my coworker brought a spouse on our business trip and it was weird

A reader writes:

I have a job that has an on-boarding program with a heavy emphasis on shadowing. This is normal in my industry and most seasoned professionals started their careers in this field by shadowing others. The work that we do is confidential, requires travel via long car trips, overnight stays at hotels, and long, demanding meetings that sometimes stretch into late nights. When shadowing, if it is a long enough car trip, people will often carpool. We stay in separate hotel rooms, but are together in the car and at meals and the conversations mostly focus on work, with the goal of imparting knowledge and sharing experiences.

On a recent trip, the person I was traveling with brought their spouse along. This made for an awkward experience for me. Riding in the back seat of a four-door truck with an uncomfortable seat while the spouse rode in front did not foster any meaningful, work-related discussions between me and my senior colleague. Likewise, the meals in the evening and in the morning were attended by the spouse. The work we do is confidential in nature and I felt strained in discussing the meeting or any other specifics with the spouse present. The spouse often chimed in with their thoughts about the topics that were work-related, and it wasn’t helpful or constructive to me in a shadowing capacity.

I mentioned to my boss that I traveled with my colleague and their spouse, and my boss was surprised that the spouse came along at all. I felt bad for springing this on my boss and don’t want to have my colleague caught off-guard if my boss approaches them about this.

My boss is pretty laid back and conflict avoidant, so I assume won’t do anything drastic with my colleague, but I am unsure of how to approach this situation with my colleague. I understand that they often bring their spouse with them to work travels, but I have not encountered this before. The spouse is unemployed and has a lot of free time, and is very nice, but ultimately this situation feels pretty unprofessional. I don’t want to hinder my opportunities to work with this colleague in the future, either on shadowing or partnering with them on work that requires travel, but I am not willing to travel with their spouse in the manner again. Am I off-base here? How should I approach my colleague about this? Should I even approach this?

Ugh, I wouldn’t like that either. One, you didn’t sign up to travel in close quarters with the spouse, have meals with them, etc. Two, and more importantly, it sounds like you’re not getting the full benefit of the informal information-sharing that normally happens on these trips because the spouse’s presence inhibits it.

That said, it sounds like that informal information-sharing might be sort of an optional side benefit, rather than something the coworker you’re shadowing is obligated to provide. For example, if the coworker preferred to have meals alone and to listen to audiobooks during the drive, you might feel a little disappointed, but probably wouldn’t feel they were doing anything wrong. (People are allowed to need downtime, can’t be in work mode all the time, etc.).

This is a little different, though, and I suspect that’s because it feels like your coworker was trying to get a couples trip out of a work trip, and as a result you’re getting less professional benefit than you otherwise would. But if you’re not actually entitled to that specific benefit, that makes it trickier.

Still, I think it was appropriate to mention this to your boss. And it would be appropriate for your boss, if she chooses, to tell your coworker that these trips are too focused on mentoring for spouses to come along, even though it might be fine to bring a spouse when traveling alone or with certain other types of trips.

But if you want to talk to your coworker about it directly, you could say something like, “Can I mention something about our recent trip? (Spouse) is lovely and I enjoyed getting to know them better, but I found having someone from outside the company traveling with us meant we didn’t have the same opportunities to talk shop that we normally get on these trips, like on the drive and over meals. I really liked (spouse) but definitely missed that piece of it, which has always been a really important and useful part of these trips for me.”

To say this, though, you’d want three things to be true: First, you’d want to have pretty good rapport with the coworker. Second, you’d want them to be someone who’s generally open to feedback and not typically defensive. And third, most importantly, you can only do this if the overall set-up isn’t one where this would come across as presumptuous. If letting you shadow is a favor to begin with, you might be expected to work with the conditions those colleagues offer. In that case, then sucks that you didn’t get everything out of the trip that you wanted, but it’s not something you could say anything about.

If you’re not 100% sure that’s not the case here, I’d check back with your boss before saying anything to the coworker directly.

{ 286 comments… read them below }

  1. Roscoe*

    I mostly agree with Alison. I kind of think the only thing you have much of a stance to push back on is the carpooling. But everything else seems a bit more like you 2 just had very different expectations of this trip. Like, there is nothing wrong with not wanting to eat dinner with you, or to use dinner time to NOT discuss work. It sounds like you wanted the off hours to be more “mentoring” and they wanted it to be actual off hours. In the future I would try to really lay out what the plan is for these types of trips.

    I recently went on a trip with a colleague who is senior to me. We are in different offices, but had a good relationship. He mentioned that his fiance was going to be there as well. She was never there during our working time, but we did have meals together and do some nightlife things as a group. And it was a blast. I mean, could I have learned more “office related” stuff if she wasn’t there? Maybe. But I think that her being there actually let me get to know him more as a person than just as a co-worker, which I liked. I now feel like I can ask him stuff that I may have been a bit wary of saying to someone before

    1. Jennifer*

      Good points. It sounds like this coworker wants downtime to truly be downtime, instead of staying in work mode during the entire trip. I’m probably more similar to the example Alison used, of the coworker who’d rather listen to an audiobook or podcast during the drive than talk and would probably eat meals alone. Before and after all that “on” time in work mode, I’d need to recharge. The benefits the OP referred to are optional benefits, as opposed to mandatory.

      Is it possible to ask to travel with a different person next time? Maybe it would be better for the people who want to talk shop during off hours to be paired together, and those that need more downtime to be paired together.

      1. Luna*

        This is why I actually prefer to be on break ‘on my own’ at work. Usually, one of us goes on break and, when they return from their break, the next one goes. But a sort-of shift-leader said two of us should go on break one day. Eating in the staff break room, it felt awkward for me because… you know, I like to be ‘off’. Have my earphones in, listening to my music, and reading a book. But with the coworker there, he had some questions (he was new) and I answered. Felt weird for me because it meant I had to be ‘on’ again for part of my break.

        1. JulieCanCan*

          Totally agree – I like to take lunch alone, take breaks alone, do errands alone, etc, and when my associates jump up and excitedly state that they’ll join me as I try to sneak out the door, I feel such a deflated, angry resentment!! Why do they think that’s what I want? Why do they believe I’d prefer their company over my own private recharge period?

          Grrrrrrrr…….

          1. I have never watched Game of thrones.*

            What???!!! How can you not want company ALL THE TIME?! Uhh… just the thought of coworkers doing this made me tired…

    2. Moray*

      It sounds like LW didn’t have any way of gracefully opting out of the togetherness. If they were obliged to eat with the spouse–and have ostensibly work-related but useless and uncomfortable conversation with them–then that strikes me as particularly inconsiderate.

      1. Roscoe*

        But my guess is they didn’t HAVE to go do dinner with their mentor. So they could’ve opted out if they wanted to. It was probably like “Me and spouse are getting dinner at 7 if you’d like to join”. Now that basically means they can eat alone or with spouse as well. But its downtime if you will, and I think its fair to do that.

        1. doreen*

          Some of that may have had to do with the carpooling – which I think is the source of most, maybe all of the issues. Once you’re carpooling, the driver can’t listen to audio books and since there’s only one car, you have may have to do everything together. For example, I’ve been on trips where I had to go to dinner with my carpool or else skip dinner, because getting dinner required a car. I could imagine bringing my husband on a trip to the right location- but I absolutely wouldn’t carpool with a coworker if I did. Even if it meant I wouldn’t be reimbursed for mileage.

          1. Roscoe*

            Yep, that is a fair point. But I’d hope that the company would reimburse for taxis or Ubers if they wanted to do separate stuff from the co-worker

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            I just realized you said carpools don’t listen to audio books. .. they can, it just takes some coordination. And forbearance to only listen together until the trip’s over.

        2. FairPayFullBenefits*

          But since the co-worker is senior to OP, they might not feel like they can/should turn down the invite.

      2. Felicia*

        The bigger problem is that LW was made to feel like the third wheel, when the spouse was the one out of place. You can’t do your job properly if you are made to feel like you are crashing their week away together.

        1. Felicia*

          I would also be interested to know if the spouse going added any extra cost to the company (ie, meals being expense’d) that they are not aware of.

            1. Luna*

              Correct. But it is good that the boss was made aware of the spouse being brought along. Just so the company can discuss the finer details of these work-based trips, if partners can be taken along, and how reimbursement works then. Bring the questions up that might have not been asked before, and things were just assumed.

        2. Jennifer*

          It doesn’t sound like the spouse was there while they were actually working, they were just in the car ride, and at breakfast and dinner. I don’t see how that would hinder the OP’s ability to do their job correctly. If the mentor came without their spouse and said they were tired at the end of the day and wanted to order in and eat alone, it would be the same.

          1. Tex*

            Op said that the matters they dealt with were confidential – if you’re a consultant, you have to be ‘on’ at the client site and be very careful of what you say and how you say it, even if it’s a conversation between just the two of you. The car or dinner becomes the only safe space you can say “WTF is going on with the client” and brainstorm some off the wall ideas, or bring up “hey, we did X for another client, what if we used a variation on that?” Having a spouse be there negated that free give and take. And if you don’t think you have to be discreet in front of a spouse, google how JK Rowling’s alternate ego author was outed.

            1. Jennifer*

              It sounds like the spouse was only present at breakfast and dinner and in the car rides to and from the hotel. So I’m assuming on car rides during the day traveling to client sites and at lunch they had time to talk without the spouse. The OP wanted the mentor to stay in work mode 24/7 and maybe that’s just not what the mentor had in mind. That’s still quite a long day.

        3. Roscoe*

          But it doesn’t really sound like her presence affected that actual work part of the trip, just the “extras” OP may have thought they would get

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Yeah it sounds as if OP was expecting to “talk shop” every waking moment. People need down time. Even on work trips no one is, or should be “on” 24/7.

    3. Important Moi*

      This situation has already taken place. While it may be awkward sometimes the most efficient way is to handle things in the moment. Maybe OP could have said “Do you mind if we talk about X work topic right now?” to their co-worker. Whatever the answer would have been would have been a good guide as to how to move forward for the remainder of the trip.

      1. Me*

        Op is pretty clear that the work is not something that can really be discussed while outside persons are present. Asking to spake about a specific topic wouldn’t’ have helped in this circumstance.

      2. Neve*

        If I were OP and wanted time to speak to the colleague in a social setting about work, I would specifically ask the colleague, “Do you have 30 minutes tomorrow morning before we start or right after work today, for us to grab a coffee and talk about Client X and Client Y.” I would suggest to go to a coffee shop right outside work where the spouse is hopefully unlikely to pop up.

    4. Genny*

      If that was the case, I think the senior person has a responsibility to communicate that directly with the junior person, especially if the industry convention is to shadow/mentor people in this way.

    5. HannaSpanna*

      I think it may be helpful if OP reframed it as ‘so-far’ all the trips have used down-time to discuss work and impart knowledge. That is a great benefit, just don’t see it as a given. You may have been on trips with people who really wanted to mentor in this way, this co-worker does it differently.
      I also feel there was some other dynamic here, as OPs ego seems a little bruised.

  2. Snark*

    This isn’t directly related to OP’s question, but in general, the answer to “should I bring my spouse on a work trip” is a hard nah. Just don’t. Yes, they and you might be lonely, but don’t cross the streams. It’s nearly always awkward.

    1. savannnah*

      This is so dependent upon the situation and the field, I’d hardly make sweeping generalization about it.

      1. Annnnonymous*

        I agree with Snark on this one. There’s rarely a good reason to bring a spouse on a work trip. If you want to stay a few extra days after your work-related responsibilities are over and request time off, the spouse can meet you there when your time off begins.

        1. Asenath*

          I think it depends on the industry. It’s no problem at all in the work travel I’ve done – I’ve been at conferences that organize events for spouses/domestic partners, but even when they don’t, the spouse just goes and does their own thing most of the time. Work travel is very demanding, with long hours and working meals, but it isn’t 24/7, so the worker does get to see the spouse some of the time. It does sound like this particular job isn’t set up that way, though, with the big emphasis on nothing but work discussions not only at meals, but in the car!

          1. SpaceySteph*

            Agree this is industry dependent. My father is in medical management and its very common not only for spouses to attend conferences but for there to be specific organized activities for spouses to participate in while the working spouse goes to meetings/seminars/whatever. And then everyone gets together for dinner such that if you didn’t bring your spouse you would miss out on that spousal networking and be the oddball at meals.

            I would say Snark’s advice might be a good default, and you know if you’re in one of the industries that differs from that norm.

            1. soon 2be former ded*

              What if you don’t have a spouse? Single people are the oddballs then?

              1. Important Moi*

                Are you saying that because a single person doesn’t have a spouse to include in potential spousal networking no one who has a spouse should be allowed to bring their spouse?

              2. SpaceySteph*

                I mean… yes? I’m not reporting the way it should be, I’m reporting the way it is. It definitely would put a single person as the odd one out in meals when everyone else was with their spouse, and they would by default miss out on the opportunity for their spouse to network with the other spouses.

            2. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

              **specific organized activities for spouses to participate in** –> hardest pass ever

              Seriously, I’d pay for my own vacation a million times over rather than getting a “free” trip that requires my hob nobbing with people I have nothing in common with other than our husbands all work together (and yeah, I’m assuming these are “wife” events but I bet I’m not wrong).

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                “**specific organized activities for spouses to participate in** –> hardest pass ever”

                + like a hundred million!

              2. Slartibartfast*

                There’s an annual conference in Vegas in my former industry. The spouse activities are things like golf, yoga and spa days, trips to local attractions, various shows. Vacation type things. Very unisex activities, but it’s a female dominated field. Lots of husbands along for the ride.

                1. Slartibartfast*

                  Also no assigned seating at dinner or lunch. Nobody really cares one way or another if you’re paired or flying solo.

        2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          +11111!

          I accompany my spouse on work trips all the time, and it’s never been weird. Partly this is the field my spouse is in (I’ve met not only my spouse’s colleagues, but the colleagues’ spouses as well, on many of these trips) and partly it’s the distance of these trips (not just a couple hours’ road trip, but international travel; often for only a few days, but sometimes weeks at a time). I’ve even seen some of my spouse’s colleagues that brought along not only their own partners, but the kids, too. Obviously we can’t ask spouse’s employer to pay any of my expenses, but other than that, no-one has ever objected, and often the invitations even mention the steps to take if you want to bring a spouse/partner.

          I’m sure there are fields where this would be incredibly weird, but there are also fields where it’s incredibly normal and expected.

          1. Someone Else*

            I would argue if you’re the spouse and not the coworker, you may not be well-positioned to know if it’s “been weird” since if it’s similar to the scenario in the letter here, presumably both halves of the couple felt fine and it’s only the coworker who felt like “wait is this how this is supposed to go?”
            On the occasions when it specifically mentioned steps for bringing spouses, then it was certainly welcomed then, but in others “no one objected” isn’t really the bar for being able to tell if anyone wanted to object, but felt they had no standing or didn’t know how to object without making it a bigger deal than they wanted, etc.

            1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              No, other people brought their spouses (and some brought the kids!), and I was specifically and personally invited to multiple social events, on most/all of these trips. I obviously wouldn’t attend the actual work event, and, well… if we’re flying there separately (which we are), paying for my expenses out of pocket (again, yup) and sharing a hotel, why would anyone even care?

              1. Someone Else*

                You ignored the part where I specifically said I was talking about the trips where spouses were NOT specifically and personally invited. Also just because you may be a living counter-example should not negate the point that how many letters do we see here where someone says “no one complained about me ergo whatever I did was fine” and what they did was absolutely not fine? So that’s the larger point: that argument is not a good one.
                If you fly separately and never interact with the coworkers while on the trip, then true, the coworkers shouldn’t care. But that’s not the scenario in the letter so if you really truly were that separated, your case isn’t analogous to the one being discussed anyway.

                1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

                  My point was that while I wasn’t specifically invited on the trip itself, once there, colleagues would ask me to attend dinner events, etc. And that whether or not there were instructions on what to do if you want your spouse to come, many people would bring their families. Because it’s completely normal in this particular field.

                  And I was responding to the blanket statement, made by a couple people above, that ‘it is NEVER acceptable to bring a spouse.’ Because that’s just not true, it is highly dependent on the field and situation.

        3. Lynn*

          I disagree. I think it is very industry, job and trip specific. In some cases, it doesn’t work. In others it is fine. And in many, it is probably borderline and depends on the employee/spouse and their ability to make it work.

          My most recent trip meant a week in Houston. My husband flew out for one of the weekends. I worked all weekend, while he rented his own car and got to tour NASA (I was sad that I couldn’t go with him on this one) and did a bunch of other tourist stuff. We had dinner together while he was there, but otherwise it was much like normal days at home. I did my work thing all day, and he did his own thing (in this case tourist things rather than his work things) and we had evenings and dinner together.

          Our industry is not one where we are expected to do significant client or coworker networking after hours, so as long as he is willing to entertain himself and as long as it doesn’t cost the company any money or keep me from doing the work I am there to do, it is fine.

          1. Washi*

            This! I’ve come on work trips with my husband, and it’s not because we can’t bear to be a week without each other and I want to see him as much as possible. It’s basically just a free hotel room for me and I do my own tourist thing. On a chill day we might have dinner together, but sometimes he’s super busy and I don’t see him until he comes to bed, and it’s totally fine.

            Basically I think for a lot of workplaces there is some acknowledgement that work travel is kind of a pain and letting spouses come along as long as they don’t interfere at all with work is an easy perk to offer.

          2. Teapot Painter*

            Yes! I’ve been able to enjoy a vacation while my fiance is on a work trip. He left for the work stuff in the morning, while I was free to laze about the hotel room, meet up with a friend, and explore the city. He was able to come back in the evenings and we got to enjoy dinners together. It was great! If my job had more PTO I would do it a lot more often. I paid for all of my airfare and food, and the hotel was going to cost the same for one person as it would for 2. It was one of the best vacations I’ve had!

      2. LSP*

        I agree. While I’ve never accompanied my husband on a work trip, nor he on one of mine, I could see it working as us traveling together, then, for instance, him working from the hotel room r otherwise entertaining himself while I work/attend meetings or conferences, and then meeting up in the evening for dinner, etc. I don’t tend to travel with colleagues, and while if I’m traveling to the city where my company does most of our work I may be expected to have drinks/dinner with colleagues one night, the rest of the time is normally mine.

        (I probably wouldn’t invite my spouse to join for those work-related dinners/drinks, because a) it would be weird, and b) he would absolutely hate it.)

      3. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, definitely.

        I’ve gone along on work trips with my husband. We traveled together but paid for me separately. He went to his work things during the day and sometimes also had dinners with colleagues. There were some trips where there were no evening plans and we had dinner together and there were some where I ate alone every night. I understand that his work takes priority, and sometimes I barely see him. If a spouse tries to take time away from work, that’s an issue, but if they understand that it’s not a vacation for the working half, then there should be no problems.

        My father-in-law went to a yearly conference overseas where he brought his wife and kids. This was not unusual; there was actually a group of wives and children who did the same, and they would socialize and sightsee together during the conference. So clearly it was not a taboo thing in that industry 30 years ago.

      4. JSPA*

        Academic conferences in the sciences, as well as fields adjacent, are often a strong “please do!”. They have spouse / partner activities planned; it’s a problem if nobody shows / nobody goes. But ask–don’t assume.

        1. Oh So Anon*

          Just as a counterpoint, I work in a subfield withing higher ed admin, and unlike academic discipline conferences, my field’s professional associations typically don’t offer spouse/partner/family events at our conferences, even when they are held in destination cities. Some people bring a plus one to a couple of the evening events, but typically we don’t see much of people’s spouses at these conferences.

      1. AngryOwl*

        Yup. I’m sure there are plenty of industries where it’s frowned upon, but that’s not a given by any means.

      2. Sparrow*

        Genuine question – what are some of the industries where this would be commonplace? I don’t think I know anyone in a field where this would be encouraged, so I’m curious.

        1. Snark*

          Yeah. Some kind of sales, perhaps? Certainly no field I’ve got experience in or close observations of.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            I know lots of tech people who go to ‘New Tech!’ conferences in San Jose / Vegas and take a spouse, or have the spouse meet them for the weekend.

            1. Aveline*

              Tech has had a total inversion on this. A lot of tech conferences, particularly in Vegas, used to be so dudebro that it was truly outrageous. Over time that changed. Instead of strippers and cigars, it’s now “let’s all take our spouses out to a fancy restaurant.”

              When my husband first started in tech, he hated tech conferences and the obligation to participate in activities he didn’t find appropriate (strip clubs, comedy routines that were racist/sexist/homophobic), now it’s very couple and often family friendly.

          2. Phoenix*

            I grew up going to regional EMS conferences with my parents, who were both in related fields at the time (EMS and health department with lots of EMS contact) – there were quite a lot of couples with kids who were both in the field, and therefore there were a lot of families at these conferences, including spouses who were not attending the conference itself.

          3. workerbee2*

            Yes – my stepfather worked in sales for a scientific equipment company and he frequently traveled to Europe or Asia for weeks at a time. My mom was an elementary school teacher so she would travel with him if he went somewhere good over her summer break. They just paid for everything for her separately, and she had to realize that they wouldn’t get to do too much sightseeing because he was working. He had such close client relationships that it wasn’t unusual for them to host dinners in their homes, and for him to reciprocate when they visited our city.

        2. NW Mossy*

          Even within an industry, it can be role-specific. I learned recently that when our service teams meet for their conferences spouses are explicitly not invited, but when the sales teams meet for theirs, spousal attendance is expected to the point that special activities are planned just for the spouses.

          1. BRR*

            I think it can also be trip specific and time specific for a specific trip. For conferences, I could bring my spouse along and am free for dinner every night with no issue because nothing is scheduled in the evenings and there’s no expectation for that time. I’ve been on trips where the expectation for breakfast is to plan for the day and there have been certain dinners that I should attend like when our VP took us all out for dinner. There are so many it depends that I don’t think there is a one size fit all rule.

          2. The Other Dawn*

            Yes. Company-specific, role-specific, industry-specific, and even event-specific. I go to an annual conference in the banking industry and it’s no problem to bring my husband. I’m booked solid during the day, but breakfast and dinner, and after dinner are on my own. I’ve been to a few conferences where there are networking or learning events, so I wouldn’t bring him to something like that.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Exactly – many conferences, no big deal. If I were doing customer engagement, or implementation, you’re probably working long hours, so not much point in bringing the spouse.

              And remember, a lot of conferences are in tourist spots, like Vegas. Some of those ‘spouse events’ could be ‘go see Hoover Dam’.

        3. Rock Prof*

          In academia, as mentioned below too, it’s pretty common. Some academic conferences will even have free or cheaper attendance passes for friends/family, so they can go to some of the exhibits and maybe even the talk or their partner/spouse/family member. Spouses are generally specifically invited to some of the conference organizations’ award ceremonies.

          1. Snark*

            I’ve been to a dozen or 15 conferences or so, and I can’t say I’ve ever specifically noted the presence of spouses. Not that they weren’t there, but I’ve never seen a family rate, and they didn’t come to the mixers or events after business hours. It may be very field-dependent?

            1. Turquoisecow*

              I accompanied my husband to a conference in DC a few years ago and a friend/colleague also brought his wife. Neither of us attended any of the conference or socialized with any of the other attendees. (I originally planned to socialize with another colleague’s wife but she ended up not being able to go). Aside from a brief meetup at the end to introduce the wives (we had not previously met), I’m pretty sure none of the attendees knew I was there at the end.

              My husband was there to talk about work and he would probably not have mentioned me to any others unless they mentioned their spouses first – they were talking about the speakers and other industry things. He also would not have said no to dinners to hang out with me – he may have said no just because he didn’t want to socialize with those people, but he wouldn’t have said “no, I cannot come because I’m having dinner with my wife,” and I would not have wanted to go along to dinner because it would mostly have been work talk and aside from a few friends of his, I wouldn’t have known anyone. So it may be that your colleagues bring spouses and you don’t know because they don’t talk about it. I do my best to stay out of the way when I travel along.

              1. Yvette*

                “I do my best to stay out of the way when I travel along.”
                And that is the difference from the OP. You didn’t intrude, you didn’t make colleagues feel like a third wheel.

                1. Snark*

                  Maybe that’s the distinction that’s relevant here. If your spouses do come to a conference, unless there are designated spouse events and so on, they should not be in the midst of things with your coworkers and colleagues.

            2. Hillary*

              I’ve been to three conferences in the last year. One had a “wife track” complete with a shopping outing and a spa day (that org has some room for improvement on many fronts, gender equity is one of them). One was at a hotel in downtown Chicago, you could buy extra tickets to the evening event for guests. And the third one had programming that assumed everyone was traveling alone or with work colleagues.

              I’m going with my boyfriend on his work trip next month. His team is having a meeting at a destination resort, the meetings are as much about face to face socializing as they are work. Most of the partners and some kids will also be there because it’s an amazing place. I’m going to work remotely for most of the week. But I travel about once a month and wouldn’t want him to come with – my trips are usually 12+ hour days with every meal scheduled, sometimes with an evening flight to the next city. That would not be fun for either of us.

          2. Alienor*

            I have a friend who is a scientist married to another scientist, and they regularly attend each other’s overseas conferences along with their teenage children. Whoever isn’t presenting at the conference goes sightseeing with the kids during the day, and they all meet up as a family later.

          3. Less Bread More Taxes*

            I have a semi-related question that might get buried, but anyway: I am going to my first academic conference in July in City A. I’d talked to my boss about it because partner and I had a pre-planned trip right after the conference dates in City B, which you can only get to through City A. I asked her if I could travel with my partner then just take my vacation days directly after the conference and she verbally okayed it. Then when it came to book travel, she booked us staying in the same hotel room, so partner can’t go. It’s not the end of the world – he’s going to meet me on the last day instead, but it made me question the acceptability of bringing someone on a work trip (I’ve done this before and it’s never been an issue with other jobs). Would it have been reasonable to say something like “Actually, Partner and I were planning on staying together because of our pre-booked trip the following day”?

            1. RandomU...*

              I think this falls under the you are expected to pay any additional expenses for your partner.

              In other words, you must be in the dreaded ‘It’s expected to share a hotel room with coworkers’ industry. So the expectation is that the company/org pays for 1 hotel room for 2 employees. If you want to stay in the same room with your partner it would be expected for you to pay for their room out of pocket. Not that they would pay for 2 rooms for 2 employees.

              I think it’s very reasonable for you (or your partner) to book and pay for a room out of pocket and let your boss know that you won’t need the expensed room and they are open to giving that to another employee or letting the boss stay in it as a single. This way they are only paying for 1 room regardless if you sleep in it or not.

              1. Less Bread More Taxes*

                I think you’re right, that I need to just expect to pay for all travel if he’s coming with me in the future. I worked for a few years in industry and now I’m in a poor university and it’s just a different way of doing things.

        4. Surly*

          Academia. My colleagues often bring their spouse to conferences. The spouse explores during the day, and attends the social events in the evening.

          I don’t think I’d do it (I need alone time at conferences, especially if I’m presenting or attending a lot of meetings where I have to be On), but I’m not married, so who knows?

        5. Malarkey01*

          I can’t speak for everyone in the industry but we have auditors and consultants that travel for 2-3 weeks at a time to review another company and some of them have brought spouses (we see it more in the summer when a few spouses are teachers and have off). Between 6 pm and 7 am everyone is off on their own so you wouldn’t even know in most cases.

          1. Lynn*

            That is me! I am an auditor, I do onsite reviews and field testing from time to time, and I bring my husband (a teacher) along sometimes, especially when I am going to be somewhere over a weekend. We used to do it more often when I traveled 100% of the time (flew home weekends, stayed on site weekdays)-I would just stay over for a weekend and my husband would come spend a week wherever I was working at the time. Now that I travel much less, it is dependent on where I am and what his time looks like-he is still more likely to join me in the summer than during the school year.

            We actually had a couple of employees, though it has been at least a decade or more ago, who had RVs and they would travel with their spouses all of the time. The company liked it-the RV sites were cheaper than hotels and they seldom had to pay for a plane ticket home for those employees.

        6. Lucette Kensack*

          I think it depends as much on the type of travel as the industry. Here are some examples from various points in my career:

          Travel to a work retreat, where colleagues are flying in from around the world? I wouldn’t bring my husband.

          Travel to a conference where the expectation is that I’m using “off hours” for networking? Nope.

          Travel to the office my boss works out of, in another country? Yes, and we’d probably arrange a dinner with spouses.

          Travel to the office that I manage in another state, where I’m the only one traveling? Probably. Nobody would even notice; I’m the only one that ever travels there.

          1. Turquoisecow*

            My husband’s boss works across country and I’ve traveled with my husband a few times when he went out to meet with his boss and other colleagues in that office. His boss suggested a few times that we meet his wife, but it hasn’t worked out yet, but I take this as a sign that he’s okay with me being there. I keep myself busy and out of the way, either being a tourist or working myself (I work remotely so last time I just worked from our Air BnB instead of my house, and no one was the wiser!) and there’s no reason to object. Husband sometimes has dinner meetings and I get my own food and sometimes has nothing and we eat together.

            1. Turquoisecow*

              Oh, but, meant to add, once he had a week-long conference his company was hosting and a good number of his coworkers were attending. I didn’t go along for that because a) it was in a location I didn’t want to visit and b) he was guaranteed to be busy with coworkers and colleagues who wanted to have long dinners with him at the end of the day, so I was guaranteed not to see him. But ordinary trips for conferences or such, I go along.

            2. Lucette Kensack*

              I’ve never yet been able to travel with my husband because his company plans everything too late for reasonably-priced flights. Fingers crossed I’ll get to accompany him to London sometime this year though!

        7. MK*

          In my field (I am a lawyer working for the judiciary system of my country) it depends on what sort of work trip it is. If it’s a conference, these are usually hosted/ co-hosted by the local Bar Association or a law school or a law society of some sort, and it’s a-free-for-all; you can bring anyone you like, if your spouce/child/whatever is also a lawyer they get discounted entry, if not there are usually extra activities arranged for them. If it’s a training seminar, organized and paid for by the gorverment, plus-ones are ok, as long as they maek themselves scarse during seminar times and networking events, but should attend the events specified as social by the programme. If it’s a trip where we will be visiting another courthouse to do actual work, bringing someone would be seen as odd.

          1. CTT*

            I work for a mid-sized law firm and it’s similar for us; no one would think it was weird if you brought your spouse/kids to a retreat or bar association conference that’s held somewhere nice (with the expectation that said spouse/kids doesn’t come to any of the sessions, of course), but if you’re going somewhere for a trial or closing, then you wouldn’t bring family because your schedule is more unpredictable and way more work-focused.

          2. Public Sector Manager*

            I concur as well, and it really depends on what you’re doing.

            I currently attend an annual legal conference where spouses are encourage to attend the after-hours networking events. In fact, myself and my counterpart from another state are the only two who haven’t brought a spouse, partner, child, or significant other to the conference.

            There is another legal conference where I go once every 2 or 3 years. They have no evening networking events, just programs during the day. A lot of attendees bring their spouses because events start at 9 am and end at 4 pm at the latest, so there is plenty of downtime.

            And in my prior public sector job there was a conference where it would have been perceived as a serious breach of protocol to have a spouse with you. For that conference, the day didn’t end until 8 or 9 pm and about 10 people from the office were in attendance.

            It all depends on the culture of the event you are attending.

        8. Super Dee Duper Anon*

          I’m in finance and my last three firms have had specific written policy about “companion” travel. It’s expressly permitted and I’ve never witnessed or experienced it being frowned upon/causing issues/being complained about.

        9. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          I don’t think it’s necessarily industry specific. There are a lot of factors that make a difference in this situation – why you’re travelling, what type of job you hold, etc. If my husband goes on a business trip to a city that I want to visit, and it’s not an issue or going to interfere with his work, I’m going. I have zero problem hanging out by myself while he’s working, or even having dinner by myself if he has a night time work thing to attend.

        10. Drago Cucina*

          Anesthesia conferences are 99.9% designed to include some type of recreational or family time.

      3. Snark*

        Even if it’s not a problem, though, is it actually necessary, appropriate, or completely welcomed by others traveling with you? I’d argue almost never.

        1. Wehaf*

          In academia, if you go to a conference in an awesome place, it’s perfectly reasonable, and quite common, to bring your spouse and sometimes your kids with you. It is definitely not necessary, but certainly appropriate, welcome, and often expected.

          1. Snark*

            I was an academic for the better part of a decade, and I can’t recall ever noting that someone had brought their spouse or family. They might have, I just never noticed it.

            And I’m not sure why it would be desirable to! I’d feel like I couldn’t focus on what I was there for, and it would be easy and comfortable to just beeline for the hotel room once the main program for the day was over.

            1. blackcat*

              ” They might have, I just never noticed it.”
              This is probably it. I’ve definitely seen the model of whole family goes to conference city, academic does conference for 2-3 days, spouse and kids do local stuff, then entire family does something nearby for the weekend (either before or after).

              1. blackcat*

                Also, YMMV, but my advisor’s wife is a party and I adore her. I definitely went out drinking with her, without my advisor, one night after conferencing.

              2. Psyche*

                Yep! I’ve seen it to. The spouse is usually pretty discrete and doesn’t go to the academic events. So if you weren’t told they were there you would never know. It really only happens when it is a cool destination.

              3. wafflesfriendswork*

                When I was a kid my dad (high school English teacher) had a state conference every year in Larger City, and we would all go–my aunt also lived there, so we would visit her, and my mom and sister and I would do stuff while my dad was in meetings. But, we rarely interacted with any of my dad’s colleagues and just kind of did our own thing.

              4. 20/25 Years in each*

                Yes – this. In academia and retailing industries that I’ve been involved in. If it’s a car ride -easy. No extra expenses. Flying or via train, we’d pay our own SO and/or child fares. The hotel is paid for, so we stay together or pay for an extra room for (adult) kids or extra days for extending the trip. Of course, our meals are separate, too.
                Not at all the exception, I’d say more the rule from my experience.
                Made a lot of great memories this way.

            2. JustaTech*

              I know nursing moms will bring the baby and another adult (to watch said baby) to conferences, but that’s often less of a “want” and more of a “need”.

              Personally, I wouldn’t want to bring my spouse to a conference because then I’d feel torn about networking in the evening, and after networking (or just conference-ing) I’m so totally fried I don’t want to be around anyone, even my spouse.

            3. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              I doubt they’d attend the conference itself, but I’d be very surprised if nobody brought their spouse along to explore the city. From your comment, it sounds like you didn’t socialize much after the events of the day were over? If you had, I bet you’d sometimes see spouses at group dinners.

        2. Academic Addie*

          I generally prefer to travel alone, but recently having an infant too young to be separated from me for days on end, having my spouse along to handle the childcare while I’m working is great. I’ve had to do it a couple times without him, and I generally can’t expense a daytime nanny. Necessary? I don’t know. But allowing me to keep participating in scholarly activities I’d otherwise have to forgo? Absolutely.

          Done breastfeeding this month and really excited for it.

          1. Snark*

            I feel like this is a really excellent reason to bring a spouse, but it almost feels like the exception proving the rule.

            1. Academic Addie*

              Academia is a weird beast. Our salaries are low, and since we often travel on state or federal money, expenses are sharply controlled. So you get cost-cutting measures like bringing a spouse rather than hiring childcare.

            2. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I think Snark you are right there is usually no “need” to bring a spouse on a work trip. But I think it can be a nice perk to allow employees to bring a spouse. My partner has been to a few conferences in cool cities. I have never gone because the timing does not work with my job. But if I was able to I would absolutely do it. It is a nice perk to save some money on a trip by staying in the same hotel room as my partner. If I did travel I would pay my own way for transportation/food and all other expenses except for lodging.

          2. Lady Glitter Sparkles*

            I’ve had my mom meet me at my travel destination to watch my LO while I was in training. (My husband couldn’t afford to take off work.) That allowed me to continue brestfeeding and get some training for work. It was a short trip but since I was not expected to socialize outside of classroom time, my mom and I (along with the baby) were able to spend quality time together every evening.

            Hats off to you and congrats on your last month. It’s exciting and sad at the same time.

        3. Oryx*

          Well, I think part of the answer is how intrusive the partner is. I’ve traveled with colleagues and my spouse has flown out separate to join us, a day or two later, so he’s in the city and in my hotel room while I’m there but he knows that during the hours of X and Y he needs to keep himself entertained and then he and I do our own thing in the evenings. (He usually comes to cities where he has friends, so he just hangs out with them.) The only way my colleagues know he’s there is if I explicitly tell them.

          I’ve been on the reverse side, too, where a colleague’s partner also travels with them and they’ve never joined us for anything. If my coworker didn’t tell me so-and-so joined them, I would have had no idea.

        4. MsClaw*

          In my experience, it generally doesn’t matter to the people traveling with you. You are typically not getting to the travel location in the same vehicle (plane, car, whatever) with coworkers, may or may not stay at the same hotel with coworkers, and aren’t expected to socialize with coworkers when the work is done for the day. You might carpool to the job site and get lunch together, but you go your separate ways in the evening. As long as everyone shows up on time and does their work, it’s of zero consequence to me if their SO is along for the ride.

          Obviously, people’s mileage will vary on this, but I generally wouldn’t know whether a colleague’s spouse came along unless we ended up on the same flight or they invited me to dinner with them. Expectations and norms are going to vary wildly on this, I expect.

          1. iglwif*

            I once went to a thing with Ex!Boss and his spouse came along, and I was *ecstatic* about it — not because of her specifically, although she was nice and everything, but because they went out and did things in the evenings and because they were together, I didn’t have to feel even slightly guilty about not going with, and instead, after 8am-6pm days of Meeting New People and Trying to Sell Them Things, could go out and explore the cool city we were in all by my own self.

        5. Lucette Kensack*

          Who cares if it’s “completely welcomed” by those you’re traveling with? We all do lots of things that aren’t completely welcomed by our colleagues; aligning perfectly to their preferences is not the expectation. The question is whether it’s appropriate (in your field/role/etc.) and reasonable.

        6. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Yes, in some fields/situations. My partner has, multiple times, been specifically asked (even by people that don’t know me) whether he has/will be bringing a spouse/partner/family. I don’t attend the work events themselves, obviously, but I do go to dinner with my spouse and his colleagues, and other spouses (and even children) are almost always in attendance as well.

        7. AngryOwl*

          Yup. Many conferences I’ve been to have childcare and events for spouses/family members.

          My bosses have also invited my family out to social events that occur during the work event (dinners, parties, etc.).

          Industry wise, I’ve personally seen this across publishing and tech culture.

        8. Clisby*

          In plenty of cases, you wouldn’t be traveling with colleagues; you’d just be ending up in the same place. I haven’t traveled with my husband, but now that our son is almost 18 and perfectly capable of looking after himself for a couple of days, I probably will. (This would be for one of his infrequent trips to the Boston home office.) There wouldn’t be any need for work colleagues even to be aware I was there, since I wouldn’t be taking part in any after-hours work events. I’m an adult and can entertain myself in Boston. As long as we’re paying any extra cost, who cares?

        9. Calliope*

          The opinion of it being necessary doesn’t matter, and if the spouses do it within the workplace norms then its appropriate and either welcome by others or unknown by others. My kids and I travel with my husband (corporate finance) when he goes to New York, Chicago, and overseas or anywhere we want to visit. It’s great fun for me and my kids and my husband likes that we get to have a great experience because of him. We don’t attend work events or meals and rarely have we been noticed (for the most part only by another spouses and kids as we often end up booking the same tours especially overseas). We have our own schedule and pay for our things. Ideally the spouse/travel partner allows the employee to do all of their work related things without the spouse present if the spouse/travel partner can do that then there should be no issue.

        10. Antilles*

          It’s fairly common in engineering for conferences or job sites in interesting cities and I’ve never seen anyone have an issue with it.
          The key, however, is that the spouse isn’t with you a ton of the time (like OP was describing) and isn’t present at all during ‘work’ times. Instead, the spouse is expected to do their own thing during the day and just meets up in the evenings for dinner or weekends when you’d just be sitting in the hotel room alone anyways.

        11. Figgie*

          My spouse’s boss is always begging my spouse to bring me along. This is for conferences, classes and trips to the main office. I go sometimes and sometimes I stay home. But when I do go, I am with all of his co-workers and boss at every meal.

          I’m pretty sure that the main reason that they want me along is that they are all in IT and my spouse tells me that when I’m not there, everyone sits together and eats in silence. :) And I’m not usually the only spouse (and yes, there are stay at home husbands who accompany their wives).

          So, it is appropriate and I am completely welcomed by everyone. One of the advantages of my having lots of social skills and the ability (according to my spouse) to get a rock to talk enthusiastically to me. :)

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      In my husband’s industry, bringing the spouse is highly encouraged for the 2-3 main conferences each year. The conference website has an entire section dedicated to activities for the spouses and a lot of time and effort appears to go into it. I’ve only been able to attend one because of my work schedule and it was a great experience.

      1. Snark*

        That’s a minority of conferences, though, and conferences are only one reason to travel for work.

        And even at the conferences I’ve attended lately, taking full advantage of receptions and working groups and panel sessions means I might have seen my spouse, were she present, for maybe 30 minutes in the morning and 45 or so at night.

        1. Anna*

          You can only speak from your own experience of conferences. The ones you’ve attended spouses have not been around. What people are saying is it’s highly dependent on industry, departments within an specific industry, or company culture. So there is no one answer fits all here.

        2. CmdrShepard4ever*

          Snark yes there are other reasons for travel than conferences. If my partner were traveling for work (conference/client meeting/training) to a cool city I would be happy to use their hotel room as a free place to sleep and never see my spouse during the trip and just explore the city by myself.

      2. Loves Libraries*

        I’ve also traveled with my spouse to conferences. It’s been encouraged. Some of his coworkers have skipped out early from conference days to do family stuff though. Fortunately my spouse believes he should attend the conference his company is paying him to attend.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s industry-dependent *AND* also depends on the spouse being independent. I couldn’t imagine it if the spouse wasn’t eager to go off alone, just using the framework of the trip as a convenience!
      I grew up going with my mom on my dad’s business trips. We didn’t see him much — just breakfast, and then we’d head out to explore. Often we’d spend time with the wives & kids of his business contacts. (I’m old enough that I can’t remember a single married woman that he worked with.) For Mom&Dad it was a lark — we’d do the touristy things and give him the scoop at next morning’s breakfast. I seem to recall hotel babysitters, so probably she & he went out after my bedtime. I know my much-older sister still keeps in touch with one of his co-worker’s daughters, even though both fathers died long ago.
      Too bad I didn’t want to go into his industry…I’d have had a built-in network.

    4. ILoveNoodles*

      I think this is really industry specific. I’m still a student and haven’t encountered this in my own career but growing up my mother and I travelled to 2-3 conferences every year with my father, conferences where all of his colleagues from his company and most people from other companies in attendance brought spouses and often children along too. There were always group activities for the spouses and children and I even made friends with the children of other conference attendees from across the country and different countries that I’m still in contact with ~10 years later. When I was really young I would be babysat in our hotel room while my parents attended banquets, receptions and networking dinners in the evening, until I turned ~12 when I was expected to attend to. On the contrary, my mother traveled frequently for work as well but my father and I never went with her, as was normal in her industry.

    5. DAMitsDevon*

      Yeah, I generally agree, even though looking back to a few years ago, I did accompany my dad on a work trip when I had some time off between my old and new job. However, it was to a city with a lot of tourist attractions, so 1) kept myself busy when he had to work and thus didn’t interrupt any work related things he needed to do and 2) the only time I had a meal with him and any of of his coworkers was one dinner with a coworker who also happens to be friend of his outside of work, so they were already planning for the meal to be more casual. It’s probably not something I would do again now that I’m more aware of workplace norms, but if you’re absolutely set on accompanying a family on a business trip, you should be expecting to keep yourself busy all day.

    6. I will kill people with this cricket bat*

      Meh, I’ve gone on lots of work trips with my husband. Everything from driving to Montana to spending two weeks in Sardinia. This is very much a situation and industry dependent thing.

    7. Seifer*

      Eh, I did it with my ex. I had a conference in Vegas and he tagged along and did his own thing while we were there. I’m about to do the same thing with my current partner; he’s got a trip to Nashville and I’m going along. We’re just going to do stuff afterwards, I have no issue sleeping in and am perfectly happy poking around downtown by myself. Or just relaxing in the room until he’s done at the conference and then going out later. Or meeting up a friend that lives there or going to see my tattoo artist that moved down there.

      I don’t think it’s a… absolutely no not ever answer, so long as the spouse (or you as the spouse) doesn’t go along to the work part, just enjoys the trip part. But in OP’s case, yeah, that one’s a hard no.

    8. Polymer Phil*

      It depends on what you’re doing on the trip. If you’re going to be alone in the evenings and not expected to do business dinners, then there’s absolutely no reason why not as long as you don’t try to expense their meals. Some conferences have special badges for spouses that admit them to receptions and things like that.

      I’ve had some good experiences bringing my girlfriend when I expect to be free in the evenings, the destination is close enough for me to get reimbursed for car mileage rather than flying, and I’m going someplace where she can drop me off in the morning and entertain herself during the day.

    9. Engineer Girl*

      I agree. Most work trips are intense and focused. A spouse interferes with that intensity. Instead of going back to the hotel room to answer emails and prepare for the next day, people stay at the bar for drinks, go out, etc.

      This is about time and place.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        And by the way folks, conferences are NOT the same as work trips. They have different purposes.

        1. Qwerty*

          How is a conference not a work trip? It’s a trip that my job is requiring me to go to during work hours. That’s a work trip.

          Even for trips relating to business meetings with clients, it is incredible restrictive to expect employees to go back to their hotel and work through the entire evening. People still need to relax and have free time! Even when they don’t bring along a spouse they still have the option of going out to a bar or a movie or exploring the city. Expecting someone to be displaced for a week and also work during all waking hours is a recipe for burnout.

          The OP’s situation was not a good trip for a spouse to be on (especially since there wasn’t pre-approval), but its a big leap to jump to no spouses should ever be on work trips, while also modifying the definition of work trip.

          1. CheeryO*

            I think EG probably meant that work trips do not necessarily mean conferences, since there has been a lot of discussion of conferences in the comments.

            To your second point, that’s really industry-dependent. IME, it’s not unusual to have very limited downtime during work travel. There’s a reason why most people don’t like it – it’s exhausting.

          2. Engineer Girl*

            Conferences are about networking and short classes.
            Most work trips are project focused where you have a fixed about of work to do in a fixed amount of time.

            1. Lucette Kensack*

              There are just so many kinds of work trips, though.

              Here are some work trips (not conferences) I’ve taken:

              – Regular travel to a specific site. While I was there, I worked regular hours and had the same amount of downtime that I would have had at home.
              – Travel with a colleague to shadow them/have them shadow me, with an explicit professional development purpose
              – Travel to do a specific, discrete set of work (e.g. host an event, staff a table at an event, etc.)
              – Travel to meet with clients, with gaps in between meetings and evenings free
              – Travel for team retreats, where we were scheduled from 8 a.m. – 10 p.m.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              Conferences are one kind of work trip. If my company’s sending me, then I am absolutely working while I am there, be it enhancing my skills / knowledge or demonstrating company products and services. Customer engagement, project implementation, inventory counts – those some of the other kinds of work trips.

              I’m actually pretty boggled that you would consider conferences not work.

          3. Squeeble*

            A conference, if you’re attending it for work, is a work trip; a work trip is not always a conference.

        2. AngryOwl*

          Wait, how is a conference not a work trip?

          Even outside of conferences, my work trips have not been “intense and focused.” This is really industry/field specific.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            They are a form of work trip but are much more relaxed (unless you are presenting or teaching a class).
            Many work trips are targeted with a specific goal in mind. All resources focus toward that goal.

            1. AngryOwl*

              Ah. Yeah, I think this goes back to everything being industry/field specific — not everyone’s has those types of work trips.

      2. RandomU...*

        I go on a lot of work trips (annual travel is 25%-50%)… anything short of team off-sites and user conferences which explicitly include work/team dinners and activities, I spend time at the bar, watching tv, and doing anything that I would normally do at home when I’m done working.

        That being said, I think that after work dinners are good opportunities to get to know colleagues and build relationships and when needed prepare for the next day. But as you say… time and place. This doesn’t sound like this was that kind of trip.

        From the OP’s comments:
        I have a job that has an on-boarding program with a heavy emphasis on shadowing. This is normal in my industry and most seasoned professionals started their careers in this field by shadowing others. The work that we do is confidential, requires travel via long car trips, overnight stays at hotels, and long, demanding meetings that sometimes stretch into late nights. When shadowing, if it is a long enough car trip, people will often carpool. We stay in separate hotel rooms, but are together in the car and at meals and the conversations mostly focus on work, with the goal of imparting knowledge and sharing experiences.

        In other words, if this meeting was farther away or closer there wouldn’t have been a carpool. The OP didn’t mention that the spouse crashed a meeting or that they were anyway impeding the work needed for the work day. Sounds like the only thing that was impeded was imparting of knowledge and sharing experiences during off hours meals and drive times.

      3. Polymer Phil*

        I’ve found that my evenings are most likely to be free when I’m traveling for some reason other than a conference, such as a meeting at a sister site, supplier, or customer.

        That said, it sounds like your industry is one where you’re traveling for some project that doesn’t necessarily end at 5 PM. I’ve had those kind of trips too, and I definitely wouldn’t bring someone!

      4. Antilles*

        It really depends on the work trip and how much work you need to do in your ‘off’ hours. I’ve had plenty of trips in construction engineering where you only have a few minutes of email checking and paperwork at night after the field work for the day. So for a trip like that, I’m finding it really hard to see how “drinking alone at the hotel bar” (very common) is better for the company than “going to dinner with the spouse”.

    10. iglwif*

      I don’t think this is something it’s possible to be that categorical about.

      My stepdad’s an academic and often takes my mom along to conferences, which regularly have scheduled events for spouses such as excursions to local sites of historical or other interest (she once got to go see wildlife in Tasmania!!), so in academia bringing a spouse (who isn’t also going to the conference) along is clearly A Thing. One of my uncles is a doctor, same deal. I’ve also attended conferences in my field (publishing) where the registration form includes a box to tick if you’re buying a meals-only ticket for an accompanying person.

      Conferences are of course different from other kinds of work travel, like on-site training or consulting, where you will literally be on another company’s premises and said premises might be kind of out in the middle of nowhere. And since significant car travel was involved in OP’s trip, that sounds like it might be a bit of an out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere situation. But still — you don’t have to be on the clock 24/7 when you’re traveling for work if you wouldn’t be on the clock or on call 24/7 when *not* traveling, and this is definitely a case where norms vary by industry and locale.

      Also, work travel can be LONG. Sometimes people have to go work somewhere for weeks or months at a time, and if their spouse *can* travel with them (isn’t working, or can work remotely), why on earth not? There’s no reason that has to be a distraction. If it’s okay for the work-traveling person to Skype their spouse from wherever they’re staying, which it is except in really specific circumstances, surely it’s OK for them to spend time with their spouse in that same location?

      Obviously a company can decide they don’t want to allow employees’ spouses on work trips, for whatever reason, and that’s totally within their rights to do!, but a blanket “never take your spouse on a work trip, ever” seems over the top to me.

    11. Midwest writer*

      Maybe a slightly different situation, but before my husband and I got married, the newspaper I was working for decided to send me to a NASCAR race about three hours away. They offered a press pass for him and so we both went. I took the pics and wrote the stories, but he was there to keep me company (and got us a free place to stay with a friend of a cousin not terribly far from the speedway, which was a big bonus). Now, we didn’t travel with other people from work, but it was clearly a work trip and there was an expectation I’d work some and relax some, too.

    12. Luna*

      If it’s a trip where people have separate rooms, and the partner doesn’t interfere with the work stuff, and rules are clear on matters (does the employee’s meal get paid by the company, but not that of the partner; does the company agree to pay meals of an employee up to a certain amount of money, regardless of how many people are actually eating; etc), then I don’t see the problem.

    13. TeapotNinja*

      I’ve brought my partner with me on several work related trips. She does her own thing during when I’m working, and we spend time together after work. It’s completely acceptable, if your partner isn’t interfering with work, and you pay for extra travel costs yourself.

  3. AngryOwl*

    I am generally very pro-allowing spouses on work travel. But this is just odd to me. Definitely curious about the “If letting you shadow is a favor to begin with” part. It could be that coworker has a very different understanding of the point of this shadowing than you do.

    I will admit that this also seems like hell to me, as someone who definitely needs downtime during work travel. But I don’t think you’re offbase in being put off, OP.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I agree it seems that OP is taking the job shadowing to mean every part of the business trip, including the down time. If I were the senior coworker I would interpret the job shadowing as shadowing the official parts of the trip meetings with clients. Even if my spouse was not on the trip I would definitely not want to talk shop during the drive and at meals. Honestly after having to spend long days in work mode, and a long car drive with a co-worker I would want to have dinner by myself. Also the backseat of most 4 door trucks might not have as much legroom as the front but tend to be pretty roomy especially if you are by yourself in the back and usually are meant to fit 3 or 4 people in the back. I would caution OP to really analyze if the shadowing is truly meant to be for the entire trip or really just for the actual work time, but others have just happened to impart more unofficial information.

      1. Asenath*

        I took the letter at face value, assuming that shadowing meant work all the time, as much as I would hate such a setup. The more I think about it, the more I agree with CmdrShepard4ever – the shadowing may not include conversations during the drive there and all meals.

  4. savannnah*

    This could very easily be the case where the seasoned professional is past the point of remembering these shadow opportunities and now sees work travel with their spouse as part of their benefits. Is the LW being officially mentored by this senior coworker? Or is it much more unofficial? The coworker may just not expect that all of their time in between official work is going to be mentoring a junior coworker.

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      I agree. I think this is an issue of perceptions clashing.

      That being said, the confidential nature of the work makes me lean towards no spouses in this case.

      1. Gov Worker*

        Me too. Why is he or she weighing in on confidential matters? That’s the biggest thing that gave me pause besides being forced to carpool everywhere together.

    2. Academic Addie*

      The conference I attend every summer has a long-standing mentor program where a junior person is paired to a senior person to network and all that. We ended up having to publish guidelines for the mentors because they all had such different expectations about time spent, what they’d do, etc. I like Allison’s response because it gets at that conflict non-judgmentally. When these requirements aren’t formal, they get murky.

  5. AnnaRie*

    Not that it really matters but why the assumption that the spouse is female and the colleague is male? I re-read the letter a few times and the LW was very careful to remain gender neutral the entire time.

    1. Annnnonymous*

      For the sake of simplicity. The genders of the people in this story have no relevance to the story and this complaint about gender assumption does not contribute to solving the problem the LW is presenting.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        It’s not ‘simplicity’. Simplicity would be ‘they’. There’s a good, valid reason why Alison’s changing it.

      2. Ashley*

        Unless the driver co-worker has the Mike Pence rule. Then genders do matter and the conversation shifts.

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Alison defaults to ‘she’ for *managers* when gender is unknown, not for spouses.

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      AnnaRie: Rock on. It’s def damaging to men who want to be at-home.

      I am regularly reassured that times are changing. I grew up knowing only one ‘house husband’ (my uncle, primary caregiver for 4 kids) but now I know 5 households where men are in the non-traditional career roles. Three hetero, with the wife as the traditional bread earner, two gay households. The men in non-traditional roles are house caretakers, primary child care, or pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities (eg, one’s a realtor). It’s refreshing.

  6. Malarkey01*

    I may be reading too much into the letter, but OP stated this was an “on boarding” shadowing process. If that means that OP is new to the firm and new to the industry, I would proceed with a little more caution. Is it possible that your expectation of shadowing was different than your senior mentors’ plan? Were they planning to include you in work meetings but not actually planned to eat all meals together? Was the carpool for convenience or is that the company process and you are required to carpool? If all of these were more at the discretion of the travelers I think pushing back on them will be seen as pushing back on how your senior mentor spends his downtime which could go over badly.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      I read that differently, that ‘on boarding’ shadowing is common, not that *this* trip was on boarding.

      I took that to mean ‘shadowing is common in my industry and there are certain norms around it’ not ‘I needed to shadow this person and learn from them.’

      1. Malarkey01*

        Maybe, she mentioned there was an on-boarding program with a heavy shadowing component so I’d assume she’s still in the on-boarding process which could be months long.

      2. EPLawyer*

        That’s what I took from it too. The OP sets up that this is what happens in her industry. That shadowing is going everywhere with the senior person and working hard ALL the time on trips. Which made this so weird.

        That’s why I got confused by Alison’s answer. It seems this is how its done, not that the co-worker was doing a favor. From the letter it appears co-worker was ignoring the norms and and OP had no idea how to handle it. Boss seemed surprised spouse was on the trip, so that is definitely not the norm nor was it approved.

    2. boo bot*

      Yeah, I actually initially misunderstood the situation as the letter writer being the one in the mentoring capacity until I got to “my senior colleague,” because it reads as if she is familiar with the industry and has done a number of these trips.

      I’m curious how much of her knowledge of what this was supposed to look like comes from experience and/or explicitly stated expectations, and how much might have been a miscommunication.

      Regardless, another way to frame this in your mind if it happens again, OP, is that socializing with people senior to you, even (and perhaps especially) with their spouses present, is a valuable form of networking. It might not have been what you expected, but it’s still a good thing to have senior colleagues think of you as a pleasant person to have dinner with.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I wonder if senior employee didn’t think of this as a shadowing situation…

      2. Gov Worker*

        A spouse not in their industry isn’t helpful though. Also she mentions confidential matters so why in the world was senior mentor talking about work stuff with spouse present?

  7. Batgirl*

    It might be worth asking the colleague if he can add on specific mentoring time to make up for the lack of informal mentoring. So, if last time you all breakfasted together 8-9, why don’t you breakfast separately at 7.30 (I mean they’re not even getting couple time together) and get a catch up coffee with your mentor at 8.30 before the day starts. Instead of unplanned chat while carpooling together, book in a focused meeting to calibrate pre or mid or post trip if possible.
    I think if you avoid making claims on anything he would see as his ‘off time’ (he may have thought including you was polite rather than expected) and just focus on getting what you need as a coworker it doesn’t have to be fraught.

  8. ABK*

    If this won’t change, might be worth adjusting your expectations for the next trips and not have meals with them and bring headphones for the car ride so that you don’t feel like the third wheel.

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      I do kind of wonder how much the carpooling is actually because of a corporate preference for saving money, and any work-related conversations are seen as “bonus – they have time to talk together too!” But then, I also wonder why the long-distance travel is by car rather than plane, and maybe OP is in a part of the country where that’s more the norm because they aren’t in (to pick an example from my personal life) a major metro area with multiple airports to choose among.

  9. LJackson*

    Since the person is new, having a conversation with their boss about a work trip is normal, and mentioning an extra person is appropriate. Managers need to know if something occurred that wasn’t anticipated.

    When going on a work related trip by car, there is an expectation that work will be a major topic of conversation. The spouse was clearly the 3rd wheel and should have been in the back seat to help facilitate the work aspect of the trip (reason they were there). If they were in a company car, there may be liability issues with having someone other than an employee in the car without prior authorization.

    I would have felt like I missed a prime opportunity with a co-worker.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      Expectations around work trip carpooling are different in different industries, and even across / within companies. Not expecting someone to be working during their ‘down time’ is ok.

      I’d probably set up a 30 – 60 minute meeting with the coworker to debrief, but it really should be ok to do that during working hours, instead of during ‘off time’ like the commute or dinner.

      1. Alexander*

        This might also differ by industry and country, but for example, my travel time (either as driver or passenger in a vehicle) is PAID time. As in 100% paid time, if I’m traveling for 6 hours, I get paid 6 hours – either because I drove (“worked”), or because I was not able to utilize that time for my own devices (“down time”), due to being forced to be in a very specific, business related situation (The only difference it makes that the driving is written down as “time worked” on my timesheet, and the time being a passenger as “travel”, as one counts against mandatory brake and rest laws (and overtime laws), the other does not).

        So the expectation usually is that as you get paid anyway, you at least put in a bit of work for example by having work-related conversations, doing email, or anything of the sort…

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          You’re paid for travel time because it’s the law. You’re preforming a duty for your employer, the duty is transporting yourself to a separate location.

          This would be the same as if you had to share an office with your colleague. Then your colleague expecting you to chat with them about work all day long.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Is it the law in the states? How is that supposed to work?

            An ex-employer always made sure we traveled at night so they wouldn’t have to pay us (if the travel time wasn’t during our regular shift, it didn’t have to be paid—or so they said?). Fun times working with a client for a few days, then taking a red eye (or driving overnight!), getting home and sleeping for like 4 hours before having to get up again and be expected to show up for a full day of work.

    2. Roscoe*

      I don’t know that I’d assuming that if you are carpooling that you have to talk about work. If that is the case, why is it limited to going by car? If you are flying, couldn’t you theoretically have that same expectation? But my main point is, to me, the trasnportation to the place isn’t expected to be work talk all the time

      1. Kimmybear*

        This is why I never sit next to coworkers on the plane. Heck, I try not to even be on the same plane :) If we aren’t talking about work, is there really enough other stuff that I want to talk to coworker about?

        1. iglwif*

          For me that depends entirely on the co-worker ;), but yeah, I love my alone-on-the-plane time.

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        If they are alone in the car they can talk about work stuff, but probably not on a plane or other public transport where other people could hear it. OP said their work is very confidential so probably any relevant work details would be stuff they can’t let outsiders hear. On the other hand, if that’s the case then why are they talking about work when having meals, presumably in a restaurant?

    3. RandomU...*

      That’s interesting. I’m not sure that I’d agree that work conversation in a long car ride would be the default.

      I default to ‘No Spouse/friend/family on work trips’ but that being said, I’m not sure that it’s up to the mentee to adhere to the default expectation on this. It wasn’t mentioned, but I’m assuming the spouse didn’t attend specific work functions but instead ‘encroached’ on the optional outside of work times (the driving and meals).

      I guess to sum up, my advice for the OP is to readjust expectations if they travel with this person again.

      1. Important Moi*

        What? Being in the car with a co-worker and only discussing work for every single minute of the ride doesn’t sound appropriate and enjoyable to you? You may be an odd bird in these parts …

    4. iglwif*

      I like to sit up front in cars, if I have to ride in a car, so I don’t get so carsick, but if for some reason I’m riding in a car on a work trip, I certainly don’t expect the conversation to be entirely, or even mostly, about work! Obviously some of it will be, kind of inevitably, but I’ve found travel conversations tend to be a lot more wide-ranging, and that’s usually great–you can learn a lot about people that will make working together easier. If a colleague and I genuinely had nothing else we could talk about besides work (and I did have a boss like that once…), and we ran out of work to talk about, that would be an excruciatingly awkward car trip.

      I’m not saying everyone should feel free to bring their spouse along whenever–and if you are doing that, you should obviously tell your colleague/s about it beforehand–but car/train/plane travel can be “down time” rather than “work time” and that’s okay! People need downtime, especially on work trips.

    5. Name Required*

      I tend to agree with LJackson, based on my experience of work trips. When I traveled with coworkers to long meetings, time in the car typically was part of the prep and debriefing time — if you’re traveling for long stretches, having hours long meeting, it’s really inconvenient to ask to schedule prep and debrief time on top of that outside of the paid time you already have together. Of course, that was specific to my work and company culture. No one would have brought a spouse for a hours long car trip, because it was obvious that it was work time.

      Outside of expectations, I think it’s really rude that they asked coworker to sit in the back of a truck cab for an hours long trip. Those areas tend to have hard seats with limited leg room, and where did the luggage go?

      1. Gov Worker*

        Just finished a week long travel trip with colleagues and I was exhausted by them not talking about anything but work stuff and why weren’t they promoted. Best part of trip was plane rides.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Luggage is presumably in the back of the truck. I’m picturing a pickup with a cap over the bed.

    6. Samwise*

      I just last week carpooled to a conference with several colleagues. We discussed work issues for about 10 – 15 minutes on the drive out, chatted sociably or looked out the window for the remaining two hours; on the drive back, we had more to say about work as we had gone to different sessions. But still, most of our drive time was not focused on work topics. We’d been working all day!

  10. Oogie*

    It was really rude for this person to bring their spouse without thinking about how awkward this would be for LW. It was probably awkward for the spouse too if they have any sense.

  11. Jimming*

    “Riding in the back seat of a four-door truck with an uncomfortable seat while the spouse rode in front”

    That sounds awful. Can you not carpool next time if you travel with this person again? To me, that would feel more awkward than the spouse joining meals. I’d feel like a third wheel – or a kid who has to sit in the back.

    1. Psyche*

      Yeah, I would push back hard not the carpooling. Sitting in the back seat of a truck is extremely uncomfortable.

    2. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I have been in many trucks both 4 door and 2 door trucks. The 2 doors do have the hassle of trying to get in and tend to be a bit smaller, but 4 door trucks for the most part tend to be pretty roomy especially if there is only one person in the back. Most 4 door truck back seats are usually meant to fit 3 or 4 people. But the sitting in the back thing would be an issue with a car still. Personally I would love to sit in the back by myself on a longer work car trip, I would feel less inclined to make conversation and be able to sleep/read/podcast/netflix without being rude. But I do see from the OP’s point of view of being able to talk shop and mentoring this is not ideal.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        Most back seats in trucks don’t have any recline. They are bolt upright (painful). They are bench seats and don’t have bucket indents (something passenger cars have). They have way less padding.

  12. moql*

    I actually disagreed with a lot of this. Ask a coworker to sit in the backseat of a four door truck? No. Those seats are technically there, but they’re not as comfortable and not reasonable for a multi-hour drive.

    Spouse talking about confidential information? Hard no!!! Why did coworker think that was appropriate?

    Finally, while it is exhausting to be always on for a mentoring trip, it might very well be expected for the industry. Boss being surprised and unhappy points to that being the case. I’ve been in a similar situation and I would have been really disappointed to miss out on all the extras if my mentor had brought a spouse. It’s not that we talked about work all the time, but I got a lot of informal info such as how to manage certain industry personalities and get around expected beaucratic issues that are official onboarding information but are nonetheless invaluable. Having a spouse there would have meant less of that suff would come up organically. Just because it sounds exhausting doesn’t mean it’s unreasonable for the letter written to be expecting a full trip of mentoring.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      There’s other issues.
      • The work trip was for OP and coworker. But OP got the back seat, which is a secondary position. It’s harder to hear and participate in conversations in the back seat. Since the spouse isn’t part of the trip, the spouse should get secondary positions
      • I also have a huge NO on having confidential conversations with spouse present. This seems to be a security breach to me and the most actionable.
      • The spouse took time away from the purpose of the trip. The meals were used for discussion but weren’t (that said, I agree that you shouldn’t have such conversations in restaurants).

      The biggest problem I see is that coworker gave more WORK resources to wife than to OP. It interfered with the trip.

    2. iglwif*

      The sharing of confidential info with the spouse is the one thing that seems SUPER problematic to me here. Everything else, hey, varies by industry, everyone needs downtime, etc., etc., but that’s just a big fat nope.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        Me too. I’m surprised (although actually not) by how much people here are fixating on the back seat instead of the confidentiality issues. I mean, back seats often aren’t as comfortable as the front, but it’s not like OP sat on an overturned bucket.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Okay, but the OP was uncomfortable enough that it was an issue for them, so…?

        2. RandomU...*

          I may have been off in my take on the OP, but I read it as they didn’t have the opportunity to discuss confidential things because of the spouse. Or that their work involved confidential material not that they necessarily discussed it with the spouse around.

          Granted, if it’s that confidential then it shouldn’t be discussed in a public restaurant but I guess the car would be fair game.

          1. Middle School Teacher*

            Yes, exactly. I guess I just feel like people here are focusing on the wrong issue. Plus they did say that at dinner the spouse weighed in on work issues and gave their opinion. How confidential are we talking, here?

    3. Yikes*

      The comfort of the backseat can really vary from truck to truck. Backseat in a quad-cab Silverado? No problem. Backseat in a 3/4 cab Dodge? Horrible.

    4. Drax*

      Yeah I was kinda on this. I’ve gone on trips where the expectation is long days with another coworker (usually for a hand off/ secondary position). Those trips were usually from 7 AM Breakfast to 8-9 PM Dinners you were working with this person, and down time was after dinner – barring any customer/vendor requirements. Dinner was usually used as a wrap up with that vendor(s) before we saw the next set the following day, and if we had dinner with the vendor we’d grab a drink back at the hotel to do the wrap up before bed. Exhausting, but the point was for me to learn enough to do these on my own. I would have been so mad if they had brought a spouse as those days were long enough without having to work around an outside person.

      My partner went on some buying trips with his work for a mentoring thing and it was 7 AM to 11 PM (sometimes later – it’s fashion) working with his senior coworker and vendors. He literally had time to get ready in the morning, and brush his teeth at night to himself. They shared a room too.

  13. StaceyIzMe*

    This is an agenda that’s simply at cross-purposes. If you’re carpooling, you’re entitled to a reasonable seat. So if the back seat is uncomfortable, then you go get your car, gas it up and go. It’s not nearly as disruptive as springing an “oh, my spouse is coming along this time” on an unsuspecting coworker. As for the “bonus” of shadowing another person and talking shop- I think you let that go under the guise of “nun-ya-biz”. You don’t know if the spouse is ill, if they are hoping to make a contact on the trip that might lead to a job… In other words, you don’t know what you DON”T know. And I think this is where your sense of things having been “off” is coming up after the fact. You didn’t change your plans in response to the change in your coworker’s plans and were stuck compensating for the difference. But- you could have elected to travel solo, met for meals occasionally and scheduled business related time slots as needed to cover business topics. You didn’t, understandably. (But next time, maybe act on your own behalf. A little earlier and a little more decisively. Then you’re not going to care who travels with whom, in all likelihood. You could have even opted to rent a car and travel home that way. It’s an expense, but your boss might have approved it under the circumstances. Or perhaps the peace of mind would have been worth it.) I know it can seem a bit hostile to go “oh, hello…. no, I won’t be riding with you after all”. But it’s your coworker who has set the scene up for this by not affording you a “heads up”. Any little awkwardness of fallout is on him. (If you needed an excuse, anything from “time to think” to “don’t ride well in the back” would do.)

    1. Engineer Girl*

      As for the “bonus” of shadowing another person and talking shop- I think you let that go under the guise of “nun-ya-biz”. You don’t know if the spouse is ill, if they are hoping to make a contact on the trip that might lead to a job… In other words, you don’t know what you DON”T know.

      Then you do it on your own dime, not the company. And that includes company compensation for the use of your vehicle. At minimum, coworker should have sought permission to bring spouse on a company sponsored (paid for) trip. Otherwise it’s misuse of company resources.

      1. RandomU...*

        Huh?

        How is it misuse of company resources? They drove, 3 people in a car does not cost any more than 2 people. 2 people in a hotel room doesn’t cost any more than 1 person in a hotel room. The only thing that could cost more is meals, but that’s generally not hard to split out the non work member.

        I think most companies have the policy or general understanding that non employees can travel with employees but employees are responsible for any extra costs incurred and those extra costs can’t be reimbursed.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          It’s misuse because the spouse interfered with work discussions. When on travel you are being PAID for your time. Spouse interfered with work.
          The driving time wasn’t down time. It was paid time.

          And 2 people in a hotel room does cost more than one.

          1. RandomU...*

            No, I’m salaried, but that doesn’t mean that I’m misusing company resources if I don’t work into the wee hours of the night when I’m traveling. Just like at home, I get to have downtime.

            Maybe location has something to do with being charged for extra people (?) but I can’t remember being charged for my spouse at any hotel I’ve stayed at. (just checked, at least at marriott there is not a difference between 1 adult and 2 in the reservation price)

            1. AngryOwl*

              >>Just like at home, I get to have downtime.

              Yup. Even if I travel alone, I’m not going to my hotel room after 10-12 hours of being “on” and doing more work. I’m starfishing the bed and watching HGTV.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              Hunh – every hotel room I’ve been in charges a base rate for the room + a small additional fee for each person above the first. That’s been my experience in hotels for 40 years. But for work trips, the employee / spouse just pay the additional cost.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Is this in the U.S.? Because I’ve never seen 2 people charged more than 1 person either.

              2. CmdrShepard4ever*

                I have seen some hotels charge more for more people, but I think I have only seen it if you want to have more than 4 people in a room with 2 beds and need to order a cot/rollaway bed.

                I have seen higher rates for a hotel room that can accommodate more people for example:
                single king room for 2 is $100
                double queen room for 4 is $150
                double queen w/sleeper sofa for 6 is $200

                but all the rooms I’ve seen come standard with 2 person occupancy on a king bed.

            2. Cat Fan*

              Yeah, I have never seen a charge for a second person any where in the world I have traveled. I fail to see how the spouse going on the trip cost the company anyting. It really just was an inconvenience and awkward situation for the letter writer.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I agree with RandomU, unless senior coworker had the company pay for the spouses food it does not seem there were any misuse of funds. If anything my guess from the letter is that the truck was the senior coworkers personal vehicle (it would seem odd to rent that kind of vehicle and more expensive), I would guess that mileage for the truck might be cheaper than renting a car and paying for the gas. If it is a personal vehicle I can understand why the spouse rode in the front.

    2. Name Required*

      It’s not OP’s job to worry about their coworker’s spouse missing out on opportunities during their own work trip. That’s utterly bizarre.

      It’s completely normal for people to talk in the car about work and not about work. Some folks talk about work as minimally as possible, but I’ve yet to encounter an hours long carpooling trip that included zero work discussion.

      Have you ever traveled for work, had to have work expenses preapproved, work within a budget, or expense travel costs? Your suggestions make it seem as if you’ve never traveled for work before. Some of them are impractical (i.e. don’t like the car, just take your own!) and some are rude (i.e. just let your coworker feel like they’re being rude when they bring their spouse by declining to travel with them). These are not good suggestions for people who have to get travel pre-approved, have to travel on a budget, or who want to foster good relationships with senior coworkers.

    3. Samwise*

      If you’re carpooling, you’re entitled to a reasonable seat. So if the back seat is uncomfortable, then you go get your car, gas it up and go.

      Well, sure, if your car is right there AND if you are allowed to use your car — I work for a university, we have to get prior approval to get reimbursed for travel costs, which could be substantial for driving: gas and parking, for starters. In many big cities, parking at the hotel is $$$$$$. This may be the case for the OP too, if they are expected to carpool.

      1. valentine*

        Well, sure, if your car is right there AND if you are allowed to use your car
        Also, it’s possible OP only knew about the spouse when they showed up on the day and picked OP up. A lot of people would find these concerns this petty because the more the merrier and they’re never made to sit in the back, much less uncomfortably. There are a lot of good examples above about how the carpooling may have made separate meals impossible.

        I don’t understand the insistence the colleague wanted downtime or OP shouldn’t have expected so much shop talk. The colleague may well have brought their spouse as a chaperone and limiting shop talk to lunch seems inordinately restrictive for a work trip.

  14. Angwyshaunce*

    Regarding whether it’s appropriate for the colleague to have brought their spouse (as some comments here are suggesting), I look at the boss’s reaction of surprise as an indication that it’s not, or at least not normal.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      I wouldn’t read much into a second hand account of boss’s reaction. Boss could be surprised that a spouse had free time to go or something like that. It’s not actually ‘normal’ to have spouses go on work trips – spouses usually have their own lives / work to do. But ‘not normal’ doesn’t automatically mean ‘not appropriate’.

    2. Drax*

      Another thing I’m seeing is that a lot of people are saying it’s appropriate for conferences but conferences and business travel are not always the same thing. I used to do vendor meetings in other city’s often, and it would most definitely be wildly inappropriate to have brought a spouse.

      But we were always explicitly told when spouses were allowed and if it wasn’t specifically mentioned it was a not allowed.

  15. Mangoes do not grow here*

    I’m surprised by this advice. If this is a travel heavy job and the spouse can go along without adding expense for the employer, there is nothing wrong with them joining the trip. Travel doesn’t mean 24 hours a day are dedicated; it means you are doing your job from a different location.
    Maybe this is industry specific?

    1. Overeducated*

      It may be. Where I work, it requires at least disclosure (and possibly review and permission) because it could potentially be an ethical issue, depending on the details.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      Most of the time I would agree with you. I think what makes this a bit different is the fact that OP was specifically shadowing the coworker as part of her training and there were certain expectations attached to that travel. I don’t know how much of the expectations were an assumption by the OP about how they would use that time but the letter seemed to indicate that her expectations were based on an industry norm that she had experienced before.
      The ride-share and meals with spouse was another thing that struck me as odd. Usually travel time with coworkers IS used for work talk. Reviewing presentations they have to give or determining who will attend which discussions as well as the post-meeting dinner to compare notes and discuss the tomorrow agenda.
      Most work travel isn’t simply “doing your job from a different location” at least in my experience. There are certain expectations regarding networking and availability that are outside the normal 9-5 especially if the travel is due to a conference or a trade show. Training or visiting another site might be more along the lines of what you are thinking vs what my experience has been.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        this a bit different is the fact that OP was specifically shadowing the coworker as part of her training and there were certain expectations attached to that travel.

        Exactly. OP did not revive the full training that the company paid for. Some of those resources were redirected to the spouse. Then it becomes an ethics issue.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          While based on the bosses reaction it is seems that senior coworker misjudged being able to bring spouse on the trip without an issue, if it is the case then senior coworker made a mistake/misstep. But calling it an ethics issue I think is taking it to far. Based on the letter there does not seem to be company money spent on the spouse. The only resource that might have been misspent is the senior coworkers time. Yes OP did not get the extra time to talk shop during the car ride or during meals, but unless the company specifically has a policy of training new people during this time and the company essentially claiming all of someones time during a trip this was not company resources but rather a personal coworker resource. Senior coworker could have decided to eat alone, or told OP they did not want to talk about work during the car ride, if that was the case I don’t think the company would consider it an ethical violation to no do so.

    3. neeko*

      OP’s boss was surprised that the spouse came along so I doubt there is “nothing wrong” in OP’s office.

    4. CheeryO*

      Must be industry specific. For me, work travel means 8+ hours of work, then long dinners and drinks with coworkers. I’m lucky if I can get eight hours of sleep and squeeze in a workout. It would be truly bizarre to bring a spouse along, because they’d be on their own almost the entire time.

    5. Someone Else*

      I think a key here is the “shadowing” part. In my industry it’s two very different things for someone to be on a project, alone, where they need to travel and go to client sites and work in the day in some other city. With approval, they could probably bring a spouse on that sort of trip as long as they kept spouse activity totally separate from work activity. But if you’re on a shadowing trip, part of the point of the trip is teaching the other person how these trips go. So there is a certain amount of “not actually at the site right now” work happening. The carpool time would be used to prep on the way over or recap on the way back, in a way that’s not at all necessary if this were even just a 2-person work trip. While it’s very reasonable people want down time, and they should have it, on a shadowing/training trip, it is unreasonable to assume every moment not with the client (or at the work site as applicable) is one’s own. It would be on a normal working trip, but if someone was sent to shadow you, it’s seems the nature of the beast that you’re giving them extra info, extra context, extra attention, outside of the hours when you’re literally doing the work itself. Not necessarily every minute of the downtime, but some of it? So if what happened were every moment not with the client were spouse-time, and due to the confidential nature of things, automatically not-work time, I do think the senior person probably dropped the ball a little. It might be fine for them to have brought the spouse along, and maybe the “correct” way to do this trip is something in between what actually happened and OP’s expectations, but I do think there’s a significant difference in how a regular-everybody’s-fully-trained-and-working work trip and a shadowing-to-train-someone-not-used-to-the-trips work trip.

      1. wheezy weasel*

        Agree, and especially if the shadowing is the only time remote workers come into contact with a colleague or peer. I just left a job where the ramp-up time for a new consultant was 6 months and involved at least 3 shadow trips, and it was very much as you were describing: every minute that the two consultants spent talking about the company, the project or the client was something that directly benefitted the new person. If the travel schedule is really heavy, those same shadowing-type conversations would not have been able to be happen in a videoconference or via email. I’ve had consultants ‘kicked out of the nest’ with 12 weeks of experience in the product after shadowing and then do solo client visits the following week.

    6. Rainy days*

      I see no problem with bringing a spouse, but I would ask my boss for permission first. Bringing a spouse would always impact the trip in at least a minor way (even if just availability of car seats), so I’d want to have the okay. Early on in my job, I asked to bring my spouse on a trip and was told no; now that my boss knows and trusts me, she has no problem with it. The fact that the boss was surprised seems to be the biggest problem here.

  16. Marthooh*

    I think OP can at least say something about the vehicle. Riding in the back seat of a four-door pickup? Noooooooo.

    1. Me*

      4 door pickups are generally as roomy as another other type of four-door vehicle. I’m not sure what the objection would be other than I didn’t like that your spouse came along.

      OP states people often carpool but not that it’s a requirement.

      I sympathize with them but a lot of this seems to be a matter of preference and expectations that aren’t shared nor required.

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        I can’t speak to how trucks are, but I can say that there are a LOT of kinds of vehicle where the back seats are not as comfortable as the front seats. It’s not about leg room, it’s about seat cushioning. And given how many cars never have any passengers at all, it kinda makes sense. (That said, when I bought my current car I sat in all the seats because I didn’t want that for my occasional passengers.)

      2. RandomU...*

        That’s what I was wondering… I guess the type of pickup would be relevant here, but honestly I’d prefer sitting in the back of some of the extended cab pickups over the back seat of some of the economy cars I’ve been in.

        “I sympathize with them but a lot of this seems to be a matter of preference and expectations that aren’t shared nor required.”

        I think this sums up my thoughts on the letter.

      3. Psyche*

        The back seat of a 4 door pickup has always been rather small in my experience. I’m guessing there is wide variation by model.

      4. madge*

        I wondered about the four-door truck, too. My husband has a huge King Ranch SomethingOrOther truck and the back is larger and plusher than many luxury cars. I’m no truck aficionado, though, so it could be abnormal.
        I definitely feel for OP; it’s frustrating when expectations differ, especially when you’re really looking forward to a benefit that doesn’t materialize.

      5. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yeah, they might be roomy, but that doesn’t mean they’re comfy. My family got a ride to the airport from a family member who drives a huge pickup, and the back seat was bigger than that of my SUV, and it was still a very, very unpleasant experience.

  17. animaniactoo*

    Hmmmm. Reading through this, I think that the point you want to make is not to object to the spouse being along, but rather to say that with the spouse along, there was no one-on-one time. Which you could really have used to discuss work stuff that would have been inappropriate to discuss either on the job or in front of the spouse. And then ask to figure out a way to resolve that – it doesn’t have to be specifically during the meals or during the carpool, even though those feel like the natural points for that. It usually happens then because that’s what people who are work traveling together do, so that’s what most people are used to – but it doesn’t have to be limited to that.

    If you have a specific debriefing session for a half hour or so after dinner, or even after you’re back in the office (if you can take notes, and don’t feel you’d be losing too much “recent memory”), you gain the benefit you’re lacking without putting the colleague on the spot about having the spouse there on the work trip.

    1. ManageHer*

      Was coming to say this, and I’m surprised the suggestion isn’t farther up in the comments. Schedule a 30-60 minute briefing session for each day of the trip (or after the full trip, whatever makes the most sense).

      That’s smart to do even if a spouse doesn’t come along – a 2-3 day trip where every conversation was solely about work would be exhausting even if the trip’s purpose was mentoring. Give yourself and your senior co-worker a break at mealtimes to talk about non-work things if you want.

      As an aside, discussing confidential matters in a restaurant is actually pretty bad practice, particularly when you’re on travel in a a city where you don’t know who might care about the information discussed. All the more reason to schedule a conference-room debrief.

      1. Anon for this*

        I came to make the same comment about confidential talk in public places. We can absolutely *not* do that. Never mind in front of spouses. It’s a *huge* deal in some industries.

    2. Drax*

      I disagree with this. I don’t think it’s fair that on a work trip you have to forfeit your personal down time to accommodate their spouse, they have the option of being there and you don’t. If it’s a standard work day (9-5) then yes an extra half hour is reasonable, but a lot of business travel is long days which makes it unfair to force someone else to accommodate your spouse.

      Meals (and driving) are typically used as the debriefing/planning time before you are free for the night. It’s the norm for a reason.

      1. Name Required*

        Yeah, second this. It would be really frustrating to me to have to drive six hours, have a four meeting, and then need to plan an hour before (for prep) and an hour after (debriefing) because Coworker’s Spouse, someone I don’t work with at all, has decided to come along and we can’t discuss work in the car or at dinner.

  18. Oryx*

    I work for a company that is very pro-bringing significant others on work trips and this would absolutely not fly. Heck, I’ve traveled with one co-worker whose partner came along. The partner also works for our company and he still didn’t join us for any of the actual “work” portions of the business trip, including meals. I’ve brought my spouse on trips and he knows he’s on his own for certain hours of the day.

    That said, it does sound like a difference in expectations regarding the shadowing and onboarding process. But I do think the car situation is weird — you should not be made to feel like a third wheel and stuck in the back. If this is truly a work trip, the spouse should have offered to sit back there so you could sit up front with your colleague. I would still consider travel time like that work time and you should have had an opportunity to participate in some mentoring/shadowing during the drive.

  19. CupcakeCounter*

    I think there is a huge difference between the situation the OP described and more traditional work travel where having a spouse attend is perfectly fine.
    OP specifically said that the job shadowing and mentoring were a big part of the industry and her training. The boss’ reaction confirms (to me) that bringing a spouse on this particular trip should not have happened. Had the coworker not been in the mentor/trainer role that would completely change my opinion but in this instance having the spouse attend was not the right call.

    1. Still_searching*

      Agreed, the OP seems to know the industry standard, and boss’ reaction confirmed. would love an update letter on this one please

  20. LaDeeDa*

    The only thing that is weird to me is the spouse chiming in when the discussion did turn to work. My husband travels with me sometimes, if he joined me and my colleagues for a meal and work came up he wouldn’t dream of saying anything.
    My only suggestion is to level set expectations and ask the colleague if one meal- maybe breakfast, could be used for some of the mentoring time you were hoping to get.

    1. RandomU...*

      I wouldn’t read too much into the offering things during the meal work discussions. It could be anything from general information/anecdotes to sharing industry related news. It doesn’t mean, “Oh so you say that Fergus is having problems with the TPS reports. You should have Fergus do x, w, or z instead”. In fact since it sounds like the spouse isn’t involved in the industry at all I’d lean more into generalized ‘chatter’ which probably would be unrelated. “Oh, I read this article about the effects of too many reports in the workplace and how they lead to carpal tunnel syndrome for the recipients.”

  21. Murphy*

    Is there a chance OP and co-worker are of different genders and co-worker is uncomfortable being alone with a person of a different gender, bringing their spouse along as a “chaperone”?

    1. ABK*

      So UNLIKELY and super unnecessary/inappropriate! I believe there was another AAM letter about someone not wanting to travel with someone of the opposite gender.

    2. engineermommy*

      I think this is an important question. If the co-worker brought their spouse along for this reason, and if they only bring their spouse along on trips with people the same sex as OP, this veers dangerously into discrimination. While the conversations in the car and at meals are unofficial, they seem to me to fall into the same category as golf outings where only men are invited.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        It would be discrimination because the OP would receive less mentoring than a male – because the spouse was there.

    3. Name Required*

      If long trips with coworkers and external meetings is the norm for this industry, then someone who can’t be alone with folks of another gender are probably not a good fit for this type of work.

      1. Drax*

        +1! This is really it! If it is this issue they really need to re-evaluate if they are in the right job!

    4. Close Bracket*

      Different genders and straight or straight-appearing or some other gender-orientation combination that made either spouse or coworker uncomfortable being alone with them (although that does seem to be something more commonly found with straight, opposite-gender pairs)

    5. HannaSpanna*

      That crossed my mind too (not that its ok.) It also got me thinking of other reasons that the spouse may need to be there, possibly a medical condition for either one etc, and co-worker arranged to have spouse along rather than forgo trips.
      But OP did the right thing, and flagged with boss, so can be dealt with appropriately.

  22. Diana*

    Are y’all different genders? Is this paranoia about being in a car alone with a coworker with no witnesses for a long stretch of time, whether fear of receiving inappropriate solicitations or being accused of having done so?

    (Not saying that happened, or that such a reaction by either party would be appropriate, just surprised it hadn’t been mentioned by anyone so far when I assumed that’s where the letter was going by the first paragraph.)

  23. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m mostly irked that you got stuffed a cab because of this poorly thought out arrangement, that’s not how carpooling should work at all. If you have a truck, you always put guests up front unless they’re children, argh.

    1. RandomU...*

      I always go by who has the longest legs. I’m pretty short, so most times I’m going to be most comfortable in the back seat.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s a fair point in a way but I don’t believe that your choice of a cramped vehicle should cause others who seemingly have no choice but to ride with you [I’m assuming that they have to carpool of course, which may not be the case of course], discomfort or awkwardness.

        As someone who hasn’t had short legs since elementary school, I forget that there are short legs out there ;) But I will always take the scrunched up position rather than dictate another person fold themselves to accommodate my vehicle choices. My mom always chose to ride in our cab growing up if we had to take the truck [thankfully we had a car but the truck of course had it’s purposes….traveling to a conference with 2 other people were not one of them] because she was tiny and the paternal genes won the battle but when my friends would be around, I stuffed myself back there despite being larger than everyone else out of politeness.

  24. wheatgrass*

    My husband and I do work trips together when possible. I am on the front that spouses tagging along do not get to come to meals with my colleagues, my husband thinks as long as its only his team its fine. The ride down there I have never had to take a co-worker in the car with us, one of my husbands co-workers wanted to leave the day before her flight was scheduled and she rode back with us once. She sat in the back, however we had the obligatory “you should sit up front so you all can talk work”, and her reply was “you have to sit up front its your husband”. I think its odd that you all didn’t have that exchange but in the end your riding in their vehicle not a company Rental (just my guess by the choice of vehicles)

    1. Fieldpoppy*

      Wheatgrass, I feel a bit like your description here captures the issue — yes it may not be the coworker’s car, but it’s supposed to be a work trip, not a family outing. The relationship that should take precedence here is the work one.

      I wonder how your husband’s team feels about this. I personally do not get why you would want to insert yourself into a work situation. As a team member I would find it uncomfortable.

      1. Wheatgrass*

        I find it uncomfortable to be a spouse at a meal with my spouses co-workers, so I’m sure they do as well. The car thing I think if the company isn’t springing for a rental then it’s fine, it’s different if the company is paying.

    2. Samwise*

      I’m guessing they didn’t have that exchange because the spouse just got in the front seat of the truck. Or was already there when they picked up the OP and didn’t have the manners to offer the seat. At that point, it’s not like the OP can say, Senior Colleague’s Spouse, please sit in the back. Particularly not since OP is new and junior.

  25. AngryOwl*

    The discussion about family accompanying people on work trips is always interesting to me, because it shows the variety of thoughts about work travel — whether you are supposed to be “on”/working the whole time, or are still entitled to down/personal time (I’m in the latter camp, personally).

    1. RandomU...*

      This is probably the root of it.

      The only correct answer is “It depends” :) I travel for work between 25-50% of the time and generally my trips fall under 4 categories.

      1. Monthly travel- no agenda – no expectations on my outside of 9-5 hours time -Nobody would know or care if someone traveled with me.
      2. Specific agenda travel- travel for meetings at internal company locations/customer sites – may or may not be expectations for outside of 9-5 time . Depending on the specifics, a spouse could travel with me and have no impact.
      3. Team off-site meetings- Specific agenda and expectations for off hours work activities. This wouldn’t be appropriate for someone to travel with me
      4. Large scale user conferences- 15 hour + per day expectations on time. Specific agenda and networking activities. I’ve actively said no to someone traveling with me- Yeah, I don’t care if they do their own thing. After 15 hours ‘on’ the last thing I want is to come back to a hotel room with someone else. Even if they are the love of my life.

      1. EG*

        I think this is the helpful start of a taxonomy of different work trips. People keep saying it depends on the industry, but it’s more than just industry — it’s about the nature of the trip itself. Even a single job can have trips where bringing a spouse is no big deal and trips where it would be very strange. I thinking on the one hand of trips where my husband visits a satellite office of his company (no big deal for me to tag along — he may travel there alone and only interact with people working 9-5 who all live there) versus company retreats / off-sites / conferences where there is an expectation of networking during off-hours.

        1. AngryOwl*

          My husband generally occupies himself if I’m networking, at long off-site days, etc. Of course, this is if we’re somewhere interesting. If I was going somewhere with nothing to do, he wouldn’t join.

  26. Noah*

    I feel like a coworker popping in an audiobook while we drove to a work event would actually be much weirder than this situation. Like, what, I’m just supposed to pick up on p. 237 of Becoming?

    1. Jennifer Thneed*

      Depends so much on what kind of book it is! I often join my wife in her studio and listen in to a random chapter of her mystery novel while she paints and I knit. (But then, I dislike non-fiction as audio in general.)

    2. Autumnheart*

      Heh. I listen to audiobooks while I drive, but I would ask them to choose from my selection and start on the first page.

  27. singularity*

    OP, I don’t know if it’s feasible in your situation, but is it possible to switch to a different person to shadow? If this colleague plans to bring their spouse along for future trips, this might continue to be awkward. You said your boss is conflict avoidant, so I’m assuming that your colleague is getting work done and there aren’t any other issues with them, that your boss won’t step in or get involved –especially if your boss isn’t the official supervisor of your colleague. Perhaps there’s someone else at the organization that you can shadow and learn from. I don’t know if that would ruffle feathers or cause a stir, but maybe it’s something you should mention to your boss.

  28. CDNRx*

    I rarely accompany my husband when travels to WORK. He’s always busy during the day, then at night he has to catch up with his other clients. Just once I met him at the end of his time and we took a 4 day road trip after. When he travels for conferences it’s a whole different ball game. He attends one particular conference once, maybe twice a year. 10-20 years ago there were organized events for the spouses during the day and we were able to attend some of the evening parties. The conference has grown in scope such that they can’t do that anymore. There’s a North American one and a European one every year. Last year and this year we added time on before the conference for sightseeing in Europe together, then I was on my own during the conference days. I was able to goto some of the evening events but I’m not really one for schmoozing so I left early.

    He accompanied me to my conference too. In fact, when we were in driving range we’d bring the kids too. It was on a weekend so I’d do my thing and they’d do theirs. I never enjoyed the evening things at my conference so we’d spend the evenings together.

    tl;dr I travel with him when he goes onsite to WORK, but I will go when it’s a conference.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This makes absolute sense and I find nothing wrong with the setup!

      There are plenty of setups where it’s reasonable to accompany your spouse/partner on a business trip. It’s all about the boundaries and balance.

      I think the really weird thing in this letter is where the colleague’s spouse was in the carpool. I would never dream of going along with my partner on a trip if he had his coworker with him like that. However if he’s driving himself there, sure I’ll tag along and hangout in a hotel all day. Hotels themselves are a “vacation” to me. So please, just leave me here in this room that I don’t have to clean afterwards, watching basic cable and eating vending machine food.

      Then neither of us have to sleep alone at night and we can keep each other company during the non-work hours.

  29. Daphne Tyson*

    I’m sorry, but what kind of business would allow/think its OK to have an employee ride in a cramped back seat of a truck, in particular for a long trip. That was the first thing that jumped out at me.

  30. Dinopigeon*

    I have no way of knowing what the coworker’s motivations were for bringing their spouse, and I’m not presuming to guess. But I could easily see myself being this coworker. I’m autistic, and simply cannot handle additional social interaction beyond what’s required on a business trip (since typically I’m around people all day, without even a break for lunch to withdraw and recuperate). If I try, I get a migraine and/or have a meltdown, which leaves my energy spent.

    For the same reasons, on certain trips I need someone to accompany me. This is usually my husband because frankly it’s just embarrassing to explain to colleagues that I can’t navigate being in a foreign country alone despite being an otherwise competent adult. The last time I tried, I suffered panic attacks and got very little done due to constantly feeling uncertain, vulnerable, and overwhelmed.

    The point of sharing this is not to suggest that OP’s coworker is autistic. But we should keep in mind that sometimes people do things for valid reasons that may not be particularly obvious, or ones that are private. It’s been hinted to me occasionally that my inability to participate in after-hours activities without negatively impacting my health is rude- which is a kind of vibe I get from the OP. Assuming the best is usually a good way to go.

    1. Close Bracket*

      And there are plenty of non-autistic people who have limited social spoons and who might suffer panic attacks and get very little done in unknown circumstances. Also not saying this was the case with coworker, but agreeing that people sometimes have valid reasons that may not be obvious. Assume the best, and learn distinguish between “I wasn’t sure how to handle the situation or it wasn’t ideal and that made me feel awkward” and “the situation actively interfered with my ability to work or was actively harmful.” Feeling awkward doesn’t necessarily mean there was anything wrong with the situation that needed to be changed. Feeling awkward is something you can learn to deal with.

      1. WhatAMaroon*

        I think one sticking point here is still that presumably you tell someone that you’re bringing and extra person and don’t just spring it on them. Even if this is the exact reason the OPs coworker needed someone they should have at least given the OP and their boss a heads up so if someone did need to weigh in about making sure the shadowing opportunities weren’t completely pushed aside (e.g. setting up a lunch meeting etc) there was that opportunity.

  31. Wine Not Whine*

    I’m not seeing anyone bringing this up (my apologies if I missed it in a nested comment): OP says the work is confidential. That alone means there shouldn’t be _any_ non-employees on these trips. It’s simply too easy to miss putting a document away out of sight, or referring to something said or done, and breaking confidentiality.
    Relationship status, trainee/mentor status, etc are all unimportant beside this basic fact.

  32. Dina*

    This just makes me sad, if Im to be entirely honest. I find that meeting family members of coworkers is very beneficial in networking and getting to know coworkers/ peers / admins in our industry. That being said, the OP comes off very anti marriage. The truck thing was weird, I will agree. Why a truck? Whos idea was that? As a professional myself, Id have opted to get my own car and do my thing. Does shadowing assume 24/7 availability? Im thinking not. Our marriage has been very work related /conference involved for 30 years on both the teaching and attending sides. That said, our industry is very family/ spouse friendly. Ours are medical professions. Many spouses actually work together in the office and research setting. As creepy as some find it that spouses do come, Im find it creepy when spouses are spoken of as inappropriate.

    1. Blarn*

      I’m so confused by your comment and how on earth you read ‘anti-marriage’ into it. How do they seem anti-marriage? Doesn’t read like that at all to me, in any way. Perhaps marriage is a sensitive issue for you and you’ve sort of projected that issue onto the letter?

      You can be very pro-marriage or completely ambivalent to marriage and still not want to spend a work trip with your coworker’s spouse. The letter itself gives no indication of how the author feels about marriage and it’s altogether possible the author is married.

  33. Storie*

    I know this is beside the point but can I just say…this post holds the record for me in terms of maximum curiousity over WHAT IS THE WORK?

  34. The Artist formerly known as Anon-2*

    Hey you wanna know what’s REALLY weirder than someone bringing his/her spouse along?

    The co-worker is married and brings his “other woman” along. Now that’s <b<W*E*I*R*D

Comments are closed.