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.”

{ 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 lowest sales for the day. Now, I want to be clear that some people *absolutely loved this.* Even when they got pied. It was clearly fun and awesome for some people. I hated it with a fiery passion, and would have stayed longer if the ~fun~ activities hadn’t been a thing.

        Mandatory is never fun, fun is never mandatory. All team events should a) be optional (and, preferably, free!) and b) be relatively low-impact, something that all team members can participate in, regardless of fitness or phobia or health issues. Otherwise you’re not ‘building team unity’, you’re building resentment.

        1. Tammy*

          Agreed. I worked for a TERRIBLE company years ago that planned a 2-day team-building event (Friday and Saturday) with overnight camping. I had a commitment that Friday night, so I only stayed for the first day of the event. After a bunch of cajoling about how much “fun” the ropes course, mountain biking, camping, etc. would be, a coworker told me “you REALLY should stay for the whole event.” When I asked her why she was being so insistent, she told me, “look, you already have three strikes against you – you’re Jewish, queer, and fat – and you really need to try harder to fit in.”

          When I complained to my boss, his response was to trump up some bogus accusations against me and then to tell me I could resign with severance or be terminated. I was younger and more naive then, and the company was very politically connected, so I took the severance and walked away. This is one of the regrets I have about my career.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            I am floored by your coworker’s horrifying comment – and by your boss siding with her in such a vicious way.

          2. Former Employee*

            This reminded me of the late, great Sammy Davis, Jr. who, when asked what his handicap was (the person asking meant golf handicap), replied: “I’m Black, I’m Jewish and I’m blind in one eye.”

        2. valentine*

          I would still be having nightmares about Mr Underage Drinking and Premeditated Pie Assault.

        3. Kendra*

          Mandatory fun reminds me of being a teenager forced to do familiy activities – my mom called it “Forced Family Fun”

      3. Burned Out Supervisor*

        People should also be able to say “No” to something without giving 15 hundred reasons. If the employee just stated that they were not comfortable with participating, that should be enough (it would be for me).

    5. M-C*

      I nearly drowned as a child, in the presence of 3 adults watching us specifically plus a couple other general lifeguards, all of whom thought we were playing (it’s impossible to scream for help when you’re being held under water).

      So needless to say I’m never entirely comfortable in water. And much later I let myself be talked with a work group into a ‘beginner’ rafting day which was guaranteed to be easy fun. Well, it was spring, the water was running very high and very strongly, there were tree branches poking out everywhere, and I found myself in class 5 rapids gripping the oar for dear life knowing that if I went overboard I probably wouldn’t come out alive.

      OP, don’t do it! Go to HR if necessary to keep this madwoman from dragging you into something that’s incredibly dangerous. She might make your life hell over it, but better a living hell (that you can eventually escape) than a horrible fright, or even your very life. Please, please take this seriously..

      1. CommanderBanana*

        Same – my brother dunked me at six but I ended up losing consciousness and having to be revived by a life guard because no one was watching us and he nearly killed me, then nearly drowned in a wave pool about two years later – weirdly don’t have a fear of water, but I’m not a strong swimmer and the idea of an all-day rafting trip (direct sunlight, sweating, wearing athletic clothes and being outside are all things I hate) makes me cringe.

        And Michelle’s comment sucks. And she sucks.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        Oh wow. That was really bad on the rafting company and guides. If the water was running high & fast it’s not the place for a beginner trip.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Absolutely. When I took my rafting trips the tour company did screening as to ability, gave full disclosure of risks, told you what to do in case you fell out of the raft, and the guides–all 20s and 30s–were diligent, experienced, and made sure everyone had a great time and went home happy and well by putting safety first.

          1. Clisby*

            Same with the only one I’ve been on – it was me, my husband, and our two kids (I think they were about 10 and 15 at the time.) Everybody had a life jacket, everybody wore a helmet, and we had a great time. If anybody in the family had been afraid to go, we wouldn’t have gone.

    6. Willis*

      OP’s boss’ response is really stupid. I don’t think the whitewater rafting company would even want someone who’s a poor swimmer and not comfortable in the water on their trip. One of the things they usually mention in the pre-trip safety talk is about possibly having to swim hard toward shore or the boat should you fall in. Someone who knows they can’t do that shouldn’t be on the trip.

      I agree with Alison’s advice to say OP won’t be going on the trip and also that the supposed “team building” activity is not inclusive. I love rafting but it’s pretty obviously not an activity that would appeal to everyone nor is it something that should be done by people who aren’t into it or physically capable. That’s a good way to get injuries.

      1. Would-be manager*

        If all else fails tell the rafting company and they’ll probably not let you go.

        1. Nephron*

          This might be the answer. Your plan to overcome the challenge included emailing the company to get more information and advice and now they won’t let you on the trip.

        2. Friday afternoon fever*

          The letter writer is declining a team building activity not being pressured into a medical procedure.

          Say no firmly. Don’t put on the equipment. Cheerfully say you will be sitting this one out. You don’t need to tell the rafting company you are being pressured in order to avoid participating. Just don’t gear up and don’t get on the raft.

        3. LJay*

          This.

          When I went rafting, they were very explicit. You could bail at any time. They pretty much urged us to please bail at any time if we had any hesitations about our desire or ability to pull this off.

          And there were multiple chances to do so. We got on a bus in town. Got off the bus to get suited up at what would be our destination. And then got back on the bus and went up to where we got in the rafts.

          And at each place they made an announcement that if we weren’t comfortable with the activity for any reason to just let the nearest person know and arrangements would be made for you. Then at the last point where we got off where the rafts were they made a comprehensive announcement that included things like if we were feeling pressured to do this but couldn’t swim, were pregnant and didn’t want to disclose it to other people in the group, had any medical conditions that could possibly be a problem and we hadn’t explicitly cleared it with our doctor, anything like that to discreetly seek someone out and they would help us out. (I don’t know what they would have done, but apparently they had some sort of protocol in place).

          They really really did not want to be liable for anyone who didn’t want to be there/had any possible medical concerns.

          1. Autumnheart*

            That makes me wonder exactly how many people get dragged on these trips, that a rafting company needs protocol like “Signal us and we’ll smuggle you out of line”. Sounds like a lot!

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        Um, when you’re whitewater rafting, it doesn’t matter if you’re a good swimmer or not – you can’t swim in white water, because there is too much air and not enough water. Life jackets save lives – it saved mine. If you fall out of the raft, all you can do is concentrate on breathing* until they haul you back in, often when they’ve gotten to a calmer section.

        I really enjoy rafting, but after that one time in the rapids** without the raft, it really affected me the next time. Someone who doesn’t want to do it at all? They should not do it. The rafting company wants you to have fun.

        *Because there is too much water and not enough air in some of the waves

        ** I had an underwater camera and could have gotten some great photos, but no, I was too concerned with breathing to even remember it. And yet, even with that, it was a ton of fun! Maybe I could take OP’s place?

        1. Willis*

          Yeah, you wouldn’t swim through a rapid, but after you come out of the rapid and the water is deeper and calmer but still moving, they may instruct you to swim hard toward the shore or a boat so they can pull you out of the water. I think the phrase they use in whitewater orientation is being an active participant in your own rescue. I’ve fallen in mid-rapid and had to swim toward the shore afterwards until I was close enough that they could pull me in with a rope.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, while I don’t think people should be forced to zip line as a work activity either–those things are SO not comparable and the boss is ridiculous! The boss being afraid to zipline has nothing to do with her own abilities. That activity has all kinds of safety measures in play that don’t require you to do anything. If you fall off a raft it is absolutely your own swimming abilities that contribute to your safety and if someone is not a strong swimmer they should definitely not be forced to do that!

    7. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      I want to really encourage you to use Allison’s language about being inclusive. If she’s going to accuse you of not being a team player, you should point out that she’s being a bad leader.

      1. Triplestep*

        Agree. Seems like a lot of people here had near-drowning experiences, but none of those have any bearing on this situation. I wouldn’t enjoy a rafting trip for an hour, let alone a whole day. What’s more, it has no relationship to how well I do my job or what kind of a team player I am. For plenty of people, this would be more “resentment-building” than “team-building.” And good leaders try not to allow resentment to build in their staff.

        ‘Course I’m not suggesting you say any of that! But there may be a lot of people who feel the way you do, or just can’t participate for other reasons even if they might like to. Alison’s language about inclusivity nails it.

        1. Liz*

          I agree. Former competitive swimmer here and while I’m a bit older and out of shape, i can still swim pretty well. but this is not something I would enjoy at all. Nope. and if my manager tried to force me into it? OH NO. that would not fly. nope. sorry. not happening. ever.

          1. JessaB*

            Yep I got a variance on school districting in NY for swimming skills, but I can’t raft, and I couldn’t long before I was disabled. I’m just not that good at that kind of thing. I was pants at paddling a canoe too. I was okay in a row boat, but I always ended up tipping a canoe. Just not my thing. I was even a gymnast in school, but my balance on the water? Sorry balance beams do not move. My balance in motion on unpredictable surfaces was lousy.

        2. Cup of Ambition*

          I’m not sure I agree that they have no bearing on the situation. While the LW simply not wanting to go should be enough in and of itself, the fact that the activity is potentially life-threatening takes it to a whole new level.

          1. Triplestep*

            People’s personal near-drowning experiences have no bearing because not wanting to go (i.e. not wanting to do something wildly outside one’s job description) is enough. It doesn’t need to be life-threatening to push back.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Yeah, this isn’t so much about rafting as it is doing a strenuous physical activity that is not accessible to all.

      3. Peachkins*

        I agree as well. I’m actually a great swimmer, but an all-day rafting trip does not appeal to me at all. A short trip, maybe, but I just don’t have the stamina for that kind of activity over that length of time. And that’s just me- I can think of about a hundred other issues out of someone’s control that would prevent them from doing this kind of activity. The boss is crazy to assume that everyone would be able to participate.

    8. Mockingbird*

      Yeah, if I was on the fence about this the fact that she seems so blasé about safety would push me towards not going.

      Regardless, I couldn’t do this as I’ll never have the upper body strength to be a strong swimmer due to medical reasons. (I also can’t do a zip line!) I like Allison’s script and hope it works (and/or you have a good hr department), OP!

      1. Róisín*

        Now you’ve got me wondering about zip line accomodations that would allow armless people to participate.. that would maybe cover your situation too? Hmm…

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          When we went ziplining in Costa Rica they always send a guide with my son, because he was light enough to potentially slow down and become stranded out in the middle of the line.

          It’s interesting that she used ziplining as an example because, as with bungee jumping, if the safety gear is in place and you passively let yourself go with gravity, everything works. The psych yourself up moment is for stepping off the platform, after which you just have to not foul the lines by flailing hysterically. I think boss is viewing the rafting the way it is on a ride at a theme park, where you just have to be willing to step into the boat and get wet but nothing can go wrong without some extraordinary effort. Quite far from “now if you’re tossed out in the class V rapids you’ll have to swim hard for shore” in terms of asks for the novices taking the trip.

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Gotta wonder what their Workers Compensation carrier would have to say about it too.

    9. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I agree with you completely. I can swim but nearly drowned on a vacation because of the drunken behaviour of other guests. So I have a healthy fear of unknown water and people around it. You can always tell her that one feature of team building is returning with the same number of people you started with. And what is she going to do about people who can’t swim or at best are weak swimmers? No competent company is going to allow them on the raft trip.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        One feature of team building is returning with the same number of people you started with.

        Yeah, but only one! Surely a mediocre score on that line could be balanced with high marks on both “team spirit” and “pep.”

    10. Business Cat*

      Ack, this is taking me back to a white water rafting trip I took with a church group several years ago. I am NOT a strong swimmer and nearly drowned as a child, so I told the guide and the youth leader from my church to please keep me from tumbling into the water if possible. I was all good until we reached a patch of still water and the guide dumped EVERYONE off of the raft. Panicked, I did not think I was going to make it back to t

      1. Business Cat*

        To the raft on my own, and in fact had to grab a friendly oar to pull me back to the raft after everyone else had already gotten back on.

        So, yeah. White water rafting when you’re not a strong swimmer is not a particularly fun or safe excursion, even amongst people you’d think you would be safe with.

      2. Lance*

        By ‘the guide did it’… do you mean they did it intentionally? Because wow is that a lawsuit and firing just waiting to happen.

        1. Larina*

          In my experience with white water rafting guides, dumping the whole raft of teens is par for the course. Not every guide does, but as someone who went on a few trips as a teen, it seemed more common than not for a guide to flip a raft when it was “relatively safe.”

          1. valentine*

            I don’t understand. Is this meant to be fun? I always thought people would discount my inability to swim as a reason to avoid these activities, but all of these incidents are saying I can’t count on people to use common sense or even basic safety standards.

            1. Grace*

              I did a school trip (I think Yr 7? Aka age 11-12) where groups of four had to build their own rafts and paddle them out to the island in the middle of the lake and then back again. Two people fell off my raft, but the other two of us made it back to shore, the only two to have made it through the entire thing without falling in, and I was super proud of myself…

              Right up until the activity director told us to go to the end of the pier to haul our raft back in, picked us both up by the backs of our lifejackets, and threw us into the water. Because it’s no fun if there are people that didn’t get wet by the end!

              I was always a fairly strong swimmer, but I *hate* being out of control/having someone else control my actions, and I’ve never really liked being in the water since. I’ve been scuba-diving, for god’s sake, but that’s *me* doing it. Not the waves, and not someone else. Anything that involves my head going underwater that isn’t me consciously choosing to do that is now an immediate no. (Ditto for anything that makes me go upside down, including rollercoasters: the aftermath of my gymnastics coach, when I was about seven, telling me that I didn’t have to flip over the bars if I didn’t want to, I just had to lean forwards over them as far as I was comfortable; that ended with her grabbing my ankles and flipping me over the bar, and me letting go and falling flat on my back on the mats.)

            2. Larina*

              I did find rafting incredibly fun. I’ve never been a very strong swimmer (flashbacks to failing the test from my last year of swimming lessons), but I always went with church groups and there’s a weird sort of camaraderie that comes with high school youth trips that sort of blurs the line of appropriate safety standards.

              That said, I think the raft flipping is more for the bored guides, who have to take several trips down the river a day, and are often having to deal with dumb and annoying kids. Every time I went, it was played like a prank. And to answer farther down, I mostly saw the flipping happen after most of the rapids, so it wasn’t really to get anyone acclimated to the temp.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                In my experience with rafting guides, if anyone went overboard, they owed the other guides a beer, and if they tipped the raft (and lost the entire group), it really cost them. Our guides were very invested in making sure everyone stayed safe and stayed in the raft. On some easy bumps, they’d take the raft to the edge and then let people go through the rapids without the raft, but that was always voluntary.

                Professional guides do NOT dump people any more than professional office workers sing loudly in a cube farm or wear pajama bottoms to work. (In other words, I believe all of you that this happened, but that is wildly unprofessional.)

          2. Name Required*

            Yup. Same experience here. Also flipped on a rafting course as a teen intentionally and it was terrifying — I got trapped under the raft for a few moments and panicked. I also took swim lessons as a child and am an absolutely fine swimmer, but being trapped underwater and scraping along rocks in the rapids … you know, it just wasn’t fun.

          3. LJay*

            Yup. Every time I’ve been they’ve done it.

            I think it might be to acclimate you to the coldness of the water a bit? So that if you’re actually dumped in a bad place your shock will be only due to suddenly not being in the raft and near some rocks and in deep water, and not compounded by “holy crap this is so cold what the hell I can’t do anything”.

    11. Nervous Nellie*

      I second Kimberly’s comment. A long time ago, my social group overlapped with a number of consultants at a famous firm. These folks were very young, very fit and very competitive. Their weekend white-water rafting trip ended with one woman needing months of physical therapy for a torn muscle in her back, and one fellow needing multiple dentist visits to install dentures to replace the teeth he lost when a wave threw him from the raft and dashed him on the rocks. A couple of years later, a spouse of one fo them suggested a do-over. My partner and I bowed out. If fit, athletic people could be hurt like this, this was not a sport for us ordinary folk. And heck, it was stressful enough just playing Jenga with these people. OP, refuse this nonsense and stay firm! You deserve to be safe!

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        He needed *dentures* for all the teeth he lost after that trip?! What a nightmare! Not to mention it probably cost a five-digit amount!

    12. BadWolf*

      I grew up around lakes and with boats and swimming and “everyone” took swimming lessons.

      As such, I am a bit warped about thinking people are generally comfortable in water. I’m working hard to not assume people have some basic level of swim-knowledge. And now I’m old enough to realize that so many scenarios can become dangerous quickly even for good swimmers (cold water, hitting your head, getting tangled, ill fitting life jacket).

      Michelle may have a similar blind spot to “Oh it’s safe, water is fine, everyone can doggie paddle, just put on a life jacked.” This doesn’t make it right, but maybe an avenue to help her understand why this activity shouldn’t be pushed on people.

      1. valentine*

        Due to Jim Crow and just SOP white supremacy, it’s extremely common for African Americans not to be able to swim. (Not that you should assume a lack of swimming, either, just that people who don’t share your culture may have opposite experiences.)

        1. JessaB*

          I was going to say this when you came and said it for me. There are a lot of cultural groups that do not have “we can swim” as a normal predictable thing. Especially now with so many refugees from areas where such recreational things did not occur either because of war, strife or other action or because lack of water.

          1. Observer*

            Not just cultural groups. If you don’t live near water, learning to swim is NOT going to be the norm unless you have access to fairly significant resources. As for becoming a GOOD swimmer – even less the norm.

    13. Ra94*

      I’m a strong swimmer and in good shape, and I would absolutely refuse to go because…I just wouldn’t want to. It sounds terrifying! I agree that OP highlighting the safety element is her best bet in this scenario, but I just hate the idea of ‘adrenaline rush’ types of activities being used as work bonding. I’d be physically able to do any of them, but I just like being on solid ground rather than over a roaring waterfall or a 40ft high zipline, which doesn’t impede my ability to do my actual job.

    14. Anne (with an “e”)*

      I went white water rafting a year ago with my sisters, my eleven year old nephew, and a guide. We were on a river with a damn so the water level and the rapids were controlled and predictable. We went on the “easiest/ beginner” course. We all signed up voluntarily for this. And we are all strong swimmers. At one point the guide allowed my nephew to swim in the river. I had an *okay* time. Mainly because I was with my family. I would say that we did bound— one sis and the nephew are from very out of town. However, I don’t think I would want to do this with coworkers, and I especially would not want to do this if I weren’t a very good, confident swimmer.

      1. Anony*

        Something else to consider: as a long time life guard, who also worked with the TOW (terrified of water) swim program. Say the LW rises to the occasion and works on his swimming skills, a and becomes a more comfortable swimmer, it will not necessarily make a difference in a high stress situation such as being thrown from a raft. What is more likely is panic, and having to be rescued. Rafting guides HATE to see hands go up when they ask how comfortable participants are in the water. This is a dangerous request and I really wonder what HR would think about it.

  9. nnn*

    For #2, if for some reason this does reach HR, one thing your co-worker can do it specifically tell HR “I don’t consent to my parents’ involvement in my professional life and don’t consent to you sharing any information with them.”

    They should already be taking this as a given, but just in case.

    1. Annette*

      Yes nnn. LW needs to get ahead of the drama. Why have your work reputation ruined over an emotional affair (sounds like it anyway).

      1. Lilith*

        I’m curious about the difference in ages between OP & the CW. Could that be why the parents are getting threatening?

        1. valentine*

          As the employer, if I’d heard nothing from or about the parents being boundary tramplers, I’d be questioning the judgment of, at best, texts so indiscreet, the parents felt obliged to intervene.

            1. MassMatt*

              I agree but while I know finances dictate a lot of young people live with their parents, the “I’m an adult” card is really undercut by that and especially the parents paying the phone bill.

              1. Washi*

                Even if the parents are paying all expenses, that doesn’t give them the right or make it a good idea to complain to HR about their daughter’s work situation.

                1. MommyMD*

                  I agree. Unless it’s very out of the ordinary and coworker feels powerless to stop it.

              2. Paulina*

                Some parents have a hard time handling their kids’ change in status to adult, especially if they’re still paying (some of) the bills. Talking to HR at their adult child’s work is way out of line, though it is similar to the parents that try to talk to (and get answers from) their adult child’s college professor, and I have the latter happen from time to time. And I expect HR would want to deal with parents even less than I do!

                Parents paying bills for an adult child is a matter between the parent and child, and that’s where it should stay. The LW’s friend may be pushing back against their concern mostly passively and they’re trying to force the issue; one great thing about Alison’s advice is it’s useful irrespective of these unknown details.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I’d be more likely to think that too. I have two grown sons living with me, one has been in a relationship for a number of years. Their texts might be X-rated for all I know – but I don’t – because I never look at their phone unless they want to show me something on it. (I do pay one of the kids’ phone bill and everyone’s internet bill – still does not make it right for me to snoop.)

              Of course, knowing my parents, they’d have been all up in my phone if we had smartphones when I was in my late teens and early 20s. (Thanks the FSM for the lack of technology in the 80s.) That says more about my parents and my relationship with them growing up than it does about anything else.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            There is no level of indiscret texting that warrants parents interfering with their grown child’s workplace.

          2. Scarlet2*

            I’d always be questioning the judgement of parents who “felt obliged to intervene” in their adult daughter’s professional life.

            1. Lance*

              This. I’m not sure why the first instinct would be to listen to the parents when they are not your employees. You have only a very indirect relationship with them, so why not trust the people working for you, who you know to some degree and do have a relationship with?

              1. Lance*

                And to add, as an employee, I’d rather not have to warn every employer I work for about parents being boundary-crossers; I’d much rather be trusted, and if something happens, it comes to me first as an FYI above all else.

                1. valentine*

                  It’s understandable for parents to want to protect their daughter, her job, and/or her and their finances from an interloper or a cheater and his SO. I’m not saying they should contact her job, but, knowing them best, she could’ve avoided all this. If she’s not safe at home, carrying on with the coworker still doesn’t serve her.

                  I grew up under a “Our house, our rules/You own nothing” self-described dictator and their co-conspirator, so I’m always taken aback when people say, “You’re an adult. They can’t tell you what to do. Do what you want.” People like this don’t raise you to be self-sufficient because it soundly defeats their purpose.

                2. Lance*

                  I don’t really disagree with you on these points… but I am still confused at the suggestion that you’d, as an employer, take the parents’ words to heart, even just a little.

                3. Yikes*

                  I guess I would assume that parents contacting me is so beyond the realm of acceptable behavior that perhaps the situation was dire. For example, in another comment someone said this happened at their workplace, and it turned out the guy was a crazy stalker and the woman was young and overwhelmed/unsure how to deal with it. As an employer, I’d at least feel obligated to investigate to make sure it wasn’t something like that. I don’t want to be so pedantic as to refuse to acknowledge a potential problem because it came to me the wrong way.

          3. atalanta0jess*

            I dunno man….a parent monitoring the texts of a 18+ year old? What the heck? Texts are by nature quite discrete if you aren’t looking at someone else’s phone.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              Yeah, I’m very curious about how they actually saw these texts. I was on my parents’ account for years and although I know things like additional data purchases would show up on the bill, I don’t think it gave them the ability to actually access my text messages? Maybe this is a thing, I don’t know, but I don’t even really understand how that would work. If they’re accessing her actual phone then that is really next-level invasive, IMO.

          4. Not Me*

            I can’t even imagine how an employer would justify starting an investigation into a complaint coming from a snooping parent.

            If a parent called me to discuss their 18+ child that works for me, we wouldn’t even get to the “sexual harassment” part of the conversation. It would be more like “Oh, hi. I can’t discuss any of our employees with anyone except the employee. If So&So needs to speak to me about something they are more than welcome to. Thanks, have a great day!” Click.

  10. Beth*

    OP2: I don’t think you should be overly concerned about your friend’s parents reporting sexual harassment for her, if you’re 100% sure that she doesn’t feel harassed. I would think the first thing an HR person would do if they got that kind of secondhand report would be to ask the actual person (your friend) about it–and if she says it’s not unwanted and isn’t harassment, well, there you go.

    But like Alison says…if you’re not 100% sure, you should check. It’s good to check in with friends once in a while anyways; this might be an opportunity to do that and make sure everything is on solid ground.

    I’m also going to suggest, on a totally personal level, that if the only reason you’re not dating this person is that you’re not single, maybe you need to be rethinking your current relationship. Assuming you’re monogamous (because otherwise why wouldn’t you be dating already?), I’m going to bet that having a “we’re going to date if I ever break up with my current partner” agreement is breaking the spirit of that, even if you’re not technically having sex with or dating your friend right now.

    1. Annette*

      People don’t always make good choices. Especially when they are kids like LW (I think). LW can make a mistake and ruin their relationship. Just don’t let it ruin the job.

      1. Emily K*

        Yeah, looking back at the sum total of the dating my friends and I did in high school/early college years, it seems insane to me that any of us attempted monogamy at such a young age.

        The hormones, the heightened emotions, the fact that your peers are technically at their peak fertility/attractiveness years – I almost feel like, of course 19 year olds are thinking about dating other people even when they’re in a relationship….how can you not at that age??

        I’ve heard from my parents’ generation that it was much more common to date lots of boys/girls in high school and that “going steady” was relatively uncommon, which makes so much more sense to me for teenagers who are so hungry to experience life. I have wondered if in a way, it’s a sort of fizzled side effect of the sexual revolution – more teens felt liberated to have sex, but the link between sex and monogamy remained pretty strong, so when two teens hooked up with each other they felt like, “Well, you’re my boyfriend/girlfriend now I guess!”

    2. Myrin*

      Regarding your last paragraph: OP, I want to very gently ask what exactly is stopping you (both of you) from breaking up with your partners and actually getting together since it seems like this is something you’d both like?
      No need to answer, of course, but maybe this internet stranger can help you seeing alternatives and getting a clearer picture in your head.

      1. Works in IT*

        The boundary crossing parents make me compare her situation to my own parents, who made it extremely difficult when I tried to break up with my ex many many years ago. They get ~invested~ in the relationship, until they value it more than their child’s well being (my parents threatened to FLY MY EX TO MY COLLEGE TO SEE ME so we could talk our differences out and reconcile. This after I failed most of my finals because he was calling me nonstop the night before and when it came time to take the test I fell asleep!). Not saying that’s what this is, but I would like to point out that if you’re living with controlling parents and don’t have the income to move out, you are at the mercy of whatever insanity they decide to get up to.

        1. dumblewald*

          We don’t know details about either party’s situation, but regarding this topic, my experience as a college student was there was still some “slut shami-ness” around dating “too many” guys. Women were expected to strive to only be with one guy for as long as possible. Dating more than one guy was what you did as a second to last resort, usually if you got dumped. I had a friend who was miserable in her relationship but her mother strongly discouraged her initiating a breakup because she valued stable relationships.

      2. fposte*

        I think that is a good question. One answer may be that this feels the best of both worlds–the joy of mooning and flirting without leaving the safety of existing partners. But talk like that pushes the relationship toward the “emotional affair” category, so it’s worth thinking how you’d feel if you found your partner saying things like that to somebody and if this is fair to your partner.

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, for me personally, this letter gave off a strong whiff of that thing you often hear about with people who happily carry on an affair but then actually break up with the former affair partner once the two of them actually get together without the obstacle of another partner – during the affair, the partners both had the excitement and thrill of doing something forbidden and passionate as well as a stable in-home partner to fall back on; best of both worlds, just like you’re saying.

    3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      Yes, definitely check – it is not outside the realm of possibility that her parents concluded she was being harassed, because she *told them that*. Either because she does feel harassed, or because the texts were inappropriately sexual (if you’re both in a relationship, it’s inappropriate!) and she felt awkward about it. (While studies have conclusively shown that it’s quite rare for women to lie about sexual harassment or assault, they’ve also concluded that in the rare instances it does happen, a frequent motive is a teen/young woman not wanting to get in trouble; so it’s possible that her parents found the texts, confronted her, and she panicked and said it was unwanted attention.) Just another reason to check with her about what’s going on.

      And yes, if you do check and you’re both definitely on the same page – it is much kinder to your partner to break up with them then it is to carry on like this with another person, behind your partner’s back!

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      It also has the potential to be one of those “Oh, I would totally date you… except Mercury is in retrograde! And when that’s done, the Jaguars will be having a dubious preseason and I can’t date in those circumstances.”

      1. time for lunch*

        Exactly. She might well be telling him that if she weren’t taken, of course they could date, as a way of being nice and returning his friendliness. Very young women do this. Doesn’t mean it’s true. She may be thinking that she has gone a little overboard with friendliness when she found a coworker interested enough in her to learn in detail about her hobbies, something that can be innocent but under some circumstances could be less so ( I.e., a grooming technique, I’m so into you I want to learn all the deals of your hobby for you. Or, less nefariously, I have such limited understanding of boundaries I’ll pursue someone’s attention by investing hours in their hobby just to get to know them or shower then with attention.) She could be telling LW her parents are going to get involved because a) she is freaked out by his attention and doesn’t know how to pull back, so they said, “tell him we’ll call HR; make us the bad guys;” or,
        b) because she is slightly though not early uncomfortable but they see red flags all over this and they are the ones who want to call HR. She is quite possibly on board with them calling HR and is framing it so it looks like it’s out of her hands, because she has gone too far and wants out.

        There’s a good chance she might not even want to tell you that she’s uncomfortable, as in the example above.

        He could be older or the same age, and there could still be red flags that show him going overboard, or reasons she wants to pull back but won’t speak up for herself, including reasons like she just isn’t used to enforcing her own boundaries, esp at work. She could just be subtly asking LW to back off.

        I wish the parents weren’t involved, though.

      2. VelociraptorAttack*

        Hey, the Jaguars usually have a pretty good preseason and then the wheels start to fall off. Hailing from Jacksonville, I greatly regret this not being my go to rejection in my teens and early 20’s.

    5. MoopySwarpet*

      I am commenting through a recent lens of experience where the offending person is/was 100% sure he was “just being friendly” and all the women “said it was fine,” but he was actually making them very uncomfortable and only one (out of at least 6 different women) brought it up to someone with some authority after trying herself to subtly discourage him. When the person in authority confronted the male in question, he literally defended himself by saying he had asked certain things and they said it was fine. Such as an out of the blue hug in a meeting and the man saying “I hope this is ok” and the woman in question responding with an on-the-spot-don’t-want-to-make-a-scene-chuckle and unenthusiastic “I like hugs.”

      My point is . . . he/she may be 100% correct or the other person may be uncomfortable with it, but not enough to bluntly say something. While I believe the LW that the situation is how they describe, I would still be hesitant to assume the other person will back him/her up if questioned directly.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I do like your last paragraph. I had a friend who’d chat with me and say things like “Next time I’m single, I’ll date you”. He maybe thought it was a compliment(??) It was not. It creeped me out to no end. One day he said it one time too many and I went off on him, he did not take it well, and we are not friends anymore – oh and he’s now happily married to the person that he was dating when he was texting me those things. I like to think that maybe I stopped him from messing up his relationship, because if he was saying it to me, I bet he was saying it to other people too.

    7. Observer*

      if you’re not 100% sure, you should check. It’s good to check in with friends once in a while anyways; this might be an opportunity to do that and make sure everything is on solid ground

      Yes. But, check even if you are 100% sure. We’ve all found ourselves in situations where we were 100% sure, ABSOLUTELY positive, no ifs, ands, or buts about it certain about something, only to eventually discover that we were actually wrong. This is a very, very bad situation to be wrong about even a little bit. So it’s worth checking and possibly scaling back a bit.

  11. valentine*

    she’d rather see me focus on how to meet a challenge rather than how to get out of it.
    And I would rather not drown, Michelle.

    OP1: Not taking this risk isn’t silly. Michelle’s all over the place. Skits? Sixteen personality types? If the more work-focused stuff works for you, I hope you get to a place where you’ll able to steer her towards those.

    1. Beth*

      All of this. There are times to show grit and the willpower to overcome in the face of a challenge, but a situation where actual life and death is on the line is *not* one of those times.

      I’m wondering if Michelle has somehow not realized that rafting is a genuinely dangerous activity for a poor swimmer. Is she envisioning a water park lazy river-type experience? Rivers used for rafting have fairly deep water, and usually at least short stretches where the current is fast and there are rocks around. Rafting is an inherently risky activity. It’s one thing to take that risk when you know you’re a strong swimmer and can handle most conditions; it’s an entirely different thing when you’re unsure of yourself in the water, or have health conditions that interfere with your ability to stay afloat. OP2, you’re totally right to opt out. Show your good judgement by holding your ground on this one.

      1. valentine*

        I think Michelle is betting on a great story about perseverance, like her zip-lining, except she was possibly harnessed and overall maybe less likely to die. And she seems to be hiring clones, so, I see no end in sight.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          I have worked for people like this Michelle. They love motivational posters. They love the idea of team building exercises. They go to a presentation on something like Covey training and then suddenly we all have to do it. Until they’re on to the next thing, which is somehow going to be different. They mean well, but they just don’t understand that most of us aren’t really into this stuff.

          Michelle may legitimately think that this is going to be a great experience for her team. I would use the script suggested for trying to make this tank as a team building activity.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            People like Michelle are also ageist and ableist. If they weren’t, they would not assume that everyone is even capable of these kinds of physcal challenges, nor would they be oblivious to the risks involved.

            I’ve never met Michelle, and I think I hate her. Her assumption that OF COURSE everyone is not just able-bodied but athletically included AND an adrenaline junkie is offensive as hell to ne.

            1. Vicky Austin*

              You bring up a good point about “adrenaline junkies.” A person could be able-bodied and athletically inclined, but still have a deathly fear of deep water/swimming/heights/anything else that could be a risk when rafting. The workplace is not the appropriate situation to “challenge” someone to “face their fears” for something completely unrelated to the work that they do, especially when it could result in injury or death.

              1. Paulina*

                For an entire day! With no good way to cut it short!
                Unlike Michelle’s zipline experience, if the LW is right about being uncomfortable and in danger on this trip, they’ll be in that situation for *hours*.

      2. JulieCanCan*

        As someone who loves adrenaline and is a fine swimmer, I have to say that one of the 2 times in my life I truly thought “I’m going to die.” and saw my life flash before my eyes was while on a white water rafting trip going through level 3 or 4 rapids (it’s all a blur now, 25 years later ). I mean, I imagined my poor parents and wondered what my obit would say. That was some scary sh*t and for a manager to insist that a person take part in anything remotely similar even after the person stated they are not great swimmers and would prefer to sit it out is INSANE. I would be pretty pissed to be put in this position OP, and WWR is definitely NOT a good team building exercise.

        Ridiculous!

      3. Myrin*

        Yeah, I don’t think the “challenge” mindset really applies to things that could actually potentially kill you (unless you yourself view it that way, of course – I had a very athletic classmate who liked trying all kinds of risky sports as a way to challenge herself and obviously that’s totally fine). I also think there’s a distinct difference between situations that make you slightly nervous but which you’re also excited about, and situations that downright frighten you.

        OP, as someone who’s been with this company for seven years, do you have any coworkers who feel the same way as you do? I always like advocating for several people getting together and presenting concerns like this as a team, even better if everyone can come at it from a slightly different angle if they feel comfortable doing so (like how you’re a weak swimmer and Link nearly drowned as a child and won’t go near water and Zelda has vertigo and can’t participate in something like this at all and so on).

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I think it’s not accidental that her example was ziplining, where if you a) step off the platform b) don’t flail around in panic so that you entangle yourself in the line, you passively ride to the end. The entirety of the challenge is willing yourself to step off that platform.

        I think she’s picturing an amusement park ride where the whole challenge is psyching yourself up to climb into the little cart, after which if you sit still and don’t flail about hysterically nothing can go wrong. Which is characteristic of Disney’s Whitewater Rafting, but not Real World’s Whitewater Rafting.

        1. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          Agreed. Amusement park whitewater rafting rides – I’m all in! Actual whitewater rafting: nope nope nope.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          Ooh, good point!
          If your team building activity requires employees to sign up for swimming lessons at the Y several months in advance, it’s not a good team building activity.

      5. BadWolf*

        I have been on a “rafting” trip that was on a low river and the purpose was to see birds. In that case, it was billed as essentially a “lazy” river and was in fact. Our guide did all the work. The most difficult part was getting in and out of the big rubber raft (and we wore life jackets and were fitted by the staff). But if it was that sort of thing, I would think it would have been presented as such. Versus everyone rowing today as an athletic adventure.

        1. Janie*

          Even that – are you really sure everyone is capable of getting into a raft? Because if someone has mobility issues that seems like an issue. Are you 100% sure the rafting company has life jackets for every body, including ones that are superfat?

      6. LJay*

        I mean there are plenty of rafting trips that are essentially a lazy river experience.

        Yeah, you could drown. But you can drown in a lazy river, too.

        Level I waters are pretty darn easy. They’re slow, not too deep, easy rescue if flipped. No rocks or other obstructions in the path of the boat.

        But it’s still an uncontrolled environment. Still involves skills like swimming and gripping and bending that aren’t required in an office environment. Still involves being out all day in the sunlight, away from restrooms, away from refrigerators to store medication, etc. Those things alone make it an inappropriate work activity.

        And even though the risk of drowning or otherwise dying is small, your workplace still shouldn’t be calling on you to take on that risk for a work “fun” activity.

        And the protocols from rafting organizations still call on rafters to be competent swimmers. And call on people to be the ultimate arbitors of whether a trip is for them or not:

        From American Whitewater:
        Despite the mutually supportive group structure described in this code, individual paddlers are ultimately responsible for their own safety, and must assume sole responsibility for the following decisions:
        The decision to participate on any trip. This includes an evaluation of the expected difficulty of the rapids under the conditions existing at the time of the put-in.
        The selection of appropriate equipment, including a boat design suited to their skills and the appropriate rescue and survival gear.
        The decision to scout any rapid, and to run or portage according to their best judgment. Other members of the group may offer advice, but paddlers should resist pressure from anyone to paddle beyond their skills. It is also their responsibility to decide whether to pass up any walk-out or take-out opportunity.
        All trip participants should consistently evaluate their own and their group’s safety, voicing their concerns when appropriate and following what they believe to be the best course of action. Paddlers are encouraged to speak with anyone whose actions on the water are dangerous, whether they are a part of your group or not.

        The OP has clearly decided that it is in her best judgement not to participate. Nobody should force her otherwise.

      7. LJay*

        And to add on to my comment, we have no indication that this is going to be on class I or class II waters. I see places touting class III waters as part of “beginner friendly” or “family level” trips.

        Which are not lazy-river like.

        I’ve done class III/class IV, but I’m a strong swimmer who enjoys the water. And the most recent time I went I was concerned that my level of fitness wasn’t up to par despite that. Multiple people have died recently in the US on class III/IV waters.

        (Though again people have died recently on one of those big amusement part raft rides, though not in the US. 7 were injured in the US on one.)

    2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      You said it, Valentine. Sounds like the challenge OP needs to meet here is to stick to their guns and protect their health and well-being.

    3. Same.*

      I think the 16 personality types are from the Myers-Briggs test (not that I agree with any of this, just that that’s why it’s 16).

      1. Dennis Feinstein*

        Agree that it’s probably Myers-Briggs and, if it is, it’s another indication of Michelle’s poor judgement since that silly test has been widely discredited.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              If you google “Myers-Briggs controversy”, you’ll get a high number of matches – the ones I’m seeing on the first page of the results that look reliable are links to psychologytoday, bbc, and fortune – there are probably more.

            2. Former Employee*

              Look it up in Wikipedia. Mrs. Briggs and her daughter, Mrs. Myers, were “into” Jung and created this test based on their reading and understanding of his work. Neither was trained in psychology nor had either studied with Jung or a Jungian analyst.

      2. palomar*

        There’s also DiSC personality assessments, which are pretty common in the workplace — my current employer has everyone go through the two-day training module on it at some point in their first couple of years with the company. Fun fact, the DiSC system was created by William Marston, who also created Wonder Woman.

    4. Scarlet2*

      I can’t say how much I dislike this idea of “the challenge for challenge’s sake” or “pushing yourself out of your comfort zone because Reasons”. Pushing to meet (reasonable) work-related challenges through training, for example? Sure. Pushing to learn how to swim well enough to not drown during rafting because your manager is an overeager sporty time? Nope. That Michelle sounds like a complete nightmare. If I were you, LW, I would seriously consider job-searching. She sounds like a “my way or the highway” type.

      1. Lance*

        I don’t really disagree with that last point, especially given how Michelle and Michelle-likes (the OP says the new managers hired share her outgoing personality… so chances are more stuff like this is coming down the line) are taking charge of that office. Definitely go to her first and be direct about ‘I’m not going to this, I don’t want to drown’, but if that doesn’t work, or you get the impression she’ll be bitter about it in any way… it would be very worth looking elsewhere, because you’re right, it can affect your working environment. I can only hope that won’t be the case, and Michelle actually sees how this sort of thing can be a problem.

      2. Alfonzo Mango*

        Yes! This is the much more eloquently worded response that I was trying to get at. Cheers, Scarlet2.

      3. Sabina*

        Here’s what rising to Michelle’s asinine challenge would mean for me: overcoming my tendency towards heatstroke if outside more than an hour; somehow going into remission from an chronic, incurable medical condition that requires frequent, emergency bathroom use; figuring out how to keep $6,000 worth of hearing aids from getting wet and being destroyed; oh, and not drowning if there is an accident. The Michelles of the work world are a blight.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yeah this woman sounds like my worst nightmare. I’m an extroverted introvert and can only handle so much “team building”. I love the water, but would still give a hard no on the rafting trip with colleagues. It’s not about refusing to meet a challenge, it’s about not wanting to die. Ditto what Alison said – tell her you’re not doing it, period, end of story.

    6. College Career Counselor*

      The 16 personality types is most likely the MBTI, My objection to MBTI, aside from the validity/reliability issues, is that it encourages people to reduce others to their 4 letter type. “Oh, she’s an ISTJ, and you know how they are in group situations.” “Better not send him an email with data–ENFPs prefer not to get those.”

      1. valentine*

        Four is too few, but 16 is too many. I’d rather go by birth sign because I’m just not going to remember 16 different categories.

    7. Falling Diphthong*

      She’d rather see me focus on how to meet a challenge rather than how to get out of it.

      As a freelancer, this reminds me of the person who tried to get me to take a fraction of my normal rate to work with her company because “that’s what we pay.” Surely I would want to fit in with the team?!!! I would meet the challenge?!!!! Turned out not.

    8. kittymommy*

      Yeah, I can’t swim, although I have been white-water rafting. I hated it. It was not exciting or enjoyable. If I need to challenge myself, I’ll go skydiving again.

      1. Paulina*

        Good point, there’s a big difference between challenging yourself with something new that you want to do, and something someone else picked that you don’t want to do at all. Michelle sounds like one of those people who is utterly convinced that everything she enjoys, everyone else will too. I usually keep my distance from people like that, since it never occurs to them that their plans can make me completely miserable.

    9. Dasein9*

      The sixteen personality types things is probably the Myers-Briggs test. Some people believe that this taxonomy is a helpful way to understand people and working styles.

    10. Not Me*

      There are some very useful personality and behavioral assessments that companies use that have a lot of different “types” because they are grades. Think; north, south, east, west broken down into NNE, SSW, etc.

  12. Concerned lurker*

    “Both over 18” is a pretty wide margin. Is she closer to 18, 19, 20, while you are much older at 29, 31, 33? Unless I miss my guess, her parents are picking up on something that you’ve chosen not to present here.

    1. Annette*

      Reading into the question way too much. They sound like kids. LW said “over 18” – I heard “so our parents can’t tell us what to do.” No need to assume he (?) is a creep.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah, I read “we’re both over 18” as “we’re not under the legal control of our parents”.

        Work wise, if the OP’s friend doesn’t have a problem with the level and type of communication, then HR will go to the friend to check on the issue, will be told that everything is fine, and (hopefully) that they’re not to communicate with her parents regarding her job, in any context. Then their friend is left with a parent problem. If the friend does have a problem and the OP hasn’t been aware of it, then the OP has to apologize and cut off contact.

        The issue the OP doesn’t realize is not strictly a work one. Hours long calls on a daily basis, saying that you’d date each other if you were both single, and possibly sexually charged texting is at minimum an emotional affair with a colleague. That isn’t a good idea from a work perspective (if you’re going to cheat on your partner, emotionally or otherwise, don’t do so at work), and is also a pretty crappy thing to do to the person you’re in a relationship with.

        1. caryatis*

          The letter says nothing about either of them being married. I don’t like this whole “friendships = “emotional affairs” meme at all, but it’s completely irrelevant here.

          1. VelociraptorAttack*

            I’d think saying they have a huge thing for each other and would be dating if they were single is 100% the type of thing that means a friendship that has crossed into an emotional affair.

          2. EventPlannerGal*

            I don’t think AcademiaNut said anything about either of them being married? “Partner” doesn’t necessarily mean a spouse, and you don’t have to be married to be having an affair.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, please don’t present speculation as fact here (especially if it’s going to lead you to accuse the LW of something that’s not in the letter).. It tends to lead us down the wrong path and can be really frustrating for letter writers.

    2. anon today and tomorrow*

      Even if they were 18 and 29, they’re still both legally adults and there’s nothing wrong with two adults with a large margin between their ages dating.

      1. Beth*

        Nothing legally wrong. Speaking as someone in my late 20s, though, I’d be a little concerned about someone my age looking at an 18 year old and thinking they made the ideal partner. There’s a real power differential between ‘barely an adult, just starting to figure out who adult-me is going to be’ and ‘a decade into this, experience under my belt’.

        1. anon today and tomorrow*

          I mean, sure, as someone in my early 30s I wouldn’t want to date someone in their early 20s because it’s a difference in life experience, but there are people who make it work when they’re 19 and 29 without anything seedy occurring.

          I don’t really think all the instant pearl clutching and suspicion over ages is helpful when we don’t have any of that information from the LW. There are plenty of parents who would get this up in arms about two 18 or 19 year olds sending each other flirty messages. I don’t think we need to immediately jump to the worst conclusion, and this type of immediate speculation isn’t helpful and tends to derail from actual advice.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep. It’s really not a stretch to think they could be the exact same age and the parents are being inappropriately overprotective/interfering. That’s not exactly an uncommon situation.

          2. valentine*

            The ages may be all, and make the difference between “You are painfully early-20s and her parents are overbearing” and “Of course her parents don’t want a married/involved colleague closer to their age sexting their (involved?) daughter,” especially if OP2 is doing other textbook things like complaining about his relationship or lack thereof.

            1. anon today and tomorrow*

              But we don’t know the ages of the people involved and it’s not helpful to the LW to speculate and then accuse them of being shady based on speculation from the commentariat.

            2. Scarlet2*

              Except even if LW is older and married, it’s still none of the parents’ business, esp. when it comes to interfering with their daughter’s workplace. Parents can disapprove all they want, the daughter is an adult.

              1. MassMatt*

                But the person LW is talking and texting with lives with their parents and the parents pay the phone bill. Honestly this is not really adulting. Hard to say “I can wear whatever I want” when your parents buy the clothes and mom is doing your laundry.

                1. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

                  Or maybe she buys her own clothes and does her mother’s laundry. Someone can be unable to rent an apartment alone, and choose to live with their family rather than unrelated relatives, and still pull her weight at home. And “why pay $60 a month for your own cell phone plan, when we can include you on the family plan for free?” is a reasonable question/offer.

                  Yes, in this case “because your parents will snoop if they share a phone plan” is a good reason, but this may be the first time it’s happened.

                2. Canvas Warrior*

                  my best friend is 45 and still on their family phone plan. Are they not really a grown up either, in this weird thinking of yours?

                3. CMart*

                  Nothing about living with your parents automatically implies “parents babying their adult children”.

                  Lots of people maintain cell plan membership with their families of origin, because the incremental 5th line, dividing the bill among all 5 family members, is so much less expensive than everyone striking out on their own. Lots of people are perfectly independent adults, even at 18, being contributing members of the household while they live with parents.

                  And even if none of that is true, even if it’s within the family dynamic that parents get a say in who their adult children text-flirt with, none of that makes it okay for the parents to call the Human Resources Department to report a personal matter, and any HR department that would entertain that call needs a hard look at its policies and practices.

                4. Scarlet2*

                  Adults are still adults, even if they live at home.
                  And parents contacting their adult daughter’s employer over text messages she’s exchanging with another adult would seriously damage her career and reputation.

                5. Autumnheart*

                  It’s definitely really adulting to be holding down a job. The workplace isn’t kindergarten, parents are not expected to volunteer and play chaperone. People can have whatever financial arrangements make sense for them, but paying someone’s phone bill does not mean that they abdicate their privacy.

                6. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Parents paying some of a young woman’s bills absolutely do NOT entitle them to snoop in her text messages. Would an employed partner have the right to snoop on everything their stay-at-home partner did because they’re paying the bills?

                7. MassMatt*

                  I’m not defending the parents’ lack of boundaries, I am saying boundaries are a 2 way street. If you don’t want your parents in your business, that is generally incompatible with them paying your bills.

                  The “my house, my rules” cliche has a point. It is naive to think parents (or even most people) would pay a bill and not feel they had some say over how it was spent.

                  So yes, barring disability or hardship, in my “strange world”, I think a 45 year old having their parents pay the phone bill is Immature.

        2. JamieS*

          Yeah an 18 year old dating someone significantly older is probably a mistake but very young adults need to be allowed to make mistakes even if us older adults want to scream “NOOOO RUN!!!!”. Besides this probably isn’t even applicable to OP.

          1. Airy*

            Plus that would be a conversation for concerned parents to have with their daughter, not with HR.

            1. Traffic_Spiral*

              This. Them privately sitting down with her and being like “older guys are Bad News when you’re a YA” is one thing. Them deciding they can interfere with her work life is another. Even if she’s 18 1/2 and he’s 40 (and we have no evidence of that) it’d still be inappropriate for her parents to be butting into her job.

    3. Róisín*

      I’ve never heard anyone over 25 actually say they’re over 18. After a few years you stop feeling the need to point out that you’re technically a grown-up.

        1. CMart*

          Even when you are regularly carded, at a certain point it’s not “come on dude, I’m over 18/21!” it’s a heavy sigh while you fumble with your wallet and mutter to yourself “I’m 33 years old you’d think this would have stopped by now…”

          I haven’t felt the need to qualify my numerical age with a description like “which means old enough to vote” in a very long time.

    4. Ms Cappuccino*

      Even if that was true (and nothing indicates that) , it would be perfectly legal and the parents have no say in their adult child’s relationships.
      There are plenty of people in relationships with large age gaps and there is nothing wrong with that if they both consent.
      And anyway it’s a friendship. They aren’t a couple.

      1. Scarlet2*

        Yeah, as someone who was for a very long time in a (perfectly healthy) relationship with a significant age gap, I’m a bit tired of the pearl-clutching around age difference. All sorts of relationships can be healthy or unhealthy. Let’s not draw conclusions, especially based on pure speculation.

        1. anon today and tomorrow*

          Yeah, I’m pretty disappointed with all the pearl clutching and “he must be a creep!” speculation in the comments. I know the AAM commentariat likes to delve right into the worst case scenario, but it’s really tiring to read time and again. I’m sure it’s prevented some commenters from writing in.

    5. Cynthia*

      People who mention being over 18 are very likely not much beyond 18, though. Anyone 25 or older would feel ridiculous describing themselves that way. So it’s safe to assume 18-21.

      1. CMart*

        It is a truth universally acknowledged in the bartending world that the people who get the angriest about being asked for ID, the ones who splutter “omg I’m over 21 uggggh” are the ones who are 21 years and 3 months old.

        1. Doc in a Box*

          Yup. The rest of us are like “Huh?” and have to think a minute to remember where our drivers license is, or if we even brought it if we’re not driving.

          Still not a fan of that moment at the grocery store, though, when the cashier scans the bottle of wine, looks at you for a hard minute, then hits the “appears over 40” button.

          Signed,
          A 33-year-old who works long hours and it shows.

    6. Me*

      Literally doesn’t matter. Over 18 means adults. Parents don’t have to like anything but they have exactly zero standing here to be involved.

      1. KHB*

        They have standing if the daughter wants them to have standing, though. I appreciate that Alison included the advice to consider that maybe the relationship isn’t as two-sided as OP is making it out to be. It may be that the parents are just being unreasonably overbearing – or it could be that the daughter wants OP to leave her alone but doesn’t know how to say so (or HAS said so but OP isn’t hearing it), and is appealing to her parents for help. Either of those things could be true regardless of the ages involved.

        1. fposte*

          They have standing with the daughter, but they still don’t have standing with the employer.

          1. Scarlet2*

            This. I think Alison is right to point out that LW should double-check with the friend that she’s ok with the relationship as it is, but parents contacting their child’s employer is a huge no-no. If the daughter was actually asking them to call HR on her behalf, I would seriously question her professionalism and maturity.

          2. KHB*

            I’m not in HR and don’t know what their best practices are, but I’d have thought that if an employer got a complaint that one of their employees was sexually harassing another – regardless of who made the complaint – they’d want to do at least some minimal follow-through to see if there’s anything behind it. Wouldn’t they?

              1. KHB*

                In our imperfect world, that may very well be true, but in an ideal world, it really shouldn’t, IMO. As we’ve seen from the MeToo movement, there are all sorts of reasons why harassment victims aren’t always comfortable speaking up right away themselves. And if a very young employee still lives with her parents, it makes perfect sense that the parents would have a view of things going on in her life that others might not be aware of.

                And ultimately, if there’s harassment going on, the only person it should reflect badly on should be the harasser.

            1. anon today and tomorrow*

              Why would they follow through if that complaint came from someone outside the company, though?

              1. KHB*

                Because it might be true, and because they have an interest in stamping out inappropriate behavior among their employees, regardless of how they learned about it.

                1. Autumnheart*

                  But literally anyone could call up and say that they were someone’s parent, and levy accusations against me. I wouldn’t be surprised if a company decided to ask me about it, in case this was a situation where *I* am being harassed, but I absolutely would never expect a company to seriously take the word of some anonymous caller over my own.

                  Since both parties are employees, it would be reasonably for HR to check in with them both and to ascertain that the relationship was consensual. But only *because* both parties are employees.

                2. anon today and tomorrow*

                  No. You can’t go on the basis of “it might be true!” just because a stranger said it. That leaves it open to anyone being able to call up a company and level accusations against someone under the assumption that HR will look into it. That’s a slippery path to take.

                3. KHB*

                  Autumnheart and anon: Does that reasoning also apply if it’s an employee making the complaint? After all, “literally anyone” at the company could go into HR and level accusations against one of their colleagues. Should HR not even investigate those either?

                  (I’d think it would be pretty straightforward, actually, to verify someone’s identity as the parent of an employee – especially if the employee listed her parents as her emergency contacts. And if it was just some random stranger looking to stir up trouble with random false allegations – I don’t know, for fun? – it should be easy enough to discern that they actually know nothing about any of the people they’re talking about.)

                4. anon today and tomorrow*

                  @KHB: Of course it’d be different if it’s an employee making the complaint because they’re an employee. HR should listen to its employees, not people outside the company.

                  How many letters have we had from people who have partners or spouses or family members trying to contact their work in order to start up drama or accuse someone of something that may or may not be true?

                  That’s all I’m going to say on the matter because I have a feeling you’re going to keep picking at the topic until someone agrees with you.

                5. KHB*

                  Well, there’s rather a big difference between “starting up drama” and pointing out serious workplace misconduct. This isn’t “your employee used a swear word in a non-work context” (which has nothing to do with anything) or even “your employee is being a creep to random women on social media”, but rather “your employee is creating a hostile work environment, in the technical legal sense, for another employee, at your place of employment.” If that’s true, it’s a big deal, so it’s appropriate (IMO) for HR to look into it.

                  I mean, what happens if it turns out that the allegation is true, and it comes to light that HR knew about it and did nothing? That’s not a good situation to be in.

  13. Iron Chef Boyardee*

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

    This is the part of the letter that worries me the most.

    “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’m concerned that if the letter writer pushes back on not receiving what was verbally or informally promised to them, they might lose this job and then they’re out of luck.

  14. Awesome Possum*

    OP#1 — there is ABSOLUTELY NO comparison between the controlled environment of zip lining and rafting. She is endangering her team if she forces this on those who feel uncomfortable. I know what it feels like to connect with someone and view everything through those rose-colored glasses, but your wife should not be pushing you to go on this trip. How would your wife respond if she asked you to go skydiving or cliff climbing? For you, the dangers would be similar.

    I am an excellent swimmer who loves the water. I also survived an extreme weather event, which gives me uncontrolled panic attacks when certain specific things trigger me. So I can imagine you, as a weak swimmer, nerves on alert bcoz you’re there against your will, falling into the water and accidentally gulping a mouthful, maybe choking on it in panic, or floating off, or anything unpredictable that happens when people interact with the amazing force that is water.

    I love Alison’s calm straightforward wording. Just communicate with your boss as if *of course* she knows this is unpredictable, amd *of course* many people are going to have medical conditions that prevent participating, and *of course* the mermaid tail she expects you to grow will take longer than 4 months. BTW, does Michelle have any deep-sea witches she is loaning out to train you for this event?

    1. Quoth the Raven*

      the mermaid tail she expects you to grow will take longer than 4 months.

      This is important, too. Even if the LW decided to bite the bullet and take swimming lessons (and who’s going to cover them? What about the time they demand), it will still take longer than a few months to grow the ability to swim in those conditions, and the confidence, which is perhaps more important, to do it.

      I can’t swim. I could learn fast, but not fast enough to go rafting in a few months even if I wanted to.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        And swimming skill is of limited use in white water, *anyway*.

        I was a lifeguard for a camp in college, did several white water trips each summer. If you’re out of the boat, you can do a few white water specific actions (push up from bottom / rocks; try to orient feet downstream), but mostly you just have to ride it out. Once you’re through the rapids, your life jacket will keep you afloat until someone can get a rope or boat to you.

        Michelle’s an idiot. Alison’s script is *great*, go with it.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          Michelle is most definitely an idiot. She’s also an ageist and ableist snob. Wtf is up with bosses who automatically assume that EVERYONE working under them is both 100% able-bodied and utterly fearless, to the extent of actually punishing employees who don’t live up to their ridiculous expectations?

          I’ve got news for Michelle and her ilk: the fact that you are in a position to force your employees to do things they do not feel safe doing does not give you the RIGHT to insist they risk their lives to stay in your good graces.

          Attitudes like Michelle’s offend me greatly, and I really feel for this LW!

      2. yet another library anon*

        I will say that I’m pretty sure most team-building rafting involves wearing life preserver vests, so if nothing else, you’ll usually stay above water, whether or not you can swim.

        But. That doesn’t really make it a Super Fun Experience. It’s probably a lot safer than it seems, but it’s still not a 100% controlled environment (I mean, me, I’d worry about bacteria), and it shouldn’t be required for anyone to prove they’re a “team player” by doing something they don’t feel safe doing.

      3. Amethystmoon*

        Agreed. Plus, even those of us who learned how to swim in childhood probably still wouldn’t jump into white water willingly. I wouldn’t. There’s a big difference from swimming pool with lifeguards to white water rapids with the difficulty involved.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Agreed. I’ve never rafted, but I do a few risk sports and there’s a huge difference between getting past a fear of heights or something in order to zip-line and going rafting when you’re not a good swimmer. And one of the reasons that I’ve stayed away from rafting, kayaking, anything involving water is how fast and badly it can go wrong, even when you’re doing everything right. Even if I was a strong swimmer I would be sitting this one out along with OP – there’s far too much risk and discomfort involved in this for me to accept for some stupid bonding exercise.

      1. LJay*

        And also there’s a difference between putting in the work to move past a fear because you think it will enrich your life to do so, and doing it because you’re being forced to for some work team-building event when you work in an office job.

        One is doing something for yourself. The other is a job making an unreasonable bid for your time and effort.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          If I was dealing with this, I would not go simply because I don’t want to. I don’t like extreme sports. My allergies would probably make me sick. I was a so-so swimmer at best, and haven’t even been in a pool since the early 2000’s.

          What it comes down to is, I decide what efforts I will make and what I will do. If I’m going to try to overcome physical and mental limitations to do something potentially dangerous, it will be because it’s something I WANT to do badly enough to make the effort.
          It will NOT be because a clueless adrenaline junkie forced me. I’d take it all the way to court if necessary. Grrrrrr.

        2. PersephoneUnderground*

          Exactly! “Work to overcome a challenge” is great in theory, but we all have limited time and resources. Sorry, I don’t have time for swim lessons when I’m busy with the other things I already deemed important in my life. It’s pretty arrogant to assume the LW never challenges themselves or isn’t currently, say, training for a marathon or registering voters every week to get out of their comfort zone. Michelle is in charge of them at work, but has no business dictating their priorities at home, or setting up false logic where if they aren’t interested in the “challenge” of going rafting, then they must be a lazy person without any ambition or interest in personal growth “trying to get out of it”. I mean, seriously?

          Not to mention she needs to learn to take any soft no as a no because there are plenty of health issues that someone could have behind “weak swimmer” that they shouldn’t have to disclose to be taken seriously when opting out. If you’re doing something athletic, not everyone will be able to do it and that shouldn’t be a surprise!

    3. pleaset*

      “OP#1 — there is ABSOLUTELY NO comparison between the controlled environment of zip lining and rafting.”

      I think this is besides the point. Both are more dangerous to some people than is reasonable to except in an office work environment.

      1. irene adler*

        There’s a certain level of sadism in doing that.
        Don’t care to see that trait in my bosses.

    4. MissDisplaced*

      My guess is the wife envisions more of a “touristy” type scenic rafting trip, not a challenging one.
      But OP probably knows the tone of the boss who expects a CHALLENGE and competitive trip.

  15. Artemesia*

    5 executives were killed in Canada on a rafting team building experience on a retreat in the late 80s. We knew someone whose FIL was on that trip although he survived. Forcing people into activities that they fear and that are not without potential serious risk is outrageous. I have a close friend myself who was on the river with one rafting expedition when another group had several deaths; she said she never forget watching bodies float down past her face down. It is one thing to have to build silly tings with tinker toys or play dough and quite another to be required to zip line or white water raft.

    1. JulieCanCan*

      As someone who loves adrenaline and is a fine swimmer, I have to say that one of the 2 times in my life I truly thought “I’m going to die.” and saw my life flash before my eyes was while on a white water rafting trip going through level 3 or 4 rapids (it’s all a blur now, 25 years later ). I mean, I imagined my poor parents and wondered what my obit would say. That was some scary sh*t and for a manager to insist that a person take part in anything remotely similar even after the person stated they are not great swimmers and would prefer to sit it out is INSANE. I would be pretty pissed to be put in this position OP, and WWR is definitely NOT a good team building exercise.

      Ridiculous!

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, my first thought was, Oh, no, not another team-building fascist. I wonder, though, whether Michelle’s superiors know how fast she’s escalated from all-day MBTI chat fests (time-wasting, but unlikely to be lethal) to something that could result in serious injury?

      While I like Alison’s script and the idea of invoking “inclusiveness” as solutions, I’m also wondering if OP#1 should have a discreet conversation with HR. If anyone is injured during Michelle’s little expedition, it could have serious repercussions for the company, whether or not anybody signed waivers in advance.

      1. just a random teacher*

        You could also try having a discreet chat with Risk Management, “confirming” that the company is properly insured if someone gets injured on a work-required white water rafting trip.

      2. tiasp*

        I’d be crossing things out in the waiver before I signed so I’d probably not be permitted in the raft anyway, if the company actually looked at them.

  16. Indigo64*

    OP 4-

    I worked for an employer who had recycling bins, but didn’t recycle. Everyone had two bins under their desk- one trash, one “recycling” but everything was thrown away. One colleague started her own recycling bin, which she’d take home and actually recycle. I don’t know the logistics, but for the two years I worked there, most people brought their soda cans/water bottles to her! Might be worth checking to see if your office has a rogue recycler.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      Here in New Zealand, a restaurant chain did something similar. Except this was with the bins customers put their rubbish in and they were advertising their recycling effort. The Commerce Commision saw it as false advertising.

      I’m not naming them because I couldn’t find anything about it online. If you want to go digging, I think this was sometime in the 90s.

    2. Original Poster*

      Original poster here. Thanks. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is such a person in my office. Maybe I’ll do some investigation.

      1. JulieCanCan*

        Also, is there a chance you could speak to the person who orders the water for the office and convince them to start buying 12 or 16 oz. bottles? Like someone above said, those tiny bottles seem more like something people use for a quick tickle in the throat, or they’re OK as something to offer guests visiting the office for meetings. I know personally I try to drink a gallon of water a day, half of that is while I’m at work, and it would feel silly trying to get my half gallon quota in using those mini bottles. I’d have a trash can full of empties every day.

        They also sell incredible 32-oz water bottles on Amazon with fruit infused baskets and ice balls that keep the water chilled for hours. They’re $12 and might be a good solution for you. I’m planning on getting one myself .

    3. Person of Interest*

      In my old office that did not have plastics recycling, a few people were willing to bring stuff home so we put a collection bin in the kitchen and set up a rotating schedule to lessen the burden every week.

    4. Rogue Recycler*

      My office does not recycle but I have recycling services at my house (through the county) so I save my recycling for the week and bring it home every Friday. I also bring home a co-worker’s recycling as well.

      I also have a set of metal utensils I keep at my desk (to avoid the plastics offered at company lunches). This also cuts down on what I have to recycle.

      If you feel uncomfortable speaking up about this (especially being so new), could you do something similar? People notice when you carry out a large bag of recycling weekly, it’s a great way to get a conversation started. My boss noticed and is now looking into us getting recycling.

    5. Elle Kay*

      This is what I do.
      Our trash pick-up for the office is very reasonably priced but it would literally double the monthly bill to add recycling (2 dumpster rentals, 2 weekly pickups with 2 trucks dispatched) so I finally just started keeping a cardboard box behind the door. I mostly only save water bottles, drink cans, etc but I bring it home ~monthly and drop it off with my municipal recycling.

  17. Clementine*

    I have not looked into this for a very long time, but I know in the past that operators of numerous possibly dangerous ventures like white-water rafting or ziplining frequently require you to sign a waiver that absolves them of liability. Whether or not this is a legally valid waiver, I can’t judge. However, I can’t imagine signing such a waiver, even if I were a superb swimmer and all-around athlete, in my family circumstances.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      I’ve heard of such waivers that also try to waive neggliance.

      So, if nothing else works, I’d refuse to sign. I’d make it clear to the rafting operator that I refused to sign because I’m a weak swimmer.
      If I find that my waiver was signed ‘for me’, then it’s time to call Legal.

      1. Clementine*

        I googled and quickly found a company that has exactly this type of waiver now, and I could never agree to sign it personally.

      2. Shad*

        And if you don’t sign the waiver, you can’t go. The rafting company won’t sign it for you—that defeats the point. Michelle might try, and then it’d time to raise hell.

    2. Anononon*

      Eh, these waivers are common for any type of physical activity event. I’ve signed them for escape rooms. I’d find the lack of one to be more of a warning sign, if anything.

      1. Washi*

        The nonprofit I used to work for had such a waiver for volunteers! The activity in question was tutoring young elementary schoolers.

        I don’t think the waiver is the main issue here – the OP is more concerned about her safety as a weak swimmer, and a waiver that allows you to sue the raft operator is not a magic spell that keeps you safe.

      2. yet another library anon*

        Was gonna say. We have to sign one every time we go roller skating or play laser tag. I think we had to sign one for The Void at Disney Springs too.

        They’re not a warning sign. They’re just a business necessity for…probably just about anything where there’s even the slightest potential of getting hurt, really.

        1. zora*

          Most escape rooms I know of, that my friends have done, do not actually lock anything. They don’t physically lock the door, the group has just agreed as part of the game that you “can’t” leave. Actually locking the door is unnecessary.

    3. pleaset*

      Such waivers are not legally valid in that you can’t sign away those kinds of rights. What the waivers do do is prevent you from claiming you didn’t know the activity was dangerous – they have your signature saying you knew it. So that weakens cases against them which might be based on not knowing about the dangers.

      OP1 wrote “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.”

      If you show her you roll over for unreasonable requests, do you think you could continue working for her. If you can afford it, push back NOW. If the turns reasonable when getting pushback, that’s a sign it would be worth sticking with the job even if you end up working for her. If she continues not listening, you don’t want to report to her in the future.

      Your worries here are not silly.

      1. Random obs*

        Such waivers are not legally valid in that you can’t sign away those kinds of rights.
        happily signed anything he deemed unenforceable, which was basically every waiver he encountered.

        Please be careful with these blanket statements. This area of law can vary quite a bit from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, depending on the way the waiver is written, whether the company tries to waive only ordinary negligence or also gross negligence, the mood of the jury, etc. You can’t say that all waivers are unenforceable.

      2. Not A Manager*

        This is misleading. You can almost always waive claims for ordinary negligence, and you can almost never waive claims for willful misconduct. Gross negligence and reckless behavior are more variable.

        1. pleaset*

          So you’re saying it is possible to sign a waiver that “absolves them of liability”?

          That’s what I was commenting on (in the US – should have been clearer). I did not know it was possible to sign a waiver absolving the other part of liability in some places. Thanks for clearing that up.

    4. blackcat*

      Obviously it varies based on jurisdiction, but my lawyer dad always read those carefully and happily signed anything he deemed unenforceable, which was basically every waiver he encountered.

      That said, no reputable company will take someone who says “I am a very weak swimmer.”

      1. rubyrose*

        Operational term here is “reputable company.” There was a lawsuit here (Colorado) within the last couple of years where someone specifically told the company that they had never been on a rafting trip and either could not swim or was a weak swimmer. They wanted the easiest trip possible. The company signed them up for a trip known to have level 5 rapids (most dangerous). Person died.
        Yeah, this one made the news.

      2. pleaset*

        “Obviously it varies based on jurisdiction, but my lawyer dad always read those carefully and happily signed anything he deemed unenforceable, which was basically every waiver he encountered. ”

        See comments from Not a Manager and Random Obs.

    5. Artemesia*

      I took my then 12 year old daughter to one of those things where you wear a flying suit into a column of air so you are sort of ‘skydiving’ in a contained environment. They give you a waiver to sign which basically says ‘we try to keep you safe, but you could fall off the air column break your neck and die or be paralyzed.’ My daughter read that and said ‘wait, what? I could die’ and refused to sign and so didn’t do it. It was really fun but yeah — you could die and I respect the fact that she read it and reacted appropriately.

  18. nnn*

    It could be entertaining for #1 to frame getting out of the rafting trip as meeting the challenge of “my boss wants me to go on a rafting trip that’s clearly inappropriate for me” head-on.

    (Not saying this is advisable, just entertaining)

    1. Bilateralrope*

      That would probably be my first response to anyone telling me to meet the challenge. Maybe some snark about challenging them to bring me along.

      I’m not saying it’s a good idea. Just one I’d have trouble resisting.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. I’m meeting the challenge of establishing personal boundaries with a boss who continually oversteps and frames it as “for my own good.”

      1. pleaset*

        All this.

        And in the long-term, does the OP actually want to work for this person in the future if s/he’s so dismissive of the OP’s concerns. Fight it out now, when that person is not the OP’s supervisor.

        1. Paulina*

          It’s also very unlikely that this particular team-building exercise is a one-off. Should the OP work directly under Michelle, it’s likely that there will be more such events, and potentially also an expectation (should OP be managing a team under Michelle) that the OP organize such things for their own reports.

    3. CM*

      I think OP#1 could actually pull this off — if Michelle says “I’m disappointed you’re not meeting the challenge,” she could say, “Oh, I thought you meant the challenge of asserting myself in a clear and respectful way — that’s an important skill in sales!”

  19. TechWorker*

    On #5 – I work in software and people, especially less experienced people, notoriously underestimate work. (Or they estimate the time something will take if everything goes perfectly and it literally never does). As a project manager you build in (sometimes a lot) of contingency to deadlines and don’t trust the estimates of junior folk!

    I’m not saying that’s definitely the case here, especially with smaller tasks like where they say they’ll do something and they don’t, but it is it possible someone (either employee, or hell, the person assigning the tasks) is terrible at estimating how long things will take vs lazy? Of course if you’re going to miss a deadline by a long way there should be notice of that way before the deadline but unless this dude is really slacking off, something that took 9 months longer than expected sounds at least partially also unrealistic expectations…

    1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      You make such a good point. My boss the sales person believes all the analytical reports she requests should be in her hands in a flash because, you know, all the information is just sitting in the computer waiting for a quick click of a mouse to magically free it, sort what’s needed from all the additional unnecessary data, get it into properly formatted tables, charts, spreadsheets, and slideshows, and the higher-ups will instantly sign off on it.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I’m a PM too and I get what you’re saying, but this person has fallen into a pattern, with no sign that they’re trying to improve long term. Whatever habits they’ve picked up that keep them from meeting deadlines need to be changed.

      1. AnnaBananna*

        Yes, it is a pattern. But I would approach more of a
        ‘what do you need to stay on track’ rather than ‘shape up or you’re out of here’ conversation. I know, for me, it really helped when a weekly 1X1 with required status updates was implemented, because I then had very obvious benchmarks to meet, and was held accountable weekly. So, maybe something like that would help.

    3. rubyrose*

      IT software person here.
      “but it is it possible someone (either employee, or hell, the person assigning the tasks) is terrible at estimating how long things will take vs lazy?”
      Yes, it is possible, but if that was the case, someone, say a mentor or manager, should have noticed this very early on and done course correction early so it would not have gone 9 months past.
      I know too many developers who still, after 10 years on the job, cannot estimate time to save their souls. And no one in IT seems to think that is an area to improve upon.

    4. KHB*

      The OP mentions that the employee shows a temporary improvement whenever he’s called out on his behavior. That makes me think that he has the skills to estimate how long things will take and to keep his projects on track – but he just chooses not to use them most of the time, because he’s in the habit of not being held accountable.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        It makes me think that higher priority interruptions are common which blows the arduous tracking system off track.

        I’ve been in this position many times.

        1. SusanIvanova*

          Or you can’t start on your part of joint project X until the other team finishes. And you’ve done all the prep you can and no, there’s no work you can do in advance. You’re quite certain it’s a two day task, but you don’t know when those two days will happen.

          It’s like being told that team X is going to put up a sign somewhere in the middle of New York City and you’re going to paint it. They haven’t even decided where it would go, so no, it makes no sense to be wandering around NYC hoping to be in the right place when the sign goes up.

          1. KHB*

            But in cases like this – where the delay is 100% not your fault and any reasonable person who knew the facts of the situation would realize that – you give your boss (and/or the person who does the next step of project X after you) a heads-up about what’s going on, so they know you’re doing everything you can, and so they’re not carving out a particular two-day chunk of time for their own part of the project, not knowing that you’re unlikely to be done by then. It sounds like the employee in this case is not doing that.

    5. Phoenix Programmer*

      I was thinking that most likely the employee in #5 is overwhelmed with tasks.

      Also I think OP should reframe how they think about the previous manager. Do you really know that they did not hold employee accountable? Your example of a 9 months late website sounds so normal in IT that it’s highly likely that manager was in the loop and on board with timeline.

      Finally I will say that keeping track of the task you’re doing and then letting someone know when you can’t get to a task regularly can be extremely difficult in IT where higher priority interruptions are very common but not a guarantee.

      Do you have a good sense of where the employees work is coming from and what is impacting in her ability to deliver? As a manager of an IT employee I would start there before worrying too much about her not getting back to you timely on missed minor tasks.

      1. AnnaBananna*

        Yep. It took me an extra 6 months to get our website up and running because I was forced to use an enterprise version of something that should have been dismantled in 2001. Folks think tech should be super fast/relatively problem free. NOPE, it means that the problems surrounding the projects are more wide reaching and therefore more complicated to navigate. We’ve also been waiting on our HR system to get rolled out and it’s 2 years late. *shrug*

  20. Chaordic One*

    OP #5, I think the PIP is a good next step at this point in time. It conveys the seriousness of the issues and his need to improve in a way that your discussions have not. Also, if you do fire him down the road, it is good to have a paper trail to CYA. In any even, much better to do a PIP than just firing him without the chance to improve.

  21. jasmine*

    Regarding question #5, in which an employee “completed a major web software overhaul nine months past the deadline with no consequences”: As someone who has worked on software for several decades (both as a programmer and a manager), I can say that accurately estimating how long a programming project will take can be extremely difficult, especially when overhauling a large chunk of old software, which may contain layer upon layer of poorly documented code from several generations of long-gone programmers. So if this is the only major issue you have with this employee, I’m not sure that a PIP is called for.

    If the manager has technical expertise, they might try to mentor the employee on how to work more effectively. If the manager is non-technical, they should learn a bit about the issues of managing software projects.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The letter says it’s much more than that — “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.”

      1. TechWorker*

        That’s fair, but I would also suggest doing some investigation into whether workload is reasonable – another possibility when someone generally does good work but occasionally slips up and misses tasks is they’re trying to juggle too many things.. very possibly the manager has already had all these discussions but possibly they haven’t! (And all the software engineers on this thread are a bit peeved at the idea that missing a deadline equals poor work, it more often indicates poor planning/contingency allowance/communication – even if this employee was responsible for 100% of that, the now manager wasn’t in the management line at that point so idk what ‘consequences’ would necessarily have been public knowledge?)

    2. Teapot PR consultant*

      The web overhaul example struck me as well.

      A nine month delay in this sort of project strikes me as being completely par for the course.

      I’d suggest probing why it ran late before taking any action based on this delay.

      1. MBK*

        The software overhaul was an issue that occurred before I managed this person, but was a clue to me before stepping into the management role that there was an issue — not because there was a delay but because he wasn’t accountable to the things he said he would do. That’s the issue I’m having with him now. It’s actually never a project that could face delays he wasn’t anticipating; rather it’s tasks that are fully in his control that he doesn’t complete when he says he will, then doesn’t communicate with me about why that was.

        1. Argh!*

          What is he doing when he’s not doing what he’s supposed to be doing? Is he doing something else that he’s supposed to be doing, or surfing the web?

          My problem child is a master of excuse-making, but I found their social media posts and it was clear that they spent a lot of time goofing off, including selfies that were obviously taken in the workspace!

          If the thing they don’t deliver is being bogged down by something work-related, that’s your problem to solve. Employees should manage their own time, but managers are supposed to manage the workload.

          One tip: if you use Outlook, you can assign “tasks” that will show up in his calendar. If this person is the absent-minded professor type, that might help him.

          We managers sometimes need to remind ourselves that the reason we’re managers is that we’re simply better at being employees than the people who don’t get promoted. The employee who doesn’t lack some soft skill that we possess would be the exception, not the rule.

            1. Argh!*

              Yes, there’s that too. Also hilariously stupid that my supervisor wouldn’t let me confront him because “he’d just make his profile private.” I countered with “at least customers won’t know that he’s goofing off at work!” Facebook has since become private, but the selfies are still on twitter.

        2. NoName*

          You’re a new manager, I have some of the same tendencies of your report that concern you, and I report to a first-time manager.

          I think it may be helpful to give you my perspective on why I also fall into the “failure to communicate” trap about projects that are late. They include: (1) I have too many projects to juggle but each time I’ve spoken to my manager about my work load, I’m either told that I just need to be more efficient or nothing happens at all; (2) when I ask which project is a priority or try to talk about moving deadlines, I’m told that 3 or 4 of them are priorities (haha) and that none of the deadlines can be moved; (3) my boss has an unrealistic understanding of how long each project takes, but won’t /can’t absorb that feedback, see #3; (4) my boss ends up in “disappointed parent” mode (that parent-shaming-a-child-for-messing-up attitude) when I tell her that I’m behind on a project or give her anything but a positive progress report, which makes me way less likely to want to talk to her, and (5) sometimes I’m just so engrossed in (or overwhelmed with) getting the work done that sending my boss an update email is the least useful use of my time.

          I recommend finding a time to bring up your concern and then listen to your employee — actually listen — and try your hardest to identify 1 or 2 limiting factors and implement a change. Your concern is not about the substance of their work, which sounds like it’s excellent. Your employee probably knows that their work output is excellent and it may be that they don’t see their lack of communication about these things as a big issue. Also, seriously ask yourself whether you need these updates as they’re currently set up or whether you could receive them in a different way. Maybe your employee would prefer to have another communication style, like getting coffee once every week for a “project status” meeting. Maybe these meetings could be done as a team where you all gather as a group to provide updates to everyone.

          I actually am convinced you have a good employee who does not deserve a PIP. That’s not to say that they don’t need to improve, or that they can ignore your requests as a manager to explain why these tasks aren’t completed with their original deadline. But as an employee, I would want you to tell me what kind of conversation we’re going to have, allow me to prepare for it, and keep a very open mind about my answers & feedback. You may learn something valuable from his perspective but for that to happen, he has to trust that you’ll listen to him and do the work on your end to help him be successful to achieve a communication system that works for both of you. I’ve learned that my boss will do none of these things and I’m sure you can imagine how well that has worked out.

          It all boils down to this: be approachable, listen to your employees, and adjust for individual work styles within reason. I’d love to get an update on how this turns out.

          1. MBK*

            (original poster here) We’ve actually had a lot of conversations since day 1 of me being his manager about his preferred working and communication styles, prioritization, etc. When we’ve talked about what gets in the way of him not meeting a deadline or not communicating about missing a deadline, he is open to feedback and we talk about solutions, but then I don’t see those solutions permanently implemented. I also wouldn’t necessarily define the work as “excellent.” We are a 3-person team with a few major projects on the horizon that will impact the entire institution, and so what I’m wrestling with now is if a person that needs this level of hand-holding after repeated coaching attempts is what I need on my team in the long-term.

            1. hbc*

              Yeah, it sounds like he’s terrible at estimating project times, which I find is pretty common, especially in smaller groups where all kinds of emergencies can pop up. In fact, I’d say his agreeing to keep you in the loop is part of his same habit of overestimating his productivity and what he can deliver. I find a lot of people can’t break this habit–“I can have this done in a month” means “This is a 120 hour project so it fits in a work month” and not “This fits into all my other work this month with room for emergencies and will not push any other projects out.”

              If you really, really need him to be responsible for accurate scheduling and reporting, then yeah, put him on the PIP. But you have to be prepared for him to fail and know how hiring his replacement will work.

              If he does good work and you don’t want to lose him, you might have some options for being slightly more hands-on in your managing that are sustainable and worth your effort. Twice a week 10 minute checkins where you quickly run down the status of all his projects? Add 50% to whatever timelines he gives you? Break larger projects into increments that have their own timelines so they can’t go too far astray?

            2. Argh!*

              You need to start documenting! Document that a deadline has been set, and then document when a conversation about a missed deadline has occurred. It would be even better if you had some kind of reminders or alerts set up for interim deadlines and/or documentation of check-in conversations for progress updates. If you decide to go the route of PIP or other adverse action, you need to have your ducks lined up ahead of time.

              Good luck and let us know how things go!

              1. AnnaBananna*

                Having communications about work styles? I disagree. I wouldn’t even call that hand holding. Maybe defining expectations, but I haven’t heard of any process that was implemented to help either of them communicate better, other than these conversations about communication.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  No, repeated coaching attempts that he needs to speak up if he’s going to miss a deadline, followed by him continuing not to speak up when that’s happening.

        3. Washi*

          When you say in the letter that you know he gets a lot done, do you mean that he has a high output compared to others? Or do you mean that he’s not just completely goofing off all day and is generally doing his work?

          Because I think you have a lot of people thinking you mean the second, and there a lot of good suggestions about how to coach a high performer about communication expectations. But if he’s just mediocre in most areas and dropping a lot of balls in other ways, then I think Alison’s advice about a very serious conversation followed if necessary by at PIP is the way to go.

          1. Washi*

            *that should say that I think a lot of people think you mean the first, and he is very productive

            1. MBK*

              I would say that he is generally doing his work, but in order for him to meet real deadlines he needs constant reminding and babysitting – even after repeated conversations in which we’ve discussed solutions to this issue.
              Also, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve said, “I need you to do what you’ve said you’re going to do when you say you’re going to do it – and if you can’t do it, update me and let me know.” He’s also in a role that isn’t junior, and so this to me goes beyond what you might expect from an entry-level employee.

              1. Argh!*

                I supervise a different incarnation of this employee, plus numerous errors in job performance and some inappropriate workplace behavior.

                If the person really does have the job skills, then the handholding and babysitting may be worth it. If not, then document, document, document!

                If you can find a way for the other two to be accountable to each other, that may get some attention. Sometimes the boss becomes Charlie Brown’s teacher, while a coworker is a colleague they don’t want to disappoint.

                1. Hermione at Heart*

                  I supervise a version of this employee, too (and I’m not always perfect at deadlines and follow-through myself, so I have some sympathy).

                  I’d ask yourself: Imagine the employee doing work at their current level, with these bad habits unchanged, in a year. Do you still want them working for you? Because, realistically, if they’re struggling so much with something this basic, it is obviously NOT easy or basic for them (there are many reasons why this might be the case, which I won’t get into), and so it’s unlikely that they’re going to make serious, sustainable change.

                  Typically I think this is the kind of habit that only superstars can get away with, and only in certain roles and fields.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      When managing a project, you build in time for risks. I’m not sure using the “9 months past deadline” is a reason for the PIP, but it points to a pattern that needs to be broken.

        1. MBK*

          OP here – I wasn’t managing this person during the 9-month overdue project, so that to me was just a clue of a bigger pattern. What I’ve seen since is what’s informing my “PIP or no PIP” debate.

  22. Erin*

    #2 Be very careful. How strong is her parents’ influence? Could they force her to tell HR something that could get you in trouble? If she depends on them for accommodation or something else, they can use it in this case. (And before you call me paranoid, I’ve seen people back out of jobs in similar situations.)

  23. Lucy*

    re #4, are you certain they aren’t recycling? I’ve worked at several places where everything went in the same container to be collected, but was separated by professionals after collection (more expensive but more effective than having individual employees remember what goes in which container). You could begin by assuming that’s the case, once you feel you’re sufficiently established.

    1. Original poster*

      Original poster here: I asked two coworkers if there was any recycling bin in the building whatsoever and they had not seen one anywhere. So I really think it’s a zero recycling thing based on that. Thanks

      1. Triplestep*

        OP, if you haven’t done so already, I would ask someone in the Facilities Department or Building Management – whoever deals with the cleaning vendor. Many office cleaning vendors operate this way. Some offices maintain a second bin for recycling long after they are not needed because they already have them, and others dispense with them because they are an added expense and only being used for appearances sake. I’ve seen it where the only trash separation is in the food service area, because that’s the hardest to parse out.

      2. Lucy*

        I meant it’s sorted in a central facility off site (I’m thinking of a law firm and a government lab, so very different environments). In each case all the rubbish left the site mixed together but was (80%+) recycled downstream.

        fwiw I think that system is brilliant, because you aren’t asking everyone to keep up to date about exactly which tetrapaks are currently recycled, etc.

        1. Triplestep*

          Yes, I see from my response above that it might not be clear, OP, but this is what I meant as well. The absence of separate bins does not necessarily mean “no recycling.”

          I also would not assume that average co-workers (ones who do not deal with the cleaning vendor) would necessarily know what happens to the trash once it leaves your facility. I work alongside Facilities people, and they regularly get complaints from people reporting they saw the cleaning crew “mixing the recycling in with the trash” when a two-bin system is used. They complained because they did not know that the cleaners were doing what they were supposed to do – it all gets hauled away together to be sorted out elsewhere.

      3. Gumby*

        This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no recycling. It might. But where I work the city does the separating, etc. after they pick stuff up from commercial customers (I think they still get separated stuff from residential customers). At least – we are told that they will separate it all out after collection. I suspect they moved that direction because people are horrible about sorting stuff correctly and they figured if they are going to have to fix user errors anyway might as well just dump everything together and have a professional separate out the recycling correctly.

        I admit that it galls me to put my aluminum cans in the same container as trash and sometimes I take them home so I feel more confident about stuff being recycled.

  24. Allonge*

    Whitewater rafting, really? Why is this even a thing for work? Are there no appropriate teambuilding things without risk to life and limb? I am an excellent swimmer and I would still hesitate to go for this – I am blind as a bat without my glasses and would not enjoy the risk at all. Go and get your adrenaline rush on your own time, everyone.

    Also, every time anyone justifies anything with “take it as a challenge”, I feel like I am back in kindergarten. If that is your best argument, boss, maybe it is not a great idea.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      I’m also a strong swimmer but I have terrible vision, and my glasses cost about $800 a pop. On top of being hesitant to do something like this without a lot more information, I honestly cannot take the risk of losing my glasses on some “team-building” exercise!

    2. Reluctant Manager*

      I know companies can spend their money the way they want, but if I were working for this company I’d wonder why they weren’t spending some of this cost on training or bonuses.

    3. CM*

      I was pretty sure I was pregnant, but didn’t know for 100% sure yet, and definitely did not want to disclose it to the law firm where I was interning in hopes of getting a full-time job. Went on the team-building white-water rafting trip which was not technically mandatory but every single person went. Fell overboard, didn’t quite drown but was scared and very angry at myself for risking my pregnancy over a job. Just adding another anecdote to “reasons why you shouldn’t pressure people to do high-risk activities.”

  25. Clytia*

    For LW #4: This could just be my autistic outspoken self coming out, but I’d think you being new would make this a GOOD time to speak up! You could easily frame this as a “I’ve been looking all over but I can’t find anywhere to recycle things!! What on Earth is going on here??!!?” Like the people at your new workplace are living in some kind of bizarre alternate reality where they don’t recycle and you’ve accidentally stumbled into it and are trying to make sense of it! I would see this as an Emperor is wearing no clothes thing! Someone has got to say something but they’re all used to it! I mean, if there were no taps anywhere and only coffee machines and you were all expected to only drink coffee and no water during the day, that would just be bizarre! And you would say something regardless how new you are! So why is it no less bizarre that there are only rubbish bins and no recycling bins?!

    1. Ico*

      Feigning confusion is rarely endearing. This is a good way to get people to think you are difficult.

    2. Dundee*

      That’s going to have a very poor effect on the OP’s image and reputation at their new job. They’re going to come across as difficult, inappropriate, focused on the wrong things, and possibly as lacking understanding (if the lack of recycling is something they’ve already been told about, for example). This would be a really poor way to handle the situation, and would be highly likely to damage the OP ‘s standing.

      Please do not do any of this, OP. It’s not going to help, and will very likely hurt.

      1. Original poster*

        Original poster here. I’m not going to speak up until 6 months have gone by at the very least. Being new can come with its own risks that I don’t think I should take just yet.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          OP, I would do the following:
          *Invest in a good quality water bottle. There are some that will keep your water at a decent temperature. That way you’re actually not going through multiple water bottles a day and you’re also modeling better behavior and may actually inspire other people to do the same.
          *Ask someone other than your co-workers, someone who would actually know, if there is recycling. Just ask it like a question.
          * When you’ve been there a bit longer, than you can advocate for change.

        2. New*

          OP, why does everyone need to recycle? It’s fine that you like it, but please don’t impose a new thing on people at your organization. People don’t like to be guilted into doing things.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            Why would people object if it was a convenient option? We have specific trash bins for glass, paper right next to each other. If I have to throw something out, it’s literally a matter of walking half a foot to pick the right bin. It’s not like you’re requiring employees to take stuff to the city recycling center halfway across town.

            1. Anon, a moose!*

              I spent half a decade trying to explain that the recycling bin is for glass, metal, hard plastic; the paper bin is for paper; the garbage bin is for food, wet trash, non recyclable things.

              Eventually my anxiety about the building complaining got bad enough that I’d fully sort the trash every time I threw something away.

              I’m certain it was never enough, and to this day, all our bins are always contaminated because there are enough people who don’t care to try.

              I’ve had to pick my battles. I gave up sorting the trash. I didn’t get paid enough to be that unhappy digging through garbage every day.

          2. Alianora*

            I don’t think there’s any harm in asking politely. Recycling (generally) IS better for the environment than throwing everything in the trash, and having the option to recycle in the office doesn’t mean the LW is going to stand over everyone and police what they’re doing.

          3. alphabet soup*

            It’s not imposing recycling on others if you’re simply giving people the option to recycle in the first place. The choice is still on the individual if they want to put their plastic bottle in the trash can or the recycle bin.

    3. BRR*

      I don’t think I would take it that far but my suggestion is similar. Ask if there is a recycling bin somewhere. It probably wont change anything but it’s a way to at least bring it up as a new employee.

      1. Sam.*

        Yeah, my go-to would’ve been to ask about where to find the recycling bin, like of course there’s one somewhere and you just haven’t spotted it. But it sounds like OP has done that and didn’t get a reaction, so I think she’s best off waiting until she’s better established and has a feel for whether there are politics or other issues to navigate here.

    4. Alianora*

      The first part of your script is fine, but “What on earth is going on here??!!” would sound incredibly rude, to be honest. People who don’t recycle do not like it when others act like they’re bad people for not recyling.

    5. techPerson*

      I have seen this work for other topics, but much more gently used. “Why don’t we use [technology x] to do [task y]?” And such, but it has to be asked honestly. Sometimes the answer is “no one here knew anything about [technology x], you can figure out how hard implementing that would be” and sometimes the answer is a long technical reason it won’t work.

      I think it’s a terrible idea to use this strategy for recycling. Firstly, recycling/waste management is probably not part of LW’s job. Secondly, everyone knows about recycling being a thing. Thirdly, there’s a lot of (perceived or actual) self-righteousness about eco-friendly topics, and you run the risk of alienating people significantly if you act like recycling is default around people who do not.

      And as other people say, “What on Earth is going on here??!!?” is far too harsh of wording for any time you’re using this tactic.

      Also it isn’t actually bizarre for there not to be recycling bins. As people mention above, a lot of places post-sort recycling from trash in a separate facility, and anyone not directly involved in facilities management won’t know about that. And in some places, recycling services are significantly more expensive or difficult to use than trash services, and it’s very common for businesses to prioritize the bottom line above ecological concerns. That’s not a good thing, but if that’s the case, it would actually hinder the LW’s case to convince them to add recycling later, as it would make people think of her as very different and out of touch with the main business concerns.

  26. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – assuming that you’re going on a well-organised, professional event (and if not, none of you should go on this!) – just tell the organisers/trainers that you can’t swim well and they’ll refuse to have you on the raft.

    1. Fey*

      +1

      I’d do this if my boss were to continue insisting I go despite trying out Alison’s script.

      I can’t swim at all and have no plans to learn ever. No one has any right to make me risk death just to “meet a challenge” – never mind my boss!

      1. Dragoning*

        That actually reminds me of another potential issue with this—people of color, especially black people, in America have MUCH lower rates of “knowing how to swim at all” than white people.

        I am sure boss didn’t consider that aspect at all, but it’s really not great.

      2. Sam.*

        I think I’d be very tempted to tell the boss that I’m happy to take on challenges she sets within the work realm, but outside work, I’m the one who prioritizes goals and challenges for myself – not her. (On a side note, I’m a reasonably strong swimmer, and an all-day rafting trip is still not something I would be excited to do with coworkers. Friends, on my own time? Sure, I’d be up for it. Work? Hard nope.)

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Or just don’t go. There’s no reason to go on this trip, and cross your fingers that you saying you can’t swim will automatically mean they won’t let you go.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        I meant *before* the trip itself – or am I putting too much faith in this being a well-organised trip with proper risk assessment in advance? Yeah, probably….

    3. yet another library anon*

      Either that or they’ll tell you it’s fine because you’ve got a jacket, and do their best to reassure you because they’ve had plenty of nervous folks, don’t worry, you’ll have a good time!

      I certainly wouldn’t wait until the Day Of.

      1. Little Miss Cranky Pants*

        Any forced physical, out -of-office activity should be given the side eye by HR types. I’m with other posters here who don’t swim, don’t swim well, or just don’t like being on/in/near water that’s over my head. Nope, ain’t gonna do it, full stop. I refused to attend a Christmas office luncheon on a cruise ship for exactly that reason years ago. My boss was horrified and couldn’t fathom that someone would stand her ground and say no.

        I ride horses but only certain types (broke, safe, old, slow), but I still know deep down that something can go badly wrong. Fast. Every reputable barn I’ve ever been to has you sign a waiver just to be on the property, much less ride any equine type. Rafting trips do the same thing; waiver because, seriously, you could die.

        LW, you have the right to say no, the right to a safe, sane work environment, and the right to run this up the flagpole to HR if your boss gets salty with you.

  27. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – yes to all the advice in answer – and emphasising that if your answer is anything less than a completely enthusiastic “yes! I love our friendship and want it to continue!” … then back off. If it’s a tepid agreement, or if feels in any way that it’s a polite “of course I don’t mind…” or “no, it’s fine” … then you are much safer to back off as people are trained to be polite to others who are being friendly.

    1. valentine*

      This only works if there’s been no guilting or other manipulation. Otherwise, the coworker knows the wanted answer and the consequences for not providing it.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Agreed- I was assuming good intentions on part of OP. Which is one of rules – but also advice does not work if they know what they are doing.

        But assuming good intentions – OP, be aware that you might have misread something, so be aware that a lukewarm response might just be polite reluctance to say “no, I don’t like you”.

  28. JessB*

    Letter Writer 4, good on you for wanting to recycle, and get your office to participate!
    I’d encourage you to think about the hierarchy of reducing waste, which is
    1. Reduce
    2. Reuse
    3. Recycle

    So if possible, I’d be focussing on reducing the waste to begin with. Why are the water bottles so small? Could you use another option, like a bigger water bottle you can refill? I live in Melbourne Australia where the water is safe to drink (and delicious), but that might not be the case where you are.

    1. Environmental Compliance*

      Yes!! The lack of recycling bins for tiny water bottles are a small piece of the problem.

      1. fposte*

        I strongly agree. Recycling tends to feel more useful to us than it really is, and some of its biggest work is as a social signal.

  29. Cat Meow*

    1. I get dehydrated very easily and went rafting once and we were allowed to bring water on and it was very hot – that was very distressing for me. I totally think she is out of line here and validate your concerns. Sorry about all the team building stuff, that would drive me crazy too.
    3. Frog Decorator – dying HAHAHAHHA !!!!!!!!!!!!!! That’s amazing!

  30. German Girl*

    #5 You say he’s getting a lot done and you’re not ready to fire him over his issues. That doesn’t sound like pip territory to me.

    Also, software projects are notoriously hard to estimate. Make sure you always add some margin for unexpected complications to his estimates.

    But, you can absolutely expect and request that he updates you whenever he gets the feeling that he won’t be able to meet his estimates and to follow up reliably on things he promised to get done.
    Maybe coach him a bit on having a to-do list (hand written or on his computer) and on logging his project hours regularly so he can see “I’ve used up 70% of the estimated time but it feels only about halfway done – I should let my manager know and discuss what to do about it.” And then you two can decide it’s ok because of the margin you added, or the scope needs to be adjusted, or he needs help from a teammate to overcome a particular hurdle, or whatever … but as long as you feel he’s getting a lot done, him not meeting the original estimate is a perfectly normal thing in software projects.

    And if your coaching for improved communication doesn’t bear fruit, put him on a pip for that – not for missing deadlines.

  31. justcourt*

    “she’d rather see me focus on how to meet a challenge rather than how to get out of it”

    I am focusing on meeting the challenge. I’m calmly and professionally telling the challenge that white water rafting has nothing to do with my job duties and I am not going white water rafting when I am not a confident swimmer, Michelle.

  32. Batgirl*

    OP2: one thing to keep in mind in mind with text messages is that they are awfully easy to misunderstand.

    So, say that you and friend are very young and are in non-serious relationships (the kind where everyone understands you only have to be technically faithful and you can court someone else) but what they saw had no ages or contextual details. What they see is more akin to a married older wolf + naive kid saying ‘he’s just a friend!’

    Or, you and friend aren’t openly flirting yet, but occasionally one of you hints at it (and then the other shuts it down). They don’t see ‘well understood dynamic’ what they see is ‘She doesn’t want this and is too scared to speak out!’ Both of these scenarios might be more frightening to them than ‘we’ll embarrass her’, not to mention it’s possibly an empty threat anyway.

    Of course, morally, this is all a cautionary tale for eavesdroppers. Practically though, I wonder if a frank discussion with them wouldn’t clear the air.

    It might be a service you could offer your friend while making sure she is really ok with your dynamic. I would only proceed if she is sure that they will be the ones who end up with egg on their face for jumping to conclusions. It would be hard to label you a harrasser if she’s invited you to the house to clear the air. Both of you in unison could also inform them that HR aren’t going to give a hoot about a consensual relationship.

    1. valentine*

      They could also stop sexting and hour-long calls. That might be enough for her parents to rein it in. Not that they should sneak around, either. Maybe they go antiquing monthly, or take a break and see if they really want the friendship enough to resume it when she doesn’t have to answer to her parents. And, once her parents are calm about him, she could point out it’s unprofessional for them to contact her work and their doing so might be a bigger threat to her job than the relationship (if true and assuming OP2’s not a manager or senior to her).

  33. Jenny D*

    LW1: A couple of years back, I was at a company conference. One of the scheduled activities was rafting. It was only a half day, but still… I was on my period, which is heavy enough that neither a tampon nor a mooncup is going to last for five hours. I spoke up, and our managers offered to have the bus taking us to the rafting site drop me off at a nearby medieval village. Two of my (male) coworkers, who were utterly uninterested in rafting, joined me for a nice stroll and a stop at a coffee shop.

    One way of meeting a challenge of this type is to force yourself to go along with what others want, regardless of how it affects you. That seems to be what your manager means. But another way of meeting it is to stand up to it, say “this is not going to work, here’s what I propose to do instead to fix it for me and others with similar needs”. Perhaps framing it like that will be useful?

    I hope your manager will learn to look for team building exercises that actually works for the whole team – or else to start giving options so that everyone can find something that works for them. Talking about the different experiences at a common meal afterwards is also team building, by the way…

  34. Carlie*

    Michelle needs to meet the challenge of coming up with a real, inclusive team-building exercise instead of using it as an excuse to get the company to pay for her fun day off trip. Not that I’d say that out loud at work.

    What I would say is “I can’t swim in moving water, so this activity excludes me.” Do not get talked into this. Especially do not go thinking you can convince the guides not to let you on. But this is bigger than this trip, because she and her new buddies will just keep it up. Next time it will be rock climbing. HR or higher bosses need to give the managers a lecture about not exposing the company to liability from injury, ADA violations, etc. because that’s probably the only thing that would put a stop to it.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, definitely. I rather doubt that Michelle’s bosses know how rapidly her “team-building” mania is escalating into potentially dangerous territory.

      I would also recommend that OP#1 start very quietly documenting all interactions with Michelle.

  35. Batgirl*

    Michelle has hired the managerial equivalent of clone back up singers (Michelle and the Rafters? Michelle and the Challengers?) and has no clue about ableism. When someone has an issue, she searches her own narrow archives for an equivalent. Diversity isn’t ever going to be her bag. I think there are wider issues with her here.

    I don’t think she knows much about white water rafting but feels the best response to any push back is to patronize. Without offering any ability level or safety reassurances.

    If your firm is turning into Michelle and co – I’d consider getting out.

    1. Apostrophina*

      Michelle and the Challengers would make a great pop-punk band name.

      And even if OP were keen to do this—which she is not—who is paying for swim lessons? Probably not Michelle! Or is she assuming that OP will, heartwarming-movie-style, plunge into the nearest river before work every morning until somehow mastery is achieved?

  36. Charity Garfine*

    An all day rafting trip is my idea of hell. Why do managers insist on having these silly events that I’m sure most people aren’t interested in???

    1. Plant Lady*

      Just want to throw in that I would loooove this – I don’t think anyone should be forced, and I think it’s too non-inclusive to actually work as a team building activity, especially if there are any people with mobility issues or other health issues on the team, but white water rafting is insanely fun and bonds the people in the raft like nothing else.

      I’d also like to point out that very often, things are called “whitewater rafting” and the “rapids” they encounter are few and far between and not at all dangerous. It’s more like tubing in a larger boat. This is especially likely to be true if it’s an all-day excursion designed for beginners.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        There’s zero chance that Michelle wants to do one of those ‘float lazily down the river’ tours. If she was, she’d have told OP that when she objected.

        These kinds of activities are just bad for most work environments.

      2. LJay*

        Yeah. I really enjoy rafting so I would like this personally.

        But it’s terrible for a work activity.

        And ditto about the skill level. Though a lot of places seem to consider level III and even IV appropriate for beginners and families with kids as young as 6, which are definitely not the big slow safe tube boat.

        And from the vibe I’m getting from Michelle is that we’re looking more at route with level III+ going on, not level I.

  37. Morning Flowers*

    OP#1, if I were in your shoes, I’d contact the rafting company for the event anonymously and ask what their rules are for safety. If you tell the company, “Say I’m not a strong swimmer; would I even be allowed to raft?” or even, “If I were being brought here as part of a company outing but didn’t feel confident I could be safe in the water, would I even be allowed to raft?” then what do they say? (And if you have the ammo like I do to provide specific medical details that would alarm any reasonable safety supervisor or lifeguard, throw that in too!)

    If the company basically says they expect people to self-evaluate their competence, then yeah, you’re back at telling your boss this is a no-go for you (which, to be clear, I agree with Allison you should do no matter what). But if the company says it’s their policy for their employees to not rent equipment for people who say they’re not strong swimmers, or to let people who are strong swimmers take part in any way, then you might know you’ll have the rafting company on your side. This can be useful to know if Michelle is the kind of manager who makes you come along at every single stage of the rafting expedition *riiiiiight* up to the actual rafting, out of a misguided notion that peer pressure and her own “leadership” will help you change your mind and make the “right” decision to leave your “comfort zone.” In that very tricky situation, if you play your cards right and have talked to the rafting company already, you can make the rafting guide the “bad guy” in Michelle’s mind instead of you, by making it clear in advance that you going on this expedition would be a huge liability so that the decision not to go is the rafting compnay’s.

    Now, God willing, it never comes to that! And you should be taking every precaution to solve this situation before it does. But it never hurts to be prepared. (And who knows, if you’re very politic about it, contacting the rafting company in advance might even give you better ammo to get Michelle to back down — “I talked to the rafting company about the requirements to see if this was something I could safely do, and they said absolutely not! So I’m gonna have to stick with my decision to bow out.”)

  38. Anon, a moose!*

    The fact that he’s getting a lot done (but not what you want done or on the schedule you want) and the unpredictability of software others have mentioned make me wonder if you’re having the wrong conversations. This might not be about productivity, but about priority and communication. I’ve had managers who would give me eighteen different things that were all urgent and all too much to do in a day, week, whatever, and if I asked about prioritizing, would shrug. They also were swamped, and sending daily progress emails would have contributed to the black hole where urgent questions went to die.

    This meant I had to prioritize on my own, often in ways that might seem mystifying without explanation. (Like, the lowest stakes things started first because they’d be fast if they didn’t wait and grow out of hand, or alternately I knew I’d be waiting a week on the next step so better to start the clock, or even ‘I’ll scream if I have to groom another llama this week, time for a teapot painting break.’

    If I was supposed to send you the newsletter Thursday afternoon, but something exploded and I had to put it off, I might not bother explaining that because the time spent making excuses detracted from catching up and putting out the teapot fire, it might not connect for me that this was an issue about anything broader– I’d hear “the report was higher priority than you mentally assigned it and this was a hard deadline, not the same as the default ‘everything is urgent’ deadline.”

    Granted I could just be projecting, but since you sound unconvinced about firing them, I wonder if specifically rehabbing priorities and communication for both of you together might be helpful.

    1. Samwise*

      This could be true. On the other hand, every time she has a talk with him, he improves and then slides back into late work/undone work/not communicating that the work is behind or won’t get done. He’s able to meet her expectations after A Talk = it feels serious to him, but not to keep it up the farther away in time The Talk gets (= it feels less serious, perhaps).

      1. Anon, a moose!*

        Yeah, fair- I guess what I’m unclear on is whether the improvement is “understands that this specific type of thing is higher priority and assigns it higher priority until getting swamped.” If the feedback is always about the specific task or project, I’m not sure it’s obvious that the issue isn’t getting the work done as fast as the manager wants (which is maybe manageable on a short term basis in a crunch even if the estimates are unreasonable), but better communication. Some bosses do just want results on demand, and if you’re used to that, you might not be hearing what the new manager thinks they’re saying.

  39. Would-be manager*

    #5 Have you coached him on how to improve or only offered feedback when he messes up?

  40. Alfonzo Mango*

    “she’d rather see me focus on how to meet a challenge ”

    This is such crap! You’re hired, you’re in, you do good work and you shouldn’t be expected to keep jumping through hoops just to keep your job! I think this is such crap and a big ol red flag that this company takes its culture too seriously.
    Try to draw your boundaries ASAP, before they keep making you go through Olympics just to work there.

    1. Carlie*

      And as noted by so many people, there are things that are not a “challenge” you can “meet”. Any physical disability, IBS-type issues, etc. For me, I sunburn immediately. No sunscreen has ever protected me for more than an hour or so, and in white water? That stuff is rinsing off within 20 minutes or so, and you cannot stop mid-rapids to reapply, and there is zero shade. I’d end up a blistered, thanks-for-the-extra-skin-cancer-exposure mess for at least a week or more after, and no amount of positive thinking or …training?… would change that.

      1. just a random teacher*

        I am definitely opposed to whitewater rafting as a team-building activity, but if you have not yet tried them and want to do outdoorsy stuff in your personal life, UV-blocking clothes have been a big help to me as someone who has a lot of trouble with sunscreen. I have a swim/water activities outfit from Coolibar that covers up to my neck, down to my wrists, and my legs to the ankles. (I also have a hat.)

      2. LJay*

        And even if it is something attainable, it might not be a challenge you can meet in a short amount of time.

        If your boss told you to rise to the challenge of learning to play a piano concerto in 4 months, that would not be something most people can do.

        Telling someone to become a competent and confident enough swimmer to go rafting in 4 months is a big ask. I mean realistically, even if you find a class you can begin right now that is weekly and fits into your schedule, you’re getting 16 one hour classes. And with instruction time that’s not a ton of swimming. And a lot of places only start classes once a month or once a season, might not have enough people for an adult class, might not have class at the time OP can take it, might not be affordable, might go on break from June 1st until September 1st, etc.

        Not to mention that unless you are a pianist, or an outdoor adventure leader, asking you to learn to play a piano concerto or go rafting for your job are not reasonable things to ask of you.

  41. Argh!*

    Re: #5

    I’ve been in my position for ten years, supervising an underperformer that I inherited. Why is this person still here? Because despite clear evidence that this person will not or cannot improve, my boss doesn’t have my back. She has refused to let me escalate to a written warning, and instructed me to instruct them they were going to have a PIP, and then never let me implement the PIP. At this point, all I can do is micromanage and spend an excessive amount of time watching over deadlines and checking for errors. I’m responsible for their work because I’m the boss, which means I have to literally manage what they should be self-managing.

    So my two cents: before you take any formal steps, be sure you have the backing of the higher-ups.

  42. Sushi*

    #2 You left out some important information too determine if this could be a problem.

    -Are you at the same level as the girl you are texting? Or are you at a level above her? If your above her on the work food chain you could have complications at work if her parents report it.
    -Also are you married or do you have a SO? are the parents worried because of how the relationship looks ohh or is this a gay relationship and her parents don’t know/approve yet? Your work may not be able to fire you or reprimand you over this but depending on how your companies culture is it could make life difficult.
    -How bad were the texts that her parents freaked out to this level? Are you the only one sending the parent freak out texts? Are they freaking out because you are texting her or because of the content? For work again it depends on if you are above her on the food chain and the work culture to determine how your work would handle this.

    1. CM*

      I agree, I feel like there is a LOT of missing information in this letter. If we take everything OP#2 says at face value — OP#2 and the “girl” are close friends in a completely mutual friendship — then there’s no issue, right? Even if the parents did report this to HR — which the OP has no control over — and HR thought there was something to investigate, then the girl would just tell them there is no harassment going on.

  43. voyager1*

    LW1:
    Everyone has been really good at reinforcing why you don’t want to go rafting, but nobody is actually answering the question you asked. Will not going impact your standing with the manager.

    And the answer YES it probably will. It looks like your manger has some wacky ideas about team building activities but also seems to think they are important.

    Personally I would suck it up and do it as long as you can actually get through the ordeal without causing some kind of memorable experience for everyone.

    1. Nea*

      There is a difference between going along to get along with a manager’s whacky ideas and allowing a manager to penalize your career for not participating in a potentially lethal activity that has zero bearing on ability to do the actual job for which one was hired.

      Sitting through skits and personality type lectures is the former; the latter – especially any chances of retaliation – requires pushback that can and should be spread out to the higher ups and HR. Frankly, even if LW#1 was an enthusiastic white water rafter, I think there should be immediate pushback on a manager mandating any non-work-related “teambuilding activity” that has a documented potential to injure or kill members of the team.

      1. K. A.*

        Let me tell you, OP, white water rafting trips can wrench your back easily multiple times during one trip. Imagine being in pain, crying in front of your coworkers, needing help to even move (which hurts like hell) while at least one person says you’re just being dramatic. Oh, and sudden back injuries can result in loss of bladder control.

        Speaking of bladders, where/how is everyone going to the bathroom on this all-day outdoor adventure?

        Don’t do something you KNOW you’ll regret.

        1. valentine*

          where/how is everyone going to the bathroom on this all-day outdoor adventure?
          Exactly. Where is our proper indoor plumbing and our cold refreshments? There’s no good reason Michelle couldn’t provide all the logistics, especially since it would help people meet the challenge! I loathe surprise culture.

    2. Scarlet2*

      I don’t think “sucking it up” is an option for an activity that is potentially dangerous for someone who’s unprepared like LW. Asking a poor swimmer to go rafting just to please their manager is ludicrous.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Agreed. Sucking it up is for when you have to stay late one evening to get an important project done, not for something like this.

    3. Lexi Kate*

      I don’t think OP should go they are not comfortable in the water, and potentially if it goes badly (not dying but think unflattering screams and other things that they will be made fun of or thought badly of for life) that it could be more of detriment that just making a bad impression on this boss. But I agree there will be no going back with this boss she will think less of OP.

    4. SarahTheEntwife*

      If it was a matter of “I’m out of shape and hate sports but my manager is insisting on us having a team soccer tournament” I’d say just suck it up and shuffle around the field for a few hours in the name of not losing office-political capital. But rafting can be life-threateningly dangerous, especially for someone who isn’t a strong swimmer. This is not a reasonable activity to insist that your employees participate in unless you are actually a rafting company.

      1. pleaset*

        I think it’s better to suck up the potential negative impact on the career at that company. YMMV.
        Try to reason with the person, but if it doesn’t work, don’t do the activity and suck up the grief. In the long-run, this is better.

      2. MommyMD*

        No. If it’s not part of your job description you don’t have to shuffle around a soccer field to make some manger happy over an unreasonable request.

        1. Alianora*

          You don’t *have* to, but it might be a good idea in order to stay on your boss’s good side. This rafting trip, however, is actually dangerous to the LW.

    5. Jules the 3rd*

      I disagree strongly. LW’s risking their personal safety and should not do that just for their career.

      Use the scripts, LW, use the scripts. Be straightforward, assuming that *of course* Michelle will understand that reasonable people who are great employees can choose not to go on an all-day risky venture.

      1. voyager1*

        And if Michelle isn’t reasonable? I mean it isn’t like she is going to say, no rafting=no promotions. But months or years later that idea of no rafting=not someone I like or want to promote is definitely present.

        That is why I made the point of just go along if you can get through it okay. If this is going to cause some kind of panic attack then don’t go. If you think it is too dangerous don’t go.

        I think people are giving Michelle way too much benefit of the doubt that she is being reasonable. I also think people are weighing too hard on the rafting part being dangerous.

        I *personally* would enjoy rafting, but change that to roller coaster riding for a day at a Six Flags, and I could see myself being in this situation. And roller coasters are safer then a raft… but my phobia doesn’t know that.

        I am not totally insensitive too the LW, but the question was “will this impact me with Michelle” and that I think we all can say Yes it would.

        1. Autumnheart*

          I’d say that if it came to a question of “Do I participate in this risky activity, or do I wind up with a manager who thinks less of me regardless of my actual job performance,” then the answer is “Find a new job.”

          Skip the rafting trip, document whatever professional fallout comes from it (and it had better be “none”), and if it becomes necessary, brush up the resume.

        2. Jennifer Juniper*

          The LW could always come down with a sudden case of stomach flu on team building day.

    6. Oxford Comma*

      Personal injury or death is not something anyone should be willing to risk for a team-building event.

    7. Reluctant Manager*

      Is LW really in this alone? There are others who tend to react like Michelle, but this seems like the kind of situation where there’s strength in numbers—if not someone who objects on their own behalf, then someone with more empathy and good sense than Michelle.

  44. Oregano*

    OP1, oh god, the rafting trip. I hate these sorts of activities because they inevitably end up revealing peoples’ physical limitations that would otherwise have no bearing on their job. It’s humiliating.

    Like me– tampons and menstrual cups are contraindicated for me because of a medical condition, so I can’t agree to do water sports in advance. Do I want to discuss this with my boss? OH HECK NO.

    If you’re going to do teambuilding events like this, meet a challenge boss, you’re going to have to allow people to opt out of it, no questions asked.

  45. Sneaky Ninja for this one*

    #4. My husband works at landscaping office and they don’t recycle! gah! He has a large-ish tote bag, and stashes all his recyclables in the bag all week and brings it home on Friday and puts it in our recycle bin at home. He washes out anything gross before stashing it in the bag for the week :) He drives to/from work, so if you are on public transport it might be a bit weird, but in your own vehicle it works.

    1. OP*

      Original poster, here. Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, yes, I’m use public transport completely.

  46. Manchmal*

    Alison, you often ask letter writers for clarification before posting your answer. This seems like a particularly good candidate for that decision! There’s a lot of strangeness about the letter that could indicate red flags. 1) They don’t see each other unless he goes out of his way to visit her. (And she never visits him? That is strangely one-sided…) 2) She has “trained” him to find things she likes at antique stores. (Which he buys for her?? Not typical for people who are just friends/coworkers, nor for people who are peers. Is it a sugar daddy situation?)

    Could this friendship be totally harmless and the parents are way overreacting? yes!
    Could this be totally hinky and the letter writer has not given you all of the crucial details? equally, yes!

    It seems like a couple of pointed questions could easily clarify which situation this is, and avoid much speculation.

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      As someone who does enjoy going to antique stores to look for very specific things that I collect… it is a bit of a “training”. If she’s looking for a particular type of collectible, there are certain hallmarks and features that she’d be looking for, and a beginner would definitely need some “training” on what these are. I’ve “trained” friends as we look through antique/thrift stores, and indeed some people are good at it and some people are not. I don’t think this word is as red-flaggy as some others are interpreting it to be.
      The LW doesn’t say that they’re buying the items for the coworker, so I don’t think it’s fair to assume this either. Hunting through antique stores with no intention of buying anything is a fun hobby – if it’s something the coworker is particularly passionate about, I think it totally makes sense that the LW is trying to understand what she’s doing.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        +1 from me! If the friend collects certain kinds of things, this could easily happen.

      2. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Thanks for that clarification, Emilia Bedelia. It can be a bit of an alarming word, so I appreciate the edification.

      3. Yvette*

        But to use the phrase “training” rather than teaching? Using training just seems odd, If the LW had said “developing a trained eye” that would not seem as “off” for lack of a better word.

        1. TootsNYC*

          Recognizing which antiques or collectibles are wanted is a SKILL, and using the word “training” seems totally appropriate.

          I use that word when I speak of training my kids or spouse to recognize which penguins I would actually like to add to my collection.

      4. BadWolf*

        When I first read “training” I was all “Oh no” and then I saw it was for antiques and it made more sense. If you only collect a certain type of glass, you don’t want/need any random glass even if it’s pretty.

        It could still be a problem is OP is spending a lot of their own money or is becoming obsessed with antiquing only to impress coworker, but if it’s a fun thing, the training part is useful.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          Exactly. To go into a little more detail: I collect Depression glass. I am very particular about what pieces I actually buy (for practical reasons), but I still enjoy finding new and unique patterns/pieces, and I will happily spend hours in an antique store looking at glass and leave empty handed. I have gone with friends and tried to explain how to spot Depression glass (eg looking for stamp lines/rounded edges, brand symbols, particular colors, recognizing particular patterns and knowing how to research quickly to figure out rarity/whether it’s actually Depression glass). Some people pick up on it very quickly because they have the attention to detail that’s necessary. Other people just aren’t interested or can’t grasp the technique.
          This same idea applies to basically any antique/collectible (see:Antiques Roadshow).
          Perhaps I’m biased, but I don’t think it’s any different from the LW saying “My coworker is even training me to do some of her cool dance moves, and I’m pretty good!”

        2. Yvette*

          Thanks for the clarification BadWolf. I didn’t realize it was a common phrase in antique hunting. I have never been part of that world (although I do like to pick up older things that catch my eye, valuable or not!) and without that context it came off as a grooming/controlling behavior.

          1. Default Font Size*

            But LW is being “trained” to “find things she likes” – not find depression glass, or identify die cast molds from the 1890s.
            For me, it is the “find things she likes” that makes this dubious statement.

  47. Skeet and Trap Are Not the Same*

    Team Building. Ugh. These things always, always, need to be OPT IN. I don’t care if its team rowing or sitting around a conference room eating chocolates…OPT IN.

    That said, I still laugh at the new employee we got last year who had a holy fit about how we could “promote gun culture” in our workplace by having monthly skeet tournaments…umm….you work for company that manufactures sport rifles, darling.

  48. Scully*

    LW 4- Thank you for trying to recycle those. It’s a lot of plastic waste and it’s a shame for it to go in the trash when it can easily be recycled. However, first and foremost, reducing waste is the best way to help the environment. You could bring in your own reusable water bottle so you’re not going through multiple small plastic ones, and then ask for a water cooler with paper cups- of if you’re too new to ask for that yet, bigger water bottles would be a little better because then your office wouldn’t go through as many.

  49. ssssssssssssssssssss*

    “Thou shalt not use your own personal wish / bucket list as the basis for team building activities.” from page 4959 of the Management Bible.

    So much cheaper to try something when someone else is footing the bill.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Oh, yes, I suspect the primary motivation for Michelle-types is indulging in pricey recreational activities they want to do on the company’s dime, and having a ready-made group to haul along with them.

  50. Samwise*

    #4. Bring your own refillable water bottle to work. Recycling is important but not the only thing you can do — Reduce (stop using the office-provided mini bottles), Reuse (that’s your refillable bottle, or refill one of those mini bottles), recycle (you can take home one of those mini bottles to recycle, if you’re refilling it).

  51. SigneL*

    My thoughts on #1 – I’ve known a few people (not many, thankfully!) who are like Michelle. They would propose something physically difficult for me (but not for them!) and then try to manipulate me into doing it by various means (you need to expand your boundaries! or even, don’t be so stuffy!). I think that people like Michelle are intolerant of anyone who is different. OP #1, she will never truly respect you, even if you go on the trip. This is just my opinion.

    1. Scarlet2*

      Yes, I cannot stand the “I’m athletic and love sports so everyone should be like me and people’s limitations are an excuse because they’re just being lazy” people.

  52. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    OP#1: Managers like Michelle are ridiculous. It sounds like she spends more time on team building activities than the job itself. Managers like this need to understand that most people just want to go to work, do their jobs (and do them well), and just be pleasant to everyone without all of the teeeeeeeam building drama. Most people don’t want these team building activities. A rafting activity is pretty extreme on top of that. Michelle needs to get a clue and perhaps focus more on the business.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I suspect “Michelle” is trying to get a cool vacation on the company dime by encouraging all these retreats and activities.

      1. Snickerdoodle*

        Exactly. The retreats and activities seem to conveniently line up with stuff she wants to do but not with what’s actually best for the company.

  53. Cat Fan*

    Regarding recycling, there shouldn’t be any harm in just asking someone, a co-worker, manager, whoever, why the company doesn’t recycle.

  54. MissDisplaced*

    I’d love the idea of a rafting trip! But yeah, I can see how this activity would not be fun for people who are not very comfortable around water or are not good swimmers. If it helps, OP, these things are generally considered very safe, with full life vests and safety lines to the rafts, along with experienced guides. So, if you’re ok with the idea of rafting, but fear you aren’t a strong enough swimmer, I wouldn’t worry too much about needing to actually swim. But it WILL be a bumpy, wet & uncomfortable ride! Certainly, not everyone’s cup of tea.

    I’d suggest pre-checking with the guides at the rafting company as well to see if they have any safety or health restrictions for participants. If a basic ability to swim is mandated by the guide company, then you have your out.

    And while these kinds of outings are really cool and fun, they should be optional. I get that your boss would like you to “try” and to push yourself through any fears, and there’s nothing wrong with encouraging that, but managers need to understand that sometimes no means no I will not be participating for any number of reasons.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Even with a solid rafting company, trips can vary from “pleasant float down the river suitable for anyone, with a hike to birdwatch midday” to “hard-core for adventurists; we give you a wetsuit and you should expect to wind up in the water.” And I have a feeling about which one Michelle booked.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        I consider myself a pretty solid swimmer (I used to be a certified lifeguard), but for work if it’s not a lazy river-type adventure, heck no. And I would 100% go adventure rafting in a wetsuit…if it were with my husband, not my boss.

        Judging by Michelle’s comments, I would agree with that she probably chose something that’s a “challenge”, not just a short smooth paddle.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          I wondered about that. There are super-easy “tourist” rafting trips, more a scenic paddle w/a few little bumps & speed for thrills… and then there are really scary HARD physical rafting trips that often also involve hiking down the canyon.

          Usually, the “touristy” rafting trips are not full-day events though, they’re more in the 2-3 hour range. So I wonder if boss picked a difficult one.
          A full day of anything outdoors and physical like that seems a bit much for a work event.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            That’s a good point about the timeline–something that is designed to appeal to a variety of fitness levels is usually in that 2-3 hour ballpark. The fact that this is a day-long course sounds closer to boot camp as bonding.

        2. HeyAnonanonnie*

          I am an excellent swimmer and have gone whitewater rafting and this is still a huge nope for me. Not with forced colleagues.

      2. MissDisplaced*

        Yeah, usually the touristy rafting trips are not a full-day thing. More like 1/2 day, at least the ones I’ve been on. But still, if you’re not comfortable being in/around water it’s better not to participate.

        I’ve had some work trips that involved sailing. I LOVE sailing and it’s a great team-building and learning excursion… but can I say seasickness is not fun. And especially not in front of your coworkers.

      3. pleaset*

        I think the phrase “white water” has particular meaning – at a minimum splashing and rough water.

    2. Antilles*

      “I get that your boss would like you to “try” and to push yourself through any fears, and there’s nothing wrong with encouraging that.”
      Personally, I do think there’s something wrong a boss encouraging employees to push through their fears of water.
      First off, this isn’t the role of a boss. Are you my mom? My wife? Close friend? My therapist? If the answers are all no, then fixing my personal phobias is not remotely part of your role in my life.
      Secondly, how does conquering this fear even help? Unless we’re starting a new Lifeguard Division, then what does it matter that OP is afraid of deep water and a poor swimmer? OP has managed to make it all the way through school and 7+ years at this job despite a mild fear of deep water. The idea that conquering a fear of water is somehow going to make OP a better Teapot Designer seems completely nonsensical.

      1. LJay*

        Yeah. I had a workplace that was invested in helping us meet our personal goals as well as professional ones. And it was sort of demeaning, and definitely boundary trampling. And those were goals that we said that we wanted to work on. And then my boss would seize on things like “helping [me] come out of my shell” as goals for her. Ugh. No thanks. I like my shell. It’s not hindering me professionally or personally. Leave me alone and let me have my personality, not one that you think would be more ideal.

        Same here. Like OP is perfectly happy not white water rafting. Boss needs to leave her alone.

        If she wants to see her take professional risks, make that a workplace goal and point her in the right direction of appropriate challenges. (And even then, OP might be fine where they are professionally and not looking for professional risks either, but some job cultures are very up-or-out focused).

        Personal goals are for me and my therapist and close family.

    3. NewCommenter*

      Please consider you are pushing a person who can’t swim to do something that could kill. I hope we don’t read about this situation in the future because of peer pressure and irresponsible comments here. I think the commenter needs to find a different job and organization.

    4. Crazy Cat Person*

      I have a long-term phobia of water after being peer-pressured into going canoeing as a teenager – I couldn’t (and can’t) swim and nearly drowned.

      I can sort if see why a manager might want to help someone push through their fears if it is genuinely work-related (although even then I would have concerns about putting inappropriate pressure on people), but for something potentially deadly and supposedly ‘fun’ – that’s a firm NO from me!

      1. Yvette*

        Like pushing through a fear of public speaking so that not being able to present at meetings won’t hold you back professionally. THAT is the kind of fear pushing through that might be acceptable.

        1. Crazy Cat Person*

          Exactly what I was thinking. Unless your job involves rafting on white water on a daily basis, this is not the same thing at all!

    5. Scarlet2*

      Well, there is definitely something wrong with “pushing someone to overcome their fears” at work for something that’s completely unrelated to their job. If I choose to try and overcome my fear of heights on my own time, it’s up to me. It’s certainly not up to my employer to force me to go ziplining because “I should push myself through any fears”. They’re my employer, not my therapist.

  55. Tigger*

    re OP1:
    I spent my teens and part of my early 20’s lifegaurding and this is my worst nightmare. It is dangerous and all water based activities should be voluntary. I am socked the rafting company didn’t tell her that.
    If your manager is so team building happy can you suggest another team building exercise? My friend is a manager and has tried all types of “team building” and she has found escape rooms to be an enjoyable (voluntary) activity for all different personality types. It works because there is a small amount of psychical activity, you can leave to go to the bathroom, it doesn’t feel like a normal team building exercise, and each person can choose how much they want to do. Also if your company is diving you into teams any way it is easy to see what team “won”

  56. Crazy Cat Person*

    #5 was actually a bit triggering for me, as it reminds me so much of my last job where everything was a priority and nothing could be rescheduled or postponed, and if something got missed it was always 100% my fault. Requests for help in prioritising were always met with shrugs and “they’re all important”, if I got a response at all.

    By the time I got a decent manager, things were too far gone and I was totally overwhelmed: I ended up burning out and having a nervous breakdown, and haven’t worked since.

    OP5 – if you haven’t already done it, please consider your employee’s overall workload and make sure they’re not just drowning in work rather than being deliberately awkward.

    Now I’m going to go sit in a corner and cry at all the bad memories…

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I hate, hate, hate managers who claim “they’re all a priority.”
      It’s such a cop-out and poor managing.

      1. Crazy Cat Person*

        He was a really poor manager – he didn’t want to manage people, so dealt with the situation by just… not doing it. He ended up being reassigned to a non-management role after I was called in by his boss for a disciplinary conversation for ‘not telling my manager’ about something he’d specifically instructed me not to bother him with. Luckily the boss chose to believe me instead of my manager.

        Ugh, that really was a toxic place to work!

      2. Dragoning*

        I’ve been in that situation at work and get so frustrated I go, “Okay, it’s all on fire, but is it attic on fire or the bedroom with all my financial documents on fire, or the garage with gasoline on fire?”

    2. LabTechNoMore*

      I’m sorry that your toxic workplace took such a serious toll on your wellbeing. Managers and the like can really underestimate – or just don’t care – how damage these kinds of untenable work situations can put employees into.

  57. MommyMD*

    Unless your job is as a survivalist or rafting specialist, this is not a conversation that should ever take place at work. Say no.

  58. Environmental Compliance*

    For the No Recycling office – you may be pretty new, and pretty low on the totem pole to make any significant changes now. However, what you can do is suggest that there may be better cost-saving (and more environmentally friendly) options rather than purchasing pallets of Tiny Water Bottles. What I did in my office (as a relative newbie some months ago) was exchange out all of the water dispensers, for which we were using the giant gross jugs of water (in units that had no filtration and had never been cleaned, which meant no one wanted to use them, and we also had a ton of water bottles everywhere). Now we have filtered water that is pulled out of our well lines. Plus they dispense hot water for tea/noodle cups/whatever. It’s actually cheaper for us to do that rather than continuously purchase water bottles, and it keeps the plastic bottles out of the trash…because they just don’t exist.

    Depending on where you are, if your county/region has a solid waste center, they may have a free or reduced cost recycling program they can help set you up with. The county I used to live in previously would give away the small desk bins for recycling. However, the dumpsters used will have an associated cost (most often). But, if you’re in an office building with other companies, the cost can be reduced by everyone sharing a recycling dumpster.

    Go about this in a cost-saving measure and it will most likely go over better, especially when you’re new and have limited social capital.

  59. Arctic*

    I love whitewater rafting. Done it many times. Will again late this spring.

    And I would **never** want to go as a work event. Everyone should be aware and involved and into it.

    I think Michelle is trying to get a dream vacation on the company dime.

    1. MommyMD*

      I think so too. I’d go over Michelle’s head if she kept up the pressure. She’s tone deaf.

    2. Hope*

      Seconding this. I’ve been whitewater rafting and I loved it every time, but it is NOT a work-appropriate activity. Even as a good swimmer, you can have issues: one of those rafting trips got me a nasty ear infection that means to this day, I have to be careful if I get water in that ear.

      Michelle is way, way out of line with this.

  60. Roscoe*

    For #1, this is more of a general question than advice.

    So this sounds like something I would LOVE to do as a team building exercise. I’ve wanted to do it forever, and the company will pay? Sign me up! If you did have a manager or something who was into it and proposed it, what is the best way to do it so it doesn’t make people uncomfortable who may not want to? Of course people should be able to opt out. But I feel that if they did that, then some would claim it to be unfair because the others are bonding in a way you aren’t. Assuming there are no visible reasons that people can’t, I have to wonder is the suggestion to never offer cool active stuff like that?

    Like, one job of mine we once did a sailing course as an afternoon team building activity. It was actually one of many options and the majority picked that one. But I mean, I assume there could be people who are afraid of open water who would want to opt out. So does that mean that type of things should NEVER be done? I do remember one co-worker not coming (but she didn’t like being around us for the most part anyway lol).

    I guess my overall point is at what point is a small minority’s desire or fear (basically something not visible) outweigh the desires of the larger group?

    1. blink14*

      From my reading of #1, there was no group vote, her manager decided on her own that the group activity should be an all day rafting trip.

      I think in most situations, there will be at least one person who is not going to want to participate in this type of activity, whether the reason is medical, personal (like not being a strong swimmer), etc. People should not be forced into activities that can be considered extreme, it’s the opposite of team building. If there is a choice given on what to do, and certain people opt out, then those people just don’t participate, or something more mild is suggested.

      I personally have a permanent limitation with my ankle, and I would be very hesitant to do something like rafting (even though I am a good swimmer), and positively would not participate in a hiking trip or anything along those lines. Beyond that, being forced to participate in something so far beyond what is required of you day to day in work life is kind of ridiculous. Office job? Pick something casual. Working at a kayak place? Makes more sense to pick something more physical.

    2. Allonge*

      I am very sceptical of having team building activities that have no or little element of talking to each other, so I have very little problem in saying, well, since it may or may not do anything for a better team, it has a huge cost compared to other alternatives and it is very exclusionary for a lot of people, high-activity physical stuff should not be done as official team-building.

      If there is money for stuff like this, why not offer various things where people can go on a voluntary basis? So there is the sailing, the knitting, the clean the beach and the cooking class, and managers go everywhere?

      Or you can, you know, organise it as people do with movie outings or going off for a beer or things like that.

      If the workplace is connected to whitewater rafting and reasonably every team member should be able to do it (for work) that is a different thing altogether. But other than that I think that there should eb a limit on how much danger we take on for the “fun” part of work.

    3. Library Land*

      I’d turn this on it’s head and ask – at what point is it okay to discriminate against your coworkers (some of who will be persons with disabilities – visible/invisible) because you want to do something fun on the company dime that has nothing to do with your work? And why do you get to have access to your boss in such an obviously ableist way? Also a short note that just because you can’t see a disability doesn’t mean there isn’t one and your coworkers shouldn’t have to disclose disabilities or trauma to you because you want a free event away from work and you’ve decided they’re not ‘visibly disabled’ enough to not go.

      If the whole group can’t do it, then it shouldn’t be a team building exercise (whether you’ve decided their reasoning is ‘good enough’ or not). You want to go, find some friends and go! It’s fun!

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        Speaking of the great outdoors, what about people with hay fever or other allergies? Or exercise-induced asthma? Or those who are terminally clumsy?

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        Even find some friends through a company bulletin board or Slack channel or something. I’ve definitely worked at places where there were informal, opt-in events that groups of people organized – softball teams, hiking, board game nights, happy hours, and more.

    4. Peridot*

      Assuming there are no visible reasons that people can’t, I have to wonder is the suggestion to never offer cool active stuff like that?

      The problem is that there are many, many “non-visible” reasons people can’t participate in supposedly cool active stuff. So yeah, I don’t think it’s something the company should be subsidizing unless everyone is explicitly and vocally onboard with it, and not just being pressured into it because they don’t want to hurt their standing at work.

      I personally would love other types of activities that I assume other coworkers wouldn’t. Can we team-build by going to see the local theater production of “Annie Get Your Gun”? If people don’t have any physical reason they can’t attend, they shouldn’t complain.

    5. Pomona Sprout*

      “Assuming there are no visible reasons that people can’t, I have to wonder is the suggestion to never offer cool active stuff like that?”

      Two things…

      1. What do you mean by “visible” reasons? There are lots of medical conditions (mental as well as physical) that can make this kind of “cool, active stuff” very difficult, highly risky, and/or just plain terrifying to some people. Probably the vast majority of those things are not at all visible to the casual observer. You can’t tell by looking at someone that they have a bad back, bum knees (like mine), fibromyalgia, a digestive or urinary tract disorder that requires frequent and ready access to bathroom facilities, a panic disorder, or or or or, the list goes on and on. (There are many more examples in the comments to this post.)

      2. There’s also the fact that a lot of us are simply not athletically inclined and/or do not enjoy “cool physical stuff” (that very phrase is sn oxymoron to some of us). We’re not trying to spoil YOUR fun, we just don’t want to be put in the position of being forced to do something we feel is too risky and/or too scary in order to keep our jobs.

      When it comes down to it, you have no way of knowing which of the people in your workplace would find such activities to be excessively risky to their health and well-being, absolutely terrifying, or even completely beyond their capabilities. You also can’t assume these activities are going to be enjoyable for everyone, whether they have a “visible reason” that they can’t do them or not. Such activities should therefore NEVER be mandatory, and no one should be criticized or treated as “less than” for deciding to opt out.

    6. Aurion*

      I can’t think of any team building activity that would be universally enjoyed by everybody. The best answer would be to try for an atmosphere of inclusivity by offering a variety of activities.

      Personally I wouldn’t go whitewater rafting ever, but I would go sailing. I would find happy hour at the bar with coworkers to be very boring and opt out. Escape rooms are fun to me but not for everyone. I would nope out of an amusement park. Etc, etc, etc.

      The problem with Michelle is that she’s a) making these activities mandatory in spirit if not in letter when they should be opt-in, b) not offering a variety of activities, and c) blatantly disregarding issues of safety. Anyone should be able to nope out of any team building activity for any reason, quadruply so if there is a safety concern–no cajoling, wheedling, or compelling accepted.

  61. MommyMD*

    Obviously coworker’s parents feel something untoward or creepy is going on. They may be way off base but there is not enough information in the letter to decipher. If coworker is indeed feeling uncomfortable this may be her way of communicating this. I’d back off. Let coworker make contact about outside of work activities or communication. If they don’t, accept it.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      This seems like good advice to me. If the young lady is really interested in a friendship/relationship then let her take the lead for a while. If she is feeling uncomfortable she might not say it but would certainly show it. If she does want the relationship then she will make it obvious. Also feeling you being a bit more distant might accelerate the whole actual relationship thing.

      In the long term you can’t loose.

  62. Tobias Funke*

    One of the most traumatic bullying experiences I ever had was on a white water rafting trip in day camp when I was 12 and could not swim. It was terrible in every way. This is only fun for people who feel comfortable doing it. You deserve to be safe and your boss is showing terrible judgment.

  63. Luna Lovegood*

    To rephrase LW#1: Michelle is asking you to risk your life for her approval, and being incredibly blasé about it at the same time. So blasé, in fact, that I suspect she doesn’t entirely realise how dangerous it can be herself. I’d personally be hesitant to get into a raft with someone like that, and I’m a strong swimmer. If you cannot convince her that what she is asking of you the equivalent of doing a stunt driving course having never driven a car before (this analogy or similar might actually help her understand the danger so I’d suggest saying something like it), then I agree with the below commenters about contacting the rafting company yourself and getting them to preclude you.

  64. yet another library anon*

    LW #1
    “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.”

    I would even go a step further and suggest some more inclusive activities to show that you’re being proactive and not just trying to skive off of “team-building” exercises.

    Escape Rooms would probably be fairly inclusive, as they tend to be indoors, and often have seating for folks who can’t stand for long periods of time.

    I’ve gone rafting before and enjoyed it, but MASSIVE side-eye at her for implying that you’re being unreasonable or whatever “[I’d] rather see [you] focus on how to meet a challenge rather than how to get out of it” means. Sometimes “meeting a challenge” means understanding your limits. If your job doesn’t involve swimming or rafting or physical activity, it seems really unreasonable to demand, even implicitly, that everyone participate. You can meet plenty of challenges without throwing yourself into a situation that you personally feel is dangerous to you.

    1. Tigger*

      That is what I was thinking! My good friend is a manager and that is the one team building different types of people actually like in her experience.

    2. applegail*

      Yeah, there are so many things that make this not inclusive, from private medical issues to not being able to swim. Which in the US can easily be a socioeconomic background thing, too. It potentially leaves a lot of people out of team building and informal networking opportunities.

      I love rafting; and this is a terrible idea for a work bonding event.

    3. A tiny pastry builder called Neville*

      As someone with a panic disorder, I’d be noping alllllll the way out of an escape room, too. They’re certainly more physically accessible than rafting, but not necessarily inclusive for people with mental health stuff going on. (I know someone who once full-body ripped the door of an escape room off its hinges, because someone in his group was having a severe claustrophobic episode and needed to get out of there ASAP and the staff were being extremely lackadaisical about answering the intercom and coming to let them out.) And not for love or money could you get me into one in the first place.

      It could still be a good alternative to suggest, though, if it seems like the rest of the team is into the idea of Extreme! Bonding! and if it would be less problematic for OP.

      1. yet another library anon*

        That’s fair.

        I’ve never done one at an actual place, just been a tester for a coworker before she tried on out on students. There are a lot of things framed like an “escape room” that are really just puzzle solving–no locked doors involved, and many of them can even be found online to just be set up in the office one day. (I think in ours, we had to find a key to open a suitcase and assemble the clues inside to solve the final puzzle. We were just in one of the study rooms and could have left at any time. I’d worried that my anxiety would have been a problem, but because the puzzle wasn’t framed in dire terms like “escape this murderer’s swamp shack before he comes back and kills you” or “wwiii will start unless you figure out how to stop the missals” it was just fun. Also Back To The Future themed).

        I don’t know if Michelle will be receptive to that as an alternative, since she seems like someone who figures everyone is Just Like Her and not being able to do something means you’re Not Trying Hard Enough, but it would at least look like contribution.

        1. A tiny pastry builder called Neville*

          Ah, that’s different. The ones I’ve heard of have all been of the “go to the place they have set up and they actually lock you in” variety, and I’m not sure I could restrain myself from laughing hysterically in my boss’s face if she suggested that. (Like, actual hysteria, not funny-hysterical.) Low-stakes puzzle solving in the office breakroom, though, I could get behind.

          1. valentine*

            I’ve read escape rooms have at least one exit you can use at any time. I don’t know if they volunteer that when you go, though, or wait for you to ask.

            1. Carlie*

              You do have to check on the style of the one you’re using – I’ve been to ones where you move from room to room as you finish each puzzle, but there was no unlocking of doors involved, and even if you couldn’t solve the puzzle there was a time limit so after the 5 minutes or whatever they told you to move on to the next space. You could literally just walk through the whole thing and straight out without solving anything if you wanted to. Much less stressful than the single room “you’re locked in and need the key” types.

              1. Tigger*

                Yeah the “you’re locked in and need the key types” are even left unlocked most times for fire code/ medical reasons. At least were I live

                1. Yikes*

                  I’ve been to escape rooms in three states, and they all had means of egress. I’m willing to bet money there’s nowhere in the United States where it is legal to lock patrons in a room with no fire exit.

            2. yet another library anon*

              I would put the burden of checking on that with the planner, but also I really doubt Michelle is the type to consider claustrophobic/anxious people.

              They could also ask at their local library. Our public library does themed “escape rooms” all the time, and I’m pretty certain that for safety/accessibility reasons (a lot of them are themed towards things kids would like, like Harry Potter), they don’t involve locked doors. I think the walk-through/set-ups can even be gotten for free, so it’s something that could be put on in the office, in a comfortable location for everyone (without worrying about transportation or being in a new place) for the cost of a couple of padlocks and a briefcase.

              Though now that I think about it…maybe boardgames? There are lots of fun, cooperative boardgames that would be decent team-building exercises and be accessible to most people. Trap Words and Mysterium come to mind. A (completely optional) semi-regular boardgame afternoon might be a nicer way to encourage socialization/team building/cooperative thinking, if that’s Michelle’s actual goal (tbh, having done white water rafting and ropes courses…I don’t see the team building aspect of them. At all.)

              1. Sabina*

                I like the board game idea. Maybe even a exercise built around inventing board games to play as a team. If the games could have work related themes, all the better.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I am claustrophobic and will not even entertain the idea of doing an escape room with my co-workers. My friends? Maaaaaaybe, because if I completely lose it, well, they’re my friends and I can just walk out. But with co-workers, I am a senior member of the team and would prefer to project an image that does not involve me giving one-word answers and making unintelligible noises while I try desperately to maintain my composure. I have no problem being vulnerable, but there are lines I would prefer not to cross.

        However, it’s one of those things where I can opt out, because an activity like that is rarely the only thing on the agenda, unlike a rafting trip. I have said a few times to the party planning committee that I will not object outright to an escape room but that I will meet them at the bar when they’re finished, no harm done. And some co-workers will go home right after the escape room or whatever the main event will be. I think team building can be great, but I also think it should come with options.

  65. Snickerdoodle*

    OP #2: Something that jumped out at me that I don’t think anyone else mentioned was the bit about her “train[ing] [you] to find things she likes.” “Training” is for pets. That strikes me as incredibly off, or at least fairly controlling, and not appropriate for a friendship OR a relationship. You’re not her personal shopper (presumably), and you didn’t mention anything reciprocal.

    Also, I second what everyone else that the “we’re both over 18!” sounds like something a 19-year-old would say OR a creep would say, which has been addressed, but I feel like it needs to be hammered home because usually people use the “well it’s legal” defense because there’s something ELSE going on that’s uncomfortable to mention.

    HR will probably dismiss the parental intervention if there isn’t some legitimate reason for concern (e.g. harassment); I think it’s more likely to be embarrassing than anything else, but, as others have said, there may well be cause for concern that you’re not seeing.

    Also, seriously? “[If] we ever both end up single, we are going to try for a relationship”? Polyamory, etc. aside (and it doesn’t sound like that’s the case because if it were you’d already have gone for it), you canNOT be in a relationship while prepping for the next one. Think about how your partner would feel. How would you feel if your partner were planning a backup relationship while still seeing you? That’s already emotionally unfaithful. It sounds like you need to rethink your relationship. I don’t think a new relationship is the answer, but if you’re thinking about it, it’s a good sign that the relationship you’re in isn’t the one for you.

    1. Snickerdoodle*

      Oh, whoops; the “training” term thing was mentioned a bunch right up front. I get that it can have different contexts and we shouldn’t nitpick word choices, but put next to everything else already mentioned, it really seems off. As someone else mentioned, it doesn’t seem like “learning a new hobby together” so much as it seems “how to buy her presents.” This person you’re not in a relationship with, btw.

  66. Princess prissypants*

    2 –

    If I were just over 18 and female in the workplace, and there was a “friendly” guy older than me that I didn’t know how to say no to (because we are trained to light ourselves on fire to keep others warm), this is exactly what I would do. Be gracious, go on (public) social outings, eventually realize he’s kind of creepy, show an oddly flirtatious text message to my parents, who would insist to speak up on my behalf.

    1. Washi*

      But that’s the thing, I don’t think the parents should speak up on her behalf. They can help their daughter advocate for herself, but I think 18+ is the point where she needs to handle this on the work end. And unless the texts are incredibly disturbing, as the boss I doubt I’d take any action on this. If two young adults want to send each other dumb flirty texts and go to antique shows outside of work, that’s none of my business.

      1. ATX Language Learner*

        From my perspective it really depends on the household. 18 can mean still in high school and working a side job after school. The OP says “over 18” which means to be that she might indeed only be 18. That is still pretty young and parents are heavily involved, especially in a daughter’s life when there are so many creep-o’s out there.

        I agree with what Princess Prissypants said. I would likely do the same thing as I mentioned in one of my comments below. This could be an indicator that she wants him to back off so she’s getting her parents involved.

        1. hbc*

          Maybe the parents can/should be involved, but they in no way should be involved to the level of contacting HR. They can coach her on how to back away from OP, or help her figure out what to do with respect to HR and her manager if she’s feeling cornered, or tell her they’ll support her if she quits to get away from him. And if she’s fine with OP and they’re being protective/intrusive, they can take her phone away, kick her out of the house if she keeps meeting him, declare that she’s grounded, demand that she complain to HR, or any number of other options that directly deal with their daughter.

          Going to HR is hugely boundary-crossing *and* completely ineffective, whether they’re right or wrong to be concerned about her relationship with OP.

          1. valentine*

            “The parents shouldn’t contact the job” isn’t universal and certainly not universally known. A parent who reads your texts may well think it appropriate to triangulate your manager against you/r coworker, authority-to-authority and especially parent-to-parent.

      2. Princess prissypants*

        Yeah my comment isn’t at all about the appropriateness of the parents intervening or not (though I can totally see why they would in the situation where young adult daughter says, “Mom, there’s this dude who I thought was a friend who keeps talking to me, and I think it just got creepy and I’m not sure what to do about it” then Mom sees the offending text and freaks out and goes into protect-from-creep mode), but rather that LW might want to explore the idea that maybe it’s not as mutual as he thinks. I, at 19, would/could have totally played along with dude’s “intentions” while simultaneously being creeped out and made up things like “my mom’s gonna call HR if ‘we’ (aka ‘you’) keep this up.”

    2. Batgirl*

      I’ve had the parent of my 18 year old female student contact me (I’m an A Level tutor which is upper end of high school) about the hovering of a guy she was trying to shake. Because everyone involved was young and it was context-appropriate (i.e. not work) and the student just simply had no idea how to tell him to get lost, I was glad of the heads-up. But that dynamic is what expressly spelled out that it was *not* sexual harassment – it was the fact that my student couldn’t speak up for herself. I took it to mean ‘female student needs coaching on speaking for herself’ (she did and it was fine) and I told the boy’s tutor to keep an eye on his hovering behaviours, but it was clearly not harassment. At work? you need to be a level past that.

  67. Office person*

    The person who describes their employee not following through – I would be sure that you understand the job at hand before making any harsh judgments. Have you asked this person why they tend to have these items slip behind? Have you told them, specifically, these are the things I need to see? As a new manager I would try to figure out what the holdups are, or possible issues with perception going on, that might encourage this behavior. Having a manager consistently let these types of things slide vs having eveything be quite rigid is a big jump especially if the other manager had reasons for letting things slide. Just don’t be too quick to burn this person and remember that they are in fact a person and not some work robot.

  68. ATX Language Learner*

    #2 – I like AMA’s advice in making sure your friend is not uncomfortable. From my perspective, it kinda sounds like she’s saying this as a hint that you need to back off. It might actually be something she made up as well so that you do back off – perhaps she’s just scared to tell you in person because you work together.

    Totally speculation of course but something that crossed my mind and as a women, I have definitely hinted to men in strange ways in my younger days so they would stop talking to me even if everything seemed fine to them.

    1. Elsajeni*

      I might actually go a step further and say, maybe now is a good time to back off a little and let your friend take the lead in your friendship for a while. Dial back any flirty content, don’t travel to see her unless she explicitly invites you, let her be the one to text first or suggest plans for a little bit. I think a script like Alison’s is good, but the truth is, if she’s feeling harassed or uncomfortable — if there’s a power-dynamic issue that the OP left out or isn’t conscious of, or if she’s just feeling unsure about how to turn down friendly attention, or whatever — there’s probably no magical way to ask that will prevent her from… feeling pressured to say “no, you’re not making me feel pressured.” Basically, test the possibility that she’s hinting for you to back off, by backing off a little bit and seeing what happens.

      1. ATX Language Learner*

        Totally agree with this. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s truly what’s happening. She wants him to leave her alone so she either made up the story about her parents calling their work or she told them to help.

  69. Knitting Cat Lady*

    #1:

    I’m a decent enough swimmer, as in I don’t sink, have lots of stamina, and get where I want to eventually.

    White water rafting, though? The part where you’re most likely to fall out of the boat is when you’re going through rapids. Where there are rocks and strong currents. Which is why you wear helmets. The rapids are the point of white water rafting!

    I have plenty of reasons not to go white water rafting.

    1. I trust my colleagues, but not THAT much.
    2. I have spinal damage from an accident.
    3. I’m blind as a bat without my glasses.
    4. I’m dyspractic. I trip over my own two feet on perfectly level ground!
    5. Depending on my day to day form I have more or less sever medication induced tremor in my hands that sometimes makes holding on to stuff difficult.

    Seriously. My department at work sometimes does bicycle or hiking trips for a fun thing. But anyone who doesn’t want to do the physical activity just gets transported to the restaurant where the dinner will be had.

    All team building needs to be opt in, especially if it’s physical activity.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Even a easy whitewater rafting “tourist” trip will require some physicality, such as getting into/out of the raft, paddling, etc. And those tourist trips are generally NOT an all-day thing either.

      Either plan something else for those who don’t want to do the rafting, such as a nature walk/talk, trip to scenic viewpoint, etc. that is doable for all, or just allow opting-out.

  70. Art3mis*

    OP1 – I would seriously let her fire me than go rafting. Pretty sure unemployment would side with the employee on that one if they tried to claim insubordination.

    1. irene adler*

      Really.
      I think I’d make myself so obnoxious that my co-workers would specifically ask the boss to exclude me from the event.
      Hate these ‘team-building’ things. How about letting us concentrate on getting the work done?

        1. valentine*

          And if there’s time for anything else, I don’t want to do it (1) at work, much less (2) with colleagues.

      1. Jamie*

        The best team building activities I’ve ever participated in were working on major work projects and accomplishing things the nay-sayers didn’t think would get done.

        I

    2. SigneL*

      And it’s not going to stop there. My guess is, Michelle wants to do something physically risky.

      1. irene adler*

        Your post makes me wonder:
        What would the company’s insurance carriers say about subjecting employees to risky behavior (if they were informed beforehand)?

  71. LaDeeDa*

    #2 her parents are controlling and over-protective, what parent monitors an adult’s phone! If you do end up dating, keep that in mind. If the woman’s parents do call HR, then the woman should say to HR- that she does not give HR permission to speak to her parents about her or her job, or her working relationships, and tell HR she does not support her parents calling them. That should take care of it.

    1. valentine*

      what parent monitors an adult’s phone!
      One who’s paying for it?

      I need all y’all whose parents respected you, including your privacy (an outlandish concept for me), to write books and blogs for the rest of us so we can see just what is possible and that our single-family cults denied us. The closer your family was to following the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the better.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        I can tell you that the only thing my parents did was to yell, “Jennifer, stop stretching the phone cord!” at least once a month when I was in middle school. They never listened in on my phone calls.

  72. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1 —
    While most of our commenters are focused on why you’re right not to want to go white-water rafting, you really need a strategy for dealing with Michelle. Here goes:

    1. Use Alison’s script. Just politely and professionally point out that you will not go. I like yet another library anon’s suggestion of offering some alternative activities that are more inclusive.
    2. Now think about your work record and your relationship with Michelle: Is she the type to retaliate against you for not complying with her team-building fantasies?

    If the answer to that question is “yes,” then I strongly recommend that you talk with HR about this. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that they have no idea this is going on.

    You should also start documenting all your accomplishments at work, as well as your interactions with Michelle. If you have a well-established reputation as an outstanding contributor, you’re in a better position to push back against this kind of looniness. And, sadly, if Michelle starts to retaliate against you, you’ll need all the documentation you can get.

    You may also want to evaluate the cultural shift that seems to be going on in your company. If there’s a definite drift towards Michelle-type rah-rah cheer leading at the executive level, update your resume and start working your network for a new position.

    And tell your wife to butt out. If she’d like to go white-water rafting, that’s on her.

    1. JudyInDisguise*

      Why not suggest an alternate activity, like a day of service. Volunteering can be an awesome team building activity as well and you’re not saying no to team building – you’re asking to keep your feet firmly on the ground while you do it. Plus, it’s free. I bet you could put together a group of like-minded volunteers and create awesome team t-shirts for the event.

      Besides, what would be the argument: “You want to perform a community service in lieu of white water rafting? ………..You animal!”

      1. valentine*

        Besides, what would be the argument
        That you’re a wet-blanket diva disappointment. OP1 should resist, but Michelle can forever diminish the risk and spin it as insubordination, cowardice, or selfishness.

      2. Sara without an H*

        I like the idea of a service day as a team-building exercise, although even that could seem a bit coercive if not handled just right.

    2. Dasein9*

      This is really good advice.
      I would also recommend seeking out an ally or two among your coworkers, if possible. Having several people who have several reasons for being unable to do the rafting will make your position stronger. It might not be a terrible idea to also propose a way of using the time that benefits the team. Is there some bit of work associated with the conference that needs to be done that you can offer to take on during that day?

      1. irene adler*

        I’m sure the insurance carriers for the company will have an opinion on this work “activity”.

    3. LilyP*

      Counterpoint: if you *like* the rah-rah cultural shift in general and just don’t like the water bit, make a conscious effort to show that to Michelle in other ways — be visibly enthusiastic about the conference and the team names/tshirts/whatever, volunteer to run things or take on new tasks, get excited about the team-building events you feel comfortable with, step outside your comfort zone in work-related ways. Show her that you will rise to a challenge when it’s a reasonable challenge.

  73. stitchinthyme*

    The boss in #1 is my worst nightmare. I have worked at places where they insist on icebreakers and team-building activities, and I have hated every second of every one of them. My theory on those activities is that they’re useless for everyone, because the extroverts will be mingling and meeting people anyway, while the introverts will do the bare minimum required and never talk to those people again unless they have to work with them directly. (Didn’t help that the company I had most of these at was large and fond of forcing you to team up with people you had never met or worked with and were unlikely to ever see or work with in the future. What’s the point of that?)

    I once almost got into trouble for being a little too vocal about my dislike of these activities — someone overheard and reported it to the division VP. She didn’t approach me directly, but it got back to me via the grapevine, so I went to the VP and apologized for being unprofessional in expressing my feelings, but not for the feelings themselves, because I don’t like those kinds of activities and never will.

    Thankfully, I’m now at a smaller company that does not do these sorts of things. If I were that LW, I’d just decline the rafting without excuse.

    (This also brings back fond memories of another former boss, who organized two skydiving trips for employees — the first one was called “Toss Your Boss”. However, they were not at all mandatory; people were invited to participate, just watch, or not come at all. It was just something she liked to do and wanted to share with anyone who was interested. Which is why I can say I’ve been skydiving twice — it was something I’d always wanted to try, so it was a perfect opportunity. Glad I did it those two times, don’t need to do it again.)

        1. stitchinthyme*

          Nah, we’re in the US. I thought the name was amusing. (She called the second one “Shove Your Love” since partners were invited.)

    1. emmelemm*

      I totally agree (as a mild introvert) that for the most part, extroverts will mingle and get to know everyone anyway, and hardcore introverts will do the minimum required but be screaming on the inside. So icebreaker type things have limited usefulness.

  74. no rafting!*

    Is it possible to just call off sick on the day of the trip? Passive and wimpy, but less time spent on discussing the trip.

      1. no rafting!*

        It should work, but if Michelle is unreasonable enough to propose such an activity, she may also be unreasonable enough to hold a grudge against the first naysayer (especially if there’s a domino effect and others back out).

  75. Heidi - re: OP1*

    It doesn’t seem like Michelle has really learned a lot from her personality training, which is supposed to help you understand that people are motivated by different things and that your coworkers may not find rafting to be a valuable team building activity. I would take a hit to my accumulated work capital rather than go rafting with my colleagues, and you might need to do the same. If they’re going to hold this over an excellent employee, then they’ve got problems. I also get the sense that you feel kind of alone on this. I would be willing to bet that there are others who are equally unenthusiastic about this. It might make you feel better about speaking up if you talk with a couple of your colleagues about it.

  76. Denise*

    Regarding OP#5, reprimanding an employee for not meeting objectives without being able to identify what caused the employee to not meet those objectives is probably not going to be effective. Was it willful? Were they just negligent? Are they inefficient?
    Without the cause being identified, exactly what behavior are you targeting that needs improvement?

    He says he can get you a newsletter preview by Monday. Monday comes and goes. You ask him where the preview is, and what does he say? It seems like you’d have to have that answer before determining if a PIP is appropriate.

    Some people give overly optimistic timelines for themselves, thinking (or hoping) that they can get more done in a certain amount of time than they actually can. I have done this in the past and eventually had to embrace the advice that it is much better to under-promise and over-deliver than not. Especially given that this employee is described as “getting a lot done,” it almost sounds like this could just be an issue of him learning to set better expectations.

  77. SherBear*

    I work for an insurance company (primarily workers compensation) and the white water trip makes me cringe – one of my insureds had a claim on an injury from a zip-lining team building activity and they were shocked that we were paying out on it since the worker had signed a liability waiver. I am not an attorney but our attorneys knew that would NOT hold up in court (at least in this state) especially when the worker said she felt pressure to participate. The team building manager could be putting her company at a huge risk.

    1. fposte*

      It’s interesting–I’ve been looking for injury stats for whitewater rafting, especially compared with other leisure activities, and they are tough to find. I found one decent-looking chart that used the injuries per participant number that’s the really important one, but unfortunately it’s from 1998 and I don’t think it can be relied upon.

      FWIW, on this chart whitewater kayaking was pretty high risk but whitewater rafting was lower risk than swimming or bicycling.

        1. fposte*

          As I said, these are old statistics. However, my guess is that swimming is/was worse than whitewater rafting because people don’t randomly go whitewater rafting unsupervised, without professionals, without safety aids, and in dangerous weather, whereas they do when swimming.

          There was a marked difference in the stats between kayaking (much riskier) and rafting, and my guess is that the supervision/group component accounted for a lot of the difference.

    2. Sunflower*

      I am an event planner- our parent company is an insurance broker. We have pretty strict policies about types of events we can have. We don’t allow any activity where a harness is needed so white water rafting would absolutely be a no go. Of course, people do plan stuff all the time without checking with the proper channels so I’d go that route first and see if your risk liability folks shut down the idea.

      Michelle sounds like a wackadoodle TBH

  78. Not A Swimmer*

    I have been in a very similar situation as OP1. Every year, my previous company would go canoeing as one of our monthly “fun days.” (These events always centered around the boss’ favorite activities) Water sports are not enjoyable for me and I don’t swim well, especially in natural waters. I got light ribbing from colleagues, and generally, I took it in stride, often teasing myself, “I might be just a scaredy cat, but I’d rather not go!” And they were mostly good spirited about it. Except my boss, who genuinely refused to try to understand why I didn’t want to go. I would tell her I’m nervous in the water, she would tell me it’s “only ankle deep!” (She never did explain to me how the water could be “only ankle deep” if we’re canoeing…) I felt bullied and berated by her about this silly day and dreaded it every summer. Fortunately, weather rarely agreed, or I happened to get sick those days (seriously!).

    The kicker? Much of our work was dedicated to meeting individuals at their level, respecting preferences, and honoring every person has feelings that should be honored.

    I have no other advice than what Allison provided, which I think is excellent. Honest, clear communication about your (completely valid) concerns and a request that she respect your preference is about all you can do. After all, rafting isn’t on your job description, right?

    1. Plant Lady*

      You CAN canoe in water that’s shallower than knee-deep. It’s very common, actually – most canoes only need like five inches of depth. Most river canoeing trips take place on water much too shallow for someone to ever be over their head.

      Phobias are real and I absolutely don’t think you should be forced to canoe, but I DO think it’s extremely likely that swimming would never be an option on the trip, let alone something you’d NEED to be able to do.

  79. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    OP1, I think calling the rafting company and having a conversation with them is a good idea. However, as I cannot imagine a company wanting to assume the very high and completely unnecessary liability of a mandatory white water rafting trip for its employees, I would go to HR, risk management or (ideally, if you have an in-house legal department) the company’s lawyers. Hopefully one of them will tell Michelle that if this is not the worst idea they have ever heard, it’s definitely one of the top ten.

  80. BatmansRobyn*

    OP4, I’m not sure what “kind of a long walk” looks like for you, but I bring a big Yeti cup to work every day. It’s 32oz, and I fill it up, at most, twice during the work day. I fill it with ice and water in the morning before I leave, so having cool water is never an issue. Going for water/coffee has been a great way to spend some time with my team, as we’re often doing our own thing for the bulk of the work day.

    It obviously doesn’t solve your problem, but if you start modeling sustainable behavior, there’s a decent chance your coworkers will start to do similar stuff. I certainly didn’t make a point to use reusable anything prior to starting in my current office, but within a couple of months I’d completely revamped those habits.

  81. SpaceySteph*

    OP2 it sounds like you both might be pretty young, because the way you talk about this sounds a lot like high school to me. But at work you need to be a professional.

    Regardless of age, though I think you should consider dialing this relationship back and try to maintain a polite but coworkerly relationship instead. You say that you’ve agreed to date if you’re both single, but that means that at least one of you isn’t single right now and is engaging in an emotional affair with a coworker. The likelihood of this bringing drama into the workplace is high. (in fact, the likelihood is 100% because her parents are about to start some drama)