my boss wants us to go on an all-day rafting trip, coworker’s parents are threatening to call HR about our friendship, and more

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

1. My boss wants us to go on all-day rafting trip

My company hired a new director (Michelle) a few years ago. Since then, there have been several new managers hired by her who really share her same outgoing personality. That’s not a negative in any way. But since then, I’ve noticed a lot more emphasis on team-building events. Some have been lunchtime learning, while some others border on silliness (like performing a short skit based on random objects). And about a year ago, we were all asked to do an online personality survey and then Michelle coordinated an off-site day where we were coached on the 16 personality types with the emphasis on leveraging success by knowing each other better.

Earlier this month, invites went out for a company sales conference in August. I’ve been here for seven years and this was the first time I ever got included. I’ve been very involved on several successful new product launches over the last three years. Part of the event will be more team-building, coordinated by a group they hired. It turns out that I was assigned to Michelle’s group (she is the team leader). There are about eight of us on the team. Michelle had a conference call to kick things off, and we have to pick a name for our team and submit designs for t-shirts. She also mentioned that we will be doing an all-day rafting trip as a break-out event. I emailed her a few days later to see if i could skip the rafting trip as I am a weak swimmer who is not comfortable around deep water. She replied saying that the event is still four months away and that she’d rather see me focus on how to meet a challenge rather than how to get out of it. She compared it to when she was afraid to do a zip line two years ago, but got through it. I was a bit floored.

My wife, who met Michelle at our holiday party and really likes her, is convinced that Michelle is testing me to see how I react and that is is my opportunity to impress her. With all the changes in our company, I can definitely see myself directly reporting to her someday and don’t want some silly decision to harm my standing. Can you offer your opinion on what you would do?

Personally, I would tell Michelle, “For safety reasons, I won’t be able to participate in this. I’ll plan to spend that day working on X and Y unless you prefer I spend that time differently.” Note that language is telling her that you won’t be participating, not asking her for permission to sit it out. You get to simply state that you’re not participating in something like this.

I’d also consider adding, “There may be other people who have health conditions that make participating iffy, and I’d love to see us pick a more inclusive activity.” Because that’s true — an all-day rafting trip is a big deal and there are a whole bunch of conditions people shouldn’t have to disclose to get out of that, including things she’s probably not even thinking about, like IBS.

Take a look at this and this. And hell, for good measure, this too.

2. My coworker’s parents are threatening to call HR about our friendship

I’m close friends with a girl at work. We are both over 18 and talk often, about all kinds of topics. I’m the person she calls when she’s stressed and life isn’t going well. Hour-long calls are not infrequent with us and she’s taken me to antique stores to train me to find things she likes, and I’m quite good at it. (This is all to give you the gist of how close we are.) We also work at completely different locations (so have very little face-to-face contact unless I come visit her). Moreover, we both have a huge thing for each other. We are both in agreement that if we ever both end up single, we are going to try for a relationship.

So, fast forward to now. She still lives with her parents and they pay for her phone. They saw some of our messages to each other and are threatening to call HR at our company for sexual harassment. The thing is, she doesn’t feel harassed, they are just not listening. Should I be worried? How would you handle this in my place?

Sexual harassment is about unwelcome conduct. If this had been one-sided, or if she’d asked you to stop but you hadn’t, or if you were subjecting her to unwelcome advances or sexual talk, that would be a problem! But a mutually welcome friendship is not harassment.

So as long as your friend isn’t going to tell HR that this contact has been unwelcome, you should be fine. And really, a parent calling an adult’s workplace to report sexual harassment based on a mutual friendship is … weird, and it’s very likely that your friend will be able to quickly shut it down with HR if they approach her about it.

One precaution you could take, though, is to explicitly confirm with your friend that she enthusiastically welcomes the relationship you have, and that she doesn’t feel any of your contact with her is unwanted. Make it safe for her to say no — frame it as something like, “I want you to know that if you ever don’t want this level or type of contact with me, I would fully respect that and not make it weird or tense for you” (and of course mean that).

From what you’ve written here, this sounds like a mutual friendship … but there’s also a version of this where a person A tells person B she won’t date him because she’s seeing someone else, and then B takes that as “we’ll date when she breaks up with her boyfriend” when that’s not what A meant … and where some of the other details can look different depending on who’s telling them. So especially when you have someone raising concerns, explicitly confirming that you both enthusiastically welcome the contact is always a good thing.

3. The details in my offer letter aren’t what we discussed

I recently accepted a job offer with a start-up nonprofit. Due to a tight timeline for their desired start date and a long notice period in my current role, I had to resign quickly, without having the offer letter in hand. I know this is not best practice and in retrospect, I should have worried less about inconveniencing either employer and insisted on the formal letter.

In any case, I then received a formal offer letter (over a week later) that has a contractual period of only six months, subject to renewal. We had no discussions of this previously, so it was quite a surprise. I’d expressly asked about how I would be hired – with a contract, regular staff, at-will, etc. – because of the org’s start-up status. They had told me I would be hired as regular staff and that the project would run for three years.

They also agreed to a few things in negotiations – revisions to the title, flex time – that they say cannot be put in the offer letter but is an “informal agreement.” But of course, the offer letter itself expressly says that this represents the only agreement between me and the employer.

Because the organization is still starting up, it’s working off the HR and legal structure of a parent organization it’s only loosely affiliated with right now. I am sympathetic to those potential limitations. But nonetheless, it’s made me uneasy. They seem like really nice people and I like the potential for growth in the organization and role. But I also want to be treated respectfully and fairly in my next role and I feel like I made a good faith commitment to them and they are acting surprised (saying my request is “exceptional”) that I’d ask for the same. Am I making a big deal out of nothing or is this in fact a tremendous warning sign?

It depends on how they respond to you pushing back. Try saying this: “We’d talked about this role being regular staff and titled as Frog Decorator, but the offer letter says it’s a six-month contract for Junior Frog Decorator. I’m excited about coming on board, but I want to make sure the offer letter reflects what we’ve agreed to.” If they say no, then what’s in the letter is what they’re offering you. There’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to put the correct details in the letter, so if they decline to, I’d assume those are the correct details. One way of pushing back if that happens is, “I’d love to accept the role we talked about on the phone — a longer-term Frog Decorator position — but I wouldn’t feel comfortable coming on board with an offer letter that describes a different role.”

It’s possible that their parent org really does have internal rules about not putting other stuff like flex time in an offer letter, but that doesn’t mean they can’t agree in writing outside the offer letter. To do that, send an email that says, “I understand you don’t include details on flex time in offer letters, so I just wanted to memorialize here that we’ve agreed to (details). Would you confirm that’s correct?”

If they balk at any of this, the answer to “is this a tremendous warning sign?” is yes.

4. My new office doesn’t recycle

Less than two weeks ago, I started a new job that I love. There are many great things about this job that I value. The one problem: there is no recycling at this office. None. No recycling bins anywhere. I’m shocked. In my section of the office, we get tiny plastic bottles of water, the kind I can drink in four gulps. Then I have to throw them out. The water fountain is kind of a long walk away. I’m not the biggest environmentalist by a long shot, but I try to recycle whatever I can at home and this feels extreme. I’d rather not collect all my water bottles from throughout the day to bring home to recycle.

Should I or can I do anything? I’ve been here less than two weeks, so I’m very new with almost no power. We’re moving to a new office building very soon, so maybe things will change, but I have no way of knowing if they will or not.

Right now you’re too new to have standing to tackle this, but after you’ve been there a while (like maybe six months or so) you certainly can! (The exception to that if if you’re in a role that puts this in your purview, like if you work in operations.) Meanwhile, though, you could talk to whoever’s coordinating the move and ask if they know if there will be recycling at the new building, which might at least put it on their radar if it hasn’t been. (Even for that, though, I might give it a month or so. You are still very new.)

When you do bring it up, how to tackle it depends on your role. In some contexts (especially smaller offices), it might make sense for you to take the lead on researching recycling options in your area (local regulations, companies that handle it, etc. — some city governments will provide a guide) and even help put something into practice, and in others that would be overstepping for your position and you’ll need to just make the case to someone who does have that authority. Whichever route you go, keep in mind that if they’re not receptive, you might also suggest some interim measures, like a bottleless water cooler instead of all those tiny plastic bottles.

5. Is it time to give my employee a formal improvement plan?

I’m new to a management role and inherited an employee (a former peer) who was never held accountable by his previous manager (for example, he completed a major web software overhaul nine months past the deadline with no consequences). As a result, I’ve been vigilant about giving him feedback every time he doesn’t do something he says he’s going to do when he says he’s going to do it. I’ll often see improvement after these conversations, only to see this habit creep back up again after a few months. It’s usually something small — like saying he’ll send me a preview of the newsletter or update me on a project and then not getting to it or explaining why he didn’t. Overall, I know he’s getting a lot done, but all of these little things add up to me as someone who I can’t count on for major long-term projects.

So, is it time for a PIP? Are you supposed to warn someone before putting them on a PIP? Is there something between routine feedback and a PIP? The reason I’m hesitating is that to me, a PIP signals that I’m about to fire someone — but I’m not sure I’m ready to let this person go. Do I just have new manager cold feet?

A performance improvement plan (PIP) should indeed convey “these issues are serious and if you don’t improve in the following ways by the following timeframe, I will let you go.” So yes, if you use one, you’d want to be prepared to fire him at the end of it if he hasn’t made the improvements you need. That said, given that he improves for a while whenever talk with him, he’s likely to meet the terms of the PIP but then backslide again later on, so you’d want to clearly state that you need to see sustained, permanent improvement and if the pattern recurs again, you wouldn’t do a second PIP.

You don’t need to warn someone before a PIP (unless your company procedures require that), but what I’d do in your case is sit down and have a serious conversation with him where you say, “We’ve talked multiple times about the need for you to meet deadlines and follow through on agreed timelines, and while you often improve temporarily, the pattern keeps recurring. This is serious because it means I can’t count on you for long-term projects. I need you to get this under control permanently, and if you don’t, it could jeopardize your job here. If it keeps happening after this conversation, we’ll need to move to a formal performance improvement plan, so I want to make sure you understand that we’re at the point where I don’t have much leeway left to give you.”

Posted in Uncategorized

{ 816 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A request: There’s been some speculation in the comment section about whether there’s a wide age difference between letter writer #2 and his friend. We have nothing to indicate that’s the case (if anything, my sense is that it’s the opposite and they’re both very young), and I’m requesting that people not present speculation as fact here (especially if it’s going to lead you to accuse the letter writer of doing something shady that’s not in the letter).

    It’s fine to say “if there’s a big age difference, then X” (and explain how that would affect your advice), but per the commenting rules, please do not present speculation as fact.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      I jumped to this conclusion as well, both with the LW and the friend’s parents’ reaction because of it.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      I assumed middle-east or subcontinent parents who have traditional views on how daughters should behave.

      1. North*

        I assumed both that she was younger – as lives at home and parents pay for phone and also that she was single and the writer wasn’t. If the writer isn’t single I wonder what his partner things about the friendship

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        I took it for granted that one was 19 and the other was 23 and they were both based in Sweden, though one had moved there from the UK

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I appreciated this, since the geo-racial speculation is pretty problematic.

        2. Alianora*

          Obviously, but which one moved from the UK? That really changes the advice imo. Alison, you dropped the ball not checking. /s

    3. Friday afternoon fever*

      Well they are definitely not both boys and homophobe is a sufficient term given that lesbophobe is not a word.

      1. Bee*

        More relevantly, homophobe, like homosexual, refers to both men & women. “Homo” just means “same.”

        1. Sylvan*

          Lesbophobia is a way less common term but it describes homophobia that targets lesbians specifically.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Just because you haven’t heard it, doesn’t mean it’s not a word. It’s intended to describe specifically the intersection of homophobia and misogyny, as distinct from homophobia in general.

            1. alsoLesbian*

              And yet, many other lesbians here have. It’s almost like different people have different experiences and different words are popular among different groups.

          1. Bee*

            My point was that “homophobia” doesn’t just apply to men, as Friday afternoon fever implied.

      2. Wake up !*

        Thank you, also the entire premise of this conversation is totally absurd because there is NO REASON TO SPECULATE about why the parents had a problem with it.

      3. Pomona Sprout*

        It most certainly is a word. I googled it before postIng my comment (which you ebidently did not do).

    4. PaperGirl*

      While reading this I felt the other way. I assumed the young woman was 19 or 20 and that the LW was in his 40s. I guess just because I always hear older men defend their relationships with very young women by saying “we are both over 18.” And you know what, they are right. As long as both adults are consenting, I don’t care. I don’t know what someone in their 40s could possibly have in common with someone in their late teens, but it doesn’t affect me. Also, the fact the parents are so upset…just seems like the only reason for that would be a much older man.

      But Alison is right. There is absolutely nothing in the letter addressing an age difference. They are both over 18.

      This young woman should think about moving out or getting her own phone plan though and until she does, she should probably refrain from sexual banter with this guy, or even just casual conversation.

      1. LJay*

        See, I thought the “we’re both over 18” was because they were both just over 18, and he wanted to make clear that he wasn’t an 18 year old talking to a 15 year old or something similar where the parents could see it as problematic for age reasons.

    5. Completely Different Name for This*

      I got the impression they’re around the same age and the girl’s parents are too controlling.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Or she just has strict parents? Granted, I’m well over 18 and live at home for a variety of reasons, but my parents don’t comment on my friend choice or social life. I’m guessing this woman is over 18 but not by much, and her parents are of the “my house, my rules” mindset combined with the view that she is still their child even though she’s legally an adult.

      But I know lots and lots of people (including some of my own relatives) who will side-eye friendships between men and women just because a lot of people do that. They’re conservative but hardly lunatic-fringe conservative or “religious sect” conservative; just ordinary old-fashioned conservative.

    7. Risha*

      It’s Schrödinger’s letter!

      Personally, I jumped to an older man, but took him at his word that the relationship was mutual and consensual. Why did I read it that way? No idea!

    8. Wake up !*

      What is up with this thread? Alison asks people not to speculate so everyone shares what specific speculations *they* indulged in? Why?

    9. Wake up !*

      Why share this? You realize you jumped to a ridiculous conclusion, you don’t need to tell everyone about it *in the comments of a post asking people not to speculate*.

    10. Jin*

      Thanks for this–quick Q though, are you certain LW 2 is a guy?

      My instinctive read on this was that both LW 2 and coworker/friend were women and/or that either way LW 2 was not-a-cis-guy. With that read the “if we both end up single” line felt a lot less like a red flag to me, since IME queer dating can be a lot more fluid as relationships move from and back and forth between platonic and romantic (and the “are we single or have we actually been dating this whole time?” period of ambiguity can look A Lot different from heteronormative relationships).

      I also 100% read that the parents were having a homophobic freakout if they thought their daughter’s texts were coming from a Predatory Lesbian(tm), which is unfortunately not an uncommon experience. It wasn’t until I saw Alison’s comment here that the possibility of this being a hetero situation even occurred to me, lol.

      LW 2, I agree with all of Alison’s advice, as well as all the comments below discussing seniority (both in age and in work hierarchy). And if this IS a queer maybe-more-than-friendship, and both of you are serious about wanting to date-for-real, expect things to get messier with her parents, and be prepared to support her through that.

          1. disagree*

            If names weren’t gendered, trans people would never change theirs when they transitioned.

            If I am contacted by a David, I am going to assume David is male unless told otherwise. Conversely, in the case of a Sarah, I will assume female. There are always outliers, but they are outliers.

            1. Janie*

              Not all people change their names when they transition. Sarah and David both may be nonbinary. Billie might be a girl. Ashley might be a boy. You shouldn’t make assumptions about people.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I also thought that was a letter about two women and that the parents were being homophobic!

    11. Greg C*

      Honestly the age difference is irrelevant for and I wasn’t going to bring it up anyway. They are both 18 they are both legal consenting adults and the parents have no real say.

  2. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    OP4 – some cities are starting to phase out recycling. It’s expensive, and sometimes that money is better used elsewhere. My town has recycling but doesn’t accept all plastics anyway.

    Along the same lines, some cities make you pay for recycling pickups.

    1. buttrue???*

      What my town recycles was reduced and we are back to the minimum. Newspaper, plastic bottles (#1,2&5), metal cans, glass jars and cardboard. Nearby city stopped picking up glass but set up an area you can bring it to.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      There have been news articles lately about how China (which has been where the majority of our recycling goes) has made its standards for what they’ll accept far stricter recently, and since people are really bad at not contaminating recycling with trash, many cities are finding it too expensive to pay workers to sort out the contaminants.

      Recycling plastic is a lot dirtier and less efficient than having reusable objects. I agree with some of the other commenters – get a nice water bottle or tumbler with a lid or something and refill it a few times a day.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This. If throwing out plastic bottles is your bete noire, a tumbler is a better solution than trying to implement a recycling program.

        1. Busy*

          Yes. I recently looked it up, and the current research is stating that recylcing is pretty inefficient. Most of what people recycle ends up going to the dump anyway as it is not usable. The business or the area the business is in may not have recycle pick up due to what comes out of the area regularly? Either way, if a person is conscience of waste, they should adopt reusable items – this is all literally what new reports are stating!

          1. Works in IT*

            Yeah, with recycling now… plastic bags have to be taken back to the grocery store, the grocery store near me changed a few years ago and the new owners removed the recycling bags return containers, most people don’t even know about the containers and see “recycling symbol” and go “oh it is recyclable”.
            The notion that recyclables cannot be put in recyclable bags to transport them is both not intuitive and, in practice, a pain, because bags make them easier to transport to recycling containers, but lifting garbage bags full of recyclables to shoulder height and then emptying them takes forever as the parts of the bag behind your hands sag down and don’t want to go into the container.

            The sheer variety of types of plastic that need to be sorted is mind boggling, and I can definitely see where a lot of people just assume the workers at the recycling plant will have a setup that makes sorting and emptying bags easier for them.

          2. dramalama*

            Reminds me of how all those Saturday morning cartoons used to drill me in “Reduce – Reuse – Recycle”. Now that I’m in an area where recycling is really damn hard I feel like I’m finally getting better at those first two.

        2. Amethystmoon*

          I just bring in those large reusable water bottles. After a week or so of use, I put them in my dishwasher & they’re fine.

      2. Astrea*

        Yeah. Many people will add somethimg to their recycling in they don’t know whether it’s recyclable, believing that if it’s not, it will just get removed and trashed like it otherwise would have, with no harm done. Or not picked up — my city says that unacceptable items for curbside pickup will he left behind with a not explaining why, but I believe they’re unlikely to ever do that when going around rapidly pouring bin contents into their vehicles in the early morning. But in fact, non-recyclable materials and substances are often not removed until they’ve contaminated a load of recyclable materials inextricably enough to get it landfilled. And sometimes they pose a danger to processing workers.

        So I urge anyone to try finding out the specifics of what is and isn’t accepted for recycling in your area and how it should be handled (e.g. separated or single-stream). Look for guidelines on the websites of your local waste processing center or municipal government office. Some are more detailed than others, but learn what you can.

        /tangential PSA

      3. E*

        Additionally, maybe ask the office if they’d consider purchasing logo tumblers for employees. Less plastic trash, more company branding on display.

        1. Completely Different Name for This*

          Plastic water tumblers often don’t get used longer than a few months. The ones with built-in straws or fancy lids that flip/slide open, etc. are hard to clean and maintain. I once had one that grew black mold under the surface of the lid near the flip part.
          A few years ago I bought stainless steel water bottles with wide mouths so I can clean them with a brush. They’re an investment and will last longer than I do. :)
          I highly recommend reusable tumblers that are easy to clean and maintain, with an opening wide enough to clean and a non-fancy lid that’s easy to clean and maintain.

          1. kittymommy*

            Currently I am using my Nalgene 1000mL bottle that I bought about 15 years ago. I have a bunch of the fancy to go bottles and yeah, they can be hard to clean (especially without a dishwasher). Always go back to my Nalgene.

            1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              If you’re someone who cares about BPA, the Nalgenes prior to 2008-2009-ish all have BPA. The next generation had BPS, and the current generation is Tritan which has less of both BPA and BPS.

              1. Eukomos*

                I think the original Nalgenes that had a sort of frosted look rather than clear, transparent plastic did not have BPA. They’ll be pretty old at this point, though.

                1. Kj*

                  We still have the ones my parents got when I was in middle school. I’m 32. Those things last forever.

          2. just a random teacher*

            I got dishwasher safe stainless steel travel coffee mugs. I take coffee to work in them every day, then refill them with water all day long after I’ve finished my coffee. (I use a new one each day.) The ones I buy (from Contigo) are designed to be open only while you’re holding down a button, so it has also drastically decreased how often I spill water and/or coffee on things. I call them my “adult sippy cups” since they’re how I keep from spilling things. So far, none of them has grown anything gross (washing in the dishwasher after a single day’s use probably helps here) and it seems like I get about 5 years before the rubber seal fails and I need new ones.

            1. Emily K*

              I am lowkey obsessed with Contigo mugs. They are hands down the best commuter mug I’ve ever owned – before Contigo I didn’t know it was possible to have a commuter mug brand preference, but when I lost one and tried using a backup for a while, I realized my Contigo keeps my coffee warm for HOURS longer than any other one I had. Hashtag #contigo4life.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          OMG we have logo’ed containers and I STILL can’t train my (educated, urbane) coworkers how to use them! AAUGH.

      4. Emily K*

        And those walks to the water fountain some distance away are a great opportunity to take a screen break!

        1. dramalama*

          I do this exact thing– we’ve got a water bottle filling station on the other side of the office from me. I think of it as a long way away, but according to my apple watch it’s only far enough to give me another hour of stand-up credit.

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          Yep! I actually got myself a smaller water cup so I could have a reason to get up more often.

          That may not work for OP, but instead of taking yet another little plastic bottle, get yourself a thermos or water bottle to fill up in the morning and maybe one other time during the day if you are especially thirsty.

        3. TardyTardis*

          I used that opportunity to climb stairs/go down them and then return. Good exercise break, too.

      5. Loux in Canada*

        My family is CONSTANTLY buying 24-packs of water. I have a refillable water bottle that I use, and I only ever get a plastic water bottle if for some reason I manage to forget my water bottle at home. It drives me insane!

        Also, re: contaminants – food waste is a big one! People will throw dirty cans or plastics in the recycling, and then they can’t be used. Most of my recycling is Coke cans (I have a problem) or cat food cans. I don’t usually wash the Coke cans (although maybe I should), but I always wash the cat food cans before putting them in the bin.

        Overall it’s tricky. Most people just don’t have the education to know what should go in the recycling vs what should not.

    3. Annette*

      Chances are – LW would know if this was a city wide issue. Probably not since she recycles at home (maybe she commutes far but equally likely she doesn’t). IMO she doesn’t need a lecture on pros and cons of recycling. Just advice on whether and when to bring it up at work.

      1. Super Dee Duper Anon*

        Eh – I think it’s a very fair thing to point out to the LW. I’m in a city that apparently has different standards and ordinances about recycling depending on the type/class of building. I was fined once for not separating my recycling at my apartment (residential), but have had widely varying experiences in my work buildings – some buildings/workplaces took recycling very seriously. One refused to put out recycling bins out at all because Operations said even if we did separate out our recycling the building just combined everything gathered into trash.

        I think it depends on how the buildings handle garbage (are tenants responsible for bring it down to a collection point? Or is there building wide maintenance/cleaning that collects it?), who is paying any additional fees for recycling pickups (and is building management willing to pay or at least coordinate payment) and the energy/green rating of the building (I think the certified green commercial buildings might be required to participate while older properties could be exempt unless they choose to get green certified).

        Anyway – this is a long convoluted way of saying recycling laws can be equally convoluted and the LW should probably keep that in mind if they do decide to bring it up.

        1. Antilles*

          Not only are the rules different for different building types and usage, it also varies wildly between locations within the same metropolitan area – recycling typically isn’t handled on a large-scale basis (e.g., “Greater Atlanta”) but on a county or municipal level (e.g, “Roswell” is separate from “Alpharetta” even though they’re both northern Atlanta suburbs). So the rules vary wildly on a suburb-by-suburb basis depending on your local laws, local politics, which company has the subcontract for your recycling, how/when that subcontract was negotiated, etc.
          I’ve lived in three different suburbs within the past 10 years, all in the same county and within about 15 miles of each other and each one has had completely and totally different rules for waste disposal and recycling.

          1. Arjay*

            My city has residential curbside recycling, yay! Except that doesn’t apply to my apartment complex, boo! It’s legitimately easier for me to load the recyclung in the car and drop it off at a city receycling center than it is to drag it the three buildings away to where the apartment complex bins are.

      2. jDC*

        Not necessarily. Where I live the recycling is really limited. Two miles up the road where i work they take nearly everything.

    4. Original poster*

      Original poster here. That’s a good point. Thanks. I live in a very large city. I could do some research on the specific neighborhood or ask that question when a few months have gone by and I can address this. Thanks!

      1. Ashley*

        I have the space so I brought in a recycling container and empty it weekly. You just have to watch the cleaning crew though; sometimes they toss the contents with the trash if I forget.

      2. Apostrophina*

        It can really vary. I live in the county (where you have to pay for recycling) and work a few miles away in the city (municipal recycling). My home and my office have the same zip code, so it might not be apparent that there’s a difference at first glance.

      3. Thomas*

        If this is in a very large city, then it’s likely that whatever recycling the city does, is required by law. But, businesses that are tenants are often reliant upon their landlord to provide it, and the legal responsibility varies.

        The bottleless water coolers, that hook up to whatever water supply is coming into the space and provide filtration as well as insta-hot and cold drinking, are a great option, and if the business is buying those dumb tiny bottles and providing refrigeration space for them, save a good amount of money. They can be bought outright, or there are services that will lease, install and service them (and they’re still a big savings). Try mentioning that to someone in operations/office MGMT and they might actually appreciate it, rather than seeing it as a complaint. That (maybe even plus branded swag glasses/bottles given to employees to celebrate the move) would save a lot of trash.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          As you state, the bottleless water coolers do require a hookup to a water supply. That can really limit where they can be placed – my office building has all the bathrooms and such on one side and no water on the other – it’s an older building and doesn’t have sprinklers. So some parts of the building do have traditional water coolers with bottled water delivery (not just for location reasons but also because the water in our water fountains and sinks tastes off). It’s still not perfect, environmentally, but at least the plastic bottles get reused and aren’t just tossed. It would be better if that water weren’t being driven around in trucks, but the little bottles they use now are also driven around in trucks so at least it’s probably an even swap on that front.

      4. Recycling No More*

        My company stopped recycling because it was costing us money. The waste management folks started charging through the roof for recycling pick up. We needed to cut costs, and it was one of the first things to go. And yes, this is in US in a large metropolitan (southern) area.

    5. soupcold57*

      Some cities provide it to residential only. Commercial buildings have to arrange their own.

    6. HailRobonia*

      I work in a university in New England where recycling has been a thing since forever; we all have clearly marked recycling bins and get yearly notices about the campus recycling initiatives, what and how to recycle, what is not allowed, etc.

      Despite all this, people are always throwing food waste and other non-recyclables in the recycling bins. Then they get all bent out of shape when they see the custodians tossing recycling in the trash. News flash: It’s not the custodians’ job to sort through recycling. If they see contamination in a recycling bin they are instructed (rightfully so) to toss the whole bin in the trash.

      1. Ellex*

        I’ve worked in 3 different workplaces that tried to get employees to separate out recyclables and put them in recycling bins, and all 3 workplaces gave up due to people who apparently could not remember that food waste, dirty paper plates, styrofoam, and random bits of plastic are not recyclable. Including one person who insisted that because styrofoam was accepted for recycling where she lived, it must be acceptable for recycling everywhere, despite our workplace being in a different county than the one she lived in and served by a different waste disposal company.

        It’s like trying to keep office refrigerators clean without periodically throwing away everything in it: a perpetually losing battle.

        1. fposte*

          Yes. Our facility is okay on the paper recycling bins, but the other ones are just rebadged garbage cans and the labeling is down too low to be visible when you’re tossing. It’s too strong a pull for people.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I had to resort my in-house recycle bin after my MIL came to visit. She dumped dirty paper plates, used paper towels, etc., because “they’re all paper!”

          I did not appreciate having to hand sort out soiled paper towels.

        3. Emily K*

          I rent out my basement on AirBnB and this is actually one of my most frustrating battles. Recycling is stupidly complicated in my county, and knowing that contaminated recycling basically IS garbage, I always list in the information sheet exactly what can and can’t be recycled and say that if in doubt, it is better for the Earth to throw it out than to contaminate an entire truck full of recyclables. And still I find things in the recycling bins like:

          – Dirty takeout containers, paper drink cups (often with lid and straw still attached) and greasy pizza boxes
          – Used napkins and paper towels
          – Drink bottles with the cap on (the caps are not recyclable here) and a half-ounce of liquid still in the bottle, meaning they didn’t even pour it out let alone rinse it
          – Small scraps of loose paper thrown into a big wheelie bin
          – Bags of bottles and cans (plastic bags cannot be recycled)
          – In-tact boxes with shopping bags stuffed inside them (plastic bags not recyclable and boxes must be flattened)
          – In-tact boxes with styrofoam inserts stuffed back inside them
          – Shoe box tissue paper (tissue paper is not recyclable)

          All of these no-nos are in the instructions posted right above the recycling bins inside, but it’s just asking too much to expect people to read and follow instructions. I keep telling myself I should just let it go and accept that the recycling stream is probably going to be contaminated by another house if it’s not mine, but every week I still find myself pawing through the recycling bin to unscrew bottle caps and shake out the excess liquid and flattening boxes and removing garbage that may have been inside them.

    7. ThursdaysGeek*

      Yeah, we used to recycle and then the company decided it cost too much. I’ve been recycling just aluminum cans for a couple of years, but I’m in the process of stopping. The money I get no longer really covers the cost of gas to the recycler.

    8. Chinookwind*

      And some may have never started. Where I work, the town is 95% industrial park and there is no coordinated garbage pick up, never mind recycling option. As a company, we would have to pay extra to have someone from out of town come in to pick it up and our company won’t do that. Don’t be surprised if TPTB have the same attitude about not wanting to cover the cost. On the plus side, that means that TPTB at my place do recycle scrap metal (because we can sell it), buy used a lot through auctions (which means a lot of reduce/reuse) and will repair rather than replace. They are also willing to upgrade electrical and water using items if it means saving money on their bills.

  3. Lilith*

    For #4, can’t you bring your own large drinking glass to refill throughout the day? That way there’s no worries about recycling any sized plastic bottles.

    1. Annette*

      Said this below but this does not solve the bigger issue of the whole office trashing everything. it’s not just about LW.

      That said – strange to focus so much on the water bottles in the question. I know it is just one example. But if she brings it up ahte should avoid seeming totally focused on the water bottle issue.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        This is true. Every office I’ve seen generated a decent amount of paper waste, and it’s sad to think of all that going to landfills.

        1. valentine*

          Avoiding the bottles is the one piece OP1 can control and may be the only victory to be had here.

          1. Scully*

            Yup. If I have to, I’ll throw away paper and not feel guilty about it. But throwing away one plastic water bottle makes me feel so guilty. Paper breaks down; plastic does not, plus plastic is nonrenewable. I would start feeling concerned about plastic first and foremost too.

            1. Reba*

              Heh, I do the opposite! Knowing that there is a market for recycled paper and metals, and that recycling them does save carbon, I take more care with those. The benefits of plastic recycling are much less clear cut and so often I let myself off the hook with plastic, especially if I would need to wash it to make it recyclable.

            2. Eukomos*

              Plastic recycling is not very effective though, sadly. All you can really do is downcycle, and you’re lucky if that even happens. Since it’s so hard to recycle, it’s expensive to do so, and any contamination in the waste stream makes everything even harder. China no longer accepts most recycled materials since it no longer makes financial sense for them to do so, and until about two years ago they were the largest market. Now a lot of it sits in warehouses until a buyer can be found, or even just gets thrown into the landfill or incinerator with the trash. Recycling plastic is a bandaid on a deep wound, unfortunately. We just don’t have a good solution in place for managing plastic after we’re done using it. At the moment the best thing is really to avoid using it, if it’s a concern for you.

      2. T3k*

        Eh, kind of iffy though. Not everyone is into recycling a lot so while her goal may be to try and have the whole office recycle, ultimately she can only control her own actions.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, if I have a system going and the newbie comes in to change my system, I am not looking favorably on the newbie in most cases. Only if my own personal life got immediately and measurably better, and recycling plastic is a “feel good about issues of ocean pollution” kind of improvement.

        2. NewCommenter*

          If you don’t want people to evangelize or share the Gospel at work, how can you be all right with recycling pressure?

          1. Agnodike*

            This might be the silliest comment I’ve ever read on this website rife with silly comments.

              1. Agnodike*

                If you can’t see the difference between religious proselytizing and asking people to recycle I honestly don’t know how to begin to explain it.

                1. NewCommenter*

                  Recycling is like a religion to some people. Changing an organization because of personal preferences on trash is not right.

    2. Alianora*

      That’s a good idea, but why not do both? Bring a reusable water bottle and also try to get recycling available at the new office.

    3. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      Plus, if she used her own reusable bottle, it’d hold more than four gulps of water.

    4. Original poster*

      Original poster here: the only reason I don’t right now is because the water fountain is a long walk away in a different part of the office. I hope that will change when we move. Thanks for the suggestion. :)

      1. Agnodike*

        That kind of seems like an argument in favour of bringing your own large reusable water bottle, though? Fill it up at home or the beginning of the day, refill it on your lunch break, and then you don’t have to trek to the other side of the office during your workday OR use disposable bottles.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          Do like a body builder and carry around a gallon jug? Then you only have to fill it once, maybe twice a day.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              I have a 32 ounce bottle, refill 4-5 times a day (which doesn’t include water I drink outside the work day). I don’t have a physically demanding job but I sweat a lot.

              If she drank under a gallon it would last all day. Or could do the same with a half gallon or liter or whatever size makes sense to limit trips to the water fountain.

      2. Manya*

        So you’re committed to helping the environment…as long as you don’t have to walk too far.

        1. Anon for this*

          You don’t know exactly what their work is, just how far away the fountain is, how much they have to be at their desk, etc. We should take OP at their word that it’s a far enough walk that it would be hindrance to them during the work day. And if it’s not, they can tell us, but the snark isn’t necessary.

          1. Agnodike*

            Sure, but there’s no reason they can’t at least start the day with a full bottle. Even if they never refill it, that’s still fewer disposable bottles used per day.

        2. Wake up !*

          This is so rude. Everyone usually loves to “not everyone can eat sandwich” suggestions like bringing a water bottle, but this particular OP deserves scorn for not doing it?

      3. Rae*

        Are you mobility impaired? Klean Kanteen and others have 32+ oz or even one gallon bottles. You would have to fill it a couple times a day. It’s very hard to take this complaint seriously when you have a solution.

        I worked in a mill building that was over a city block. They kept the good free tea at the other end. Somehow I always found my way over without issue.

        You are accepting the tiny water bottles. I’ve never been given water in an office job. This one is on you. There may be other issues that are beyond your control but this isn’t.

        You can be the change you want to see. Find a buddy to walk to the fountain with.

        1. Wake up !*

          Again, this is like the reverse sandwiches. Literally everyone has heard of reusable water bottles and it is so rude to act like using one must be the OP’s only solution to this issue.

          1. TatttoedInDC*

            Er, I really don’t think it’s rude. It’s an actionable item for OP to make a change about something she is clearly bothered by, even if it is inconvenient.

          2. Dragoning*

            Well, it’s likely whoever she brings this up to as an issue trying to get recycling in the building would ask her about this–maybe part of THEIR solution to it would be “Buy everyone reusable water bottles with the company logo” or something–it’s not unheard of.

            And frankly, reusable water bottles are better for the environment than even recycling the disposable ones is anyway.

          3. KRM*

            Except it’s pretty easy to spend $20 or under once on a big reusable container, walk to the fountain once a day, and have your water. If you like it cold, either accept that you’ll walk more, or keep it in the fridge (I assume there is one if the OP wants cold water and is drinking the little bottles). This is kind of a solution in search of a problem.

          4. Faith*

            OP complains about not wanting to carry multiple disposable empty water bottles home in order to recycle them. The immediate solution is to bring your own reusable water bottle. And yes, while saying “So, you want to protect the environment as long as it doesn’t inconvenience you personally” does sound a bit blunt, that was my initial reaction to OP’s statement that a water fountain requires a long walk. Without additional details (eg. OP is required to be at their desk at all times, or they are mobility impaired, or the fountain is literally a mile away), it does sound like OP wants to see these sweeping changes, but is not willing to change their own behavior.

          5. Rae*

            Absolutely not. I’m pointing out that the OP needs to find a way to be part of the solution before he or she tries to change what others are doing. Maybe I’m out of touch but the business is providing water–which is pretty expensive. If the OP can present a solution rather than whine about a problem it’s going to go over far better.

            1. Agnodike*

              At first I was puzzled and maybe a bit annoyed, but now I am genuinely very into the anti-recycling crusade you seem to have going on here.

              1. NewCommenter*

                It’s not a crusade. I’m fine with recycling, just not guilting people into it who work together at an organization into changing because of one person.

          6. JessaB*

            Honestly every company I ever worked for that was bigger than a handful of people gave out reusable cups/tumblers with the company logo and made it clear that it’s not just about recycling, but about not spilling stuff on computer equipment and company paperwork.

        2. Rae*

          It has nothing to do with sainthood, it has everything to do with motivation. I was motivated to get something so I did it. The OP is saying they value something but have no good reason why “far” is not an overcomeable issue.

        3. Mint Hartke*

          You seem to be starting from the presumption that they’re just too lazy or stupid to get a reusable water bottle. If you can easily conceive of reasons that OP’s decision here to not want to do that would be reasonable (such as mobility issues, or the inability to take the kind of breaks that would allow them to walk all the way to the water fountain as often as they’d need to due to the nature of their work, etc) why not just start with that? Why *start* with being a jerk about it, and putting the burden on OP to have to defend why they’re not doing the *very obvious* thing you’re so rudely insisting on? Can’t you just think to yourself “OP is a person with rational thoughts and feelings, just like mine, who has their own unique circumstances that make this plan more or less viable for them?”

        4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          There may be a reason the company is providing plastic bottles of drinking water rather than directing people to use the water fountain: perhaps the water in the building is unfit for drinking.

          Source: My friend who worked in Flint, Michigan, where they received unlimited free bottles of drinking water from their employer.

        5. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The issue isn’t the OP’s own plastic consumption; it’s the office’s as a whole. Yes, she could start with her own, but that’s ignoring the larger question she wrote in about.

          1. Rae*

            Alison–As a manager–even with a 6+ employee would you not feel put out if someone complained how the OP did without even bothering to think of a solution or work within the norms? Rather than pushing recycling (which other posters pointed out might not even be a thing) ask about taking trips to the “distant” bubbler and how that’s perceived?

            The other concern is that she might want to ASK about the tiny waters. I’ve worked for pretty good companies but I’ve never known any to happily waste money on getting every employee dozens of teeny water bottles a day. My real concern would be surrounding the potable water situation. I’m not that far from one of the Poland Springs bottling plants and I asked my friend who works in the office there…not even they do that kind of thing.

      4. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Hi, OP.

        In my opinion, there’s sort of a Venn diagram of 3 issues here. One is recycling at your office, two is overall sustainability at your office, and three is where recycling (particularly that of plastics) fits in to overall environmental sustainability.

        I understand your choice to let it go for a few months, although I disagree a little with Alison’s opinion that you’re too new to say anything. A new person is in the perfect position to say, “Being brand new and not understanding how the decisions have been made to date, what’s the business’ stance on recycling?”

        Anyhow, this being Earth Day, I’d really encourage everyone to think about getting engaged in green initiatives at work. Check out websites like GreenBiz or businessgreen. There’s a lot you can do to make an impact!

        1. Mint Hartke*

          Yeah, I mean, OP could even just ask someone “hey! Is there a reason we don’t recycle? Especially with all these plastic bottles we use every day?”

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            Thanks for the clarification. I hadn’t really parsed out the difference between asking and recommending!

      5. Rainbow Roses*

        I have two water bottles so I can make less trips per day to the water fountain. I’ve seen others fill a “gallon milk jug” type container to keep at their desk for the day. If you’re really interested in reduce waste, there are ways.

        Sorry but “it’s too far” doesn’t fly with me unless you have a condition where you can’t walk far or carry heavy things.

        1. Rae*

          That’s what I’m having an issue with. The OP hasn’t even made the effort to make their preferred solution work, yet they are ready to try and get everyone else to change.

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        We ended up moving to a new building with easier access to water, but in our old building I had a coworker who would take an entire pitcher to fill up and keep at her desk so she got like 3 or 4 bottles of water out of one trip to the fountain.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I’m leery of the fact that they won’t put key terms in your offer letter and insist that those other agreements were “informal.” I’m also worried that Alison’s workaround would be insufficient if the offer letter purports to represent all the material terms of employment. A clause like that typically knocks out any terms you negotiated through their “informal” agreement with you.

    There’s a strong possibility that this isn’t sinister, and they simply don’t get how this works. But there’s also a possibility that they’re being super shady.

    If they keep pushing back on your requests to get it in writing by casting those requests as “extraordinary,” it may make sense to proceed as if they’re naive. So for example, you could respond to their “extraordinary” statement by saying (in a gee-whiz-that’s-surprising tone), “Oh, negotiation and agreement on terms is pretty normal in [fields you’ve worked in]. Do you use a different method to capture issues that don’t appear in the offer letter?” How they respond will help clarify if this is naïveté or bad faith.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Not only this, why were these limitations not brought up while OP was negotiating the offer? None of this should have been sprung on her at the 11th hour. And if the employer didn’t know about the restrictions from the parent company until they went to draft the letter, then there should have been some profuse apologizing on their part because there is no guarantee that the parent org will honor the informal agreement, especially if the start-up fails or just doesn’t perform as expected. OP is taking a huge risk here, and this looks like a bait and switch (though it may not be, or wasn’t intentionally so).

      1. Antilles*

        Personally, I don’t believe the “parent company restrictions” at all, not in the slightest.
        1.) As you said, if it was truly an error, they would have fallen all over themselves apologizing.
        2.) That explanation doesn’t justify the changes to the details which actually were included in the offer letter (employee title, the fact it was a six-months contract employee) that are completely and totally different than what was discussed.
        3.) How can you not change the title in the offer letter? Your parent company clearly does allow listing titles in offer letters because they already did.
        4.) The ‘exceptional’ comment strikes me as particularly odd given so much of the other stuff is pretty basic. Expecting the offer letter to be along the sample lines as what was previously discussed, then questioning why it isn’t? That’s not ‘exceptional’, that’s like a completely reasonable and basic thing to expect.

        1. Jadelyn*

          Item #2 is the one that screams “NOPE” to me – a change from regular employee to six month contract with a lower title? That’s not normal, and I doubt it’s a miscommunication. My guess would be they originally intended to fill the higher role as a regular EE, so it was posted as such, but someone higher up decided they “didn’t need that” right now and they would only bring someone on for 6 months with the lower title – and they liked the candidate they had, so they didn’t bother telling OP about the change. Which is extremely shady.

        2. pcake*

          And if they are dealing with parent company restrictions, they would almost surely have known that in advance of your interview. If that was the case, I’d say the offer was not made in good faith.

        3. wewewe*

          I agree. There are bright red flags ALL OVER this situation. They lied to the OP to get them to accept the position and rushed them so they’d be in a position where they couldn’t say now (or would have a very hard time saying no). “SHADY” is putting it mildly.

          As the Monty Python guys said, “RUN AWAYYYYY!”

        4. Kat in VA*

          I agree. When the husband got his last offer letter, the salary was off by $15k and the title was lower than it was supposed to be (think Manager instead of Director). When he politely alerted them to it, he had a new offer letter in his inbox less than ten minutes after the phone conversation.

          Anything that’s “informal” and not in writing can be blown off later, or the phrase “parent company restrictions won’t allow us to do X, Y, or Z after all so you’re stuck with what we gave you IN WRITING” or whatever.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I agree, none of this should be 11th hour.

        I had an opening and wasn’t finding a great candidate right away. An internal candidate said, “wait, maybe I could get that job! I’d like that salary raise!” and applied. She was definitely my best candidate, and I knew she would do a good job, so I hired her. The salary had been posted internally and advertised in the papers/job boards.

        Late in the game–after the other team had started hiring for her replacement, etc., maybe even after she’d started, but whatever it was, she couldn’t just go back to her old job–she discovered that her new salary had been put through at a much lower rate. Higher than her old salary, but NOT the one that was originally stated. (When she’d asked me about salary, I told her it was in the posting, because it was.)

        Lo and behold, the business manager had decided that it wasn’t appropriate for her to get such a big jump in salary and had lowered it; my boss had said, “Oh, okay,” and nobody had said anything to me or even to HR. I called the HR chief (as did my subordinate), and the HR chief was livid. “You don’t do that to people.”
        (That business manager had all kinds of weird ideas in her head.)

        So yeah, the OP’s situation is all kinds of messed up. The fact that nobody is apparently even saying, “Oh, wow, I thought we could hire you full-time, I didn’t find out until late that we’re not allowed…” is totally messed up.It’s a huge red flag no matter what happens next.

        At the VERY least, they are completely disorganized. But they’re also just not cognizant of what kinds of effects their screwups have on other people, and I don’t think they see their employees as full people.

    2. Artemesia*

      She has already given notice so she is hanging out there exposed. I’d be scrambling like crazy to see if I could rescind my notice; it looks like she is about to get seriously hosed by the new job. The temporary contract is the most ominous sign but title is another.

      1. MassMatt*

        I agree, how is it they are a start up that has to move quickly when it comes to getting you to quit your existing job, yet they are bound to large company procedures when it comes to telling you the offer? And the offer letter is literally saying his is the offer and there is no other agreement.

        I’ve seen many people get oral agreements while getting hired that never materialize in reality afterwards, this sets off huge alarm bells.

        And it took the start up a week to get you the offer letter! How many days or weeks will it take them respond here, all the while your current employment is winding down?

      2. Startup fan*

        I’d be scrambling like crazy to see if I could rescind my notice

        I completely agree with this. If it’s truly a mistake, a start-up should be able to correct this within half a day or so.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      The intent can be sincere and not sinister… and than as soon as someone at the parent org says “no” to something in the informal agreement well they have to go by what’s in the offer letter, gosh sorry.

    4. Quinalla*

      I would be very leary if they won’t put it in writing at all. Make sure you get it in writing, period. With my current company, I negotiated more vacation time and made sure it was in my offer letter. I’ve had to go back to that offer letter 2 years after I was hired when we got a new HR person and she set my vacation back to what it “should be” (much lower), though she did confirm with everyone when she made the change, though for most people it was the same or bumped up a little. I just sent her my offer letter and she fixed it immediately. If I hadn’t had that, I probably still could have gotten it fixed, but it was so, so much easier with that in writing and not having to go back to who wrote the offer and jog their memory from 2 years ago. And this was all in good faith mistake.
      Get it in writing, even if just an email!

  5. nodramalama*

    OP#4 if you’re concerned about recyling water maybe just bring your own water bottle to work that’s not plastic instead of throwing out a bunch of mini ones a day.

    1. Annette*

      I’m sure LW is aware – reusable water bottles exist. The real issue seems to = her whole office throwing away tons of recyclables including water bottles. Not her own personal water bottle use.

      1. KP*

        But I had the same impression. The office HAS a water fountain available but … it’s “kind of a long walk away” and so OP would rather use a bunch of tiny plastic bottles and be shocked by the lack of recycling rather than simply use one large refillable container? On its face it makes no sense, and it does seem fair to suggest it as an alternative to someone genuinely concerned about recycling. (As an aside, I’ve also never considered those tiny four-gulp water bottles to be meant as substantial, or to fully hydrate a person who needs to drink several. I guess I’ve always thought of them kind of like mini complementary tiny drinks for, say, especially panelists who need to clear their throats or whatnot while speaking at a conference, that kind of thing.)

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          I agree as well. Unless the water fountain is significantly far away (like, a 30 minute walk), and for some reason you can’t fill up at home…I’m not sure why the tiny water bottles are a better option than a large reusable container.

          1. Fieldpoppy*

            Bottled water is actually one of the worst environmental choices — water tables and land are depleted, resources are used creating plastic and transporting a heavy resource, and half the time people don’t even finish the bottle. Bring your own bottle and take a walk to the other side of the office once a day if you have green concerns.

        2. CheeryO*

          I mean, OP could also fill up a water bottle in the bathroom sink – it’s all the same water. The letter is about office-wide recycling, not their personal waste. My office’s ratio of paper and cardboard to mixed recyclables is at least 5:1. You could argue that the plastics have a larger environmental impact, but the issue here goes beyond tiny water bottles. (And I need to stop commenting because I work for an environmental agency, and the idea of using those tiny bottles as actual source of hydration on a daily basis is making me feel things.)

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            It is about the entire office recycling, but it is also going to look a little strange for someone to be pushing more recycling while also using 15 of those teeny little bottles per day because the water fountain is a bit of a walk. The tiny water bottles are but a little piece of the problem, but it’s also the one that is the most visually obvious for a lot of people.

            (From an ex-gov’t environmental agency employee, who recently had all of the water stations replaced at Current Job for cleanliness but also to reduce waste, as they now just filter our well water instead of using those horrible jug things, and now we don’t order near as many pallets of water bottles.)

          2. Elizabeth*

            It’s all the same water but not all the same fixtures. Bathroom fixtures have a higher allowable lead content because the water isn’t meant for regular drinking.

            1. valentine*

              Thank you. It’s not just me; it’s science. Always feel better with science on my side.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            I have a 32-ounce Nalgene bottle that I fill at home (filtered faucet) in the morning, and that’s usually enough for the work day. While I find it annoying that this office collectively is using so many, it seems like the obvious first step would be for the OP to bring her own larger bottle and stop using the office bottles herself. Not sure what the hangup is there? I don’t like cold water but the bottle could be frozen and sipped as it thawed if the OP wanted.

          4. Michaela Westen*

            Also everyone where I live uses filtered tap water from filtered water stations/fountains at work and filter pitchers at home, so filling in the bathroom is not an option.

        3. Emily K*

          I like to keep a few of those small bottles in the console storage in my car. Sometimes I just get so unbearably thirsty and I’m still 20 minutes or more away from where I’m going, and it’s a godsend to have just a few gulps of water to at least wet my dry mouth with. I only do a few at a time since leaving plastic bottles inside a car will speed up the process of the plastic breaking down, and I also use the console storage because the temperature doesn’t get quite as high in there when the car is sitting for the same reason.

          Plus, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been leaving a concert with friends and when we get to my car everyone is overjoyed that there’s a water for everyone!

      2. TootsNYC*

        I’m sure LW is aware – reusable water bottles exist. The real issue seems to = her whole office throwing away tons of recyclables including water bottles. Not her own personal water bottle use.

        Yes! We just had a snacks station installed on every floor; there are little plastic cups. I was musing that I thought I’d suggest we ask the snacks vendor to switch to the paper cups, and someone said, “You can bring your own reusable.”
        I was like, “I’m already putting mine in a paper towel; my point isn’t my three little cups a day, it’s the 40 or so per floor.”

        1. Observer*

          Which actually kind of makes the point that some of the others are getting at. Once you’ve taken the step(s) that you can, you’re in a much better position to ask for wider changes. As you can see the very first response what about what you can do – and you were able to push back because you are ALREADY taking reasonable steps.

    2. Artemesia*

      This is like saying, ‘if you want to see wealthy people like yourself pay higher taxes then you can send the government more money.’ This is not the point. It is a systemic issue not a personal one. Her using a reusable bottle makes no difference; perhaps everyone recycling would. Personal sacrifice doesn’t affect much; systemic change can make a big difference.

      1. fposte*

        Her using a reusable bottle does make a difference, though. If she drinks 3 tiny bottles a day, she’s saving over 700 bottles a year by using a reusable instead. More importantly, not using the plastic in the first place is much more environmentally friendly than recycling it.

        More broadly, though, neither her office recycling nor her personal change is going to have much effect on moving the needle; they’re both very, very small slices of the problem. You can’t really say one matters and the other doesn’t.

  6. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP #2, you say you don’t have face-to-face contact with this coworker often but don’t specify what your working relationship is. If either of you has any supervisory/managerial role over the other, this sounds like it has the potential to be problematic even if you’re not actually romantically involved, so I’d advise doing what you can to avoid that if one of you gets promoted etc. in the future.

    (I also feel a bit sad for the significant other(s) of you and your friend. I’d be pretty unsettled and hurt if my romantic partner was making plans for who he was going to date after me. Not for having a crush on someone who’s not me – that’s very normal – but actually discussing it with her. I know this part is not at all work advice but personal advice, so I apologize if that’s going out of bounds.)

    1. Alianora*

      Yes, this part really stood out to me: “Moreover, we both have a huge thing for each other. We are both in agreement that if we ever both end up single, we are going to try for a relationship.” Aside from what Alison said about this type of agreement not always being mutually understood, it sounds like an unhealthy way to look at your current relationships (as some kind of obstacle stopping you from being with the person you have a huge thing for.)

      Coupled with the accusation from her parents that you sexually harassed her, I’m confused as to what the content of these messages were. Are the parents overreacting to platonic messages? Are you talking about what it’ll be like when you start dating? Are they actually sexual?

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, the actual content of the messages is pretty important in terms of why the parents have reacted like this – even if she doesn’t feel harassed, they might look like that at a glance. Especially if as far as they know, she’s in a relationship with someone else!

        And yeah, I mostly just feel really sad for both their SO’s. I don’t mean to pile on to the OP, but if I found out that my partner had a relationship like this with a coworker I would be really, really upset. They do sound really young so hopefully this will all just be standard early-20s messy.

        1. AMPG*

          I had the same thought re: their current partners. I currently have a “work husband” – we’re very close, do a lot of projects together, have a lot of in-jokes, lean on each other for emotional support at work, etc. – but my real husband knows all about our relationship and I would never feel the need to hide anything about our interactions from him. “If we were single, I’d want to date you” definitely crosses a boundary.

      2. Triplestep*

        Aside from what Alison said about this type of agreement not always being mutually understood, it sounds like an unhealthy way to look at your current relationships (as some kind of obstacle stopping you from being with the person you have a huge thing for.)

        This is what jumped out at me. I don’t think the content of the texts needs to be sexual for the parents to be concerned. I wouldn’t care for a situation in which my young-adult not-single daughter had a friendship exactly as OP described just because of the head space it would be taking up at work. (Not concerned enough to threaten action, mind you. Boundaries! But as a parent I wouldn’t love it.)

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes, boundaries! But if my rather sheltered young relative* was having lengthy conversations with a coworker about how the coworker was totes going to get into a relationship with them when the coworker’s current marriage/other relationship ran its course, I would certainly find that hella disturbing.

          *I have decided to mentally turn this into my young niece, in a few years.

          1. Washi*

            Right! I can certainly see the parents thinking that the daughter is not showing great judgement right now and having a talk with her about the potential awkwardness awaiting her down the end of this path. If the daughter were like 15, and it seemed like something creepy was going on, I could maaaybe see the parent getting involved to the point of calling HR.

            But she is an adult, and there’s really no justification for the parents getting directly involved. They can coach her from the sidelines, but they cannot run into the game and take over for her.

          2. Blue Eagle*

            And I would go one step farther than what Alison’s response suggests. Instead of merely saying that you will stop texting her if she responds to you that she feels uncomfortable (sorry, I forget her exact wording), I would ask her to explicitly say whether or not she feels harassed by you and whether or not she wants you to continue texting to her/hanging out with her.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I worked somewhere where we got a phone call from the parents of a 23 year old regarding a similar situation. Except it was that the “work friend” in question was calling, texting, and emailing her over 100 times per day- sometimes 20 times per hour, with messages containing threats, and racial and sexual slurs.

          The employee felt that, as a professional adult, it was her responsibility to handle “an interpersonal issue with a coworker without letting it interfere with her work”. Her parents were terrified she’d be murdered by a deranged stalker. In this situation, HR agreed: they got a confirmation from the employee in question that her parents’ report was correct and terminated the guy immediately.

          So it is worth considering to the OP that his behavior might look different to a third party.

          1. SOAS (NA)*

            The fact that any employee has been conditioned to think that 100+ contacts a day with threats and slurs is an “interpersonal issue” makes me incredibly sad for so many reasons.

        3. SpaceySteph*

          My mom always told me when I was younger that if I was afraid to own something like this I could blame it on my parents. i.e. “I can’t go out tonight, my mom said no.” or “sorry I can’t take that ecstasy you’re offering me, my mom is going to pick me up soon.” things like that.
          Maybe coworker really just wants him to leave her alone and is using “my parents will report you” as her out. Its not a great choice in the work world, but if she’s only 18 she may not have realized that yet.

      3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Yeeeaahhhh, this whole situation sounds a little strange. Including this bit: “she’s taken me to antique stores to train me to find things she likes, and I’m quite good at it.” Are you saying that she ‘trains’ you to buy her gifts? The friendship sounds a little bit one-sided and, if you are in fact older/more senior than her, that could be feeding into her parents’ concern – that kind of makes it seem like you’re interested in setting up a ‘sugar baby’ type relationship. From the fact that you said “we’re both over 18” and that she still lives with her parents, I’m assuming that either a) both of you are *just barely* adults, or b) she’s *just barely* an adult and you are significantly older. If it’s the latter, that might part of the problem for her parents as well – even if you’re not managing her, you being more senior to her in the organization could be creating ethical issues.

        And when you say ‘when we’re both single’ you want to try for a relationship – does she have a partner now? Do you? Do both of you? It’s not necessarily wrong to be attracted to someone else while in a relationship, but making plans for what happens after you break up, and setting up a ‘plan B’ relationship… eeesh. What you’re describing sounds like an ’emotional affair’ – you might not be doing anything physical, but it’d probably break your partner’s heart to know you were doing it.

        So yes, as Alison says, I’d double-check to confirm that she isn’t feeling pressured by any of this (ESPECIALLY if you are older/more senior and she’s quite young – someone who’s just started out in the workforce might feel extremely worried about telling a supervisor/manager/important person at their company that they’re not interested, even if that person doesn’t manage them directly), but I’d also consider toning it down a bit if the relationship/messages/phone calls have been emotionally or sexually charged. It might be an ethical problem in the workplace, and is definitely not a nice thing to do to your partner/her partner.

          1. Emilia Bedelia*

            I commented above about this, but I really disagree here – for a collector/hobbyist, there really is a technique and skill to finding and collecting antiques, and hunting them down is most of the fun (not buying them). Going to an antique store is really not very fun unless you know what you’re looking for, so I think it’s totally reasonable to imagine the situation going something like coworker asks if LW wants to go to antique store -> LW wants to hang out with friend, agrees -> LW doesn’t understand what coworker is doing, so coworker explains how antique hunting works -> LW gains understanding of coworker’s hobby, realizes they’re good at it, and wants to learn more.

            I get that “training” seems like a weird word but I really disagree that this is a disturbing dynamic.

            1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              Right, but then it’s “train me to find things she likes.” Which doesn’t sound like ‘teach me about antiquing’, it sounds like ‘teach me how to buy her presents’ or at least ‘teach me to pick out things she’d enjoy.’ It doesn’t really sound like ~sharing a hobby~ so much as ~going along with it to impress her~. It’s possible it’s just poorly phrased, but there are several things about this situation that sound a bit off.

            2. Clisby*

              Yeah, that didn’t set off any alarms for me – but I definitely got the impression both the OP and the co-worker are quite young (although 18+). If the co-worker is 40, I might give the side-eye to “find things she likes.” If they’re about the same age – no.

              I love antiquing, and I’ve “trained” my 17-year-old son to identify sterling silver. Not because I want him to buy it for me – he’s just a scout.

      4. Parenthetically*

        “Moreover, we both have a huge thing for each other. We are both in agreement that if we ever both end up single, we are going to try for a relationship.”

        Yeah, that one made me feel super gross and a little angry. One or both of you are in relationships and you’re sending messages so salacious they’re being construed as sexual harassment? Zoinks.

    2. valentine*

      You’re spot on, Elizabeth the Ginger. I think one or both of them fanning the flames of a work-related crush while being in a monogamous relationship, especially if they’re sexting, is a massive part of why the parents are incensed. And for them to want to go nuclear, I also suspect OP is male and the age gap is greater than four years. And the greater the gap, the greater the parental concern.

      OP2: If you write down the bare facts, do you sound like the bad guy in a #MeToo essay? We’ve had several letters about middle-aged men textbook-grooming their young female colleagues (though I may also be thinking of Captain Awkward letters). Regardless of whether you see yourself in those, I hope you’ll think of the bigger picture and whether it makes sense to pull back from this relationship.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        My sense is that they’re both very young (like in the 19-21 age range), although I don’t actually know (just the vibe I got from the email exchange).

          1. nnn*

            That’s the impression I got too. The “We’re both over 18” thing sounds exactly like the sort of thing I would say back when I was a teen chafing against my parents in my attempt to pursue romance with a classmate. I don’t think someone who has long been an adult would feel the need to mention it.

            1. Ms Cappuccino*

              Maybe OP mentions it to make it clear that they both have the legal age to have any relationship they want. That wouldn’t be the case if coworker was 17 so it’s important to mention it in this case.

              1. Triplestep*

                This is exactly what nnn is saying. People well into adulthood don’t feel compelled to mention that they are over 18.

            2. Myrin*

              Yeah, “We’re both over 18” sounds like something a 19-year-old would write.
              (Although I agree with Ms Cap about OP’s likely reasoning. If ages weren’t included at all, people would probably say “Wait, Friend lives with her parents and parents feel the need to interfere in Friend’s relationship? Is Friend possibly still underage??”)

            3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              Mmmm, a 39-year-old who was trying to creep on a 19-year-old might. “Hey, we’re both adults, it’s all cool.”

              1. Lily Rowan*

                Yeah, but I feel like that person would write, “She is over 18,” not “we’re both over 18.”

            4. Allison*

              Right, I feel like if he were much older, he’d justify it by saying “*she’s* over 18.”

            5. Dragoning*

              Mmmm, I don’t know, I’ve definitely heard creepy adults say it when they’re pursuing someone in the 18-21 range when they’re in their 30s or 40s.

            6. PaperGirl*

              That’s what made me think the LW was a much older man actually. I guess I just know a fair amount of socially awkward / emotionally stunted men in their early 40s that speak like they are teenagers. They always “justify” their seeking young women by asserting “we are both over 18”.

              There’s a guy I occasionally (reluctantly) play D&D with who complains about being single constantly. He’s always posting on websites “Kissless seeks Kissless” He’s in his late 30s, but only is interested in 18-20 year old because they are the only ones “still pure”.

              Two consenting adults though. I don’t care. If my Kissless acquaintance ever gets a hit on one of his posts, good for him.

              With this young woman being on her parent’s cell phone plan though, she should look into getting her own. Her parents obviously don’t believe in boundaries.

              1. Observer*

                Maybe they don’t believe in boundaries, or they are seeing something legitimately concerning.

                Keep in mind that being on someone’s plan doesn’t automatically mean that that person gets to see all of your texts, so there is something more going on here.

                1. crochetaway*

                  Yeah, this. My sister is in her 30’s and still on my parent’s cell phone plan. They can’t see her texts, she doesn’t even live with them, but they keep the plan for convenience sake. If parents know about the texts then, I would think the friend definitely showed them to the parents. Most people keep their phones locked, so to me, that’s the only way the parents find out about the texts. I think that if the parents are that concerned – then the OP should def follow Alison and upthread advice about checking in with the friend to make sure the relationship is wanted and reciprocated.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                Only ones still pure?! Ewww. I can only imagine this guy’s bizarre and archaic view of women.

          1. Works in IT*

            I’m in my late 20s, and I’ve been forced to say I’m over 18 regularly (I look younger than 16, people keep challenging me on my qualification to do anything adult related, and since I don’t drink, I have no need to say I’m over 21), I might very well still be saying it out of habit in my forties.

          2. PaperGirl*

            Consider yourself lucky!

            I have some pretty nerdy interests that have led me to having to interact with men in their 40s who justify hitting on young women by saying stuff like “we’re over 18”.

            Not trying to age shame here. So long as everyone consents, I don’t care. It’s just in my experience these men seeking 18-20 year olds are often looking for “pure” women and are very, very incel-y.

    3. Róisín*

      I was also going to say this. LW2, in my one long monogamous relationship I had the thought “if I’m single I should date X” about two different Xs. In both cases it should’ve been a major red flag that the long monogamous relationship was not a good plan for me. I cheated on him with one of those people, and I will always regret not breaking up with him to date that person. Even knowing we wouldn’t have worked out, I wish I’d just done it. It would’ve been kinder and wiser and more fair to everyone.

      I’m now in a polyamorous relationship that allows me to meet the “oh my GOD I wanna do all the things with you” type people and then actually do it without hurting anyone’s feelings or lying or stretching myself thin, and that’s what works for me. But it doesn’t work for everyone, so caution is advised.

    4. CheeryO*

      To your parenthetical, YES. If you’re spending that much time together and making back-burner plans to someday try to date, that’s pretty much the definition of an emotional affair. It probably doesn’t feel like a big deal now, but you might look back on it and cringe when you’re older. It’s really unfair to the significant others in the situation.

    5. Psyche*

      Yeah, I think that the OP should look over the past texts and evaluate whether it could read as harassment and whether their employer would be ok with a relationship between them. If there is a power imbalance, definitely back off. Regardless, it is probably a good idea to back off since at least one of them is not single. There really seems like too much potential for drama. If you really want to be together, break up with your SOs and have a real relationship. If there is a reason that is not possible (like one of you being senior to the other) then the flirty texts are a problem already.

    6. dumblewald*

      I got the impression that they both the OP and the girl are pretty young (like late teens even, early 20s max), so it’s possible they tend to view their relationships as transient, or at least they don’t anticipate marrying their partners any time soon.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, that was one of the things that made me imagine both of these people being fairly young.
        Based on my own experience, reactions to “if we’re ever both single, let’s date each other”:
        19 year old me: ooooh flirty sexual tension
        29 year old me: ewww go figure out your life

        1. dumblewald*

          Yeah, though 19-yr old me would also not be able to imagine anticipating “when I’m single again!” while in a relationship with someone. I took dating very seriously, unfortunately for me!

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        That’s definitely how the letter comes across to me. However, even if that’s the case, I do think that the behaviour described is not a kind or honest way to act towards even quite a short-term partner.

    7. Burned Out Supervisor*

      Letter #2 – are these conversations during work times? The only thing I would worry about is if they’re somewhat amorous messages during work time things could get murky. You also may want to consider that this friendship may go south and now she has a bunch of text messages from you that could read differently to HR. I don’t say that to state that she could jam you up later, I just tend to be ultra-careful about putting that stuff in writing.

  7. Nope Sandwich with a side of nope*

    Meet a challenge rather than get out of it????? An opportunity to impress her????? Calling it now, New Boss Michelle and OP1’s wife are conspiring to drown OP1.

      1. Nope Sandwich with a side of nope*

        The twist is that they’re planning to run off together! Catch it on Lifetime at 10

        1. Not My Real Name*

          Twist of twist.

          They are the people in the romantic letter and the “parent” is Michelle’s employee.

            1. Paquita*

              I just had to Google genogram! My dad was into genealogy and I still never heard of that.

          1. Squid*

            And the plot will be exposed by the plucky new hire who overhears the plot when she goes to her boss with plans for a company-wide recycling initiative.

        1. Former Employee*

          I was thinking of “Diabolique”, probably the remake with Sharon Stone and Isabelle Adjani (as opposed to the original with Simone Signoret and Vera Cluzot).

    1. Traffic_Spiral*

      You know, I wouldn’t have replied “fuck you” to that line, but… I’d have sure as heck thought it. Bosses need to stay in their own lane and out of people’s personal lives.

    2. Lepidoptera*

      And now we know why Michelle completely changes her appearance every day at lunch…practicing identities for her new life as a water assassin!

    3. Sabina*

      OMG….I was in a rafting accident once and my SO had conveniently excused himself prior to launch. Was I a near victim of water assassination?

      1. valentine*

        Was he surprised to see you alive? When he told the story, was it about how awful it was for him?

    4. Emily K*

      Before I even got to that line I already felt exhausted just at the thought of working in that LW’s workplace.

      1. Suzy Q*

        Right? I just went to an interview where “team building” was mentioned and I had to control myself not to react with EW NO!

  8. Kimberly*

    I wouldn’t be comfortable with a white water trip with co-workers. I’m part fish – but still nearly drowned 2x. Once because of a head blow knocking me silly in the surf. The 2nd time because some other teens were pulling pranks and ended up trapping me under water and I couldn’t surface.

    I’ve never been a life or surfguard – and I’ve pulled multiple kids from pools and rivers because their adults didn’t have the sense of a billy goat. The last one was last summer. Parents weren’t watching close because the kid had a life vest on. It was on improperly and forced her head under water and held her there.

    Because of those experiences, I have very strict standards for activities like tubing/white water rafting and most people don’t measure up. Someone who is telling a weak swimmer to do an activity like this would have me in their face questioning the mental capacity to do their job.

    1. Annette*

      LW already doesn’t want to do. What’s ths point of frightening her with worst case scenarios. Very unlikely her coworkers will try to drown her. She just doesn’t want to for good enough reasons.

      1. rubyrose*

        There is a reason that reputable companies have you sign a waiver before you get into the raft. It typically says something to the effect that even though all efforts are taken to keep you safe, rafting is unpredictable and you will not hold the company responsible for anything unexpected that occurs. Including death. It has happened and companies have been sued because, in retrospect, the guides were not appropriately trained and/or failed to implement their training.

        I love rafting, it is just not for everyone. And what if something amiss did occur? I can see the lawsuits now. Trying to collect work comp or other damages when you have signed something waiving liability? Oh no, I’m with OP1.

        1. valentine*

          The waiver would render them disreputable to me and untrained or failing guides means all efforts weren’t taken.

          1. Anonym*

            ?? Rafting is inherently dangerous (though very fun) and they *can’t* actually guarantee your safety. A company NOT having a waiver acknowledging this would be the red flag!

            1. Anonym*

              I should clarify: if they promise you perfect safety, they are lying or totally clueless, and that is indicative of serious danger to you and other rafters.

          2. Baby Fishmouth*

            Rafting is inherently dangerous – even with well trained guides and every safety precaution imaginable, there are still risks. My understanding is that almost every single reputable rafting company has waivers like this. If they guarantee perfect safety, they are 100% lying. You can’t even guarantee perfect safety for a person taking a leisurely walk down their own block, let alone something like rafting, swimming, rock climbing, hiking…

            1. Ra94*

              Also, I can only speak to UK law- but often the purpose of such waivers is just to dissuade people from suing if something does happen. In reality, you can’t waive liability for personal injury or death, so these waivers are unenforceable in the UK. And yet, every single gym/boat tour/etc makes you sign one.

              1. Baby Fishmouth*

                Yeah I do think waivers are also a good opportunity to really make the client truly understand the dangers and if they’re comfortable with the dangers. Otherwise, it’s way to easy to believe that everything any person can do must be safe.

      2. Edwina*

        That’s not what I think Kimberly meant. I think Kimberly was saying, for Michelle to “require” a water activity–especially one that is KNOWN to be dangerous– for someone who is a weak swimmer, brings into question Michelle’s ability to do her job. White water rafting can be very dangerous, and people have been absolutely known to drown. That was my first thought too–how could someone even consider including someone who’s a weak swimmer, let alone force them to participate? White water rafting companies, professionals who do this for a living, would never consider it.

        1. Clisby*

          Well, there’s whitewater rafting and there’s whitewater rafting. Sure, there’s an inherent danger in being out on the water at all, but some whitewater rafting courses are pretty tame. Some, obviously, are not. That said, nobody should be forced to go out on the water if they’re uncomfortable with it.

    2. Hermoine Danger*

      Your last paragraph is spot-on. The LW is basically waving a neon sign that says “I am a huge liability to your company” and this woman is still encouraging LW to go. The boss doesn’t seem to have even a teeny tiny bit of common sense. I would not want to continue in this job indefinitely and eventually become her direct report.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Right?! She’s basically telling LW “you have four months to become an advanced-level swimmer” uh, what?

        I am a good swimmer, grew up by the sea, learned to swim at 8 (we did not have the summer-camp swimming classes the way kids do in the US, so my childhood friend and I just learned on our own with our parents watching), am quite comfortable in the open water, and I would not go on that trip either – I’ve had back problems recently that might reoccur from this kind of exercise, I had three surgeries in my one eye, two of them on my retina, and am at high risk for retina detachment meaning I can lose my vision in that eye if I get bonked on my head by, say, a raft I’ve fallen off of; and I’m sure they won’t make bathroom stops as frequently as I’d like them to! In summary, no way in hell can I go on an all-day rafting trip with coworkers! We actually do have a “Michelle” who is a recent hire, recently promoted to a leadership position, and who has recently promised us a lot of team-building events coming up soon – but knowing my coworkers, I’m certain that an idea of a mandatory all-day rafting trip, should she decide to have one, will go over like a lead balloon – as it should.

    3. WS*

      Yeah, if it was something like a very gentle guided tour that assumes you can’t swim and takes into account medical needs of participants (my elderly parents went on one similar in New Zealand and had a great time) Michelle needs to say so. This “challenge!” mindset never takes into account that what might be a relaxing day on the water for one person is a medical (or personal) nightmare for another. It’s not fair or equal as a work requirement.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Look, I’m an adrenaline hoor of the highest caliber, been swimming since I was two years old, and love fear/excitement/challenges.

        I wouldn’t do this trip either – I’ve got a ton of titanium in my neck and it would take one ill-timed head snap to paralyze me.

        Michelle is not taking her employees’ safety into account.

    4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      I’ve taken whitewater rafting vacations via a professional guide service. Oh, it sounds like a nifty team exercise, everyone pulling together toward a common goal/destination. However, people can get hurt even if they’re striving to do it right. Not everybody is physically capable, and someone who just plain doesn’t want to be there can also be a safety risk to themselves or others through no fault of their own. This so-called manager is nuts to suggest such a thing.

      I’m more and more leery of “team building exercises” that are not work-related activities. (the last one in my office had us talking about our favorite tv shows, spilling too much personal family information, and playing a silly picture-matching board game better suited to elementary school kids.) They sound like forced socializing and intrusive exposing of personal lives at best, and at worst only waste time and don’t do a blessed thing to make it easier for people to work together.

      1. EPLawyer*

        It’s a sales conference. Why do they need team names and t-shirts, let alone going whitewater rafting as a so-called team building activity? Why not work on presenting a professional sales presentation that will knock their socks off? Doing all this other stuff is just a distraction from actually accomplishing the goal.

        Alison has said it more than once, a good team building exercise is one that is about accomplishing a work goal together. My addition, it is not about who is the most athletic.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It reminds me of a bike-trick performance we went to on First Night–no one would come out until the crowd was AMPED. UP!!! and so the cheer person was out there trying to get people to roar and scream and be beside themselves with hyperactive glee–but it’s hard to feel that way about an empty stage that is about to hold an unknown act. Like, I totally understand the psychology involved–the crowd has a better time, the performers feed off the crowd–but “people who read a description in the brochure, think it might be interesting” are not “fans of U2 about to see U2 live!”

          People of good will might amp their enthusiasm up one notch when asked to do so in the name of team spirit–but if you try to keep forcing it to hyper glee on speedballs, it doesn’t work.

          1. valentine*

            Doing all this other stuff is just a distraction from actually accomplishing the goal.
            Not if Michelle’s goal is having her kind of f-u-n, hence hiring people who behave like she does.

            I do wonder when they will reach capacity with getting to know each other. If there’s a lot of turnover, sure, but after a year, how much better can you get to know a colleague, that will improve your work?

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Oh, God, flashbacks to the 90’s when I was wondering what career direction to take.
              I encountered several workplaces full of 20-something cheerleaders who all had the same hyperactive athletic personality – Fun all the time! Strenuous extracurriculars all the time! Evening and weekend events because we assume you have no life outside of work! Go go go! Must be running and having fun all the time, and we all have to look alike too!
              OMG, I was so happy to just get in front of a computer and enter data, and get a little physical and psychological rest.

              1. Pomona Sprout*

                “I encountered several workplaces full of 20-something cheerleaders who all had the same hyperactive athletic personality – Fun all the time!”

                People like that who insist that everyone else absolutely must be the same way are ableist, ageist snobs. You’re an athlete and an adrenaline junkie? Fine, bully for you, UNTIL you start requiring all your reports to be willing to risk life and limb doing activities thst you love and they hate. Michelle and others like her do not have that right!

            2. Burned Out Supervisor*

              I wonder what Michelle would say if one of the participants was a significantly older person? Or someone who was in a wheelchair? (Not that they’re incapable of participating, but might require special equipment,etc). These kinds of activities aren’t inclusive at all. Either be totally OK with people opting out, or plan activities that everyone can physically participate in.

        2. Anon for this*

          I have been to dozens of sales meetings in my career so far, and some have had good team building activities, and some have been downright strange. The worst was the year two alpha males planned the activities, and we suspect they were trying to out-bro each other. The activities included a day of summer camp type games, but with boot camp level intensity. More than one participant stopped to use their asthma inhalers.
          The Alpha Bros are gone, but we still refer to that particular sales event as the Day of the Hunger Games.

      2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Yeah, I’m firmly of the belief that nothing can be both ‘mandatory’ and ‘fun’ – these are mutually exclusive. By making a ‘fun’ activity mandatory, you WILL alienate someone. Bottom line, it’s just not possible to find team exercises that an entire group will enjoy (especially if it’s a large group) – and the more ‘out there’ it is, the more likely someone will hate it/have medical reasons that they cannot.

        The worst job I ever had, had terrible turnover rates – 4 months in, I was one of the most senior people (and I quit at that point.) Mostly it was the nature of the work itself – commission sales. But to try to make it ‘fun’, the manager had weekly ‘team nights’, which were primarily held at a bar, after work on Thursday. No, I *don’t* want to go to a bar with my coworkers for an event that starts at 9 or 10pm when I have work the next day. These weren’t technically mandatory – because then he’d have to pay us (he didn’t even pay for our drinks/food at these things, and there wasn’t time to eat supper between work and ‘team night’), but if you said you weren’t coming, he’d lecture you about ‘being a team player.’ One of my coworkers was not yet legal drinking age. (There are just so, so many reasons why work events shouldn’t center on/heavily include alcohol, but the manager not putting two and two together there really takes the cake.) We also had ‘games’ every morning – literally games, like charades, it felt like being back in elementary school – and occasionally some ~fun!~ incentive activities, like whichever ‘team’ has the highest sales for the day gets to throw pie at whatever ‘team’ has the low