my coworker is pushing me to hire her daughter, my office is too quiet, and more

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

1. My coworker is pushing me to hire her daughter

I am the hiring manager for an entry-level position. The daughter of the front desk manager applied for the position. Her resume was great, but her cover letter had two words misspelled, including in the organization name. The position requires proofreading and careful data entry. I emailed her to let her know that she had great potential, but was not right for this position. I told her about the errors so she could fix them before applying for another position.

Her mom just emailed me: “Would it be possible to reconsider her for an interview? I think that if you are willing to give her an interview, she will be a good candidate. I know if you ask other staff, they would say the same thing. [Other staff member] actually forwarded the job announcement and [another staff member] came over to tell me about the job to let [daughter] know. I hope that you will give [daughter] another chance.”

The front desk manager is not in my line of reports (nor in my supervisor’s), but I am senior to her. I had many applications for this position and I really can not interview an applicant who I know I will not hire. I also want to try to maintain a cordial relationship with the front desk and all these other staff members who apparently love her daughter.

Reply to the mother/coworker, “Thanks so much for the recommendation! We had a very competitive applicant pool, and I’m moving forward with other candidates who are a stronger fit for what I need, but I wish Jane all the best in finding a great role.” If she continues to push: “I really can’t talk about candidates with their parents — I’m sure you understand.”

(Also, good lord. If you’d been inclined to consider the daughter, this behavior from the mom would give me serious pause. Imagine trying to manage her with the mother intervening like this.)

2. My office is incredibly quiet

I work as office manager in a small office. Some days all nine of us are in the office, but often there are as few as two or three people here. No matter the size of the group, it’s typically deathly quiet all day, and for the most part folks just work silently in their offices and cubicles, even during lunch. Is this strange? It feels strange to me.

Occasionally I’ll announce cheerfully: “I’m going to lunch. Anyone want to join?” The response is usually awkward silence, but then a few folks will straggle into the dining room to join me, and we have a nice chat over our meal. Do you or your readers have any insight here? Is this typical office behavior? Should I work to cultivate relationships and encourage a more interactive office culture, or just leave it be?

Some offices are just quiet like that. Your coworkers may prefer it that way! It’s fine to suggest lunch, and you should feel free to continue doing that if you’d like to — but don’t push people to socialize more than they want to.

That said, you could certainly ask people if they’d be interested in more interaction and, if so, brainstorm how to do that. You might find that people would welcome it, or you might find that they’re fine with the way things are, or you might find people on both sides of that line (in which case you could plan fully optional things that give opportunites to people who want them without forcing it on the people who don’t). The big thing is not to assume that one way is better than the other without actually checking in with the people who are part of the culture.

3. Facebook spilled the beans about my coworker’s plan to leave — do I say something?

I’ve been at my current job for three years. For a year or so, I was the only person in my department (other than my boss). But about a year after I started working here, we got very busy, very quickly. It soon proved to be too way much work for one person, so my boss eventually got approval to hire a second person. My current coworker has been here now almost a year. She is good at her job, and has been a godsend with sharing the bulk of the work. We’ve now gotten so overloaded with work that my boss is looking to expand the department further.

The issue: I was browsing Facebook the other day, and something that my coworker posted on a community buying/selling page popped up on my newsfeed. The post clearly said that she was moving out of state. The post did not state when she would be moving. She hasn’t told me this herself, nor has she told anyone else to my knowledge. I didn’t go looking for this information, but now I have it and don’t know what to do with it.

I have a very open, communicative relationship with my boss, so keeping something like this from her feels deceptive. My greatest fear is that my coworker leaves us with very little notice and I am left to do everything myself again (which stressed me out almost to the point of quitting). Unemployment in my area is pretty low and it typically takes months to find someone new. If we had more time to find a replacement and train them, it could make all the difference, especially if we move forward with hiring the additional person (if finding one new hire takes months, how long will it take to find two?).

Do I give my boss a heads-up to give us time to find someone, or do I keep quiet until my coworker volunteers the information? Or, do I just find a way to tell my coworker what I know? This is not the kind of place where management will fire you if they hear you might leave, so I’m not worried that they might let her go … but I also don’t want to decide for her about when this information is shared, when I wasn’t privy to it in the first place. Her quitting will leave me facing enough work to keep three people extremely busy, and I’m at a loss at what to do. Help!

Say nothing. First, you don’t know if the info is even accurate. Maybe she’s playing with the idea but hasn’t decided yet, maybe it’s not true at all and writing that was part of a weird selling strategy, maybe she’s just messing with her mom, maybe she’s planning on it but it will fall through for some reason. You could really screw her over by telling your boss this as if it’s a sure thing.

Plus, even if it’s true, it’s not yours to share, and it would be a huge overstep to tell your boss. Yes, it will suck if your coworker leaves, but that’s a normal part of doing business. People leave! They leave all the time, and it’s often inconvenient, and that’s just how it goes. Responsible companies plan for that, and it’s not your coworker’s burden to bear if your company hasn’t.

You’re not deceiving your boss by not sharing something you were never meant to know, don’t even know the accuracy of, and isn’t yours to share. Put it out of your mind. (And really, if you’re about to move forward on hiring a new slot, that’s going to give you a head start on replacing your coworker if you eventually need to. If you feel the need to do anything, confine it to pushing your boss to do that faster — which sounds like it would be a good idea anyway, and you can legitimately cite your stress there.)

4. Refusing travel to Saudi Arabia as a gay man

I’ll start off by saying I’m a mid-30s gay man because this becomes relevant. My job requires travel, which I actually really love, and staffing to particular clients is pretty much random and based on whoever looks like they have the least on their plate. We all travel globally and I have never had an issue with any of my destinations. I have been to Russia this year and, while I don’t love their record on LGBT rights, I didn’t feel like it was unsafe and so went without much reservation.

However, I was today given a project in Saudi Arabia and the client is state-owned, so functionally I’d be working on a project with the Saudi government. I find the Saudi government abhorrent and will not travel to a country where the death penalty is an option for homosexuality. I know that people aren’t really executed for it, but they have been jailed, lashed and hounded by the religious police.

I am trying to figure out how to tell my boss that I can’t work on this project. I’m not out at work … not because it would be an issue, but because we’re not a very “share our personal lives” culture so it’s never come up. I would prefer not to come out to my boss over this issue, but I also recognize that I could look like I’m just being difficult if I don’t. Any ideas?

If you’re willing to explain your reasoning to your boss, that’s definitely the most direct way of handling it. I’m sorry — that’s really unfair and you shouldn’t have to come out at work if you don’t want to. But I agree with you that without that information, it’s going to be a lot harder to explain why you’re not willing to go. (I suppose you could talk about it in terms of objecting to the Saudi government’s practices in general, but the reality is that most people are going to be far more convinced by “I could be imprisoned or assaulted for who I am.”)

5. Talking to my boss about time off for medical appointments

I’m working with my doctor to confirm a diagnosis for a medical condition. Though it’s not a life-threatening (or even life-altering) condition, there are a few tests/procedures I need to have before the diagnosis can be formalized. I had one appointment this week and will need to have at least two more over the next month or so. Because these appointments are of the “wait for the specialist to contact you to set up the procedure” variety, I’m not sure when exactly they’ll take place yet, but I do know they will be in the next few weeks. I am, of course, going to do my best to schedule them outside of working hours, but that can be difficult when making these kinds of appointments.

My question for you is whether I should give my boss a heads-up that I’ll probably be needing more time off than normal over the next month or if I should just tell her about each individual appointment as they come up. I don’t want to open the door for discussing my health at work, but I also don’t want my boss to be worried or think I’m not taking my job seriously (I just got promoted), especially because I’m already taking several days off this month for pre-planned and pre-approved vacations.

It’s usually better to say something up-front so that your boss has context when she sees you suddenly start to take a bunch of individual chunks of time off. You don’t need to share private info; you can simply say, “I want to let you know that I’m dealing with a minor medical thing and will have a handful of appointments over the next month. My first one will be this Thursday so I’ll be in a little late, and I’ll keep you posted on the others.” If she asks questions or looks concerned, you can say, “It’s nothing to worry about! Just a medical thing I need to get taken care of.”

{ 714 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    For letter #2 (quiet office), please stay focused on advice for the letter writer, not whether you personally would prefer a quiet office or not (because otherwise I foresee hundreds of comments on that).

    For letter #4 (Saudi Arabia), please stay focused on advice for the question being asked, rather than disagreeing with the letter writer’s assessment of his own risk.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve removed some comments that either didn’t follow these rules, got really off-topic, or were pretty offensive to marginalized groups (and flagged where I’ve done so). However, there are a ton of comments here and I haven’t seen everything so the usual “the volume is too high for me to read every comment” caveat from the site rules applies.

  2. Lusankya*

    #5 Alison’s advice is basically did when I was going through my IVF. I basically said “I’m having this procedure done at some stage and it’ll take the whole day. It will probably be within X timeframe, however I’ll only know the exact day Y-Z days in advance.”

    It worked well, and I think everyone appreciated having the foreknowledge, even if I didn’t have all the details at the time.

    1. Middle School Teacher*

      Yes, I did the same this year with an i jury I’m rehabbing. Sometimes with specialists, you get the appointment you get.

      1. A Scrummy Manager*

        And even though it was a typo, how people handle jury duty – I have to call in each day for a week, and one of those days I may have to go in and be out all day.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        So did I when I needed physical therapy. My boss was very clear that I did not need to tell him specifically for what. I’m in a tiny department, though, that has to stretch to cover things if more than one person is out, so I try to give him as much notice as possible.

      3. Liz*

        I did the same when I had to go for 6 weeks of PT. i told my boss, hey, i will do my best to schedule my appts after work (twice a week so 12 total) but it may not always be possible. Thankfully i only had to leave early once for it, but I also let him know if i had to do that, when I got home i’d log back in, just to make sure nothing urgent was going on and needed to be dealt with.

    2. Tom*

      Best indeed to tell in advance.
      No need for details – but ‘some medical things require me to schedule appointments, problem is, they don`t know when exactly this will be. I will try to schedule outside my regular hours, but in case that isn`t an option…’

      For me I had similar – with my son though, not me – but since my offfice manager knows the home front situation he was understanding and accomodating. Even with ‘sorry, last minute, but appointment option tomorrow at 4 in the afternoon – would it be okay if..’ they never made an issue.

    3. Asenath*

      Yes, so did I and it worked out. I had a diagnosis that required multiple appointments followed by surgery and daily treatments – as an outpatient, fortunately. Initially, I treated it like ordinary medical check-ups, when I realized it was going to take more, I said something like “I’m going to need about X days off, probably in Month, and I’ll let you know when I’ve got the dates confirmed, and finally “I’m going to need about an hour off every day from X to Y; I am trying to schedule the appointments first thing in the morning so I can return to work afterword. I might need additional time off if things don’t go smoothly”. Giving people – if they’re reasonable – a heads-up makes things much easier, and you really don’t need to be extremely specific about what is going to happen at each appointment.

    4. Mrs B*

      I went through a similar situation last year, and on the advice of HR, actually filled out a formal FMLA request. This way it not only let my immediate supervisor know I would be using more sick leave than usual, but it was in my personnel file so that it could not be used against me during evaluations or if being considered for a promotion.

        1. Asenath*

          Yes. Not an option for me since I’m not in the US, but it’s certainly a good idea to get any leave arrangements approved officially.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Yes, intermittent FMLA is a thing, for US employees. To qualify, you must have worked at your employer for at least one year, and have worked 1250 in the previous 12 months (rolling). Your employer also needs to have 50+ employees within a 75-mile radius.

        (Just for anyone who doesn’t know!)

        1. LegalBeagle*

          Adding to that FYI – if you aren’t covered by FMLA, your state or city may have its own relevant law that can provide some protection.

      2. Jadelyn*

        Was just going to mention this – take intermittent FMLA, you can use it in as little as 2-hour increments, and it provides job protection so you can’t be penalized for those absences.

    5. wafflesfriendswork*

      I’ve been wanting to get an IUD and worried about how to work out timing with my job–my doctor told me it’s a “call us on the first day of your period and we’ll set it up” situation, so not something I’ll be able to schedule far in advance to ask time off! This is a great script for that as well.

    6. CountryLass*

      I did the same with mine. I let them know that I would be starting treatment at some point in the near future, and that as well has having to have scans and appointments at short notice, there was the chance that the medication I would be taking could turn me into a hormonal ball of crazy!
      I did have to have more scans than anticipated, as I came very close to over-reacting to the drugs they gave me, and I was actually admitted to hospital at one point. Fortunately I did fall pregnant, as I have a sneaking suspicion that they would have tried to terminate me based on all the time off I needed, I think I missed about 3 days of working hours through appointments.. Plus a week and a half being signed off work sick before I got my positive result.

  3. Annette*

    Hiring the coworker’s daughter because of pressure from mom would just be nepotism. Plain and simple. Let HR know if mom doesn’t back down.

    1. Luna*

      And think of the message it gives the daughter: “The only reason you got this job was because mommy bugged me enough.”

    2. Life is Good*

      LW1 – stick to your guns on this! I’ve worked in too many offices where relatives of an employee were hired because the the owner didn’t want to say ‘no’. Even if she were a stellar candidate, it is really difficult to keep the family dynamics out of the mix. And, I agree that the mother would likely butt in whenever there was an issue with the daughter.

      1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        Yes! Especially because not only is mom pushy, she’s already circling the wagons by bringing in other coworkers!
        “Jane told me about it. John thinks it’s great. You need to give in to us.”
        Good lord, no.

        1. OP1*

          And, the day after she sent the email, I got an unsolicited letter of recommendation from one of those coworkers! I should add that all of these folks have only a vague idea of what my department actually does.

          1. AKchic*

            Get HR involved. The pressure being applied is already too much. I’d be tempted to let HR actually tell any employee who contacts about *this* non-candidate is being inappropriate and showing poor judgement.

            1. valentine*

              It’s easier for the coworkers to give in or to see it as a kindness, especially if they’re counting on you to hold the line: “I really don’t want trouble from Desk Manager and what harm can it do? OP1 won’t hire her unless she’s great.”

          2. MJ*

            Wow! That’s going beyond the pale. The daughter might be decent employee but if you happen to take her on you’d be dealing with the (pushy) mother all the time. A nightmare.

      2. EPLawyer*

        I like Alison’s script but I would add a confidential, just so you know for the future, I really like you and want to help you kind of thing: pushing your daughter is not helping her candidacy, or your reputation at work (but more diplomatic).

        This is why lots of companies have a no hiring relatives policy. If relative doesn’t get the treatment the employee thinks they deserve, the employee intervenes. When its none of their business.

      3. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I agree that the mother would likely butt in whenever there was an issue with the daughter.

        Yup, the likelihood that the mom would intervene if there was any discipline, or even mildly constructive feedback, is pretty high. Poor kid might not even know, either.

        1. OP1*

          That was my thought as well. She really did not do her daughter any favors on my end.

          1. Anonforthis*

            Yeah, ugh. I used to do a lot of recruiting for summer interns, and was always getting pressure to hire someone’s young adult child, niece or nephew, even if they were completely unqualified. When I would pass, the parents were very persistent in finding the hiring manager(s) and doing an end-run around HR – the hiring manager(s) would inevitably cave even with coaching from us. It was truly annoying to hire someone’s smirky kid only because Dad wouldn’t take no for an answer.

      4. Countess Boochie Flagrante*


        I had a summer job at my mother’s workplace, and the role I was in consisted of 3-4 people who were all the children/younger siblings of full-time employees. It did not go well at all, and there was a ton of drama around the mid-summer firing of one of my peers because of just how non-seriously she was taking the job.

        I shudder to think of what it would have been like in the longer term. Even just for the summer was a clusterf**k.

        1. loremipsum*

          I worked in a company where the boss could not hire his kids, even as summer interns, because everyone reported to this person and there was a policy barring nepotism. But his girlfriend’s(who worked there) adult child was hired, and in our department. We all knew this was going on. In the briefest of summaries: it did not go well at all. One day when I was off the adult child of Boss’ Girlfriend was fired after they were discovered sleeping at work in their office. A few years later I found out this individual had number of legal problems, multiple offenses, as well as addiction issues(which I realize is an illness). We have all heard about helicopter parents but you have to wonder if they are trying to get them stabilized in a job because for whatever reason they have problems doing so on their own.

        2. Sally Forth*

          Remember when people would post a sign that read “Clean up after yourself. Your mom does not work here” in the office kitchen? I once worked at a place where we had a lot of kids hired and someone jokingly put up the sign and then wrote, “Except Susie, Alice, Mark, Callie, Sid…”

    3. AKchic*


      I work with my mother. Unless you look at us, you would never know at the office. Even then, it took a lot of finagling, both from the union and the employer we’re contracted to because originally, she was to be my supervisor.

      All she did was say “oh, Boss, you’re looking for another clerk? I know one person who might be interested” and gave him my phone number. That was it. I wasn’t actually looking for a job at the time, even though I was burned out and considering a new job, I hadn’t even started passively job hunting yet.
      I’ll be at this job 3 years in July, and to be honest, I *hate* working with my mother, but the money and benefits are good, so I haven’t left yet.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree.

      I’ve worked with plenty of co-workers or ownership’s kids without any issues. The reason we have had not had issues is because the parents are hardasses, no seriously, they will fire the kid themselves if they step out of line, no need for me or some other manager to deal with it. “He did what? He said what? He didn’t show up?! HE IS TOAST.” sort of parenting. [They trust their coworkers as well and know we’re not just picking on Junior, we aren’t expecting them to drive spaceships or something insane, just to show up and sort parts, etc.].

      Any parent who has to press and pester and meddle in their child’s job is too much and bad news. They have boundary issues and can’t take off that Mama/Papa Bear suit, that’s a huge issue and their kids are getting no favors in return and are being set up for failure or disappointment.

    5. Who Plays Backgammon?*

      “I think … I know … I hope …”

      An awful lot of “I” in there. I’d be seriously concerned that Mom doesn’t quite grasp that it’s not all about her. Supporting her daughter’s job search is understandable and advocating for her is admirable up to a point, but I agree with Alison about having an employee with a mom like this also on staff. Plus, gotta wonder if she’d eventually interfere in her daughter’s job/working relationships and smother the young woman rather than let her stand on her own two feet, make her own mistakes, and grow.

  4. Engineer Girl*

    #2 – It sounds like you’re an extrovert in an office full of introverts. It’s rare because there are way more extroverts in the world. That said it happens.

    The most important thing is that you shouldn’t expect them to fill your social needs.

    1. mli25*

      I am reasonably introverted though I tend to present as an “extroverted introvert”. Complete silence (or near so) would drive me bonkers within a couple of hours.

      #2 – play some music quietly or with headphones might make it feel less silent. You could ask your coworkers if playing a neutral radio station (think easy listening) would be disruptive.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        If you play music you should use earbuds. Don’t force your needs on others.

        1. MommyMD*

          Exactly. Because some people will say they don’t mind and really they do.

          I’d venture to say this quiet group likes the way things are because no one is attempting at all to change it. It’s enough they come in and do their jobs well.

          1. MusicWithRocksInIt*

            Yup. A friend of mine was just complaining to me that the new person could not read the room and was chatting to unresponsive people in her previously perfectly quiet workspace. Some people can focus better in the quiet, and have found a work that suits this need for them. Don’t drive them away or ruin that for them because one person is uncomfortable with the culture. Read the room.

            1. Even Steven*

              This is it exactly – read the room! If a lunch invitation is met with ‘awkward silence’ it may be that the folks are annoyed that you broke their concentration. They like it quiet, clearly, or they would chat. If a weekly lunch is suggested, why not do it in email so that folks can consider & respond when they are not concentrating on work, and not feeling put on the spot to do something that hasn’t been office routine.

              My office is library quiet, and I love it, and I love my silent colleagues. We smile good mornings and use instant messaging to talk work. So peaceful. If a chatty person joined, they would figure out fast that we’re the monkish bean counters, and we like it like that. Please let people be who they are! I bet each one of them is as amazed as I am to have found a quiet job.

              1. Washi*

                Yeah, I wondered about that. If the office has slack or some other kind of messaging system, the OP could try IMing everyone when they’re going to lunch, since that’s a little less intrusive.

              2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Same. We IM to chat. Given that my team is spread across several offices all around the country, in-person chats would be difficult to have with everyone on the team, anyway.

              3. SarahTheEntwife*

                Yeah, I agree on the email thing for setting up lunches. I in theory would like to hang out socially with my coworkers more often because they’re lovely people, but if someone stopped by and said “Hey, I’m headed to lunch now, want to come?” I would probably get a little flustered. I might be in the middle of something and not want to make my coworker wait while I wrapped it up, and I’m kind of a creature of habit and am usually looking forward to my podcasts-and-knitting time even though with a day or two notice I could also be looking forward to my Thursday coffee with Bob and Susan.

            2. AnnaBananna*

              I am an introverted extrovert. Meaning I can be extroverted in the office because I have a weird reaction to social anxiety: I get louder. It’s strange and I think it stems from my youth in theater (loved it then, hate it now).

              I have an office that would be deathly quiet if we didn’t make an effort to be social. So it’s kind of my habit to walk in, put my stuff down, and then continue a previous days chat while waiting for my k-cup to brew. This gets everyone from staring at their computer for 5 minutes and then we go back to ignoring each other for the next few hours. It works, precisely because we respect each others needs. I read when their eyes start glazing over and move on, and they know that if my earbuds are in that I can’t stop concentrating without frothing at the mouth.

              Know your audience.

          2. RandomU...*

            Introverted or not… people need to use their words if they aren’t keen on something and are asked.

            So I disagree with your assessment that the OP needs to use earbuds. The OP should definitely ask, respect the answers (including the “I prefer quiet” answers, and still keep the volume low if they gain agreement. But introverted does not equate to mute.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD*

              The music thing isn’t about introversion or extroversion, though. It’s about basic courtesy. It’s not uncommon in the workplace for a manager to ask if people would be okay with something, only to have the staff be left uncertain about how much power they really have to say no. So they may say they’re fine with the radio even though they hate the idea, because the manager is the one who suggested it and they don’t know if they can push back. Headphones are a better way.

            2. Batman*

              The OP should use headphones regardless. Having music on in the background can be distracting for some people. Or other people might not like the music the OP chooses. You’re right that it’s not about introversion. It’s about basic courtesy.

              1. Mr. Shark*

                Yes on the music. I love music, and I like all kinds of music. But for some reason, if someone has music playing at a low level, even if it’s music I like, it drives me a little crazy. Maybe it’s a control thing, or maybe because the music is too low and I’m trying to listen to it, but it is very distracting.
                It is difficult to object if others are asking nicely and the majority want it, even if you are perfectly in your right to do so, and are upfront about it. Others might think you are just being petty or causing problems. The thing is, for me, sometimes I’m all about the silence, and sometimes it drives me crazy, and sometimes I need to put headphones on for work and listen to music, and sometimes I don’t want to hear any music at all.
                So if it’s too quiet, grab your headphones and listen to music yourself to keep you from going crazy.

                1. Phoenix Wright*

                  This is so true. I love Pink Floyd (from Atom Heart Mother on), and enjoy listening to them when the mood strikes. A coworker in my first job used to play them every Friday morning, and let me tell you, I was so not looking forward to it.

                  Please don’t force your coworkers to hear your music through speakers. They may say they’re OK with it because they don’t want to appear negative or “not team players”, or for fear of sounding impolite, but I’m 100% sure that many of them wouldn’t actually be fine with it.

            3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Hard agree. I roll my eyes so hard with how “NEVAAAA NOISE EVAAAA, Use headphones” people are around here.

              We’ve always had music in the background, earbuds are inappropriate to use in our situation.

              Use your words. Use your words. Figure out what works for the majority and see if you can adjust something for someone who isn’t happy with it if that’s the case.

              I’d rip my face off if someone made me sit in silence. My mom likes driving without the radio on. It gives me anxiety and I want to jump out of moving vehicles.

              1. Noah*

                Seriously? I’ve never worked anywhere that permitted more than very occasional music. If the majority where I worked agreed to and implemented music all the time, I’d have to get a new job before I got fired for getting no competent work done. I know MANY people like that. You can have music at work, but you have to accept that you’re going to lose a lot more good employees that way than the reverse, since most jobs can tolerate at least one ear bud in.

              2. MeepMeep*

                Ok, wanna listen to a lovely mixture of Mozart piano concertos (courtesy of Jane in the cubicle next to you), heavy metal (courtesy of Bob in the next cubicle over), traditional Indian sitar music (courtesy of Manish in the cubicle across from you), and a bit of microtonal original compositions from Sally in the next cubicle to him?

                There’s no such thing as “music everyone likes”. This is why earphones were invented.

            4. Observer*

              I’m big on “use your words”. But when you don’t know people assuming an “ask” culture is a bad idea, even though I personally happen to be an “ask” type of person.

              This is especially true in a case like this. For one thing, the OP clearly doesn’t quite get the culture (yet), so they don’t know if the is an “ask” vs “guess” culture and might also not recognize when they are being told “We won’t run out screaming if you do this, but it’s REALLY a bad idea.” (I’m not saying that the OP is necessarily bad at reading a group per se, but they are clearly not “getting” this group yet.)

              Also, people might figure that SOME music is ok, without realizing how much the OP would be playing it or how disruptive they actually will find it because it’s been so long since they’ve had to deal with is. And, it’s possible that some people would be ok with it SOME times, but at others would find it really disruptive which can be difficult to navigate. Lastly, someone might be ok with “music”, but not THIS music (maybe you are ok with mizak and the coworker goes with heavy metal. Or maybe you’re ok with folk and classical but HATE muzak. etc.) You really can’t predict that stuff. But for people who like quiet, this is en especially likely problem.

              Given that this is a perfectly quiet office, it’s reasonable to assume that people have no interest in listening to the OP’s music. After all, these are all functioning adults – if anyone wanted music, they’d already be playing it. So, using earbuds / headphones is just the most reasonable way forward.

              Even if this weren’t an office full of people who like dead silence, earbuds / headphones should absolutely be the norm in an open plan office – or any office where you can make an announcement without amplification and everyone can hear you.

            5. MeepMeep*

              What’s wrong with earbuds? Just because I like listening to Poulenc at work doesn’t mean I should force everyone else to listen to Poulenc at work. People have different musical tastes and different preferences for quiet versus noise, and it’s simply bad manners to assume everyone is going to like whatever it is you’re listening to. Thankfully, there’s a way for you to listen to whatever you want without forcing everyone else to listen to it, so why not use it?

                1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                  Right. It’s a big no-no at my company.

                  An alternative to music, if you can keep it to a volume only you can hear, is a lulling nature sound like ocean, not to put you to sleep, but to take the edge off the silence. I like a quiet workspace but sometimes dead silence is unnerving.

      2. Lena Clare*

        Alison’s advice is good; be prepared for them not to want to engage in the more extrovert activities.

        *Absolutely* use earphones if you’re listening to music/radio.

        If complete silence drives you nuts, (there are several someones out there like you), then there are several someones who are the opposite like me – any noise is disruptive to them so even non-offensive noise to you would be offensive to them.

      3. Lissa*

        I wonder if the perception of there being way more extroverts is because so many people present as more extroverted than they truly feel… i always see people quote how introverts are more rare but anytime online or off I’ve been around people talking about it or taking a test o n it it’s been even or more introverts!

        1. Lena Clare*

          That might be because introverts feel more comfortable ‘socialising’ online though :)

          1. Lissa*

            True but I have seen this in real life too, in my job I’m often present when people take personality tests or discuss these issues and it’s generally either even or more introverts. I think part of it is that we compare our own “insides” to everyone else’s “outsides”, so there are lots of people (like me!) who are somewhere in the middle, but people are more likely to “see” them when they are socializing/out and about, so assume the world is all really extroverted – but I’ve not found that to be the case. Even amongst my friends and family, even people who are the stereotypical internet extrovert still need time alone fairly often.

            1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              I had to take one of those dumb tests at work and it came out 50-50. But it’s also worth mentioning that what’s OK at home may not be at work. The nature of a lot of my work is that it’s not done in a chatty committee, it’s one person doing it and it requires attention. So no discussing the World Series for me until the project is done. At home I can deck the vacuuming to gab for a while, then get out the Swiffer whenever I please.

        2. Engineer Girl*

          There are also a lot of people that claim they are introverts because they need quiet time. Except everybody needs some quiet time, it’s the matter of degree. Also introverts and extroverts process information differently.

          1. Overeducated*

            Yeah, I sort of wonder if anyone is actually an “extrovert” by the definition of gaining energy from being around people. I haven’t met one single person who’s described themselves that way, including a person i have known since age 4 who seeks out human contact more than anyone I have ever met – nope, just another “social introvert.”

            1. EPLawyer*

              I know I true extrovert. She literally could not work without wandering around talking to people. This was brought up in her performance reviews. She blew it off as just “I’m an extrovert what do you expect” without any thought of HOW she was affecting other people’s work. Pretty sure she was eased into early retirement.

              She was absolutely exhausting to be around. Lovely person. But the ON personality all the time was exhausting.

              1. Busy*

                Yeah, my cube is surrounded by oblivious extroverts. They are all really close to losing their jobs at this point. That desire for constant interaction not only grows tiresome, but it also distracts them and others from their jobs.

                With that said, I found out something totally interesting recently! I work for A Scandinavian country know for its “quiet” culture. One of my coworkers, who tests as an introvert, was telling us that at our cooperate office they we so surprised to learn this (casual conversations of cultural differences happen in global companies quite frequently). In their culture, he would be considered an extrovert because of how much he interacts. But thing is, he interacts so much because US culture demands it so much.

                So when people believe there are a lot more extroverts in US, I would say I disagree. I would say that being a certain level of an extrovert is required no matter if that person is one or not – thus making it hard to tell in a general sense. But once you meet an actual extrovert, you notice!

                1. Lauren*

                  Interesting. Because anywhere I’ve worked it’s always extroverts are better than introverts and I work in accounting!!!

                2. Artemesia*

                  I worked for years with a close colleague — did workshops with him, wrote a book with him. He was very ‘hale fellow, well met’ and I thought quite extroverted, but like me he is also an introvert who knows how to be professionally appropriate. I am sure I seem extrovert in many situations but my need for lots of alone time is very high.

                3. Need a better name, CPA*

                  Lauren, former Big 6 auditor here. The reason accounting firms praise extroverted behavior is that it isn’t the norm in people who gravitate to accounting. But the ability to schmooze clients is a definite requirement for advancement in public accounting or consulting.

            2. Lily Rowan*

              I definitely know people who are true extroverts — the more time they spend with people, the more energy they have! At the end of an event, when I’m ready to crash out, they want to spend more hours talking about it! Or about anything! Let’s just hang out more!!!

              1. Lily Rowan*

                And I mean that in the best possible way — this is not a slam on extroverts.

              2. MayLou*

                My wife is a quiet extrovert. I’m a chatty introvert. If we go to a party, she comes home bouncing and wanting to talk, and I need a nap. I typically retreat to the bedroom and ask her to call her dad to burn off the talkative energy.

            3. Patty Mayonnaise*

              Hi, extrovert who gains energy by interacting with people signing in! I’m actually pretty much in the middle of the scale but I’m tipped into the extrovert side by how I gain energy. I feel SO great and energized after attending a social gathering. If I meet a friend in the morning and friend doesn’t object to it, I will keep coming up with things for us to do together all day because my favorite thing to hear is: “Let’s keep hanging out.”

            4. Jacqueline*

              I am. I’ll go out at night, even if I was tired when I left, and I feel energized when I get home. That doesn’t mean I don’t need/want occasional alone time, but socializing often does energize me.

            5. Dragoning*

              I definitely know some–my dad, my younger brother, my current boss, a number of friends who get quite tiring.

            6. Ethyl*

              I absolutely get energized by socializing, it drives my spouse nuts hahaha! I too am in the camp of “we just hung out with friends all night, now that we are home let’s talk some more or play a game or or or…!” I work from home and it’s been crucial to my mental health to do things like sign up for classes or workshops, schedule things with friends more often, etc.

              Having said that, a quiet office wouldn’t bother me.

              1. The Grammarian*

                I work from home and have very few work calls and meetings, so I definitely have to make deliberate plans to leave the house and interact with humans. I do require some alone time, but not 100% can be alone. Anyway, I think sending a message on group chat or via email about lunch and/or audible music to get a group consensus is a good idea. Also, sometimes, all it takes is one person to start something that multiple people would like to have, but haven’t organized yet.

            7. Banana Pancakes*

              IME a lot of people who are that kind of extroverted end up in things like stand-up comedy or something with a lot of public speaking because they thrive on having an audience. They’re the kind of people you’d describe as “intense” or “always on”, or people who have this way of making you feel like you’re the only person in the world.

              My SO is one of those people and it’s been an interesting adjustment for me as someone who would happily stay inside and not talk to anyone for weeks on end. I don’t struggle to entertain myself, but he had a hard time relating to that because my hobbies are quiet and solitary and would make him crazy.

            8. Noah*

              Everyone needs down time and people time. But extroverts recharge more from the former than the latter. I know tons of extroverts.

        3. Karen from Finance*

          This might be derailing but I kind of hate this grouping of people into one category or the other. Mainly because I think most people fall somewhere in the middle, like me: while I find “pure” extroverts exhausting, I still need more social interaction than “pure” introverts. I think I read the term “ambivert” somewhere? But that’s still another discrete category where I think we need a range.

          1. Overeducated*

            Yeah, agreed. I am not a person who can be “on” all the time, and I’ve always considered myself more of an introvert, but talking about anyone who likes any human contact in the place they spend most of their waking hours being an “extrovert” seems ridiculous to me. Most people do need *some* interaction and *some* alone time to be healthy humans. When we’re talking about what is an appropriate degree of that in any given workplace I don’t think dividing people up really helps at all.

          2. Batman*

            Yeah, introversion and extraversion aren’t categories anyway, they’re a spectrum and when you have people take tests, most people end up somewhere in the middle, rather than at either end. Just like pretty much all human traits.

            1. Danger: GUMPTION AHEAD*

              My scores on those tests always depend on what I have been doing that week. Just had a conference? Introvert. Holed up coding without a social life? Extrovert.

          3. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            Maybe I’ll start calling myself a panvertical…wait, sounds like I’m cooking.

        4. IL JimP*

          I think most studies put at like 60/40 for extroverts/introverts

          so the population is larger than one might expect

      4. Reed*

        Yes playing any kind of music or radio station out loud would be hugely disruptive please don’t do this.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Blurgle ack. No radio. No matter how much you like extra background talking, do not impose it on a space that was quiet until you showed up.

          Twitching at the memory of waiting through a child’s medical appointment in an office playing both the radio and the TV. I think the former was louder behind the desk, but in the reception area they were perfectly balanced.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          +1000 that would give me a migraine in no time if the music is playing while I’m trying to work.

      5. LaurenB*

        That would be very odd to ask people if playing a radio station at low volume would be disruptive. Basic good manners says that if you wish to listen to something, you use earbuds, not inflict what you want to listen to on others. Moreover, as we see from the epidemic of people who don’t Use Their Words, people who secretly object to the sound or find it distracting aren’t going to say so, and then you’re going to be merrily listening along to Barry Manilow and not be aware that people are annoyed. And then there will be another AAM letter about how some new guy moved into the office and started playing a radio at his desk and it’s so annoying, and yeah he asked us but we didn’t want to be rude to him so we didn’t say anything.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Volume and office format vary. My coworker who sits behind me (no cubicles, even) plays music but it’s so quiet that, while I can hear that there’s something on, it’s no more obtrusive than the sound of the air-conditioner or whatever.

          I find earbuds and headphones maddeningly uncomfortable, so I either play music on my computer (if coworker is off or working elsewhere in the building) or nothing.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            For some, like me, that would drive me crazy, because you can hear some music, but not what it is. I would strain trying to hear what was playing. On the other hand, if it was loud enough for me to hear, I might just want quiet at times, and I wouldn’t have the control to turn it off because I’ve already allowed it to be on.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I find it very hard to concentrate on my work when it’s noisy. Complete silence is more than welcome! And I do love social interactions from time to time – just not when I’m trying to think! Maybe OP’s coworkers are trying to concentrate too?

        1. Busy*

          See. I’m totally different. I have two atypical kids (and am one myself), and I can block out background noise like no other. But, if I worked in a silent office, and then someone one day just decided to start playing music, I would be irritated they didn’t ask first and just assumed it was okay just because it accommodates them.

      7. Former Help Desk Peon*

        I recently bought myself some bluetooth earbuds and listen to audiobooks on my phone. Fills that need.

      8. Elizabeth West*

        No no no, use headphones. If everyone is used to a quiet office, a radio will drive them bonkers.

      9. SusanIvanova*

        There are no neutral radio stations. To me, “easy listening” is annoying earworm city. The best time at the hairstylist is when I’m under the dryer and don’t have to listen to it.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          My dentist’s office apparently subscribes to a streaming service titled Every Annoying Song From 1970 to the Present. It’s a constant stream of earworms, really dumb lyrics, and songs with a single phrase repeated over and over and over, all played at top volume. I pretty much always leave feeling irrationally angry.

          1. klew*

            My former dentist’s office used a service just like that. That’s why they are my FORMER dentist.

    2. All identifying remarks removed*

      I’d be interested to know how new to the office LW2 is. The fact that they reluctantly went to lunch with her makes me think they were being nice to the new employee. But as similar comments have said – her need for noise/interaction doesn’t trump their preference to work in silence. I currently have a coworker who can’t work in silence so is constantly throwing out comments or talking to his computer – thank gawd for headphones.
      Possibly you could make an open invitation to lunch once a week as long as it’s clear it’s entirely voluntary and not forced socialization.

      1. Pommette!*

        I wouldn’t necessarily infer that the people joining her for lunch are doing so reluctantly. As a very introverted and socially awkward person who really gets into her work “awkward silence + straggling in” is my default approach to work lunches… even though I only go when I want to. It could be that the people who join the OP genuinely welcome her invitations.

        That said, I like your solution (open invitation that highlights voluntary nature of event) a lot.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, I think people are genuinely enjoying (in a very mild way) the bit of socialization, once they’re reminded of it, but a frequency of a couple of times a week over lunch is the right level.

          1. LegalBeagle*

            I agree. I didn’t read reluctance at all! Even as an introvert, this dead silence sounds depressing to me, so I understand the LW’s desire for more socializing. I think casual brown-bag lunches in the conference room are a lovely idea.

        2. yala*

          Yeah. I’m the sort of person who likes to know that I’m going to Do Things With People beforehand, not right at that time. My work friends and I will usually plan to go to lunch earlier that day, or sometimes earlier that week. That way I know that at 11:30 I need to be finding a stopping point. When an invitation is sprung on me, I’ll usually go (FOMO), but I’ll need a moment or two to reset.

        3. Autumnheart*

          I think that what seems like “awkward silence + straggling in” could just as easily be “internal consultation about whether I’m hungry and/or if I’m at a good stopping point” after which they wrap up what they’re doing.

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I like it, too. A standing “we have lunch on Thursdays, anybody who wants to come is welcome” seems like a great idea.

        1. Umvue*

          OP2, I just wanted to express my sympathy – I left a job a few years ago in large part because the office culture was very similar to the one you describe. I have a hunch that you will not really be able to change an office like this, and that you might be better served looking for a different job.

    3. sacados*

      Yeah, it’s a bit unclear from OP2’s letter what the actual root issue is.
      Is it the *silence* that OP dislikes? Or the fact that coworkers don’t talk/interact with each other during the day?
      Because it’s all well and good for OP to start listening to music while working — but I get the sense that the real issue is that OP wants more interaction with her coworkers, in which case music isn’t going to solve that. And OP needs to come to terms with the fact that it’s just the culture of that particular office.

      1. Tyche*

        As an aside, OP2 doesn’t tell what kind of job it is, because the non-interaction could be a byproduct of office culture, but it could depend of the type of work that doesn’t require a lot of interaction and talk between coworkers.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          Kory Stamper’s book has a hilarious description of the silent workroom when she started at Merriam-Webster and the practices her co-workers engaged in to avoid noise. The entire book is excellent but the bit about the daily lunch card is particularly delightful.

    4. InfoSec SemiPro*

      I’ve been the only extrovert in a department of introverts!

      Weekly optional lunch has worked well with our group. People know when to expect it and will kinda plan for it, so more people are prepared to socialize when it’s not a surprise.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        Me, too. My new coworkers are very quiet, and I do miss having a little social interaction. However, I’ve also in the past shared office space with someone who could not stop talking all damn day, so I know what it’s like to be on the other side.

        Going for a walk at lunch and even just being around other people helps sometimes. I am genuinely extroverted, in the “get my energy from social interaction” way, so if I don’t have at least a few conversations, I leave work completely drained.

      2. vampire physicist*

        Agreed! If people were counting on a quiet lunch they may be annoyed at the interruption, but if they knew it was coming they may even look forward to it.

    5. Feline*

      It’s not strange for people who are focusing on their work to not stop and chitchat. They’re working. You know, the thing you employer pays them to show up and do. Your cheerful announcement is probably disruptive to their focus on whatever task they were working on at the time. The “awkward silence” afterward is probably the silent screeching of their mental gears being yanked out of what they were doing.

      I need quiet to work. By need, I mean I’ve been diagnosed by a cognitive therapist that noise distractions have an exceptionally high impact on me compared to the average person, so background chat is catastrophic to my productivity. I’ll give you the advice that has been pushed on people like me for years: get some headsets to create an audio environment you like better.

      I suspect this question isn’t actually about the quiet. As several people above identified, it’s about your desire for social interaction with your coworkers. Let them be introverts if that’s how they roll and make a point to plan lunches where you meet your extroverted friends. It’ll help you feel less lacking in interaction, and your coworkers will be able to continue to be productive their cocoon of quiet.

      1. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

        The rest of your advice is good, but the first paragraph seems unnecessarily hostile towards LW2. She’s not intentionally disrupting anyone’s work.

        Quite frankly, I’m extremely introverted and a workplace where no one speaks and focuses solely on work 24/7 sounds depressing as hell.

    6. sb51*

      And a person can be an extrovert and be easily distracted from their work by noise and prefer silence in the work space.

    7. MatKnifeNinja*

      Don’t play cruise director.

      If everyone is polite, no office drama, and no one is freezing you out, honestly you are so lucky.

      I’m extroverted like a Labrador puppy with muddy feet, but I’m extremely private at work.

      Lunch is selfish ME time. I need a mental break, and don’t have the energy to fake interest in travel hockey, grandkids, colic, GoT, crappy marriages, drug addicted family members or train wreck kids. And I won’t subject my coworkers about my interests no one cares about either. I can yak to anyone about anything, but *meh*. I’m polite. I’m pleasant. I’ll to anything for anyone. Having polite conversations, that don’t wind up being bitch sessions is sort of work.

      Coworkers are like bunk mates. 98% of the time, once they leave, you never see them again. Another reason I don’t want to invest time being BFFs.

      Switch your thinking from this sucks to this is a gift. You aren’t emotionally shot hearing office drama and nonsense. You’ll have more than enough reserves to pursue interests outside of work! I wish I could do that. My office has the interpersonal dynamics of a middle school lunchroom.

      I’d probably quit announcing you are going to lunch. People know that by now, and if they wanted to go, they’d let you know. I used to tell my fellow cubie serf to come get me at lunch, or I’d buzz by her desk.

      Get some outside interests if you need that human contact fix. Work is work, not a place to make BFFs.

      (yes, I would so kill for that office environment, instead of the Mean Girls #3 continuing saga at my place)

      1. Yorick*

        You don’t have to be lonely with no friends or lacking in outside interests to want to chat with your coworkers sometimes. People who are pleasant to each other aren’t trying to make “BFFs.”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I kind of see things from the positions of both of you.

          To MatKnifeNinja’s point, over the years I spent in the work world, I found that the best way to make friends with people at work is by working together with them, pulling your weight, giving them your support in their work, getting things done together etc. While it may take a few years for a relationship to develop this way, the relationships that do grow in that way are really good and close ones that last years. (I have really good friends from my previous jobs, have dated several former coworkers and so on. This approach really does work well for me.) OTOH I’ve had people walk into the office and try to be best buddies the moment we’ve told each other our names. Never works, because the trust is not there – I don’t know this person, and being that, as my coworker, they are in a position to damage my career, get me to lose my job, etc etc I am not going to pull that trust out of thin air until I’ve really gotten to know them.

          But to your point – I’ve found that people do enjoy an occasional chat about their weekend or their family during a workday – for the same reason they enjoy having photos of their family on their desks – they want to snap out of the corporate world mindset for five minutes every now and then – talking about their family or hobbies helps them feel like the individuals that they are, not like cogs in a corporate machine.

          There’s got to be a way to do both of these things – help coworkers unwind if they need to, without rushing them into the BFF mode.

          1. Busy*

            I think you can absolutely. But I also see where MatKnifeNinja is coming from as well. My cube is surrounded by the office extroverts (the kinds with poor boundaries and a complete lack of ). Even giving these kind of people an inch is like signing yourself up for years and YEARS of drama fueled work crap. Which having worked in both situations, I would definitely say that content silence is SO MUCH BETTER.

            With that said, with these drama-ramas I have to deal with on the regular basis, I maintain tight boundaries. Recently though that has crumbled because they crossed All the Boundaries knowing to mankind and then of course got dramatic over the consequences. But when they would speak to me (bother me incessently) I would keep things very light, listen for a couple minutes about the consequences they are facing due to their poor life choices, and then shut it down.

            But with all that said, I do agree with the spirit of MatKnifeNinja’s comment. OP should be happy its just content silence she is faced with at work. And She could reach out through email once to twice if she wanted, but then let it go.

          2. Yorick*

            Maybe I misread MatKnifeNinja’s comment, but it sounds like they think someone who wants to interact with coworkers is some pathetic lonely person with no friends or hobbies outside of work, and that no one ever wants coworkers to “try to be BFFs” by speaking to them about non-work matters. That’s just not the case.

            I think we’re supposed to take OPs at their word, so we should assume that OP’s office is silent and OP would prefer what is actually a normal amount of interaction with others rather than the almost no interaction they usually have now.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              It is not the case with some people and is the case with others. I’ve had a gossipy, racist, nasty coworker decide she’s my BFF because we shared the same native language, and show up in my cube to talk at me every day several times a day, no matter how I tried to weasel out of it. (Present me would’ve nipped it in the bud, past me was a bit of a pushover and kept dropping hints.) I’ve had coworkers almost get into a fistfight in a hallway next to me, I’ve also had coworkers borderline make out in a cube next to mine (okay to be fair, that was the same coworker both times, but still).

              I do not know if there is a thing like “normal amount of interaction” as opposed to, what, abnormally doing your job? /s Depends on the nature of the work, I suppose. Sounds like the amount of interaction that OP’s coworkers have is normal to them.

            2. MatKnifeNinja*

              I’ve had two groups of coworkers who get REALLY bummed out if there isn’t the whole let’s all go to lunch and group stuff. Where there isn’t some sort of continual office buzz going on.

              1. People fresh out of high school/university, who are used to having a gang of friends to chit chat.

              2. Boundary crushing energy suckers. Where if I don’t sit and listen to their ramblings about the Vegas weekend with their SO, they get all butt hurt. Or their zillion issues at home, or whatever…

              I’m an extrovert who gets more energy from being around people, so I gotta double on the focus at work. I draw a huge in in the sand between work “friends”, and my true friends. I’m currently dealing with a coworker (not a higher up), who gets butt hurt if someone doesn’t go to lunch with her. We’d all prefer to do our thing. I’m the goat that goes and hears all her issues she should be paying a therapist for. She’s in her early 20s, and isn’t used to not having ready made groups of friends. I don’t think she’s a loser, I think she has a unrealistic expectation about work relationships.

              Sometimes you really luck out, and click with a coworker. The most I hope for is everyone is professional, polite and no drama. I have no problems with Hello, Good morning, do you need something?, hope your day is going well. You want quiet, no problem. I’m not going to take that as you hate my guts.

              I have a manager who does the bimonthly bonding lunch thing. I go because she needs validation that everyone likes her, and if you don’t go, she takes it personally. It’s always an optional/not optional thing. We talk nothing work related. How nice we can get together (ugh). Introverts, you aren’t the only ones dying inside at these things. We bring our own lunches, so not even a freebie. (pouty face)

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                When I first started at an OldJob, there already was a group of people in their early 30s (I was in my late 30s) who’d all been hired recently and somehow all bonded over the course of 1-2 months and started acting like the college gang of friends you describe. They’d all go out to lunch together every day and leave me behind as I was the new hire. After a week of that, I made puppy-dog eyes at one of them when they were leaving for lunch, and he asked me to come along (he he). Boy was I disappointed. This group of work friends would spend the whole lunch gossiping about anyone and everyone who wasn’t there. Luckily my workload increased soon after that, and I had to work during lunch a lot (with one or two other teammates) and so was able to skip the gossip sessions without looking like I did not want to be part of them (even though I most certainly did not). I worked there for another six years, the place went through several mergers, grew from a small startup to a large division of a huge corporation, and they were still as cliquish and gossipy when I left as they had been when I first started. Some workplace cultures just turn out to be toxic like that. I’d say, if OP’s workplace is quiet, that probably lowers the odds of it being toxic pretty significantly.

          3. Oh So Anon*

            To follow up on your point, there are lots of ways to share things that make you an individual without providing BFF-level details or wading into drama. That’s the case even if it’s about an interest that your colleagues might not share – it’s an important soft skill to be able to do that without alienating or boring people.

            I absolutely get where MatKnifeNinja is coming from, but the ability to cultivate a base level of interest in other people if only because they are people you spend 40 hours a week with is a pretty big part of building rapport.

        2. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

          Seriously. I don’t want to be BFFS with anyone I work with, but it’s nice to have someone to chat with over lunch occasionally, you know?

    8. Trout 'Waver*

      I don’t think there are more extroverts. I think you’re more likely to run into extroverts because they’re more likely to be out in public and more likely to let you know they’re extroverts.

      It’s kinda like the fact that your friends have more friends than you.

      1. Lissa*

        I think there’s also a lot of people who don’t feel like extroverts, but others diagnose them as such based on the fact that they are chatty – so in an online discussion forum they might well say they’re an introvert, but another person would see them in a group setting being social, maybe even loud and think “oh, everyone there is an extrovert!”

        Like, I both see a ton of talk online about how people “present” as extroverted but are actually super introverted – but also people have no problem looking around a group of people and deciding every one but them is extroverted, when they really don’t know how that person would self-identify.

    9. a1*

      It’s just not true that there are more extroverts than introverts. I’ve posted these links before (see comments for links), but I think it’s worth repeating. Here are some relevant quotes from those two articles:

      …” In other words, Jung believed that introverts and extroverts are minorities.

      Research supports this idea, increasingly pointing to the existence of ambiverts — people with balanced, nuanced personalities composed of both introverted and extroverted traits.

      In a Wall Street Journal interview, psychologist Adam Grant estimated that ambiverts make up between half and two-thirds of the population.

      … It is based on an old estimate from the early 1960’s by Isabel Myers of the Myers-Briggs organization. It was just a personal guess with no real statistical data behind it.

      She estimated that 25% of the population of the United States were introverts and 75% Extroverts.

      This off the cuff guess has grown a life of it’s own. It’s spread exponentially with the growth of the Internet. That favorite hang out of introverts. Unfortunately the Internet increases the spread of misleading information as much as it does for valuable knowledge.

      The actual ratio based on the first official random sample by the Myers-Briggs organization in 1998 showed Introverts 50.7% and Extroverts 49.3% of the USA.

      It’s also not true that introverts don’t need interactions with others. Introverts and Extroverts get their energy in different places. That’s all these terms mean. There are shy extroverts and outgoing introverts. A shy extrovert would rather be alone in a crowd than alone by themselves. Rather than sit at home alone all day they may go to a mall or crowded park, but they would never strike up a conversation with someone. On the flipside an outgoing extrovert will look forward to a party with friends, but limit how long they are there. The like talking to their friends, and socializing, but they can only do it for so long before being worn out.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        There’s probably more ambiverts in the world than extrovert or introvert. That said, this particular office has all the markings of introversion.

    10. OP2*

      I’m actually not an extrovert. But I do think you could be right about the office being full of introverts.

    11. Noah*

      “It sounds like you’re an extrovert in an office full of introverts. It’s rare because there are way more extroverts in the world.”

      You’re actually talking about outgoing vs. shy, not extrovert vs. introvert. But I don’t think there’s data showing there’s “way more” of one category in either pair.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        No, I’m not. When I was young I was introverted AND shy. Now I’m just introverted.
        I enjoy talking to people but need hours of quiet to recoup. That’s different than being intimidated (shyness).
        You can be outgoing and still introverted.
        I should have phrased it that there are more extroverts and ambiverts in the world so it is rare to have an office dominated by introverts.

  5. Hufflepuffin*

    #5 I think if you don’t say something it could appear as if you’re job hunting. Just let them know – and good luck with your appointments.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      It could still look like job hunting since many people use non-existent doctors appointments as an excuse to go to interviews. Either way, OP should still follow Alison’s script.

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        “non-existent doctors appointments”

        If this is a legitimate concern in the OP’s circumstances, it can be ameliorated with a doctor’s note.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Yup, though OP shouldn’t have to bring in a note like a grade schooler – I think the advice above about looking into getting intermittent FMLA is actually the best way to deal with this. That way, HR will know the appointments are legitimate even if others speculate that they’re not.

          1. SpaceySteph*

            I would hesitate to use FMLA if not required, because it is limited to 12 weeks over a year. If OP starts using it for this, they would use up some of the time they might need later to recover from an injury, care for an ailing parent, take parental leave, etc.

            Many offices are flexible enough to use sick leave, PTO, or just make up the hours later and in those cases I’d consider FMLA the nuclear option.

  6. Hufflepuffin*

    The LW doesn’t prefer that though, so I’m sure they don’t need to hear from all the people who would.

  7. Annette*

    If LW4 decides to talk to his boss. He needs to do some thinking and come up with a good explanation of why KSA is so much worse than Russia. I would have questions about why he had no reservations going to Russia and yet won’t consider KSA. Get ahead of them.

    1. Leah*

      The difference is the sheer level of danger. Russia largely uses its anti gay law as a weapon against political threats, and it does not have the death penalty. In Saudi Arabia, Salman and MBS have been ramping up executions. It is very, very dangerous and I think most people that pay attention to current events would understand why an employee would have an issue working for its government. Hell, LW4 could just say I’m not a fundamentalist Muslim and I don’t feel comfortable living in a regime that uses a super strict interpretation of Sharia law, and that might work.

      1. The Russia Hand*

        Russia largely uses its anti gay law as a weapon against political threats
        I would say it’s gone well beyond that, particularly in places like Dagestan and Chechnya.
        That having been said, have there actually been any cases where gay visitors to Saudi Arabia have been imprisoned without any sexual activity involved, i.e., just for being gay back at home?

        1. WS*

          Indeed there have been cases of foreign gay men arrested (and in three cases executed) while working in Saudi Arabia. So far they’ve all been Muslims and not Westerners, but I think it’s beyond reasonable to not want to test that personally!

            1. Public Health Researcher*

              Removed. You cannot be hostile to people here. You are welcome to repost the comment without that. – Alison

              1. Courageous cat*

                I normally agree with you on things like this, but even those tiny subtleties in language can promote harmful views, even without intending to.

                I don’t think it’s worth having a discussion as Hufflepuffin was possibly inciting, but I do think it’s worth pointing out those things in the moment so people can be more mindful.

            2. WS*

              My apologies, I meant that they were non-Western Muslims, not Western Muslims, but I can see how that’s unclear. (The men in question were Yemeni and Filipino.)

            3. Kundor*

              This is an odd reaction, since if WS believed that all Muslims were not Westerners, there would have been no reason to add “and not Westerners.”

              I mean, if someone said “the three cars were red and not convertibles”, would you be all “Why don’t you think convertibles can be red!”

              1. B.*

                Because it was ambiguous and she was interpreting “and not” to mean something like “rather than.” If someone with a blue car says “I’m worried about the rogue keyer targeting my car” and I said “all the cars I’ve seen targeted were red and not blue, but you should probably take some safety precautions anyway” I would be creating a dichotomy between red and blue cars, even though theoretically a car can be red and blue.
                I interpreted it the same way as hufflepuffin at first, but as Alison suggests I like to give the benefit of the doubt and figured that they weren’t saying muslims CAN’T be westerners. At any rate, a western muslim and a non-muslim non-westerner may be safer, and a non-muslim westerner may be safer still, but I wouldn’t expect any of them to suck it up and risk it when they were uncomfortable, which was the point really.

        2. Leah*

          You’re right, Chechnya completely slipped my mind. My badly worded point was that the anti-gay laws in Russia were originally put in place more to quell expression than to eradicate gayness altogether.

        3. MK*

          Well, the OP is presumably not touring the country, he is visiting a specific city/region. It’s possible that he was comfortable staying in Moschow but would have reservations about another location. As a woman, I would probably consider a work trip in a SA sity where my org has offfices and there is an embassy or a consulate of my country, but not staying alone in some tiny village.

          1. Cathy Gale*

            I second that. One of my former colleagues told me about having to hide from the religious police during prayer. She was married and straight.

        4. OfOtherWorlds*

          Dagestan and Chechnya are functionally independent from Russia except for matters of foreign policy. As a queer man myself, I would visit Russia proper but not any of the “autonomous republics”.

        5. JM60*

          “without any sexual activity involved”

          Even if the answer was no (which it isn’t), the fact that someone’s life could be endangered of they have sex should be enough to not force someone to go there. People should have the right to have a (consentual) sex life without fear of being killed for it!

          1. Nic*

            In addition, sometimes what constitutes “sexual activity” isn’t the same as we would expect in our legal code. I mean, one Saudi man was arrested for putting a video online where he was eating breakfast with a woman! You want to guess at what Saudi Arabia might consider to be sexualised behaviour when it comes to homoromantic social cues? It’s like playing a social form of Minesweeper at the moment. LW#4 does not need that.

            (Meanwhile next-door to Saudi Arabia in Dubai, a Briton was arrested for accidentally touching a man’s hip in a crowded bar. He barely noticed that he brushed past the man, but it was considered to be public indecency, so…)

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        He coukd. If he decides to come out at work he needs to tell his boss that he isn’t going somewhere that is literally s threat to his life.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It may also be helpful for OP to know that there are several employers that will not authorize LGBT+ staff to travel to KSA because of the safety risks. Most employers have a responsibility to mitigate foreseeable harm to their employees, and they don’t want to take on the risk that an LGBT+ employee could be subjected to state violence, including the death penalty.

          Another possible angle that may mitigate OP having to out themselves is to pull up the travel advisories from other OECD countries. I suspect there’s a way to frame this as a risk management problem.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            Yes, I was coming to comment this. I have an openly gay friend who works for a company that travels worldwide. He said he was willing to travel to countries like KSA and just avoid any mention of his sexuality but his company refused because there was too high a risk that even a minor slip could be dangerous.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              And in some places all it takes is for those with authority to perceive X person as gay…whether they are or not.

              1. Boomerang Girl*

                I think that’s an important thing to understand. LW should anticipate that the boss may wonder if he’ll be safe by “not doing anything gay” while he’s in Saudi Arabia.

              2. Anon.*

                Yes. I know someone who was killed while on assignment in a country for being gay. The person who killed him claimed self-defense because “he came on to him.” He was acquitted of the murder.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  It has happened right here in river city too (the US), the “gay panic” defense. I can’t remember the last time I read about it but it’s not *too* many years ago. It was (is? IDK if it’s still allowed anywhere) considered a valid defense to be afraid of “the gays” hitting on you* therefore it’s ok to assault/kill them. Not that you* wouldn’t get jail time but I think that it would be lesser charges and way lesser jail time than otherwise. IIRC that is. Though I would bet in earlier times and/or certain places one could have gotten away with it completely. Oh hell…off to Google now.

                  *The general “you” of course.

        2. EPLawyer*

          He doesn’t have to come out to everyone. If I were his boss, I absolutely would want to know if ANYONE is in danger traveling to a client. I wouldn’t send a woman to KSA, either. But the reasons I have for not sending one are just between me and the person. I would not spread the reason why LW cannot travel. A decent boss would keep this detail to themselves, just like LW5’s boss would. If asked for an explanation, I would just say “oh shuffling assignments around due to a review of everyone’s workload.”

          LW4, i’m sure you would be find to traveling wherever the person who takes over your slot was set to go.

          1. Zona the Great*

            Then I’d argue your firm shouldn’t be doing business in KSA if only straight seeming men can go.

            1. Busy*

              My company is hugely and trule global. We will not do business with certain companies based in their location. We have inspectors managers, and even customers that need to visit vendors, and we will just not take that risk. It is literally part of our safety plans.

              Now we will do business with companies that do not have the best safety practices which is a point of contension right now, but definitely will not do business in certain areas. And even with that said, it is not entire countries. We will do business with one vendor in X city but not with a different vendor in Y city as it is a common trafficking route for terrorism and human trafficking. And if there are travel warnings, you better bet thats discussions we have regularly here. Everyone travels. Most of the 15,000 employees travel.

              Now the customer sites are a whole other ball game, and they have huge insurance policies and contracts with people who need to go to DMZs. No “regular” employee would ever be sent there.

              1. Indigo a la mode*

                Well, there’s a difference between working with businesses in one safe city as opposed to another, unsafe city in the same country…and working with businesses in countries whose policies of discrimination, mistreatment, and assassination are state-sponsored.

                Opportunity shouldn’t (and can’t, at least in the U.S.) be narrowed to straight-presenting men. If a company does work in places so fraught that anyone else would be unsafe by virtue of sex, skin color, or orientation, the company should probably reconsider whether they really want to be affiliated with them. Looking at you, WWE.

                1. Lora*

                  Agree 100%, but if your industry happens to be petroleum engineering…it’s a thing.

                  Have a geologist cousin in petroleum. He’s been to all these places, is a straight white guy, and still worries that he won’t get his passport back when the contract is done: KSA has been known to take foreign workers’ passports upon entry and refuse to return them, demanding they extend their contract indefinitely, if that particular job is in high demand and cannot be filled otherwise. Heard the same thing from colleagues who have previously worked in other industries that have a large presence in KSA.

                2. AnnaBananna*

                  Oh Lora, that is really scary. I would be seriously considering my career alternatives…

                3. RUKiddingMe*

                  I wonder how legal that would even be as it denies opportunities to anyone not male and straight presenting…for a US based company I mean. If X place is so bad that *only* Str Male (TM) has any sense if safety at all…how is this not discrimination?

            2. AnnaBananna*

              I actually think this is a wonderful business practice, don’t you? California and several other states do not allow state employees to travel to homophobic and racist states (on business, you’re free to do so on your dime). I think social economy is still a valid business concern and should be approached strategically, up to and including not givng your business to states and countries that go against your own company culture.

      3. Bulbasaur*

        Seconded. I would honestly have no trouble understanding why anybody would refuse to go to Saudi Arabia even without the additional context supplied by the OP – let alone actually doing work for the government. Russia is nowhere near on the same level.

        For the record I would also refuse to go even though I am not gay myself, so you may be able to get away with not playing that card if it’s important to you.

        1. Teacup*

          I’m sure you didn’t mean it this way, but ‘playing that card’ is actually an offensive thing to say just FYI.

          1. Bulbasaur*

            Sorry, didn’t even think of that. Yes, I can see how it could be. Thanks for pointing it out.

            What I meant to say was that if OP prefers to keep that private, there is still an argument to be made without bringing it up. (Although it’s a different kind of argument, and would likely carry less weight than the personal safety argument given that this company apparently sees no problem with doing business with the Saudi government, so I guess it’s a tradeoff).

          2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

            “‘playing that card’ is actually an offensive thing to say”

            Sidetrack question: forgive my cluelessness, but I genuinely don’t know: how is the expression “playing the __________ card” offensive?

            1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

              “Playing the [minority] card” is often used to mean “using your minority status to get special treatment,” with the implication that whatever you’re pushing back against or asking for is illegitimate or pretextual.

              For example, “Jane was written up by her boss for her hair, but she played the race card to HR so they dropped it.” The implication of the sentence is that Jane said “I’m a black person!” and somehow scared HR into doing what she wanted for fear of looking racist, ignoring the fact that Jane might have had a legitimate concern or explanation.

            2. Elizabeth*

              Because it’s mostly used to trivialize and dismiss people of color objecting to racism.

            3. JJ Bittenbinder*

              It is frequently used to denote that the person “playing the card”, so to speak, is using their status (as a woman, an LGBTQ+ person, a person of color, whatever) to get away with something or somehow gain an advantage over the person they’re speaking with.

              Example: I didn’t want to hire Brunhilda, but she played the card and HR made me hire her.

              1. darsynia*

                Yep, another way to look at the phrase is that it’s implying, but not outright saying, that the ‘card’ is a ‘trump’ card (not political, for anyone unfamiliar. It’s a card game term meaning basically, the card that wins over all the other cards, and its use predates the US president’s last name by many many years), and it’s unfair to use it because it forces someone into an action they’re uncomfortable with. So saying ‘they’re playing the [race/sex/orientation] card’ would be saying ‘they’re forcing me into doing something simply because they’re a minority and if I object they’ll claim I was discriminating.’

        2. Genny*

          This is what I was thinking. Before outing yourself, say that you’re uncomfortable going to KSA because of their human rights abuses, poor treatment of minorities including women and LGBT folks, role in Khashoggi’s death, role in Yemen’s civil war and subsequent famine, and sponsorship/exportation of extremism. Mention that you’re especially uncomfortable working with this client because they’re state owned. If I were a boss, that would be enough for me. If it’s not enough for your boss, then you can mention the private reason, but I don’t think you need to start with that.

          1. Pommette!*

            This is a super reasonable stand and might work well in many contexts.

            That said, there might be two caveats in the OP’s case:

            Most of those objections (or equally objectionable variants) would apply to Russia as much as to Saudi Arabia; if the OP presents his objection as a purely ethical one (rather than one based on concerns about personal safety), he might need to explain why it didn’t come up before.

            Also, in some industries + firms, a significant portion of clients are made up of super objectionable state or non-state actors, and a willingness to work with those is pretty much a condition of employment. That might not be the case for the OP, but there’s a chance it is, given he’s worked for both Russian and Saudi governments.

            1. Genny*

              That’s certainly possible and if he gets that response, he can then move to explaining the personal reasons. I don’t think it hurts him by starting out with less personal reasons. Working in Russia could be a point in his favor though as it shows that he’s not being unreasonable about his requests (personally, there’s enough difference between Russia and KSA that I would go to the former but not the latter, but I realize others may draw that line elsewhere, so if I were him, I wouldn’t get bogged down in trying to differentiate the two countries).

              I work in conflict resolution, so I totally get that sometimes you have to work in less than ideal conditions with people who aren’t savory. It’s still important for employers to listen to employees when they set reasonable boundaries about what they can and cannot handle (and I might argue it’s even more important to listen to your employees’ concerns when you work in dangerous areas or with unsavory characters).

            2. AnnaBananna*

              Yes but couldn’t OP double down and just say that the reasons listed in KSA’s case is personal and leave it at that? Maybe he has a second cousin that was imprisoned for _____ and doesn’t want to talk about it but it’s still very close and he will not enter that country willingly (in not such contentious words, of course). We know the true reason but his boss doens’t necessarily need to know. The very fact that he DID go to Russia and not KSA means that his refusal should carry more weight, not less. Because KSA is, in fact, Very Serious.

      1. Someone Else*

        This is unnecessarily hostile. I disagree this is something the LW needs to get in front of if he decides to bring this up with the boss. It’s hard to explain other than how the LW put it, but I am also a not straight person and have also been to Russia and while I know their policies are also not great, I also did not feel unsafe just being there and existing, but I completely understand why the LW does immediately feel unsafe with the idea of being in Saudi Arabia. 1) If the boss pushes back because Russia was ok, as if that dilutes the reason for resistance, that boss is not reasonable. 2) It could be easily articulated as “I didn’t want to have to come out at work over this but now I feel like I need to in order to stop going to countries where I won’t be safe.” If that’s not enough, then again, this employer is not reasonable.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        They are VERY different governments with very different protections. KSA is pretty much an absolute monarchy with complete authority.

    2. WS*

      Russia mostly uses its homophobic laws against Russian people, not foreigners. It also doesn’t have the death penalty for being gay. Saudi Arabia is on a whole different level there!

      1. Lilian*

        Openly bi person from Russia here, the policies are not great, but they are usually aimed at the media or activism, and as a regular citizen you aren’t impacted and generally would not feel unsafe just going about your life. (Chechnya is a whole different problem, but I suspect that’s not the place OP was visiting)
        So there’s a very big difference and, if anything, OP choosing to go to Russia but not to SA shows that they speak up only when they feel a real threat to their wellbeing.

        1. Smithy*

          I think being mindful of this difference would also really help the OP regarding a potential conversation with his boss. Unfortunately there are a lot of countries with negative LGBTQ+ laws and the OP’s assessment around an unacceptable level of risk I think really helps support the conversation. I work for an international humanitarian organization and know a number of gay colleagues comfortable living in the UAE but not KSA.

          Obviously everyone’s mileage will vary around comfort with such laws but I unfortunately think that coming out and having a specific conversation would be far easier than having more general issues with KSA’s government. Especially if the OP would feel comfortable working in Gulf States.

          1. Tigger*

            I have a good friend who is gay that just came home from a 9-month assignment in the UAE and he loved it there. He has worked in many countries in the Gulf region and he said that the UAE was the safest place for him and that he would move there full time if he could.

            1. Ann Nonymous*

              I’m a woman who lived in KSA for 20 years. There are *tons* of gays there. OP might want to go just for the interesting experience. He will not be bothered in any way unless caught in gay activity which of course he wouldn’t do. I can understand the reasons he might not want to go, but he can cross fear for his safety off the list.

              1. Nobby Nobbs*

                I certainly wouldn’t take the risk on the word of some anonymous internet stranger who refers to the lgbt community as “gays.”

                1. Cathy Gale*

                  Nobby and Lady Phoenix, we can disagree the way that AnnaBananna just did… assuming good intention on the part of the other commenter.

              2. Lady Phoenix*

                So because you know some “gays” (a really offensive term from groups of queer people), your advice is, “Just don’t be gay!”

                It is not only offensive, it is also unhelpful because bigots will percieve any notion put of notm as “gay”, nor does it quell the fact that OP can still be in life threatening danger because of who they are.

                Just… your advice is gross.

        2. Iris Eyes*

          This is a good way to frame it. Some commenters have indicated its a place they would avoid/refuse as a mater of principle but for the OP it is about danger to life and limb. If someone had some sort of a health issue that would be potentially deadly because of lack of resources or exposure to something that would cause them a health concern then their job shouldn’t send them there, their business needs don’t outweigh people’s health and safety.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think the distinction could be helpful for OP, although many moderately aware people probably understand that there’s a significant difference between Russia and Saudi Arabia. If OP’s boss is even marginally aware of other countries’ norms, then it’s not hard to explain the fact that the risk is higher in KSA than Russia.

    4. FairPayFullBenefits*

      I disagree, most people recognize that Russia and Saudi Arabia are drastically different. Westerners traveling to Russia common, Americans going to Saudi Arabia is very uncommon outside of a couple particular industries. I think many people would push back against being sent there, gay or straight.

    5. Tom*

      Frankly, Saudi Arabia scares me too – and will not travel there if I can help it.
      I am not gay – though i can rock a pink shirt like crazy – and not very religious either – but the sheer disregard for human life, the violent tendencies the regime has – and a ‘religious police’ all tell me that if one is a normal human with common sense, one would stay away from there.

      I don`t know if LW4 has a good working relationship with the boss-person – but if you do not wish to come out (yet?) – wouldn`t it be possible to request a different project? Citing ‘personal reasons’ – and only if they push, you can request privacy and confidentiality to be honored, before disclosing it?

      That said – if you do not feel comfortable being who you are at the place you work – is that a place you`d wish to stay?

      1. Sharrbe*

        Agree. I think ANY person has a right to not travel to a country that has religious police and doesn’t let women go anywhere unescorted. I would hope that if I were a straight white male, I would still be greatly bothered by this. (This is not a critique of Islam. This is a critique of government and religion being combined in order to control behavior. A Christian government could easily go this route if allowed.)

      2. EtherIther*

        I think pink shirts aren’t directly correlated to being gay, heh. I realize it’s a joke, but it’s perpetuating a harmful stereotype.

      3. darsynia*

        Another thing that is worth recognizing is that online behavior patterns can be searched for by people you interact with through work. It’s quite possible that even if LW4 isn’t out at work and has a moderately locked-down social media presence, there still might be things that could trigger suspicion in a country with a dislike of foreign interference and a death penalty for LGBTQ people.

        That might be an avenue to push just slightly, for LW4, if simply pointing out how much more strict Saudi Arabia is versus Russia would help. Pointing out that being openly friendly to LGBTQ issues in a searchable way could put your life in danger is a valid reason to worry that you could be targeted there, especially when the project is to work with the government. ‘But you’re not gay’ shouldn’t be an argument against feeling unsafe in a country with the death penalty for homosexuals, after all! I mean, if the people being accused could simply deny their sexuality and get out of the penalty, they probably would, to save their own lives.

        I totally recognize how difficult and close to the line of coming out this is, however. I just felt like the point ought to be made: being gay friendly could very well be enough for your life to be in danger in that country, and ‘proof’ could be online for LW4 already.

    6. MommyMD*

      Oh my goodness. It’s unspeakable what goes on in SA. Why would you want to force or interrogate a gay man who is truly in fear for his life if he goes to this country? Russia and SA are worlds apart in many ways.

    7. Pommette!*

      It’s true that in both Russia and Saudi Arabia, people have been killed or tortured because of violent homophobia… but the way that violence and repression play out is different (how directly vs indirectly the state acts; who is most at risk). I would actually be more afraid of travelling to Russia; another, equally reasonable person, might be more afraid of travelling to Saudi Arabia. OP doesn’t need to prove that one country is, in absolute terms, more dangerous the other. It’s enough to explain that he can and will feel threatened.

      In the end I think that most people would respect an employee’s refusal to travel to either one, or both, of those countries. Even organizations whose explicit mandate requires travel to dangerous places (say, Doctors without Borders or the Red Cross/Red Crescent Society) give a lot of weight to individual preference and level of comfort not just with danger, but with different kinds of danger. One person might find the prospect of a hate crime by random strangers scarier; another, the prospect of being condemned to death by an authoritarian state.

      If anything, the OP might want to discuss his differing level of comfort + the reasons for it with the boss in order to make clear that he was happy to go to Russia, and would willingly go back, and would want to consider/discuss potential travel assignments to other homophobic destinations individually/as they come up. (Assuming that that is the case).

      1. RC Rascal*

        This very situation happened in my friend’s office. She got tapped to make the trip as both other available people to go were gay men. There was a discussion regarding safety risk and boss asked her to instead. She wasn’t exactly comfortable either — friend is a loud American blonde and had to wear hajib while in Saudi. There are also a lot of additional rules women have to follow to transact business there. Good luck OP!

        1. Pommette!*

          That is an awkward and difficult situation to be in! (“Your basic humanity isn’t going to be fully recognized by the government of the country we’re sending you to… but still more so than your coworkers’ would, so there’s that!”). I hope that it was an interesting experience for your friend, despite the discomfort.
          And yes: good luck OP!

        2. Former Employee*

          It’s a hijab.

          And I would not go to Saudi Arabia despite the fact that I am a straight female person.

          Who knows what sort of geopolitical BS might come up while I’m there and I could get caught up in it simply because I am a US citizen.

          I have no desire to be a pawn in an international game of chess.

        1. Cartographical*

          I was choosing to be charitable and assumed the poster meant that they have sartorial and behavioral aspects that are not remotely connected to sexual preference but are used as “red flags” in homophobic areas, not that they were making the equation themselves.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The thing is that these countries that persecute LGBTQ members are often working with stereotypes. So just presenting as queer can have extreme consequences.

          So it’s unsettling or obnoxious to hear these things said but to be honest, a man presenting as possibly queer may result in death.

    8. Ra94*

      Russian-American here. I’ve not been to Saudi Arabia, but I can absolutely say that in Russia, homophobia is pervasive and used by the regime for political gains- but tourists in large cities are not at risk of violence. A friend who is an openly (and flamboyantly) gay man studied in Moscow for his year abroad, and made lots of queer friends, went to gay clubs, etc. I think there’s a clear difference in degree of risk.

      1. Wake up !*

        What makes you think that a gay *American* working for the government is at risk of violence? I understand a philosophical objection but I think the actual risk is pretty similar (meaning, low to non existent) in both countries.

        1. Observer*

          Because in KSA an American working for the government is far more likely to be at risk than the same person in Russia. In Russia if you stay away from politics, you should be ok in situations like this (also, stay away from political players.) In KSA? Not so much.

    9. LGBT*

      There’s no comparison. KSA has the death penalty for gay activity and also doesn’t hesitate to detain foreigners. Russia, while a terrible place for LGBT people, is not nearly on that level. Besides — it is not anyone’s place to tell a gay person when he should be ok with homophobia and when he shouldn’t be.

      1. The Russian Hand*

        Demonstrably false. Russia has detained foreigners. There is one very prominent example right now (Michael Calvey, who was always one of the most enthusiastic proponents of investing in Russia) and a Danish Jehovah’s witness.

        1. The Russian Hand*

          Two examples, sorry. Calvey is not the Jehovah’s witness; these are two separate cases.

      2. LabTechNoMore*

        Gay Muslim chiming in. From what I’ve heard of two (white, not Muslim) gay friends who lived in KSA for a while to teach English, there’s actually quite an active gay scene there as a result of the extent of gender segregation.

        It’s still illegal and still can result in the death penalty – I’m not going to ignore that point – and I myself would feel unsafe to go there (at least outside of touristy areas – probably will visit Mecca at some point), but I do need to point out that there’s more nuance than what you see in mainstream media.

        1. Pippa*

          I’m glad you mentioned this; it reflects what I’ve heard as well and is consistent with other places in the region (although KSA is an outlier in so many other ways). I’d add that in Saudi Arabia one of the significant nuance factors is nationality. It’s not that Westerners never get detained or mistreated, but they are significantly less likely to be the target of this sort of thing than nonWestern workers or visitors. It’s entirely reasonable for the OP to be cautious and even to refuse to travel there, but there’s significant complexity in how privilege and discrimination intersect in this context. (Which, of course, makes it even harder for outsiders to assess risk.)

          (And just to note: I’m an academic whose research includes this subject, and a nonMuslim woman who has spent time in Saudi Arabia.)

          1. LabTechNoMore*

            I imagine it would be something like a person of color refusing to travel to the US for fear of police brutality or TSA harassment.

            It happens, and it’s a very real safety issue, but a lot of people who live or have traveled here might see it as an over-blown reaction, if only because we either haven’t experienced it ourselves, or have kind of grown accustomed to the safety threat as business as usual.

            1. NR*

              Yup, I’m an American Muslim woman who wears hijab and I can completely see non-American Muslims being like “I’ve heard Muslims in the US get harassed and/or attacked by racists, and the government put in a Muslim Ban, so I don’t feel safe traveling here.”

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                I’m not saying things don’t happen, however the difference is that despite the best efforts of some people the US doesn’t have a ban on Muslims or any other religious group. There are no state sanctioned morality police not any hotlines for turning people in.

                There is no religion question on visa paperwork, and while some may be targeted by bigots, it is not official US policy to arrest, imprison, or murder people for who they are.

                It is certainly understandable for people hearing news and/or rumors to be frightened, it is possible to point to these facts. Whereas the facts about KSA and a few other places is that they do have/do those things, ergo the danger/safety thing is a whole lot more tangible.

                1. LabTechNoMore*

                  “The whole safety thing is a lot more tangible.”

                  No, it’s a lot more tangible to you. You don’t understand the religious intolerance here because you don’t personally experience it.

                  And I used the example of police brutality and TSA harassment because those are, by definition, institutional racism/religious intolerance. Just because we use race-neutral language to codify it, and they’re smart enough not to put it in writing, it doesn’t make it any less real, or any less of a threat to our safety. (See what I said above about people assuming this is an overreaction.)

  8. RUKiddingMe*

    OP4: That’s a hill I’d be willing to die on. As a woman I would flatly refuse. If I were gay… all the nope.

    1. The Russia Hand*

      I’ll start out by saying that if LW4 doesn’t want to go to Saudi, he shouldn’t go.

      That having been said, I have known many women who have gone to Saudi on business trips. I have known gay people (some quite prominent) who have also gone to Saudi on business trips. As long as you don’t engage in homosexual activity there, or advertise your homosexuality, you will be safe, particularly if you’re a Westerner working on a temporary project for the Saudi government. (And again, I recognize that these caveats are unfair and place Westerners in a place of privilege.)

      If LW4’s objection is more of a moral one, rather than a fear-for-my-own-safety one, I do agree with the poster above who asked why he was OK travelling to Russia, but not Saudi. Informal homosexual behavior is actually quite widespread in Saudi, at least according to the article I linked to below; in Russia, less so.

      1. Becky*

        That article is 12 years old; my understanding is that Saudi Arabia has become more extreme, though I could of course be mistaken.

        1. The Russia Hand*

          In some ways yes, in some ways no. The Saudi system has become more centralized under MBS, and much more willing to target Saudi dissidents abroad (as the Khashoggi case shows). However, the influence of the mutawwiyuun (religious police) and conservative ulama has diminished under MBS.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I think it’s really the OP’s decision whether he feels safe going or not, rather than having a bunch of people who don’t share his risk telling him that he’ll probably be fine as long as he doesn’t act gay and looks Western.

      3. Batgirl*

        That article just talks about being intolerant of everyone and isn’t reassuring in the slightest!
        I would be on pins the whole time and equally afraid of spending time with men or women, platonically or otherwise.
        And I’m straight! When my cousin and his wife lived there they assumed their marriage provided some safety (and it absolutely did) but they did not consider how being constantly surveilled just makes you feel unsafe anyway. They were harassed a few times to explain why they were together, what they were doing etc.
        If I were gay it would be all the nopes. Completely understand that OP doesn’t want to test any safety theories with his life.

      4. MommyMD*

        You cannot guarantee safety in a fanatical country when it comes to homosexuality.

        1. JSPA*

          Hm, really not liking the conflation of fanaticism per se, with homophobia per se. A non- religious country that has the death penalty for homosexuality would be no safer.

          1. DerJungerLudendorff*

            Their government has an ideology that demands the wholesale slaughter and destruction of an entire group of people because of a completely harmless part of their identity.
            I’d say “fanatical” is an accurate description at this point.

            1. Kettles*

              It’s an 85% Christian country and their laws which call for the murder of LGBT people were promoted and largely inspired by US Christian evangelicals.

              1. Femme d'Afrique*

                Oh lord, I hate it when people bring Africa into these conversations. So unnecessary and so much ignorance. And nothing to do with the question.

              2. LabTechNoMore*

                Yea, discussions about LGBT rights in the Middle East already have more than enough of that to go around without invoking ignorance of other parts of the world!

              3. Kettles*

                Good thing I didn’t then Femme! I pointed out that every country with the death penalty for homosexuals is religious and blackcat speculated about whether Uganda counts as a religious country. Not about Africa; about religion and actually, very relevant to whether the OP will be safe. And I’m not really sure why quoting accurate statistics and facts is ‘ignorant’, but you do you.

              4. Kettles*

                And actually Femme D’Afrique, and Labtechnomore – It’s extremely rude to assume I am ‘ignorant’ of the complexities surrounding homosexuality, colonialism, religion, imperialism and the multiple other factors that contribute to religiously justified persecution of LGBT people on the African continent. I can assure you that as a former Catholic, current queer person, and activist of several decades, I am more than aware, and don’t appreciate your unjustified rudeness – especially as it was inspired by little more than a factual statement, and a mention of Africa by *someone else*.

            2. Kettles*

              To be 100% clear on this – I believe Uganda doesn’t officially have the death penalty for homosexuality – LGBT people ‘merely’ face life in prison. Although state sanctioned torture still takes place.

          2. Indigo a la mode*

            They didn’t say *only* fanatical countries have homophobia issues. It’s true that most major religions have archaic, negative outlooks on homosexuality, and when it gets to a fanatical level, those opinions are amplified.

          3. RUKiddingMe*

            Of course it wouldn’t. Can you name one non-religious country that has such a policy?

      5. Wintermute*

        The problem with relying on forbearance of the ruling regime is that it is an informal custom of not enforcing the laws on the books– they COULD enforce them at any time. I think each person is entitled to their own estimation of those odds, and their own toleration of risk– some people wouldn’t work a high-risk job even if it made them far more money, depending on your life circumstances the amount of risk you’re willing to accept is necessarily going to be different. For me, my tolerance for risk in a situation like this would be very, very low (There’s no particular reason for me not to be able to go to SA and I could make very good money in my IT field if I was willing to, still all the nope).

        Plus in this day and age of customs agents going over people’s social media and asking for phone and laptop passwords, I am not sure your risk assessment based on old articles is accurate.

        The actual probability is low, but I really don’t think you can discount it entirely. Right now bilateral relationships are fairly good, but that could change at any time and that’s what makes it unsafe. You won’t necessarily know in advance if something is going to sour relations or trigger a crackdown, it’s not likely because of economic reasons but, well, again I don’t think relying on an informal custom is “safe” in any sense.

        1. Ra94*

          Plus, there’s the added stickiness that the ruling regime- which could choose to enforce its laws at any moment- would be OP’s client. What if negotiations go south or they don’t like some element of the project? It seems like a terrifying power dynamic to have with a client.

      6. RUKiddingMe*

        I should be more clear. I have been to SA, during the hajj. But I was with my observant, practicing Muslim husband, his parents, and two if his sisters. Also I have a paper from when we got married saying I am Muslim (it simplified the shit show that was getting married in Morocco) so I was pretty safe. Going alobe as a woman, a western woman, even with said paper…nope.

      7. quirkypants*

        There is so much privilege and so many assumptions in this statement. I know Allision has already commented that comments like yours are not appropriate but I want to add, as a queer woman, I’ve been harassed in countries far less hostile to LGBTQ people than Saudi Arabia and I wasn’t engaging in anything homosexual or “advertising” anything (I’m not sure what you mean here, but I wasn’t wearing a billboard across my chest or announcing my queerness out loud or even talking about women/sex/my girlfriend). And, for the record, in Canada, I am often “read” as straight (but not always).

        Some people’s queerness oozes out of their pores and asking them to alter their personality, appearance, or even their swagger/strut or the way they sashay, etc. for personal safety is beyond irritating.

        It also places the onus on the person who might be harassed or the victim anti-LGBTQ persecution. Based on the logic employed here, I had some control over my own harassment and if I was harassed, I must have done something to bring it on myself.

        I’d ask you to reconsider the way you think about this and position this argument next time. And also think about how difficult it is for people to change their own nature. Imagine, asking an incredibly masculine man to act *convincingly* feminine (not just trying, but actually succeeding!) and if he fails, his safety, dignity, and even life are at risk. I may pass as straight some of the time but I wouldn’t be willing to bet life on it!

          1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            But the Swiss government wasn’t going to sentence you to death for it.

      8. Elizabeth West*

        I’m straight, but I absolutely would not go to SA and I would risk quitting over it.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          Same. I wouldn’t want to work for a company who is willing to work with the KSA government anyway. (Unless it’s as a human rights campaign or something.)

      9. Janie*

        You know some people don’t have a choice in whether they “advertise your homosexuality” or not, right? Like some people are going to read as queer, especially to bigots.

      10. Batgirl*

        Just in case anyone wants a handy visual (or in case the clearly well-informed OP needs a reminder that their instincts are dead-on) this colour-coded map from the ILGA puts Russia as ‘yellow alert’ and Saudi at the very centre of the red-as-blood Danger Danger Will Robinson territory.

        ….and wow, that’s one depressing map.

      11. LGBT*

        > advertise your homosexuality

        This is a problem. If you are gay and married, does being honest about your marital status mean you “advertise” your homosexuality? Do you have to invent an opposite-sex spouse? You may not have meant it this way, but calling someone who is out of the closet “advertising” is offensive.

        I also wouldn’t be so sure that just being a foreigner/Westerner keeps you safer. I have personally known a Western woman thrown in jail because they turned down an advance in KSA, and there are stories in the news of rape victims being thrown into jail in the Gulf. If someone prominent doesn’t like you over there, being Western doesn’t help.

    2. Ms. Rogerina Meddows*

      I’m a woman and I’m gay. It would be a double hell no for me. I’d die on all the hills, come back as a zombie, and then die on the hills *again* before going to KSA.

    3. Iconic Bloomingdale*

      Ditto. I am a straight, American woman and I would absolutely refuse to go to Saudi Arabia solely based on their horrific HUMAN rights track record. Period.

    4. DerJungerLudendorff*

      “I will not work with a client who has standing orders to murder me” is a completely reasonable and proffesional boundary to keep.

      As well as, y’know, a generally good idea for staying alive.

    5. [A Cool Name Here]*

      Ditto. I wouldn’t even go with my macho husband with me every minute. I lived in the UAE for a couple of years and while there, a hotline was established in one emirate for the public to call and report immoral behavior. As in, “I don’t think this man and woman are married to each other and they’re talking to each other in a public park.” I cannot imagine with what trouble I could naively and innocently get mixed up being in the KSA for just one day!

      OP – I think your strength lies in not feeling safe there as a Westerner, and if that fails, then because of your sexual orientation. I’m with RUKiddingMe – this is a good hill on which to die.

    6. Less Bread More Taxes*

      My previous employer had a policy that at-risk groups did not travel to risky countries. This meant effectively that only white men could go on certain business trips (I think if a woman really wanted to go, they’d allow it, but they never asked and as far as I know, no woman or openly gay man wanted to). This employer had loads of problems. My point is, if a crappy employer like them can figure out how to keep its employees feeling safe, any reasonable manager will understand “I don’t feel safe there” even without bringing up sexuality. The country just massacred a journalist. No one should be forced to travel there.

    7. blackcat*

      I mean, an employer asking you to do something *that carries a risk of death* is a totally appropriate “hill to die on.”

  9. Blarg*

    KSA is also completely closed or hostile to many religious minorities. For a time, their English language website for their US a embassy explicitly stated they would not issue visas to Jews. When objections were raised, they removed it. But I sure as hell wouldn’t feel welcome; their visa application still asks for your religion. If you’ve ever been to Israel, that would be a deal breaker to getting a visa that wouldn’t necessitate outing yourself.

    You could state that you are a member of a minority group explicitly not welcomed there. It’s accurate and still gives you some privacy. They also strictly ban all narcotics (and execute violators) so if you take any prescription medications that are controlled, you could perhaps opt out for medical reasons.

    1. The Russia Hand*

      their visa application still asks for your religion

      This is common throughout the Middle East, not just in Saudi. And it goes back to the Ottoman “millet” system, whereby religious groups were organized into separate communities. It is quite common for random people to ask you what your religion is.

      Having visited Israel is not inherently a barrier to visiting Saudi, or other countries that do not recognize Israel. You just can’t have an Israeli stamp in your passport. People who travel in the MENA region frequently often hold a second passport specifically for trips to Israel. (I understand that as of a few years ago, the Israelis stopped stamping passports altogether and now stamp a separate piece of paper.) You should also avoid getting Jordanian stamps at the Allenby Bridge or Egyptian stamps at Sinai, since these are land border crossings from Israel.

      1. Sam.*

        I am certainly not an expert at travel in this region, but I was in Israel a couple of years ago for work and can confirm they did not stamp my passport itself.

      2. Wake up !*

        Yeah, thank you. I’ve got some bad news for everyone about Israel if they think asking people to declare their religion is some uniquely Saudi abberation.

        1. Observer*

          Except that Israel doesn’t consider Christianity, Islam (or any other religion, for that matter) to be illegal. You can declare yourself to be any religion (or no religion) and you don’t have to worry about surveillance or having your baggage checked to make sure you don’t have contraband, etc.

          1. al-fajr*

            Except that Israel doesn’t consider Christianity, Islam (or any other religion, for that matter) to be illegal. You can declare yourself to be any religion (or no religion) and you don’t have to worry about surveillance

            ^This is about the most naive comment I have ever read. You seriously think they don’t profile Muslims on El Al flights?

    2. JaneB*

      My dad was an engineer who worked all over the place – the U.K. government issued him 2 passports, so he could get Israeli visas etc in one and still go to certain other countries by using the other one – & that was 30+ years ago. These are long standing problems!

    3. Hufflepuffin*

      British person here – I was told I could get a second passport if I needed to visit KSA due to having an Israeli stamp in mine.

      I… don’t want to visit a country that requires me to do that.

      1. Blarg*

        This is my point. Sure, there are ways to get around it, but personally, I prefer to not have to lie by omission. If for no other reason than I’d be scared I’d say the wrong thing. Self-policing language. Also the reason I’m not going to Cuba right now. I think the embargo is ludicrous. But I don’t want to put myself in a position to need to lie to my government or any other for tourism or business purposes.

        1. LaurenB*

          While I certainly understand the poster’s desire not to go to KSA, I will just mention that I (a Jewish woman) did travel to KSA for business and I just said I was Christian on the part of the application asking for religion. I find that type of little white lie no big deal whatsoever from a moral / ethical standpoint, and I’m actually half and half anyway.

      2. Wake up !*

        But…you visited Israel, didn’t you? Do you think they’re not looking at your passport stamps from Arab countries?

        1. fposte*

          Israel will let you in with those stamps, though; it’s the other countries that actually bar entry.

    4. Maggie*

      As you mentioned, religion is included on a visa application. Being a non-believer is not permitted. Under The Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing (2014 I think), atheism and terrorism are under Article 1: “Calling for atheist thought in any form”.

      I wouldn’t go anywhere near a country that views me as a terrorist because I don’t believe in any of the 8,000-odd gods there have been.

      It doesn’t matter where you are from, you can’t expect any kind of safe ‘pass’ where beliefs are so very different.

      1. JSPA*

        “Calling for” is the atheistical equivalent of “prosyletizing.” Not a requirement for you to believe, just a requirement not to call others into unbelief. Not unique to the hard – line Arab countries / not uncommon during the red-scare era, where atheism and communism were seen as sides of the same (revolutionary) coin.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In countries where the law says “You cannot promote X,” merely being X counts as promotion. If anyone can tell you’re X, then you are being openly X and thereby promoting the X lifestyle and thus proselytizing and can be prosecuted for such.

      2. LabTechNoMore*

        I wouldn’t go anywhere near a country that views me as a terrorist because [of my beliefs]

        Incidentally, this is the same reason I’m not comfortable visiting Europe as a Muslim.

        And a handful of the Middle Eastern countries because of the I’m-Gay thing. …I don’t travel much.

    5. LaurenB*

      No, Blarg, it’s not a deal-breaker at all if you’ve ever been to Israel. You simply get a new passport. People deal with that all the time.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I don’t understand this comment. This thing is not a deal-breaker because if you manage to hide all the evidence that you’ve ever done this thing and purchase a separate set of travel documents, you can get around it?

      2. LegalBeagle*

        This is really dismissive and minimizing of the risks facing a person of any minority status. I’m Jewish and I wouldn’t go near a country that asks for my religion on a visa application.

        1. Grace*

          I have a friend who was born Baha’i (now atheist). The Baha’i faith keeps a record of everyone that’s part of it, and there is evidence that agents from countries that have the death penalty for apostasy (everyone Baha’i is technically classed as an apostate under those laws) have accessed the list and now have copies of it. She can never, ever go to a country that executes so-called apostates, because she would be flagged at the border as being on the list of Baha’is and potentially arrested and put on trial.

          There is *very* real and present danger for a lot of people when it comes to travelling as part of a persecuted minority religion.

    6. Smithy*

      As someone who’s not only Jewish, but holds an Israeli passport and works for an international humanitarian organization – I would actually strongly advocate for the OP to come out so that he and his employer can properly evaluate not just the risk the OP would be taking but also the business.

      There are countries I technically should not be able to go to, but have and feel comfortable with that risk. My employer thus far has agreed with my assessment – however they also hired security staff and there may someday be a case where my assessment and theirs is not in agreement.

      While noting concern over being a religious minority might delay the issue – it could also result in the OP not being offered other opportunities in areas where religion may be an issue but sexuality isn’t. Or the opposite.

      If the OP’s workplace genuinely cares about employee diversity and safety – I think that knowing the exact nature of the OP’s discomfort is important.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Thanks. I also feel strongly that someone in a minority that is at risk should not have to be at risk for work (unless it’s part of the career path to begin with) … AND I feel that doing business in countries (or with companies) who present risk to people because of who they are is pretty much morally repugnant and not worth doing for at any price.

        Coming out could be risky at the home office for other reasons, but even so, at some point sometimes it’s important to take a look at what your company’s real values are, and decide if that is something you can live with in the long haul.

        Also, it sucks to have to do it.

    7. Oaktree*

      Yeah; I’m openly bi, female, and Jewish. (And while Israel no longer stamps passports for this reason, I have been there three times.) I wouldn’t go to the KSA under any circumstances. Not even if I was furnished with a bodyguard.

    8. SV ME*

      India still asks for your religion on the eVisa application as well. This isn’t unique.

  10. Jess*

    OP #4 “I could be imprisoned, assaulted, or put to death for aspects of my identity that are protected here in the U.S.” Likely your boss will figure it out, but according to Wikipedia, witchcraft has the same penalties, so you could just as easily be talking about religion as sexual orientation. And if you’re in one of the states that has employment protections for sexual orientation, any retaliation for you refusing to go would actually be illegal.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      You wouldn’t need to use the term identity. Use the term “background” instead.
      “My background is such that I could be arrested or even executed.”
      That covers religion, race, people group, nation of origin, or sexuality.

      1. JSPA*

        without going into details of my background, I’m a member of a group that’s distrusted and persecuted in Saudi Arabia. For my own safety, as well as effectiveness in the role, I will need to decline travel there–and to countries X and Z–especially for governmental and government – ascent jobs.”

        1. LaurenB*

          Hey, for all they know, you’re Jewish and just haven’t mentioned it to anyone, don’t have an obviously-Jewish last name, etc.

    2. Tau*

      If you’re OK with your boss knowing in principle, this is probably the route I’d go – you don’t have to go through the awkwardness of coming out directly, but it makes clear how serious the issue is and gives him the pieces to put it together himself.

      Unfortunately, I can’t see of a way to adamantly refuse without going this sort of route. Any sort of “I have moral objections to their laws and policies” just doesn’t carry the same sort of weight as if you make clear you’re at actual, personal danger there.

      1. Mary*

        Our company has an office in Saudi and staff have used this very argument for not going, and it has been accepted. Our HR are also updating our travel policy to ensure that staff are safe travelling if they go to countries that are anti-whatever, to ensure staff are safe at all times. So does your company have a travel policy that addresses this? If not this is another angle to pursue. But I have seen some of our staff use the moral objection to travelling to KSA given their history and it has been accepted.

      2. Wintermute*

        I disagree, if you do business in Saudi it’s very likely that management knows that many people won’t go there, won’t work there and won’t support their government or economy.

        In fact, my experience is limited in the area, but I’ve never known of a company that does business there without a policy that travel to Saudi is always voluntary and there won’t be retaliation if you don’t want to go there, and that’s at least several companies. If your work does a lot of international work, and is generally reasonable or has good HR policies then they probably have a policy on travel to nations where people may not be safe because of their religion, orientation, or other personal characteristics, because they don’t want to open up the can of worms that is forcing people to disclose any one of the many, many protected categories which could land you in serious trouble.

        A good employer doesn’t want people to be in a position that makes them feel unsafe, they also know people can’t do their best work under such circumstances.

        1. Tau*

          Good to know! I was thinking that “I personally am at risk due to this travel” trumps “I have moral problems with this regime” by orders of magnitude – didn’t realise that many companies have accounted for the can of worms that is forcing people to disclose personal information or risk persecution abroad, or that the moral problems themselves might also be treated seriously. Consider my comment retracted.

          1. Wintermute*

            I think your comment is still valuable in case of employers that are less reasonable or in a field where “moral objections” are not likely to fly– only the OP can know. Working in IT consulting they’re more likely to accept that than if you’re a field where people are expected to have already wrestled with whatever moral conundrums they have about their work and not let it affect them (oil and other natural resources businesses, arms industry, etc). They MAY say “that’s not good enough” to a moral objection, but they really can’t say that to a matter involving a protected class and personal safety.

    3. Mookie*

      The animus towards “witchcraft” is not on par with the animus the LW is concerned about, thanks.

      1. JSPA*

        Plenty of spots on the globe where people are killed by mobs based on witchcraft accusations. You can argue philosophically about governmental vs private risk, but… dead is dead.

        1. Kettles*

          Including Saudia Arabia, where it is a capital crime and people are routinely imprisoned or executed for it. Hence why it was brought up in the first place; as Jess said “witchcraft has the same penalties” (as being LGBT).

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          Governmental vs private risk is actually a really, really important distinction if your only protection would be going to the local authorities.

          1. Genny*

            Though many times there isn’t a lot of daylight between public and private feelings/actions/perceptions at the local level. IME, local police forces are often complicit in violence whether by actively participating or by turning a blind eye.

          2. Kettles*

            However both witchcraft and being lgbt are capital crimes in Saudi, so there is no distinction

      2. Kettles*

        Multiple people have been executed in SA for ‘witchcraft’ and over 100+ people a year are arrested for it. Roughly 200 women a year are murdered in India for being ‘witches’. Papau New Guinea is in the grip of a crisis where hundreds of people a year are murdered for ‘witchcraft’, including being burned alive.

        So actually, the risks are pretty similar, and as JSPA says, dead is dead.

          1. Kettles*

            By SA I meant Saudi Arabia. I realise now that SA is the acronym for South Africa. But this is why witchcraft was mentioned in the first place – it’s a capital crime in Saudi.

            1. Mookie*

              Gotcha, sorry about the confusion. But I’m not aware of foreigners on business trips ever having been charged with witchcraft in any of those countries, including KSA, so the risks

                1. Elspeth*

                  The risks are similar. You just have to Google to see that foreigners have been/are being threatened with death for practicing or owning items which are considered illegal and pertaining to witchcraft.

      3. Slartibartfast*

        I think it’s also disrespectful to those who practice to claim you do to get out of something you don’t want to do. It’s a group that has a hard enough time being taken seriously as it is.

        And just to be clear, I realize “don’t want to” is a massive understatement. “Gay man” and “Saudi” in the opening sentence was enough to cause a visceral “oh hell no” reaction on my part. I just don’t think pretending to be part of another marginalized group to avoid disclosing the one you’re actually a part of is OK. I like JSPA’s wording, be vague and hope it’s enough given your work history. Give out your personal information in small packets so you don’t disclose any more than you have to.

      4. HollyTree*

        I am practicing witch and LGBTQ+.

        The fact that I can be put to death for either of those things is abhorrent.

        Please, folks, remember us witches/shamans/folk practioners do still exist and also, innocent people are put to death on mere accusations of being one of us or something like us in countries like this all the time.

        1. milksnake*

          +1 also practicing witch & LGTBQ+
          Witchcraft is part of genuine religious practices, and the risk of being murdered for either is horrifying.

        2. nêhiyaw ayahkwêw*

          I think it’s important to keep in mind that witchcraft in this context has little do to with the Western understanding of witchcraft, and it’s connection to European Paganism.

          In these cases “witchcraft” is more likely to mean practicing traditional rites and religions that were meant to be wiped out when the dominant/colonizing religion showed up. This is part of the process of colonization, and comparing it to western witchcraft feels a little off to me.

          For example, my country was colonized by Christians, we were forced into christianity. Luckily many people are returning to our traditional spirituality, but there are still communities here where religious practices outside christianity are banned, so people are not allowed to practice their traditional beliefs. My understanding is that many colonized countries in Africa and the Pacific have had similar experiences, and accusations of witchcraft have more to do with misogyny and colonization, than what many western people may associate with witchcraft.

          1. Mookie*

            Thank you for demonstrating why these comments are specious, ignorant, and more than a little offensive.

    4. BRR*

      This was going to be my suggestion. I’m not sure if everything in Saudi law but was wondering if a broad “there’s something in the law that makes me fear for my safety” would work?

    5. tinyhipsterboy*

      Seconding this. Plus, it’s a little more iffy, but if OP4 wanted to make the part about being gay clearer without actually outing himself, he could use something along the lines of “people frequently assume I’m gay, and considering Saudi Arabia is legitimately dangerous for gay men, I’d like to stay safe instead of potentially being attacked”. It’s not the best thing, given that it implies he’s not gay, but it still avoids him having to actually come out.

      1. Flash Bristow*

        What if boss says, in an “all lads together” kinda way, “sure, but you’re not, right? Don’t worry, the company will vouch for you” or similar?

        I don’t think this kind of “hinting” will work.

  11. Becky*

    #3 Just a thought to add into this–is there any possibility of this person being able to work long distance/remotely or in a different office with the move? This might not apply depending on your company of course, but I’ve discussed plans with my manager for moving and retaining my position as we already have a number of team members at other offices and working remotely. If your coworker has discussed this with your manager you may not necessarily know.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP I do know people who have given fake reasons to sell on social media to avoid intrusive questions or stalkers. If you’re going to anyone, definitely make it the co-worker.

      1. JSPA*

        This. So long as a seller isn’t hiding material defects, there’s no legal (and minimal moral/philosophical) requirement to tell the truth about incidentals.

        That said, it might be a kindness to warn co-worker that Facebook is crossing their streams for them.

      2. MK*

        Actually, in my country something similar has been a sales tactic in the past. A store would advertize “we are closing the bussiness!” to create the perception that goods would be on sale and lure shoppers in, and there were shops who were “closing down” for decades. It was deemed a predatory sales tactic and now you have to get a license and post its number along with the announcement of closure.

        Maybe the coworker gave this excuse because the item is new but unsatisfactory and she doesn’t want to draw attention to why she is getting rid of it, maybe she is in financial need and embarrassed about selling her stuff, there could be all sorts of reasons.

        1. Antilles*

          That’s interesting that they’d use a “going out of business” sale to lure in customers.
          Maybe I’m overthinking it, but to me, it seems like a great way to get a lot of customers…but only ONCE per customer, because they assume you’re closed and never think of coming back.

          1. schnauzerfan*

            I remember a local store that went “out of business” dozens of times when I was a kid, would “reopen” with a slightly different name or a few doors down the street. When the owner finally died, his kids had one last going out of business sale. “This time for sure” … but yeah, lots of possible reasons for this, maybe she’s selling her mom’s stuff, maybe lots of stuff, but not your business, but I might mention to her that you saw her post just to give her a heads up.

            1. it's-a-me*

              We had a store like this too, they went out of business about every 6 months, but didn’t even move or close at all, just supposedly had ‘new owners/management’ all the time. I’m pretty sure they got in legal trouble for it a few times as well.

              They recently actually really closed for good… probably. And now there’s a big outcry because they were a ‘local icon’ and their (falling down) building should be preserved including their signs. Good luck getting another business to move in and actually do the place up if they have to keep the old scungy signs up!

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          Yes, I visited a shore city where some of the souvenir shops on the boardwalk were “Going Out of Business Labor Day!”

          We went back maybe 6 years later and lo and behold, the same shops were still “Going Out Of Business Labor Day!” They knew most of the people on the boardwalk were tourists and many of them didn’t come back often enough to notice it was a scam.

      3. Lilian*

        Absolutely, I’ve definitely “moved places” before when I was selling a whole bunch of summer clothes.

      4. mamma mia*

        What’s the point in speculating if the coworker was lying about moving? It wouldn’t change the advice either way. OP should keep quiet and realize that they’re not “deceiving” their boss by minding their own business. The bottom line is that there is no possible scenario where it would be acceptable to talk to your boss about something you THINK you found out about a coworker through social media. It’s pretty cut and dry.

        1. Important Moi*

          LW has good relationship with the boss and wants to keep the good relationship, I guess, by sharing what was found about on social media.

          Yet another reason for no co-worker NOT to have access to your personal social media.

          1. Important Moi*

            “Yet another reason for NO co-worker to have access to your personal social media.”

            Darn it! I typed too fast.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            It doesn’t sound like the coworker put it on her own media. It sounds like it was on something like one of those Facebook “for sale” pages, where anyone in a certain location can post and browse.

          3. mamma mia*

            If OP feels compelled to needlessly snitch on a coworker for something as innocuous as this, I’m not so sure if she does have a good relationship with her boss. Sounds pretty unhealthy, actually. If the boss would make OP feel that choosing not to share the coworker’s post with them was deceitful, then that’s a bad and unreasonable boss.

            1. Busy*

              I think you are being unnecessarily hostile to the OP. It is an ordinary type question that people in that situation may have. It is not always clear looking at it from the inside.

              1. mamma mia*

                I’ve reread my comments and I’m honestly confused as to why you think I’m coming off as hostile. I never implied that it’s a silly question or that she should not have asked the question; in fact, I’m glad she did. If anything, I’m expressing concern that the OP feels that not tattling is equivalent to deceiving her boss because it’s really not the same thing. Maybe that wasn’t “clear from the inside” to OP so I’m adding outside perspective (which is obviously what the comments are here for).

                1. JB (not in Houston)*

                  I’m sure you are not intending to sound hostile, you just want to help the OP. That being said, the “needlessly snitch” and “tattling” language is not exactly neutral. There’s definitely a value judgment in those word choices. As with your suggestion that her relationship with her boss is “unhealthy” if she’s concerned that she should tell him this information. This is not the first time someone has had this kind of question, and she wrote into Alison to ask what to do, she didn’t immediately run to her boss and tell him. Let’s cut her some slack. You’re right that the OP doesn’t need involve herself in this, which is what Alison told her. But we can give her advice without involving moral judgments about the OP or her question.

                2. mamma mia*

                  This is for JB (not in Houston). I’m not able to directly reply for some reason.

                  I’m not going to apologize because the words I used accurately reflected what I meant…that’s ridiculous. But I really appreciate you taking the time to explain to me that words have meaning. Not condescending in the slightest.

                  Yes, I think it would be morally wrong to tell the boss about the post. Yes, I heavily implied as much in the comments but at no point did I make a moral judgment on OP herself. If you can’t see the distinction there, then I don’t think we can come to an agreement.

                3. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  I think it was probably the part about “snitching” that made the comment seem a little more harsh. I don’t mean that in a nitpicking way at all, just trying to clarify why some people would read that comment more strongly than others.

                4. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  Sorry, forgot to refresh before commenting. I didn’t mean to pile on.

            2. Observer*

              Snitch? Really?

              This is open information that actually does happen to be relevant. You could argue whether the OP should share it with their boss or not, but sharing information that someone posts on a public board is hardly “snitching”.

              1. mamma mia*

                Yes, REALLY. I don’t know why people here are acting as if using the word “snitch” is somehow beyond the pale and “hostile”; it’s completely nitpicky and unnecessary. The OP’s motivation to tell the boss is because she wants more time to train a replacement. Well, I sympathize with that but it’s not a good enough reason to tattle; no one’s lives are in danger because the OP’s coworker is moving, people leave and move on. It is the coworker’s place to tell the boss if she’s planning to leave, not OP. All of this has been stated by Alison, just in a more roundabout way. Just because something is publicly available, it still doesn’t make it OP’s business to share. How is this such a difficult concept?

        2. Zombeyonce*

          It wouldn’t change what they do, but if they found out the co-worker isn’t really moving, it could lower OP’s stress level about upcoming workload changes.

      5. Rusty Shackelford*

        I had a neighbor who put up a fake “for sale” sign to deter a stalkery ex.

      6. Psyche*

        I agree. If this is really really bothering you, just ask. It would also let the coworker know that this information was easily found if they are trying to be discrete about the move.

      7. Antilles*

        I’ve actually heard advice that if you’re trying to sell something online and really motivated to just get rid of it (even if it means losing some money), adding something like moving out of state to the ad can be a good way to signal “open to negotiations and any remotely reasonable offer”.

  12. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    Personally, I would never go to Saudi Arabia unless I had a really, really good reason (non-binary and gay here). And even then, I would do everything I could to take my Muslim best friend with me as a sort of hedge; someone to tell me how to behave and make sure I don’t screw up.

    Honestly, that’s the same protocol I would have wanted to take when I briefly considered a trip to North Korea. Consider carefully and go with a Korean speaking friend. I have a taste for unusual trips, having grown up sailing and my parents having visited the former East Germany and many isolated natural places. However, Saudi is a bridge too far for me to visit/stay alone for any reason.

    So I just don’t think it’s safe for OP4 if he is sticking around for more than a few days and doesn’t have a person with the needed religious and cultural knowledge to help him. If he doesn’t want to come out, he can show the boss information on what has happened to foreigners who only visited and were targeted for their backgrounds, not crimes.

    1. TL -*

      I don’t think being Muslim makes you an authority on the KSA, unless you’re also from there. Nor would bringing a Muslim friend be a substitute for a guide and interpreter (many Muslims aren’t fluent in Arabic), particularly when the laws there are so much more onerous to navigate than most other countries.

      1. UKDancer*

        Agreed. When we have work trips to Saudi the most vehement person in my team who refuses to go (apart from me), is my Shia Muslim colleague because the KSA views his form of Islam as apostacy. He doesn’t like the way some people in KSA treat non Arabic Muslims and actually disagrees with the way they govern the practice of Islam at State level.

        There are huge cultural differences between the ways different cultures practice Islam so if you want a guide you’d need someone who knew Saudi culture and their application of Sunni Islam in detail.

        1. The Russian Hand*

          “Non-Arabic Muslims”

          Some Shia are Arabic. Most sunni are Non-Arabic.

          1. NR*

            One thing – Arabic is the language. Arab is the ethnicity. “Non-Arab/Arab Muslims” is the phrase.

      2. LaurenB*

        Yes; the comment to “bring a Muslim friend” shows a lack of understanding of the uniqueness that is KSA. Being Muslim is not a get-out-of-jail-card (literally).

      3. Yorick*

        We don’t know anything about overcaffeinatedandqueer’s friend or their reason for thinking bringing the friend would help – maybe they would bring the friend because he/she does know a lot about KSA.

        1. Busy*

          Yeah. Going out into the world and reaching to find things (make things) offensive is not generally helpful.

          I think we can all assume what he meant when he wrote this. Same with his Korean friend. Obviously he would have wanted to go with a Korean friend who “knew”. Thats just assumed and inferred. People do not always need to be so rigid in their speech. Inference in a human skill.

          And obviously if you were going to a nationalistic, racist, homophobic, western hating country, you would at least want to go with someone who *looks* like they belong in the RACIST country.

          1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

            The funny thing is, one can’t visit North Korea on a South Korean passport, so the person I speak of (we thought about the trip before Trump and sanctions ofc), is as white and Midwestern as I am! I couldn’t get a South Korean to come with me, full stop. It’s not allowed.

            But, he would still be better than going in with no knowledge; he’d served at the DMZ and spoke Korean because of marrying a South Korean and serving there.

            I’m the North Korea nut as far as reading and watching stuff, keeping up with current issues and geopolitical changes. So, before the travel ban (and maybe if it is ever lifted), the idea is that we’d protect each other by combining knowledge.

        2. TL -*

          Well, we do because the identifier/qualifier given was Muslim. Not Saudi or Saudi-American or “who has traveled to the KSA numerous times.”

          Had any of those been true, they probably would have been used as the descriptor instead.

    2. Thursday Next*

      I get what you’re going for, but the idea of a “native informant” is really fraught. (Is your friend Saudi and well-versed in the penal code, or are you just assuming that? Penalties are also harsher for Muslims that non-Muslims—your friend might not want to call attention to themselves by being with a non-Muslim, Western tourist.)

      This is very tangential to the OP’s question, but I think as long as this top-level comment is here, it’s important to interrogate the assumptions underpinning this idea.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        Same with bringing a Korean-speaking friend to North Korea. They’re likely to be in more danger than you are, especially if they’re on a different passport than you.

    3. LaurenB*

      I’m removing this because it’s really derailing and is addressing a situation other than the letter. – Alison

      1. Busy*

        Actually presenting as anything other than what bits you have is very dangerous in this society. Remember, they do not care what you think. They care only about your bits. If they discover you have female bits and are dressing as a man, they will likely kill you. If you have male bits, you will get locked away and will not get out without international interference. That may sound very direct and harsh, but that is because I am stating just the facts. It is how it is. You can’t change that or rewrite that no matter how many different ways you try to flip that around. If a Non-Binary person has to go, they do need to pick something – because they are watched. Like hawks. Constantly. And they will check your bits.

        It is not fair to make these arguments as you are not dealing with people who are even playing with the same deck of cards as you, so to speak. It is harmful to people like the OP who is trying to come up with a way, reasonably so, to get out of going.

        With that said, OP should tell his boss some of the above scripts I saw.

        1. Grand Mouse*

          Are you responding to the right person?

          How is it harmful for me to give this information, speaking as a gay nb person? I GET it. I’m saying for people like me there is no safe option. I am not comfortable disclosing my “bits” but I will just say I don’t even match what people assume for my gender based on my bits. I was born gender ambigious (partially due to medical issues I don’t want to get into) and so no matter what clothes I wear or what I do with my hair, people still question my gender. This reads like victim blaming NB people and isn’t helpful and just is some transphobia I don’t want to deal with.

          I am advocating for people like me and the OP to stay away because it is very likely to be dangerous so I am not sure how I am putting the OP in danger? Also are you nonbinary? Because I am speaking from lived experience and I am not sure what basis you are speaking from.

          1. LaurenB*

            This is not remotely victim-blaming at all. I am fully cool with the fact that you are non-binary; I don’t have a problem with that at all. I am just saying that as a PRACTICAL matter, you’d want to “pick a side” and stick for it FOR THE DURATION OF THE TRIP. Just like I managed to wear an abaya and hijab for 10 days, even though I wouldn’t ever wear such a thing in the US. That’s all. Please don’t take a practical suggestion for dealing with life in KSA as transphobia.

            I advised a Catholic coworker who later went to KSA (a year after I did) not to wear the little crucifix she commonly wears. That’s just not a smart idea to do in KSA. That’s not “anti-Catholic sentiment” nor “victim-blaming” or “Catholic-phobia.”

            1. Phoenix*

              Not wearing a crucifix and taking steps to obfuscate one’s gender identity are very different things on several levels, but since you’re concerned with the practical – it may be impossible, practically, for many non-binary folks to pass as a binary gender for a week. This advice is flat-out dangerous, on top of being offensive.

            2. New Jack Karyn*

              Please stop referring to it as ‘pick a side’. This ain’t a game in which one can play for the blue team or the red team, and then all go to the pub together after.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “Actually presenting as anything other than what bits you have is very dangerous in this society. Remember, they do not care what you think. They care only about your bits.”

          Which is often the problem for nonbinary folks, but not the way you think. It feels like you are saying something along the lines of “if you are nonbinary and have a penis, then just dress and act male! Doing anything else is a problem in KSA so don’t do it.” But it’s not a “choice” to be/act/seem nonbinary; for some, no matter how they dress, they won’t be able to present as the gender that matches their bits even if they try. It’s not as simple for some folks as just dressing the part. It’s deeper than that. Putting on a male suit won’t make every nonbinary person with a penis look and seem like a man. Which means it is often simply not safe to travel to KSA, because trying to masquerade as a certain gender other than the one you are may very well be entirely unsuccessful.

          1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

            I can pass, but I run into other problems! I am so tiny that most people read me as being a 12-15 year old boy when I butch it up.

      2. Autumnheart*

        Beats getting killed. I think that if push came to shove and there was no other way around it, most of us would try like hell to “pass” as a member of a non-persecuted group in order to avoid danger.

        But we’re not in that situation and OP is. Why don’t we stop ginning up rhetorical outrage over hypotheticals, and answer OP’s question?

      3. Oaktree*

        I’d prefer to pretend to be straight and a goy than be killed for being a queer Jew, personally. Obviously I am lucky in that I can pass, and not everyone has that (dubious) privilege, but your response is in really bad faith, and it’s just not helpful.

      4. Dragoning*

        “Put the nonbinariness on hold”.

        I hope you realize how incredibly ignorant and offensive this sounds. This is simply not how gender works.

        Some nonbinary people pass well as someone of a specific binary gender. Some don’t. Many, many of us would not pass as the gender we were not assigned at birth, even if we wanted to “pick” that side for convenience. I, for one, would simply look like a woman trying to pass as a man.

        Please don’t say anything like this in the future.

  13. Indisch Blau*

    Re #1′ In my company “someone we know would always be invited for an interview. Of course, the position would bei given to the most convincing candidate.

      1. JSPA*

        Interviewing practice can be a kindness. And someone can really shine in an interview. In OP’s position, I might offer to do a practice interview, separate from the actual hiring process.

        1. Anonymous 5*

          It is definitely a kindness. But in OP’s position I would not offer that particular kindness because of the risk that the mom would then try to apply more pressure to hire the daughter and/or complaints for not hiring.

          1. OP1*

            I considered my personal email to the daughter the kindness, to give her a better chance of getting another job, rather than just getting the automated rejection notice from HR. I regret sending it now.

            1. anonymous 5*

              100% agreed, and can understand the regret for sure. There are many ways to be kind; I think you chose a perfectly reasonable and generous one. It’s not your fault that the mom and coworker(s?) acted unreasonably!

            2. Zombeyonce*

              I don’t think you should regret sending her to the email. It gave her valuable information and if you were willing to talk to the mom about it (which you really shouldn’t be) you can actually point to what you said there as reasons you don’t want to continue her candidacy.

          2. Paulina*

            I agree. The OP has already rejected this applicant, and making it look like that isn’t sticking will just prolong the problem.

        2. BRR*

          I wouldn’t offer a practice interview at this point (and that would be very generous of the LW in any scenario). Unfortunately for the daughter in this case, the mom’s behavior would make a practice interview a hard no. Even after and outside the hiring process. I would be way too worried about the mom thinking “once they interview Jane, they will know she’s perfect for the next opening.”

        3. MsM*

          The problem is that shining in an interview isn’t helpful when the job requires attention to detail that the application materials lack.

          I was in a similar situation once: an applicant sent in a cover letter and resume with typos that would otherwise have been disqualifying, but the CEO knew and liked this person, so my supervisor gave her an interview. Well, she came in and was so utterly charming that we decided we could work around it. And we did – but it was a lot of extra work for us (and me especially). Looking back, I’m pretty sure my supervisor wishes she had gone with her original instinct and said “thanks but no thanks.”

        4. Alton*

          In my experience, it’s really discouraging to think you have a chance at a job when you don’t, or go into an interview thinking you’re a contender only to learn it’s actually something like an informational interview. I think this is something employers should be upfront about, at least.

        5. Elizabeth West*

          No thank you; I have enough practice. I only want to be asked for an interview if they’re actually considering me. And I’m with BRR. The way the mom has approached this should make it a definite no.

      2. Indisch Blau*

        I think the owner considers it common courtesy. That said, I don’t know if we’ve ever had “someone we know” apply for a position the they were completely unqualified for. And “someone we know” doesn’t mean people we know by networking. When I knew a friend would be interested in a role for which she was very overqualified, I asked with the owner if she would come under serious consideration before I told her about the opening.

      3. Mockingjay*

        Sometimes it’s management making you.

        I’ve been forced to interview candidates that management knew or were related to. One time I was told to interview a sister-in-law of a supervisor. She met most of the qualifications on paper but she needed more experience for the position. A manager then asked me to interview the son of a friend. I looked at his resume and this guy worked in a completely different field, so I declined. The manager said, “you interviewed sister-in-law, so you can interview this guy.”

        So I met with different field guy (who was late to the interview). I asked him about his interest in changing fields. “Oh, I don’t want to work in your field. I just want to get established with the company and transfer to a job in my line of work as soon as I can.”

        I’ll never get that hour back.

        1. litJess*

          The only upside I can see in your situation was if these wasted interviews earned you some warm fuzzies from the other supervisor/manager. Like, if they’re reasonable people, they’re just happy that you gave them your time. And they’ll remember how you “helped them out” in the future. Or at least, I hope it did.

          It doesn’t sound like OP would be earning the same warm fuzzies from the momager in her company unless she hired the girl and then immediately promoted her up to OP’s position because such is the brilliance of Jane.

          I kid. A little.

    1. XyXs*

      What’s the reasoning for interviewing people just because you know them, regardless of their suitability, qualifications, experience and skills?

      1. Lucy*

        One argument would be that “fit” is often more important for a job than precise qualifications, experience and skills. Depending on the vacancy and the workplace, getting someone on board who is in line with company ethos and has at least some relevant skills could be a useful process even if they don’t end up getting the exact job they apply for. Many companies have referral processes which encourage existing employees to assist with recruitment, and those are bound to give advantage to close friends and family.

        However, I think it more likely that it’s simply used as a way of keeping existing people on-side – that a perk of the job is getting a foot in the door for your loved ones. Though as Alison notes, progressing at all with this candidate only gives her mother an “in” to keep harassing LW to hire her.

        “Ooh I really think you should put Frogmella through to the next round.” “Have you offered Frogmella the job yet?”

        I agree that it’s far more honest to reject Frogmella earlier, if it’s obvious she won’t ultimately be hired.

        1. OP1*

          Our HR is pretty strict about how we screen candidates. In large part because “fit” has been used as a way to exclude diverse candidates over less qualified insiders.

          1. KTD*

            This is helpful context because my first impression was that you made the wrong call initially. I don’t think typos are a bad reason to reject someone with a great resume – but I think they’re a bad reason to reject someone with a great resume who’s been referred by several current employees. Attention to detail can be probed at the interview and in reference calls. In any event, at this point, the mom has overstepped appropriate boundaries– so doing an interview would be an utter waste of time.

          2. Lucy*

            In that case, can that be your fall back when the mother nags you again? Praise her “fit” but say unfortunately she doesn’t meet the other very specific criteria which you don’t have any control over?

            1. Flash Bristow*

              Then the mother will want to know *which* criteria… and drag poor OP1 back into a conversation they oughtnt to have with her.

              But OP1 could be general in their response though? Something like “there are a set of specific criteria to meet for this role, over which I have no control, and I’m sure that they’re a necessity for progression to interview. Obviously I can’t discuss your daughter’s application with you, but it’s out of my hands at this point.”

              Ugh, that’s a clunky way to put it but hopefully you get the idea.

      2. pleaset*

        People we know who are vaguely in the ballpark always get a phone screen at least. Resumes and cover letters do not tell the whole story, so the people we know get an extra favor from us early on.

        If they were clearly unqualified – like no way we’d hire them- we wouldn’t do this. But if they’re generally in the ballpark, they sort of get a “bye” in the resume phase and move to phone screen.

    2. Bagpuss*

      We wouldn’t automatically invte someone for interview just because we ‘knew’ them, but someone with a personal connection might get an interview where their application alone wouldn’t result in one, because often if you do know someone you can take into account what you know of them and add that to what you have on the application.

      For entry level positions where prior experince is less importnat, then if a candiate is recommended or put forward by an exisiting staff member we would normally interview them – partly becuase we trust ourstaff so generally, if they are suggesting someone as suitable it is worth listening, but also because even if the person isn’t suitable, showing the exising staff member that we value their input has a value of its own.

      The only exception is that we have one staff member where we previously employed their (adult) child – the ‘child’ did not work out and the parent did not behave professionally at all, so moving on, we would rule out employing anyone who was amember of that staff-members’s family!

      1. Roscoe*

        Yes, I commented something like this as well. When companies want their employees to refer others, it comes across as fairly rude to not even give them an interview. I had that happen at my last company, and it was the last person I referred to them. I wouldn’t suggest someone who I didn’t think couldn’t do the job well, and it showed they didn’t trust my judgment

    3. Kayla*

      Am I the only one who thinks that two typos is a bad reason to reject someone with an otherwise great resume? Typos happen, especially with young candidates. If the content of the cover letter was great, I wouldn’t reject someone for two typos *alone* with no other strikes. I have rarely seen a cover letter or resume from a candidate at any level that doesn’t contain one. Depends on the severity of the typos, though.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think rejecting for typos is both fine and typical, especially when the applicant gets the name of the company wrong. More so when it’s a job that emphasizes accurately entering information and catching any typos before you pass your assignment along. This isn’t an over-broad “attention to detail” gotcha like asking about the color of the chairs in the lobby–putting together a typo-free cover letter can be reasonably seen as creating a short sample work document in this context.

      2. Washi*

        But the position involves data entry! And it sounds like the OP has better candidates.

        Besides, when a candidate submits a cover letter and resume, the assumption is that they have checked it several times and this is an example of what a polished piece looks like for them. If someone doesn’t catch a typo in a cover letter, why should an employer assume that they will be able to catch them when trying to do that same task but faster and multiple times a day?

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        But for a job that demands attention to detail, a typo in the company’s name is a pretty severe one.

        1. MsM*

          It also suggests the applicant doesn’t have a whole lot of interest on working there specifically (at least because of what the company does, in this case), or they’d have spent enough time doing research to catch that.

        2. OP1*

          Quick add: There is a lot of written communication in this position – far more than in person. We have a high stakes environment and let go the predecessor for repeated careless errors. For some positions, I may bring in someone who is otherwise exceptionally qualified. But, not this one, and not when I have at least a couple dozen equally or more good candidates.

      4. Roscoe*

        Yes, I completely think it is a bit ridiculous to outright reject someone. We don’t know if those were actual misspellings that should’ve been caught by spell check, or were homonyms that were just overlooked. I feel like if everything else is good, but you are concerned, give her a test or something during the interview.

        1. OP1*

          Both would have been caught by spell check. This is basically the major requirement of the job – this position does the data entry and proofreading for the department.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Overlooking homonyms is pretty much the definition of careless writing. In a longer document, it would be a different story, since it’s difficult to edit yourself. But in your application materials? Nope. Now, in a job that doesn’t require you to be a careful writer, it might not be a problem. But it doesn’t seem like this is that job.

          1. Yeah...*

            I feel like a mistake involving homonyms is even worse than something that spell check would catch because it’s more likely to indicate lack of knowledge as opposed to a typo.

        3. fposte*

          The cover letter and resume *are* a test. Her performance on those counts, too. It’s reasonable to move to interview only those people who spell the name of your employer correctly.

    4. time for lunch*

      A courtesy informational interview is not inappropriate here, if appropriately requested by the candidate and not her parent. It might be a good learning opportunity for her, so early in her daughter’s career to hear that that is worsening the daughter’s chances when the mom pushes like this.

      “As a courtesy to a coworker, I can conduct an informational interview, but the request for that has to come from the candidate herself.” Though honestly, this situation is probably already far too amped up at this point.

      Good luck to whoever they hire. I envision that poor person being given the cold shoulder by the front desk manager, and possibly by many of those working the front desk.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I don’t think that OP needs to give the applicant any more time. Their mother has already shown she will not stop hounding OP even after hearing no, so giving them even a another hint that there’s a chance with this interview (even when you tell them there’s not) they’ll never leave OP alone. Don’t feed the beast.

      2. fposte*

        I don’t see the point. There’s no indication that information is sought here, and it’s not usual form to offer rejected candidates informational interviews in most jobs. I sure wouldn’t reach out with an offer of one, to Mom or to daughter.

  14. Marlene*

    #2 I guess people put their noses to the grindstone and get their work done. Is there a genuine need for collaboration in your office? If not, then some people may just want to come in, do their work and go home. Nothing wrong with it!

    1. MommyMD*

      Nope. And they are not being hired or paid to socialize and should not feel pressured to. I’d even drop asking them to lunch together if they feel reluctant.

      1. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

        I disagree. There’s nothing wrong with asking people if they want to have lunch. They can say no.

  15. Jules the First*

    I’ve worked on Saudi projects for years and while I absolutely understand where you are coming from, there are definitely ways to work on this project safely if you want to. For example, I have always been open that I will work on the project, but I won’t go on site in KSA, and all of my employers over the years have been ok with that compromise. It’s also totally ok if you decide you really don’t want to work on this project and if I were you I’d statt by saying to your boss “I’d like to have Saudi project taken off my plate as it’s not something I’m ethically comfortable working on.” You’d be surprised how often that will be enough, but if it isn’t then you can move on to “If I did have to stay on this project, I wouldn’t be able to travel to KSA, so I think it would make more sense for someone else to take this one over.”

    1. blackcat*

      Yes. A friend is currently working on a project that is being implemented outside of Baghdad. No one batted an eye when she said “I’m happy to do work from here, but I am not willing to do on-site work.” (In that case, the on-site work comes with significant extra pay–precisely because of the risk. They also have very, very generous life insurance.)

  16. Not today*

    #4. How well do you know your boss? What will their reaction be? They may well know or suspect already. I employed a staff member who was not out at work. When I finally got to the point of discussing it with him, he was astounded that I had thought so during the interview.
    Although, I have to say, that if your manager suspects or even wonders, they suck for asking you to travel to KSA – either that or they are living with their head in the sand!!

    1. Angelinha*

      In the future, when someone comes out to you, you should probably not tell them “hey, I thought so during the interview.”

      1. TexasThunder*

        I once interviewed a guy who did well. After we hired him, one of the other colleagues observed non-judgmentally that he was pretty camp.
        I had to admit I hadn’t noticed, or rather that it did not really register. I just thought he had done great in the whiteboarding session.

        1. Zombeyonce*

          That makes me wonder why anyone was discussing his sexuality at all it had even considered it. That makes me worried they would consider that in hiring decisions.

          1. Wake up !*

            Yeah really, what is the point of this anecdote? This person is bragging that they also participated in an inappropriate discussion of a candidate’s sexuality, but they’re better because *they* hadn’t observed he was gay. Not great.

            1. TexasThunder*

              Firstly, it didn’t come up in the hiring process at all.
              Secondly, the other person observed they came across that way about a *year* after they were hired. I don’t recall *participating* in the conversation beyond saying “Oh. I hadn’t noticed.”

              And yes, *obviously* it is better not to factor it in.
              And the reason for the anecdote was as a response to somebody suggesting it was better not to say “I thought so in the interview.”

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        Eh, it’s okay to say, “Yeah, you pinged my gaydar early on, no worries here.”

        1. stefanielaine*

          But why say it, when you have the option not to? “That thing about yourself that you obviously want to keep secret, well, everyone can tell as soon as they meet you” isn’t really a productive or useful addition to that conversation.

          1. JM60*

            If someone tells you, “I think I’ll be safe in KSA because no one can tell that I’m gay”, then it would be appropriate to tell them since it affects their safety. In 99% of other cases, you probably shouldn’t.

        2. Ella Vader*

          I wouldn’t feel comfortable if a boss or co-worker used the term “gaydar” about me unless I knew that the boss or co-worker wasn’t straight either.

  17. MommyMD*

    Dear OP 3: keep your mouth shut. It may not even be true info. This is for your coworker to tell, not you. This is the reason I have zero colleagues friended on social media.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      FYI, Facebook Marketplace is public, like a newspsper classified ad.
      OP&co-worker mat not BE friended on FB.
      But I stand by my earlier comment — a lot of people give cover stories so they can use the public forum without hassles.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Yeah, I run across colleagues in FB groups a fair amount, and they would never know I was also there unless they’ve seen me commenting.

      2. Alton*

        Yep, the marketplace is public. It’s also possible the OP and the co-worker are members of the same Facebook group. I occasionally come across people I know from work in groups I belong to.

    2. darsynia*

      Yeah my first instinct was that LW3’s coworker could very well have been phrasing things in a way that is advised to ping people who would be the target buyer of whatever they’re selling. I mean, whether or not it’s lying isn’t for the writer to assume either way. It could also be something that LW3’s coworker is posting for a friend, and explaining ‘I’m posting this for a friend who is moving away and doesn’t have a Facebook account’ is more words than some people are willing to sift through when on Marketplace anyway, sadly.

  18. MommyMD*

    OP 4: my adult son is gay. Do not under any circumstances go to Saudi Arabia. Your life depends on it. He had a boyfriend a few years who fled SA for this very reason. He could be murdered if his true identity was found out. No job is worth this. Do not go. Best of luck.

  19. MommyMD*

    “I could be imprisoned or assaulted” is too soft. “I run the very real risk of being tortured and murdered if I go to this country”.

  20. MommyMD*

    Sometimes silence is golden. If it works for your office I’d leave it alone. I’d get my socialization done outside work hours.

  21. Lynn Marie*

    So refreshing to know there are offices where people just go in and . . . do their work! I’d advise the new office manager to back off the loud invitations to lunch. If someone wants to join you they will. And enjoy the quiet!

    1. RUKiddingMe*


      Like…leave people alone. Let them do their work and go home. Socialize outside of work. Don’t try to force coworkers to have lunch with you just because you feel a need to be social.

      I don’t want to “chat,” talk about tv shows, hear about anyone’s kids, etc. I can’t stand total silence, so headphones, but coming up to me to have yet another conversation about…anything not work related…distracts me and wastes my time.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        That seems unkind to me. I agree with the broader point, but once in a while throwing out an open invitation, which a few people seem to regularly take OP up on (while presumably also observing that she isn’t hassling the ones who stay at their desks) is several orders of magnitude away from “forcing” anyone. For young, shy, and maybe new-to-this-workplace people, occasionally providing such an opening can be a downright gift (ask me how I know).

        1. Blue Eagle*

          Total agreement with Susan. There is nothing wrong with inviting your co-workers to join you at lunch. Hounding them – no, but inviting them – yes.

        2. Pommette!*

          Agreed. Sure, make sure that the coworkers know they don’t have to join you if they don’t want to. But beyond that, there is no harm in extending an invitation. For all we know the people who join the OP for lunch are happy to do so!

        3. DerJungerLudendorff*

          Absolutely. People can be quite hesitant to organize things on their own, especially if it seems to go against the general culture.
          And even quiet introverted people often like to do things with their coworkers.

      2. Colette*

        And other people will feel isolated in the same situation. People can want different things, and it doesn’t sound like the OP is forcing or pressuring anyone into being social.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        “Hey, I’m going to stop for lunch now–anyone want to join me?” is not forcing people to go to lunch with her. It’s a normal office nicety, like “Hey, I’m going down to the coffee shop, anyone want anything?”

      4. EventPlannerGal*

        I think that’s quite an unpleasant and uncharitable way to look at the situation.

        I know that this site does seem to skew heavily towards introversion, but it is not by any means universal. Yes, some people do view all non-work interaction as a waste of time, but there a huge number of people who don’t fall in that very narrow category. (I, for example, would find the environment described to be very uncomfortable and quite sad.) The OP isn’t trying to force anything on her colleagues – hell, if we can assume that, why can’t we equally assume that one or two introverts are forcing *their* desire for exam-hall silence on their colleagues?

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          And not all introverts want absolute silence and lack of socialization! As a generally low-energy introvert, I actively enjoy having friendly relationships with my coworkers and chatting over coffee or whatever periodically. That way I get my preferred small doses of socializing throughout the day rather than having to plan a big exhausting Thing to see people outside of work (and I’m not talking about international travel here — without a car or very local friends nearly everything requires planning and if I’m going to be on the bus for half an hour I want to spend more than a 20 minute coffee break with someone).

      5. yala*

        I found out recently that one of the reasons that my supervisor does things with everyone in the department except for me (lunches and breaks) is that early on when she got here, she would try to chat with my to build a rapport and I was unresponsive (in her words “you always seemed annoyed, and would yank your earbuds out.”)

        Of course, I *was* annoyed…because she would usually come up during the last 10-15 minutes of the day, when I was trying to get to a stopping point and sort out what I needed to do for the next day. Often she would come up when I was actually writing my notes for the next day in my bullet journal. And, of course, earbuds are kind of the universal “I’m not open to small talk right now” sign.

        Now, if it had been lunch or break invitations that would have been different. I’m all for socializing with coworkers like that. And some of my friends that I know can and will come up to my cubicle (or vise versa) and chat if we’re not right in the middle of something.

        But…yeah, not everyone is keen on small talk, especially at their desk/cubicle where they kind of can’t, y’know…leave?

      6. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

        Oh come on, asking someone to have lunch is not ‘forcing’ anyone to do anything. They’re adults. If they truly don’t want to socialize, they can just say no! LW2 is not being rude or inconsiderate by merely asking her co-workers to socialize occasionally.

    2. Sparrow*

      Generally speaking, I think the occasional invitation to join her for lunch is fine, as long as she’s keeping it to that and is not harassing or guilting them into joining her. But I agree that she shouldn’t push this. If she has a consistent lunch schedule, people know when and where to find her if they actively want some socialization during the lunch hour.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        That’s kind of my thing. They know and if they want to join they can/will. Some people will feel pressured, even if the inviter doesn’t mean *any pressure at all* to join from time to time.

        In grad school I joined in social stuff because I knew it was important to be social with my colleagues. Given my own devices I would have avoided it like the plague as I mostly did in undergrad.

        But that was a conscious, thought out, reasoned decision that was going to (and has) benefit(ed) me long term…and I knew it. So…I sucked it up.

        If it was likewise at work I’d do the same. If not, just let me work and go home.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          “Some people will feel pressured, even if the inviter doesn’t mean *any pressure at all* to join from time to time.”

          I just don’t think that a general, open invitation to occasionally join you for lunch is something that can reasonably be categorised as an unfair pressure that must be avoided. If it rises to the level of pestering, if the OP doesn’t take no for an answer or makes a big deal out of it, absolutely. But this is such a very, very low-stakes interaction that I think even the most extreme of introverts would need to occasionally deal with declining the invitation.

      2. LCL*

        The explicit verbal or written invitation to join something is part of socialization. I have seen people feeling really snubbed because they weren’t asked to join an informal gathering, while the persons at the gathering will be saying ‘they don’t need an invitation, of course they are welcome, I never thought I had to ask them to join us.’ Leaving it up to ‘they know where to find me’ is a little bit too cold and passive-aggressive.

  22. UKDancer*

    I think it’s perfectly acceptable to be happy to go to country X but not to country Y and a reasonable manager would accept this. I have told my boss I won’t visit Saudi Arabia because as an atheist, feminst woman I won’t feel comfortable with the way their legislation interacts with women (stoning for adultery, the guardianship system and the clothing requirements) and my own code of ethics prevents me from being willing to go there. While several of the other countries my company works with have laws and customs which I consider discriminatory, none of them apply them in the same way as Saudi Arabia.

    If your boss is reasonable I think it’s fine to say “I am happy to work on this project but I can’t, for ethical and moral reasons go to Saudi Arabia so perhaps it would be better to task someone else with this.” If it’s easier not to reference your own position as a gay man, there are sadly plenty of other things about the way laws are applied in Saudi Arabia that could be considered as a good reason not to go there.

    1. Old Admin*

      I agree. I am a woman and was offered a contract in Dubai – I declined for exactly the reasons cited above, even though it hurt me financially.
      People say Dubai is so great and liberal, but I have read horrific reports of what could happen to foreign unaccompanied women worrking there, even in high level positions.

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        Precisely this. I’m a straight, athiest, married woman. I too have turned down very lucrative work in the Middle East because of the requirements that would be placed on me (required to cover my head and wear clothes that cover my entire body except face and hands, required to deliver training from behind a screen when there were men present, required to not make eye contact with any delegate, required to eat in a segregated space away from the male delegates, required to be accompanied at all times except when literally in bed or in the bathroom etc. etc.), let alone my ethical objections to how women, homosexuals, and people of other religions and none are treated. KSA is NOT a country I would visit under any circumstances.

        OP, please do not risk your life or liberty.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think it’s perfectly acceptable to decide not to go somewhere with rules you can’t approve of or with punishments you think are unacceptable. It’s even more sensible not to go if you’re part of the community that is targeted for punishment (LGBT people and atheists)

          I don’t agree with or approve of the way Saudi Arabia operates. I don’t want to comply, even for a week or so as to me the rules are pointless, criminalise behaviour by women that I consider perfectly right and proper and the criminal code is so harsh as to be medieval. It offends my own sense of right and wrong to have comply with this. So as a result I refuse to go there. It’s their country so they can do these things, but I won’t give them the figleaf of acceptability by pretending I’m ok with it.

          1. MsM*

            Also, per the note at the top of the page, it’s not about what any of us would do. LW doesn’t feel comfortable going. LW has good reason not to feel comfortable going. LW needs to know how to articulate that to his boss.

        2. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “You’re not being asked to live it for life, just do it for a week or so”

          And for you that was fine. But it’s a flippant way to dismiss the objections other people have for visiting – these are not trivial matters, not by a long shot; it’s about human rights and safety and being able to be who you are without fear, and it is entirely reasonable for some people not to be okay with it. Even if it is temporary. And of course, for the OP, the consequences of being outed in KSA – there is actually the death penalty on the books – could be horrific. I’d be hard pressed to treat something as an intellectually stimulating anthropological study if my actual life were at stake, and I can’t fault the OP for feeling the same way.

    2. DKMA*

      I was reading through to see if someone would post something similar. If you’d prefer not to disclose your orientation, I don’t think you need to explain anything, just state that your are not comfortable traveling there.

      A script like:
      “As you know I’m generally up for traveling most places, but I don’t personally feel safe travelling to Saudi Arabia and don’t feel comfortable being assigned to this project. Can we discuss alternative projects?”

      If your boss is at all reasonable that will be enough, if they insist on litigating with you, it would probably be most effective to disclose your sexual orientation e.g., “I don’t normally talk about personal matters at work, but I’m gay and Saudi Arabia has the death penalty for homosexuality, so I am not willing to travel there.” Your boss will feel like an ass for forcing it out of you, but he’ll deserve it.

  23. Old Admin*

    #4 :
    I worked for a large German company years ago, and witnessed two similar cases:
    – An openly gale male sales rep (no way he could have hidden it) didn’t have to go to Egypt and the Emirates because of safety concerns, no discussion.
    – A basically person of color (very dark looking Oriental ethnicity, but born and raised in Germany), also a sales rep, refused to go to a German city in the east of the country infamous for racist attacks at that time. His safety concerns also were understood.
    The company still was successful. :-)

    1. Lucy*

      Any company that doesn’t value the safety of its individual employees over its bottom line doesn’t deserve to stay in business. And if your business model relies so highly on a particular individual attending a particular meeting, it is unacceptably precarious.

      I wonder though what happens when a department has only “at risk” employees (e.g. the entire team is female/BAME/LGBTQ+ as applicable). Hopefully the company simply doesn’t pursue the contract in the first place.

      1. TL -*

        It’s an individual decision – I’m female and would feel comfortable going to the KSA for a work visit provided my company provided appropriate guidance and support.

        If nobody is comfortable, then they either need to hire someone who is or drop the contract, but I don’t think you can say if a particular person is comfortable until you ask.

      2. Iris Eyes*

        A company that doesn’t think its bottom line would be impacted by the imprisonment or wrongful death of one of their employees isn’t thinking the risks through very well.

    2. NotTryingToDerailBut*

      If you were unaware, ‘Oriental’ is an outdated term and is considered pejorative today.

      1. CoveredInBees*

        For additional context, you will see the term applied to objects (eg vases or rugs) in English. However, applying it to people is not appropriate.

        1. Linguist*

          For additional additional context, Old Admin says they worked for a German company. I suspect their native language may be German, where Oriental is used to refer to people. It’s almost a bit of a ‘false friend’. :)

          1. Janie*

            And in English, which we are speaking, it’s considered offensive. So now they know and can not do that.

              1. Linguist*

                You are rude, Janie. But I’m sure you think being ‘woke’ is more important.

            1. Native speaker*

              You need to be more tolerant of people whose first language isn’t English.

              1. Janie*

                And how exactly do you think people learn things are offensive if people aren’t allowed to say so?

      2. foreign languages are hard*

        Specifically, in English, you probably want to use the word “Asian” instead, or “Middle eastern”, obviously depending on which general area you mean (I believe German uses oriental to refer to both areas, but in English we don’t usually group them together). People are all telling you that the word is wrong, but not telling you what you should say instead!

        1. Robin Sparkles*

          Yes -oriental is still used in some parts of the non-English speaking world. Some other clarifications when referring to people – you can use South Asian, East Asian, or Middle Eastern instead of “Asian” – which is also confusing as here in the US Asian often defaults to mean East Asian while in UK it means South Asian.

        2. Femme d'Afrique*

          You actually mean: in US English. Or North American English. It certainly doesn’t apply to all English-speaking countries. Yes, I know this is a US-centric blog, but this is one of the things that irks me about the people on this site who speak in absolutes. Nitpicking about this – and “correcting” a European because they don’t conform to American English – is actually really annoying.

          1. Femme d'Afrique*

            (My comment was directed at Janie, NotTryingToDerailBut, and Covered in Bees, and foreign languages are hard. There really isn’t one “English.”)

  24. Forkeater*

    I just left a deathly quiet office and despite being a huge introvert I hated it. It just felt so abnormal to not chit chat about the weekend. Or to be away on vacation and have no one ask about it when I returned. It sounds like a lot of people prefer this environment but it just made me feel really disconnected and although the job was great I was very happy to leave.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, this office seems to go beyond that to bare minimum interaction. I’d also be uncomfortable there! But I loved the one workplace I’ve been in where there was some of that casual chat at appropriate intervals (morning arrival, break, and lunch, as well as a standard of saying goodbye as you left for the day) but the rest was silent.

    2. DejaVu*

      We often spend more waking hours with our coworkers than our families. I couldn’t imagine spending the majority of my week in silence and not getting to know the people I spend time with. That’s just me though.

      1. Overeducated*

        YES. THIS. It’s 100% possible to maintain strong professional boundaries while also having pleasant human interactions with the people you see more than your own children. A little chit chat doesn’t have to result in becoming best friends, ever seeing each other out of work, gossip, overly personal information, etc…

    3. grace*

      Yep. Our home office is deathly silent and it always unnerves me – it’s one thing to focus on work, it’s another to be so quiet that I feel like I’ve committed some sort of sin when I sneeze! It’s really lonely feeling, too; I much prefer my office, where even though there’s much fewer people, we can chit chat through the day if we want to and there’s no weird feeling as a result.

      1. bluephone*

        My office is like that–you feel like you’re breathing too loudly. I don’t mind just getting my work done while at work but I don’t want to feel like if I sneeze, I’ve committed a war crime.

    4. DerJungerLudendorff*

      I’m very introverted, and i’d be uncomfortable in offices like that too.

      It’s one thing to be in a quiet room by yourself, but a whole other matter to sit next to a dozen people and just… ignore eachother the entire day. I wouldn’t expect that level of silence at a movie theatre or library, let alone an office.

      1. pleaset*

        I was an intern in a team within a university that did web development and other projects, and the office was like this. BUT that was just in the space, working. As soon as we got outside the main work area, people talked more. It was quiet to concentrate, but more sociable outside. That was great.

  25. Luna*

    Good lord, the mom from #1 sounds tiring. I almost want to ask what the company’s stance is on hiring family — some companies are okay with it, as long as the two relatives aren’t in a power-imbalance or working in the same department; while others prefer to just not hire relatives, at all.
    Though given what is written, I’m guessing it isn’t frowned upon and wouldn’t be a problem, as the mom isn’t being managed by the OP as the daughter would be.

    Re: OP #3
    I wouldn’t say anything. This is your coworker’s thing and their responsibility. I’m not even sure why your open relationship with your boss is even mentioned. I don’t think it changes anything, since the ‘news’ in question is, again, that of your coworker’s. Think of it differently: if your coworker had mentioned in a post on Facebook that she’s pregnant, would you wonder if you should tell your boss or keep it to yourself? Different situation, but the circumstance is similar. It’s something your coworker is doing, it’s a rather private issue, and it would likely have the eventual result that she’d leave the position.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      But the problem here is that the co-worker moving specifically affects the OP (to the point where the overwork is problematic). If it were me, I would mention what I saw to the co-worker and try to get some clarification about it.

    2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      “if your coworker had mentioned in a post on Facebook that she’s pregnant, would you wonder if you should tell your boss or keep it to yourself? Different situation, but the circumstance is similar. It’s something your coworker is doing, it’s a rather private issue”

      How private can it be if it’s posted on Facebook?

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        THANK YOU! My idiot brother used to have his Twitter feed open to the world, whether you had a Twitter account or not, and then complain about people spying on him.

      2. Roscoe*

        That doesn’t mean its her business to tell her boss. People may have no problem with friends and family knowing, that doesn’t mean they want to announce it to their boss

      3. Alfonzo Mango*

        Not everything posted on FB is open to the whole world- a lot of posts are restricted to friends (exception being Marketplace posts, but those can still be restricted to friends).

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          True, but if the OP could see the post and isn’t FB friends with the co-worker, then that was open.

    3. OP1*

      Our HR policies are pretty strict in the screening process. I have to date at least a dozen better candidates given the objective requirements and preferred qualifications. We are a very large organization that values diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring practices.

      1. OP1*

        “To date a dozen….” looks very funny in writing. Let’s say “as of now” instead :)

        1. Kathleen_A*

          LOL. I understood what you meant, but the explanation was nonetheless a very good idea!

          But yeah, don’t interview this person because it will just lead to complications as the mother then wonders why you didn’t hire her and so on.

    4. Observer*

      if your coworker had mentioned in a post on Facebook that she’s pregnant, would you wonder if you should tell your boss or keep it to yourself?

      Neither. I wouldn’t share it, especially, because it really doesn’t make that much of a difference to me and my boss will find out about it in time to take appropriate measures. On the other hand, I wouldn’t feel any need to “keep it to myself”, since CW made it as public as public can be.

      The second half is true here. The first half is different, because *if it’s true* this could have a major impact on the OP, and it’s not unreasonable for them to want to get ahead of that.

  26. Dr Wizard, PhD*


    A few years ago the potential of a work visit to the United Arab Emirates came up, so I (gay man) let my boss know I would not be able to go. She asked ‘Why?’ then blinked and said of course. That was it. I’m in government work though so there are a lot of protections and procedures.

    My ex also, when working as a doctoral student, refused a conference trip to Russia for the same reason and there were no issues at all from his department.

  27. Lando*

    OP4, you said that global travel is part of your job. Did you know that travel to places like Saudi Arabia was a possibility when you took the job? I ask because I work in an industry where travel to unsafe countries is the norm and if an employee refused to go to one of the countries my company works in, it would be considered very odd. If your company’s travel is mostly to safe countries, I think you have better standing to push back on travel to Saudi Arabia, but if this is a normal expectation of your job, its going to be harder and you’re going to need to be really specific about why you don’t want to travel to Saudi Arabia and assure your boss that you’re going to push back on travel to other countries in the future.

    1. JSPA*

      This is apples and oranges. It’s not like someone having to draw the short straw for working on the front lines of an active military zone.

      KSA is very safe for straight, professional males. Some people will even see it as an actively desirable trip.

      By your reasoning, anyone who is dangerously discriminated against anywhere on the planet should recuse themselves from any job that could hypothetically include travel to that region — which is discriminatory on the face of it, thus presumably not something you wish to espouse.

      1. Lando*

        That’s not what I’m saying at all. I am a gay woman myself and I’ve worked in countries that have anti-LGBT laws. I feel comfortable do that because I understand the risks and I take measures to protect myself. I completely understand if OP doesn’t want to take that risk, but if the risk was known to him when he took the job, its harder to push back. That’s the point I was trying to make.

      2. RandomU...*

        It is something that needs to be factored before getting into the profession and/or working at a company though.

        If the job requirement is International Travel. Then the person taking the job needs to find out more and if that’s compatible with their life for whatever reason. I used to work for a company that was in the oil industry. They had operations all over the world. Their operations were not surprisingly centered in regions that had large oil reserves and operations. So looking at the current list of countries with large oil operations, it’s not going to be a stretch of the imagination to figure out where you might be required to travel to.

        This was the list that I just got googling “largest in use oil reserves”
        Venezuela – 300,878 million barrels.
        Saudi Arabia – 266,455 million barrels. …
        Canada – 169,709 million barrels. …
        Iran – 158,400 million barrels. …
        Iraq – 142,503 million barrels. …
        Kuwait – 101,500 million barrels. …
        United Arab Emirates – 97,800 million barrels. …
        Russia – 80,000 million barrels. …

        Taking a job at that company I’m going to have to ask myself if that’s something I’m willing and able to do.

        I really don’t find this any different than someone who has a shellfish allergy deciding if they should take a job at a lobster cannery. Yes in a perfect world I’d be able to do any job based on skill and talent alone… but in the non-perfect world we live in I have to decide if I am able to perform the functions of the job based on my particular attributes.

        All of that being said, it sounds like the OP is in a role that doesn’t necessarily require trips to country’s that are ill advised for their situation. So I don’t necessarily think that they have to make the choice if they continue to work there or not. I would in their shoes, just have the discussion with their manager and explain that for various reasons they have reason to believe that there would be a safety issue with them for traveling to KSR and will need to either decline the project or find alternatives to traveling in person there. Most* managers will fill in the blanks with the reason and would not press the issue.

        *Yes there will be some who are obtuse or are just nosy.

        1. JM60*

          The shellfish analogy doesn’t work because exposure to shellfish is intrinsically related to the business operations of a lobster cannery. Exposure to deadly homophobia is not intrinsic to the business operations of an oil company. Furthermore, this mortal danger is discriminatary (it is a lot more dangerous for a gay men than for straight men) and businesses have a moral (and in states that cover it) a legal obligation to not discriminate. That includes letting their clients, such as the Saudi government, discriminate.

    2. Kettles*

      I’m sorry – are you saying your company expects employees to travel to places where they might be imprisoned, flogged or executed?

      1. Lando*

        Yes, that is what I’m say. Everyone who is hired for positions that require travel receives a briefing about the risks during the interview stage and agrees to accept that risk when they start. It is possible for LGBT people to safely travel to countries with anti-LGBT laws. I know because I’ve done it myself several times. I’m just wondering if OP’s company is like mine where travel to a place like KSA is considered normal or if KSA is an outlier in the kind of countries OP’s company works in.

        1. Kettles*

          I hope you are well compensated and have good benefits. I appreciate there are some jobs – such as military contracting – where global travel to all locations is necessary. However I still think your company’s stance is horrifically unethical.

          1. Mary Connell*

            Agree. Anything except the military in times of war or other conflict or first responders should not be okay with actively and knowingly putting employees in danger.

            1. Lando*

              I’m not military, but “first responder” is actually a pretty good description of the type of work I do.

              1. Justme, The OG*

                Then you’re making an apples to shoes comparison. Not even close to being the same thing. Farther than apples from oranges.

                1. Lando*

                  Sorry, I wasn’t trying to compare my job to OP’s job. I was just pointing out that there are a lot of jobs where “travel anywhere” is a job expectation and it can be hard to push back on traveling to one specific country.

            2. The Russian Hand*

              There are jobs that require travel to riskier areas (and not just in military contracting). Typically the nature of the job gets disclosed up front. So if you are never willing to travel to one of these countries, there’s an easy solution: don’t apply for the job.

          2. Lando*

            I can understand why someone who isn’t familiar with the industry would be surprised by that, but everyone who takes a job in my industry is fully aware of what they are agreeing to. I don’t want to go into detail about my line of work, but going to dangerous places *is* the job.

            1. Kettles*

              I see – that does make a difference. However I doubt OP would have written in if that were the case. It sounds like he works in corporate business, where expecting Fergus to risk his life – especially in a scenario where his heterosexual colleague Wakeen would not be at risk – is simply not acceptable.

              1. Lando*

                I’m not saying that OP is in the same industry as me. I’m saying that there are a lot of jobs and industries where employees are expected to travel anywhere, including anti-LGBT countries. If OP is in one of those industries, its going to be hard to push back on travel to KSA.

                1. Risha*

                  I’m going to question your statement that there are “a lot” of non-active military industries where deliberately traveling to countries you’re imperiled in is part of the job. Do they exist? Of course. Are they numerous and common? Not at all, rather rare. Is it likely that Fergus knowingly works in one of those and yet wrote in with concerns? LOL. So I don’t get why you’re being so insistent about this.

                2. yala*

                  Seems like if the OP was in one of those industries, they wouldn’t have written in to begin with.

                3. Oil&Gas Guy*

                  Fellow O&G person here and yeah, I agree with this. Some industries are simply very heavily centred in areas that are dangerous. Off the top of my head, in the last month or so I’ve had colleagues travelling to Kuwait, Congo, Chad, Saudi, Qatar and more. It’s just part of the job, and it’s made very clear at the interview stage that that’s how it is. (And yes, the compensation is good.) O&G is a huge industry and it’s just one of the ones where this is an expectation. I’m surprised at the shock, frankly.

                  That said, it doesn’t sound like that’s the expectation for the OP because if it was, they’d probably know about it. If their company is not in a similar industry that’s probably all the more reason not to go. Because our staff travel so frequently to these places, both we and our clients are very familiar with how things work and our clients often have connections in the country that will help us (safe hotels, security services and transport, access to secure compounds, government contacts and so on). If the OPs company does not deal with these countries that frequently and doesn’t have any such connections, that’s all the more reason not to go.

    3. Database Developer Dude*

      There’s a difference between unsafe due to conditions, and unsafe due to who you are. I can go to Saudi without a problem, I just don’t take any of my Masonic bling with me… I don’t have to admit to being a Mason. I’m also a cisgender, heterosexual male. I’m in no danger of being arrested, tortured, imprisoned, or executed MERELY BECAUSE OF WHO I AM. I do not think it reasonable to expect a person in a normal civilian job to travel to a country where they are in that danger. The LW is not only correct in determining that there’s an inordinate amount of risk, I think they’re not going far enough in determining the level of risk.

      1. Lando*

        I am a gay women and I have traveled to anti-LGBT countries for my work so I have faced danger because of who I am. The point I was trying to make was that there are many jobs where traveling anywhere, including countries that have anti-LGBT laws, is an expected part of the job. If OP was aware of the possibility of traveling to a place like KSA when he took the job, it’s going to be harder to push back.

    4. Tehanu*

      Well that’s going to be a bit of an issue for your organizational diversity, isn’t it? In effect if people are compelled to go to countries with draconian laws against their gender, identity or religion, you’re not going to be able to hire many people of that gender, identity or religion.

      I suppose it’s one thing if your company ONLY does business in Saudi Arabia, but if you’re working in a number of different countries, what’s wrong with acknowledging that there will be different levels of risk for different people, and adjusting accordingly?

      And maybe more companies (and countries) should take a good long look at whether they actually can ethically justify doing business in and with KSA, given how misogynistic and homophobic their laws are against women and LGBT folks. Plenty of companies/countries decided to sanction South Africa under apartheid and it’s a little scary that KSA, with laws that are arguably worse than apartheid, is so tolerated in terms of business as usual (*cough* oil).

      1. LaurenB*

        Sometimes, Tehanu, it’s that you’re brought in to do work for a client, and they decide to expand the scope of what you do internationally, and KSA winds up being one of those countries. That’s a little different from “well, you took a job in the oil industry, why would you expect not to go to KSA.”

        1. Tehanu*

          I was more responding to the implication that if there’s regular travel to KSA, that the LW should have taken that into consideration when applying for the job, which I think it problematic. I figure if a company is doing business in KSA and still wants a reasonably diverse workforce which includes women and LGBT folk, it would be incumbent on them to make it clear that people can opt out of travel that puts them at risk because of their gender/identity/religion.

          The oil comment was me being a tad cynical about why countries and companies still think it’s acceptable to do business with KSA!

          1. Lando*

            Sorry, that’s not what I was trying to imply. The reason I made the original comment was because OP described his job as involving global travel. If the travel is truly “global” than that does include many anti-LGBT countries.

            At this point, I regret making my original comment and I wish I could delete it. I wasn’t expecting so many people to question my personal experience and my industry.

            1. Wake up !*

              You are making totally reasonable points. I’m finding the universal bright line people are drawing around Saudi Arabia and *only* Saudi Arabia very strange. I even saw someone above say they would never ever under any circumstances visit…before talking about a potential trip to North Korea. It’s just so bizarre.

            2. RR*

              Even with jobs that involve global travel, including travel to countries that are challenging to say the least, many organizations have a policy that allows for any employee to opt out of a specific trip if they are not comfortable. I’ve worked in international development for many years, including humanitarian response in conflict zones, and every place I’ve worked has had this as a policy. Yes, if you are never comfortable to go anywhere, that will affect your ability to stay in your role, but it does allow for folks to opt out in circumstances like this without having to go into detail. As others have noted, there are a host of reasons someone may not be willing to travel to KSA.

            3. Lora*

              It really varies by industry though, and there’s a whole spectrum of anti-LGBT countries, from, “if they catch you bringing p*rn into the country you have to pay a fine and they confiscate it” to “certain death if someone thinks you looked at them funny.” My job takes me to China, Singapore, Japan, India, Indonesia, Belgium, Mexico, Switzerland, Netherlands, UK, Germany and France; it does NOT take me to KSA, North Korea, Congo, Libya, Somalia, Venezuela, Iran or Afghanistan, and it would be extremely unusual if they did: politics aside, my industry requires a significant investment in stable infrastructure and most of the employees have higher education specifically in disciplines that are only taught in the US, Europe, and a handful of Asian countries.

              Similarly, if you work in electronics, your job including global travel might take you to China, Germany, Ireland, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Nigeria and France, but it’s not taking you to Iraq, Syria, Honduras or Haiti. You’re probably not going to be asked to visit Angola unless you’re in the mining industry. I don’t think you can say global travel automatically should indicate that you’ll have to go some dangerous places – most jobs, the worst that happens is you have to eat some acquired-taste type of local delicacy out of politeness a few times.

            4. Jasnah*

              I think you made your point very clearly and echo Wake Up!’s confusion at people drawing a bright line between KSA but not other countries like North Korea. Everyone has their own spectrum of “ideal country”–“I’d travel there but not live there”–“would not go there for any reason” and I think it’s fine for OP to assess Russia and KSA differently along that spectrum than other people. Most businesses will understand why someone would be hesitant to travel to KSA.

    5. Genny*

      IME, even workplaces that have a “must be able to deploy anywhere” clause will take into account if there are places that you just can’t go to for whatever reason (zika virus, being LGBT, being from an ethnicity that is oppressed in that country, etc.). Now, if you could never ever go anywhere except Western Europe, that would be a problem for those companies, but having a couple countries you just can’t/won’t go to usually isn’t.

      I would also add that a lot of this depends on who your employer is. I have no desire to go to KSA ever, but might consider it if Lockheed Martin or the U.S. government were my employer because they have a certain standing and infrastructure to handle anything that goes awry.

    6. darsynia*

      Respectfully, I’d say that the political climate in KSA has changed enough in the past few years that even a workplace that considered it ‘very odd’ to not want to travel there when hired might now re-evaluate based on the State Department’s warnings and guidelines and common sense. I see the point you’re trying to make, but at the same time, I would hope LW4 wouldn’t feel that acting ‘very odd’ and possibly losing their job even is preferable to risking their life to avoid looking like they’re acting ‘very odd.’

  28. Harper the Other One*

    OP #2: is the issue for you the silence during work time, or feeling disconnected from your coworkers? The silence can be addressed with headphones etc. but if you feel like you can’t connect, that may be more of a culture fit thing. It’s worth considering how much it’s going to bother you long term if your interactions with your coworkers are primarily work-focused and brief.

    That said, the fact that people who followed you for lunch and had a nice chat rather that sitting in silence might hint that some people would like more connection. Maybe sending out an email or instant message a little before you head to lunch might be better, though, so people don’t feel like it will be awkward if SOMEONE doesn’t stand up.

    1. Lynn Marie*

      This is a good suggestion for how to handle if you often feel the need to invite people to join you. I wouldn’t like the announcement to the room at large because it’s interrupting and if no one answers, it’s awkward. Texting/emailing gives more of a true choice. And please don’t be offended at the idea some who did join you and ended up having what you perceived as a nice chat may have done it because they felt awkward saying no, then put their energy into making you feel comfortable by chatting, and were totally relieved when it was over. “Phew, that’s done! Hope she doesn’t expect that every day” would be my inner dialogue.

  29. Thaleia*

    #4: a big ole yikes for the part of the commentariat who thinks this is about islamophobia. I am a queer woman living in a Muslim country with shitty (but not deadly) policies on LGBT issues. I feel safe here, and I’ve spent a lot of time and energy convincing people I’m right. Saudi is just a completely different story.

    For the OP, I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine having to disclose my sexuality to my bosses. I do 110% agree with Alison that you need to do it. You don’t mention where you’re based, but look into whether you have protections against discrimination from your employer based on your sexuality and document this conversation when you have it. Also, decide ahead of time if you’d be willing to take this account if you didn’t have to do any travel to Saudi.

    Also, given that Saudi has been in the news for all the wrong reasons lately with the Khashoggi assassination, I suspect your boss may be primed to understand the potential danger that she’d be putting you in.

    1. Grace*

      Where are you seeing the comments about Islamophobia? I haven’t seen a single one – unless they’re the ones that Alison has moderated and removed.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        I think you can read the ‘But but Russia’s just as bad! Why are you singling out KSA’ as having a ‘you’re being islamiphobic’ subtext. I did read them that way, though I don’t agree. I think a reasonable person could conclude that KSA’s a different situation than, say, Moscow.

        1. Wake up !*

          Who do you see arguing Russia is just as bad? I don’t see anybody saying that. But I do find the comments that imply that every other country is fine but visiting KSA = certain death really odd.

          1. The Russia Hand*

            As someone who has spent over half of my professional career in Russia, and some in MENA, there are circumstances where I would argue it would be more dangerous for an LGBT person to travel to Russia than Saudi. The formal laws against homosexuality are worse in Saudi. In practice, I think the risk of vigilantism is higher in Russia, particularly if the traveler to KSA does not openly come across as gay.

      2. Thaleia*

        Huh! I think the tone of the comments about Russia vs Saudi (as Jules the 3rd suggests) must have been what I was thinking of (as Jules the 3rd suggests). You’re right that I was overreacting, though; in that case, I retract that paragraph, then.

    2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

      Wow, I missed that! But I would also be very nervous about travelling to Saudi just because I’m an outspoken person and might forget to keep myself in check. Nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with Saudi’s reputation for harsh laws and punishment.

  30. Bagpuss*

    #LW4 – I agree with Alison that if you feel comfortable coming out to your boss that would be the simplest option, but if not, a less specific “For personal reasons, I would not be safe if I were to travel to SA, so while I am happy to work reomotely on thiso project, it won’t be possible for me to do so on site”
    That way, it doesn’t explicitly involve coming out to your boss.

    (Depending on how uncomfortable you are with having to disclosre your sexual orientation, you could, if they push, say “As you may know, SA has very strict, Islamic based laws and a whole range of matters which are legal here, including the open practice of religions other than Islam, being LGBT, being in a relationship outside marriage, and posession of various drugs including many normal over-the-counter medicines are illegal there, and in dome cases breaches of the law can carry peneltis up to and including the death penelty. I don’t want to discuss personal or medical issues but I would not be safe in SA” I think it would be obvious from a response like that that you fell into one of the categories at risk, but wouldn’t automatically disclose which one.

    You could also suggest to HR tat they consider having a formal policy about overseas travel, both to cover ensuring that people are properly briefed about any legal or cultural issues of any country they may travel to, and toenable them to opt out of travel to specifc locations for safety reasons.

  31. Rebecca*

    #3 – please keep the information to yourself. I’d like to point out unless you looked at the poster’s profile, and knew it was really your coworker, it might be someone else. I shared the same first and last name with 8 other women in my area (until I changed my name back to my birth name after divorce). When one of the other Rebecca’s bought a house in another town, I was asked if I was moving, changing jobs, etc. No, that was one of the other Rebeccas. “Oh, I heard you were pregnant, congratulations!” Nope, other Rebecca, etc.

    About the workload and it taking months to replace your coworker if she does leave: do not overwork yourself to the point of quitting. This is not all on your shoulders, nor is it your sole responsibility. It’s the company’s responsibility to make sure they are adequately staffed. Alison has a lot of tips on the site about how to frame how much work you can do, and how to approach a reasonable manager about prioritizing tasks when there is simply too much for one person to accomplish.

    1. 8DaysAWeek*

      Yes this is always a possibility…never assume. Someone assumed they found my Facebook profile and as a result, my whole high school class thought I had become an exotic dancer…as they were the one who was invited to the reunion…not me! LOL

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Totally. This reminds me of when I worked in a place where there were two Elizabeths–me, who worked for a contractor, and another woman, who worked for the company using the contractor. Other Elizabeth oopsed with antibiotics while on the pill and became pregnant with twins. Until she started to show and it became very obvious which Liz everyone was talking about, I got a TON of questions.

    3. That Girl From Quinn's House*

      I spent a lot of time being the only person I knew with my first or last name. Then I moved to a different state and shortly after, visited the emergency room, where the triage nurse said, “You’ve been here before? You’re on Main Street?” and it turned out that there was someone, with my exact name, who lived in my new town, who shared my year of birth.

      It happens. And I was EXTRA careful double-checking medical bills and prescriptions after that, because it seemed too easy of a mistake for the billing office or drugstore to make.

  32. ..Kat..*

    For #4, the potential Saudi Arabia traveler. Decades ago, when I was supposed to go to Saudi Arabia, three things could make travel impossible for someone:
    1) have atheism or Judaism as your religion,
    2) have an Israeli visa in your passport, or
    3) have a health condition that can’t be dealt with in a Saudi hospital (i.e., you would have to be airlifted to Germany for medical care).

    Can you acquire any of these?

    1. LaurenB*

      As has been explained, having an Israeli stamp in your passport is not a disqualifier because people travel with multiple passports all the time. This might only work if your company is extremely unsophisticated about international travel and thinks that the Israeli stamp is a deal-breaker – but if they’re sending you to KSA they probably aren’t unsophisticated like that.

      As for having a health condition that can’t be dealt with in a Saudi hospital, that doesn’t make any sense either – Saudi has excellent health care and there’s no reason to think any health condition couldn’t be dealt with there.

      1. Iris Eyes*

        Unless they already made those arrangements I’m going to assume that acquiring a second passport takes at least some time and thus it might make more logistical sense to send someone else as it seems they have a whole stable full of interchangeable colleagues who could just as easily go. So in this case it would still be a valid “welp I can’t go on that trip”

        1. LaurenB*

          That’s true, but it can easily be rushed for enough $$. This is not the first time on AAM where passports have been discussed and you can see the difference for people for whom obtaining a passport is a Really Big Deal (you have to fill out a form AND take pictures, it’s all too much!) and people for whom obtaining a passport is no big deal.

          1. anon today and tomorrow*

            I don’t think being snide about people who think passports are a big deal is a great look. It’s rude and unkind.

            1. BonnieVoyage*

              Travel coordinator for a global company here, and while I agree about the tone, IME there really are two camps of people on this issue. To put it charitably, I often find that for my colleagues who have either never travelled outside their own country or who hold passports that allow them visa-free entry to many countries (i.e. American, British, Schengen-area and so on*), the idea of having to actually apply for a visa or second passport and so on often seems like some sort of insurmountable obstacle. On the other hand, my colleagues who have done more international travel or who require visas to travel often have a much more realistic idea of what the process actually looks like – which is often not especially complicated. Especially so if you have the backing of a company that can provide invitation letters and references, complete the applications and pay your fees on your behalf.

              *Although interestingly I believe that the world’s most powerful passport is actually the UAE.

              However, this is definitely a tangent. I agree with LaurenB that if this company really, really wants to send the OP in particular to Saudi then an Israeli passport stamp can be worked around – they’ll probably tell him to fudge the religion question and remember his travel insurance card as well. (And that’s if he’s even visited Israel or has an Israeli stamp, as I believe they now just give out cards rather than stamp the passport?) Being as clear as possible with his boss about the actual issue is IMO the best route to go down.

              1. darsynia*

                I have to admit I’m really surprised that so many people are advocating actually *lying* to enter a country against their laws of entry. This seems disrespectful to other countries’ sovereignty and just flat out immoral. Perhaps it’s the cost of doing international business but it’s eye-opening to me and honestly, not in a good way.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            Do businesses that do this much international travel generally pay for expedited passports?

            1. Genny*

              Yes, State Department doesn’t usually waive fees for their services. Consular Affairs in particular has little reason to do so since they’re entirely funded by fees from passports and visas.

          3. boo bot*

            I think in general, when people don’t obtain super-necessary documentation, it’s usually about more than the forms and photos.

            I had a hard time getting the proofs for a non-driver ID a while back, for a bunch of pretty low-drama reasons: I was subletting a room in an apartment, so I didn’t have utility bills or a lease in my name; I was working directly for clients, who didn’t hand out pay stubs – mundane stuff that added up. I eventually cobbled it all together, and then once I had a state ID, I was able to get a passport, but it took some time.

          4. darsynia*

            It costs money (that presumably is the employee’s burden to pay), is hard to keep track of, and honestly feels like an unethical work-around. I hardly think that’s no big deal. If a country wants people who have visited Israel not to visit their country, I wouldn’t feel comfortable just shrugging and handing them a secret second passport like I wasn’t circumventing a rule of entry.

            1. BonnieVoyage*

              If you would feel uncomfortable that is of course your prerogative, but you’re talking about a “secret second passport” like they’re inherently some sort of underhand practice. It is perfectly legal to have multiple passports, sometimes more than two! (In Germany it’s legal to hold up to ten if you have a good enough reason, although I imagine it would have to be a very good one.). They’re just a fact of life for many frequent business travellers, for all sorts of reasons (for example, if you need to travel on one while the other is being sent for a visa application), and you often have to disclose them on applications anyway.

              (Out of interest – Israel now issues papers at the border rather than stamping passports for this exact reason. If you travelled to Israel without getting the stamp, would you just refrain from all travel to these countries anyway? What about if you got the stamp then your passport expired and you had to replace it?)

      2. ..Kat..*

        My family was shipped out of Saudi because my mother was needing to be transported monthly (or more) to Germany for health care.

        As a nurse, I have also taken care of Saudi children whose parents brought them to the USA because the “excellent” healthcare that you refer to was not available to them. Have you actually lived in Saudi Arabia? I have.

    2. Holly*

      I’m not sure what the advice is here! OP doesn’t need to convert, go to Israel, or develop a health condition to raise to his boss that it would literally be life threatening for OP to go to Saudi Arabia.

      1. Femme d'Afrique*

        I wondered the same thing. OP doesn’t mention Israel anywhere in the letter. It has literally nothing to do with the answer, and I don’t get why we’ve gone down this path.

      2. ..Kat..*

        I was simply recommending other ways to get out of going to Saudi Arabia that would have worked when I went there (which was a while ago). Since OP preferred not to disclose his sexuality.

  33. AnonyMs.*

    #1: I work in an office where the mother has a high-level position and has pushed to hire her children and their friends in lower level positions. It’s a baaaaad idea. All kinds of promises are made then all kinds of lines get crossed. A manager had a performance/attendance issue with this woman’s son, tried to resolve it professionally, but ultimately the mother backed up the son and it has become a nightmare.

    Trust your gut on this one.

    1. OP1*

      I am grateful that she is not my manager or otherwise senior to me (except in age). I’m pretty sure I would quit before bowing to pressure like this from a superior.

  34. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

    For #2, how about talking to your colleagues and maybe adopting an informal break time when everyone goes to the kitchen for coffee? My work often involves being isolated from my colleagues, whether because of wearing earplugs due to noise or just being engrossed in our particular task. But we always have a break then lunch at the same time when we do a lot of chit-chatting. Maybe something like this would work for people who want to have a break to socialize, but gives the people who aren’t interested the option to just stay at their desk?

  35. Roscoe*

    #1 . You are allowed to not interview anyone you like. That said, I’ll be honest, I think you are being a bit picky. 2 misspelled words in a cover letter seems awfully minor, even if the job does involve proof reading. Now if she was just a bad candidate overall, it would be one thing. But it really sounds like you are holding a couple of typos against her and that is it. I think that because she is a referral, you probably should have at least brought her in for an interview. I know I’ve had jobs where they really wanted referrals, but then didn’t even bring in a couple people I suggested who definitely were at least were worth an interview, and then went on to hire people who weren’t great. It made me not even consider referring anyone else there. That being said, I do agree that the mom might be overreaching here.

    #3 . Absolutely do not say anything. There are a number of reasons, but the main one is this isn’t your information to share. You are being incredibly selfish for wanting to possibly torpedo her plans, which, as Alison said, you don’t have any idea about. Maybe she’ll leave with no notice, maybe this is something she is planning to do 6 months from now.

    1. OP1*

      In some positions, a couple typos might not be disqualifying in an otherwise exceptional candidate. This position needs to not make careless errors like this – it’s one of the most important requirements.

      1. Close Bracket*

        I have worked professionally as an editor and proofreader, and I still make typos! I do have the good sense to get a friend to proofread my cover letters, though, bc having done this work, I know not to proofread my own stuff. That’s a wishy-washy “maybe having typos in your cover letter reflects poorly, maybe it doesn’t,” but since you have other candidates who *don’t* have typos in their cover letters (and whose mothers didn’t get involved), go with one of them!

      2. Zombeyonce*

        I would also consider even just a single typo in a cover letter or resume to be a big red flag for a position that requires careful proofreading. I would always assume someone has gone over any application materials with a fine-tooth comb before they submitted them because it’s such an important thing and the only way you can present yourself to a potential employer in the first stage so it should be very polished.

        Since the applicant either didn’t review their materials or did and still missed those typos (including misspelling the company name!), that’s a pretty big deal either way and it says a lot about them.

        1. boo bot*

          I’m on the fence about this, unless the job is literally proofreading, and it’s not being used as a proxy for “attention to detail.” I understand the logic, obviously, but it’s also true that it’s incredibly easy to miss a single typo in one’s own work; your brain knows what it’s supposed to say, and slides right by the error, which is why, as Close Bracket says above, one never proofreads one’s own work.

          So, for an actual proofreading job, I would probably expect the applicant to know they needed someone else to proofread their materials! Otherwise, though, I wouldn’t count a single typo as a red flag, because I know it’s perfectly possible to go over your work with a fine-toothed comb, a dozen times, and miss the same error every time.

        2. Anon25*

          Misspelling the name of the company is the one that I really don’t get – doesn’t everyone copy and paste that?

    2. Observer*

      In a position that requires proofreading? And one of them is the company’s name?

      Also, the OP has pointed out that they actually have plenty of other candidates that are strong AND did not make ANY typos.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      I’m a professional (business) writer. In my opinion, my resume and my cover letter are both writing samples, and as such, they must be perfect. (And yes, I have other samples.)

      Now, this isn’t a writing position, but the OP states that “The position requires proofreading and careful data entry” and clearly, the young woman did not proofread her work.

  36. Argh!*

    Re: #3

    People lie about their reasons for selling things or giving away their pets all the time. They think it will help them sell their stuff. The actual reason for selling it could be just needing the money.

    So no, don’t mention it to the boss or to her (unless you want to buy her stuff!)

  37. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP4 – if your assessment of manager and culture is accurate, it’s very likely that a simple “my background makes me feel unsafe there” would be accepted without any further prying. I hope you are able to deal with this within your comfort boundaries.

  38. LaurenB*

    LW #1: (job candidate is a daughter of a coworker)
    I want to point out that the mother isn’t standing over you demanding that you hire her, or threatening you in any way. She is simply asking a fairly gentle “would it be possible to reconsider her for an interview?” You would do well to think about why it is intimidating for you when all she is doing is saying “can you reconsider her,” not yelling “hire her or else.”

    I agree, btw, that Alison’s wording is the proper way to handle it, and you needn’t really reconsider the young woman at all, but there’s a lot of self-doubt going on for what was really a fairly gentle inquiry from the mother.

    1. MsM*

      Except that as Allison also points out, it’s not appropriate for Mom to be using her position to advocate in this way. The decision was made, and it needs to be treated as a lesson in how to deal with rejection.

    2. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

      I thought LW explained it pretty well – the mother mentioned several other employees and the LW doesn’t want the mother or the other coworkers to be upset with her for not hiring daughter.

    3. Environmental Compliance*

      The wording may be fairly gentle and not as pushy as previous letters we’ve seen, but the basic premise is still pushy – as a parent, you need to stay out of your children’s job interviews, not contact the hiring manager and request that they interview the child anyway. The LW didn’t say the mom was intimidating, rather than they want to keep a good relationship going with the staff involved… which is a fair consideration to make, considering you have a parent overstepping professional boundaries in an attempt to get their child hired.

    4. Decima Dewey*

      When I got out of college, my mother worked at a Delaware museum. I sent in a resume, got a “not interested” letter. Mom was indignant that I hadn’t been granted a “courtesy interview.” But I didn’t want a courtesy interview. I wanted to get an interview somewhere because a potential employer was impressed by my resume. Not an interview that would lead to nothing, just because Mom worked in the Registrar’s office.

      1. OP1*

        I agree – and, I’m going to assume (hope) that the daughter did not know mom would do this and would be mortified if she did.

    5. OP1*

      A couple updates from when I sent the question on Monday. The next day I got an unsolicited recommendation from one of the named coworkers. Today, I got a response from the daughter that thanked me for the consideration and that she will never trust spell check again. I really like Alison’s suggestion and yours. I try very hard to lead with humanity. My instinct is to always assume good intent, which I am doing in this case. But, even the nicest “no” is still a no.

      1. Yvette*

        Not quite sure I am understanding. When you say ” Today, I got a response from the daughter that thanked me for the consideration and that she will never trust spell check again.” Does that mean that she was thanking you for looking at her at all and pointing out the issues, and accepting the fact that she is not in contention for the position, or, in light of the new unsolicited recommendation, that she seems to think she is being granted an interview?

            1. blackcat*

              Given her gracious response, my guess is she would likely want no part in her mom pulling strings….

    6. fposte*

      Hard no, and the OP is being far, far more tolerant than I would be here. Mothers should not make inquiries, gentle or otherwise, on behalf of their children when they’re rejected for jobs. It’s hugely unprofessional on the parent’s part, so it hurts the parent’s relationship with their colleague as well as hurting their children’s future prospects with an employer, because nobody wants to hire somebody and get their interfering mother along for the ride.

      Emotionally, I understand a parent’s feeling in this situation. But it cannot translate into this kind of action, and it’s not good for the parent or the kid if it does.

    7. Observer*

      No, not gentle at all. When you’re pulling coworkers in that’s a passive aggressive escalation right there.

  39. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#4: Since earlier commenters have given you lots of support for choosing not to go to Saudi Arabia, I’m going to focus on strategy for raising the issue with your boss. (BTW, I’m a middle-aged Roman Catholic woman. I wouldn’t go there, either.)

    You say that your office culture isn’t gay-hostile, people just don’t share personal information very much. Am I reading that correctly? You also said you’d prefer not to come out to your boss. Is there some specific reason for that? You, obviously, know your boss better than I do. But it might be worth taking some time to consider your long-term strategy at this work place. (I know this can be touchy. I had a friend who, although most of us knew he was gay, didn’t actually come out at work until his tenure had been confirmed by the university. Would it have made a difference if he had come out earlier? I like to think not, but given the stakes, I understood why he chose to do it the way he did.)

    If you decide you don’t want to get into all that at this point, my suggestion would be to just tell him that you have serious moral objections to working in the KSA, given their human rights record, and that you come from a background that might put you in jeopardy there.

    If your boss has the brains of a radish, this should be enough.

    I also recommend that you plan to talk with your boss as soon as you can, so your boss can line up somebody else to go. You may have a colleague who would see this as an interesting opportunity. But the longer you wait, the more awkward it will be.

  40. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – I would seriously consider telling coworker that this kind of intervention is *exactly* why it’s a bad idea to mix business and personal. Depending on your relationship of course! but could be doing kid a favour if you let them know that speaking for them decreases their chances.

    1. OP1*

      That was my initial reaction, but I wanted to delay my response so I had time to reflect. I think Alison’s response makes the point while helping me maintain a good relationship with the people I see everyday.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yeah :) if there’s a risk of bad relations then probably not worth it.

  41. Yvette*

    With regards to #2, you say “Some days all nine of us are in the office, but often there are as few as two or three people here.” Is that because they are out of office for a specific business reason or does everyone have regular work from home schedules? If they all WFH, remember that they are probably used to, and may even prefer, spending all day without direct, face to face contact.
    Someone earlier suggested “announcing” the lunch via email to reduce awkwardness, and people feeling some sort of pressure. I think that is a good idea.
    Also, since everyone seems to prefer going through the day without social interaction, perhaps you could reserve that sort of thing for the actual work day, if you find yourself approaching the office on the way in, or leaving together on the way out. That might be a good time for “how was your weekend” type conversations.

  42. Database Developer Dude*

    Saudi Arabia *does* execute people merely for being gay. It’s happened recently. This is a case of life safety. For a civilian consulting job, a gay person going to Saudi Arabia is dangerous. While I agree that the LW should not have to come out at work, a private conversation with the boss is in order. Alison’s spot on with this one. The boss needs to know, but the boss needs to know IN CONFIDENCE… If I were gay, I wouldn’t be going to Saudi either..and this is something I would quit over.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yeah, I mean ….it’s just a job. Your boss, however awesome, can’t prevent a country from executing you, they can’t reverse your execution, they can’t prevent you from being beaten up or harrassed or jailed. They can’t stop you from feeling like you’re walking on pins the entire time and what can they do about whatever kind of health or career fall out that will follow from that level of stress?

      This is one of those survival priorities that make the decision really clear. I don’t know how happy OP is to come out to their boss; but at a minimum they need to say ‘Travelling somewhere that intolerant of other religions and lifestyles is a level of risk which is simply too much even for someone as well travelled and as dedicated as myself. Thank you for the opportunity but the answer’s no’ (Even in a ‘private lives are private lives’ culture I imagine most non-arsehole bosses want to know if they are inadvertently sending you to your death or setting up a multi national incident).

  43. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    #3: I’m not sure how the OP can be said to have information she was “never meant to know.” The coworker posted it on Facebook, presumably to have as many people as possible see it. It isn’t as if OP searched the coworker’s files to find it.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I agree. I disagree with Alison’s opinion because this information isn’t anything she came across by being where she wasn’t supposed to, or coming across something she wasn’t supposed to see, or listening to something she wasn’t meant to hear. It’s very, very public information. And as others have said, it could even be a ruse. So I don’t see anything wrong with going to her boss (or to that coworker, even) and saying “I saw this in a public forum, what’s up?”

      1. Roscoe*

        Because it really isn’t her business, thats why. It amazes me how many people on here are busybodies. Even if you find something out by accident, doesn’t mean you should go telling the boss that thing.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          It potentially impacts the OP and her boss. It’s not like she’s gossiping about a coworker’s love life.

          1. Roscoe*

            But its still not her business, even if it impacts her. Its not her story to tell is maybe a better way to say it. The co-worker has the right to reveal this information to who she wants in the manner she chooses

          2. Ethyl*

            And it may not even be true! There is zero reason for OP to get involved in this.

      2. Yvette*

        I kind of agree as well in terms of this being public information. I would still probably not say anything, or ask the coworker privately, but I am always surprised when people post stuff in social media and are then so shocked when they get called on it. Like those vandals who pushed over the rock formations in Utah and Oregon. What did they think would happen?

      3. Psyche*

        I don’t think she should bring this to her boss because she does not really have enough information. The coworker could feel like saying that would help it sell, she could be posting it for a friend who is moving, it could be a weird inside joke… There are too many possibilities that don’t involve her actually planning to move. I think she could bring it up with her coworker though.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I don’t do FB so may be off, but my understanding here is that the coworker didn’t post “I’m moving and selling my patio set” on her wall. She went to a forum for people selling patio sets and posted “Patio set good condition, 3 years old, cat motif, message me through FB.” FB then took the bit in its teeth to decide to connect two disparate pieces, like when it decides that Bob’s wife and Bob’s mistress have a lot in common and might want to connect with each other.

      The post is technically public, just as it would be if coworker stuck it on a lamppost with her phone number and OP recognized that. But not public like someone reasonably thought they were putting this on blast to every acquaintance they ever made. Treat it like other stuff that got to you through a couple of layers of odd channels people might not have guessed existed–either ignore it, or bring it up with them before you merrily pass on the information.

    3. LaurenB*

      Ms Ann Thropy, someone posting on a buy-and-sell board that is public isn’t necessarily “intending” that all of their friends see it; they may just not be aware that it pops up in the news feeds of their friends, that’s all.

      1. Madge*

        Or she may not be thinking it all the way through that someone might act on that information. If you’re selling a wide range of items in a garage sale, it’s helpful to call it a “moving sale” because it easily communicates what you’re selling. If you’re trying to avoid all sorts of questions about why you don’t want the thing you’re selling you might use “moving “as an easy reason that doesn’t invite further questions. No one is checking to make sure you actually moved.

        When we were planning a move out of state we guarded that information like Fort Knox. Friends and family overlapped with co-workers in ways that meant one slip could result in the company knowing before we were even sure it was going to happen. So, it’s possible that her freedom with that information means she’s actually less likely to be moving.

        1. Ethyl*

          Or say you’re moving because of All The Creepy Dudes Out There (ask me how I know!).

    4. your vegan coworker*

      I agree, I don’t understand how a public Facebook post is private information someone was “never meant to see.” OP would be well within her rights to forward the post to their mutual boss as a heads up. If they wanted to be extra polite, they could say to the coworker, “hey, your post about moving out of state popped up on my Facebook feed. What’s up? Are you really moving? When?”

  44. Mimi Me*

    #2 – my office is very quiet. I do play music quietly (with and without earbuds). I sit in a high walled cubicle with a fan running on my desk so the music doesn’t travel far. In fact, the woman who sits behind me has confirmed that she can’t hear it, though she’s seen me mouthing along as she’s walked by.

    I’ve been here for over five years and I’ll admit it was an adjustment as I came from busier offices with lots of chatter. I’ve now grown to love the quiet. Our office does make a point of having a monthly lunch gathering though. The staff here (myself excluded) loves Bingo / Casinos so they have a monthly Bingo lunch game that they play for scratch off cards. Could you perhaps suggest a semi-regular gathering for lunch where everyone gets together to talk about some shared interest if they’d like to opt in?

    1. Anon Accountant*

      Or a monthly “order in” day where everyone contributes to get pizza and salad or something.

      I like the idea of a monthly lunch gathering. Low key, no pressure and provides opportunities for socializing.

  45. TotesMaGoats*

    #1-I feel bad for the daughter if she doesn’t know what mom is doing. Given the many posts over the years here, it’s entirely possible she doesn’t know what mom is up to. OP, stand firm. “Competitive pool” and “good luck”. Those are your watch words. I know it’s a sucky position though. I had a similar thing. Niece of a coworker in my same division applied to a job. I emailed her for interview. She never responded. We moved forward, interviewed, made an offer and then it’s “not fair, junk mail, give her a chance”.

    #2-That kind of sounds like torture to me. I don’t think the polite invite to lunch every now and then is wrong. It doesn’t sound like you are pushy or judgmental. Given how much time we spend at work zero chit chat seems painful to me. Maybe headphones and music would help break up the silence for you.

    #3-Ignore it. What you saw on facebook marketplace doesn’t give you the right to out someone.

    #4-I think you’ve gotten good advice on ways to address this with your boss without outing yourself although that may end up being the more effective route. I also wouldn’t want to travel to KSA. And as I just met with a student who’s parent will no longer pay for them to remain in the US for school and is terrified to return home…I get it.

    #5-If you’ve got a good rapport with your boss then I would tell them. The more we know the better we can support. And for everyone who is going to say that they have/had an awful boss who held it against them…YMMV.

    1. OP1*

      I got an email from the applicant today thanking me. I’m going to hope/assume that she would be embarrassed to know that her mom emailed me.

  46. Corky's wife Bonnie*

    #5, I was in the same boat two years ago. All the specialists I had to see were during working hours. So I just said to my boss, “I am working with my doctor to try and figure out a medical issue, and that means a battery of tests and different specialists so I just wanted to give you a heads up and I will make up my time accordingly.” That was all she needed to hear, and it worked out fine. She was very understanding because she has a lot of appointments for her 101 year old mother so she has had to work time out herself.

  47. Legal Rugby*

    OP#4 – I am a lesbian who served in the military for a number of years, and had to work in SA on two occasions. This is actually a safety risk. People have been pulled off planes for presenting as stereotypically gay in some countries in the middle east, and being american will not protect you under the current administration. People have had their phones confiscated for having pictures of their spouses or loved ones in normal western clothing.

    When the [other country in that area’s] Ministry of Defense that I worked to found out I was being sent to SA as part of my job, they went to my boss and explained that they felt it was unsafe. This wasn’t them being assholes – they were aware of my relationship back home, and worked with me knowing my gender/sexuality. But the department head explained that if I so much as forgot to remove text from my gf, I could potentially be in an unsafe situation before the US or my host national could even speak to SA diplomatically. They werent worried about me being detained. They were worried about me being killed.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s such a relief that others were even thinking of your safety and brought their concerns up to your boss, that’s incredible and needs to happen more frequently.

      I think it’s important to drive home that this isn’t always about just buttoning up your lip and not “saying” something. They pass severe judgements without any proof, they act upon sight and their assumptions, with severity. It’s not just like “Oh you may be detained and refused entry”, it’s very much “take action and ask questions later, maybe.”

      1. Anon Accountant*

        Thank you. I couldn’t find the right words but you summed up my thoughts. This is exactly what happens.

  48. Koala dreams*

    #2: It’s pretty normal in a small office that people are busy and there aren’t necessarily anyone who wants coffee or lunch at the same time as you. I think the suggestions for an informal lunch time or coffee time is good, that way the people who like to chat over coffee/lunch can meet and the other people can choose to opt out. Maybe once a week or once a day. I also recommend you to listen to radio or music in earbuds if you are bothered by the silence. That way it won’t feel as quiet.

    #4: Other people have provided scripts for talking with your boss. Even though you can’t go to Saudi Arabia, you seem to be willing to go to other countries where your company has business so hopefully this will be resolved after you talk with your boss. Good luck, and stay safe!

  49. AngryOwl*

    #4, I hope that whatever way you decide to handle this with your boss, they are receptive. Your fears are completely valid and any reasonable human will agree.

  50. boop the first*

    Announcing you’re going to lunch is a good idea, but it would be hard to rouse people every time because probably no one is suddenly going to arrive at a natural pause in their work at the exact moment you go. That’s why I personally don’t like our daily group lunches! I get a flow going, and a plan, and then the boss comes in right when I’m elbows-deep into something time-sensitive screeching “LUNCH TIME, HEY, IT’S LUNCH TIME!” Aaaahhhh!!!

    1. boo bot*

      Every day? Eek. This is a good point! I would probably often be open to planned lunch, and almost never join in with surprise! lunch unless it happened to coincide with a natural break in my work.

      OP, can you send out an email/chat/slack message in the morning saying you’re planning to go to lunch at X time and people are welcome to join? You might get better results with people like me!

  51. Goya de la Mancha*

    #4) Is this something that would possibly be more geared toward HR? I’m assuming there is an HR as the company (you) does so much traveling. That way if you were outing yourself at work it would be in a confidential manner outside of the people you regularly work with?

  52. It's mce*

    No. 1: As a help, maybe point out the typos in the letter, showing that the job requires proofreading.

    1. Grace*

      I thought OP did?

      “I emailed her to let her know that she had great potential, but was not right for this position. I told her about the errors so she could fix them before applying for another position.” I took that to mean that the errors were pointed out both for ‘not right for this position’ but also so she didn’t make that mistake again.

    2. Me*

      If your suggesting she show the mother, that would be super inappropriate. Mommy dearest sin’t part of the hiring process so has no legitimate reason to see any of this. OP addressed it wiht the person who applied and that’s sufficient.

  53. Me*

    LW1 – I would flat out nicely state that her daughter cannot move forward in the process as doing so would be special treatment that is not extended to any other applicant. And that you are committed to always having a fair above the board hiring process.

    Sometimes naming the action for what it is shocks people back into reality that what they are asking is not ok.

    1. Iris Eyes*

      +1 While it may or may not work against mom it will be a really efficient way to push back against any coworkers who might otherwise take mom’s side.

  54. StaceyIzMe*

    My parents were expats in Saudi Arabia and I was there as a teen and again as an adult. The LW is asking all the right questions and I’d avoid travel under those circumstances. Or really under any circumstances where I’d be at risk due to some aspect of my demographic. When you’re in another country and you’re required to operate under the norms of another culture, it’s just prudent to see where things could go awry. Visitors have run afoul of local laws in the middle east for bringing alcohol, reporting a rape and bringing medication in this isn’t accepted or isn’t properly labeled. Many people could find a way around some of these limitations, but the most conservative and most prudent path is to avoid exposure, in my view. I can’t help but wonder if the LW couldn’t simply say he’s a member of a group the culture persecutes and won’t be able to travel there, unfortunately. This could mean anything from a different sect of Islaam, Jewish or other marginalized background or something else. That doesn’t require the LW to specify his issue (but he could read off a list of concerns and indicate that he falls into one of these “types” of categories, or whatever parlance would be acceptable in his organization’s culture). It would be good for HR and for the organization generally to have a policy that covers all of these possible scenarios for their employees who have to travel. That way, no one has to self identify in future unless they choose to do so. But they can still remain safe and retain the majority of their personal privacy.

  55. Bopper*

    Re: Saudi Arabia

    We have a Saudi client and Jewish people and women would work with them, but not on site.
    The Big Boss would meet with them, but in Dubai.
    Some white men would go on site.

  56. Sharikacat*

    #1: For all of the valid reasons to not want to hire the woman’s daughter, in most cases, it’s just bad policy from a practical sense. Drama or conflict involving either one of them may suddenly include both. If one of them is requesting time off for a family function or vacation, you can bet the other person is going to take off, too (depending on the jobs, that may cause gaps in coverage). And if one of them ends up in disciplinary action or fired (maybe even if one leaves willingly!), the other is likely going to carry some resentment, which may end up in the other one disciplined or fired.

    In more rural areas where the applicant pool is tiny, it can be unavoidable. I have a friend in rural NC, and I cringed hard when she told me her daughter got a job at the same place as her and later on when, at her new job, the manager also worked with her daughter under her. If it works for them, great, and I wish them the best, but I couldn’t stand it, personally or professionally.

  57. Observer*

    #3- I totally disagree with Allison on “it’s not yours to share”. You were not told this in confidence, you didn’t go looking for this information. Your coworker posted this on Facebook! If your coworker has posted a sign in her front yard, down the block from you, saying Moving out of state, must sell everything” that would be public knowledge that she knows you know about. If she wanted to keep it quiet, she should not have posted it on a PUBLIC GROUP ON FACEBOOK.

    1. Roscoe*

      I still don’t understand how it is her information to share though. Even if some people know it, that doesn’t mean the co-worker wants the boss to know this information. Just because something has been made public, it is still someone’s personal info to give out to who they want in what fashion. As someone else posted, if someone posted about their pregnancy on facebook, that still doesn’t mean that people should run and tell the boss. She may very well want to keep that topic out of the workplace

      1. Observer*

        If you don’t want something in the workplace, then don’t post it where people you work with are going to see it.

        It’s really that simple.

        1. Roscoe*

          But this was a Facebook sales post, not her wall. Its very different. Essentially anyone could have seen that. I’m just not seeing any situation where it is the coworkers place to run and tell the boss that info

    2. Jessie the First (or second)*

      She posted it in a public group, but because it was a group for selling things, OP doesn’t know if it is true or a sales pitch, or if she was posting on behalf of a friend and it was simpler to do it this way, or if it’s that she is moving two years from now and is starting early, or if it is the same person as her coworker with the same name, or if since it was posted the move fell through.

      Given all that, it is mean-spirited to run to the boss and tell the boss that coworker may be leaving.

      1. Observer*

        If any of these questions are relevant, then it’s the decent thing to talk to the coworker first. But you simply cannot put something out so publicly and then expect people to treat it like privileged information. It’s not.

        In most cases, I’d agree that there is still no good reason to go to the boss. But in this case, the OP actually has a legitimate reason to talk to the boss. And given the current employment situation, the boss would have to be a fool to jump to pushing the coworker out. That would be cutting of their nose to spite their face.

    3. WellRed*

      It may be technically public info now, but it’s still not the letter writer’s to share. For example, if I know the sex of my coworker’s baby to be, it’s still her info to share, not mine. Not a perfect analogy, I realize.

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      Yes but what does that have to do with telling the boss? Just because you discover information doesn’t mean you need to start blabbing it around. If an employee came to me with this, my first thought would be “why is this their business?”

      1. Observer*

        That’s a good point. But it’s not what I’m addressing. I was specifically addressing the idea that there is some level of confidentially involved here. There is not.

        In this particular case, the OP actually DOES have some interest here – they want their boss to ramp up the search for another person and perhaps even start planning a transition. That’s definitely their business because they will be affected if that doesn’t happen and the coworker moves.

      1. Observer*

        That makes it worse, actually. If it were on her wall, it could be possible that she thought her privacy settings would keep it shielded. But you simply can’t make that argument on a community page.

  58. For OP4*

    OP4 – Could you use your recent travels to your advantage? As in, “[Boss], I have traveled X thousands of miles for our clients in the last year alone, so I hope that demonstrates my commitment to our firm. I am not comfortable with this particular assignment and respectfully ask to be assigned to a different project.”

  59. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    We have a quiet office as well, we’re all spread out [way too much space for our small team but there used to be more bodies before we cut positions as people quit due to them not being necessary [previous leadership wanted a dedicated person for every little thing instead of combining tasks despite not having that much work for everyone, sigh.]

    We discussed it and we like it this way, with an occasional group lunch. It’s always planned a few days in advance, noted on the bulletin board and optional. We also do group BBQs in the summer and will put snacks in the breakroom to get people to graze a bit.

    It would be so awkward and uncomfortable for anyone to just announce that they’re going to lunch and ask people if they’re interested, that’s just not how we roll. You’d get the awkward silence here as well and the only people who would join you would be ones who felt obligated because it’s weird to just all say “no thanks” at once.

  60. Princess prissypants*

    #2 – maybe it’s not as strange for others as it is for you – take their awkwardness at your lunch invitations at face value. Some people (me) prefer to work in silence. Leave them (me) alone. They’re (I’m) fine.

  61. Bloom*

    #3 – this is why you should never have co-workers on any social media. I don’t understand why people do this.

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      No indication #3 is FB friends with her coworker. Coworker posted on a community selling page. Those pages are sometimes public, or it may be that the LW and coworker are (knowingly or unknowingly) both members of the same community group. Not being FB friends with coworkers does not always prevent coworkers from seeing something you post anyway.

    2. Anon25*

      I really find it hard to see where the LW3’s co worker did anything wrong. Let’s say she is leaving in a month. She still should be able to plan but only give 2 weeks to get employer.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I work in a field with long notice periods, but they’re a courtesy, not an obligation. I understand that the OP is stressed and anxious at the prospect of covering the large workload on her own again, but that doesn’t translate into her co-worker’s obligation to give a long informational lead; it’s something the OP has to figure out how to deal with (like, maybe she wants to look elsewhere too, or advocate more strongly for additional hires). And you know, in some jobs the result of the advance information would be that the co-worker is fired now, screwing both the OP and the co-worker.

        1. Observer*

          Well, giving the boss a reason for stringer advocacy is a legitimate way for the OP to deal with public information.

          Now, if there is any chance that the boss is going to be stupid enough to push CW out the door before hiring both a new person and replacement, I would strongly advise the OP to not share this information. I don’t care how well you get along, a boss who does that does NOT get to expect that kind of information.

      2. Observer*

        CW most definitely did not do anything wrong. But they put something out in public and it’s just not reasonable to expect people to treat it like it’s confidential information.

        Neither OP nor their boss would be doing something wrong by factoring in this information (assuming it’s correct.)

  62. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

    LW#2 – Quiet Office, now you have experience if you ever go on a silent meditation retreat. :)
    Adding to those who suggested a regular lunch schedule in the break room.
    You’re not necessarily shallow if you decide you prefer a little more interaction at work, and begin looking elsewhere. Best wishes.

  63. Bookworm*

    No advice for LW# 4 but hope it works out. I had a much milder form (I went because I wasn’t going to face the same danger you might) of your dilemma this year so I’m sympathetic. Good luck!

  64. Lady Phoenix*

    LW1: You just got a taste of the h3ll it will be to manage this child.

    Any time you need to critique this woman, expect mommy dearest to come in to talk your ear off about how your assessment is wrong and how perfect her angel is.

    And lord and whoever else help you if you have to write this daughter up, put her on PIP, or even fire her. Mommy Dearest will make your life a nightmare.

    Dodge the bullet Matrix style and move on to other candidates.

    1. OP1*

      Yeah, there is absolutely no way I am hiring her. And, this has made it very hard for me to consider her for any future openings.

      1. fposte*

        That’s the thing that riles me (and probably would the candidate)–her mother has *hurt her daughter’s career prospects.* And will probably blame the OP for this.

      2. Observer*

        It’s a shame. This young woman actually sounds like she could be a strong contender for other positions, based on her response to your feedback. But Mom has really made that impossible.

        Someone should send Mom this thread…

  65. Powercycle*

    Worked one place where the director of HR got their fresh out of college kid a temp job in the IT department. IT management objected but were basically force to “give them a chance”. Everybody knew they got the job because of their parent. Turned out they were lazy and had zero initiative to ask for more work when they had nothing to do. They were not renewed when their 6 month term was up.
    This, along with other hiring shenanigans in the past, pretty much eroded any trust the IT department had in that HR director.

  66. Princess prissypants*

    #1 – do the daughter a favor and tell her that her mother is doing her no favors. helicopter parents need to GTFO.

    1. OP1*

      I did her favor by emailing her personally to let her know about the mistakes so she can fix before applying to another job. And, I regret it. Not emailing her again.

      1. fposte*

        Oh, I hope you don’t ultimately regret it–it sounded like your email exchange with the candidate was polite and she found your feedback as kind and useful as you meant it to be. It’s just entanglement with Mom’s rotator blades that’s regrettable.

      2. Koala dreams*

        I’m sorry to hear that you regret it. It was really kind of you to send that e-mail, especially in light of her mother’s lack of professionalism.

  67. YoungTen*

    OP2, You probably work in an office where most of the workers are introverted. You can usually tell when more extroverted types are wanting for more interaction and noise. Not sure what industry you work in but some industries attract certain types of personalities that are good with quiet concentration.

  68. Sleeplesskj*

    Re #3 please don’t say anything. As someone in your co-workers shoes, I can tell you that I am planning a move out of state and I have begun to sell excess things – but the actual move likely won’t happen for months or maybe even up to a year from now. Out of state moves are not simple. On the other hand, it’s also very likely that she is using “moving out of state” as a reason because people are less likely to wonder what is wrong with the item/why you are selling. Things sell quicker when people aren’t wondering why you’re selling or if there is something wrong with it. The point is, it’s not your info to share.

    1. Anon25*

      Yes – it really is not okay for the letter writer to put her co workers job in jeopardy. Lots of employers would go ahead and fire folks.

  69. agnes*

    Here to support the LW who does not want to go to KSA. I hope you don’t have to disclose more than you want to, but if necessary, I encourage you to do it. You should not be required to go there.

  70. Lalaroo*

    Yeah, if you choose to go to KSA, you will probably have to misgender yourself while you are there. Otherwise you will be in serious personal danger. Do you recommend that NB people who go to KSA present as NB?

  71. nêhiyaw ayahkwêw*

    For number 4, I think you could say something along the lines of:

    “Some aspects of my background are criminalized in Saudi Arabia, and for that reason I am unable to risk my safety by travelling there, thank you for understanding”

  72. TassieTiger*

    The word “straggling” comes off very odd to me here and I’m not sure why. Does it bother op that they are coming in one at a time instead of uniting and all joining in a chatty bunch?

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