manager is worried that it will look bad to their funding organization?

          Wasn’t that a thing the last time we talked about business trip roommates, that at a conference for organizations with tight budgets there was a fear “everyone” would find out that OP from X had her own room and therefore X was wasting money/not committed to the cause?

          It’s still a very silly reason, but it might not just be a power play.

          1. OP #1*

            I should have specified that no coworkers are going on these trips with me. I’d have to find a complete stranger to room with, which I’d be uncomfortable with even without the digestive issues!

            1. Tau*

              Yeah, uh, this pushes your travel manager’s attitude from unreasonable to complete lunacy. She’s expecting you to room-share with a complete stranger on a business trip?!

            2. Sarah N*

              Wait………this is even more bizarre. Like, how would you even do this??? You’re supposed to identify some random non-business-connected person who happens to be in that area at the same time? How would one even go about that? Are they expecting you to find a hookup on a dating site??

              1. zora*

                Many large conferences offer a roommate matching system as part of rooming arrangements. So, it’s not totally random strangers, it’s other conference attendees. And it’s pretty transparent, and I haven’t heard of any actually dangerous stories from conference goers in my industry, just standard “annoying roommate” kind of stories.

                But still, there should be ways to get an exception from sharing a room, especially if you’re willing to pay half.

            3. CaliCali*

              Is there a way to get Alison back here or something because uh this takes it from “inconvenient, and an issue to perhaps push back on” to “setting up a scenario for a future L&O episode”

            4. Dr. Pepper*

              Wow ok this isn’t even done in my industry where you’re expected to share rooms and even rough it sometimes. Rooming with coworkers, yes. Rooming with strangers, no.

              1. Totally Minnie*

                My industry has an annual conference, and also several professional email listservs. Every year in the weeks and months leading up to the conference, you’ll find dozens of “seeking a roommate for the conference” emails on the lists. But even in the years when I attended and my organization was trying to be thrifty, I never took anybody up on it. It’s just too weird to sleep in a room with a stranger, even if it’s a stranger you “know” from the internet.

            5. LavaLamp*

              Does your travel coordinator KNOW your the only person going? This could be a miscommunication.

            6. doreen*

              I hope what you mean is that you are expected to room with another person employed by your company who is a stranger to you because they work in a different office – but I’m really afraid that you don’t mean that.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      Hunh. My old company has over 100,000 employees and they have no problem with special requests. They even found me a cat friendly hotel when I had to bring my guy along with me for a month long trip.
      And we always got our own rooms.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        And to look at it from the other direction, our company is quite small and our travel budget is tight, and we still don’t insist on roommates. Travelling together by train, or car (even when it’s inconvenient for one person to get to the pick up/drop off point), yes, absolutely, but sleeping is strictly separate.

        1. Lucy*


          At OldJob you were permitted to travel First Class on the train if you could find an advance ticket no more expensive than the walk-on Standard Class fare. I’m a canny traveller so I found a perfectly convenient advance ticket for less than half of the Standard walk-on fare (rail pricing in the UK is completely irrational) and believe me I needed the extra comfort when I was still travelling at 7 months pregnant!

      2. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

        How often are your employees traveling? In our company of 14,000, I’d say upwards of 10,000+ are in a company paid hotel on any given night.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I don’t have that number. But some employees traveled daily while others traveled to remote sites for months at a time. And I mean really remote, with intense logistics.

        2. OP #1*

          The people in my company are only expected to travel once or twice a year, and it has nowhere near 14,000 employees, so there are far fewer balls in the air. Especially since none of my coworkers are going on these trips with me, I really can’t understand why the travel coordinator is being so adamant. Having me find a stranger to room with seems much more complicated than only reimbursing me for 50% of the room cost.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Wait, what? When you say your coworkers aren’t going do you mean in your group? Or do you mean no one else in your company is going? If it is the latter than your travel coordinator is bonkers!
            Definitely escalate.

    3. Julia*

      I’d think a company that size and with a lot of travel would have enough travel coordinators to make things work or everyone? Plus I actually imagine booking individual rooms to be much easier and quicker than having to divide travelers into pairs, figure out who gets the one single room if there’s an odd number, or put the smokers together.

        1. Margaret*

          Depends on the field. I used to work for dramatically underfunded NGOs that got most of their budget from donations. Too big an accommodation line on the budget and our rating on a few of the watchdog websites would go down, because it’d look like employees were living large instead of prioritizing funds for service delivery.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            I get what you’re saying. I know the money has to be accounted for especially in a non profit… Figuring out where/how to cut so that people can have separate rooms doesn’t seem so bad to me.

            Ex: Stop sending me return address stickers? I use like one a year because no one uses snail mail anymore. Stop sending them to everyone and get a second hotel room. Use a less expensive, though safe, and still nice (no one wants to stay at the No Tell Motel) but more budget friendly…

            I didn’t say it would be easy, or an enviable task at all, but I think people do a better job when they don’t spend the day being preoccupied with whether their coworker heard the symphony of farts all night because of that burrito mistake they ordered last night instead of concentrating on their actual work. Oh god can they every look that coworker in the eyes again?

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Myself, I’d rather sleep at the No Tell Motel than share a room with anyone other than family or maybe good friends.

              1. Margaret*

                I would too. But during my work at NGOs I’ve shared rooms with people in no tell motels. You find a cheaper accommodation, your boss says ‘great job, thanks!’ and doubles you up in it.

                I frequently buy the other half of my room when it happens, but the thinking is ‘that’s sixty bucks that we can instead put into three more water filtration units for three rural villages resulting in clean drinking water for x number greater recipients and an 0.x% reduction in infant mortality in the area.’

            2. Observer*

              Your first suggestion actually illustrates the problem that NGO’s face. The things that get companies dinged both by actual watchdog type agencies (who should know better!) and the public (that often just has no clue) often really have nothing to do with actual good management.

              If you think that not sending you address labels is going to save an NGO any significant amount of money, you’re making a bit mistake. In fact, in most cases, you’ll be lucky if you recoup the cost of ONE night at a cheap hotel for a single person. Those labels are so popular because they are really cheap to make and send, but they feel personalized which is a big issue in fundraising. But so many people huff and puff about how WASTEFUL these organizations are. It’s not that they don’t expect these organizations to fund raise. They do. But they have no idea – and generally don’t want to know – what actually costs the organization money. Nor do they care – they want organizations to be SEEN as saving money.

              1. JustaTech*

                Thank you for telling us that. I do actually use the return address stickers I get (the cute ones) but I’ve always wondered how much they cost. Glad to know it’s not a big drain!

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  I rarely send snail mail from my home address (or at all really) but I use them also when the occasion arises.

              2. RUKiddingMe*

                I just threw out the address labels as the first thing that came to mind. I got a whole bunch more in the mail yesterday that got added to the already full shoebox full of labels. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The “personal” thing makes sense. People like to feel like they are individuals so I can see this actually being effective. I never actually thought about it that way before.

                I think some of the stuff the watch dog groups and public complain about the most are salaries, especially of the more senior people. They don’t understand that in order to get good, effective people any organization, any organization will need to make it attractive to both acquire and to retain the talent that brings in the cash…profit and non-profit alike.

                Of course it’s easy for me to sit here in my little glass office and say “get separate rooms” because I don’t have to deal with budgets like that. We operate our own businesses and make budgets, and company policies according to what *we* want/feel is best.

                Also, there isn’t a whole lot of travel. There is some, and it tends to be international, but I also try to make myself do international travel instead of burdening others with trying to figure out their family lives, worry about passports/visas/language issues, etc….unless they want to do travel (I have one person who loves it).

                In that/those case(s) *I* decide that no one shares a room and am willing to pay for it. It’s good to be queen. :) I know this is so not the same for most people figuring out travel and budgets. I do get it. I just wish I could extend all of my work/life balance (seriously…it’s sacrosanct), pay, benefits, travel, etc. policies to everyone working in the US. I/we purposefully set things up to treat people the way *we* wish employers had treated us.

              3. sick of stickers*

                My mother-in-law died three years ago. Despite requests by phone and mail, we still receive address stickers. About a year ago, I started sending the stickers back in the postage-paid envelope that is included for donations. Some of the apparently dumber organizations are still sending them … sigh.

          2. pleaset*

            My org has 4 stars (highest rating) with Guidestar. Single rooms are the default with us so far (though we may be doubling up due to a room shortage at an event in a few weeks).

            That rating service doesn’t look specifically at accommodations – what website does?

            1. Margaret*

              I don’t mean specifically the overall line item on hotel rooms, I mean the general dollar amount spent on employee travel and general expense management. We get constantly grilled on our ratio of operational expenses against service delivery and impact.

        2. Les G*

          Where does the money for this come from? In industries where sharing is the norm, it’s not for funsies.

          1. Dr. Pepper*

            Exactly. I hate sharing a room, but in my industry, it’s standard. Why? Because it costs too much to do otherwise. Our budgets are very tight and many luxuries (that some people consider standard) are done without. It sucks, but one doesn’t get into this field for the glory and riches, or even for the comfort, because there’s not much of it. It all depends on the field, and generally it’s very clear whether this is expected or not. If room sharing is NOT standard in your industry though, I’d kick up a huge fuss because, well, it sucks sharing a room.

            1. OP #1*

              In my industry, travel policies vary widely by company. At my previous workplace (which didn’t have an official travel coordinator) we would only be reimbursed for 50% of the hotel room if we chose not to have a roommate. I always thought that was reasonable and gladly ate the difference in cost. Since my company’s travel policy says nothing about requiring us to have roommates, hopefully they will let this issue go once I escalate a little.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                I really hope so! Please update us OP. I’m having a visceral creepy crawlies under my skin reaction to the thought of sharing a room with someone I work with. I’ve known most of my staff for at least 10 years, and other than Husband there is no one I would share a room with. Hell…sometimes I don’t even want to share a room with Husband…so yanno. :)

              2. Dr. Pepper*

                It sounds like your company, or perhaps just this travel coordinator, is being completely ridiculous. I saw the “rooming with a stranger” comment above. This is not even done in my field, where sharing everything, having little in the way of things like meal budgets, and proving you chose the cheapest option for everything is standard. For us, it’s money so if you’re willing to fork out the difference, you can have your own room. I’m hoping they back down too, because what you describe is lunacy.

            2. pleaset*

              We have an event coming up where we might be sharing for several days and I’m annoyed. The reason is not cost, but availability.

              That said, in my arguments against it I used the basic “penny-wise, pound foolish” argument – which is valid. Cutting corners consistently on things like single rooms undermines staff morale and can even reduce effectiveness if they are stressed from never being able to relax. If you want your staff to perform well, treat them right. This is basic.

              I don’t want to donate to organizations with staff that are not treated right – they’re unlikely to be high performing. I don’t want luxury either, but privacy at night on business trips? That’s pretty basic.

              “we would only be reimbursed for 50% of the hotel room if we chose not to have a roommate. I always thought that was reasonable and gladly ate the difference in cost. ”
              This is pretty reasonable, though in some cases might create some grumbling among lesser-paid staff if costs are high and travel is mandatory.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Depends on how tightly the company is squeezing the budget. My friends in the training department usually have to make their own arrangements for training sessions someone else sells. This has caused issues more than once, especially when traveling to rural areas. (I have vague memories of a trip where scheduler assumed their trainer would do a 3prong trip but there was no flight from TinyAirport #1 to TinyAirport #2.
        But I digress…

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          I got stuck in the airport on 9/11. I was in Paris though. I got a hotel and just waited it out in the city.

    4. Asenath*

      I used to travel for work once a year, and no one ever suggested sharing a room. I didn’t have to go through a travel coordinator – I booked my own travel – but our finance department had strict guidelines to follow, not including room sharing. And it was quite easy to tack on personal travel – I just provided documentation showing the cost of the business part, the cost of business + personal, and paid the difference myself. I think, since OP is not getting anywhere with the travel consultant, she should certainly go to the next person up the chain of command, and explaining her medical condition isn’t needed. It’s quite reasonable to ask for a single room, especially if you’re going to pay the difference between that and sharing (assuming sharing is the standard option for that business).

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        More companies should make it easier to do that instead of using all kinds of convoluted calculus.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      I work in a company with 22,000 where room sharing was originally required for certain types of travel (specifically week-long corporate training at the home office), but as a female, I never had to do it. These were situations where 10% of the training group would be female. They have moved away from those policies, though.

      We use travel software and most of us book our own travel, except for senior executives, but even via travel coordinator, is it really that much more complicated to book 1 room vs. 2 rooms? You still have to book separate plane tickets for people. How much of your travel is in pairs?

    6. Mike C.*

      That’s an incredibly gross policy. If you have “too many request” streamline your processes or add more people.

    7. pleaset*

      “We have strict rules about requesting their own rooms because of the sheer quantity of requests we deal with on a daily basis.”

      Sounds like your company needs more travel coordinators.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        It sounds to me more like they have a specific way to request to have a single room and can’t take requests through walk-up or email or phone call. Something along those lines. Its not that they can’t, its that so that everything can be tracked and doesn’t fall through the cracks there is a specific way to do things.

        1. Observer*

          Please. If that’s the issue then you update your policies. “The system can’t handle it” is one of the oldest excuses in the book. And, it’s almost never a valid excuse. If you are getting that many requests, don’t make a policy to deny them. Figure out a way to streamline the requests.

          And, by the way, it’s baloney to claim that somehow requests for a single room are more likely to “fall through that cracks” than requests for a shared room. That’s just sloppiness (and people’s prejudices) coming into play, if that happens.

          1. Startup fan*

            This “travel coordinator” BS is a great example of why startups can be great places. You handle your own travel arrangements without some travel agent to muck it up!

            1. Jules the First*

              That may be true, but there is also real pleasure in having a travel coordinator just drop by your desk with one pack containing your flight details, your hotel confirmations, your meeting locations, and some local currency and knowing that the car service will show up at the right place and the right time every time…and everything will also be in your online calendar without having to do the legwork.

              I am especially fond of our travel team when I’ve had a bunch of trips in quick succession (I did Hong Kong, Vancouver, San Francisco and Hong Kong in the space of five weeks this summer, each separated by a few days in my home base in the UK) or when something goes wrong (nothing like a mechanical diversion to Siberia to make you grateful not to have to rely on the airline’s tender mercies…).

              So yes, *this* travel coordinator is being a nuisance, but I will give up a heckuva lot of perks before I’ll let anyone mess with my travel coordinator!

            2. noahwynn*

              Yes! I love taking the “per diem” option my company allows and just booking my own hotel room. I can usually save some money, find a smaller or better hotel, or do something like Airbnb. Either way, I almost always come out ahead and enjoy my stay more.

    8. Colette*

      I feel like asking people to share probably increases the number of requests you have to deal with, but regardless, what you are doing is making your problem your customers’ problem. That’s never a good approach.

    9. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

      Like others have said, it very much depends on the industry. I’d rather not state the one I’m in, but please trust me that this is absolutely the norm during training. Once you’re through initial training, private rooms are standard.

      1. Startup fan*

        But if the industry is that unusual that identifying it would out you or what not, it is probably not a good example of how most private sector companies work. This “sharing a room” practice is mostly in non profits.

    10. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

      And trust me, guys, I understand the pushback here in the comments, I do. But this is normal for my industry.

    11. Observer*

      You mean that everyone has to do the exact same thing and you won’t accommodate someone who is willing to pay the costs? That’s ridiculous – and not excused by the size of the company. At that size you should have the systems in place to allow for different types of situations anyway.

      It’s also totally not believable that any decent travel department can’t accommodate single room accommodations. You may not give a hoot about your employees (which is really what policies like this are about), but if there is a significant amount of travel going on there ARE absolutely going to be times when someone NEEDS to be in a room by themselves for one reason or another.

      1. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

        That’s not what I said at all? I said the default is a shared room, but we DO accommodate private rooms upon request, thus why I side with the OP.

        We have no issue giving someone a private room. The default is shared, for new hires. After initial training, a private room is the default.

        Again, this is 100% the norm for this industry.

    12. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

      Really didn’t think this would create such a stir, but I can see where all of you are coming from. However, some of you are misreading this as “No one gets a private room EVER” and that’s absolutely not what I said. The default in my industry is a shared room for initial training, but if you request a private room, you will be accommodated.

      Can we take a step back and understand that not all industries have the same norm? And that there’s a difference between default and mandatory? Thank you.

      1. LessNosy*

        Hi there. Travel coordinator is one of the hats I wear sometimes too in my incredibly understaffed and underfunded department. Room sharing is our default for large conferences/whole company meetings as well but yes, we certainly accommodate people when needed. I wish I got a say in these processes and rules but I don’t. And, I can’t spend the little capital I have on it. It’s the way it is at my company until someone higher on the totem pole than me has a problem with it.

        1. Avid reader infrequent commenter*

          Sounds like you understand where I’m coming from, here. :) Nice to meet you!

    13. OP #1*

      I found the situation especially frustrating because none of my coworkers are going on these trips with me. I’d be uncomfortable rooming with a complete stranger even without IBS! I definitely plan to ask my immediate supervisor for some backup, and then escalate to the travel coordinator’s manager if needed. I had no idea this could qualify as an ADA issue, so I have a new plan of attack.

      1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

        OP#1: Do you have the option of booking your own hotel room and submitting an expense reimbursement? Do you have to go through the travel coordinator?

      2. mrs__peel*

        Having to share a room with a total stranger (who presumably hasn’t had even the most minimal background check by your employer) is a HUGE HELL NO from me!! Even without any medical issues coming into play. As a woman, I would absolutely refuse to do this just for safety reasons alone.

        If any of your co-workers have also been asked to room with a stranger before, it might be worth pushing back as a group. That is *completely* unreasonable for any employer to ask.

        1. mrs__peel*

          (Putting my lawyer hat on) This also seems like a terrible idea that could open up the employer to serious legal liability, if they forced an employee to room with a stranger and something bad happened subsequently.

    14. Suzy*

      Seems like in the era of #metoo we should be more thoughtful about putting people in dangerous situations. If co-workers *want* to share rooms it seems like the company could reward that cost-saving with some other benefit (e.g., we will give you extra money for food), but putting two co-workers together in the same room (regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, etc) is risky.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah, hotel room sharing at my age gets a huge hell no! Cars, taxis, Ubers and even meals might be fine to share, but honestly, no company I’ve ever worked for ever asked for shared hotel room accommodations, training or no. I get that budgets are tight, but if things are that tight that this is enforced rigidly I think I’d be looking for a different gig.

  6. Aaannnooonnnyyy*

    #4 – a new Director demanded I’d be in house 100% when I negotiated 1 day a week (I live 150 miles away) almost 2 years prior. HR was no help and the new Director kept canceling my attempts to meet with him. A new 6 month project was to start the next week. I ended up giving a few days notice, I quit before I could get fired. there was no way I could drive 1500 miles a week. I was able to get Unemployment based on the fact the work requirements changed.

  7. MarieMorgan*

    #4 I think it’s probably unrealistic to expect a special arrangement to last forever. I took over a team a few years ago which then merged with another. There were all sorts of long standing arrangements in place that caused a lot of ill feeling across the team as it was so inconsistent. Then other staff would ask if they could have the same arrangement and if not, why not. In many cases these arrangements had been agreed due to very specific issues at the time. Eg the need to retain a specific skill but now that skill is no longer in short supply, or to make a restructure a little less fraught by letting people stay based at current workplace but several years later all the team are based in one place except Jane who no one ever sees because 10 years ago her then manager said she didn’t have to relocate.

    1. Alexander*

      I had a colleague that had an early leave on Tuesday (1pm) and a late come (also 1pm) on Wednesday. For 19 Years.

      I understand your grumpyness about touching these long-standing arrangements, as it made these two days useless for the rest of the team as that was the most senior person in the department – and a lot of work could not happen without him being present or at least reachable (which he wasn’t during these absences).

      1. Joy*

        I’m incredibly curious what kind of 19 year standing engagement would require those very specific hours off! If there was no actual reason, why??? Why not one day off instead of two half days! Why not Friday afternoon and monday morning?

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            No way – kid would be in school Weds morning for some of those years.
            My bet is visiting someone institutionalized (eg, parents or sibling; maybe out of town; 2x/week visits, but weekend visit not visible to co-workers). Not something that the co-workers have any right to know.

        1. A tester, not a developer*

          I used to get medication by IV that a) took a long time to infuse, and b) left me feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. Mine was every 4 weeks, but I knew people that did it every other week. And I did that for over a decade.

    2. ssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      When I was working in software, we had a remote fellow who arranged to work remotely from Mexico. He had performance issues and was required to come back to Canada to work under closer supervision. I overheard his daily long distance conversations to his wife and daughter still in Mexico. Far from ideal.

      Are there changes going on in your firm that might be triggering the change in your arrangement? Or performance issues? Or is the boss a “butts in seats” kind of guy?

      When the same software company hit the skids, all of a sudden all previously made schedule arrangements were revoked. Everyone had to be in for 8 or 8:30 and everyone else who was doing six to 2:30 or 7 to 3, etc. due to distance, traffic, daycare, whatever, were told to suck it up. My old manager lost very valuable staff over it. (I still don’t understand why financial issues at the company meant everyone had to follow the same schedule though…)

      1. Frozen Ginger*

        Maybe it was so they only had to heat the building for 9-10 hours instead of 12? Thats really the only explanation I can think of.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        OP says “My work has always been excellent, and I have never had a problem with my work arrangements with previous managers”. It’s such a common problem with new managers that I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt that statement.

        I wonder if OP could increase in-house for a short period, ie, ‘I’ll be in x days/week for this month to help New Boss with transition, but then will need to go back to Original Schedule’

        1. boo bot*

          I’d be wary of that, though, because I can see that sliding into, “But you were able to do it for 3 weeks, that means there’s no reason you can’t do it forever!”

      3. Jasnah*

        That makes me so sad. I understand that performance issues can be fixed with closer supervision, but I would hate to separate a family into different countries like that.

    3. Sara*

      Agree 100%. We are trying to weed out all the little perks the owner has promised to people over the years. It’s a nightmare for our payroll person. These people get a stipend for gas because it spiked dramatically 10 years ago, these people get reimbursed for their phone, these people are on the company phone plan, this person received an extra day off for X reason, this person doesn’t have to pay for disability insurance…. It all makes sense and sounds easy at the time it is promised but it really becomes a nightmare to manage.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Maybe you can standardize – everyone gets $x for phone or everyone is on company phone plan, but no one gets gas stipend… If you can talk the Boss into improving conditions systematically instead of one-off, then you solve your Boss problem too.

      2. Anon for this one*

        Hmm, well, maybe people negotiated some of these perks in lieu of pay, for instance. That happens here — state university employee, we’ve had *years* where there were no pay raises, you get what you can. Even once the pay raises started back up, we’d lost the benefit of a larger base pay for those %age raises, so it was still appropriate I think to hang onto those perks. If we’d gotten the money rather than the perk, we’d still be getting the money.

        As to why someone would need to have an odd schedule for many years: my child had cancer treatment for 9 years (a couple of breaks of 5 or 6 months here and there) and his doctor was in clinic on Friday mornings. (Also, it gave my son the weekend to recuperate so he could go to school on Monday). So, I was out on Friday mornings. Various sorts of tests had to happen in advance of Friday’s treatment and clinic visit, and some years my husband’s job did not make it easy for him to get off for those medical visits. So some years I was also off on Tuesday afternoon (tests) and Wednesday morning (kid needs to sleep in, drive kid to school late). I made up work evenings and weekends, and I used FMLA. Which was not anyone’s business except mine, my boss’s, and HR’s.

        (and that is why I kept a job w crummy or nonexistent raises — decent health insurance, a series of bosses who had no problem giving me the “perk” of taking care of my sick child)

      3. rldk*

        I see that as part of the employer’s job, though – managing perks and benefits. As long as there was a good business reason to grant them in the first place that’s remained relevant, why take them away just for the sake of simplicity that might cause major satisfaction repercussions?

        And working remotely doesn’t even cause the payroll difficulty. If there’s a compelling business reason why the whole team needs to be present (or present more frequently), that should be a conversation, but no perks should be removed without a conversation just for simplicity’s sake.

    4. Person of Interest*

      I switched to full-time remote about a year and half ago when we moved out of state and my employer really wanted to keep me. However, I have always assumed this arrangement won’t last forever. We have an upcoming leadership change and no matter what current leadership says about wanting me to stay on, I can’t guarantee that the new person will agree. I think it’s smart to have that in the back of your head and be on the lookout for new opportunities, just in case.

      1. gonnaBeAnnon*

        I worked from home for about a decade, then the company was bought, and the new people in charge decided that telecommuting on a regular basis wasn’t OK with them. So I ended up having to find a new job.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      I think when that arraignment is a condition of accepting an offer vs something that was added later as a perk or to help resolve a temporary situation than it is realistic to expect that agreement to be honored. In this LW’s case, my understanding is that she would not have accepted the offer without that WFH condition.
      I like another posters comment in regards to offering up a couple weeks face time during the transition but making it very clear that the WFH was a condition of accepting the position and if the company wants OP to continue working for them that is the schedule she needs in order to do that. Ball is then in their court which should make collecting unemployment easier.

  8. Namey McNameface*

    #2: *Everyone* makes work mistakes, including serious ones.

    As a manager I would be impressed by you taking responsibility for your mistake and doing whatever you can reasonably do to make amends. So many people (in fact, most people) don’t do this and instead get defensive and blame other factors.

    Crying at work is far more common than you think. You’re definitely not the first nor last person to cry in front of your boss/grand boss. They have seen tears before. It’s understandable in the context of a serious mistake that could have resulted in losing your job. Trust me, managers have seen crying lots of times before and normal people won’t judge you for it.

    1. OP#2*

      Thanks for your input. My biggest concern is having my competency questioned. First I made the huge mistake, then I wasn’t listening when they spoke with me about it? If I’m not listening / paying attention / comprehending in these important situations, what else am I missing?

      Would you think that if someone came back to you in this situation?

      1. EPLawyer*

        I would think I needed to make sure all the actions that needed to be taken to make sure this mistake doesn’t happen again needs to be in writing. Not just your part of it, but any changes in processes to make it less likely to happen or to catch it sooner. To expect someone to remember every detail of how to avoid a major mistake in the future is not realistic. What if this particular set of circumstances that led to the error doesn’t crop up again for 6 months or more? Is ANYONE going to remember what to do? That’s why manuals were invented.

        1. RUKidding*

          Yes! I was going to say it needs to be in writing…just to maje sure *everyone* is clear on things.

      2. Once and Future Manager*

        I’m surprised that they haven’t followed up on that meeting via email to outline next steps. Clearly someone in emotional distress isn’t going to retain info, and from a manager perspective, it’s important to have it in the record. FWIW, if you were my report in this situation, I wouldn’t hold this request against you.

        /have cried in this situation myself and had a report cry as well… you’re not alone!

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Yeah, “in writing” really matters. I’d make sure you send a note to Boss saying, ‘Here’s the actions I got from the meeting; did I miss anything?’ If it’s been more than 2 days and you haven’t gotten a note like that from Boss, then she’ll be relieved that she doesn’t have to do it.

        2. Gloucesterina*

          I am all for email summaries, but I don’t think it is necessarily the case that a person who is visibly upset isn’t hearing information.

          OP2, I believe it speaks to your professionalism that your bosses kept talking, and the suggested scripts will only cement that reputation further. Thank you for sharing this question!

      3. Lily Rowan*

        I think the message to put across isn’t that you weren’t listening or paying attention, but that you want to be 100% sure you have everything you need to move forward in the right way. If you do that professionally, it reflects well on you — both that you care enough to be upset (I realize that’s a double-edged sword, but that’s how I would take it) and that you care enough to get it right moving forward.

        Good luck!

        1. OP#2*

          Good point about being 100% sure rather than pointing out the negative. Thank you for identifying this.

      4. President Porpoise*

        Well, let’s put it this way – if you miss something because you didn’t clarify, I will 100% question your competency. But if you ask for a reminder or clarification so that you don’t miss something, I would not judge you for that, not even in these circumstances. Better to avoid the risk of being seen as unreliable.

      5. Sloan Kittering*

        Without knowing the situation, I’m a little surprised they would have this Serious Talk for over an hour, after the employee started to cry. That seems a little heavy handed to me; what could they really gain here? Did they really need to cover something that so complex it took more than 15 or 20 minutes? OP already knew that the mistake was serious and that the employer was disappointed, it seems like overkill to me. Just adding perspective because it sounds like OP is really beating herself up for not being able to take an hour.

        1. OP#2*

          Hi there. The meeting may have FELT like several hours, but it really only lasted 15-20 minutes. The meeting progressed along appropriately, covering what happened, why it was a bad move, damage control already done, adjustments moving forward, along with some personal but professional feelings (appreciation for all the work I’ve done during my tenure, why this was disappointing, hope for moving forward). So the meeting didn’t drag out, and I shed tears for only the last 3-7 minutes.

          Thank you for your perspective. It really is my first time having this time of formal disciplinary action, and it seemed like *such a big deal* at that very moment. Even after a few days, my perspective is a little better, and I thank you for your kindness and your perspective.

    2. OP#2*

      Thank you all. I was provided a hard copy action plan for going forward, which I referred back to as I pondered on the meeting/conversation. There were specifics about going forward, but not about damage control.

      I was able to have the conversation with my boss first thing in the morning, where I stated my emotions were quite extreme and I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss a single step that I needed to handle. He said I didn’t miss anything (there was no other damage control besides what I had already done), and I seemed to have an understanding of what to do going forward.

      So, thank you all for your advice. I’m feeling much better, and looking forward to moving forward.

  9. Wintermute*

    #1– I like the script but I’d add that this really is a case of “magic words”. The moment you use the legal term “medical accommodation” you trigger legal obligations they have. If you haven’t used that word yet, that’s all you have to do. If they start to pry, I’d be a little firmer than the script suggests, say “Obviously, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that I don’t have to disclose that” and that should shut them down, if it doesn’t just stick to your guns, “You can’t legally require that information to meet an accommodation, so I’m not going to get into it”. If that doesn’t work it’s HR time not boss time, if your organization’s HR is reasonably competent they will solve the situation with impressive quickness and ensure you never have a hassle again. Remember that at that point “push back” becomes either “failing to meet legal obligations” or “legally prohibited ADA retaliation” and you should take firm steps.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To clarify, it’s not exactly right that they just have to back off at that point and can’t ask for any more information. (Otherwise anyone could just claim a vague medical condition every time they wanted to get out of something). The law allows the employer to ask for reasonable documentation about the employee’s disability, including info on how the condition affects your work, and including asking for a letter from your doctor documenting that you have a medical condition and that you need an accommodation. They’re also not required to give you the specific accommodation you ask for; they’re allowed to have an interactive process with you where they could ultimately settled on a different accommodation.

      It’s a little tricky with the hotel room thing, because this is more about personal comfort than the condition making it truly impossible to share a room, and so a doctor might not be willing to state you must have a private room.

      But a good employer, upon hearing that there’s a medical issue, is going to work with you and will try to be reasonably flexible in how they do that.

      1. Wintermute*

        That’s correct, I should have been a little more clear, if they start pressing for more details then you’re engaged in a formal negotiation over accommodations, they can ask for documentation but they can’t press you for details of your diagnosis. But if they go “we’re not going to do that unless you tell us why” that’s where I think my statements come in, it’s something unfortunately common in my experience when someone without ADA training is trying to use their own know-best to fumble their way through, since the need here is privacy I can’t imagine that they could offer much in the way of an alternative. That’s, of course, all part of the negotiation, it’s still needs-focused.

        I suppose my point in general I’d focus on the “what” not the “why” and the law absolutely supports that.

      2. Flash Bristow*

        Well, there’s the fact that they will need the bathroom to be available at a second’s notice, so anyone sharing couldn’t feel free to take a bath or spend more than a minute in there, Just In Case. If it gets to the point where OP has to disclose some details, maybe they could say they have a condition where they need access to a bathroom at all times, so they’ll need their own and couldn’t share it. This is a practical need rather than an embarrassment issue – and will probably result in their own room in order to achieve their own bathroom.

      3. Holly*

        Allison, could we make a note that the OP should look into the disability discrimination laws in their state as well? Because there’s a lot of discussion about the ADA here but in my state and municipality there are human rights laws that are *way* more expansive. I don’t want readers to get the incorrect assumption that the ADA is the only thing out there that covers this (although in many states it is).

      4. Kyrielle*

        It’s really not just about personal comfort, especially if it’s IBS-D. Needing to go to the bathroom right away when it flares is…really pretty critical, unless you want to be doing cleanup. It’s not optional. And during a flare, I could be in there 20-30 minutes without the ability to safely get up and “be done” for more than 30-60 seconds (sometimes, in fact, standing is exactly what it takes to trigger another bout).

        If the hotel room (as they usually do) has only one bathroom, that’s…embarrassing, but also problematic, as far as sharing it.

        1. Holly*

          Allison wasn’t being flippant about IBS – even what you’re describing does not make it *impossible* to share a hotel room due to the condition, just really really not ideal.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Well, actually, I think it does come close enough to requiring a reasonable accommodation. I’d forgotten about the urgency issue. You do need to have access to a bathroom.

            1. Holly*

              That’s true – like if you have a roommate taking a shower, you might need urgent access – you can’t kick a roommate out of the shower but you’d have a medical condition necessitating that.

          2. Delphine*

            Doesn’t it? If you need the bathroom available at all times in case of a flare-up and there was no predictable schedule, I’d think it would be impossible to share with a roommate.

            1. Holly*

              This is correct, I hadn’t thought about that aspect – it’s a good way to push back on the idea that it’s just “uncomfortable” or “embarrassing.”

            2. Kyrielle*

              This. (Mornings are the worst for me and many sufferers, so you might be able to partly work around it? By having your roommate leave the room as quickly as they can in the morning…which means you’d have to discuss why….)

              Also, diet can contribute to IBS – and maintaining a diet while traveling is tricky, depending on where you come out on the whole reintroduction of foods. (Low FODMAP helps a lot of people, but if you Google it, you can see how tricky it is. I’ve _done_ this while traveling, but I’m glad to have some foods back all the same.)

              And…so does stress/anxiety. So if you are *worried about sharing a room and bathroom* because of the IBS….

              …and if you actually have to kick your roommate out of the bathroom and/or be in there for an extended time, any stress you feel over that can also feed into the attack.

              tldr; The travel situation itself is likely to exacerbate the IBS and raise the odds of a flare, and having a roommate may well contribute directly.

    2. always in email jail*

      Yes, I’ve had to seek ADA-related accommodation before for Crohn’s (so, similar concerns to IBS), and I did have to disclose why it was covered by the ADA (it “interferes with toileting” which is a daily function), and the letter I had to provide was from my Gastrointerologist, so while I didn’t have to disclose the specific diagnosis, it’s pretty clear. I worked in a building where the bathrooms frequently went out of order and they told us to just drive 2 miles up the street (Which isn’t even allowed under OSHA but ok), and also there were no private bathrooms, so I got an accommodation to telework when I was having a flare so I could have ready access to a private bathroom. I had the impression from my doctor that a private restroom is not an uncommon accommodation for certain GI conditions.
      I also have to take half a day off every 5 weeks to go get IV medication for my condition, and was able to negotiate the ability to flex some time (which shouldn’t have been an issue because I was salaried exempt, but hey, government) and HR felt much better about allowing me to do that since it was an ADA-covered condition.

      1. always in email jail*

        also, fwiw, while not required, I found it easier to just disclose what it was to my supervisor. Granted, my supervisor was a doctor, so I felt if I disclosed they would have my back to HR (who I did NOT disclose the actual diagnosis to). Since my boss was a doctor I trusted them to be discreet

  10. RUKiddingMe*

    #1 has me almost (almost) as livid ad yesterday’s letter about interns buying breakfast for the entire office. I mean…seriously?

    I’m a grown up and this isn’t summer camp! I really think there’s a “point of no return” where this kind of room sharing thing is just untenable. It may be different for individuals, but for the most part I’m gonna say that by 25-ish it shouldn’t even be a suggestion, much less a requirement anymore.

    OP if it’s not required, which as you may have surmised I don’t think it should be, do what Alison says and escalate it. This is outrageous that she won’t let you book without naming a roommate.

    I find it particularly egregious since you’re offering to cover at least some of the cost. Something by the way I don’t think you should have to do. If they can’t afford separate rooms they shouldn’t be sending people anywhere IMO. <—Others' opinions on this may vary.

    1. RoomSharing*

      It’s curious you have this view, because I have the complete opposite. I worked in Formula 1 for several years which requires thousands of people to descend on a town for a week. If people didn’t share a hotel room, there’d be no hotel rooms left! It’s really given me the view that anyone who wants their own room is just being a diva. Obviously since leaving that job and moving to one with less travel but more ‘divas’, I’ve learned to keep my opinions quiet!

      1. Sara*

        Agree. I think that opinion comes from someone who has never had to actually worry about profits. Sometimes good companies struggle – especially small businesses. Hotel rooms are expensive. If the company can afford separate rooms, great. If they can’t, I don’t think its because they shouldn’t be in business – and travel is a requirement for most businesses.

        1. Mike C.*

          Come on, this is Formula 1. The businesses pure talking about aren’t attracting tens to hundreds of thousands of people to a specific area for a specific week at a given time.

      2. LaDeeDa*

        I am in agreement with RUKiddingMe. I want to keep my private life and my work life separate, I want to be able to Facetime with my husband, I want to take my makeup and bra off and put my pajamas on, and I also want my downtime. I don’t want to be forced to chit chat, or agree to something on the tv. I don’t want to hear a coworker snoring, and I certainly don’t want to share a bathroom. I go to bed really early and wake up really early, and I don’t want to have to be bothered to worry about someone else’s sleep schedule. I am not a diva by any means, but these people aren’t my friends or family- sharing a room with someone is a level of comfort I don’t want to have with a coworker.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          My employer gives us a travel budget for professional development. It barely covers half of a professional conference so a lot of us share rooms because $1k-1,200 is a lot of money not to be reimbursed for.

          But now that I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I can pay for this without suffering too much, albeit grudgingly, I don’t want a roommate anymore. You spend most of a work trip being “on.” Even when people are out to dinner, you’ve got to remember that these are colleagues and that what happens on a work trip can haunt you for years. So I pay extra to have my own room. I want to turn on the TV and not have to wait for a bathroom. I want to chill and not have to worry about who snores or who wakes up early or any of it. This is my time not to be “on” and at work and it’s worth it to me to pay for it.

          And OP has a medical condition! She should not have to deal with a roommate.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Right? Sharing a room with a coworker sounds like a full-time job of its own that I have to put a lot of effort into. And then I’m expected to wake up in the morning, go to work, and be productive.

          I don’t think my own adult children and I would be comfortable sharing a room at this point. Much less a random coworker.

          That said, it is ingrained in some industries so they are used to thinking of it as norm. I had an academic SO for a couple of years, and for them, sharing a room was a given, and on several occasions he told me of, they had to share beds too. I vaguely recall him casually mentioning sharing a room or bed with a student (?!?!) He was in his 50s and in a department chair role. He did not see it as that big of a deal.

          1. AMT*

            That introduces an entirely new level of weird. A student isn’t necessary going to be comfortable saying, “No, I don’t want to share a BED (!!!) with a faculty member.” It’s a situation with an unacceptable power differential, and a creepy faculty member could potentially abuse that power.

            Honestly, I don’t know why sharing rooms is acceptable in ANY field: nonprofit, academic, small business, whatever. At its absolute best, it’s not comfortable. At its worst — well, the number of AAM letters about the things that can happen in this situation (remember the screaming night terrors? the snoring? the respirator? the shared bed with a supervisor?) says enough about the practice. It’s a basic business expense. If you can’t afford to give everyone their own room, then you can’t afford business travel — the same thing we might say about other unreasonable practices like making employees fly out at 3 am to save money, for example, or making them stay a two-hour drive from a conference.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              and a creepy faculty member could potentially abuse that power

              They totally could. The only time I had to share a room with a coworker on a business trip, it was with an overly friendly boss I had. He said the company owner had said to share, period, end of discussion. It was a motel room too. To this day, almost 20 years later, I wonder if the owner had really told a male supervisor to share a room with a female subordinate, or the supervisor had made it up.

              1. RUKidding*

                OMG! I would have flat refused!!!

                But then I would likely have bern fired and had to get a lawyer…

                That was sooooo wtong. Aaand FWIW…I bet he made it up.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            A professor sharing a *bed* with a student? I really, really wonder if the university has rethought THAT particular requirement in light of #metoo…

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              My boyfriend has had to do this with his PI. At least IME in academia, what someone said about a university really being hundreds of tiny business is true (at least until someone complains). There’s no routine oversight of any kind for academic travel in my university, so ridiculous cost-cutting measures run wild. His lab does separate rooms by gender, but they did 5 men (including the professor) to a hotel room and then his female labmate got a room to herself. My lab was going to have 4 of us (2 of each gender) sharing a room, but luckily when we needed to be there didn’t overlap so we only needed to share with one other person of the same gender. Lucky timing!

              1. RUKidding*

                I would have such an issue being required to share a room…well period, but especially with a male.

                It would not happen, job or no job. It wouldnt have happened even …omg 39(!!!) years ago when I hit the job market as a young undergrad.

                I probably would have capitulated on a female roommate because … young kid just out of HS and feeling like I *had* to. But a male? All the nopes even in 1980.

                1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  I wasn’t thrilled and was relieved when it worked out that we didn’t have to, but oh man the (male) undergrad- the blood returning to his face was visible when I told him as it turned out he would only need to share with the other dude going.

          3. Roja*

            Ohhhhh man that’s legal trouble waiting to happen. Sharing rooms is bad enough, let alone sharing beds. And it REALLY should go without saying that a student should never, ever, ever be sharing a bed with a faculty member.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Hahahahahahahahaha…. Oh academia. My boyfriend has had to do this with his (male) PI. Of course he wasn’t comfortable with it, but rocking the boat is difficult (who do you complain to? We vaguely know HR exists, but haven’t ever been told how to contact them if needed) and even if you don’t get officially retaliated against, your PI has SO much power over you. Even if they’re otherwise reasonable, how would that not make them think less of you, that you wouldn’t go along with saving travel money? And given that all funding is out of the same bucket,that’s taxpayer dollars that would otherwise go to research.

          4. mrs__peel*

            “I vaguely recall him casually mentioning sharing a room or bed with a student (?!?!)”

            Wow, there is absolutely NO WAY that should ever be considered acceptable. There is so much sexual harassment and abuse in academia, and a great deal of it happens during field work and conferences.

      3. pleaset*

        “It’s really given me the view that anyone who wants their own room is just being a diva. ”


        1. Catleesi*

          Yeah…people can want their own rooms for all kinds of reasons. It doesn’t make them a diva. It’s great some people are willing to share – it probably makes things easier for them. I think it’s the minority though – and even a lot of people who are willing to share would prefer not to.

          I’m on the “pay more for my own room” boat, and I can’t even afford it.

          1. RUKidding*

            Yup. I’m kind of insulted being called a diva and the presumption that I’ve never had to worry about profits/budget TBH.

            I was not to the manor born and have had to work … sometimes *very, very, very* hard to accomplish stuff. That includes my ph.D, (and lower degrees) as well as my businesses. ‍

            I get it. Of course I don’t send thousands of people anywhere one weekend a year. I mean it’s not like we’re going to Sturgis (not our customer base), but if we did I think I’d know far enough in advance (like a year) that I could arrange private accommodations.

            /rant Sorry

          2. A Girl Has No Name*

            Yeah it’s funny to me this diva idea. Our company has (had?) a policy that for certain level roles you have to share a room with a colleague (I find this absolutely appalling). We once put on a conference with another company who required single rooms, so we defaulted to their policy. Despite the fact that the conference was a wild success by all measures and accounts, by far the most consistently positive feedback, which overshadowed all other feedback we received, came from our colleagues who typically have to share a room and got a single for this conference. These were not divas by any stretch, but they were so appreciative of that one change that I think the conference could have been an absolute disaster and they still would have given us rave reviews.

            It really makes a difference in the quality of your experience, I really don’t think it’s a matter of being precious or being a diva…

        2. MissDisplaced*

          I’m such a diva because I want my own room where I can fart with impunity, snore, and be in the bathroom with IBS 4-5 times a night! HAHaHaHa!!!!!!!

          I can’t believe some industries ask this if employees. I’ve never even considered sharing was expected some places until I read AAM.

      4. WellRed*

        Wanting to sleep, wanting privacy at the end of the day, wanting not to see my coworkers in Pj’s is not being a diva.

      5. pleaset*

        Forumla 1 is a travelling show – going around the world is part of the attraction, right?

        With most jobs travel is not a good thing – it’s not part of why people sign up.

      6. Iris Eyes*

        I think its good that you realize where your attitude comes from and certainly everyone here understands that there might be instances where you do have to share sleeping space because there isn’t another good option. But just because 100 people can sleep on cots in a gym during a disaster doesn’t mean that should be the standard. Some people really don’t mind sharing but a lot of people do.

      7. Ceiswyn*

        Is it being a ‘diva’ to want to be able to rest and be refreshed in my down time, without having to constantly consider another person’s sensibilities and desires and how to maintain a professional relationship when every moment of being ‘on’ for another person is exhausting me?

        Then I am a diva. OK. I’m still not sharing a room.

        1. RUKidding*

          Right? I am the poster girl for “misanthrope” and “introvert.”

          I can do “on” and come off as completely sincere. People *love* me. When I’m done though, I am done.

          I *need* the down time, alone and I need to *not* have to talk to anyone orher than room service/pizza delivery for XYZ hours.

      8. Asenath*

        That would be one of the many, many reasons I’ve never worked in Formula 1!! Seriously, at this stage in my life, I am not willing to share accommodations, much less a bed, with a co-worker while on business travel. Or sleep on the floor or a cot or sofa… And I’d pay the excess cost out of my own pocket if I thought the trip was necessary, and my employer could only afford to pay for shared accommodations. When I was in or just out of school, sure, I traveled cheaply and slept in some pretty awful places, shared and not. And in my current workplace, some people share – voluntarily; there’s a certain stipend allowed, costs can get higher and they chose to pay out of their own pocket, share, or not go. But those are all people in the junior/just out of school/trainees category. I’ve got a lot less resilience and tolerance for a lack of privacy than they do, or than I did, back in the day.

        1. RUKidding*

          I too am unwilling to do a cot, pull out, or floor, etc. under any circumstances short of a natural disaster (e.g. evacuation center) or something like war.

          I don’t have to because I can choose the accommodations, but even if I worked for someone else, this is a ***hill to die on for me. Also…I’m too freaking old (56 next month) for that shit.

          *** I know not everyone can push back like they might want to. I do recognize my privilege here.

      9. Rusty Shackelford*

        I was a ballerina for a while, and it’s given me the view that anyone who doesn’t want their feet to bleed on a regular basis is just being a diva.

        I mean, really. There are jobs that have extreme requirements. That doesn’t mean those requirements should apply to every job.

      10. Frustrated 1*

        Uh, no. We aren’t children, teens, or college students. Heck, I didn’t like sharing a room with my sister when we were children! I need my privacy. I’ll be a diva then, but wanting adult treatment is hardly being a diva. Maybe you are more extroverted, have no private medical needs, or whatever, but it is harsh to judge those who aren’t like you. Employers should get less expensive accommodations or allow employees to pay the difference. Single accommodations should be the default for adults.

        1. RUKidding*

          Exactly. Only for a very short time as a child dud I have to share a room with my sister.

          My parents were divorcing and we ended up in a two bedroom apartment for about a year. My mom bought a four bedroom house and I never looked back.

          I barely tolerate Husband in *my* room. He’s cute though so I let him hang out with me…most of the time. :)

          Coworkers? Nope. I would never ask my staff to share. As you said, we are adults. We not three year olds.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I shared a room with my parents for the first 17 years of my life. I moved out at 17 (admittedly, to share a room with three randomly assigned roommates at the dorm) and never moved back.

            Last time I shared a room with someone that I was not in a romantic relationship with was when I was 24 years old, at a conference. (Oh, and I guess the creepy boss from my comment above also counts, but I tried hard to block that from my memory.) Last time I shared a bed with anyone I was not in a relationship with, I was 21 and the woman was my best friend. She had restless legs. I never tried it again.

            My two sons had a pretty strained relationship, until when they were 5 and 8, we bought a house, and they each got their own room. The relationship improved overnight and they are still best friends 18 years later. I guess we are just not a sharing family.

      11. RUKidding*

        Wanting to not share my private, off work, intimate life with coworkers is being a diva? Ok then.

      12. Former Employee*

        Most people don’t like to have their co-workers see them without their clothes on.

        If that’s being a diva, hell, yes!

      13. sstabeler*

        I think what makes it something of a moot point though is that OP#1 wasn’t ALLOWED not to have a roommate, no matter the circumstances. It’s one thing to say “we aren’t paying for you to have a private room”, it’s quite another to say that the employee MUST have a roommate, even if the employee pays for the room. (which also means the F1 example’s irrelevant, since there it’s more a case of “there ARE no private rooms”)

    2. Rachel in Non Profits*

      I work for a church and I am in my late 30s. I was asked to go to a weeklong conference last year and I offered to room share with someone (a stranger) from another church to save costs.

      My pastor, who is thoughtful and great, said “are you sure? We can afford a single room.” But I wanted to save the church money, so I did. It was terrible. My roommate was kind and lovely, but it was just annoying and uncomfortable to share. Sleep schedules were different, bathroom sharing, and just in general being with someone 24/7 made the trip much less pleasant.

      I will not willing sign up to share rooms again if feasible.

    3. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      I agree with RUKiddingMe, but I wouldn’t assign an age cut-off to it. No employer should *require* an employee to share a hotel room with another employee. I think it’s completely inappropriate. If employees want to voluntarily do this, that’s fine. But it should never be positioned as a requirement. If my employer tried this, I would simply refuse… perhaps laugh, then refuse. My employer does not get to dictate that I sleep in a room with a stranger. Nuh-uh. Big cuppa NOPE.

      1. RUKidding*

        To clarify I wasnt setting any kind of age thing.

        *Just noticing that before/after certain ages it seens more/less like an ok thing for certain people.

        I never liked to share a room even as a child with my own sister, but there are people, and it seems to be mostly those under about 25 that are more ok with doubling up…like it’s IDK… normal (maybe?) to them.

        Does that make sense?

        * I have zero evidence for this. Just a completely non-scientific observation.

  11. RUKiddingMe*

    OP #3: Something I used to hear all the time was “you are way/too/so/etc. overqualified that if we hired you, you’d be gone in a year…” Or words to that effect anyway. Reading between the lines of the email this may be something they are thinking. Try to not take it personally. If they are a small start up and you really are someone with a ton of experience and skills they might be afraid they can’t absorb hiring you and then losing you in short order for any of the reasons Alison mentioned…or other Stuff.

    1. Startup fan*

      It’s more likely that they do not have enough shares left in the option pool to properly compensate the employee.

    2. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

      It can sometimes feel paternalistic for a company to tell you “we don’t think you’ll like it here because…” especially when you don’t think those things are going to be an issue for you. But sometimes, especially when it’s a hiring manager with some experience, they are going on probabilities drawn from their own experience, rather than literally projecting their concerns on you personally.

      As an example: one of my colleagues had a candidate whose commute would have been crazy long (between 90 minutes and 2 hours). She was hesitant about hiring him, but he said he was prepared for it, that he and his wife had discussed it and would try to move closer, etc. She decided to take the chance. Guess what? He was gone in about 8 months. Turns out the commute got to him pretty quickly, and moving wasn’t as easy as he anticipated it would be, with his kids in school and all.

      The next time my colleague gets a candidate with a potential extreme commute, she’s going to think much more carefully about extending the offer, no matter how many times the candidate says “but I’m okay with it.” And the candidate will probably be annoyed to be rejected for a reason that she says is not a concern for her. But it’s rational for my colleague, having had the experience herself and heard similar stories from other managers around the company, not to want to take the chance.

      1. Plain Jane*

        This is the example that came to my mind as well, that they had hired someone from a big company and didn’t work out so they’re gun-shy now.

      2. Mickey Q*

        I hired the extreme commute guy. He was always coming up with excuses not to come in or be late or leave early. Plus he was sharing a car with his wife and they tried to make me feel bad that she had to drive him all the way up here. He was gone in 3 months. Never again.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Ah the extreme commute issues.

        Along with relocation issues.

        These people biting off more than they can chew and tainting my chances of being taken seriously, argh.

        I’ve learned long ago that of course people are going to tell me they can handle it. This is why I also stopped oversharing as to the reason you didn’t get the job. I’m tired of the catch 22.

  12. RUKiddingMe*

    OP#5: That would annoy me to be honest. I’d see it as “name dropping” in order to get an *in* or some such. I’d be unlikely to look favorably, much less more favorably on someone that did that in their cover letter. Like Alison said, what do you hope to gain by doing this?

    1. Aisling*

      When this happens in my company, we always ask the person whose name was mentioned. The person becomes a reference for the applicant, and we ask things like: how do you know this person? what impressions do you have of them? etc., etc. Usually it happens because the applicant knows the person well. If the person doesn’t know the applicant well, it never reflects well on the applicant. You don’t want the answer to the question about how they know you to be “Uh, I have no idea who that person is.”

  13. LGC*

    So like, for LW2…is it just me, or does it feel like crying at work is usually a bigger deal for the person who cries rather than the people around the crying? (Not to dismiss LW2 at all! I’ve cried, and I’ve been mortified by it.)

    Part of the reason I’m asking is because I’ve seen a lot of posts (on the Friday threads and such) that have basically said that the poster’s cried because they were in X high-stress situation and now they’re worried their career is ruined forever. And…you know, I don’t feel like that’s the case in a lot of jobs. (There are some where it could be very problematic, but I’d think in most office settings, not so much.) Obviously, if you cry EVERY time you’re brought in, that’s an issue, but it sounds like a one-off.

    (And yeah, gender plays a LARGE role in this. Women get dismissed as emotional too often, and crying doesn’t help with that.)

    Basically, LW2, I’m glad you’re doing okay, and at least this internet stranger isn’t judging you for getting a little emotional.

    1. OP#2*

      Actually I agree with you. I was embarrassed about crying, mostly because I don’t like crying. Anywhere. But the part I’m concerned about was that this was in my profession, and it caused me to be less professional. Not the crying itself, but the fact that I missed an important part of an important conversation. I already messed up, and now I have to bring attention to the fact that I wasn’t paying enough attention to the important conversation surrounding that.

      1. LGC*

        From my perspective (I’ve had criers, I’ve been the crier), it’s not ideal that you missed some information. But circling back, IMO, makes you look like you’re really focused on accuracy, and that’s a huge plus regardless. (Some people may differ. I think those people are wrong.) I don’t know how your bosses think about things, but hopefully they’ll see if the same way.

        And – like – to be honest, I feel like they should have paused the meeting when you started crying EXACTLY because of this. It might be more embarrassing in the moment, but on the flip side…it would have given you a chance to calm down and (more important) get yourself ready to listen.

        1. OP#2*

          Thanks for your perspective on the “focused on accuracy” part. That is a good point.

          As for the crying, this was silent tears running down my face, not the sobbing so loud no one can talk over me cry. Because of this (the silent cry), I was grateful they didn’t pause and bring more attention to it. That would have made it worse for me, and the crying would have gotten a lot worse, which would have led to having to pause the meeting and then GO BACK to the meeting later.

      2. Quackeen*

        I am a Crier. I’m advanced enough in my career that I can *usually* hold it until I’m behind my office door (or in the bathroom, when I’m in a job where I have a cubicle), but not always. I understand feeling mortified both about the original tears and about the feeling later of, “Oh, crap. I didn’t catch everything.”

        I think there are ways of addressing this without flat-out saying, “I was not listening because I was crying”, which seems to be what you fear the message will be. To say, “I want to make absolutely sure that I got everything correct from the meeting the other day. I heard X, Y and Z” gets you to the same end point without highlighting why you need to revisit the conversation.

        1. Birch*

          Yeah I agree with this. Alison’s first script is so good! I actually think this makes you look better because even though you were emotional in the moment discussing the problem, if you come back with the action plan summary, it shows you can still effectively approach the problem to make sure it doesn’t happen again, as opposed to being mortified about it and trying to avoid the whole situation (which would be a totally understandable reaction!). It shows you’ve learned from the experience and are taking steps to do better.

        2. OP#2*

          Thank you!

          I was able to have this conversation first thing in the morning, where I stated my emotions got quite extreme in *that* meeting and I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss a single step I needed to handle. He said I didn’t miss anything (there was no other damage control besides what I had already done), and I seemed to have an understanding of what to do going forward.

          So, thank you all for your advice. The script was really helpful in highlighting the part I wanted without bringing up the part I didn’t want to.

      3. Tigger*

        I completely understand you. I work in a male-dominated field and was cheated out of a project because of a slimly male coworker. When I was in a meeting with slimly male coworker, his boss and my boss about what happened, I was so frustrated that the bosses were siding with slimy even though I had a paper trail, that I started tearing up in the meeting (not sobbing but face red and wet eyes type of thing). It is embarrassing and it sucks to be belittled that “oh no the women in the room is crying”.

        If I were in your shoes I would say something like “I want to be 100% sure we are on the same page so the mistake does happen again- we need to do X,Y, and Z after we verify the info for A correct?”

        Keep your chin up. No reasonable person will hold this against you.

        1. OP#2*

          That’s terrible! I hope you achieve great things in your career, even – or especially- with Slimy Coworker around.

          And thank you for helping me not feel so alone.

      4. MLB*

        I get it, but I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily unprofessional. We’re human and it comes with emotions – your job can’t expect you to be a robot. I cry when I’m really mad, then cry more because I’m mad that I’m crying, but it has never been held against me. I’m pretty sure it’s a far bigger deal to you than to your boss. I think the script from Alison is on point. Good luck.

          1. RUKidding*

            Some people (ahem) are criers. I always felt bad about being a crier until I read something s few years ago that said we are basically wired that way. I couldn’t begin to remember where I read it though.

            Even without reading that though I’d long since given up on trying to fight it. I may not even be particularly upset…stress will do it, every single time.

            Even if you aren’t a “crier,” you are human, not a robot. It was stressful, you were worried about your job, your professional rep. etc.

      5. Rebecca1*

        I think the crying is making this seem higher-stakes to you, but honestly, who remembers 100% of any meeting, no matter how calm? It’s completely normal and expected to follow up by email to confirm action items.

    2. LQ*

      I think part of it is if the situation is stressful enough that it makes you cry it’s likely that there is a LOT going on in the situation that makes the entire situation feel stressful. (Hence feeling like your entire career is ruined.) I do think that you’re right that it’s a bigger deal for the crier but part of that is numbers of a kind. Boss’s usually have more than one employee and have likely seen it happen before. But if you have to be really stressed to cry at work, you likely don’t do it that often and so it feels really dramatic to you, plus the whole you are currently in a situation that is of the crying kind.

      Yeah I think you’re right on about it.

      (I cried Friday at work, it was long after everyone else had gone home so no one saw me but it was a hell of a day and I was just pushed too far. Emotional for me. But yeah emotions like that at work don’t get amplified farther from the source, they quiet as waves pretty quickly I think.)

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, the last time I cried at work, I went to apologize to my (also female) boss afterward, and she was like, Don’t worry about it. I appreciate that you take this seriously.

        For me, it’s usually the end of a crappy cycle, where I’m generally depressed (just chemical, unrelated to work), so do a crappy job on something and then feel bad about it, so when my boss tells me to do better next time, I just lose it, because I KNOW I should be doing better, but am not in a mental place right then to do it.

      2. OP#2*

        Yes, I definitely felt it was dramatic. I’m simply not a crier, so crying was over the top for my norm.

        I hope your Monday was a lot better than your Friday.

      3. LGC*

        You’re exactly right! Part of the reason I don’t really think it’s a big deal if people cry is…well, I’ve seen it a LOT before. I’ve made my share of employees cry (although I don’t set out to). And honestly, I’d hope most managers/supervisors with at least some experience would feel the same. (Too many don’t, but a guy can dream.)

        I think a lot of people feel like they’re the only one to ever cry in front of their boss, and…that is often VERY far from the truth. And even if you are the first, you almost certainly won’t be the last.

    3. Iris Eyes*

      If only it was as embarrassing to raise your voice, or cuss, or otherwise physically manifest stress.

  14. Asenath*

    I think how the others respond to the crying is important, and probably behind the many posts from people who are afraid that they’ve ruined their career by crying in the office. Many people are made very uncomfortable by emotional displays, including crying, in a work place, and find them very difficult to deal with. It crosses the boundaries between personal and professional. And some will wonder if crying means the person can’t handle professional life. I think for the described situation, Alison’s response is correct. But I think crying can be a big deal for both the dryer and the people around them.

    1. OP#2*

      You put into words some of the thoughts I was having in the moment this was happening.
      I was really grateful my boss and grand-boss ignored the tears and continued speaking with me as in any other conversation. Because of my previous hard work and professionalism, I’m hoping the crying will be seen as the exception to my normal behavior.

      1. Rezia*

        OP #2,I totally agree with you. Your reputation doesn’t come down to just these few moments! Crying is normal enough that it won’t be what they remember you for so long as you continue to be professional and work hard. (Sure, if you do something uber dramatic, as we’ve seen elsewhere on this blog, it may be what you get known for, but crying in a meeting isn’t in that category).
        Rooting for you as you go forward from this!

  15. Carlie*

    OP5: The one reason I could see it making sense in a not name- dropping way is if you are using it to show you have more info about the job than usual and still want to work there/can showcase your skills more. And then you wouldn’t need the name. “I’ve known employees here who say the position might specifically involve X, which excites me because…”

    OP1: That is awful. The only group I’ve seen that requires adults to share rooms is my union, which does so as a good faith show to members that they are being good stewards of dues funds. So self pay for half would be perfectly fine, and they would allow for single rooms in medical cases without blinking. Your boss is being ridiculous.

  16. SigneL*

    OP#2, I think the fact that you cried demonstrates how seriously you took the meeting. If I were you, I would write a summary of the meeting, and then talk to your boss. For what it’s worth, high stress does make it difficult to remember everything, and, while I would apologize, I wouldn’t worry terribly. Move forward – you can do this! And good for you in acting promptly to correct a mistake – many people don’t, which makes things so much worse.

    ALL of us make mistakes. The worst is behind you.

    1. SigneL*

      I was trying to say that even without crying, stress can make people forget things (trying hard NOT to cry, for example, could make you miss something important).

      1. OP#2*

        These are some excellent points. Thank you for bringing them up, and thank you for your encouragement!

        1. SigneL*

          If I were your boss, I’d be thinking of how well you responded – the tears would be a minor blip on the radar screen, so to speak. It’s okay to make mistakes – learn from them (I did!).

    2. Observer*

      I think that making that list and talking to the boss with it is an excellent idea. It underscores that you were paying attention, and the you are doing all the reasonable things that you can to prevent a recurrence.

    3. OP#2*

      Thank you.

      I had the conversation with my boss first thing in the morning. (I did not want to have to think about it all day long.) I stated my emotions were quite extreme and I wanted to be sure I didn’t miss a single step that I needed to handle. He said I didn’t miss anything (there was no other damage control besides what I had already done), and I seemed to have an understanding of what to do going forward. So, thank you for your advice. I’m feeling much better, and looking forward to moving forward.

      1. RUKidding*

        I truly believe you will be fine.

        When the world starts to overwhelm me I remind myself that in ~ four billion or so years the sun will go supernova and none of the shit were dealing with right now will matter anyway.

        Certainly not a couple of minutes at the end of a super stressful eork meeting.

  17. Sabetha*

    LW1: If you’re unsuccessful in getting your company to support your need for a single room, could you simply explain to the travel coordinator that you’ll be booking your own room, and go ahead and do so? To be clear, I think they should, but the most important thing to you is the room, not the principle. You’d offered to pay for it and they can’t stop you from booking your own room. Maybe by demonstrating its importance to you, you’ll have some leverage the next time.

    1. I coulda been a lawyer*

      They can’t stop you from booking your own room … but at my govt job not using the travel coordinator is grounds for not reimbursing any travel expenses, plus discipline. Do it 3 times and you may be fired.

      1. Asenath*

        What’s the reason for such a rule? It’s not something I’ve ever heard of, and so I don’t really understand the benefit from the employer’s point of view. The risk of fraud is surely reduced by the normal checking of receipts, boarding passes (yes, I know an employer who wants them on paper), conference registration etc.

        1. Quackeen*

          I think in some places it’s because the travel departments have arrangements with hotels and airlines for deals, but it all has to go through a centrally located agent. In my previous job, we sometimes had blackout dates where people traveling to the city where headquarters was could only use one certain hotel because the company hadn’t reached their volume of bookings to qualify for the special rate, for example. Having the internal travel agent manage that meant it was easier to keep track of the many circumstances that had to be managed.

          I do prefer to manage my own travel, certainly. In that same job, I was denied a hotel in the city I was traveling to for a conference, because there was a less expensive partner hotel nearby….except that “nearby” was relative and it required traveling by cab to and from the conference to the tune of $75 each day I was there…thus negating any discount for the hotel room. (We weren’t allowed Uber accounts). I maliciously complied my way through, but it was very annoying, especially since I couldn’t just run back to my hotel room between sessions.

          1. Asenath*

            Thanks. I guess I’ve never worked or traveled for an employer large enough to have that kind of arrangement in place.

          2. skipjack*

            For my organization, if someone books travel and requests reimbursement, it requires an outside audit to make sure we’re not wasting funds. So there’s a big added cost if someone books their own travel.

        2. Arctic*

          In government it isn’t just about who pays for what it’s also about optics. You shouldn’t appear to be wasting tax payer money on suites or first class even if you are really using your own money. And, of course, there are those who really DO book more expensive options and DO try to get the government to reimburse (we’ve seen multiple versions of this scandal over the last few years, alone.)
          Only the coordinator can make sure that doesn’t happen.

        1. ababao1o1*

          Well if an employee is willing to pay the FULL cost of a private room, rather than HALF, then they can just a hotel room on their own (possibly at a different hotel), let travel coordinator do whatevs.

          I would do that rather than be subject to atrocious travel policies

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I suppose that might be possible at some employers. It would definitely be tempting to say “I slept in my rental car rather than share a hotel room, but here are the rest of my receipts.” ;-)

            1. RUKidding*

              Or you know, if youre willing to eat the cost book your own room. Let them pay for the double room if they want to. Nothing says you *have* to sleep in it.

  18. Jack be Nimble*


    Seconding Allison’s advice, here! I’m in an HR role at a company that’s pretty high-profile in my region, and I get occasional calls and cover letters which boil down to ‘I briefly spoke to [executive] one time.’ It just doesn’t add anything to your candidacy. Worst case scenario, it’ll come across as name-droppy and take you out of the running for the position!

    It wouldn’t be out of place to have a sentence or two stating you say that you’ve had the chance to speak to several people who’ve worked for the company and have always been struck by [x], but it should be a minor detail and more substantive than “Clarinetta Scumworthy spoke very highly of Teapots Inc.”

  19. Bookworm*

    #4: No advice, unfortunately, just wishing you luck. I moved from a job that was remote to a new organization requiring my in-office presence (in an open office but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and we do have flexibility to work from home). I miss the remote set up so I’m sympathetic. Wishing you good luck! Unfortunately there’s been a movement by some organizations to eliminate remote work entirely so maybe this is part of the new shift.

    Hope you can work something out!

    1. Quackeen*

      I recently moved from a very remote-friendly job (as in, the woman who had the cubicle next to mine once realized she hadn’t been to the office in 6 weeks) to a role where there is a strong “40 hours face time” requirement. There’s nothing magical about my desk that makes me more productive! Not surprisingly, I am leaving for another remote-friendly role.

  20. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

    Living with someone with IBS, I would like to tell this travel coordinator that OP’s request is not a luxury but an act of kindness with OP’s travel partner.
    But I guess this person has never camped outside a bathroom, used the garage toilet in a rush, or wished for a gas mask with oxygen supply.

    1. SigneL*

      or had to clean up the mess after someone couldn’t get to the toilet fast enough. Been there, any number of times.

  21. AvonLady Barksdale*

    Re #3: I’m currently surrounded by people who are job searching (long story), and I get “what does this email really mean?” questions all the time. I almost always respond that it means exactly what it says. When you’re job searching, one of the worst things you can do to yourself is try to get “insight” from emails like this. It’s actually a great email! It’s personal, it sounds sincere and kind. All you truly know is what they’re telling you– they really like you but they don’t think you’re a great fit for them right now, therefore they will not be offering you the job– and you’re so much better off accepting it, thanking them, and moving on to the next one.

    It’s hard. It’s SO hard. It’s normal to want to assume and interpret, but 95% of the time it’s just better to take things at face value and move on. I used to do this, look for insight, all the time (especially when dating!), and it’s a recipe for anxiety. Sure, there are often things going on behind the scenes, but at the end of the day, these things are not our business or concern.

    1. TootsNYC*

      the mental work that it takes to write a rejection email is actually pretty high. Writing rejection bullshit is even higher. Few hiring managers really want to end up connected on LinkedIn with people they don’t have a high opinion of, so they won’t suggest it.

      If there is the SLIGHTEST positive thing in that email, consider that a win. You didn’t get the job, but you made a really good impression. And that’s a good thing. You never know where those individuals may end up in future years.

      and also, now you know what one of their concerns is. If a new openings comes along, you can apply again, and target that concern quite specifically (or explore it, to see what it means).

      In fact, I bet you could get that person to go for coffee one day and explain in more detail what the start-up difference is, what were their concerns, how do THEY see their start-up as different from your large-firm experience. In an exploratory way, to build your own education.

    2. OP #3*

      Thank you so much for your advice! I just keep analyzing the interview to see what I could have done to be better. But it is what it is, and you’re right.. I need to move on.

  22. Llellayena*

    OP4: were there specific reasons for the WFH set up? You say you “can’t” go on more which implies a physical barrier (distance, disability). If it’s something that falls under ADA and this was your “reasonable accommodation” you’ve got a larger reason to push to keep your current setup.

  23. always in email jail*

    #4- I know you said you had in writing you can remotely work a good portion of your time, but what does that look like? As in, is it a formal teleworking agreement of some sort? Everywhere I’ve worked has a standard “teleworking agreement” that outlines certain rules (You cannot be the primary caregiver for someone else in your house during that time, etc.) and has always stated it can be revoked or altered by your supervisor with X days notice. I’ve had to revoke someone’s as a supervisor before, and I did have to discuss it with HR, but they ultimately came down on my side. (She was home with her 6 children, never answered the phone, was not putting out any work ,etc.)
    If there’s a change in the business needs of the organization or some concern that you’re not meeting your deliverables, or that the fact you’re working remotely hinders other people from collaborating with you when needed, HR will likely back them up unfortunately.

    Do you mind sharing why in-office isn’t doable for you? I live in the DC area so it’s not uncommon at all for people to have a 1.5 hour commute, so employers are forced to give SOME flexibility. When I supervised at an organization that was very resistant to telework this came up a lot. In those cases, I was always flexible with people about things like being allowed to work remotely before or after a doctors appointment so they didn’t have to take leave for all of that travel time (I framed it to HR as being more efficient for us because we would get more work hours from them), or shifting their work hours to hit the road when the traffic was lighter, etc.

  24. CupcakeCounter*

    I came from a large, multi-national organization and when I was interviewing that was a huge concern by my new, significantly smaller regional company when they hired me. They asked about it in the phone screen, interview, and had a follow up call specifically on that subject as that was their only concern about my candidacy.
    And they were right to be concerned since I was having a hard time around the 18 month mark when I realized that there were no internal moves I could begin looking around at or promotion opportunities. Granted things didn’t workout like I though at big company that way either which is why I left but at least the idea of it was there. Been 6 years now at regional and while I am still technically in the same role as I started, they have worked with me on expanding the role and adding responsibilities as well as title and pay bumps for excelling at what I do in this role.

    The reality is they know more about the person they need in that role than you do and probably have had experiences where someone with your background didn’t work out and they are a little gun shy. It would be the same as you turning down an offer based on a culture fit. They know their culture and their experience is that someone with your background doesn’t do well in that environment.

    1. Steve*

      I have more or less been in situation #3. I am a web developer and the small company I was interviewing me asked: how do you deploy a website. I said something along the lines of, walk over to the Test team and ask them to do it. The details are unimportant, the point is I ended up rejected along the same lines as OP#3. We did keep in touch, and six years later when I was looking again, the company had an opening and they were a much larger and more diverse (in terms of roles) team. So, I wasn’t a fit the first time around, but I was the second.

      Take their message at face value! If you liked the company, stay in touch and maybe they’ll have a place for you someday!

  25. Former Computer Professional*

    My personal experience with trying to get hired by a startup is that “We don’t think you’ll fit in well with a small startup” translates to “We don’t think a girl can do this job.”

    I applied to four in a row (in a year) and each time they hired a man. (Twice it was the same guy, a job hopper who kept telling interviewers that this was the job where he was going to stop job hopping. Over a few years I lost a small pile of jobs to that guy, but that’s another story.)

    Disclaimer: My experience is about 10 years old, but it’s not hard to see stories about how rampant sexism is still a major problem, and how especially in computing, start-up bro-culture is still very common.

    1. pleaset*

      Yup. It might be about gender. Or age.

      Maybe not – if there are women and people of various ages on the staff, then probably not. But if it’s all dude or all younger people, then something is up.

    2. always in email jail*

      My first thought was either what you said, or something along the lines of “you seem like the type of person who probably wants to get paid on time in regular intervals”

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        +1 LOLOLOL Mr. Jules has worked for a couple of startups. It’s a good thing my job has regular paychecks.

    3. Emmie*

      It could be that. It could also be the issue of adaptability to change. Start up positions, and brand new positions have jobs that evolve significantly over time. Today’s anticipated duties will likely change as the company, or the position grows. A person committed to their job duties only, or who has experience in large company’s with very defined job duties could be concerning because the organization may need someone who adapts to change quickly, and well. I agree that sexism could be part of the equation, but quickly responding to and being comfortable with change (or a lack of role / duty definition) is also an important component in my experience.

  26. LaDeeDa*

    OP1 – What is the coordinator’s deal!? If it isn’t policy, and you requested a single room, who is she to deny your request? Yeah, this needs to be escalated. Definitely talk to your boss or her boss.
    I am off the belief that adults do not share a room with people who are not the family or best friend in the whole world type people. I would be utterly grossed out to share a room with any of my coworkers.
    Good luck! Please let us know how it goes.

  27. Lynn*

    Honestly, sometimes I want to kick my husband out of our bedroom. And, while sharing with the cats is not optional in our house, sharing with them is sometimes annoying too. A company expecting me to share with anyone other than my husband/pets would be way out of line. And I have no medical reason to NEED my own room.

    I have chronic trouble sleeping, I snore, I talk in my sleep, and I tend to be up and down multiple times in the night. My poor roommate would exacerbate the sleeping issues and I would annoy him/her to no end as well. I know that, in some fields, room sharing is not uncommon-but I think it is a huge ask to expect folks to share rooms like that and I would not be willing to travel for a company that forced it on me.

    Since, in this case, it isn’t even policy to require shared rooms, I would be talking to whoever I needed to to get the travel coordinator to comply with the policy.

    1. always in email jail*

      Wasn’t there a letter here a few years ago with a sleep screamer who was facing this issue? I know this blog has discussed how outrageous it is to expect adults to share rooms more than once.

          1. Lynn*

            I know it is common in some fields but, in my opinion, it is unreasonable to ask adults to share rooms for work purposes. There are exceptions-if spouses work for the same company and are traveling together, sharing a room is reasonable. And I do think it makes a difference if the travel is truly and completely optional-so someone who wants to go to a conference may need to be willing to put up with things that someone traveling to the employer’s benefit should not have to think about. And even that is iffy, at least to me.

    2. Frustrated 1*

      Ha! When I was married, we had separate bedrooms. Sleeping in a room with someone will tell me a lot more about them than I want to know, and vice versa.

  28. hbc*

    OP3: As someone who has hired in a small company and could have written a dozen of those letters, it pretty much means what it says. I watched someone from one of the Big Three automotive companies declare that his warehouse staff needed special colored vests so they knew who belonged there. (There were four people in his group.) I’ve had interviewees whose every answer to a “what would you do” question involves going to the manual or a specialist that we don’t have, even after I’ve told them how limited we are. And there are people whose skills I’ve drooled over but I strongly suspect they’d be bored doing the 95% of the job that doesn’t involve those skills.

    If you think you want to make the switch to a smaller company and are worried you’ll have the same result next time, try to review your examples and make sure they emphasize flexibility and independence. Acknowledge that it will be a change but that you like the idea of mixing deep analysis, assembling office furniture, filling in for accounting, and running to the store for toilet paper.

    1. WellRed*

      Even just reading letters and comments here it’s often obvious who works only for larger companies when they suggest things like simply “transferring to a new department or team”, or getting promoted because they’ve been there a year and that’s how it works there or things related to certain accommodations that simply don’t apply in small offices.

    2. ChachkisGalore*

      Oh yes – to build on this, if you are trying to go from a large company to a small one (or vice versa) I would suggest addressing it pretty specifically within the interview or maybe even in your cover letter. Sort of along the lines of how you might address a job that would require a relocation (like a relocation that you are planning, but you’re not in the area yet) or seeking a role that is a step back in terms of responsibility.

      I’ve made the move from a small firm to a massive, international one and then back to a smaller firm, but each time I addressed the change in culture/size very directly at some point within the interview process – I think usually when asked some sort of “why this role?” question. I think really thinking about how performing your role in the opposite environment (large vs small) and then being able to articulate that you welcome and are prepared for those changes would go a long way allaying any fears interviewers may have about your ability to make that sort of move successfully.

    3. Ceiswyn*

      I specialise in working for small companies – just out of startup status – because I like variety, I like figuring out my own solutions to complicated technical problems, I like the freedom to just DO the things that are clearly necessary / a good idea in the most sensible way without having to explain it to three different managers who will change the solution to something that doesn’t actually work because they don’t fully grasp the issue, I like not being hamstrung by layers of process that have accreted over the years and that nobody is willing to change, I like having to adjust and change things on the fly, and I like to work with similarly dynamic and freewheeling personalities.

      I have a friend who tried to move from a very structured large organisation into a startup. The lack of process killed her. She couldn’t adjust to having to go out and get the information she needed rather than relying on comprehensive design documents coming to her, she couldn’t adjust to having to make major priority and direction decisions for herself instead of constantly consulting her manager, and she couldn’t adjust to the idea that there was no point in spending a lot of time planning major projects because the situation would be different next week, never mind next year.

      It really is a completely different world. And it’s really common for people who are used to large-company environments to completely underestimate the level of initiative and flexibility that is required on a daily basis, and fail entirely to adjust.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m sobbing over colored vests…I cannot fathom this craziness.

      We had that issue hiring a customer service manager. They kept telling me they’d listen in on calls and recordings. When we have 3 CSRs to manage and low call volume. All of which were noted in the job ad but sure, you’re experience at Mega Call Center is transferable.

    5. OP #3*

      OP #3 here. Thank you, all, for your feedback and advice. I truly, truly appreciate the comments. I also wanted to provide a bit more background. I was the subject matter expert creating new processes and documentations so this “specialist” was me. I did emphasize flexibility & managing ambiguity as I was able to build the team from ground up (yes a huge company but it was a new team), absorb my manager’s workload, help my teammates with their issues, help the department with their issues, help different departments with their issues, and make coffee all while doing my own job. I admit that I worked a lot because I had the time since I’m a millennial with no kids, but I also just wanted to do my best. I did talk about growth and conflict of objectives from different departments but me always striving for that one goal of doing what was best for the overall business. Salary was never brought up since they advertised a competitive wage, & I was okay with that. And yes, you’re correct- I do want to make the switch to a smaller company. Any additional thoughts or advice?

  29. Marthooh*

    OP #1 — When you bring this up with the boss, you don’t have mention your offer to pay for the single room, and you shouldn’t end up paying for it.

    1. Aisling*

      Not true if it’s a non-profit. When we travel in my company, we get a stipend, and any costs over it we cover ourselves. We don’t have the funds for anything else. The stipend covers a roommate, and if I wanted a room to myself, I’d need to pay (and have) the difference.

  30. EmmaBird*

    #5 – Another thing springs to mind: I recently had a friend apply to a job at my former company. I told her about the position since I knew she was looking and she had me review her cover letter. She mentioned me on both the cover letter and resume! I told her that it might be a bad idea since I was pretty sure the person in charge of hiring that position didn’t like me much but she ignored me saying she’d read “all over” it was the best practice and… didn’t get the job. Could be a coincidence but with that particular manager, I don’t think so.

      1. EmmaBird*

        She had a strange section on her resume called an executive summary where she mentioned me a second time. I had to google it and it looks like that is indeed appropriate in some industries– but not ours (we’re both creatives/designers)! And even by executive summary standards, it seems like it was not normal to mention a reference there, either.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          That’s a really peculiar executive summary. “My objective is to get a job where EmmaBird works…”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Keep trying. If you want to move to startups, you’ll find the right one at the right time. Drive home you are wanting to change and that you’re flexible.

  31. Observer*

    #3 – Something jumped at me. You said that “I just keep sulking over it”. Do you really mean that, or do you mean that you keep brooding and it’s upsetting you?

    If the latter, you’ve gotten excellent feedback and feel free to ignore the rest of what I have to say.

    If you are actually sulking you really need to dial that back. On the one hand, no one owes you a job offer, no matter how good you qualifications. On the other hand, I would be very hesitant to hire someone who is going to sulk (especially someone who KEEPS sulking), especially in the kind of environment where flexibility and working well with other is less that perfectly structured roles is important. If I got whiff of that in an interview, that candidate would get a polite rejection from me. I *REALLY* have no stomach for managing that.

    1. OP #3*

      What I meant was that I’m sad and disappointed since I truly wanted to work there. I keep thinking about the interview and analyzing it to see what I could have done better in an effort to improve myself. Flexibility and team player are my middle names.

  32. AngryOwl*

    I would be pretty upset if something I negotiated at hire was changed without a discussion, no matter how much time had passed. Good luck #4!

  33. irene adler*

    OP 3: I work at a start-up. There is legitimacy to recognizing that your talents are better suited to large company environment. But it is unfortunate that the ability to adapt to new environments is not given a chance. I have the opposite problem. They think I can’t handle a large company environment given I have start-up experience.

    My take:

    There is a mindset that folks at large companies just cannot grasp. While it’s easy to state that you understand that the job expects you to wear different hats, large company workers tend not to get the “just do it yourself” mentality. Instead, they like to delegate tasks to others (not a report). Yes, that means you have to take out your own trash, look up files yourself, and straighten out delayed vendor orders in addition to all of your assigned tasks(which encompass multiple areas of expertise). Need toner? Order it yourself. They need someone in shipping? Yep, you’re out there packing boxes in your business suit before you attend the investor presentation later that day. No one thought to set up the meeting room and make color copies of the portfolio? That’s your job too. Better get on it. No one else is there to do it.

    Annual reviews? Automatic cost-of-living pay increases? Full benefits? Doesn’t exist yet. Guaranteed holidays? Nope. Forty-hour work weeks? Sometimes. OT hits with no notice. Just gotta roll with it. But you can get greater flexibility on work start and end times. Taking a vacation day doesn’t require much advanced notice other than to let folks know you are taking next Monday off. Lots less bureaucracy.

    FYI: We’ve hired folks who worked at large companies. Some get the mindset. Others are just appalled that we lack the annual salary increases or steady work load. Some have insisted that the law requires annual cost-of-living pay increases or compensation for not partaking of the offered health care benefits or advanced notice of OT. And they are shocked to learn this is not the case.

  34. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #3 I’m so sorry you’re hurting over this rejection! It’s a painful situation.

    As someone involved in small businesses, some having been start ups, it’s incredibly difficult when it comes to hiring to fit our needs perfectly. We worry a lot about the fit factor, not because we’re worried you’ll spoil the party but that we’ll cause you undue stress you’re not familiar with coming from a much more structured setting. Also my nightmare is firing a great person who just can’t get the hang of the smaller setup.

    If you want to make the leap to start ups and small companies, you’ll want to sell it to the hiring managers as much as possible. “I desire having more variety and a different set of expectations.” is a good start.

    Just like if I’m ever in a large scale company setting, I’ll be questionable having come from places I do a bit of everything. It’s a huge change either direction.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Without being asked preferably. I’m cool with asking at first if you’re shy about steamrollering but good gravy, I dropped into a world recently where it was unheard of to take ownership of abandoned projects. As simple as cleaning out drawers. Old copies of outdated forms hanging out in drawers. Stop buying notebooks for notes, I’ve got scrap paper for 5 years.

        Crap hidden in places nobody cleaned out or looked in when people left years ago. Stop buying supplies, I’ve got a years worth of post its right here. But the only place the supply purchaser was looking was a single cabinet that things only sometimes end up in…because nobody put things away.

        That’s small/start up. Keep your eyeballs peeled for places that need attention. Idc if you’re hired to do X, pay attention to Z. Even if you don’t grab it, ask or mention that it’s neglected. Everyone needs to or things get dropped.

        Everyone has to be invested in the growth and prosperity in some way.

    1. OP #3*

      Thank you for your advice! I really appreciate it. I did mention wanting to do & impact more than just my own function, but I could have emphasized it more. Thank you, again. :)

  35. OP#2*

    Hello everyone!

    Alison, thank you for your suggestion, and thanks to the rest of the AAM community for their comments and support.

    I responded to several comments, but wanted to give an update here, as well. I had the conversation with my boss first thing in the morning, so I could get it over with immediately AND so I could address whatever he said right away. I did not go in there with an apology for having emotions, instead I stated that after processing things over the weekend I wanted to ensure I had everything 100% accurate, including damage control of the past and the action plan moving forward. I refered to the hard copy I had been provided in the meeting, and summarized my understanding of the steps. Boss said I didn’t miss anything (there was no other damage control besides what I had already done), and I have a good understanding of what to do going forward.

    Again, thank you all for your advice. I’m grateful to have Alison to reach out to, and have this wonderful community to help me ensure my perspective is accurate and encourage moving forward.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      Thank you for putting this update as a new comment instead of layering below someone else’s comment.
      It is always appreciated when OP’s comment as a separate comment so that those of us who don’t read through all of the sub-threads can read the OP’s comments.

  36. Cucumberzucchini*

    OP3 – it could also mean that they don’t want to risk you leaving a really good stable job for a riskier start-up because they’re feeling unsure about their future for some reason. If you’re really interested in the position you could let them know why you think you’d be good at making the transition and throw in you understand there’s always a level of risk with start-ups but it’s worthwhile to you to move from your current job for XYZ reason.

  37. Echo*

    I’m actually going to take a minority position on #5 here. I *would* be impressed by a candidate that said they had spoken to someone who works with me to learn about the position. Not because of the personal connection to an existing staff member (“name dropping”), but because it demonstrates they took the time and effort to better understand the company and the role and determine if they are a good fit.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I also wonder if it would seem really weird to NOT let the interviewer know that you’ve spoken to someone inside the company.

      Though, I would probably mention it in the interview–or I’d ask if I could mention I’d spoken with them, and I’d be sure to say something like “had the opportunity to speak with X,” which I hope would indicate that we didn’t have a deep relationship.
      (because I also don’t want to be tainted by any bad things that might cling to that person whom I don’t know well)

  38. Powercycle*

    #4 We have a new senior manager who’s cracking down on WFH arrangements and talking of centralizing their staff in one location. For some that’ll mean a much worse commute. There’s no reason for it as our work is entirely digital and can be done from any office or home. But because we have a couple slackers on the greater team, everyone is going to get punished. Senior manager also uses our presence on IM to track our attendance. (To add insult, the senior manager themselves works remotely about half the time. I expect morale will take a hit if this keeps up.)

  39. Lucy*

    I’ve been caught in a “HECK NO” but fortunately I wasn’t the first former coworker they had spoken to, so they laughed and said, “that’s what Wakeen said you’d say.” That’s why I now have a script

    In fairness, I’d say 90+% of the time I’ve been asked about former co-workers I’ve been able to be enthusiastic so I assume people normally only name drop where it’s actually appropriate.

  40. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#3: If working for a start-up is something you really want, then you should address this issue in the interview process. In other words, convey to the interviewer that you want the start-up environment, and why you would be a good fit. In my industry, start-up companies want employees that (1) thrive in a free-form non-structured environment because there aren’t many policies, procedures, rules and there is little hierarchy, (2) are self-starters and independent workers, (3) are not only willing to do things *way outside* their job description, but are enthusiastic about it, (4) aren’t bothered by doing everything for themselves (including low level work), with no support staff, (5) can successfully function with minimal resources, (6) are willing to spend long hours at work in a fast-paced, understaffed environment and (7) are able to build, grow and evolve the company. Does that sound good to you?

    1. Richard*

      I had the same feeling. Take the rejection (and feel lucky to get an actually informative rejection!) and reconsider whether and to what degree you’re presenting yourself as ready to switch over to a start-up.

    2. OP #3*

      Yes, exactly why I wanted to move to a smaller company. Less red tape, little hierarchy, more creativity, opportunity to build something from scratch, etc. Thank you for your advice- I will continue to address that in future interviews.

  41. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Op#1: I feel confident you can resolve this, probably just by going to a higher level person, especially since you have offered to pay for the hotel. In my opinion, no employer should require room-sharing. It’s simply not appropriate to require an employee to sleep in a room with a co-worker. I have no problem with an employer who asks for volunteers for room sharing, but it should never be mandated. My co-workers are strangers, practically strangers, or acquaintances, and I would not share a room with even the nicest co-worker. As they say around here, I am willing to “die on that hill”. I draw a hard line between what is work and what is personal. Sleeping partners are a personal matter and sleeping at night is personal time–not under my employer’s control.

  42. Traveler Kate*

    OP1, as a travel coordinator myself, the only instance where I’d book a room for 2 people would be
    1) they insisted
    2) they insisted on staying at the same hotel but there weren’t enough rooms
    3) there weren’t enough rooms at any hotels in the vicinity
    Once my coworkers called me when they saw I booked a twin room for everyone that they don’t want to share a room. I was horrified they’d think that and explained each of them would get a twin room, because that’s the only kind of room I could book, but no one would share.

    Especially if your travel policy doesn’t say you must share a room, she has no right to insist. Even if it’s nonprofit, come on, it’s a business expense, like salaries or office stationary. I’d talk with your boss first, maybe ask them to talk to the travel coordinator’s boss on your behalf. Good luck! Don’t let her bully you into sharing a room with a coworker!!!

  43. StuckInRetailHell*

    OP#1 since you said you would be willing to pay the whole hotel bill yourself, you really do have the power here. You don’t even need to go through the travel coordinator—you can book your room yourself and even pick a different hotel if you want to. If your company won’t reimburse you, you could probably even write it off on your taxes. But I think you can absolutely push back on this, even if you have to invoke the ADA.

  44. 4Sina*

    LW2, I have ADHD (and have been dealing with it since I was 6) and although I have meds and routines and coping mechanisms, sometimes I NEED people to repeat themselves after the fact. In my experience, it’s easier just to be like “Hey, I might have missed something, can you re iterate what we talked about in this meeting?”. Allison’s advice is spot-on. Also in my experience, bosses are happy to accommodate this, especially as it reinforces what was talked about and it sure beats trying to play off “did I hear S0-and-So correctly?” just to bite you later on. Given the circumstances of the meeting (stressful! You’re a human being!), I’m sure they’d be happy to have these points in writing for you, as well.

  45. ZucchiniBikini*

    OP4, I had a similar situation to yours about 10 years ago. I’m in Australia, which does make a difference to this given our protections against dismissal are much stronger than in the US, but back in 2009 when this was occurring for me, some of the most salient protections for flexible work arrangements (which form part of our Fair Work Act and associated legislation) were not in law yet.

    My situation was that I was working part-time (0.6 FTE, or the equivalent of 3 days a week), and had been doing so since 2005. I had a written agreement with my workplace that I would only come to the office 1 day per fortnight, working the other 5 days at home (with time spread out across all days – so not 5 full days, but rather, 7 or 8 part days). Our deal was that I had to be flexible with them about which day I came to the office, so if they needed me for particular meetings or training, they could just schedule the best time for everyone and I’d fit in – so long as it wasn’t more than once a fortnight!

    This worked really smoothly for 3.5 years until my lovely manager got a promotion and was replaced by an external hire who came from a very different workplace culture, something that happened while I was out on maternity leave with my third baby (elder two were 5 – at school – and 3). Her first edict to me – delivered via email before we had met or even spoken on the phone – was this: “Hi, I am your new manager X. I hope we are going to work very well together. Just to let you know, I don’t allow team members to work primarily from home, so you’ll need to make arrangements to be attending the office for all your working days commencing from when you return from maternity leave [which was 5 weeks away]. Happy to discuss altered start / finish times if a time-shifted day will make this easier. Thanks, X”.

    I read this while breastfeeding my baby in utter disbelief. My entire reason for sticking with this not-particularly-well-paid job had been their offer to me in 2005, after the birth of my second child, that I could work primarily at home – it was the only thing that made it worthwhile to do, as it eliminated my commute and meant I could manage childcare through a local babysitting pool rather than more expensive and harder to access creche centres.

    I was going to immediately fire back an email of resignation, but my partner suggested first checking in with my boss’s boss to confirm a) if the organisation had changed its thinking or policy on this and b) if my new manager actually had the authority to do this. I did so, and my grandboss shut that shit down straight away, and I came back from mat leave into my same arrangement.

    This story doesn’t have a completely happy ending – my new manager was (probably unsurprisingly) very VERY unhappy to be overruled, and took it out of me in numerous petty ways, leading to my decision to part ways with what had until then been a great employer at the end of 2010. So even in a situation where your boss doesn’t end up getting to revoke your WAH, it doesn’t always lead to happy days, unfortunately.

    I’m now a freelancer, and I am a total hardarse about my need to work from my home office most of the time. I happily take phone and Skype meetings as needed and will willingly travel to my clients for prearranged days / half days for meetings etc, but I have turned down so many gigs over the past 8 years because the organisation insisted on bums in seats. It hasn’t hurt my business in the least – I am overloaded with projects, in fact – but even if it had, it is not a line I am willing to cross. For me, WAH is key to being able to manage my life and my family and my health conditions effectively.

  46. Margaret*

    And during my work at NGOs I’ve shared rooms with people in no tell motels. You find a cheaper accommodation, your boss says ‘great job, thanks!’ and doubles you up in it.

  47. AdminX2*

    LW3 I got rejected from a potentially great job once because I was enthusiastic about being an independent and dependable admin, anticipating and resolving issues before they became problems. Even the recruiter was incredulous as they updated me, confirming I did EVERYTHING perfectly and aligned exactly with the expectations in the description.
    The dude just wanted someone old fashioned to sit around and be at beck and call.

  48. Pete*

    #4 – one thing missing form Allison’s answer – By attempting to change your job they are reopening negotiations.

    Perhaps put it to them this way: “I negotiated this when I came on board, and it was an essential part of offer package for the role I agreed to perform. If you’d like to make a change in my agreed-upon job requirements, we can certainly discuss the compensation changes that would need to go along with that” – i.e. your options are not ONLY to take the change lying down or walk away. You were hired to a WFH position, likely at a discounted wage because that was valuable to you. If they want you to work from the office then it’s not unreasonable that they pay for it.

    Right now it sounds like constructive dismissal – they are changing your job in a way they know is unreasonable to get you to quit (or allow them to screw you). Perhaps put on the table the fact that they can only take something of value from you (WFH arrangements) if they offer something in return.

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