can I fly business class while my boss is in coach, employee keeps challenging my expertise, and more

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

1. Employee keeps challenging my expertise

I’m a new manager at a small advertising start-up that has a very open and transparent culture. I actively encourage my team to challenge and disagree with me, but I’m having issues with one of them doing so in a way that I perceive as disrespectful. He frequently disagrees with me, which is fine, but he does so in a way that I think challenges my authority.

For example, if I explain a standard procedure that we’ve agreed upon and done in the past that he doesn’t remember, he’ll bluntly state “no, we’ve never done it that way” in front of the rest of the team. This has sometimes lead to us going back and forth about whether or not a fact is a fact, even when I have records or documentation that prove I am correct, because he can’t accept the possibility that he might be wrong. Gender may be part of the issue here: I’m a woman, he may not be super excited about having me as a manager. But I’m trying to figure out the best way to handle this without going too far into that.

So far, I’ve mostly been trying to ignore him when he does this: to briefly explain the facts and reference the documentation and move on, rather than to sink to his level and have it escalate to me reprimanding him. I’m not sure at what point this calls for some kind of intervention, though. Does it make me look weaker to ask him to disagree with me more respectfully in front of the rest of the team? And, how do I ask him to cut it out without also discouraging the rest of the team from being open with me? For context, I was promoted from the same position he is in now, so I do have expertise in our procedures; this isn’t just an instance of him actually being more familiar with the role than me.

I’d get it out of the group meetings first — so as soon as it starts to go back and forth, you should say, “I don’t want to derail the meeting on this, so you and I can talk about this one-on-one sometime this week.”

Then when you talk with him one-on-one, you can say, “I’ve noticed this keeps happening — I say X, you say ‘no, it’s Y,’ and then it turns out that yes, it was X. Given the frequency, it’s starting to come across as adversarial, and even as resistance to my leadership of the team, and it’s derailing our meetings with others. What’s going on?”

2. Can I fly business class while my boss is in coach?

Our company policy allows for business class flights when the flight is longer than three hours. I am going on an upcoming trip with my boss to a client’s located. I have previously flown business by myself to this client, but this will be the first time flying with my boss. My boss sent me his itinerary and I saw that he booked economy. I am erring on the side of also booking economy, but the policy does permit business class (flight is six hours). Any thoughts?

Yeah, you do not want to be flying business class while your boss is on the same plane in coach. Unfortunately, you’ve got to follow your boss’s lead on this kind of thing when you’re on the same trip — just like if you went out to dinner together for an expensed meal, you wouldn’t order a bottle of wine, appetizer, entree, and dessert while he was just getting soup.

In theory, you could say to him, “I noticed you booked coach. I’d always thought business class was fine when the flight is over three hours — but do you typically prefer that we fly coach?” And who knows, maybe that would reveal that his booking is wrong, or that this client is extra budget-conscious, or something else about his reasoning. But the (very high) risk there is that he’ll say something that then makes you feel obligated to fly coach on all future flights on your own … so you’re probably better off just saying nothing and following his lead this time.

3. I care for plants, and people think it’s easy

I take care of plants in offices (and more). My company provides the plants, containers, and care. My job is to keep the plants healthy, looking good, and pest-free, as well as maintaining good relationships with clients. I have a lot of accounts, and take care of hundreds of plants. I also have responsibilities at our office and greenhouse. I really enjoy my job and am happy to be in the field I am in.

What do I say to people who tell me my job has no stress and is easy? My job is challenging, physical, requires critical thinking, and involves taking care of living things! The implication is, I feel, that I don’t have any special skills and that I just float from plant to plant with an empty head. My job garners a lot of comments from the peanut gallery, which I usually brush off, but sometimes it feels very frustrating to not be treated as a professional. These comments come from people who aren’t directly involved in my work (they have no contact with the company) and who I may or may not recognize. In a big office, I know that I am seen by many people, but I don’t know everyone.

If you can, try reframing those comments in your head so you hear them as “I’d love to be able to spend my day taking care of living things and not sitting in stuffy conference rooms with a cranky client who wants to debate comma placement.” I do think that’s what most people intend to convey — they’re having an escapist fantasy that may or may not reflect the reality of your job, but does reflect their stress/frustration/discontent/burn-out with their own. (I have to admit that when I read your letter, I had that same reaction — “that sounds great!”) Or people are just making conversation without realizing how what they’re saying is coming across.

A good response to those comments is simply, “I love my work!”

4. Can I tell people I won’t hire friends?

I’ve learned the hard way that hiring friends is a bad idea, as it can easily lead to the end of the friendship and the end of the professional relationship at the same time. What I’m wondering is whether it’s okay to explicitly discourage people from applying up-front because they’re friends with you, they go to the same church as you, or are sufficiently involved in a shared community that it could make things very uncomfortable if the professional relationship ended badly. If a friend applies for a job opening and does not get an interview, is it okay to simply tell them that you don’t hire friends as a practice, or is that something that it’s okay to think but not to say?

You can absolutely say it! In fact, it’s a good idea to say it, so that you short-circuit the whole thing now rather than dealing with what to do if they apply. A good way to say it is, “I’ve seen that ruin too many friendships, so I have a policy now that I never hire friends.” If anyone pushes (“we could handle it!” “I’m sure it would be fine!”), you can say, “It really is a firm policy. I don’t want to risk our good relationship. Thanks for understanding!”

5. Dirty dishes success story

After reading so many times about the struggle in getting people to put their items in the dishwasher, I wanted to share what has been a very successful solution.

I was so tired of putting other people’s dirty mugs in the dishwasher. No amount of chiding, chastising, joshing, reminders, or even a sign next to the sink with a red arrow pointing to the dishwasher did the trick.

And then it came to me. Use a Sharpie and write in the sink itself. So I did. And it has worked beautifully. People laughed, and then did as asked. The writing fades when the sink is scrubbed, and is easily redone. The second time, I made a red arrow. It might not work in every office, but it’s worked in this one.

{ 467 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, this is one of the most frustrating employees when you’re the lead or manager. I agree with Alison that it’s helpful to not let him derail, but you’ll definitely have to talk to him in your one-on-ones. And if he doubles down, I recommend cheerfully continuing to move on whenever he tries to derail and treating him as if he isn’t behaving like a petulant Eeyore. It’s going to annoy him, and it has the added benefit of making you look incredibly competent and even keeled.

    I once had a guy on my team who was upset he wasn’t lead and acted like your coworker. When I asked him about it in a one-on-one, he shared that he was still bitter that he wasn’t lead and that he would do everything in his power to sabotage and undermine me, and to ensure my role was “little more than a note-taking secretary.” There were race and gender issues involved, as well (they’re too long to recount in a comment), so that was special.

    In some ways, his frankness was a gift—I no longer cared about including him, so I ignored him when he tried to derail things. His coworkers began to resent his constant efforts at being obnoxious. He ended up permanently damaging his professional reputation to the point where years later people still won’t work with him. In the meantime, my coworkers were impressed with my unflappability, and it strengthened their confidence in me.

    1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Wow, that is truly galling, and I’m annoyed on your behalf if you didn’t have the power to fire that jerk.

      1. Venus*

        The guy likely wouldn’t have done anything so openly that he could be fired (he was open in that chat but he might not have been with witnesses), or if he did then he would have thought himself a martyr. Much as it sucked at the time, in the long-term his own destruction of his career was the best outcome.

    2. Massmatt*

      I am surprised he came out and said it, that is shocking, I would have expected him to say “why, whatever do you mean? You’re just too sensitive “ or some BS like that. It’s good that he failed and damaged himself. Karma isn’t foolproof but sometimes it works.

      1. Rez123*

        This is a really shitty person doing a really shitty thing. At the same time I kinda admire his honesty.

        1. Artemesia*

          He wasn’t so much ‘honest’ as feeling bulletproof. Men who say this and I have heard a few, think no one will pay attention to the girl and they can do what they will.

          1. Observer*

            Definitely this.

            And think about it – this should have gotten him FIRED – just the comment alone, much less the ongoing behavior. Yet despite his bad behavior, he held on to his job through years of this. He had good reason to feel bullet proof.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              He definitely felt self-righteous, bullet proof, and brave. He thought he was calling out that a “less qualified” WOC got the job he thought he was entitled to as a white guy. I didn’t have firing authority, and folks above me with that power wanted to let it “blow over” because they thought he’d get over it with time. He didn’t.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                Did you tell your boss(es) what he said? IMHO that would be a good thing to do so they’re aware, even if they don’t fire him. I’ve been around managers who discuss such things, it can make a difference.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  I did. My boss was a white guy who was uncomfortable with the situation and thought it would go away on its own, even if it was objectively firing worthy. It didn’t.

                  The guy became more emboldened and flagrant, but that’s where he started really losing trust and respect from others. Everyone knew this was about his ego, and no one was sympathetic about a massive sulk for over a year. Other members of the team had also gone up for the promotion and not gotten it, but they were incredibly professional and kind about it. Frankly, most of them had had a stronger likelihood of promotion than him, and they found his assumption re: lead to be ridiculously navel-gazing.

                  The hard part for me was that I thought we were friends before this all went down, so it didn’t occur to me that he was intentionally trying to sabotage and undermine me.

                  But he ended up blowing off meetings, purposefully blowing deadlines and abandoning the job, which were the final nails in the coffin for his professional reputation. Somehow he thought sounds those things increased his power and demonstrated how invaluable he was, but we just worked around him. My boss apologized for not acting sooner after everything hit the fan, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

                2. Michaela Westen*

                  Wow. I’m sorry you were disappointed by your “friend”.
                  OTOH, what a satisfying outcome! It would be so good to see this in a movie. :)

              2. Observer*

                And he had good reason to. Your boss REALLY blew it. At least he eventually apologized, but still.

      2. Myrin*

        Yeah, that was almost frighteningly straightforward. Did he think he was so much above everyone else that he could just come out and say stuff like this with no consequences?

        1. Tom*

          Considering himself ‘the man’ – and ‘no one will believe that little person anyway’.

          There is confidence. There is arrogance.. And then you have that guy.

          1. Busy*

            Haha I sit beside that guy! And no matter the lack of respect management and team members show him, he is still The Man.

        2. Sarah M*

          He just figured he could get away with it. Unfortunately for him, continually displaying his own stupidity and arrogance (what a combo!) came back to bite him.

        3. RabbitRabbit*

          He WAS that far above everyone else, because that didn’t get his ass fired immediately. She was just good enough to be able to twist his behavior into making everyone else hate him. Face a more charismatic or clever guy and it may not have gone so well.

          1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            I agree that the way management (completely failed) to handle the situation does go with the narrative that ArrogantCoworker was above everyone else. How do you see Princess Consuela Banana Hammock as having twisted the situation?

            1. tangerineRose*

              I don’t think she twisted the situation. It sounds like the arrogant guy made it pretty clear that he was the problem.

        4. boo bot*

          “Did he think he was so much above everyone else that he could just come out and say stuff like this with no consequences?”


          I think this brings up another reason the OP needs to shut this down: everyone else on the team is watching, and if she allows this guy to keep undermining her, the message they get is that guys like him get away with it.

          If she shuts it down, she shows both men and women that she won’t allow women to be undermined on her team – it’s not just about her, it’s about the message she’s sending to everyone.

          1. EH*

            This! It’s often more important for the audience to see you call out bad behavior than to get the bad actor to shape up.

      3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        “Given the frequency, it’s starting to come across as adversarial, and even as resistance to my leadership of the team, and it’s derailing our meetings with others. What’s going on?”
        your expectation is mine as well and what I wanted to address in a comment. I assume he has more guile and sense than PCBH’s coworker so with that, he’s going to double down when OP 1 challenges his challenging. This is one of those times where you have to let him talk himself out.
        You challenge me on every statement I make about procedures.
        No, I don’t.
        I don’t challenge you. I just point out where you are wrong. If you can’t handle being questioned maybe you shouldn’t be in charge.
        continues to argue with himself.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      I echo this. I also had one of these jewels on my team.

      As stated, the key is to confront the problem during one on one meetings. Always act professionally cool during group meetings and shut down arguments immediately with a “we will discuss this off line.” Never let him control the meeting. Shut things down calmly.

      I’d also take the extra step and tell him point blank that he’s making himself look like an idiot when he insists that something is X when it is Y. He will, of course, ignore you because you (in his mind) don’t know what you’re talking about. Oh, well, you did your diligence by warning him.
      I’d also bluntly tell him that you won’t be assigning him certain jobs because you can’t trust him to do what you’ve asked.

      1. EPLawyer*

        OP1, you have to stop trying to prove you are right to him. As long as you indulge him by going back and forth to show the documentation, etc. he is controlling the situation. You are going too far in letting him challenge things. It’s fine to have an open mind and let your team feel free to speak up. But that is not what this is. You need to shut it down now. A simple, “As I have stated this is standard policy and how we will be doing X” will go a long way. As a manager you get to decide how things are done — even if they aren’t standard policy.

        If you continue to let this guy challenge you, others will feel they can challenge decisions already made. Which is not managing by being open and transparent, it’s managing by abdication. Which never ends well.

        1. Elizabeth*

          I really agree with this.

          I wonder if it would work in the meeting to say something like, “Let’s stipulate the facts and keep the debate to our strategy.”

          1. nonegiven*

            How about, “You can bring that documentation to our next one-on-one, if you can find it. Now, we were discussing x.”

        2. Michaela Westen*

          I’ve been around men like this all my life (except recently, yay) and his motivations aren’t about working with you or the team or getting things done or any of that.
          His motivation is to prove you’re wrong and he’s right. His need to prove himself superior is being triggered by this situation. He might be deliberately trying to undermine or sabotage you, or it could be a deeper need to feel superior that’s not consciously focused.
          I agree with EPLawyer not to let him engage you. Don’t give him the slightest foothold. Ignore him and stand up to him if necessary. I would give my boss a heads-up in case you need to escalate.

        3. Paulina*

          Yes, this. There’s a difference between “feel free to speak up with disagreements” and “we won’t move on until everyone is satisfied.” What’s being described sounds like it’s veered to the latter, and it’s both extremely derailing and allows this guy power he doesn’t deserve but apparently likes to demonstrate. He’s undermining your authority and wasting your team’s time, and you can’t let your work be held hostage to this guy’s blind insistence. As long as he’s being catered to, his agreement becomes a required part of getting anything done, and he has no incentive to act any differently.

          “This is our standard procedure. We’ve used it before, and I can send you an example/the documentation if you need to refamiliarize yourself with how it works. Now, …” move on.

        4. RUKiddingMe*

          Agreed 100%. Also I think that there is some *gendered issues. He is male, he thinks he is smarter than/knows more than OP and “deserved” het job.

          * There almost always are.

        5. AKchic*

          Agreed. You don’t have to prove yourself to him every time he wants to argue. In fact, you don’t owe him a debate or argument every time he thinks he’s right simply because he issued the challenge. It’s time to start shutting it down.
          “We’ve had similar discussions on multiple occasions now. If you still think there’s an error, we can discuss it in a one on one, but we’re not wasting any more group time on this, and you can bring me your evidence to try to prove your opinion.”
          Put the burden of proof on him. He has to prove himself to you, not the other way around. And then call him out in the one on one and see what happens. Also loop in your manager so they are aware of what is going on, in case this doesn’t stop and you need some back-up later on.

    4. Canadian Public Servant*

      Quite early in my career, I was promoted into a newly created “advisor to the executive” role, and had the (long serving and very competent) executive assistant flat out tell me she was trying to undermine me in the role. She was very threatened by the changes in how the office worked, and her perception that I was taking away her work and reducing the prestige of her role as gatekeeper to said executive. I did not know how to handle this, and did respond to her pettiness in kind at times. The job only lasted for six months due to other circumstances, but I have thought for years about how I should have handled that conversation, and that situation.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        It depends on how he responds to ‘unflappably ignoring’ him. If he cools it or undermines himself, not needed. If he escalates, then yes.

    5. Artemesia*

      The mistake here in the OP’s response seems to be framing this as ‘disagreement’. The examples were not ‘disagreements’ about process or policy or whatever, they were petulant undermining of the boss. ‘I think we would have better results if we used the Farnsworth procedure than this procedure for documenting’ is disagreement. Just being contrary about what has occurred is just that — being contrary and hassling the leader. The OP is giving away her authority by treating this as legitimate; she can strengthen her hand, not just by making clear that such ‘disagreements’ need to be raised privately but by paying full attention to other team members who raise genuine issues and at the same time shutting down this kind of quibbling from sexist guy when it occurs. She has dug herself a bit of a hole by acting as if this is legitimate on his part; she needs to rise above that and shut it down so it doesn’t derail her meetings. By following Alison’s advice that it will need to be discussed later and no derail ‘our progress here’, she will model strength to her team as well as highlight his behavior as inappropriate if he continues it. Firing should at least be on the table in the back of her mind.

      1. Annie Dumpling*

        If the hostile employee doesn’t respond to the one-on-one or change is ways, I would go full Calliou’s Mom on him. That means treating his pushback/undermining statements with a quietly cheerful, slightly patronizing “Let’s shelf that for later, let’s take that outside of the meeting ,etc.” Firm to indicate who is the authority/grownup in the room & also signalizing that his complaints/pushback are petulant & childish, and cheerful because who could take this silly manchild seriously?

        Gentle Humor is the best way to disarm bullies as they are looking to start a fight or flee response. Having their comments brushed off as a weak joke, or treated like they are being humored – confuses and disarms them.

      2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

        Excellent point, Artemesia! Disagreement is one thing, but undermining someone’s legitimate authority is absolutely something else. Especially derailing a whole discussion and wasting everybody’s time by insisting, “No, we didn’t do X, we did Y.”

    6. SheLooksFamiliar*

      OP#1, this guy sounds like he’s spoiling for a fight no matter what. You have my sympathies. Still, I wonder if you might want to reconsider actively encouraging your team to challenge and disagree with you, at least without sharing guidelines upfront. I’ve led teams and found that some people took that ‘encouragement’ in a way I hadn’t intended. A select few were like the associate you describe; when I told them they were being disruptive, etc., they threw my ‘encouragement’ in my face.

      I chose my 1:1 meetings with my team to tell them they could come to me privately to discuss doubts, issues, and questions. I promised to listen and explain things, and to be as open as I could. But I told them I would not to automatically change things because they asked. I got really good at saying, ‘The data doesn’t support your idea…’ or ‘Well, that’s not what the report says. Where did you get your info?’ I also god good at shutting up after my question and looking at them expectantly. Made a difference in their attitude.

      Also, I told them that staff meetings were to discuss what was happening, not to debate why it was or brainstorm how we could change it. Sure, a few people needed reminding, and I used similar wording to Alison’s to redirect a discussion.

      Please keep us posted!

    7. Michaela Westen*

      Guys like that are so annoying, and unfortunately so common! Seems like there’s one in every workplace.

    8. Lurk the lurker*

      Here’s a thing, Princess CBH. How come you have so much experience of the multiple situations AAM letter-writers write in with? I’m amazed that however odd or peculiar a situation, you’ve already lived through it/dealt with it/had it happen to you. Are you 90 years old and still working?

      1. Marthooh*

        What’s an example of an odd peculiar, thing PCBH has told us about? Because the bitter coworker who thinks the new manager doesn’t deserve the job is sadly not all that rare.

      2. Observer*

        Have you actually been paying attention? Because if you’d actually been reading what PCBH has been writing, you would be aware that’s she’s a member of several disadvantaged groups. So she’s more likely than most to have had some “interesting” experiences. And, all it takes is one or two bad workplaces to have a LOT of the experiences.

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Stop this. It is not okay to harass a fellow commenter here, particularly by what’s clearly by a group of people. It’s off-topic, it’s unkind, and I’m going to begin banning people who insist on doing this, starting now. (She also explained recently she’s from a low-income family and started working as a child, which makes these attacks all the more offensive.)

        1. MOAS*

          FWIW I do not follow along with every single post or comment but there are a few people here who stand out very much for their constant intelligent, kind wonderful and compassionate comments and PCBH is one of them. I think after 5-10+ years in the working world, most of us could relate to at least some scenarios that come up here on this forum so it’s not all that out there. This isn’t your average internet commentariat; we’re better than that here.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Yes, this is much better! I was consistently surprised when I first began reading the comments. I’ve never seen such a smart, aware and compassionate group anywhere else. I’m sure Alison’s moderation is the key to that, shutting down those who want to criticize or fight for no good reason.
            IME the comment sections of most non-AAM articles are by unpleasant or nasty people disrespecting and trying to hurt others. I stopped reading comments before I found AAM.

            1. MOAS*

              Yup I starte reading in 2012 and was so pleasantly surprised. Can’t believe its’ been 7 years for me!

        2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Thanks for this, Alison. It’s actually a relief to know it’s a specific group of people and not a commentariat – or reader-wide issue. It’s come up a few times during the past year, and I haven’t figured out an appropriate way to respond (or not respond).

      4. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

        I don’t see how Princess CBH’s experiences are THAT odd or peculiar? Some people have had plenty of life experiences at a relatively young age. That doesn’t mean they’re making it all up.

        1. TardyTardis*

          Same here! I started work by picking strawberries in the summers when I was 13, and have had a wide variety of experiences myself. I am never surprised when I run into someone else like that.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          IMHO a person who thinks people with varied life experiences are making things up, is a person who has led a sheltered, non-varied life.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I find that cheerful, genuine/sincere agreement can help in these contexts. First, it helps you feel better about any cavalier or back-handed comments coming your way. Second, it educates the other person without sounding pedantic, which is more likely to help them shift how they think about your work.

    So, for example, you could say something like:
    – “Although it’s hard work to care for living things, it’s so satisfying to see them thrive.”
    – “I truly enjoy the more complex aspects of growing plants.”
    – “It’s wonderful to get to undertake difficult, thoughtful work.”
    And so on.

    1. Reliquary*

      Fully agreed. My ex was a horticulturalist (interiorscaping), and used to say “Oh, you’d be surprised, horticulture can be a pretty demanding business, but yes, I love my job!”

    2. Jasnah*

      I wonder if people mistake OP for a member of the cleaning crew/janitorial staff/other maintenance staff. Not that it’s OK to demean them or imply that those jobs are easy (because they’re not), but I wonder if people mistake OP for an unskilled laborer instead of a qualified professional. If they just see you watering plants they might not know that your job is Plant Care Contractor, not Someone We Got to Tidy the Office. I can picture the same email coming from a career executive assistant being compared to an 18 year old asked to watch the phones.

      If that’s the case, responses like PCBH’s that indicate how complex it is to care for plants specifically might clue them in.

      1. Mookie*

        The thing is, when I did interiorscaping, maintenance folk and cleaners were my allies in-the-know and I them. I made no extra work for them and they steered clear of my displays, planters, and cases, unless it was to shoo away interlopers when I wasn’t on site. Many, the non-subbed contractors in particular, were jacks-of-all-trades who were used to putting out fires, generous with equipment and a hand an emergency arose, could jury-rig all kinds of temporary contraptions, and were good for a chat. I’d never resent being mistaken for someone good with their hands providing a solid and efficient but overlooked service. That’s precisely how landscapers are treated, from mow-and-blowers and propagation techs (cutters and stickers) on up the ladder.

        1. Retail*

          At my job, the landscapers, custodial crew, and maintenance are all a clique vs people who are public facing or more involved with the mission.

          You couldn’t do it without us but there is some condescension. Of course we’re outdoors so we’re filthy and handling heavy things and whatnot.

          I get more grief from people who are like you work where??? Oh you do that? And my answer is yeah but I work there and you don’t.

        2. Plant Lady*

          Cleaning crew, facilities, and property managers are all super important to running offices, and great allies to me!
          I’ve had great help from people in these roles, and they are often the ones who I give old plants to :)

      2. Upstater-ish*

        Yikes apparently you have never done office cleaning. The skill level needed to do the job efficiently and thoroughly is pretty high.

        1. Boo*

          I don’t think that Jasnah is saying it’s easy – ” Not that it’s OK to demean them or imply that those jobs are easy (because they’re not)” – they’re just saying this work is generally referred to/seen as “unskilled labour” and therefore people may have incorrect perceptions/assumptions.

          1. Lynn Marie*

            Professional cleaning is only considered unskilled by those who have never tried to do it.

            1. Lynn Marie*

              Boo, I’m agreeing with your comment – on re-read, I sounded argumentative and didn’t mean to.

      3. It's a job, not a hobby*

        Once upon a time (as late as mid-20th century-1980s) jobs like horticulturalists and zookeepers were considered unskilled labor (although I would argue this has never been true), and that’s a perception that unfortunately a lot of people I think still have internalized. The mental and physical aspects are hard enough, let alone battling the layperson’s idea of what a job like this might entail. Having respect for the aspects of a job that aren’t on the surface goes a long way, and I hope OP finds some good advice here – you have my empathy.

        1. Jasnah*

          This is exactly what I mean. Anyone who has tried to thread a sewing machine can tell you it’s no easy task. Yet for some reason we pay pennies to the people who make our clothes. “All you have to do is water the plants” is what they think, not realizing that THEY chose to hire a professional who can diagnose plant conditions and treat them appropriately for a whole office, instead of a 6-year-old with a watering can.

          So many jobs are “easy” until you try to do them, especially to varying levels of proficiency.

    3. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

      I’m high key jealous of people who are good enough at horticulture/other plant stuff to do it professionally. I’m so bad at plants and I wish I had those kinds of skills because I love indoor plants. It seems like an impossibly hard job to me.

        1. Yvette*

          Yes sorry pothos, and that should have been 1/4 inch. I cannot even blame auto correct!

        2. Arts Akimbo*

          Pothos philodendrons and spider plants are my go-to’s! But I can reliably kill a Dieffenbachia.

        3. Clisby*

          Surprisingly, orchids are almost immortal. As long as you have a sunny window and don’t overwater them, they are really hard to kill. I’m terrible with plants, and have 3 orchids that have thrived for years. (I also second pothos. My ideal sunny window has nothing but orchids and pothos in it.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        Oh, I totally agree with that. It’s one of those plants I like to call “resurrection plants” (yeah ,I know, in botany that means something else) – so long as you can find one bit of live stem with a leaf on it, you can revive it with just a bit of care. The same is true for Diffenbachia (to some degree, at least) and the money plant (easily regrown from a leaf, but requires a good amount of sun in order to thrive).

        My main issue with spider plants is that it’s so hard to get rid of pests – they can hide in the leaf axils to stay out of sight as well as out of reach from pesticides, and although putting the plant under water for a while can help a bit, it’s REALLY tough to rid a spider plant of pests for good.
        The good thing about pothos is that it also has no hiding spots for pests (apart from nor being susceptible to pests in the first place) – you can check every inch of it’s surface, rinse it off entirely, and if worst comes to worst, you can cut of the least infected bits for a fresh start.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        As a serial plant destroyer who no longer keeps plants because it’s cruel to the plants, I have profound respect for someone who keeps plants alive FOR A LIVING. I apparently could not do it if my life depended on it. I have ample evidence that I can’t do it if the plant’s life depends on it (which it does).

        Anyone who does a job for a living that I’m incapable of or couldn’t stand gets mad props from me. I am really grateful that those people are there doing all that stuff. It pretty much all improves someone’s life, frequently mine, and I don’t have to do it!

        I have definitely had a lot of days where replacing any one of my clients with a ficus would sound like the best thing ever, though, which I hope is where people making those dismissive-sounding comments are coming from.

        1. Gumby*

          Snort. replacing any one of my clients with a ficus

          Oh, if only it were possible. Though I would need a ficus willing, able, and perhaps compelled to sign the stupid contracts!

          Though I am also a horrible plant parent so if I killed the clients we’d be in a pickle.

          1. TardyTardis*

            I know, I posted a thing on Facebook where I admitted to having a gray thumb and being a hospice worker sending plants to their new home in a different plane of existence.

    4. FJ*

      Eh, this would come across pretty weirdly in a lot of places. Lots of people have jobs that others don’t understand, and it’s best if you don’t harbour ambitions to turn small talk into a teaching moment.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I don’t think so – they’re only one line, so it’s not as if the OP would be launching into a lecture.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If you’re an outside contractor it’s worth that teaching moment in case that manager you’re talking to is promoted to the role that administers your contract. If she knows the plants the CEO insists on are fussy & need lots of trained care, she’s less likely to cancel the contract because “everyone can water their own plants.”
        (Saw it happen, and many plants died from alternating too-much/too-little water.)

        1. nonegiven*

          Sounds like this one would be, “Hey, where are you going with our plants?”

          “Oh, sorry, you canceled our contract so we’re taking our plants back.”

    5. Plant Lady*

      OP #3 here!
      I think that’s a great suggestion. I usually do what Alison suggested and let people know that I do enjoy my job. But I think throwing in a little something about the challenges will help me feel better, and maybe encourage people to think a little more about what they are saying.

      1. Grey Coder*

        I would be tempted to drop in something which demonstrates your knowledge/expertise — “Yes, it’s great when the plants are happy! I have another office with 30 Fergusia which have picked up Wakeenovirus though, so that’s keeping me busy.”

        1. Greengirl*

          I would love to have the conversation go this way as someone who struggles to keep her low maintenance herb garden alive.

          Plant Lady, your job sounds awesome but also super challenging!

      2. Busy*

        I also wouldn’t take this personally. Like in any way at all.

        This is more common when people have jobs that others play around in during their free time. Many people look at their plants as a destressing hobby. So when they hear someone does that all day and gets paid, they have a momentary flash of “Oh, how nice.” But it is likely they know that taking care of other people’s plants, dealing with people, running a business (if you do), managing time, handling emergencies, etc. all really do exist in your world.

        My brother loves to work on cars – like total rebuilds monster creation type work on cars. Frankencars, really. My brother used to be a mechanic. It is not the same!

        It is why people say they could never do their hobby or true love as a career. People get it. They are just being wistful in the moment, and telling you that they envy it because they find the idea peaceful in a fanciful kind of way. They are likely not saying they think your job is not challenging or doesn’t take skill.

        1. PhyllisB*

          To me, an ideal career who be librarian because I love books so much, but I know if I was one, I would find out it was more to it than loving and having knowledge of books.
          As far as hobbies, I love to make fancy desserts, but there is no way I would want to do it for a living. It would spoil all the pleasure for me.

          1. Washi*

            The library thing is a good comparison – my mother works in a library at the front desk and gets a lot of comments about how it must be a fun peaceful job interacting with books and people who loves books.

            They’re not thinking about what it is like to be on your feet all day and dealing with the huge variety of customers that come in -from the very wealthy to homeless folks who stay there during the day, from very old to very young, from very sweet to those who want to haggle over a .50c late fee.

            My mom has ended up just saying that she loves her job and that it keeps her on her toes!

            1. BookyNerdy*

              This. I am a librarian, and in addition to “loving books and reading” I also get to “love” unclogging the toilet, scraping gum off of the rug, finding ways to nicely tell patrons that they smell so badly that I can’t let them in until they clean up a bit, having disgruntled patrons yell at me that they pay my salary, and struggling to explain to my city, county and state that I do not have enough money to run the library. I love my job and I would not trade it for anything. But like every job, it’s more than you imagine.

              1. Thankful for AAM*

                Also librarian here.
                I’ll third the, librarians are not really spending time with books point and give some examples of the kinds of jobs there are in libraries.

                I do love my job but it is not a books job, it is a working with the public job to help them find the information they need – and often the information they need is very private and personal. I helped a senior woman with a fatal diagnosis find books on how to end her life, I helped another ill couple pull 30 books to “last them the rest of their lives” – their daughter brought the books back 2 months later. We help people with so very many questions all day long and most are not about books.

                My front facing dept handles most of the patron questions and in addition to tasks like telling patrons when their odor is too strong or when their phone use is too loud and listening to ppl complain that I am just sitting there and they pay my salary, my dept answers about 5 to 10 questions a week about book recommendations. We answer about 900 questions a week so a very small percent is about books!

                The folks in tech services open the boxes and process the books, cake pans, American girl dolls, CD, DVDs, and other items we have. Then they barcode the items, do the skilled work of cataloging them, and they repair the books. There are 3 of them and I dont know how many new items we get a day but we have over 100,000 physical items and they are responsible for them all. They dont get time to really even look at the books.

                Admin folks deal with all the budgeting and paperwork and personnel issues of running any business – no books there really.

                We are blessed with a great maintenance team so we dont do most of the toilet unclogging but they have to get training in dealing with blood and other bodily fluids, needles, drugs, bed bugs, etc.

                The collections folks who buy the books and other items get to spend a bit more time with them but most of the buying in a public library is bestsellers so it is listed for you and they dont have time to really look – again, about 3 of them and we own over 200,000 items if we add in the e-materials. They also have the task of shelving the items (they have very low paid “pages” who do some of that).

                My job is closer to the librarian stereotype – I work at the info/reference desk. Much of my time is spent helping people use the alphabet to find books (I kid you not, they cannot follow the letters). And a big chunk of my time is helping folks with basic tech support: how to attach docs to emails, how to put an app on their phone, how to cut and paste in Word, how to print, how to fill in an online form, and how to Google. My dept also offers classes on all kinds of tech topics.

                I also call the police about once a month or two for a wellness check, fight, threats, drug problems, etc. And there are 9 in my dept so multiply the calls to police by staff number and . . . these calls are not infrequent. And we live in an area that is not particularly plagued by these problems.

                1. Elitist Semicolon*

                  I have a friend (not a librarian, but a public employee) who responds to “I pay your salary” by cheerfully suggesting that the speaker figure out what percentage of his salary comes from their particular taxes, because that’s the amount of his time to which they’re entitled. I don’t know whether I am relieved or disappointed that I have never had to use that line.

                2. TardyTardis*

                  Did you ever have a patron bring in a tarantula? (it was in a clear transparent box) I merely smiled and said, ‘oh how cute! May I pet it?’ which was obviously not the response he wanted, and he never, ever did it again…

              2. Kendra*

                My former director and I got to the point where when we were interviewing for circ desk staff (who are virtually always paraprofessionals in my region, and have mostly never worked in a library before), we just stopped asking “why do you want to work in the library?” The answer was always, always something about how much they loved books and reading, and we had started to feel like massive creeps for hiring these people who viewed the library with an almost child-like joy and innocence, and then crushing all of their dreams when they had to deal with a child vomiting onto one of the laptops on their first day.

          2. Works in IT*


            The IDEA of being paid to bake things is nice. The ACTUALITY of being paid to bake things… I have no idea how bakery workers manage to produce such a huge variety of baked goods overnight

            1. Kat Em*

              It involves VERY early mornings. Our first shift of bakers gets in at 3:30. The “late” shift starts at 7. Definitely not for the faint of heart!

            2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

              My brother in law is a pastry chef, and he had a ton of repetitive stress injuries to his arms and spine by the time he was 25, as well as permanent angry red welts above his elbows where he regularly burned himself against the oven racks removing treats. He frequently worked 10-14 hour shifts and seven-day weeks, and could only take a sick day if he was so ill he couldn’t move.

              He is incredibly talented, but it is a *brutal* job.

              1. Autumnheart*

                Oh yeah. I have a good friend who left IT to go to culinary school and work as a chef, which he did. After a few years of that, he got back into IT! Being a chef was like twice the work for half the pay.

          3. sea*

            What’s funny is that I came to the comment section to commiserate with OP#3 because I get the same thing being a librarian. When I tell people I’m a librarian, I hear things like, “I’d love to work such a stress-free job!” or “It must be so quiet!” or, “I love to read, I’d love to be a librarian” – as if I just sit around all day reading for fun. My job may not be as high-stakes as some professions, but it is stressful and just as noisy as any other business place. The majority of the reading I do at work consists of journal articles on topics like information literacy and student success. I love to read but, like every other working person who reads for a hobby, that’s done in my spare time. For my actual job, I don’t even deal with books and I can’t even remember the last time I pulled a book from the stacks.

            1. Feather*

              Hahaha stress free job hahaha *cries*.

              At this point I do deliberately take every single opportunity for a Cheerful But Firm Teaching Moment when that kind of thing happens because I consider it worth it. Especially speaking to people from the US since I know that in addition to having all the stress most of my American colleagues are wildly underpaid.

            2. Blerpborp*

              My husband works with comic books so you can only imagine how much people light up at that-“oh that must be so cool!?” And it is, he likes comics, but it’s also a lot of work and knowledge not to what he does!

              I am also a librarian and of course have encountered the same thing. I don’t take it personally and depending on my relationship with the person will give them the real deal -I spend a lot of time reading ABOUT books that I’m going to buy for the collection, probably not the reading they’d like to do! Not to mention when I worked in public libraries -“quiet” is not the word I would ever use to describe it and there was a lot more “cleaning up bodily fluids” than most would assume.

            3. Kendra*

              This is when I pull out the candy store analogy: “Imagine that you absolutely love candy; it’s your favorite thing in the whole world. Now, imagine working in a giant candy store, with every kind you can imagine, but you are never, ever allowed to have any. That’s what it’s like – plus you’re doing customer service.”

      3. Clorinda*

        You probably have some amusing stories about ridiculous things people have done to or fed to their plants, which might function as a light and entertaining but also instructional way to say ‘yes, this is a real job with real knowledge’–and will also divert the conversation toward ‘weird things people have done at work,’ which is always a popular topic.

      4. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I college I was riding the bus back to school with a friend’s little sister who was also in college. She was pre-med and asked me what I was studying.
        “Oh, I love my English classes, it’s so nice to get a break from the hard sciences I’m taking for my pre med and just read a book, you know?’
        “I mean, well, I know you do work…”
        “No, I understand. Memorizing all the bones in the hand must be taxing.”
        because bite me.
        Awkward bus ride continued….
        So what I’m saying is, people blurt things because they aren’t thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves. They aren’t trying to put you down. They are trying to bring themselves up. So yeah, set the tone. Tell them you love your job. Spread happiness. They will think, good for OP. And I really wouldn’t want to do that…anyway, wonder if the coffee in the pot is fresh.

        1. Chinookwind*

          I was and English major hanging around Science, Math and Engineering students. Whenever they mentioned how nice it must be to just read a book, I would point out that I was reading at least a novel a week written by writer’s not of my choosing (ugh Leonard Cohen should have stuck to song writing and poetry) plus a detailed critical essay which involved researching other people’s opinions to find ones that matched mine.

          Is it any wonder that I have since found spreadsheets to be my happy place?

        2. Ahoytheship*

          I was a French major, but Junior year I took two Astronomy courses as my science requirements (and I love science). I ended up sitting next to the poly-sci major, boyfriend of a roommate, and he was so flummoxed every time that I, a language major, literally aced all the tests and beat him on assignments. I could just see his brain try to bend in knots to comprehend how I had the brain power :P

        3. blackcat*

          I was a STEM major who somehow found herself in an upper division history class. People in my major made comments about how I must enjoying “the break.”
          Nope, dude, it’s totes easier to do the Diff EQ problem set than write this history paper. Some entire Diff EQ were just executing (complex and long) algorithms. There’s something really meditative about that stuff. One required me to Gram-Schmidt a 5D system before solving several problems. Watching the numbers fall into line was downright peaceful.
          Then I had to go read about genocide.
          Which is easier, dude?
          (Many of my STEM classes were very hard, requiring high level thinking and working. But not all were! Same as any subject.)

      5. GS*

        I used to do indoor plants and I always talked about the more challenging bits: “Yeah, I love plants! And with this heat I’m really getting a workout carrying extra water too!” or “Yes, I love plants too! I just wish winter wasn’t such a bad time for spider mites!” Though I did eventually figure out that what people mostly wanted was a bit of an escape, since for many of them I was the most exciting thing that happened in their cubical that week.

        I was also always shocked at how many people didn’t know plants need light.

      6. Easter*

        OP #3, I once temped at the front desk of a very fancy law firm that had an interiorscaper (new word for me!) that came in every week to care for all of the plants and (large, gorgeous, overwhelming!) orchids that were *everywhere.* I chatted with her every week – she was super friendly – and from both talking with and watching her, I could tell that her job was NOT easy. Multiple clients each day, different kinds of plants in different settings, clients who didn’t understand why X wouldn’t bloom at Y time, the physical act of watering and caring (while also being super discreet), not to mention that she also had her own greenhouse (or something?) so she had grown the plants from seeds (please forgive my total plant ignorance here – you know what I mean!). All that to say – please know that there are some folks out there that know just how dang hard your job is and appreciate how beautiful you make our space! (Not to mention, the law firm would only keep the orchids while they bloomed and always wanted to toss them when the flowers fell, even though they would come back. Since they’d already paid for them, the interiorscaper often did just toss them but on several occasions I walked out of my temp job with pots upon pots of gorgeous orchids! )

    6. JSPA*

      “Yes, it’s got a great balance of logistics, lifting, people skills and plant care. I almost never fear burn-out.”

    7. Artemesia*

      Defending always comes across as defensive and makes you look like one of those women who tries to argue that being a housewife is ‘really a 200k a year job’ because ‘cook, accountant, yadda yadda’ I think you come across as more impressive when you drop the rope on this sort of thing. ‘I love the job — I can’t think of anything more rewarding than watching living things grow.’ (works for motherhood too) Don’t argue the job is demanding or difficult or challenging or whatever — just that you are the luckiest person in the world to have such a great job and drop it. Most people are just small talking; when you ‘defend’ then you end up looking petty or silly.

      1. Plant Lady*

        I get what you’re saying, and my job really is rewarding! I guess I’m not looking to defend my job necessarily, but just to have some scripts to follow when I hear the same things over and over.

        I know it boils down to my response, the feelings I get from what people say are mine and from me, and mine to deal with. I don’t want to come off as super defensive, but maybe just be able to plant a seed (ha ha!) that there is a bit more to my work than they might think.

        Thanks for your input!

        1. GS*

          When I dyed my hair green I got 300 people in one week say “looks like you’ve been spending too much time with the plants, your hair is turning green!” Repetition is part of the job, I think because small talk is fairly formulaic.

          For people who engage with you, you can always tell them the specifics of what you’re doing if you think they’re open to it: “Yeah, it’s a great job! Today I’m applying a preventative treatment” or “today I’m fertilizing, I fertilize based on weather, season, and the colour of the leaves like this which tells me the plant is hungry”. Then they get a sense for some of the complexity without it being a direct defensive response.

          1. paperpusher*

            Sorry, I would probably have said that AND thought I was being clever! Most people aren’t trying to be tiresome and repetitive, it’s just part of the human condition.

            1. GS*

              Yeah, that job is where I learned that small talk isn’t about content, it’s about acknowledgement and goodwill signalling.

              1. Kendra*


                This was one of the hardest things in the workplace for my introverted brain to grasp; small talk always seemed completely alien and pointless to me, until that finally clicked.

            2. Wendy Darling*

              I used to moderate research and saw 8-12 study participants a day, and like 80% of them made the same bad jokes about the instructions. After like the first ten times I heard it the indulgent laugh just became part of my intro script.

              I try to take that stuff in the spirit in which it is intended, which is “Hello fellow human, I am being friendly and interacting with you!”

              There was one SPECIFIC joke that came up so often that each moderator would tally how many times they heard it that day and include the total in the nightly report email (which tbh was just us saying “even though we all work alone in different locations, we are having the same experiences”) and there was much awe on the 2-3 occasions we had NO INSTANCES OF THE JOKE for a day.

              1. EH*

                I have brightly-dyed hair and get silly/repetitive/casually-rude comments on it all the time – because it reads to a lot of people as unusual. I stick out, so when they want to show good will or small talk or whatever, that’s what they have noticed about me so it’s what they talk about.
                I try not to let it bug me. These folks mean well, they just aren’t used to people with bright hair.

    8. Emily K*

      The inverse of this is the go-to I’ve learned for when I have to make small talk in polite company.

      Step 1: Ask the person what they do for a living or how they spend their days.
      Step 2: Listen to their answer.
      Step 3: No matter what answer they gave, respond with, “Wow, that sounds hard.”

      There are difficult parts to just about any job – even the most fun or laid-back ones still have challenges. And almost everyone will brighten up when you validate the fact that their job is, in fact, a job, and it will usually get them going on a story/example of how their job is hard that provides some conversation fodder.

      And the few people who don’t actually think their job is hard will tell you so, and that’s still conversation fodder, and nobody is ever perturbed that you thought their job was harder than it is the way they would be if you implied it was easier than it really is.

      1. Artemesia*

        Great idea. And for me at least so true — there are a lot of ‘easy jobs’ I could not begin to do — tending plants professionally is one, baking and cake decorating is another.

      2. Poppy*

        Um, please re-think Step 1.
        A lot of people have invisible disabilities. We dread this question. So often we get the Spanish Inquisition as to how we got that way, plus a flood of unsolicited and downright stupid advice.

        1. Emily K*

          Could you provide a bit more context there? I intentionally ask “or how you spend your days” because living in DC and moving in artist circles I know that some people love to talk about their jobs and some people don’t have a day job or consider it just a means to fund their art that they don’t want to talk about, so I thought that “how do you spend your days” left the door broadly open for whatever the person wants to talk about. Is there something I’m not considering that people with disabilities don’t want to talk about how they spend their days?

  3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    OP #3, I think you could gently hint that your work is actually challenging with something like “Oh, it’s a lot to juggle, actually! But I love this work.” Or, “Well, I do take care of 800 of these ferns! But I love doing it.”

    OP #5, you are officially a genius.

    1. Quinalla*

      OP #3 – I like Elizabeth’s suggestion, but yeah, it always sucks when people devalue hard work like that. I’ve been there, though not with plants. I know my small success and mostly failures with taking care of indoor plant, well, I can only imagine how much work it takes to do it right :)

      OP #5 – LOLOL I needed this and may try it at my work if a quick talking to doesn’t resolve it. I’m going to push my boss to bring it up again – we have some new co-ops and I think it is them leaving mugs in the sink, but not 100%. He brought it up last time with folks when the sink started getting full of stuff and that resolved it, but the cups are breeding again!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I tell you what, if I had OP#3’s job, those plants would no longer be alive.

      1. Artemesia*

        I have a long record of a poisonous thumb too. My mother and I once bought two jade plants the same day — maybe 9 inches around — a year later, hers is a yard across and succulent, mine is 10 inches across but man of the leaves are dried and falling off. I am impressed with people with a green thumb.

      2. tangerineRose*

        My indoor plants are all fake. I don’t have a good track record with keeping indoor plants alive. Outdoor plants don’t do so badly for me if they are tough hardy plants :)

    3. boo bot*

      I agree with Elizabeth the Ginger. I have a job that sometimes inspires that kind of comment, and I think it can be helpful to hear, “I’m so jealous of your easy, stress-free job,” as meaning, “I have no idea what you do,” and respond to the second statement instead of the first.

      So, think about some things people might not realize are involved in your work – I’m guessing you need a somewhat specialized knowledge of plants; to be able to follow a widely varying set of instructions and care for a ton of different plants; to calmly handle the whims of clients (as in any client-facing position); to deal with the inevitable death, illness, or infestation of a client’s plants, because these things happen even under the best of care; and many, many other things.

      Then, when someone makes the “wish I had your stress-free life” comment, you can respond with Alison’s suggestion, (I love it) and add something about the job itself. I wouldn’t even necessarily focus on the challenges – just getting it across that there’s more to the job than tripping through the daisies with a watering can will shift the conversation.

      Also: you work with clients, which means that “Yeah, I love it! I wish all my clients were like Office Omega over here,” is really all you need to say (or socially, “Yeah, I love it! Clients, though…) All people understand that there are challenges to working with other people.

    4. PlantLadyJr*

      My parents run a large organic nursery that ships across the US, and over 30 years my mom has gotten to the point where she will just GLARE at anyone who dares suggest she must love her carefree days in the garden. (They have 6 greenhouses full of shippable plants and frequently work 12-hour days.) Once I heard her say, “Oh, I never get to work in my own garden because I’m too busy making sure everyone else’s plants look good!” OP #3, what you do is not easy in the slightest and anyone who thinks it is has never worked in an agriculturally slanted role!

  4. Elizabeth West*

    Hahaha, I love the sink writing. That’s great.

    We had a plant lady at OldExjob. Her company both provided plants and also took care of existing ones (which was my job at an old lab job). Far from dissing her, we would ask her for care tips!

    The plant care ended when OldExjob cut the plant service from the budget. In the second instance, the business closed. Both times several employees, including me, ended up rescuing most of the plants and taking them home (OldExjob was just going to let them die–oh HELL no!). I still have a couple of pothos from the lab job, which ended in 2001. They’re doing fine. :)

    1. Massmatt*

      I noticed that the people taking care of plants at my old job generally always seemed to be going about their business quickly, as in they had a schedule/quota to hit, it never struck me a relaxed or slow-paced occupation.

      Maybe part of the issue is many people garden as a hobby for relaxation so they assume your job is like their hobby.

      1. Pommette!*

        Yeah, I think that this is the core of it. I also suspect that the people making those comments don’t know much about plant care, either because gardening is only a *very* part-time hobby for them, or because it’s something that they know others enjoy as a hobby. They don’t understand that doing something well and on a large enough scale for it to be a business, and doing it in a way that makes it possible for you or your employer to earn money at it, is work – skilled, demanding, work.

        I love to bake. I’ve found that fellow hobby bakers, at most, want to talk about techniques and resources. People who don’t bake will ask why I don’t start a bakery, since I enjoy baking so much. Mostly it’s intended as a compliment. Sometimes it’s misguided advice (no, my friends, baking is not a way out of unemployment). Those same people probably tell their bakers how lucky they are to have such a fun job (again, in a well-intentionned but potentially really annoying way).

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        My dad, the civil engineer and I went on a road trip when he was about 60 to visit his best childhood friend who was in Boston. Friend introduced us to a young couple he’d befriended. The wife watched children in her home. She had two preschoolers and like 4 others.
        Driving home I said, “that’s nice they have a big house and yard so she can do that, but man, I don’t know how she does it.”
        Dad, the engineer: “Why wouldn’t she? She’s already watching her kids; they will just play together. It’s easier on her.”
        Cuz yeah, that’s how that works.
        A mom can just throw four more kids into the mix because, hey, the children’s law of increasing returns?

        1. doreen*

          For some circumstances, it does work that way. Maybe not four extra, and maybe not as a full-time child-care provider – but on the typical Saturday afternoon when my kids were little , I found it easier to have at least one cousin/friend over. Because that meant at least one kid had someone to play with other than me.

          1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

            Your’s is a valid point and I agree that having a friend can help sometimes. My dad is just, well, my dad. We were watching the 11 o’clock news one time and they had this bit, “best sports plays of the week.” I said, “you know it’s fall when they are all football,” and my dad said, “that guy doesn’t actually watch all the games. He might watch one, but nobody sits at home all weekend and watches sports.”
            He could multiple four digit numbers in his head, he could really understand people doing things that didn’t interest him!

        2. nonymous*

          It probably also depends on the personality of the mom. I have acquaintances that work in childcare and the bulk of their time is spend tidying up, herding kiddos from one room to another, snacks, etc. It’s a very different headspace to organize and monitor a safe kid-space vs. being the source of entertainment for a young kid. Some people will find more personal satisfaction in one vs the other.

        3. Bryce*

          I’m a twin, and when one of dad’s coworkers was expecting twins he commented “the great thing is that they’ll keep each other entertained.”

          Dad just laughed, and laughed, and laughed…

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I think you’re right. Plus, people don’t get that if you make a hobby your work, it ceases to BE a hobby. There is a different mindset when it comes to work vs. an activity you do for recreation.

        1. Former Admin turned Project Manager*

          People who are impressed by my knitting used to say I should start a business; I replied that knitting as a job would mean I needed to do project management to relax.

    2. Seifer*

      We had a plant lady at my last job too! And then people started bringing in their own plants, especially in the factory, and everyone was sharing cuttings and offshoots and propagating like crazy! It was the best part about working there. And the plant lady was great, she’d always ask if we wanted cuttings that had just gotten too long and needed to be cut before they reached the floor (pothos, the world’s best office plant) and whether or not we wanted her to add any new plants to her care routine. I miss the free plants more than that job, ha!

      Sometimes I feel the same as the people that OP3 is dealing with, especially when my work gets hectic. It’s just the escapist feeling, the, “ugh I wish the most I had to worry about was whether or not I watered that plant instead of whether this is going to result in a $7M loss for the company.” I know your job is more than that, but I have limited data to work with here and I’m freaking out, man.

      1. AKchic*

        I’ve been the Plant Lady. It can be a double-edged sword. I’ve also been the Candy Lady. Bribery works.

    3. Jennifer Thneed*

      I like to rescue desk orchids that people receive and gifts and just let dry out until the flowers are done, and then toss. It’s so satisfying to give ’em a good soak and watch the leaves get happy again.

      And pothos – it’s the best! I took cuttings from my grandmother’s plants several years back, and she’s no longer with us but I still have the plants.

      1. Bryce*

        I’ve got a peace lily that was a funeral gift 6 months ago (ie indented to have one very nice flower and then who cares), it’s been quite happy and growing new (small) flowers. Wish I knew how — a friend of mine has had one for 10 years without it flowering, apparently they’re very picky about conditions, and I’d love to pass on tips if I knew them. All I’ve been doing is pouring in a glass of water about once a week.

  5. Mophie*

    Regarding LW#2, I have had a similar, but different experience. I fly more than my boss, so I am regularly upgraded to first class. I was traveling with my boss and received an upgrade. Should I turn down the upgrade and sit with my boss?

    1. Story Nurse*

      If you’re regularly upgraded to first class, it sounds like you can probably turn it down this once and stay with your boss. If you’re seated together, the work conversation could outweigh the value of the additional leg room.

      That said, if I were the boss in this scenario and the employee I was traveling with said “Huh, I just got a free upgrade to first class”, my first response would be “Oh wow, that’s great! Enjoy it!” with no resentment at all. So if you think your boss might respond well, you can present it as a surprising fact and see whether they say (or hint) that you should take it or decline it. But the safe thing to do is decline it without mentioning it at all, and try to make the most of your time back in coach.

      (All of this assumes you—and LW #2—don’t have a physical or medical reason for needing to fly first/business class. If you do, that’s an accommodation issue and totally different.)

      1. Chip*

        Sitting in the same cabin doesn’t necessarily mean sitting next to each other though, unless the travel agent books both tickets together, which sounds like it doesn’t happen at OP’s situation. Even if OP is sitting next to her boss, that’s not really the time for work conversation. I do a lot of long haul flights for work, sometimes with coworkers, and there’s sort of an unspoken rule that flying time is not the right time to talk about work; it’s time to try to get some rest.

        1. valentine*

          You can accept the upgrade. You’d probably happily give up sitting together in favor of people truly traveling together, anyway, and this saves you feeling bad if your boss is upgraded and insists you take it.

          I wouldn’t forego comfort for appearances’ sake. I hope Guacamole Bob’s not a manager.

            1. Myrin*

              A reference to an older letter. I don’t want to clog up Alison’s to-do list by posting a link, but you can find it by searching for its title: “my company’s accountant is nitpicking my pretty frugal travel expenses”. It also has a very satisfying update!

        2. sacados*

          Absolutely true. I travel frequently for work, with coworkers, always 6 or 7-hour flights.
          NO. WAY. am I sitting next to a coworker — the very first thing I do when the admin team passes along the booking is check my seat and try to find a spot with at least one empty space next to me.

          1. Elemeno P.*

            Same. I may be paid for plane time, but it’s still time on the plane. My boss also wants to zone out with a book/movie and not talk about work, thankfully.

          2. Jadelyn*

            Amen. Travel is stressful enough as it is, I don’t want to have to be “on” for my coworkers while I’m dealing with the stresses of travel on top of it.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          That’s my experience with work travel – we sit separately, and all try to get aisle seats (or window, as preferred). It’s a lousy place for work talk, your neighbours certainly don’t want to overhear a work meeting, and you don’t really want to be right next to your boss or coworker when you’re sound asleep and drooling slightly. The last trip I did with my boss was 17 hours in the air – that’s a little too much togetherness.

      2. theletter*

        My recommendation would be to not sit with your boss, or if you do, don’t talk about work. You never want to talk about work on a plane, you have no idea who’s listening to you.

        Given the short topics you can opening discuss with a manager, the best course of action is to allow the airline to seat you separately so that both of you can enjoy whatever tasks you prefer in solitude.

        1. miss_chevious*

          You never want to talk about work on a plane, you have no idea who’s listening to you.

          THIS. As someone who heard all about the sales strategy my seatmates were using with a client they named several times on the last flight, I can tell you that I heard a lot of confidential information that neither the salespeople nor the client would want me to know.

          1. Artemesia*

            I once lunched with my son while someone at the next table from the development office counseled the major donor from our school’s widow how she could take the million he had bequeathed us and direct it to the medical school instead. (ours was the poor struggling college; the medical school was of course rolling in dough from grateful widows who didn’t seem to notice that all that tender care had not worked out that well) And I once sat in an airport lounge in Miami while some women brayed all about the Bush girls college choices and why they were not going to X but choosing Y instead at a time those things had not been announced publicly. (yup, my college was actually one that had been considered and rejected) AND I got my first full time job when someone behind me in a class went on and on about how she was going to be getting the X job that afternoon — just waiting to hear. I had just learned that my fiance would be going to law school in home city and was going to call Xjob company the next day. (I had interned there and been offered a job I couldn’t take at the time) So I got up from class and found the nearest pay phone and called the boss and was offered the job. He said ‘Wow, so glad you called, I was going to call someone else this afternoon and offer them the job.’ Tomorrow would have been too late. So yeah — don’t talk business including personal business in public.

      3. Emily K*

        Eek! Sitting next to my boss on an airplane sounds like my nightmare. I don’t even really like to sit next to casual friends on a flight. It’s a LONG duration of time where you’re pretty much confined to one spot, and unlike a movie or a business meeting where there is something going on that you are ostensibly both paying attention to, there’s just silence. Not to mention it’s happening in the middle of something that’s generally regarded as a stressful, draining experience (air travel).

        I am not a person who talks for talking’s sake and the idea of having to make conversation for hours on a plane and worrying if I’m going to be perceived as rude if I keep trying to turn back to my book, or I just want to close my eyes and listen to music the whole flight, before I have to deplane and get ready to navigate another airport and luggage and ground transportation.

        I guess if you don’t get much face-time with your boss it might be different, but I work closely with my boss on a daily basis and we talk enough already. I don’t need to sit with my elbow touching his for 6 hours.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          I feel the same way! I also don’t want to be in the hotel room next door to my coworkers or anything like that. Work travel already requires a relaxing of the normal boundaries; I don’t want them relaxed any more than is absolutely necessary.

    2. Ross*

      I personally would never sit at a higher level not matter how I got it, it would make me very uncomfortable. I’d explain the situation to the airline and see if they can give her an upgrade too.

      1. Savannnah*

        That’s not how upgrades work- they’ll just tell you to give your boss your upgrade if it’s an issue.

        1. MommyMD*

          Yes there is not much “giving” of upgrades. There is paying, one way or another.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I think the comment was to give the boss your seat, not get the boss an upgrade, too.

            I think it depends if the flight is full or not and other factors, but when I get upgrades, they typically show up on my app when I’m boarding, and if the flight is full, I can’t change back to a coach seat. I booked my ticket separately from my family on a recent vacation (Delta points for me, other CC points for theirs), and got moved to 1st class on 2 flights. I took it once, and my adult son took it the other time.

        2. Ross*

          “so I am regularly upgraded to first class. I was traveling with my boss and received an upgrade. Should I turn down the upgrade” I don’t understand this phrasing then, I read it as she’s a frequent flyer so she gets the offer. In my experience of course anyone can pay for an upgrade, I’ve only ever done it when they have open higher level seats and give it to you as a perk for being a FF.

          1. Flying High*

            It’s not automatic. Frequent flyers may get offered a complimentary upgrade depending on various factors. But asking the airline to also upgrade your boss so you don’t feel awkward isn’t going to come across well at all!

            1. Ross*

              Come across well? To who? The airline? What an odd thing to say. There’s no harm in asking.

          2. Lucette Kensack*

            That’s right. But as a FF you can’t ask for someone else to also be upgraded (or rather, you can ask, but they will say no). If your travel is booked together all parties are typically upgraded together, so that could be a workaround in this case.

          3. Owler*

            You have to rethink why the frequent traveler is being offered the upgrade. It’s not a “free” offer to the frequent flyer, it’s a bonus based on the high number of trips they have purchased from the airline.

            1. Ross*

              Right, which is exactly why they might want to please me as a FF who spends money and do me the favor I’m asking of upgrading my boss too. Nothing to rethink needed.

        3. JSPA*

          They sometimes do it with spouses.

          Also, if you have very long legs and boss doesn’t, take the upgrade. If you both do, try to wrangle two “extra legroom” economy in trade for the one first class. If you have short legs, and the boss long, try to pass the upgrade to them. The better food and extra attention is nice, but the legroom can be agonizing, if inadequate.

          1. EMW*

            This is not how upgrades work. You can switch with someone, but you can’t trade a first class for two extra leg room seats. Spouses often get upgraded too because the are booked on the same group ticket. Having your spouse on your ticket will affect your ability to be upgraded if they do not have the same status as you.

            1. JSPA*

              It’s indeed not how things work. But on some carriers, some agents have surprising power to make things happen. Whisper to them about the bad optics, thank them for whatever they can do, and sometimes miracles quietly happen.

              1. Sally*

                This happened for me twice on flights to Europe, back in the day. On one flight, my partner just asked if they could upgrade me so we both could sit in business class, and they said yes. For the other one, we asked and they said “maybe.” No problem, I’ll sit in coach, and she’ll sit up front. We figured we may as well use the lounge for first and business class customers, so I ran into the gate agents in the women’s restroom, and we chatted. I thought nothing of it until I was in line to see about the upgrade, and one of them motioned to me, said, “give me your ticket,” and then gave me a business class ticket because they had one that had just become available. Yay!

                1. Ross*

                  Exactly JSPA and Sally, these commenters seem to not understand that sometime if you ask for something you get it!

    3. Fortitude Jones*

      You don’t have to sit with your boss, but you probably should have turned it down to sit in the same section as your boss just because the optics aren’t great otherwise (the impression being you think you’re too good to fly economy/business class when your boss doesn’t). I was recently on a business trip where my immediate boss wasn’t anywhere near my flight (she was coming in from another country), but my grandboss booked my flight for me because I wasn’t yet an official employee and, thus, couldn’t access the travel center info my company uses. When he told me the company policy was to only reimburse for economy seats (unless the flight was longer than three hours, then you could book business class), I admit my mind screamed, “Economy?!” But that’s because I’ve been spoiled at every other company I’ve worked for where business class was the standard.

      I contemplated upgrading my seats and paying the difference out of pocket, but I was afraid that the notice of my seat change would also be sent to him, and I did not want grandboss thinking I was a diva long before he got to meet me in person and see my actual work product. Now that I’ve gotten to know him and his spending habits, I know he wouldn’t mind something like that, but still – the optics.

      The one time I did have a flight with a manager, we were flying back and forth to Boston on Delta, so I upgraded my business class seats to Delta Comfort seats for more leg room. I told him I was going to do that beforehand, and he said it was cool. When I got on the plane ahead of him and some of my other coworkers who were also on the trip and they all saw where I was sitting (many rows ahead of them), I turned around and waved and they laughed – my manager genuinely didn’t care. He hates talking to people on flights, and he purposely booked his seat away from the rest of the group so he could put on his headphones and sleep. If you have a boss like that, you could probably get away with taking the upgrades, but if not, it’s better to err on the side of caution.

      1. Electric Pangolin*

        I must admit, on all the short-haul flights I’ve taken here in Europe, there was no difference between the classes (*), besides maybe how obsequious the cabin crew act. Exactly the same seats, before and after the curtain. I can see why a company wouldn’t think that “upgrade” worth paying for…

        (*): insert socialism joke here

        1. Birch*

          I think it depends on the size of the plane. I regularly fly between the UK and mainland Europe and when it’s a larger plane the seats in business are much bigger and wider spaced. But I agree, unless you really need the space, the class upgrade doesn’t make much of a difference until you get a flight long enough for meals and sleeping.

          1. Electric Pangolin*

            Yeah that’s probably it, these were uniformly A320s, except that one time when it was supposed to be an ERJ but the plane had a problem and they chartered a 5-seat propeller plane as a replacement. (It didn’t have a business class that I could see. We all received the same packet of peanuts for the 30-min flight.)

        2. Yvette*

          My son got upgraded to first class once simply because they had a seat to fill and drinks were free and the food was much, much better as well as additional leg room.

        3. Zip Silver*

          Yeah business class is a bit of a joke on narrow body planes like the A320 and 737, but there’s something to be said for sitting at the front. I get way less motion sick than when I’m sitting over or behind the wing.

      2. Emily K*

        I do think there’s a big difference between paying for a better class of ticket and being offered one as a FF reward. One costs the company money and the other doesn’t – I would just breezily make a comment about, “how nice it is when the airline gives me these free upgrades” after landing and assume my boss isn’t going to think less of me for accepting a free perk. (I know it’s not free free, but it doesn’t cost anything more on the spot.)

      3. Ree*

        Delta Comfort Plus is not an upgrade from Business Class. It is a downgrade. “Business class” in the US is not quite “First class” but the nominal domestic equivalent.

    4. BananaPants*

      I’ve been on flights with my boss and more-senior colleagues who were upgraded because they have status on that airline and I didn’t. I’ve never been offended if they chose to take the upgrade, and I don’t think they’d be offended if the tables were turned. We all know how business travel works – it’s not personal or reflective of status within our company, it’s a perk offered by the airline to their frequent flyers (or those willing to pay for the privilege).

      In my experience, coworkers taking the same flight usually avoid sitting together anyways.

    5. ClumsyCharisma*

      Eh, one of my direct reports was upgraded to first class when we both booked coach but I really didn’t care.

    6. pleaset*

      Don’t sit next to colleagues unless you both have agreed to use time on the plane for joint work – prepping for a meeting happening right when you get off. Of unless the flight is really short – like an hour or less.

      Same cabin is cool, but next to each other – no, yall spend enough time together as is.

    1. boo bot*

      Yeah, that is brilliant. I think it’s just unexpected enough to be funny instead of chastising, and without the feeling of being scolded (as people tend to feel with passive-aggressive office-kitchen notes) people just respond normally and deal with their own coffee mugs.

    2. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      It somehow feels like the sink itself is talking to you, which is not passive aggressive. Plus it’s so odd that you have to notice it.

  6. Anon who says ni*

    I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to fly coach if they had other choices.

    1. Aleta*

      I do! I’m from an ethnic group that runs very short AND unusually small boned even for us, and sitting in first or business class makes me feel like a little kid sitting in a Grown Up Chair. If I were the boss I’d definitely let them sit up front with a similar joke – like, I can sit comfortably in coach, but pretty much everybody is bigger than me, and I would never begrudge someone trying to avoid sitting in a too small seat.

      1. MommyMD*

        I don’t mind flying coach either as long as I’m in the aisle seat. Not that big of a deal.

          1. Jasnah*

            OK…? You said you couldn’t even imagine why anyone would fly coach, here is some anecdata of people who have different opinions. Business class is great for those who want it and whose companies can afford it but economy is not unreasonable.

            1. Artemesia*

              I have been flying since it became generally routine in the 60s and coach has become progressively more miserable such that now on overnight transatlantic flights I truly can’t imagine how people do it if they are more than about 5’7″ — the leg room in premium economy which costs much more is several inches better — it is about like coach was 20 years ago. New basic coach seats are increasingly hard, narrow and with leg room that is torturous for anyone who isn’t tiny. I don’t have the points to upgrade anything; most of my work travel was domestic and so I used SW and get occasional free flights there — but I don’t have international points so I do what I can do buy last minute upgrades and if that isn’t possible just pay for the premium economy which on some airlines is kind of like business class used to be before they moved it to flat bed seats on long haul flights.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Yeah, it’s not that business class is so great; it’s that coach is increasingly terrible. I think the extra room and constant flow of food/drinks (and simply not being treated like a hostage) makes it a significantly better experience.

                1. BananaPants*

                  I’ve gladly paid out of pocket to upgrade myself to premium economy on business trips, just for the extra legroom. If I’m going to be stuck in the hell that is today’s economy cabin for 8+ hours, premium economy is at least less-awful.

                2. Emily K*

                  I once took a Spirit Airlines flight on a holiday and they had a BOGO special on alcohol on the plane.

                  That flight stood head and shoulders above any other flight I’ve ever taken on Spirit. It’s amazing what a complimentary beverage will do for the quality of the experience.

                3. Le Sigh*

                  “and simply not being treated like a hostage”

                  Nothing has ever so accurately described flying to me. This is how I felt about finally getting TSA pre-check and not having to take off my shoes.

              2. Windchime*

                Yeah, at 5’11” coach is pretty miserable for me. I always try to get an exit row or another seat with a little more leg room. It makes a big difference, although I wish I could also get a little more butt-room. Nothing like having the side of my ass pressed up against a stranger for hours at a time. Ugh.

          2. I haven’t had my coffee yet*

            I don’t care where I sit on a plane so long as I have stuff to read and eat.

          3. TL -*

            I don’t get hit badly (or hardly at all) by jet lag and as long as I can get a full night’s sleep after I land, I’m usually good. I don’t sleep that well in seats, regardless of size or comfortable, and I also am short and fit well in economy seats.

            I mean, I wouldn’t necessarily turn down a business class seat, but I honestly don’t find long-haul flights that uncomfortable and usually am completely recovered the next day.

          4. Observer*

            So? What are you trying to say? That because for some people sitting in coach is a big deal NO ONE should see it as not a big deal? That the fact that for some (maybe even a LOT) of people it’s a big deal means that is must be unimaginable that it’s not a big deal for others?

        1. Chip*

          I think this preference really depends on how often you fly and how long the flights are. I regularly take flights that are 8 to 16 hours. Being stuck in a tiny coach seat (even an aisle seat) on a regular basis can be pretty grueling. I take upgrades whenever I can get them.

      2. Jilly*

        I am very short and my feet don’t always touch the ground in an Economy seat which puts me at risk for blood clots (in addition to the fact that I take hormonal contraception) so I much prefer a business class seat with a leg/foot rest that elevates and improves my circulation.

        1. Jilly*

          This was meant to be a reply to Aleta as a short person who doesn’t fit well in Economy.

        2. Elitist Semicolon*

          My feet don’t touch the ground in airline seats, either, and it’s incredibly uncomfortable. I end up having to prop one foot up on the back of the seat ahead of me while trying to tuck the other leg under me, cross-legged style. When I can, I put my larger bag under the seat so I can rest my feet on that, but I often get told to put it in the bin.

          Airline seats just suck for everyone.

          1. Artemesia*

            There are inflatable travel footrests you can schlep for that. One of the advantages of the new AA premium economy is the footrests — it really makes a comfort difference in a long flight like the 9.5 hour one I did last week. And I am tall and my feet reach the floor.

            1. Autumnheart*

              I should look into that. I’m short too, and plane seats (and theater seats) seem to be optimized to just *murder* my knees. I’m always trying to prop my feet on my carry-on or something. I didn’t know travel footrests existed!

        1. Chip*

          Yeah, at my company this is literary a benefit and it is sounds like it’s a common benefit at a lot of companies to book a business seat if the flight is more than X hours. It can make a huge difference on long flights. I sleep a lot better in bigger seats and can recover from jet lag faster which makes me more productive.

        2. Jasnah*

          Sure but many companies would prefer to save money on a slightly better seat and instead pay that money to the person having to do all that travel.

          I’d love to fly business or first class but flying economy for work is not that bad in my opinion.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            I just recently flew economy for work, and my seats were awful. Being stuck in the back by the stinking bathrooms is not how I want to spend my time. That being said, I closed my eyes and thought about how much my company pays me and all of my lovely benefits (they pay 82% of my medical insurance premiums; 95% of dental and vision; 100% of short and long term disability; and they provide four weeks of paid parental leave at 100% of our base salaries) – I probably wouldn’t have these things if they didn’t cheap out somewhere in the budget. So I’ll inwardly gripe, but outwardly deal.

            1. Middle School Teacher*

              As someone who has worked for companies that practiced trickle-down economics and lived in a province that spent 40 years trying trickle-down economics, this would not work. I’m with Mike C on this one.

        3. EM*

          But not an evenly distributed one. As a manager I’m accountable for our budget. I am very conscious of my travel costs because I travel a lot, and if I run over it means that either my empolyees won’t be able to travel to more optional activities (ie no more conferences) or the money comes out of another area, such as training.

          1. JSPA*

            Kudos for thinking it through and caring. I bet you’re better to work for than the “of course I deserve this” crowd.

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Honestly, economy seats are often “penny wise, pound foolish.” Firstly, a company that ships a lot of people around can usually get good points and easily upgrade, and secondly, you lose a lot of goodwill and productivity when your staff are tired, aching, and miserable because you crammed them in a tiny space for the better part of the day. It’s like saying you’ll save money by buying cheap office chairs that constantly squeak and are really uncomfortable – it’s not worth it.

        1. Emily K*

          Airline points are typically accrued to individuals, not companies. My company flies a lot of people around, but I personally only travel 3-4 times a year, so I don’t get much of anything in the way of upgrades or rewards.

          I agree with your general point, though, that splurging for a little extra comfort for traveling employees if it’s feasible usually has a positive ROI in terms of the employees’ performance and job satisfaction, which is generally desirable! Working in the nonprofit world I often feel like I’m on a one-woman crusade against austerity measures.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            “Airline points are typically accrued to individuals, not companies.”

            Not if the company has a business card that includes air miles.

            1. Emily K*

              Ah, that makes sense! My org is very large so everyone who travels has their own corporate card rather than all travel being booked on a single card, but back when I worked for a smaller org we did use one card for everyone.

      2. Colette*

        The travel budget and the salary budget are usually different, and it’s unlikely that saving a small amount of money on travel would result in higher pay (because a salary increase is an increase forever, not just the year of the trip.)

        And companies who pay for business class do so because the benefit they’re getting in having a rested, comfortable employee get off the plane ready to work makes up for the cost.

        1. soupcold57*

          also , salary increase is subject to all the taxes, while business class travel is fully business expense

        2. Chips and Dip*

          Higher pay wouldn’t come but the boss may get a bonus if they are under budget. Also if the boss is in charge of their own budget they can use the money saved in travel to use somewhere else.

          1. Sunflower*

            This. At OldJob, policy was we were permitted to book the Acela Amtrak trains but then were getting told by our direct managers to take Regional trains because our COO takes the regional and if he can take it then so can we. Yea and he gets a huge bonus when operating costs come in under while we just lose time in our workday because not only are the trains longer but their wifi is unbearably bad

        3. Anon4ThisOne*

          Could you say this louder for the Federal Travel Regulations in the back? Because “Take the cheapest flight if you’re traveling for training, regardless of how many layovers it has or how long it takes, and never upgrade, ever, even on your own dime, unless you’re preapproved for it and your flight is like 12 hours long” is their motto.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            My mother used to work for the federal government in Alaska back in the 70s. I gather that the paperwork one had to fill out to justify flying (rather than taking bus/train) to other cities in Alaska was…written by people back in D.C. (“I cannot find a bus ticket to Sitka from Anchorage, because there is no road. Sitka is on an island.” “I cannot find a train ticket to Sitka from Anchorage, see above.” and so on.)

        4. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

          Also, in business class you are comfortable enough that you can get some real work done on the flight–open your laptop, etc. In economy you often don’t have enough room to do that. So the flight time itself is more productive.

      3. Artemesia*

        Save the company money so that executives, not you, can get a big bonus at the end of the year.

      4. Observer*

        Why? If an upgrade doesn’t do anything for you, then sure, it’s wasteful to spend the money on an upgrade. But for the (many) people who DO benefit from the upgrade, why is it their responsibility to be uncomfortable to save the company money? We’re talking about travel undertaken to benefit the company, remember.

        1. Observer*

          To be clear, in many cases it is a reasonable trade-off or something that makes some sense for a company to expect. But I just don’t think that it’s something that it’s reasonable to look at a universal responsibility of someone who is traveling for the business.

      5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        That’s sadly not at all how salaries work, especially in big business.

        If the boss is an executive, they benefit from lowering costs because they’re bonuses are usually based on profits.

        The stinker is that if you don’t use your budget, you lose your budget next cycle often. So you should upgrade when it’s acceptable and just use the money before the people in charge decide you can live with even less. Unused budget funds go into the executives pockets.

        1. JSPA*

          This is one of those, “it isn’t, except where it is.” I don’t think it’s ever rude to inquire, in case there’s something to be gained by economizing.

      6. Jadelyn*

        I wish I had your faith in corporate bosses to put their pennies saved toward employee well-being programs like salary and benefits. Suggesting someone not upgrade their flight because it saves money and that money could, theoretically, in a perfect world, be used for salaries and benefits is…disingenuous, to say the least.

    2. Introvert girl*

      Some companies pay up to 700 euro for taking economy instead of business class.

    3. Lynca*

      Boss could just have a weird hang up about spending money or spending company money on something that is not necessary.

      I’ve had bosses that were like that. Literally would turn down the option for a flight and require that you drive.

      1. Emily K*

        Yeah, we’ve all had that coworker who always complained about how busy they were and how much overtime they worked, only to later be replaced by someone who easily did the job in 40 hours. Some people like being a martyr, whether it’s working overtime or enduring coach seats, all for the greater good of the company!

    4. Lynn Whitehat*

      I just… don’t mind it. I’m a petite woman, so that’s part of it. It just doesn’t matter to me. And I have flown a bunch to Europe and once to Australia, so I’m not only thinking of little puddle jumpers.

    5. AnotherAlison*

      Another reason – I’d rather sit in my coach seat than the first row of first class when I can’t keep my personal bag with me. I prefer to do things myself and not have the flight attendant get my bag, or climb over the person in the aisle to get into the bins.

    6. Kiki*

      Because if I get fly business or first class for work, I’ll know what I’m missing when I can’t afford it for personal travel, lol.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Word. I’ve flown business twice on Transatlantic flights, and it’s soooo nice. Now every other flight I sigh that I’m not in a recliner with free wine.

        1. Artemesia*

          All transatlantic flights I have taken have free wine in coach; but American Airlines has a free full bar in premium economy as well as better food. Just sos you knows.

    7. Observer*

      Because choices always have costs and people are not always able or willing to pay those costs. The “cost” may not always be money, either.

    8. Le Sigh*

      While in theory I have the money to spend, I don’t personally find it’s worth the extra money most of the time. I’ve upgraded to Economy Plus or whatever it’s called for longer overnight flights — that was worth it. And business class is def. nice and worth it if I’m not paying :). But I’m petite and the majority of my flights are >5 hrs. Economy stinks but not so much that I’d rather use my personal travel budget on my flight — I’d rather save some for other plans.

    9. Llellayena*

      I am petite and my most uncomfortable flight so far was in business class (or whatever the upgraded class is called in AA). I couldn’t touch the floor, even with heels on (which I always wear when flying for that reason), and I had a difficult time leaning on the armrest because it was too far away. Even when I scooted closer, I’d slide back to the middle of the seat (which was annoyingly soft with a badly placed headrest for me). Oh, and I much preferred the hummus I bought in coach to the microwave ginger beef that was all that was left of the hot meals by the time they got to me. I was tempted to ask if I could order from the coach menu instead!

      If I’m ever boss, I wouldn’t mind at all if my subordinates flew business class while I was in coach. You pick the seat that is most comfortable for you in the budget allowed.

  7. Massmatt*

    #1 your employee sounds like a huge jerk, I think you are maybe being too nice in letting his behavior go. And I imagine it’s detracting from the meetings. This is the kind of thing that gets mentioned as a big negative on evaluations, if not demoted and fired.

    1. valentine*

      I think you are maybe being too nice in letting his behavior go.
      Yes. You’re not on the same page. You want him to see and accept a fact, while he wants you to say you’re wrong/he’s right, or at least to shut up about him being wrong. You can change the goal. In the meeting, the goal can be moving on. There’s no reason he has to agree or accept and no reason you need to try to convince him.

      1. puffle*

        Agreed, I’d be frustrated if I was one of the other employees in the meeting and I had to sit through endless rounds of back and forth that weren’t relevant to the meeting.

        OP, I think everyone who attends
        those meetings would be grateful if you shut these conversations down- and you’d all get a lot more done

        1. Emily K*

          Yes. From experience, sitting through a meeting where other people waste time henpecking at each other is extremely annoying.

    2. JSPA*

      I’d start the meeting by saying, “new policy: everyone is, as always, welcome to argue for as long as is productive over discussion items. In contrast, if you disagree on incidental, procedural or extraneous facts, please note that very briefly, to avoid derailment. If it merits a follow up private meeting or email, we can take it there.” Because honestly, he’s abusing the “anyone / anything” rule. Even if he’s been doing it wrong all this time (which is possible), he’s mistaking a “him” problem (“I’ve never liked the candy in the candy machine”) for a company problem (“the candy machine fell over”).

      1. Queen of the File*

        I still think talking to him specifically might be more effective. Addressing the group when one person is causing the problem causes confusion, both because the people who aren’t mis-handling their objections can become unclear on what’s appropriate, and the person who is derailing can miss that you’re talking about them.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah. And it looks defensive, like it’s a reaction to him but she’s trying to create a group rule to avoid dealing with it. She should own her authority and shut it down in the moment when he does it.

          1. Observer*

            And it also tends to annoy the people who DO realize what you are after. I don’t want to get a lecture or “reminder” or “new rule” about bad behavior that I don’t indulge in. Not about derailing meetings, leaving a mess, or any other thing. You have an issue with me? Talk to me. There is a widespread problem? I’ll sit through it because at some point individual conversations are not the way to go. But when it’s one person? Please.

            1. JSPA*

              I was thinking that this leaves room for him being not a saboteur but a literalist (with a big ego) who will accept a new rule with good grace, but will argue himself onto a ledge for what he understands to be a violation of current policy.

              Jailhouse lawyer types can be a godsend…in jails. Elsewhere, it can be worthwhile to clarify the point that everyone else is getting. (I guess that’s a rule clarification, rather than a new rule, though.)

      2. The New Wanderer*

        I was presenting at a meeting where the meeting host basically made this statement (directed at one person in particular). Didn’t stop that one person from asking what I realized later was intended to be a belittling question to me about an aspect of my presentation, basically challenging me on my knowledge. Unfortunately for her, it came across to me like she honestly didn’t know about this aspect so I explained it to her in very basic terms. That visibly riled her up, and she even got as far as saying “*I* know what it is” but as she stopped herself before admitting “I was implying that *you* didn’t!” she had to shut up.

        I think it can help when there’s a known complainer and everyone is a target, but if it’s someone who makes a point of only attacking the person in charge, best to address that directly.

  8. Carlie*

    OP1: “Well, Chad, I’m pretty certain this is correct. But I’ll tell you what: you can research this on your own time and if you find something contradictory, write up a summary and explanation and send it to me along with the evidence, and I’ll take a look at it. But in the meantime, we’ll proceed this way.”

    1. I haven’t had my coffee yet*

      Why would you encourage him to waste time trying to question you?

      1. Ariaflame*

        He is more likely to believe it if he researches it himself. And it would be on his own time.

          1. Carlie*

            I guess it depends. A lot of people lose interest in arguing when it turns from being a verbal soapbox in the middle of everyone into being an invisible homework assignment. Especially when there’s no promise of it ever coming up again. To me it’s a “put up or shut up” response, whereas just saying you’ll talk about it privately leaves it open in everyone’s minds that he might be right but you don’t want to admit it in public.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              bing bing bing – he will never come back with the assignment completed.

              I like it.

        1. Perse's Mom*

          I can almost guarantee he would interpret “on your own time” as ‘not during this meeting’ and would then spend hours on the clock searching for exactly one occasion where his way was the right way or at least acceptable and that would, in his mind, invalidate OP and every other instance where his way was the wrong way – because he has to be right, no matter what.

        2. Observer*

          Well, it would almost certainly be on company time, but at least it won’t derail the meeting.

          1. Matilda Jefferies*

            Yep. But he’s wasting company time either way – at least this way it’s just his own (work) time, he’s not forcing everyone else to waste their time as well.

      2. Observer*

        I don’t think it’s that much encouragement. And if he does try sending her emails with his “justifications”, it becomes useful documentation for her. Because if she can’t get him to reign it in, she may need some help from her HR and / or superiors. Having his own emails as examples of what’s going on can be very useful in cases like this.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        He’s more than likely to forget about it and never actually research the thing at all.

        Also if he starts to waste work time with these bones he’s chasing, he’ll slip in over all performance and can be removed even easier if it comes down to it.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      No, no, no. That leaves a possibility that Chad is correct. That is exactly what he wants, to show others that they should listen to him.

      “Actually Chad, I know that isn’t the case. Let’s take this discussion off line so we don’t derail the meeting”.

      1. Ico*

        That’s true, you just have to be unwaveringly sure you are absolutely correct when you take that approach!

        1. pleaset*

          Even if you’re not absolutely certain, you can say it as “We’re going to move forward in this meeting with the understand that it is X, Y and Z.” A boss has the power to do that, especially if they’re usually right and fess up the few times they’re wrong.

          Shut him down because it’s your call. He might right and the OP is wrong some tiny percentage of the time – that doesn’t matter. What matters is that she is usually right and she is always the boss.

    3. irene adler*

      Except that he’s likely to dismiss this direction (busywork!) and tell the OP to do the research herself. He already knows he’s ‘correct’-regardless of the reality that OP is in fact correct.

      There have been times -both at work and in my personal life-where I’m ‘told’ what is correct even though I know the ‘teller’ is flat out wrong. In fact, there’s written policy attesting to this. Some people just have a thing about needed to be correct at all costs. Ego? Male superiority complex? Need to impress others? Desire to show me up? Who knows.
      It’s a reminder to keep myself humble.

      1. IheardItBothWays*

        the person who bring up the opposition has to do the work of proving it. You don’t get to say “the sky is red, but you prove it”

    4. JSPA*

      You have to pay people for hours worked, so this will have exempt / non exempt differences.

      “I’m not going to spend 20 minutes checking the handbook or an hour finding examples, but you’re welcome to do so, when the pressing work on the Singh account is finished” puts a priority and time limit on it.

  9. I haven’t had my coffee yet*

    #3 I think you need to stop worrying about what people think of your job, as you’re not in a position to control that. Chances are you’re not going to persuade them. The one thing you can control is you and your reaction or (and I mean this kindly) overreaction. What’s the peanut gallery? You don’t work for these people so why does it matter what they think? You said they think your job is easy so they’re not treating you like a professional – but that doesn’t necessarily follow.

    You say: “The implication is, I feel, that I don’t have any special skills and that I just float from plant to plant with an empty head.” It’s hard to know if people think this – as you haven’t told us what they’re actually saying – or if maybe you’re ‘mind reading’.

    I think you’d really be better off focusing on taking this less personally, not on trying to change people’s thinking on something that they don’t ultimately care about.

    1. FairPayFullBenefits*

      I don’t think the OP is overreacting. It’s really crappy to have a career people regard as fun/easy/not a “real” job, and to be constantly told that. Maybe she won’t change their minds, but I think it’s good for people who I’m assuming are primarily white-collar office workers to be reminded that other types of jobs can be difficult and require skill.

      1. ES*

        Yeah, when I was working as an infant teacher I constantly heard “It must be so fun to snuggle babies all day!” It didn’t feel great, I was keeping up to ten infants safe and happy and alive all day with no downtime, there was so much more to my job than snuggling! Not to mention the years of education and training that went into it!

      2. fhqwhgads*

        I think where we disagree is that you and to a certain extent the OP are assuming that people regard her career as fun/easy/not real. I wouldn’t say the things she was mentioning, but if for some reason I did say something like “I’d rather be X with plants right now” the point would not be that it’s easy/fun/not real work. It’s that plants are not humans and thus do not argue with me, or make me late for deadline by not giving me their part of the project that mine is dependent on, etc. I understand why it could be interpreted as dismissive of the role, but it can mean genuinely “I don’t want to be doing what I’m doing right now and would rather be doing what you are”, not because one is easier than the other, or not work, but because the current task at hand is for whatever reason less appealing. I think if people saying this is stressing the OP out it could be a helpful reframing that they might not mean it the way she’s taking it. Even if some people are actually jerks and do mean it that way, if you can interpret it otherwise and thus be less bothered, it’s worth it. Unless the colleague turns around and says something more specific and definitely dismissive, choose the less horrible interpretation to lighten your own day. Unless you’re a mind reader, no one can ever know.

    2. Plant Lady*

      I hear what you’re saying. Some days I’m more sensitive to it than others, and I think on the more sensitive days it will be helpful to think of Alison’s answer and all of the other comments and suggestions.
      I’ve never worked in a field where people are so inclined to comment on my work. I wouldn’t think it was appropriate to comment on someone’s work space or if it looked like they weren’t working, so sometimes it boggles my mind when I hear comments directed at me, from someone I don’t know.
      But in the end, it is me and my reaction and reframing it is probably my best bet. Thanks for your input!

      1. JSPA*

        They’re chatting with you, as they would with people in other traveling jobs (art teachers and bookmobile staff and, yes, computer techs). The difference is that those other people knew they’d be chatting and doing outreach; you’re falling into a pattern that’s socially established (“must chat with the outsider visitor!”) despite it not being an (otherwise) necessary part of your job.

      2. Artemesia*

        It is small talk. Get defensive and you look weak not like you really do have a challenging job. Telling him ‘yeah I am so lucky to have a job I love’ and move on.

      3. GS*

        It is such an intensely social job! Translate in your head to “I’m trapped in this office with things I don’t want to think about, please distract me and give me hope!”

  10. ACM*

    I totally understand OP4’s desire not to hire friends, but I wonder a) how small their community is (or industry within their community is, or prestige level of their company within that industry within that community), and b) how many people are included in the circle of perceived awkwardness. Because while not hiring good friends is a sound practice, if there are people at their church or community who are friendly acquaintances and missing out on good job opportunities just because they happen to run in the same circles as the hiring manager…that gives me pause. Again though, it does entirely depend upon all the factors in a and b. If OP is just running their own small business in a bustling town, no sweat. If they’re hiring manager of a lot of positions at the only game in town…maybe time to rethink to what degree your own sense of awkwardness takes precedence over someone else’s chance at a job/career. Just a thought.

    1. JSPA*

      Church could be especially problematic, if it’s a small enough town that no other person practicing religion X gets hired. But I took “friend” to mean exactly that, not “anyone tangentially connected to my friend network, despite 3 degrees of separation.” If it’s the latter, then it is a problem. You have the right, but not an absolute right to prevent mingling of streams.

    2. boo bot*

      Yeah, this gets tough if someone you’re close to is really desperate for work and is qualified or feels that they would be qualified otherwise for the job – then it becomes, “So the only reason I don’t have a job is because I’m your friend?”

      I got the sense that it was a small business, and I do think that’s easier to explain, because obviously they can only hire a few people, and their relationships with those people are really important. So, if that’s the case, I think you can be more upfront. If you’re in charge of hiring for The Town’s Main Employer, Inc., then I think you need to rethink the policy itself, but I didn’t get the sense that was the case.

      Overall, I think this is going to depend on your community, how hard jobs are to come by where you live, and how many jobs you’re making off-limits to your friends and family with this policy.

      1. Grapey*

        But then it gets tough on OP’s side if it becomes “So the only reason I can’t fire him is because he’s my friend?” which is actually more common than the situation you’re coming up with.

      2. ACM*

        Definitely; I would have passed it right by except the reference to the church and the “involved in a shared community” that was the only thing that made me think that maybe their no-hiring zone might be larger than it initially would seem. And agreed that a small business owner hiring for just a few jobs has a ton more latitude.

  11. DyneinWalking*

    #3: As a plant nerd with a ton of indoor pot plants and an overflowing balcony, who these days tends to have at least one plant in quarantine or rehabilitation at all times… I might well say something about your job that COULD be interpreted as considering your job easy. But I wouldn’t mean it that way! I’d love to have a job like yours, but I really want to give a scientific career a try. Which despite being my dream is definitely going to suck because it’ll involve overtime, conferences all over the world, many looming deadlines that’ll influence my future career, pressure for getting the “right” results in research, weird coworkers, people who double down on their criticism of my exact wording, comma placement, and choice of research projects, sexism, the need to network…

    While your job does require skills and knowledge, I assume deadlines, pressure and networking aren’t a very big part of your job? I can easily imagine that that’s the part that people consider the “easy” part.

    1. Birch*

      Yeah I think this is where the comments are coming from too. I ‘m a hobby gardener and would probably have made a similar comment. I think it comes from the stakes of the job–nobody is losing millions of dollars of investments or dying if you have a bad day. I think a lot of people fantasize about careers that are creative, constructive, involve a lot of really interesting specialized knowledge, and also don’t involve a lot of responsibility for other people’s wellbeing. Which is why gardening, art, cooking, and other kinds of craftsmanship are really attractive for those fantasies. They all give some kind of tangible, immediate gratification and give other people a lot of joy. I think it would help if you reframe the comments for yourself as compliments–they only wish they could keep hundreds of plants thriving! And if someone really makes a comment that is objectively patronizing, you can whip out a burst of knowledge. E.g. “must be nice to just water plants all day and get paid for it” –“oh you’d be surprised! Everyone thinks ficuses are hard to keep, but the *insert botanical name of plant* are *insert a bunch of botanical terms here*”

      1. DyneinWalking*

        `Eh, I somewhat disagree about the arts-and-crafts jobs – once you do it as a service for other people, you’ve got to deal with a ton of crap from your clients. But I think your diagnosis of “low-stakes(-sounding) job” is spot on: I don’t think OP’s clients are very invested in their office plants, neither financially nor emotionally. Office plants aren’t the basis of a companie’s revenue (unless they SELL those kind of plants), and most people probably don’t notice the finer details of a plant’s well-being beyond “looks ok”, “looks really sick” and “dead”. OP probably has to deal with unsolicited, ill-informed advice like most people, but I’d assume that there isn’t a much pressure of the kind of “this plant better be a vibrant green (instead of slightly yellowish) by next Tuesday, or else”.

        If that assumption is wrong – well, addressing that prejudice is probably the best way to counter those “your job is so easy” comments (“Yeah, you’d think so, but believe it or not I got a lot of trouble X months ago when I didn’t get rid of a thrips infestation fast enough! Some companies are much more invested in their office plants than you’d think.”).
        And if that assumption is right, I hope this helps OP to not feel personally attacked by those comments – even if most people probably aren’t consciously aware WHY that job sounds easy to them, I bet this is the main reason. It’s not that they think that the job requires little knowledge and/or little work (or at least they’d realize that after a bit of thinking), but that it sound’s like a job where hardly anyone cares much about the result so long as it’s basically ok.

        1. GS*

          I will always remember the week my bosses left for vacation and I killed a five-hundred-pound thousand-plus dollar fern in the main window of one of our big expensive hotel clients because the angle of the sun had just changed and the fern, which used to be in the shade, was suddenly getting light all day reflected at an angle off another skyscraper and it just dried out.

    2. Plant Lady*

      I hear what you are saying, but part of what gets to me is the assumptions that my job has no stress or deadlines, no difficult clients or coworkers, no networking or traveling for conferences. I deal with a lot of similar challenges that you do, and although I am working with plants and it is more “low stakes” as another commenter put it, it is still my job and I take pride in it, put a lot of effort in, and continue to learn new things all the time.
      I am always happy to talk about plants with people, give advice, and hear plant stories. I have great relationships with so many people on my accounts because they truly care about plants in general and plants in their space. I greatly appreciate compliments that people give me and the plants, and I really love hearing how plants make a space better.
      I do appreciate your thoughts, and thank you for taking the time for sharing. And good luck with all your plants at home!

      1. DyneinWalking*

        Read my other comment in this thread – I think part of what people consider easy about your job is that other people probably don’t care as much about the outcome as they do in other jobs – it’s not really so much the low-stakes input as the low-stakes output.

        Obviously you know the actually importance of your output better than me! But that’s probably the assumption behind those comments, so you should address that if the assumption is wrong, or use that to translate the comments in your head to “sounds like they think I don’t do much, but probably means that not many people care if I get something wrong”.

        I think figuring out what exactly makes people think you have an easy job is key for coming up with good comebacks.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I don’t mean this in a jerky way, but have you done other types of work? The only person I know who works with plants is a friend who is a superintendent for a commercial landscaping company, so I admit to be someone who knows nothing about your specific work. However, I see a lot of FB rants from other people who have what I consider a job on the less stressful end of the career spectrum about how their job is indeed difficult and stressful, etc. I’m certain I don’t have the most stressful job in the world, either, but I deal with multi-million dollar projects, multiple client stakeholders and internal stakeholders. If my client asked me to go to his site today (in another state a flight away), I have to go. The project I’m working on now is incredibly fast-track (like, we’ve never done this before), I can’t get a full dedicated team because my company is overall an unprecedented type of busy, and it just sucks. I haven’t even officially started my day, and I have received 10 emails this morning, never mind the ones I ignored over the weekend. Again, I don’t think I’m living the be-all-end-all of stressful work, but I sometimes talk to people about their stressful jobs who are really just on a whole different scale than what I deal with.

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          IMO stress is relative. I have a stressful executive job with a tons of responsibilities and my adult son works for McDonalds. He is pretty stressed coming home after a day when corporate visits and inventory is off, even though he is a minimum wage worker whose job is to count bags of hamburger rolls.

          I think a desire to do your job well is a bigger factor in how much stress you have than your list of responsibilities, is what I think.

          Unrelenting stress, though, that’s the worst, and something I am trying to work on in my work life atm. A plant job sounds attractive because even if stressful moments, maybe you can spend an hour here or there during the day doing calming things like potting or taking pleasure in seeing plants you’ve been working on thrive. Plenty of people with otherwise stressful jobs can prolly find those pockets also. I’m going to work on it.

          1. Plant Lady*

            I think stress is relative too. I can understand both you and your son can have a stressful day, for very different reasons. I agree that wanting to do a good job can also contribute to stress, because if I didn’t care about my work, well, I wouldn’t feel any pressure to succeed.

            I do enjoy my work, and I’m not stressed all the time, but hearing someone tell me about my “stress free” job can get old. I am really happy to get a lot of perspective on this though!

            Thanks for your input, and I’m glad you’re working on finding healthy ways to deal with stress!

            1. FairPayFullBenefits*

              That makes total sense to me! Such a big part of whether a job is stressful are things like the workload, the expectations, the boss, the clients, etc – not what field the job is in. If your boss yells at you every day, you’re expected to care for 100 plants but only have time for 50, you get chewed out if you drop a plant holder, your job will be stressful. It could be much more stressful than a “high stakes” job with a supportive boss, reasonable expectations, and so forth.

        2. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

          It seems unnecessary to imply LW’s job isn’t stressful because other jobs can be more stressful. It sucks to feel like you’re job is belittled (even if that’s not what all the people who comment mean), and there’s always someone with “a more stressful job.”

          1. DyneinWalking*

            Yeah, but OP3 wants to know how to address such comments, and it helps to know where people are coming from. In the original question the assumption was that people think there’s no expertise is involved in her job, so I’d assume it’s helpful to know that “easy” could also mean “less stressful (regarding expectations)”, “more solitary (less interaction with coworkers)”, “fewer strict deadlines” etc.

            It should allow her to tailor her comebacks so they actually address those other underlying assumptions.

            1. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

              I guess I read it more as a suggestion that the LW doesn’t know what a stressful job really is.

        3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Or they’re stressful in different ways: you can’t get a full dedicated team, but I’d be surprised if your manager expected you to sit there, smile, and apologize while customers yell at you for things you haven’t done, or that company policy requires you to do. Few people, at any job level, only have to deal with one person who expects things of them, and who they have to respond to even if not take orders from.

        4. Lora*

          See, I don’t mind the big multimillion $$, everything is riding on this, patients gonna die if you screw up thing. I just do it and present the results with no particular emotions about it, here are the calculations and assumptions in the model, schedule looking quite ambitious folks so I put in extra contingency money for escalation costs, followed by apero time if I’m traveling and then go home. It’s not stressful to me exactly, because I control the results to a large extent and people are mostly respectful or at least calm-ish and professional. However, I HATE customer service work a whole lot, and to me what Plant Lady describes sounds like customer service and there’s gonna be some jerk all up in your face every day with an expired coupon for a competitor’s plant service whining about how I should match the price and they don’t think that the holiday poinsettia display was as nice as the one across town, etc. It feels like these horrible customers want me to deal with all their feelings and petty bullcrap and I have no control over the situation, and that makes it stressful.

          I would like to imagine that she comes by with a cart full of ferns and sets them around the office and waters them, sprays a little neem oil on the sketchy-looking one, only has to say hello to the admin and drop off an invoice to be signed, then goes back to a nice warm greenhouse that smells of roses and freshly-rained-on soil. But I suspect it’s a lot more customer service-y about how Fergus is allergic to Gerbera daisies specifically and the other office has forbidden plants with flowers because they shed pollen and the XYZ Inc guy can’t make up his mind whether to have a holiday display with or without a tree, etc. And I bet it’s the sort of thing that is first service to get cut when a company isn’t doing well, so there’s a constant churn of customers and you’re always going through some kind of learning curve as you figure out what the customers really want vs what they say they want, sort of thing, plus the constant marketing and combatting Yelp nonsense and trying to collect on invoices that haven’t been paid.

        5. Feather*

          “so I admit to be someone who knows nothing about your specific work”

          When you find yourself thinking this kind of sentence, it’s usually time to stop and go “maybe, since I don’t know anything about their actual job, I should stop trying to assess whether or not it’s as stressful as mine.”

        6. DJ*

          I don’t think that’s how stress really works. It’s more like whatever situation you’re in will be stressful at times because that’s how humans are wired. I mean I’m sure an ER surgeon could say their job is way more stressful than yours will ever be because they literally have people’s lives in their hands, but that doesn’t negate the stress you are under on your job.
          It’s generally unhelpful to make stress into a competition. Everyone goes through stress. A situation could be lower stakes, but the level of stress it induces won’t necessarily be any less.

          1. Plant Lady*

            Right, I know I’m not saving human lives, and although I’m working with living things, a plant isn’t a person.

            Overall I do really enjoy my job; I wish I knew it existed 10 years ago! I’m not stressed all the time because of it, but for someone to tell me it’s a no stress job is weird and confusing. Sometimes “sitting at a desk all day” looks attractive to me, but I know that there’s more to it, so I would never say that to someone.

            Thanks for your input, this whole thread is really interesting and helpful!

      3. Emilia Bedelia*

        It is definitely frustrating when other people don’t understand your work and appreciate it in the same way! I’ve never been successful with plants, so the skill of caring for them really impresses me.
        I do think, though, that this is just a part of life that we all deal with, and it may be better for your happiness to let go of the need for others to acknowledge how difficult your job is. Every profession/hobby/activity has nuances to it that outsiders will not understand. That’s kind of the whole point of job specialization – you have the special skills to do your job, and others do not.
        I’m sure there are jobs that you don’t fully appreciate as well! That’s not a bad thing, that’s just a result of the fact that we live in an incredibly complex world. Maybe it will help to reframe it in your mind as “I’m so good at my job, I make it look easy to people, and I’m lucky that I love my job so much that people think it looks fun.”
        I’d assume that the peanut gallery means well, come up with a good one-line response (“It’s harder than it looks, but I love it!”), and move on. As long as your management understands your skills, that’s really the important part.
        Again, it’s definitely frustrating to feel like people don’t understand your job, and it’s totally valid to feel that way! I just think that if this is causing you stress, it may be more effective to reframe your own thinking rather than educate everyone that you work with.

        1. Plant Lady*

          I do have a lot of one liners in my arsenal! I was really interested in hearing what Alison and other office workers would have to say, since I can’t really ask people why they are saying these things to me. I am really appreciative to hear from everyone!

          The world really is complex, but I’m glad it is, otherwise things would be pretty boring! Thanks for your input!

      4. smoke tree*

        I used to have a job that the peanut gallery assumed would be fun, but it was actually miserable because my boss was such a jerk. And really, they only thought it was fun because it was a tourist attraction that was fun for customers. There wasn’t anything very fun about it for staff. So I feel your pain. But since you actually like your job, I think internally reframing it the way Alison suggests will probably be most helpful. What they probably intend to say is not so much “Your job seems like it could be done by a toddler” but “You seem like you really enjoy your job, and I’m kind of jealous.”

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Our contractor was paid by the job not the hour so good incentive to work fast.
      Our contractor supplied replacement plants for free so definitely pressure to keep those plants healthy.
      And she had people working for her at her so yes there was netwOrkin involved to keep & drum up business.

    4. londonedit*

      Yup. I work in book publishing – ‘dream job’ territory for a lot of people. I get a lot of comments along the lines of ‘Oh, wow! It must be amazing to get to read books all day! I’d love that, just reading books and finding all the mistakes!’ And I get it. People generally have absolutely no idea what my job actually entails (spoiler: it’s actually more project management than ‘reading all day’, and any reading I do is for work and not for pleasure, and probably a subject I wouldn’t choose to read about in my spare time) but ‘reading books for work’ looks amazing to the untrained eye.

      I think that’s what’s happening here – people conflate a hobby (gardening at the weekend; looking after a few houseplants) with your job, which obviously is way more involved than ‘looking after a few houseplants’. I think the difference is that while I encounter the ‘Oh I’d love to read all day’ comments at parties and family gatherings, you encounter the ‘Oh I wish I could just look after plants for a living’ stuff *while you’re actually working*. Which I think makes it seem even more like people are trying to say that your job isn’t as busy/stressful/important as their job. I can imagine it feels like people are looking down their noses at your work while you’re actually trying to do your job.

      I agree with people who have said that the commenters probably actually aren’t trying to undermine you – it’s most likely a combination of you having an unusual job and people’s in-built wish to engage with people from the ‘outside world’ who come into their working environment. They’re probably bored and want the chance to talk to someone different instead of Dave from Accounts, and they don’t realise that their ‘Hey, what a cool job, looking after plants all day’ comments are missing the mark with you.

    5. Feather*

      “I assume deadlines, pressure and networking aren’t a very big part of your job?”

      I mean, that would be exactly the kind of ignorant assumption that the LW is tired of getting, although I find it’s one that people who work in offices (erroneously) make about a lot of fields they know little to nothing about.

      1. DyneinWalking*

        I tried to give an accurate description of what sounds “easy” to me about that job so OP3 knows where the misunderstandings happen. Also, I had to reread to realize that OP3 actually was also complaining about a low-stress assumption; I did read the whole post but somehow I missed that part – probably got hung up on the title. It seemed to me that she interpreted “your job is easy” as “you don’t need to know much” and was trying to address that. And I still think that if people tell her her job is easy, they most likely refer to (perceived) lower stress levels than less expertise.

        1. Feather*

          Very possibly: it’s still actually wrong, it’s still a very poor assumption to make, and it’s still one that’s *really typical* of people who work in office-type situations about everyone who’s life doesn’t involve the same thing as them.

          As so many of the threads here illustrate today. It’s pretty amazing honestly.

  12. WoodswomanWrites*

    OP1, it’s a good idea to explain to your employee that you don’t want to derail meetings with debates not only to establish your authority, but because I’m sure the other people in the meeting are cringing having to listen to this guy’s challenges over and over. Telling him you will talk about it later one on one will no doubt demonstrate that you are paying attention to the rest of the team’s time and focus, and they will appreciate that.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I was gonna say that – OP #1, for whatever it’s worth, I’ve been a bystander in the situation you describe (in a university classroom, though, not a work setting) and it did decidedly not make me think of Mr. Know-it-all as clever or distinguished or professional or whatever; I used to see him around for years afterwards and always became immediately annoyed just by spotting him.

      However, I also want to point out that you absolutely shouldn’t indulge him during your team meetings. It doesn’t sound like you’re doing this – you say you correct him and move on swiftly, which is awesome! – but I really wanted to emphasise this regardless. In my case, the professor was way too lenient and I lost some of the respect I had for him because he would actually get into debates with Annoying Guy and derail the whole lecture; in contrast, I would have been very impressed if he’d just calmy re-routed the discussion to a later point where the whole class wouldn’t have been subject to it.

      1. Washi*

        Yes, I was coming here to say this! I’ve been in meetings with That Person, and no one feels any admiration for the guy dragging things out with endless and unnecessary debating. Seeing that behavior professionally curtailed would give me more respect for my manager, not less! (Plus there’s a certain amount of pleasure in seeing your most obnoxious coworker shut down…)

    2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Yes! Shut it down quick with a “Fergus, your disagreement on (inconsequential detail) is noted. I’m keeping this meeting on (real subject matter) to under 15 minutes. Please stick to the agenda.” And do start having an agenda and shortening the meetings so there isn’t time for this silliness if you haven’t already. Be in control of what is worthy of discussion.

  13. WS*

    OP #1 – I was on a team with a male co-worker like this guy, who would constantly (and usually erroneously) challenge the female boss. She would give him a look over the top of her glasses and say, “Moving on…” in a firm, calm voice, then continue with whatever she had been saying. He stopped challenging her after a few weeks and moved onto everyone else, but we copied our boss and it worked wonderfully! He was perfectly capable of having a normal work conversation, but for some reason in meetings he would get into aggressive mode.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Looking over the glasses is deadly. If OP#1 doesn’t wear glasses, she could cultivate the Spock Eyebrow Lift.

  14. Mookie*

    I hear ya, LW 3. I cut my teeth as a technician for an interior horticulture firm, and it’s as skilled a job as any in the wider industry, requiring not just solid plant, pest, and cultural knowledge (how to adapt to mercurial lighting and humidity when the climate control of a client’s worksite is out of your hands is always a challenge), but a good technical grasp on soil and media science and the ability to rig your own irrigation on the fly. Never did I experience so many lookie-loos as I did on office jobs; everyone’s an an expert because once a year they water their ancient aspidistra with flat cider. Or they want you to rescue their little potted “cactus” (always, always, never fails, always turns out to be an etiolated succulent without drainage).

    I like PCBH’s scripts above. “You’d be surprised at how challenging some of these buggers can be!” also works. If they want free labor, I used to recommend Plants Are the Strangest People. “Go have fun with it!” is what I say out loud, “if it’s so easy” is what I add in my head.

    1. embertine*

      Hard agree, Mookie. I never did interior maintenance, but I know that exterior is hard work, is a lot of travelling which you have to build into your rates (and clients never understand that) and has low margins. Just like anything, doing something as a job is completely different from doing it as a hobby. I used to get asked allllll the time if I would come over and completely revamp people’s gardens on my weekends for nothing. They stop when you present them with your hourly rate and percentage markup for materials and plant.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Yeah. Your friend who has an office job and no garden of her own might be willing to do a little gardening in someone else’s yard for recreation, but it’s ridiculous to think that someone who gets paid for doing a job five days a week would be willing to do it free for a friend or acquaintance on her days off.

        1. Clorinda*

          “Think of the exposure you’ll get! I’ll tell all my friends. It’s like free advertising”
          –everyone who wants a creative acquaintance to work for nothing.

    2. Plant Lady*

      It’s such a unique job, and before I had it I didn’t even know it existed!
      I agree, I do like those scripts, and recommending a blog or a book is a good idea that I hadn’t thought of. Thanks!

  15. Luna*

    “no, we’ve never done it that way”
    The times are a-changin’. And this is how I want things to be done, so kindly do them that way.

    “What do I say to people who tell me my job has no stress and is easy?”
    Because they don’t know the truth. It’s akin to people claiming that working a cashier job in retail is easy because the machine does most of the work, when the job is not just working at the register, but also has the employee doing other duties on the side – shelving, maybe, and dealing with customers. And that last one can be the most difficult, given what type of customer it is. But just saying, “I love my work!” is a pretty good stonewall.

  16. Rebecca*

    OP#4 – good for you for not hiring friends!! Your staff will thank you. I once worked for a manager who hired a friend, and then protected her for years, even though she should not have lasted 6 months based on her performance. And by protected, I mean moving work around to the rest of the team when she got behind, or simply didn’t do it, looking the other way when she managed her eBay business from her cube, even packing up boxes to ship on our conference table, approving her patently bogus time cards (at the time we had manual time cards and were non-exempt), the endless personal phone calls, etc., all while the rest of us were overwhelmed with work. Any time she was forced to work, or called out on mistakes, she’d slam things around on her desk, threaten to quit, etc. and there were more than a few times one of us would say, do you need a box for your stuff? She basically came and went as she pleased, worked very little, made a lot of mistakes, and got a paycheck. Once manager was shown the door, friend was put on a PIP, and then dismissed.

    1. Sara without an H*

      I wonder if hiring The Friend was one of the reasons manager was shown the door? Had I been Grand-boss in this situation, I think that’s what I would have done.

  17. Lucy*

    LW5 – I am so tickled by the mug/sink/dishwasher solution. Thank you for a smile on a grey day!

    Commentariat, are we now agreed that this is the standard for settling otherwise unresolvable pass-agg kitchen drama?

    1. Feline*

      The only break room we have with a dishwasher is restricted-access for preparing hospitality for visiting clients and prospects.

      Suggested wording for offices who have to self-wash, anyone?

      1. Jessen*

        I’m kind of tempted to put out a bowl of chocolates (like hershey kisses) with a note “You may have one chocolate once all your dishes are washed and put away.”

  18. hbc*

    OP3: In what circumstances are people telling you your job is easy and stress-free? No one should be actively denigrating you no matter how it’s brought up, but if you’re complaining about your stress level or schedule to, say, an ER nurse, you probably need to find a better outlet. Your job (and mine) are objectively less stressful than a lot of professions.

    If it’s more that you’re engaging in small talk about what you do, I think it’s fine to do some low-key, non-defensive broadening of their perspective. They say it must be easy, you say, “I thought so too before I started, but it’s more complicated than most people know.” They say it must be low stress, you say “There aren’t human lives on the line or anything, but having to juggle plants and personalities at X sites each week and other responsibilities at the greenhouse isn’t exactly relaxing.”

    1. Plant Lady*

      People will usually come up to me while I’m filling up my water bucket or while I’m working on a plant and make these comments. I know that it’s not malicious, but I would never make comments like that to someone sitting at a desk, or a bagger at a grocery store, or whatever. That’s part of the reason I have a difficult time dealing with it sometimes, because I would never do that!

      1. Jennifer Thneed*

        “Yup, it’s not brain surgery!” (with the implied, “and neither is your job”)

  19. Wintermute*

    #3– some people assume everything they don’t know how to do is easy (when these people end up as technical managers, be careful…), other people are probably just making a joke, and it’s true, some kinds of work just don’t get the respect they deserve.

    I once saw an amazing humor piece at McSweeney’s, “if people talked to other professionals the way they talk to teachers” with such gems as “you know I have two kidneys of my own, I bet I could do your job”, “My colon never acts this way at home. Are you sure you’re reading the colonoscopy results correctly? Did you ever think that maybe you just don’t like my colon?”, “Oh, you’re a stand-up comedian, huh? So, you just stand up there and talk until your set is done?” and “Sure, the pay is low, but I bet the joy of putting together press releases for local events is reason enough to stick with this job in the events division of the Chamber of Commerce. You must really believe in its mission.”

    So I would actually push back a little bit with your answer, say something like “you’d be surprised how complicated it is… but I love my job” or “it’s a lot of work but I love it”

    1. Grey Coder*

      I once read a tip for making small talk which was along the lines of “Oh, you’re a ? I bet that’s harder than people think it is!”

      1. Plant Lady*

        That’s great advice! It can really give people time to shine, and shows that you are open to different professions having different challenges. I’ll remember this the next time I meet someone new. Thanks!

    2. Plant Lady*

      That McSweeney’s cracks me up! But it really makes a good point. Sometimes people just say things, without really thinking it through.

      Thanks for sharing!

  20. TeachAllTheArt*

    #3 – As an elementary art teacher your letter totally resonated with me! If I had a dollar for every time someone said, “You get to just play all day, how fun!” I would be able to buy my students a kiln!

    It made me feel bitter, the first few years of my career, that people didn’t understand how hard my job was and how much I had to work to be good at it. I would fantasize about dropping those same people into a classroom full of kindergartners right after they had birthday cupcakes on a paint day!

    I finally landed in a school where my principal supports the arts and sees me as an integral part of our school. That shift made such a huge difference. Because I feel supported and valued by my boss, it doesn’t bother me if a coworker or random person at a party doesn’t understand what I do. Knowing that my boss appreciates me and has my back has given me the psychological space to lean into the fact that, yes, I do have a fun job!

    1. Plant Lady*

      That sounds like a really tough job! I’m glad you have the support in your position, and that you’ve seen that make a difference.

      I do have good support from management, and that definitely helps. Reading all these comments is also a nice supportive and helpful thing too! I really do have a fun job too, but I’m also a professional, so juggling those can be a little tricky, and since I can sometimes be a little more sensitive to it, I’m glad to hear a lot of different perspectives and success stories like yours. Thanks!

    2. Wintermute*

      I quoted elsewhere the “if people talked to other professionals the way they talk down to teachers” list from McSweeny’s:

      “You know I have two kidneys of my own, I bet I could be a nephrologist”

      “My colon never acts that way at home, are you sure? Have you considered maybe you just don’t like my colon?”

      “It must be so much fun to get to play with actuarial tables all day long!”

      “Excuse me, my seven-year-old son, who mere minutes ago lied about whether he had to pee or not, just told me that you were a mean mechanic. Now I’m going to ask the dealer to fire you.”

  21. YouBetI'mGood*

    OP#3 – A former boss once gave me the best compliment, which I now use about myself when the occasion arises: “You think her job is easy because she makes it look easy. Her job is not easy.” I suggest you adopt it: “I know, I make it look so easy.” Or , “Yeah, when you’re good as I am, it looks easy.”

    1. Plant Lady*

      Wow, that is a wonderful compliment and it must have felt great to receive! I’m glad you still find it helpful.

      I have been practicing my winking, so maybe that line with a quick wink is just what I need. Thanks!

  22. DrOzmosis*

    This is either my first or second comment ever — longtime reader — just to say holy crow I have no idea how the plant-healer does their job.

    Over the past year we’ve become an 80/20 household: 80% fake plants, 20% live because it’s so hard to keep them going!! I admit I did not realize that this was a job (really no different than landscaping though), but my gosh do the black thumbs at my house thank you for what you do. It’s a necessary service – plants give oxygen! They keep people going on bad days! They’re just nice to look at! And you have a ton of things to navigate: different office climates, humidity, light, foot traffic, etc. I wish you all the best and next time someone says something about your work, just say “Oh no no no trust me — you’ve got it easy! I’d love to sit on my biscuit, never having to risk it.”

    1. Plant Lady*

      Once I started this job, I began seeing potted plants everywhere and I felt very “in the know” knowing that someone took care of them. I think part of the reason people comment so much is that it is kind of a novel job, and, as another commenter put it, I’m a visitor from the outside world! I’m glad you’re appreciative of plants and what they can do, and thanks for the input!

  23. EBStarr*

    Really surprised by the idea that an employee shouldn’t fly business if their boss is in coach. I’m very careful about business expenses and yet I would never think to try to match my use of them to my manager’s. Maybe it’s because I’m in an industry where managers aren’t really treated as “above” their employees (tech) but it seems so submissive and hierarchical to not take advantage of a benefit just because your manager didn’t. Pragmatically of course it makes sense for you not to do it if it will be frowned upon, but I guess I would (privately) really judge a manager or a client who frowned upon you flying business just because you’re a mere underling.

    1. fposte*

      It’s not because they’re an underling, though; it’s because the manager’s use of expenses suggests a standard, and the manager would be more familiar with that standard than the OP. It could be the same if the manager were a new same-level colleague of Mr. Economy.

      I agree that if the standard really is “You can take business class on flights over three hours but we prefer you don’t on domestic flights” that should be made more explicit, though.

      1. EBStarr*

        Oh OK thanks for spelling that out. I guess the notion that there’s an unspoken standard for use of benefits makes a bit more sense. I guess now that you mention it, I tend to look around me at how people are using their expense cards too, but I just wouldn’t particularly look at my managers more than my peers. Especially since — and this is probably also not unrelated to being in tech — a lot of my managers have just been extremely (wonderfully) weird and it would have made very little sense to take them as a standard!

      2. Close Bracket*

        “because the manager’s use of expenses suggests a standard, and the manager would be more familiar with that standard than the OP.”

        That’s a hierarchical and dominant take on the situation. The idea that a manager, simply by virtue of being a manager, gets to set a different standard than, well, the standard and be assumed to be the authority on such can only exist when managers are treated as above their underlings. That is true whether the manager’s standard is flying business on 1 hr flights or flying economy on 6 hr flights.

        1. fposte*

          Of course it’s hierarchical; the OP, like most of us, works within a hierarchy. Managers are likely to have more information about budget strictures and higher-level takes on optics. It doesn’t make them superior human beings, but it doesn’t make sense to act as if there’s no hierarchy when there is one and that managers know things their staff doesn’t.

            1. fposte*

              Not as originally described, no–EBStarr was initially musing that the problem is that an underling shouldn’t be flying business on this flight, and I’m saying there’s a decent chance that *nobody* in this company is supposed to be flying business on this flight. It would be “because the OP is an underling” if the manager were in business but insisted the OP be in coach.

    2. Alfonzo Mango*

      I agree with this! The advice to follow the manager seems a little old-fashioned. Perhaps I’ve been lucky to have frugal managers that did not mind if I was treated or upgraded, though.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      I’m always surprised by these types of replies. Maybe it is because I’ve always worked in industries that are extremely hierarchical (law enforcement and law) but it makes perfect sense to me that the “underlings” should be deferring to the boss. I like Alison’s point about eating at a restaurant. You wouldn’t order top shelf liquor while your boss ordered a ginger ale, right?

      I’m with you that you are probably fine accepting a free upgrade, compliments of the airline, even if it leaves the boss in coach (that would still make me nervous though) but you absolutely should not have the company spend for business when the boss is in coach unless you have a medical need and doing so would be a reasonable accommodation.

      I guess I’m officially “old” now though.

      1. Close Bracket*

        What does age have to do with it? Are there no young people in law enforcement and law?

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I was responding to the person above me that this train of thought is “old fashioned.” Also, I left a big firm for a small firm because I preferred being treated as closer to an equal than the crazy hierarchy at my old firm. It is still very clear here who is in charge though.

            1. blaise zamboni*

              The person above Case, Alfonzo Mango, did actually say “old fashioned.” Also, sheesh.

      2. EBStarr*

        Haha, I mean, I’ve been to plenty of work dinners where my boss had a soda and I had alcohol. That doesn’t faze me at all. But to fposte’s point about unspoken standards, top shelf liquor would faze me no matter what my boss was drinking, because as far as I know that’s not Done at my company.

        Actually I did work in a law firm at one point, as an assistant, and was in fact treated like garbage… but even there, I’m pretty sure only the most awful of the lawyers would have been annoyed by us getting some kind of extra perk, and even the meanest ones would never have tried to get in the way of us using our scant benefits. Most of them clearly felt a little guilty about how much our lives sucked and would’ve been happy to see us get some kind of temporary salve on the wound. Maybe it’s different between a partner and associate, IDK. But the point is, we probably agree — it seems very industry-dependent. And the fact that the OP even asked the question implies to me that she’s not in a “flat” industry like tech.

        And I just want to clarify that my comments in no way mentioned age. I just reread them to make sure I wasn’t being ageist by accident. You can be any age and still be anti-hierarchy. That’s my plan for my future!

    4. Michael Valentine*

      I’m of a mind that if it’s a policy or standard, it needs to be explicitly laid out as such. No reading between the lines or worrying that you’re overstepping by following what is actually in print. So in LW’s case, I’d probably still book business class. Or if I was unsure, I’d just ask the manager directly about why he didn’t follow usual procedures. BTW, at our company, if a client is requiring specific expense policies that differ from ours, it is the boss’s responsibility to make sure the team knows that beforehand. This information would not be kept secret. And if it turned out the boss was enforcing some unwritten rule based on personal preference, leadership would shut that down in an instant.

      My manager actually has very little insight into our company’s expense policies for travel. I know that because I followed them when booking a cross country flight and enjoyed a better seat. Next time he booked, he asked me about what’s allowed because he wanted to do it too!

      1. Case of the Mondays*

        That’s what I love about business over law firm life. In firm life, every partner has his/her own fiefdom. You only succeed if you read between all sorts of crazy lines. Getting a vacation “approved” doesn’t mean they really approve of you going. It is maddening.

        1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

          Yes! That was what I hated about practice in law firms and I also used to refer to them as fiefdoms. If a partner came in on Saturdays because his wife was a real estate agent so he was lonely, you had to come in on Saturdays too. It didn’t matter if you could get all your work done working Monday through Friday. Coporations tend to have across the board policies.

  24. LongTimeListenerFirstTimeCaller*

    I think the response to 3 is overly dismissive and displays the exact mindset LW3 is complaining about. I used to work as a theatre usher on top of a full time office job (so I knew both worlds) and nothing drove me more crazy than when someone told me what a great job that must be, or implied that it was easy. I recently came across the following in my Facebook memories (clearly someone had set me off at Day Job!):

    “I really hate when people don’t respect that ushering can be really hard. Not only can we be literal punching bags (certainly verbal ones), we have to deal with medical emergencies (occasional deaths), emergency evacuations of 100s to 1000s of people, drunk/drugged and disorderlies, other awful and gross behaviour I don’t care to mention… we get covered in other people’s bodily fluids (all of them…), we have to be evacuation ready, we have to be vigilant, we have to time manage, we have to be confrontational, we have to keep our calm, we have to be ready for anything… it’s not just tearing tickets and seeing shows for “free” . But people treat you like an real numpty when you say, “Well actually it’s more challenging than it seems.””

    So LW3, I feel you and I’m sorry you have to put up with this. My sister (who may read this, what up!) always says she had NO idea what ushers actually did or went through until I started doing it. The STORIES. And I didn’t even include most of the actual on the job parts in that rant above (stand for hours, navigate stairs and people in the dark, lift heavy things, etc etc), mostly just what the audience does to us!

    1. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

      I agree with you completely. I was surprised by Alison’s response that it was so dismissive. Your response was perfect. I could not have put it better.

    2. fposte*

      That’s interesting about ushering; thanks. It sounds like you’re thinking that “Well, actually it’s more challenging than it seems” didn’t really work for you, though. Is there a response that you liked better?

      FWIW, a lot of people tell me my job is easy, and I find the “I love my job!” answer suitable most of the time. But then there are some days when it’s not :-).

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I think longtimelistener beautifully described most jobs working with the public. I get the, reading all day must be amazing” comments. In most contexts I can explain briefly in a way tailored to the speaker. But it is usually in a social context where I have enough time to do that or it is at work in the middle of serving someone so there is time and a short relationship/context.

        The OP seems to be describing quick, “flyby” comments with people who might be paying for her services at some point. I dont know how to keep them happy, distress yourself from the comment, and educate the speaker in a quick one-liner!

        Maybe, “if I had a dollar for everyone who thought that was true! . . . “

        1. fposte*

          Most of the time when people say that to me it doesn’t matter if they understand my job or not, so finding something to change their mind wouldn’t be a good use of time. But if it happens with somebody with more direct relevance to your work, I can see wanting to make sure you leave the right impression.

          I think Alison was focusing largely on that first category. With most people, whether they think a job is easy or not doesn’t really matter, and it’s going to be a lot more mentally peaceful to embrace that.

    3. WillyNilly*

      I spent many years doing p/t work as a party attendant at high end ($50-150k) parties, mainly bar/bat mitzvahs. M-F I had an office job.

      By far, the office jobs have always been easier. Less fun, and less per hour pay, but easier.

      But people almost exclusively assume party work is a cake walk. “You get paid to go to parties!” As if *working* a party was the same as *attending* a party.

      I have worked retail, and as a waitress as well. The verbal abuse and entitlement of party attendees is by far the most extreme. The customer service element of party work alone is exhausting.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I certainly don’t mean to be dismissive. But the OP is reading things into the comments that likely aren’t intended, and she can’t control other people but she can control how she frames those comments in her mind.

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        I have recently learned to mentally get out the popcorn and observe work drama from a distance, ie control how I frame the comments, and it is so much better. It took me a year to be able to do it! So maybe that is the answer here – for better self care, let it go, but it is not always easy to do!

        I know no one is intending harm with these comments but it seems just like commenting on a coworker’s appearance (weight, smile, mood) or health issues. You just dont do it at work; it is part of basic respect that you are not dismissive of others. Saying “your job is easy” is dismissive even though the intention is, hello human being in my workspace, I see you and acknowledge you are here. It is very frustrating to hear it all the time and it feels like a thing that can be changed with an AAM script, like there can be some push back here.

        Upthread I thought of saying, “if only I had a dollar for everytime someone says that . . .”. It would work for my personality (tone) and context, I dont know if it would work for others.

        1. Madge*

          Or take a page from the TV show Phineas and Ferb: “If I had a nickel for every time someone said that to me….I’d have a lot of nickels.” It’s fun to say and if someone gets the reference it’s easy to change the subject.

      2. Feather*

        I actually don’t think they are. I think the thoughtlessness of the comments is, in fact, a function of their lack of respect for the work LW does.

        Very few people actually say things like “it must be so stress free to be an Olympic athlete!” Even if they think being such a thing would be great, fun and amazing. (And even though I know, personally, Olympic level athletes who find their jobs WAY less stressful than, say, the kindergarten teaching they did before.)

        That’s because even if we think it’s a dream job we value that dream job and hold it as enviable status.

        The people don’t need to INTEND for their comments to be belittling and insulting for them to be just that, or to show how little they value the work they’re dismissing. Intention isn’t magic here any more than it is with sexism.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          People have misconceptions about all kinds of jobs: teaching, librarianship, real estate, and on and on. That’s how it works; people make assumptions. Choosing to see that as insulting or belittling is reading something into it that’s just not there and is going to make you a lot less happy. I’m not going to encourage the OP to feel defensive about these comments, when they’re a fact of life in loads of professions and mean little.

          1. Feather*

            I honestly disagree with the frame you’re sticking with, and I think it’s pretty revealing.

            One can encourage positive ways of dealing with these situations without avoiding acknowledging that the assumptions made are ignorant and reveal an unfortunate bias on the part of the people making them. And honestly not doing so is in fact dismissive of the dynamics that underly the reasons that the jobs you even list here are most often the ones dismissed.

            Engaging with this is no more “encouraging [someone] to feel defensive” than engaging with cases where, for instance, a male dominated office assumes that the way to solve women not enjoying the company golf trip is to give them lessons.

            That guy didn’t mean to be belittling and unaware either. But I doubt you’d have told his female employees “oh just learn to take it in the way he means it!”

              1. Feather*

                I disagree. (And to be clear, I too am a woman, and have a number of other axes of disprivilege, so no, I’m not disagreeing without a very extensive experience of sexist bs).

                I think white collar obliviousness to classist underpinnings of what work gets valued (and how that intersects, as it does, with racism and sexism and it absolutely does) is very very pervasive. I think it’s also on display fairly flagrantly in many threads in this post, and the defensiveness about it is also *very* telling.

                That’s more than a little disappointing, but not really shocking, I suppose.

      3. Plant Lady*

        I didn’t find it dismissive; it was a brief question with a brief, fair, and reasonable answer. It was helpful to hear that what I’ve been doing so far is a good bet. It’s true that I don’t know what people are thinking, and my own feelings that day can certainly have an impact on how I interpret it.

        I do feel I need to clarify that I don’t find my job to be “high stress.” Are there stressful times? Certainly! But I don’t find myself constantly comparing the stress of my job to the stress of people at my accounts. I really do enjoy my job, am challenged by it, and learn new things all the time. The comments that I receive are such a small part of my life, and I don’t feel, usually, personally attacked or depressed because of them. Basically I was looking for some scripts that would be helpful on days when I may feel more sensitive.

        I deal with challenges at work just as anybody else does, no matter their position. I may have a difficult client, a problem that needs an urgent solution, scheduling issues, etc., and I think that someone telling me that I have no stress in my job implies that I am different or separate from them. But I’m really not! I’m at work too, making money, achieving goals, problem solving, and then going home and living my life.

        I really do appreciate all the comments. I am surprised at how much this resonated with a lot of people, and it’s a bit of a bummer that so many people deal with similar comments in their work. At least we know we’re not alone!

    5. Feather*

      Hard agree. I don’t think the strong class associations between office work vs other kinds of work (particularly physical kinds like horticulture and ushering and so on) is unrelated either, and a few threads here are kind of showcasing that.

    6. Close Bracket*

      I’ve ushed, and I guess I had it easy! Maybe bc I was volunteer rather than a paid worker? I don’t think a venue would want it’s volunteers handling medical emergencies just due to liability, and I’ve never received any training in evacuating any place I’ve ushed at. I did have a minor medical event at a gig, and I made sure the person’s caretaker was handling it and I went and found a manager.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d also add: It’s okay for some jobs to be easier/less stressful than others. That’s not an insult (and it indicates something really problematic about our culture that we think it is).

      (That’s not a commentary on the OP’s job, which I know nothing about — just the general concept.)

    8. Lissa*

      I didn’t really find it dismissive, just acknowledging the reality – honestly every job has its downsides. My job is something that a lot of people like the idea of and honestly a lot of the time it is really awesome! But sometimes it’s hard too.

      I think it depends on your goal with the interaction. I really do understand the urge to make people “get” that your job is difficult, but I think that is unlikely to work well, so it’s best to just move on. I think most people see things through their own lens but really it’s likely just a throwaway remark and if you really had a serious conversation with them, I’m sure they realize all jobs have their downsides.

      I just don’t think it’ll be useful/beneficial to try to explain to them how hard your job is.

    9. Gumby*

      Where are you ushering?!?!?! That sounds nightmarish!

      I volunteer as an usher and while we get complaints from time to time from patrons, it is nowhere near the level of drama you get – for one, there are no bodily fluids! We’re still talking about the one time 3 years ago one patron tripped on the stairs and fell. But at our venue the average age of the patrons tends to be on the higher side, particularly for the Sunday afternoon quartet type performances.

  25. just trying to help*

    #1 – “Biff, let’s take this conversation offline”. Usually, saying something like this with “taking it offline” tends to signal to everyone that Biff tried to derail to meeting and will be getting a trip to the woodshed. He really has problems with you as a authority figure, OP, and he might have wanted your job. A very professional, private conversation with him is probably needed sometime in the near future about what he is doing, what he wants to get out of his job, what his goals are, and his incessant need to always be right. Many times, pointing out facts do not fix these problems because it has nothing to do with the facts. Its feelings.

    1. JanetM*

      Interesting; when my grandboss uses the phrase “take it offline,” it’s usually about a question he initiated. That is, someone will make a statement, grandboss will ask a question, there’ll be some discussion, and he’ll wrap it up by suggesting that it be taken offline so the current meeting can proceed. There doesn’t seem to be any sense of “this was out of line,” just “this was more complex than I expected.” In fact, sometimes he even phrases his question as, “We need to take this offline, but I want to talk in the near future about how to handle X. [Speaker], please continue with your presentation.”

      But context is everything, and I could be wrong.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think it’s all in the tone. Both that of the person running the meeting, asking to take it offline, and in the general tone of the meetings.

  26. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – think of it like arguing with a toddler…just don’t do it because it will only lead to more frustration. It’s not so much about who’s right and who’s wrong here. You’re the manager and if you say you want something done a certain way, your team needs to respect that and do it your way. Unless they can come up with a legitimate reason that another way may work better for you to consider, there shouldn’t be a discussion. And in this guy’s case, it sounds like he’s one of those people who always needs to be right regardless of if he is right or not. When he tries to argue, don’t engage. Shut it down immediately by saying something like “Well we’re going to do it this way. Moving on now…”, and then have a 1-on-1 chat later to address it.

  27. Bagpuss*

    LW#1 – I think that you can address it iwith him in private – both to make clear that while you are happy to hear *constructive* comments and criticism, having him derailing by making rude (and inccurate) comments is hot appropriate. Perhaps use the example of him having claimed that things had not been done the way you described in the past, you mgith be saying somthing like “For instnace, in our last meeting, I went over a process. You interrrupted to say it had never bendone that way in the past. Even if you had ben correct, that comment woul not have been helpful, or moved the meeting long at all, so it was not necessary. Obviously if the real issue was that you were unclear on the process then asking a qustion to make sure you understood what needed to be done would be absolutely fine. Do you understand?

    In the moment, I think you can treat in in a simialr way, Rather than assuming he is challenging you, treatit as if it is him dmirtting that he doesn’t undersstand or can’t remember, perhaps by saying something like “I’ll be happy to go over it woth you in our one one one,Bob – now, moving on”

    In other words, as Alison says, don’t try to argue or convince him then and there.

    Depending on the specifc peope invovle, you ana also make a little bit of a joke of it – e.g. “OK, it sounds as though Bob doesn’t remember the pocedure from whn we used to use – is eveyone happy they know how to do it now, whether from membory or from the outlike I just gave? If not, let me know and we can sort out a cribb-sheet / refresher training”

  28. Yogi's Pick-a-nic bassskit*

    It’s a good bet the reason he fights that “you’ve never done it this way before”, is that he never fully took your instructions on board. He did his part his own way. He bears watching closely and maybe pull back in others’ critiquing your ideas and such.

  29. HistoryGeeksUnite*

    LW #2 — As a frequent flyer for my company and for my own personal vacations, I receive upgrades all the time and it’s not as easy as just refuse it because once you’ve been upgraded, your original seat is typically gone. It was never a problem until I got a new boss who deeply resented me for getting upgrades when she didn’t and had no problem making it personal. I tried to counter it by pointing out how much I travel for personal trips and therefore wasn’t earning my miles only with the company but it didn’t seem to make a difference. When we had to fly together or when I was flying with one of her friends (who seemed to get great pleasure of being a pot stirrer), I was always the last person to board so no one was walking past me. *Loved* the flights that boarded from the middle so that BC went to the left and economy went to the right.

    1. ClashRunner*

      I had a similar experience with an unreasonable boss. My FF status is actually primarily because of personal travel (I live halfway across the US from my parents) and occasionally I’ll get an upgrade. It happened once while traveling to a conference with said boss. Boss acted personally offended and said my options were either to decline the upgrade or give it to her–basically, under no circumstances would she allow me to fly Business class. I tried to decline but was told my original seat was no longer available. I’m not sure if that was actually the case, or if the ticketing agent told a little white lie, because he was definitely shocked at my boss’s behavior! I may have been inclined to suck it up, but she’d attempted to pull something similar when we were booking hotels, so I kept the upgrade for myself.

  30. Jack Be Nimble*

    #2: I had to fly on Christmas last year, and also on my flight was a young family with two kids. One of the parents completely ignored the fussy toddlers for an hour at the gate, and then sat in first class while their spouse and both kids were in coach. Be better than that person. Fly economy with your boss.

  31. Dill*

    Removed because off-topic. Regulars who know the rules here, please do not reply to off-topic queries; it incentivizes people to continue doing posting them and makes more work for me to clean up.

    1. SezU*

      Assuming you mean to do this today… But if you can put it off, yes, dress up a bit since they may be on the lookout for you.

  32. lnelson in Tysons*

    #5 wished that I had thought of something similar. Although, one office didn’t actually have a dish washer.
    Most of the guys were good (I was often the only female in the office) a few not so much.
    One of them once asked me (I think that I have told this story before) who was responsible for doing the dishes in the office. I said that everyone was supposed to be doing their own. He pointed out that there were several dirty dishes in the sink so who was going to do them. Looking at me as if to say” well aren’t you?” To which I responded: “I was done cleaning up after others and that I had jumped on the same bandwagon that the men in the office were on. I was waiting for the magic fairies to do them”

  33. RainbowsAndKitties*

    OP #3

    I used to work at a dog daycare, and would get similar comments. Yes, the job was rewarding and I enjoyed it. But it wasn’t just playing with dogs all day. I mean, I spent most of the day cleaning up various body fluids/excrement. I also had to be on constant alert to make sure that the dogs were kept safe; ready to step in and prevent/break up a fight in a moment’s notice. Depending on the kind of day it could be stressful. But it was very rewarding. I think that’s where a lot of the comments came from: people don’t find their jobs rewarding, but it just comes out in weird ways. Glad you have a job that you love!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I used to work at a dog daycare, and would get similar comments.

      “Fun? I guess it’s as fun and relaxing as working at a human daycare.”

  34. SezU*

    The CEO of my company flies a lot. He seems to always get a free upgrade to first class due to his status. When he and I travel together occasionally, he always gives me his seat and he takes my seat in coach. Reason #4573 that I love this company!

  35. Lexi Kate*

    #3 I think it is always going to depend on who you are talking to on this. My sister is a pediatric trauma nurse so when people say their job is the most stress-full job it seems like a condescending comment, because saving dying babies from gunshot wounds really doesn’t have a comparable anything. I work in finance for an insurance company so I live in the realm of my job will never be more than anything of my sisters (she wins on stress level, most rewarding, most impactful) except I get paid more. It has taken a while but you have to let go of what your job is not to other people. I love my job and think I do a lot of good for the masses, but explaining that a finance person in big insurance is doing good for the world never works out.

    1. fposte*

      It’s also okay for a job to be less stressful! I think it’s very 2019 and maybe very American to take “stressful” as a measure of your work’s value. That’s part of the beauty of the “I love my job!” response–it bucks the “no pain, no value” myth and lets you cheerfully brag that your job is awesome.

      1. Lissa*

        YES this is such a great point. I think that it’s similar to the “must be nice to afford that vacation” comments. It’s so tempting to answer like “well actually I have struggled a ton over my life, I grew up poor, I worked my butt off to…” or “well, you bought a new car recently and I don’t drive so I save money there and and and…” But I think that really plays into the struggle competition, so now I just smile and say “yup sure is!”

  36. Queen Anne*

    I would probably say to my boss “hey, looks like your seat is in coach. Why don’t you move to business class so we can sit together?”. Notice “move” and not “upgrade”. Or, at the last minute I might say “Oh, had I known you were in coach, I might have planned to sit with you”.
    Who knows, maybe the boss is flying coach because he knows the LW is flying business and he likes to travel without sitting next to his/her direct reports. If the company allows for business class in certain circumstances, that is what I am doing. My boss does not get to dictate where I sit. I travel a lot now for business and I decide my seat assignment and will pay for my own upgrades without batting an eye. Where you sit on a plane is, if in your control, a personal choice.

  37. Alli525*

    OP #2 – if your boss has an ASSISTANT who booked the travel, you could ask that person instead of your boss about the travel rule. Less risk that way of your boss conveying that he prefers everyone to always fly economy.

  38. Larry Nyquil*

    OP 2: As a larger man I physically can’t fit in the economy seats on flights. That’s about the only time I’d think it’s acceptable.

  39. Amber Rose*

    #3, what if you changed the word easy, to fun? Many jobs are not easy, but a lot of them are enjoyable enough that people want to do them anyway. Case in point, you! You love your job even though it sounds like a TON of work.

    Just as many of us are doing jobs that aren’t easy that we don’t even enjoy, so you’re probably seeing some envy from people who wish they could be having as much fun as you. Heck, that’s me right now. I’d love a job where the only living creatures I have to worry about keeping alive are green and leafy, hard work or not. I don’t exactly hate my job, but desk jobs can be kind of soul sucking. Not to mention how messed up my back and legs are from sitting all the time. =P

    1. Amber Rose*

      Oop, that came across a bit more dismissive than I meant. What I mean is, I much prefer working with things that don’t talk. If plants suddenly started talking, I would no longer envy your job. I didn’t mean to imply that keeping them alive was somehow less/easier than keeping non leafy things alive.

      1. Plant Lady*

        I don’t think it was dismissive, just honest. And I get that some people want to think about doing different work because their own can be “soul sucking.” I’ve done office work and it really wasn’t for me, but I understand that a lot of people do it for a lot of different reasons. Thanks for the input, and good luck with your back and legs!

  40. Plantsforever*

    OP 3 – oh my gosh I know what you mean. I took a plant health diagnostics class in college because I was thinking of majoring in landscaping. It was one of the hardest classes that I have taken. Plant deficiencies, pests problems, growing a permanent greenhouses and working about over crowding…. So much to do! I totally disagree with hobbyist on here. This isn’t a job that just keeps a plant on a window sill or let your garden grow outside, it’s way way more intense than that. I can understand your frustrations with people looking down on you because, you’re right, it’s a lot harder than people think and it isn’t always fun. Especially if there is a pest or disease issues and a batch of plants have to be tossed. Even harder if the greenhouse is infected. I don’t see anything wrong with saying “it’s actually a hard/high demand/stressful job, but I love/enjoy it”.
    People shouldn’t be allowed to make assumptions about our jobs and expect us to smile and keep quiet about it while assuming good intentions – that wrecks of old fashion sexism.

    1. Amber Rose*

      “People shouldn’t be allowed to make assumptions about our jobs and expect us to smile and keep quiet about it while assuming good intentions – that wrecks of old fashion sexism.”

      That’s way too black and white of a viewpoint. If the assumption someone makes about my job is that it’s women’s work, or super easy, or that I got it through sleeping with someone, then yeah, I would fight back, because that’s insulting as hell.

      But if the assumption is “oh that sounds fun” is it really worth challenging? Most people do have good intentions and are just a little ignorant, and assuming that they’re all insulting or putting you down is a terrible, negative way to live.

      1. MattersSeen*

        “super easy…..I would fight back, because that’s insulting as hell.”
        Except that’s what the op thinks they are doing.

        “Most people do have good intentions and are just a little ignorant, and assuming that they’re all insulting or putting you down is a terrible, negative way to live.”
        That’s incredible off topic and she wasn’t looking for life advice.

  41. pleaset*

    @OP3 I work in a field that often sounds interesting and fulfilling, and while it can be that way sometimes, usually it’s just tedious work.

    Still, a lot of people say things like “Ooh, that sounds so interesting.” And you know what? I don’t care that they think differently than the reality. They’re just talking and they don’t know better. I don’t let it bother me – I have more important things to think about. I just say “Sometimes it is.”

  42. BigTenProfessor*

    #2 — I once got upgraded on a flight with my boss, and briefly felt guilty. Then I remembered the reason I got upgraded was because I had flown over 50,000 miles the previous year in a role that was not supposed to be a “road warrior.”

    1. Michael Valentine*

      When I was a trainer, we traveled a ton. We all celebrated each other’s upgrades. You know why? Because being a road warrior is hard, and we all deserved some warm mixed nuts and maybe a glass of champagne every now and then!

  43. Attempting2Direct*

    10/10 on the no hiring friends policy. It’s mine now as well after learning the hard way (twice).

  44. The Photographer's Husband*

    OP #5, I’m jealous of your success story. My office finally took away all our dishes, mugs, and utensils (even the disposable ones!) because people couldn’t get it through their head that it is not part of our office manager’s job description to clean up the sink.

    1. tangerineRose*

      An office I used to work at actually threw out dishes, etc. I kept thinking, couldn’t they at least donate them somewhere if they had to get rid of them?

  45. GS*

    OP #3, former plant tech here too, I did it for years and loved the job! If you can say it in the right tone – which is completely agreeable, accepting, and maybe a little conspiratorial – you can get away with “I do love plants! Some days I do wish I could just sit down for a living though” or “some days I wish all I had to deal with was a computer!”

    I might not recommend that tactic since if you don’t do it right it can misfire substantially, but I have definitely done it. More often I just introduced pieces of information about my work a little at a time, so folks who were interested learned that there was more to it.

  46. RadManCF*

    #3, I’m curious as to whether the people who don’t take your job seriously have much experience with plants themselves. As a hobbyist gardener myself, I’m baffled by how anyone could consider plant care to be easy. The way you describe your job, you seem as though your skill and responsibility level is comparable to that of an arborist or groundskeeper, and perhaps it could be worth comparing yourself to those occupations.

  47. MoopySwarpet*

    For OP2 – maybe boss is booked in economy because there’s a good chance they’ll get upgrade.

  48. RUKiddingMe*

    OP1: “You seem to have misunderstood. I wasn’t asking for opinions. I was telling you how it is to be done. Let’s move on.”

    If he continues, send him out of the meeting. Give him a time out at his desk to think about his behavior.

    Also document *everything.*

  49. Sleepless*

    I wish society could just pass a rule that says “no comments about how easy other people’s jobs look!” Almost everybody’s job is harder than it looks.

  50. LSP*

    OP #3 – I would just like to say, as someone who has success in keeping both pets and children alive and thriving, but can barely keep a couple of Pothos alive in my house, as someone who has literally killed cacti and aloe plants, and who has no feel for plant life whatsoever, nothing about your job sounds easy to me.

    1. RUKiddingMe*

      Yep. Anyone that can keep plants alive (fellow cacti killer here) is a goddess AFAIC.

    2. Becky*

      I to have killed multiple aloe plants. And the Rosemary plant my friend gave me for my birthday in February was dead by May.

      My sister once had a part-time job doing the indoor-plant upkeep at a number of businesses. Until she told me about the job it had never occurred to me that there were businesses that specialized in doing that upkeep for client companies.

  51. Crooked Bird*

    I work with plants too. Though mostly farming & gardening. Lots of pet peeves here about how people think farming is unskilled labor. Nope folks, even *farm labor* is not unskilled labor, no-one’s born knowing how to hoe, and you (dear random reader) may know “how” to hoe but unless you’ve both put in many hours and learned good technique, you’re probably the equivalent of a hunt-and-peck typist with it, in which case hiring you to do it would be a loss. And even taking you on as an intern would need to be weighed against the farm manager’s time.

    Anyway, a nice response, which would be true for me and may be for you (OP) would be a nice amused smile and a gentle “Well, it is *satisfying.*” Your tone should be going for the subtext “It’s kind of cute that you think it’s easy, but I forgive you and understand you’re indulging in a fantasy and I’ll throw you a bone about the fun aspects.” This takes you right off the defensive and puts you gently one-up–hopefully gently enough not to offend.

    1. tangerineRose*

      I get annoyed that people look down on people because of their jobs. Farming sounds incredibly hard and risky.

  52. nnn*

    There’s a contrary little part of my brain that looks at that note in the sink and starts wondering if you could erase some letters to make it say something else

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You should like one of the naughty gremlins that works with me, we’d all be trying to make it say something else over time, not gonna lie.

  53. iiii*

    OP1, this would probably be bad management, but I’m wondering how much of the Argument Clinic sketch you could maneuver him into doing with you, if you told your team you wanted all further disagreements in the form of an argument.

    Man: An argument isn’t just contradiction.
    Mr. Vibrating: It can be.
    Man: No it can’t. An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition.
    Mr. Vibrating: No it isn’t.
    Man: Yes it is! It’s not just contradiction.
    Mr. Vibrating: Look, if I argue with you, I must take up a contrary position.
    Man: Yes, but that’s not just saying ‘No it isn’t.’
    Mr. Vibrating: Yes it is!
    Man: No it isn’t!
    Man: Argument is an intellectual process. Contradiction is just the automatic gainsaying of any statement the other person makes.
    (short pause)
    Mr. Vibrating: No it isn’t.

  54. Bebe*

    #3 – I’m a massage therapist. I feel your pain. Sometimes people are dismissive of me when I say what I do – as though since I’m part of the service industry my job is not challenging, interesting, or impressive enough for them. If they seem open to it, I will educate them about what I do. You could try to develop a quick statement – I say “I’m a massage therapist, working with patients recovering from injuries or chronic conditions in a clinical setting.” Long winded and a little pompous, yes, but sometimes it leads to interesting conversations, and helps people understand that it’s not just being paid to basically pet human beings. Otherwise, if they still seem dismissive, I figure it says a lot more about them than it does me.

    Personally, I think your job sounds super interesting! If we met, I’d ask you a million questions about your job and try really hard (and fail!) not to ask you about my maybe-dying golden ginger plant.

  55. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #3, I hope to help by saying that you’re not alone, it happens in a lot of professions, even the ones you generally don’t think it would like executive level work.

    I come from a family of laborers and they think my job is “easy” because I’m not on my feet all day, destroying my body like they did for their jobs. My brother makes comments about my very standardized schedule and even when I’m working long weeks, I tend to always get weekends off, etc. I respect everything they do and understand where they’re coming from.

    In the end it’s ignorance. I taught myself to stop internalizing their comments and reminding myself “not a malicious statement, they’re just uninformed.” and to go about my business. It’s easier to fix our reactions than it is to teach others to change themselves =)

    I respect anyone who works, I don’t care if they’re busing tables, washing my dogs butt, preforming transplant surgery or building houses on the moon. You’re a skilled, important person and you are doing your part to keep the world a nice place. Thank you. I never knew that people were contracted to care for plants like that, it’s amazing and wonderful because so many offices abuse their plants =(

    1. Plant Lady*

      That’s helpful to hear. It must be tough having your family be the ones who comment on your work. At least in my case, it’s people I’ll only see a few times a month!

      Most of the people who I interact with are great, they ask me questions, chat with me, and are helpful. It feels so foreign to me to comment so explicitly on someone else’s work, but people just say things sometimes!

  56. nnn*

    For #3, a useful script might be “I enjoy the challenge”

    You can even say this without disagreeing or arguing with whatever it is they say to you.

    Them: “Must be nice, just watering plants all day.”
    You: “Yes, I enjoy the challenge! It’s very satisfying caring for living things, problem-solving, doing physical work.”

  57. Staxman*

    I shared the “I care for plants” post with the woman who cares for the plants at my workplace. She could totally relate, said she encounters similar comments, but she loves her work and doesn’t let it bother her.

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