my boss says “yes, my child,” I don’t want to travel to an unsafe country, and more

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

1. My boss says “yes, my child”

My boss tends to operate informally, preferring “drop in” conversations to formal meetings. I needed to check in with him about a project I was working on, and so when I saw him sitting in a common area I asked if he had a minute to talk. He was composing an email on his phone, so asked me to wait a moment while he finished. When he was done, he turned to me and said, “Yes, my child.” I was a little thrown off — it felt pretty infantilizing! I was too taken aback to say anything in the moment, but it’s still sitting wrong with me. I’ve spoken with a couple of trusted colleagues, and apparently this is something he says to lots of folks. At least one person has given him feedback on this, and he has stopped doing it to that person, but he seems not to have realized that the fact that one person finds this infantilizing might mean that other people find it infantilizing too.

I want to say something to him, but I’m not sure how to put it. He can be somewhat dismissive of feedback he doesn’t want to hear, but I do think he needs to hear that a male boss calling a female subordinate “my child” is … not great. I don’t think his intent is to belittle, but that doesn’t change the impact. Can you suggest any scripts for what to say?

I would assume it’s a reference to all the literary/movie characters/religious leaders/wizards/fairy godmothers who say “yes, my child,” rather than him actually referring to you as a child. It’s a little self-aggrandizing (it sets him up as the wise elder statesman) but I’m sure he means it as a jokey reference to that trope.

But you can still ask him to stop. I don’t think it’s a big enough thing to go raise with him if it doesn’t happen again, but if he does say it again, you could just say, “Oooh, I don’t like that” right in the moment and that would probably be enough. Or, “I know you’re joking, but I’d rather you not call me your child — it sounds infantilizing to me. Thank you!”

2. I don’t want to take a work trip to a country with a State Department travel warning

I work for a small technology company that provides services to other businesses. As part of our jobs, we occasionally travel to customer sites for meetings and training sessions. All of these components can be done remotely and are only done on-site when the customer requests and agrees to pay for it.

One customer has an office in El Salvador. They have many other offices in North America but they are heavily leaning on us to fly to the El Salvador office. The state department has a level three travel advisory listed for El Salvador with a recommendation to reconsider travel. In the travel notes, they recommend not going out after dark and say things like “don’t resist if someone tries to rob you.”

I feel very uncomfortable as a young single woman traveling alone to this type of location for something that isn’t necessary and isn’t a contractual obligation. I’ve let my manager and his manager know that I’m very uncomfortable with this idea due to safety concerns but they haven’t told the customer no. How do I push back on this to my manager?

It sounds like you’ve said you feel uncomfortable but haven’t explicitly said no. Say this: “I’ve given it a lot of thought and this isn’t a trip I can do, given the State Department guidance. I’m of course wiling to do the work remotely, as we do for other clients, but going there in person is off the table for me until the travel advisory changes.”

3. My employee is pregnant but hasn’t said anything

I’m the vice president of a company and I recently found out through the grapevine (social media) that an employee is pregnant and expecting in October. However, she hasn’t said anything to me or management, and she has known this for a few weeks now. How should I proceed?

Say and do nothing. The employee gets to tell you on her own timeline, and there’s nothing you need to do right now that you won’t be able to do in a month or two.

And really, the fact that she’s known she’s pregnant for a few weeks means nothing! That’s not a long time at all when it comes to pregnancy … and you should factor in that you don’t even know what her plans might be. For example, if she’s grappling with whether to have or keep the baby, or if there are health issues that mean the baby may not be carried to term (which she might have learned about after whatever was mentioned on social media), you’d probably understand more why she hasn’t announced it at work yet. But even if that’s not the case, her timeline here is fine, and things are far away from the point where you need to worry about when she’ll announce.

Also, if anyone else brought this news to you (like if someone told you they saw it on her social media), shut it down with them too, by reminding them that people deserve privacy around this kind of thing until they’re ready to share it at work.

4. Contacting the person who’s currently in the job I’m applying for

I am applying for a job at a company I have been wanting to work at for a while and have a few connections on LinkedIn at that company already. I came across the person whose job I am applying for and was wondering if it would be acceptable to reach out to them to touch base on the job and tips for being successful at the specific role?

Don’t do that, for a few reasons: First, you don’t even have an interview yet, and it’s not a good use of this person’s time to talk to you about how to be successful in the role before the company has decided it considers you a strong contender. Second, it’s likely to come across as trying to circumvent the company’s normal application process. Third, you don’t know enough about this person to know how they’re perceived — for example, if they’re being pushed out because of low performance, hearing that they gave you tips on the job is potentially going to be a weird thing for your interviewers.

If you become a finalist or get an offer, at that point you could ask if you can talk with the person currently in the role about their experience with it — but it would be premature now.

(This all assumes the person isn’t a direct contact of yours. If you actually know them personally, none of the above applies and you can talk with them now.)

5. I was rejected, but then my contact got me an interview

I applied for an entry level job and within 12 days, I was notified that I was no longer in consideration. In the application, I was asked if I knew anybody in the company to which I listed a family friend. A week after my rejection, my family friend reached out and informed me that she was able to secure a phone screening, circumventing my rejection.

How do I know if I am a courtesy interview? How do I cope, move forward, and prepare with motivation for the screening with the knowledge that I was rejected before? Have you encountered this before, and if so, what are my chances at scoring the position? Does my referral afford me a chance at the lottery or a genuine opportunity?

It depends. It’s possible that this is just a courtesy interview, but it’s also possible that your contact said something that convinced them to give you a serious second look. (For example, if she’d said something like “It’s true that she doesn’t have a ton of experience, but she’s smart, a fast learner, and great at customer service, and I think she could be really strong for the role” it’s possible that would be enough to reverse the earlier rejection and get you further serious consideration, if it’s a job that doesn’t require a specific type of experience.)

There’s no way to really know, but the best thing to do is to wipe the earlier rejection from your head and move forward as you would if that had never happened. I know that can be hard to do, but keep in mind that lots of good candidates get rejected simply because there aren’t enough slots to interview them all. So the rejection doesn’t necessarily mean they thought you were an obvious no.

{ 441 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, the only context in which this sounds like it could be remotely possible is if your boss were a priest/minister and you were working for the church (or a church-affiliated organization).

    1. Sara M*

      I think Alison has it right. It’s a joke reference to fairy godmothers and the like. I’d bet he means no harm. Still, you can absolutely tell him to stop. In this case, I bet he will once he realizes it doesn’t give you a smile. (I personally would laugh if my boss said this!)

      1. Jasnah*

        Agreed. The correct responses are
        “Grand Vizier, I beseech you, please offer your guidance in this troubling time.”
        “My dear Gandalf!”

        Personally I would make more and more obscure LOTR references until he got the hint or I got bored. The love of the halfings’ leaf has clearly slowed his mind.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Yup. I had the same associations. But I do think it’s a joke that is best kept within a certain context, because the most obvious cultural context is likely to be religious, and that’s a weird element to bring into the workplace.

          I hope OP feels comfortable asking him to stop using it with her.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            Hah, we had an employee who would pass out office supplies while going “I am a river unto my people.” I thought it was hilarious.

            1. Forrest Rhodes*

              Did he use the huge Anthony Quinn voice, and were his arms stretched wide? This is one of my favorite Quinn performances, and my family enjoyed using the line at the slightest provocation.

          2. Psyche*

            Yeah. The joke is not landing right (and seems overused if he does it often). He should stop and it seems like he doesn’t pick up those cues well.

          3. AnnaBananna*

            LOL My first thought was ‘does he think he’s Oprah or something?!’, so…yeah. Cultural references = hard.

          1. LSP*

            I don’t think the implication here was to make hints to get him to stop, but that Jasnah was suggesting they might play along, because they find it amusing.

          2. Kathleen_A*

            I have to say that’s exactly what I would do. “Oh, great wizard, I beseech thee to offer guidance and counsel!” Then, if it annoyed me (it would depend on the person doing this whether it would or not), I would add, “I crave pardon but request that you desist from addressing me as ‘child’.” If it didn’t annoy me, I would just play along, throwing in as many LOTR or Dresden File references as I could think of.

            But that’s me, not the OP, and so if the OP doesn’t want to play along, a simple, direct, but *pleasant* request, as scripted by Alison, would work, too. I really do think the guy is almost certainly not doing this as any kind of power play or anything. He’s just making a joke, but there’s no reason why the OP needs to put up with a joke that he or she doesn’t find funny. But in asking for it to stop, do try to at least act as though you know it’s intended as a little bit of humor.

            1. MommyMD*

              Yes. I think it’s obviously not done with malice and turning it into a big serious THING is not the way to go. I’d avoid the big talk.

              1. Laoise*

                Asking an employee to play-pretend that you and them are having a religious interaction is really inappropriate.

                As this religion’s official position is that I should not be equal in matters of law and employment, having a boss pretend to be a leader in that religion when interacting with me would be really malicious to me.

                1. Jasnah*

                  Woof. It’s a JOKE, he’s not actually trying to anoint himself as a religious leader. Interpreting this as malicious is like being offended at “you’re welcome” because how dare they try to rename you! It’s being angry at a situation you invented just for sport.

                2. Kathleen_A*

                  Golly. I really do think you are, shall we say, over-interpreting this, Laoise. It is, as Jasnah says, just a joke. It may not be a good joke (though I can definitely imagine circumstances when it would be pretty funny) and it does sound as though he may be using it a little too often. But to assume maliciousness when (almost certainly) none is intended is…not a good idea. It would make the OP unhappier than he or she needs to be. So why do it?

                  If you don’t like it, ask him to stop – *nicely*. It’s as simple as that.

          3. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I agree OP should be direct, especially since it seems that the boss will stop calling people that if they ask. My boss who is older than me, but still young mid 40’s, will call us “kids” similar to OP my boss does it with everyone in the office (both males and females), including a few coworkers who are the same age if not older than the boss. For what it is worth, I am male and boss is female. It bothered me slightly the first time I heard it, but once I realized she was doing it to everyone in the office it bothered me a lot less. It still bothers me a tiny amount, but not enough to say something. I feel comfortable enough to say something about it, and am confident that the boss would stop if asked. But for me it does not bother me enough to bring it up. I can definitely imagine this bothering me more if I didn’t like my boss, and/or was unhappy with my job. If I did say something it would be something direct “Actually could you please not call me kid(s) thanks.”

            1. CC*

              I, at age 21 or 22, was walking around my college town and calling everyone kids, even people older than me. I told the person I was with “everyone under 35 is a kid.” I luckily do not manage people.

              1. ChimericalOne*

                Same. Wasn’t until I was like, 25, that someone told me that that was weird. After that, I tried to stop. (And mostly succeeded!)

            2. Annnonymous*

              One of my execs who is in his 60s calls me kiddo. I’m maybe 10-15 years younger than him (I’m 48). It’s just his way. I’m certain he’d quit if I told him it bothered me but, like you, it doesn’t. I think he probably sees me as younger than I actually am (is that face cream working? maaaaaybe). Point being, I don’t think it’s alway patronizing or malicious – it’s just his way.

              Now if he called me “girlie” or “missy” or “little lady” or some other gendered diminutive, I’d shut that shit down in a heartbeat. “My child” is edging up on weird, and can have some icky religious connotations, but I would hope that someone just telling the OP’s offender, “Hey, can you not refer to me as “my child” for or ” would be enough to get him to stop.

              1. alsoakiddo*

                Thank you for this! I have a very similar situation (except the older gentleman in question is at the same level as me), and it has irritated me. But you know, he’s a really nice guy and an ally, and I recognize that it’s a term of endearment for him. He likes working with me too and even gave me a really nice compliment last week in front of my boss. So I’ll just take it as it is obviously intended.

                1. Annnonymous*

                  Exactly! I couldn’t think of “term of endearment”! The day he stops calling me “kiddo”, I’m going to wonder what’s wrong.

        2. Washi*

          Yeah, this was my immediate read on it.

          OP, if you want to take a softer approach, if he does it again, you could try acting super confused. “What? Why are you calling me your child? Is that a reference to something?” Usually explaining a joke makes feel less funny so having to spell it out for you may make him unlikely to use it again. (Or if he does, “What- ohhh right the wizard joke. Anyway….” will again signal that you’re not into this particular form of humor.)

          1. Jasnah*

            Yep. If you don’t like it, no need to play along, just “huh? I don’t get it.” No need to come up with a snappy comeback.

        3. Alianora*

          Ok those are funny responses, but if the LW wants the “my child”-ing to stop, joking will only encourage the manager further.

        4. AKchic*

          I have a colleague who does the “yes my child” bit. I usually reply “Oh Great Rama-lama-Ding-Dong, I beseech thee!” and then generally just tell him what I need.

          Never give an improv actor an opening. We’ll go all in.

      2. Tomato Frog*

        I say “my child” to people sometimes (not at work!) and when I do, I’m doing a priest bit. It is certainly not in any way intended to imply I think of them as children.

        If I did do it at work, I would only say it to a peer, though. There are a lot of things that scan differently with a power dynamic than without.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          There’s power differentials among peers, though, too, based on age, gender, race, expertise, relative time at the company.

          I love LotR, but I would never say this to someone at work. I’d actually never say this to anyone who’s not a child, because it does actually imply that you perceive a differential between you (The Wizard) and the audience. I am a subject matter expert, but I find people are more open with me when I don’t act like it.

        2. Moray*

          I’ve used “you sweet summer child” when a coworker is being overly optimistic about something.

          1. VictorianCowgirl*

            That phrase is terribly insulting and condescending. I would be really upset if a peer said that to me at work.

            1. Zillah*

              You’re of course entitled to feel however you’d like, but “terribly insulting and condescending” feel like you’re reading a lot of implications into the phrase that most people are not thinking about at all.

              1. MommyMD*

                We do live in a time now where people tend to internalize and overreact to even benign things. At work I really watch what I say because who knows what sets people off.

                1. Indigo a la mode*

                  I think it’s more accurate to say that we live in a time where people who have been muffled for a long time finally feel empowered to call out offensive things, even if someone else thinks they’re benign.

                  Watching what you say is wise counsel no matter where you are, because “watching what you say” usually is actually “being polite and kind.”

            2. Courageous cat*

              Yeah. Like, it’s not inherently insulting and condescending, but the context in which people use it almost always is (in my experience). It’s the same thing as “bless your heart”.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I wouldn’t say something like that even with peers. A co-worker used to call me ‘young lady’ and claimed it was a term of endearment. Yeah, no. He didn’t treat me like a teenager, but the term was just not appropriate.

          1. roisin54*

            A former co-worker (who actually is old enough to be my mother) once called me “young lady” while we were arguing. She was definitely using the term to try to put me in my place, but it just set me off again and made an already volatile situation even worse. That term is only appropriate (to me) if it’s used in a clearly joking situation or from one’s parents.

      3. CheeryO*

        Exactly. My old boss used to call people “earthlings,” and I could easily see him saying “my child” in a silly way. He was a very quirky guy, and it was endearing. If it bugs, just ask him to stop, because I’m sure he’s just trying to be goofy/friendly.

        1. VictorianCowgirl*

          Exactly. There is such a thing as being too sensitive as opposed to having a sense of humor and standing on your own worth.

        2. MommyMD*

          Agree. Personally this is at the bottom of the list of things that would bother me at work.

      4. LSP*

        I have a coworker who says, “Yes, my child” all the time, especially in the context of her asking someone to wait a few minutes to speak with her while she finishes something up, just like OP’s boss did.

        However, my coworker, while slightly older than me, and older than a few of the other people in our office, is pretty low in terms of seniority/power, so the reference is definitely a slightly nerdy one, and not anything that could be considered infantilizing. She is also known to be a bit eccentric and geeky, so these comments have a context that lets you know she’s just joking.

        I completely get why OP isn’t comfortable with it, though, and she should just say so.

      5. wittyrepartee*

        Or: “Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been two days since my last check-in”

        1. Jadelyn*

          Oh man, I could see saying this back to my boss – bonus hilarity points because he’s a pastor (not Catholic, but still) and I’m a very open pagan, and we have similar irreverent senses of humor.

        2. Kendra*


          This was the mental image I had, too: boss as priest in the confessional (do they even still use that in real life? I haven’t been Catholic for a few decades now), finishing up with one person (whoever the email was for), and then inviting the next one in. I really doubt it was intended to refer to OP as an actual child, just as a mildly nerdy/jokey way of saying, “Next!” (Then again, a lot about this kind of stuff can come across in the tone of voice and facial expressions, so maybe he was being condescending, and that’s just not coming across through the basic wording? Only OP knows, but if none of that was present, and he doesn’t do it again, I’d definitely let it go.)

      6. LaurenB*

        It’s a little scary how many people are so literal and actually think he’s referring to the person as a child. It is exactly along the lines of “wise move, grasshopper.” It’s just a reference to a trope.

        1. Lana Kane*

          This is why I have cut down on anything jokey at work. Things can get taken surprisingly and disappointingly literally.

          1. MommyMD*

            Exactly. Triggering is the thing these days. Not to discount OPs annoyance. She can just say “oh I haven’t been a child for a long time” in a pleasant tone and move on with her question.

      7. MommyMD*

        I would just reply “I haven’t been a child for a long time” and proceed with my question instead of getting into a convoluted conversation about it. I’m pretty sure he’d stop.

      8. Hannah Lee*

        If he might possibly be a Hamilton fan, I would figure out some way to reference Hamilton pushing back on George Washington for trying to be Mr Father Figure to a subordinate:

        Your wife needs you alive, son, I need you alive

        (Irritated) Call me son one more time

        Not those words, exactly, obviously, and with less irritation, but something that coveys “I respect you, but hey, Pops, I’m not your child”.

    2. nutella fitzgerald*

      It took me straight back to Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, when Margaret tries to go to confession!

    3. Elan Morin Tedronai*

      I’d reply with “yes daddy.” But it strongly depends on how well you know your boss.

      1. Cynthia*

        No matter how well you know your boss, mock father/daughter play in the office is extremely unwise.

        1. Fearless Wallaby*

          I’m pretty sure that comment was a joke. I thought it was funny and doubt that Elan meant it literally. But, JUST in case they did mean it here’s a PSA: no matter what, never call your boss Daddy. Even if they are indeed your Daddy, do not call your boss Daddy.

      2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        …That makes it seem like a sexual joke, versus the boss’s ‘sensei/apprentice’ type joke. Whole different vibe.

      3. nutella fitzgerald*

        Omg barf. Please don’t do this, if only for the sake of any coworkers who would be present!!!!

      4. SheLooksFamiliar*

        Oh, no. Please don’t call your boss ‘daddy.’ Please, don’t go there.

      5. Psyche*

        If you want to go that route, I would pick something like “your eminence” or “great sage” or even “old one” to highlight how weird it is. Daddy makes it even more infatalizing and awkward. But given that someone has spoken up before and he stopped doing it to them, I think being straightforward is the best way to make it stop. Playing along could make him think that the OP thinks it is funny and is willing to play along.

    4. Mookie*

      Which is why I’d respond with something like “oh, no, don’t worry, I’m not here to confess!” in an airy tone and with a toothy grin, pause for effect, and then launch the conversation I’d come to have.

      Given that the informal boss uses the line a lot he’s probably not going to drop it, but it also sounds donnish in an affectionate way rather than just condescending. But others’s ears may register it differently.

    5. Valancy Snaith*

      Honestly, even in a church, it would be very odd for a priest (at least in the Catholic tradition I’m familiar with) to refer to an employee as “my child.” It’s not a pastoral relationship, it’s an employer/employee one!

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Even in a pastoral relationship (Orthodox Catholic/Souther Baptist combo here…yeah ask me why I’m screwed up…) it bothers me. It bothered me when I was an actual child. I’d be all “I am not your child.” Only in my head only of course… As an adult however, I’d say something even to a priest, so definitely I’d tell a boss to knock it off.

        1. DerJungerLudendorff*

          It’s certainly assuming a level of authority that the person they’re using it on may not be comfortable with.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          I *hated* being patronized as a child! It was a way for grown-ups to not take me seriously and not treat me like a person. Every time.
          I don’t remember being called “my child” specifically, but I would have hated that too.
          I would be very put off by OP’s boss unless it was obviously a joke in context – and then I’d still be uncomfortable and avoid him as much as possible. Wondering what’s going on in his head, if he actually thinks he has spiritual authority over me… yikes!

      2. Emi.*

        I’ve been Catholic since I was a few weeks old, and I’ve never been called “my child” or heard of anyone else being, even in a pastoral context. Lots of reminding that I’m God’s child and he loves me, but never as a term of address from a priest. I’m not sure if it’s out of fashion or if it’s just a pop-culture invention or what.

        1. Important Moi*

          An Archbishop once said that to me in response to a question I asked. I’ve been Catholic as my life as well.

        2. Lynn Marie*

          It used to be common. The fact that it no longer is common, is part of why it would be funny to those of us who would find it funny (or mildly amusing anyway) and I suspect part of why a younger person is finding it so off-putting and inexplicable.

          1. Lana Kane*

            Yes, this wording is kind of old fashioned, so usually when you hear it nowadays it’s as a joke.

        3. MommyMD*

          I’ve been called my child numerous times growing up in a stone cold Catholic family complete with nuns, catechism, and all the other stuff.

      1. Moocowcat*

        Haha! I know!
        “Of course Kai Boss, the Orb security report will be on your desk tomorrow morning.”
        And yes, the OP can ask that Boss stop calling people “My child.” I expect that Boss is a Geek, and doesn’t realize that others aren’t picking up on the pop culture references. As a Geek myself, I’d be tempted to respond in the same tone.
        “My pah is always strong. No need to check Kai Bossperson.”
        “I need to pass Gandalf.”
        “I’m not fighting ninja crime until after work. Can you stop calling me My Child?” In any case, Bossperson will likely stop when the OP asks, as they have already responded reasonably to others in the past.

      2. a*

        I cannot read about someone being addressed as “my child” and NOT hear it in Louise Fletcher’s voice! I would be tempted to respond that I hope the boss walks with the Prophets.

        1. Mr. X*

          Nobody else can deliver an F-U when saying “Bless you my child” like Louise Fletcher!

          1. Kendra*

            She could say that without even opening her mouth or changing expressions; perfect actress for that role!

      3. Michaela Westen*

        Remember, the one who kept calling Major Kira “child” (so offensive!) was the evil one.

    6. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Honestly my first thought was ‘Is her boss a vampire?’ and then when I read the response I realized I should probably have thought of a priest before I thought of a vampire.

    7. Sophia L.*

      Is it possible that your boss is from the Trinidad / Tobago? It’s a common expression that comes out of care and nurturing. I wonder if when he was distracted on his phone, he for a moment, lost his work-filter, and he meant to express this in a caring way. Trying to give him the benefit of the doubt. My Trini family always uses this expression.

      1. WonderCootie*

        I was wondering if it’s something like that as well. My boss once ended a phone call with me by saying “Love you”. Caught me off guard, but then I realized how distracted he probably was at the moment. There’s a reason we call him “The Nutty Professor”.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Normally I would think this was likely, but the LW says many people in their office have had the same experience. This sounds either intentional or like a worrying inability to keep work/personal attitudes separate.

        1. VictorianCowgirl*

          Work/personal attitudes? It sounds like the boss is just having a bit of a goof.

      3. Zephy*

        One of my bosses is also from Trinidad and he calls me “my dear” all the time. “Zephy, my dear, how are you?” I…don’t love it, but it’s not coming from a malicious place, so I don’t consider it a hill worth dying on.

      4. MommyMD*

        Always give people the benefit of the doubt when no malice is implied and there is otherwise a good relationship. My Boss is so kind he can address me however he likes.

    8. Forkeater*

      Yeah I was raised Catholic and I assumed it was a reference to that, I would find it pretty hilarious and would reply with “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.”

      But it’s okay for the OP to not find it hilarious and ask him to stop, and if he’s decent he will.

    9. Non-profiteer*

      Apologies if someone has already suggested this. A slightly softer touch might be to stop in the moment, look confused, and ask “is that a reference to a movie or something?” If Miss Manners and Allison have taught us anything about dealing with rude people, it’s to react naturally in the moment, and ask someone why they said the thing they said. 9 times out of 10 when they have to verbalize their reasoning, they realize it was a bad thing to say, or it becomes awkward enough for them that they at least don’t say it again.

    10. Fearless Wallaby*

      This is possible, but i’m guessing it’s a pop culture reference too. I actually say this on occasion as well and mean no harm. I get why OP would dislike it if they don’t get the reference, but I do hope that they see Alisons response and are no longer bothered by it/find it amusing. To me, asking the boss to stop borders on being the “fun police”, so to speak. OP is of course entitled to ask if they are still uncomfortable, but I don’t know that this is something worth addressing considering the context.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        You have written my exact thoughts down. Agreed. Fun police, exactly. Especially that he does it across the board and not just with her. Levity dies in darkness.

    11. Get the Joke*

      The boss here is clearly doing a “bit” in an effort to be disarming, ingratiating and approachable. The idea that the Letter Writer doesn’t understand that is on her, not him. I mean, sometimes on this blog it’s as if the letter writers and commenters want to erase any personality in the workplace.
      It’s exhausting sometimes to read how people take offense so easily. Geez, you kids lighten up on yourselves, your co-workers, bosses and customers.

      1. a professional comedy writer*

        I *wish* it were an audience’s responsibility to understand every joke, and not mine to write the joke clearly, adapt it for the situation, and cut it if it’s not getting the intended response.

        1. Jasnah*

          Sure so let the boss cut the joke, there’s no reason to read malice and get outraged to level 10 when level 3 is warranted.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, in following Alison’s advice to do and say nothing to the employee, I want to underscore that this includes your employee’s workload, assignments, etc. Pregnancy is one of those areas where employers often fall into the concern bias trap (i.e., they think they’re being thoughtful or considerate, but in fact their behavior is unlawfully discriminatory). Regardless of her pregnant status, you cannot and should not decrease or otherwise materially change her scope of work, her assignments, or her workload. Only after she notifies y’all and/or discloses whether she’ll be taking leave can you begin a conversation about accommodation. But again, any such conversation has to be at her election if she discloses a desire or intent to take medical, short-term disability, and/or parental leave.

    (Also note that, in addition to Alison’s list, she may be using assisted reproductive technology, like a surrogate. But it’s better not to pry into people’s reproductive plans and choices.)

    1. MJ*

      The only time you can ask a woman if she’s pregnant is when the baby is crowning, but not even then because… no.

      Medical professionals exempted of course.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        If you see the baby crowning you better be 1) medical personnel, 2) the other parent, or 3) other person designated by the mother to be in the delivery room. *

        *Taxi driver/police/etc…involved with emergency “right this second” deliveries are ok too. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. Overeducated*

        Hahaha. During my first pregnancy I was in a uniformed position, where the uniforms were definitely not designed with women in mind, but the pregnancy uniforms were really awful. It was basically a one size giant shirt, which was knee length on me, with regular pants that only had half the waistband replaced with elastic (so i was cutting slits in them toward the end). Given that regular uniforms look very neat, tucked in, etc, and wearing them wrong could have you disciplined, this was obviously not that.

        So it was pretty funny when I was probably 7 or 8 months along, huge, amd dressed in a tent, an older male colleague verrry nervously asked if i was expecting. He was trying so hard to follow this rule! But i just didn’t think it required announcement by that point!

            1. Lepidoptera*

              I’ve had to say this so many times while I’m not pregnant that I’m terrified I’m going to say it when I actually am, much to my own embarrassment. >.<

            2. Wren*

              My friend tried to pull off, “no, it’s a little extra weight and to be honest I’m a little sensitive about it,” pretty much right up to birth with anyone who didn’t have a real reason to know. It effectively shut down conversations she didn’t want to have even when she didn’t manage to truly fool the asker into believing she was not pregnant.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I read the second sentence as “I was in a uninformed position,” like you didn’t know you were pregnant lol.

        2. TardyTardis*

          When I was in the Air Force and pregnant, they didn’t have pregnant uniforms yet–and so one of the troops asked what they should call me (since I had to wear civvies). I just said, “Lieutenant will do nicely…”

    2. Mookie*

      Strong +1, particularly advice in para 1. The LW can’t un-know this, but she needs to be very, very careful—actively so—not to allow it to color any decisions she makes that directly or indirectly affect this employee.

      I’d also urge the LW to ask herself why this fairly banal gossip has thrown her, if it indeed has, and whether she needs to re-evaluate how she’s treated pregnant employees in the past and how she’ll do so in the future. (Is it different from spouses with expectant partners, who might also conceivably request parental leave at some point?) It’s not a good sign to view pregnancy itself and pregnant employees in particular with suspicion or wariness if they don’t immediately disclose something they don’t yet need to. This isn’t a management issue yet, so no action is needed.

      1. Matilda Jefferies*

        Yes. And I would also add that the OP might consider removing herself from social media contact with her employees. Especially since this relatively banal news has sent her into a bit of a tailspin – but even besides that, there are plenty of letters here on this site about why it’s not a good idea to be Facebook friends with your boss.

        It couldn’t hurt for OP to use this as a cue to take a broader look at her relationships with her employees, and set some really firm boundaries if need be.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          There’s usually a social media narc on staff, though. I wasn’t friends with any of my employees, and yet I always saw who posted something risque on Snapchat (I have never used Snapchat) because one of them would gleefully open up her phone and hold it in my face, “Look what Fergus posted!”

          To which I would be like, “Did Fergus post it at work? No. Then that is Fergus’s business.”

      2. Valprehension*

        “I’d also urge the LW to ask herself why this fairly banal gossip has thrown her”
        So much this! Does this person actually think that the norm is for people to tell their employers as soon as they find out they’re pregnant? Are they unaware that it’s actually extremely normal to wait til the last possible moment and hide it as long as possible? It’s especially understandable if they’ve only known for a few weeks, though – many people wait until the second trimester to tell *anyone* they’re pregnant, let alone their employer!

        1. Jadelyn*

          My understanding is that for first pregnancies, you’re generally advised not to tell anyone until you’re in your second trimester.

          1. CMart*

            It’s not so much “advised” and more so just personal preference as to whether or not you want to make announcements while miscarriage risk is still high. It’s a different calculation for every person, though most people wait until after 12 weeks (and into the second trimester) because miscarriage risk drops to <2% and results from any genetic testing performed has usually come back and they feel comfortable sharing good news.

    3. Lucy*

      My only reservation about this point is if the workload is somehow unsuitable for pregnancy – e.g. cabin crew or working with hazardous materials. That is, where legislation (or employers’ insurance) prohibits it, rather than just noting it as inadvisable. Ordinarily I’d agree that someone’s social media and private life is their own business and shouldn’t leak into the workplace, but there could be bad consequences for all kinds of people (employee, fetus, employer) if LW completely ignored such a consideration.

      In the uncommon but not impossible situation that the job or workplace is the kind where a pregnant employee must have their duties or location changed for health & safety reasons then I think LW has a duty beyond Alison’s recommendations. Not to change the employee’s workload, assignments, etc, but to speak to the employee discreetly (possibly with HR) and say something along the lines of “As you know, it is against industry guidelines/the law for pregnant employees to shovel llama poop because of the risk of botulism. Your FB profile says you’re around ten weeks along. Is there anything we need to talk about?” and then to proceed as if it’s a spontaneous disclosure.

      I am not clear from the letter if LW saw a post herself, or has heard from a friend of a friend. If it could be just gossip then when employee says “whut? no, I’m not pregnant, so I can carry on shovelling llama poop” LW must take that statement at face value, and should probably look at Alison’s scripts about telling other people to MYOB.

      1. Lucy*

        I’m not in the US: our relevant legislation is here

        For what it’s worth, if an employee must be removed from her normal duties, she must either be offered alternative duties at no less pay, or be suspended on full pay.

      2. sherlockstea*

        Most women of childbearing age, who are open to having children are well aware of these conditions, and it is usually clearly spelled out to women when they start a job with these kind of conditions that they have to inform the employer when they find out they are pregnant. I assume liability for any problems falls on the employee if they are pregnant and don’t disclose the fact.

        1. Lucy*

          If you had no official notification but good reason to believe that someone was pregnant (gossip wouldn’t be “good reason to believe”) would you send them to the botulism room? I’m sure a court could spend many hours arguing about whether someone knew if they only “knew”.

          IANAL nor an HR professional but I feel this is in similar territory to other situations where an employee might be in danger, such as if someone kept coming in with a black eye, and you’d have some kind of overarching duty of care to ensure they weren’t actually in danger, though again taking their word for it and not acting on anything.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Yes, until they inform me otherwise that going to the botulism room is unsafe I would treat them the way I always have. Likewise a black eye.

            If I saw them repeatedly with a black eye I might ask them if there us anything I can help them with or that they want to talk about bis a vis reoccurring black eyes, but it’s not my place as their employer to be their parent.

            1. Lucy*

              I guess this is what I mean – that “is there anything I can help with / anything I need to know regarding these recurrent black eyes” is equivalent to the “is there anything I need to know regarding this social media gossip” conversation which I have scripted very badly. It’s “I’ll believe what you say to me, but I have seen something which I can’t just ignore just in case” and very important to be a discreet and sensitive conversation, as well as “you will not suffer discrimination if there actually is something I need to know”.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                But the black eye is “right there” and evident. Stalking an employee’s social media and asking personal questions is not ok and not analogous.

                1. Observer*

                  @Norm, the OP clearly was not directly reading the employee’s social media or they would not have described it as “the grapevine.”

                2. RUKiddingMe*


                  Call it whatever you like but employers have no business mucking around in their employees’ personal, non work related social media. Full stop.

                3. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I actually disagree a bit, especially if your social media is public, you really have no expectation of privacy. In some positions employees are very public, even if they don’t list their job on Facebook, but if people know John Smith works for ABC corp even though John doesn’t list it on their Facebook and John Smith goes on unprofessional rants or posts other content that the company does not want to be associated with it is the companies right to terminate the employee.

                  For example Coke wouldn’t want a well known Coke employee posting on their FB how they love Pepsi; or a non-profit that works with certain populations would not want to be associated with an employee who complains about the clients they serve on FB. I also think it is an entirely different thing if the employee is friends with the boss. I think a boss should never friend request their employees on social media, and employees should not friend request coworkers/superiors. But if an employee does friend request a coworker/supervisor they can’t get mad about being disciplined for things they do/say on FB.

              2. Working Mom Having It All*

                Women are adult human beings who know things like what their jobs entail and whether they are taking a significant risk by not disclosing their pregnancy at work/changing hazardous job duties.

                You don’t actually become a walking incubator the moment the stick turns pink.

                In this case you leave this sort of thing to your employee to decide for herself. The only thing I can think of that might make it different is if you, the manager, knew she was being sent to the Botulism Room, but for completely normal and not super sketchy confidentiality reasons would not normally be able to disclose that it was the Botulism Room.

                But that doesn’t describe a whole lot of workplaces, so chances are if you work at just a regular Botulism Factory and not a Top Secret Botulism Factory, you’re probably good to let your pregnant employee take the lead in managing her own safety.

            2. TootsNYC*

              I think I would say, “I need to send you to botulism room. Is that a problem for you in any way?”

          2. RabbitRabbit*

            I was literally in a meeting where this was discussed, except regarding Zika virus. The protocol is that everyone gets trained on precautions and risks, and it is up to the employee to follow proper precautions. If it’s the job of an interestingly-bulging lab tech to work in the Zika lab, then they work there until they disclose a pregnancy, and then job duties/reassignment/etc can be discussed.

          3. Observer*

            There is a difference between something you directly see and what the gossip, which is what the OP is basing themselves on.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Exactly. A black eye is obvious. Repeated black eyes are obvious. Pregnancy not necessarily so. Also a belly bump is not necessarily pregnancy.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think this is a difference between the US and UK. If she hasn’t disclosed pregnancy, then yes. If she’s disclosed, then the employer absolutely must modify her duties to accommodate her condition (this is where a lot of pregnancy discrimination cases originate). In my experience, there’s much less of scenario #1 happening and a lot more of scenario #2.

        2. Matilda Jefferies*

          Exactly. If the employee were in a job that required accommodations for early pregnancy, guaranteed she would already know this.

          And if the OP were aware of workplace conditions that would require accommodations for early pregnancy, presumably they would have mentioned that in their letter. So given the OP didn’t mention any H&S concerns for the pregnant employee, I think it’s fair to assume that there aren’t any in play here.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        If it was that type of job I’m confident that OP would have said something. Furthermore the employee would know it and presumably be concerned for the welfare of her fetus and want to do whatever she can to be safe.

        OP needs to not, not, not do/say anything, at all. Women need to be respected as autonomous human beings who are capable of choosing if/when to disclose medical info to employers or anyone else without this kind of extremely paternalistic intrusion.

        The employee is probably not stupid* ergo let’s just give her credit that she knows what she needs to do, and when …without someone needing to jump in and guide her as if she’s a child.

        *I know this isn’t an optimal word choice. I’m still searching for better words to use…

        1. Lucy*

          I agree that this is likely an outlying one-in-a-thousand case if that, and in all 1000 cases you make no changes or assumptions without official notification (in particular you don’t suddenly pour her coffee from the decaff pot or take her off the shortlist for a year-long project).

      4. Lynca*

        I work in the type of job where I did have to be careful about exposure to hazardous material and I eventually had physical limitations on what I could do when I was further along. I had to disclose earlier than I ever wanted to because of the exposure risk. But I also had to have an in-depth discussion with my doctor before I went to management so I could have full justification for what I could/could not do.

        It’s not the manager’s responsibility to suss this out of the employee. If the employee has concerns for their health or the fetus’ health, they’ll say something.

      5. EPLawyer*

        It is far far far too easy to fall into the trap of “but its for her own safety” when making these calls. As others have noted, the employee who knows what her actual condition is, will be aware of any hazards of her job. It is not for the employer to guess what accommodations she needs.

        Fine you want her to avoid the botulism room. She pretty much knows that. Then it becomes, don’t carry that box of paper because you know, baby. Then it becomes, don’t work OT so you are not tired. Oh well that takes you off this project because it will require a lot of work. All of this is done for her own good. Except now she is not able to do her job, so she suffers at performance review time, or misses out on interactions with higher ups which can affect promotibility. Gee thanks.

        When — and if — she discloses, then is the time to have discuss options. Not until then.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Exactly. Women are fully capable adult human beings.

          We do not need this paternalistic “for her own good” crap.

          First…women ate not children (!!!!!!!!!!) and second, their employers are not their parents(s).

          Really (!) we got this. We don’t need to keep getting treated as if we’re some kind of air-headed, addle-brained sub-species that can’t comprehend cause and effect or make well informed, thought out decisions about our own bodies and lives without all and sundry thinking that their special input is needed, helpful, or wanted.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Apologies fir all of the “!” I just get so tired of “doing everything around here” quite competently in fact (TYVM) just to turn around and be treated like I’m a five year old. I get a little passionate. I guess it’s just my female emotions…

      6. Anononon*

        Do you have any cites/sources for your comments? My understanding of US law is that danger to the fetus or woman cannot be used to prevent pregnant women from doing certain jobs. See United Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls, Inc.

        1. Anononon*

          Just saw you’re in the UK. So yeah, that’s a difference between the two systems.

          1. Lucy*

            That probably does make a big difference to my perspective. Thanks for pointing it out!

              1. londonedit*

                There are also laws specific to pregnancy discrimination here, but there are also responsibilities that employers have with regard to health and safety and pregnant workers, so if Lucy is looking at it from an employer’s point of view, they would want to know about a pregnancy. Employers have a responsibility to make sure pregnant workers don’t do heavy lifting, and to give them accommodations such as changing their working hours or not having them sitting down for long periods of time. I’ve just looked it up and in the UK you have to tell your employer a minimum of 15 weeks before your expected due date – this is also because there’s a minimum amount of notice that you have to give of when you want to start your maternity leave (which is usually around a month before your due date, although some people work until later in their pregnancy).

      7. vampire physicist*

        At least in the US, radiation workers (to use the example I’m familiar with) must declare their pregnancy for the regulations/limits specifically surrounding pregnant workers to go into effect. As this is a case where the person does not need to be removed from their job (more stringent exposure limits go into effect, but they can work as long as they choose through the pregnancy) it might not translate to every possible field, but in general I think the legislation here requires the person who is pregnant to declare the pregnancy.

      8. The Gollux (Not a Mere Device)*

        I am not a lawyer, but I’m fairly sure that discrimination against pregnant employees wouldn’t suddenly become legal because the employer believed–or knew–that their insurance company wanted them to discriminate. Especially in a case like this, when the employee hasn’t mentioned the pregnancy to LW or anyone else she reports to, and it’s possible, as Alison pointed out, that the employee won’t be having a baby.

      9. Jennifer*

        I would add that hearing it third-hand from someone that supposedly saw it on social media doesn’t mean it’s necessarily true. Things get misconstrued there all the time for many reasons. Treat them as you always have. I don’t know what kind of job this is but if the employee needs special accommodations because of this it’s on her to approach the boss, not the other way around.

        1. Working Mom Having It All*


          God forbid this poor woman posted one of those “happy to announce I am pregnant… from watching Always Be My Maybe, omg what a great romcom am I right? Randall Park can get it!” jokes and someone took it very much the wrong way.

      10. Onyx*

        I work at an extremely safety-conscious workplace (in the USA) where there are many jobs dealing with hazardous materials or situations (e.g., hazardous chemicals, among others). There are explicit policies to ensure employees who have declared a pregnancy are protected from certain hazards (and not penalized for that). *However*, the key word here is “declared”—not only are these policies implemented only after the pregnant employee chooses to declare the pregnancy to the employer, but the employee explicitly has the right to retract their declaration and return to normal duties. If the employee retracts the declaration of their pregnancy, the company is (in my understanding) obligated to proceed as if they do not know the employee is pregnant.

        So, no, I don’t think the dangers of the job justify trying to pressure or coerce someone to disclose a pregnancy before they choose to. I suspect based on the policy language (and how seriously my company emphasizes both safety and legal considerations) that it is actually illegal here to change an employee’s work assignment due to a pregnancy they have not voluntarily disclosed.

        Also, note that I am well aware of this policy despite neither having any intention of getting pregnant nor working with those kinds of hazards—they handle the safety aspect by making the policy well-publicized and then it’s up to the employee. Also, most situations I can think of pose a danger to the fetus and/or the pregnant person, not a danger to others due to the pregnant person doing the work—if there was a situation where the pregnancy posed a danger to someone else, different law might apply, *but* I suspect the danger would relate to something not specific to pregnancy (e.g., it’s not safe for this job to be performed by someone who cannot perform X action, regardless of underlying reason, so there would be no need to tie the restriction to pregnancy status).

      11. Alanna of Trebond*

        Transferring a pregnant women to a job with fewer “dangerous” duties (lifting heavy things, being around chemicals, etc) for her own good is, in the US, a textbook example of gender-based discrimination. By which I mean this exact scenario was actually given as an example in the discrimination/harassment training I took a couple of months ago.

        And that example was an employee who had told her employers about her pregnancy, not an employer who was proceeding based on FB gossip. it’s still illegal. don’t do it!

    4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      THANK YOU for saying this! I am planning to become pregnant in the next year and I am scared to death my managers will subconsciously put me on the “mommy track” with less rigorous, less prestigious assignments.

      LW, even if you think you’re only looking out for her best interests and the best interests of the company, you need to forget you ever knew about this unless and until she herself tells you. I could never forgive a manager who “outed” my personal news at work, much less someone who used that knowledge to harm my career (unintentionally or not).

  3. Wakeen's Duck Club and Hanukkah Balls*

    #2. If a company sends someone to a country with a travel warning and something happens to that employee, could there be a liability issue for either the company or the boss?

    #4. There’s also a possibility that you reaching out to them (the current employee) is how they find out that they’re about to lose their job… and not much good can come from that.

    1. Daisy*

      2. Since so many countries have some sort of travel warning, and they are to an extent pretty subjective, I doubt you could use them to prove liability. ‘Do not travel’ might be different, but the US state department seems to use ‘reconsider travel’ very freely.

      I just checked the UK Foreign Office out of interest, and theirs kicks off ‘most visits to El Salvador are trouble-free’ (followed by warnings to be careful of pickpockets).

      1. M*

        Yeah, I’d also add that the US State Department is pretty trigger-happy with their travel warnings (they currently have most of Western Europe on “exercise increased caution”, which is just silly, for one). It’s not unreasonable to be concerned about safety in El Salvador – and you get to decide where your own line is – but I’d probably be leaning more towards “I think we should talk about charging [client] for security costs, like having a hired driver instead of using taxis”.

        1. Yellow*

          I agree. I do a lot of international travel for my work and I find the Dept of State’s warnings to be a little alarmist. For El Salvador, their warning to reconsider travel is based on crime statistics, but most of that crime is related to drug trafficking and unlikely to affect visitors.

          1. BonnieVoyage*

            Travel co-ordinator for a global company here and I agree; government advice usually errs toward caution, which you need to take into account.

            That said, it would very much depend on what security and assurances the client can provide for me to be happy ignoring a high-level warning. For example, I have organised trips to countries which are classed as “do not travel” or “essential travel only” – but we work in an industry where budget is usually not a consideration and most companies have a lot of experience in such areas. It’s standard for them to provide security and they know what they’re doing, and as a result my colleagues have rarely encountered any issues. However, if the client couldn’t provide these things for my colleagues, I would be far less willing to overlook the travel advisory.

          2. Sharkie*

            I 100% agree. I just got back from that region and have planned trips to back over the fall. I am not saying that fears are not unfounded, but if you are smart about your surroundings and don’t flaunt the fact that you are from the States/ Canada/ wherever you will be fine. A lot of business down there will hire a guide/ guard if they are bringing in people from the States because they want people to feel safe.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Oh, wait, Canada is a problem now? I can’t pretend I’m from Canada when I go abroad? Dangit.

              1. Sharkie*

                Lol no. Basically, don’t flaunt that you have access to funds and you will be good. :)

                (PS. wearing my team Canada T-shirt and Roots joggers sitting in my American office while writing this lol)

        2. Smithy*

          I agree that this is recommendation strongly. While everyone makes their own security assessments for themselves – for many the US State Department is seen as very cautious. At present there still exists a world wide advisory for any American traveler that when traveling abroad you may be targeted by a terrorist group or kidnappers.

          Therefore when talking to an employer, I think asking to discuss what heightened security measures would like – such as having a hired driver are great next steps.

          As is always worth mentioning, security preferences will vary from person to person. However definitely as a woman and looking at traveling abroad to places you’ve never been where you may not speak the language – I strongly advocating for speaking up for increased funding for increased security to open those possibilities. I’ve had work trips to Western European countries, but where flights arriving late at night combined with proposed locations of hotels didn’t make feel very comfortable. So advocating for a more expensive hotel in a different part of town and/or a more expensive flight arriving during daylight were important for me.

          If ultimately it truly feels too unsafe to go to – then that is a final decision worth communicating to your boss. But I’d advocate to at least explore what increased security measures would look like.

        3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          They’re pretty weirdly protective about warnings. Half the time the warning is about behavior most folks who travel should already know about basic travel safety.

          1. Kendra*

            Yeah, like, okay, so they recommend not going out alone after dark; the exact same thing could be said about New York City, LA, or DC (and many, many other US cities). Also the “don’t resist if someone tries to rob you;” that’s pretty standard advice anywhere, I think.

            1. Rebecca*

              I work for the Canadian government and when I’ve traveled to US cities for work, I get a government travel risk assessment warning about gun violence, street crime, and avoiding public protests.

              1. Kendra*

                I believe it! When my sister was considering a move to Hong Kong for work a few years ago, my mom was initially very nervous, until we pointed out to here that there’d been fewer murders reported in HK (population 7.4 million) the year before than in our hometown (population 12,000). The US can be just as dangerous as many of the places on our State Department’s warning list.

          2. Cherries on top*

            Travel advice wise Denmark and Saudia Arabia are both at Level 2. That seems like an unfounded comparison.

        4. SunnyD*

          Most big companies have a contract with ISOS – International SOS – which airlifts people out for medical crises & other emergencies. They also will provide country & city advice, trusted hotels and other services, and provide specific safety related counsel (local treatment / safety of women and LGBTQ+ are their top requests).

          /not an ISOS employee, but got a briefing by them

        5. Lobbyist*

          Yeah, the state department warnings are VERY conservative. I lived in a country for 5 years that had a state department warning the whole time. You have to be careful with your purse and your security and don’t do reckless things but if you are careful you should be fine. I wouldn’t be afraid to go to El Salvador.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Right? When they were putting out warnings about tourists being beheaded in taxis, that seemed reasonable. But otherwise the standing warning about pickpockets and muggings was the same as any major city in the U.S.

        6. Do not travel here*

          Completely agree, i live on one of those countries that the state departments issues travel warnings about while in actual fact, we are all going about our business as usual.

      2. silverpie*

        El Salvador is also at “high caution/defer non-essential travel” from Canada and Australia’s equivalents. Not just crime, but it is also a Zika-virus region.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I agree, I once went and fact checked the US State Department travel advisories against Canada and the UK’s travel advisories. They’re pretty consistent across the board, in text at least.

      3. theletter*

        Came here to agree. I’m a lifelong inner city girl, and I often here a lot of travel warnings . . . about my own city. Or the place I’m traveling to is ‘as dangerous as TheLetter’s city!’ Really, you should be on the alert anywhere you go. If it isn’t the kidnappers, it’s alligators and quicksand.

        That said, you don’t have to go anywhere in the world you don’t want to.

        If you do decide to go, traveling with a buddy is the best thing you can do for your safety. See if you can be sent with another coworker, someone you trust. Even with your travel buddy, connect with your hosts on a personal level when you travel. Get their cell phones numbers. Text them when you arrive and when you return. They’ll appreciate it.

        Your hosts, your drivers, the hotel managers, pretty much everyone you encounter will be about as concerned for you safety as you are, perhaps even more so. But at some point you’ll be in the car and you’ll ask the driver to turn on some music, and surprise! there’s Justin Bieber. Everything’s going to be great.

        Oh and the way to deter pickpockets is to keep your stuff in zippered pockets/purses or in travel bags that go under your clothes.

      4. Genny*

        The State Department operates on a no double standards policy, so if the regional security officer is warning U.S. embassy staff about flying on X airline, credible threats against Westerners, increasing caution due to an uptick in violence, etc., then the Department has to inform U.S. citizens of the same. That’s why you tend to end up with a lot of “reconsider travel” type warnings. It’s also an abundance of caution and a recognition that a lot of people have a low risk tolerance. Easier to put up a warning so people can opt out of travel than provide consular services to someone who’s been injured, victimized, in jail, or dead.

    2. Amy*

      Before declining the trip, I’d ask what the travel protocols are. I have a friend who routinely travels to “do not travel/ reconsider travel” countries for work.

      The organization is very serious about safety. In fact, she sometimes complains she never sees anything. There are code words for the driver, an escort to the hotel and then the meetings are generally 100% in the hotel, then it’s back to the airport. I don’t know if they go as far as having K&R insurance (and of course, they aren’t going to tell you), but it’s a possibility.

      There are some countries I wouldn’t travel to under any conditions. But I would travel to El Salvador if my company provided adequate precautions.

      1. That Girl*

        While ultimately, you need to feel comfortable with your travel, I wouldn’t worry about this too much. I went to San Salvador as a woman with a friend of mine (also a woman) and everything was fine. We did an AirBnB and even walked around after dark with no escort (we were hungry and looking for a place our host had recommended). Honestly, we didn’t feel uncomfortable at all. As was said most of the crime is drug related and they actively don’t want to target tourists since that would bring more scrutiny down on them. Basic precautions and common sense should keep you perfectly safe.

        Granted I’ve traveled a lot (especially in Central/South America) so I’m a little more used to it. My general rule of thumb is if you see local women and/or children walking around you’re generally pretty safe.

        I think a request that they pay for a driver (because holy hell the traffic) and a good hotel and you’ll be fine. It’s a really lovely country with incredibly kind hard working people. I’d recommend reading up a bit more about travel to El Salvador (and not the from the state department) and it’ll help put you at ease.

        The airport sucks though and they will probably hassle the hell out of you, plan for quite a bit of extra time. I think we got there 4 hours before our flight left and barely made the plane because security was such a nightmare.

    3. Lauren*

      LW #2: You can also ask your company about their security plan/policies. Companies may provide you with a driver, so you’re not walking through the city by yourself, they might have a house with a wall/gate and security guards.

      I’d raise these issues with your boss, especially if they are leaning heavily on you to travel there. See what precautions they take, and what they’re willing to make accommodations on. And if they don’t have a security plan or policies, I agree, stay the hell away.

    1. Jasnah*

      Oof yeah I would definitely pretend I never saw it. As open as social media/internet stuff is, posting something on social media is not the same as going to your boss/company, or else we’d all quit via Facebook post.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Exactly. It’s almost as though employers think that every single second of their employees’ lives belong to them and that no one is entitled to a private life. Not even one lived through social media that they, the employer are not entitled to intrude upon.

        Why is the OP mucking through this particular (or any/all) employee’s social media anyway? For what reason? Are they “friends?” At whose request? Even if it was at the employee’s request, the OP as their manager should have declined because it crosses a boundary that should never be crossed.

        No offense is ever intended, but I don’t “friend” current/possible future students or my employees. It’s just a bad idea. Not enough positives, too many negatives…even if just potentially.

        1. Norm*

          Please let me offer a different perspective on the employer noting social media posts from employees: It’s to be expected. There may be some people who put info on their Facebook etc. and don’t really think of it as “public,” but that is, in effect, what it is.

          If one expects that their employers (current and future) will not notice relevant information, or observe some kind of privacy convention around social media posts, that expectation is unrealistic in the real world.

          This should not surprise or outrage anyone.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Not surprised. That doesn’t mean that employers should not do it. They need to hold themselves to a MYOB standard when it comes to employees’ non-work lives. I’m not naive, I just feel this should be something they should self regulate because…integrity.

            1. Norm*

              With respect, I see this a little differently. I don’t post private info on the internet, and I don’t think that my boss needs to regulate herself to maintain integrity by avoiding my Facebook page.

              Personally, I do observe an unusually strict MYOB standard when it comes to my employees’ lives outside of work. But that doesn’t include information that they choose to publish to the entire world.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I think the point is, don’t “friend” your employees on Facebook while they’re working for you. That way you’re not going to see what they’re posting.

                1. Colette*

                  Depending on who you’re friends with (and who they’re friends with), you may see information from someone you aren’t directly connected to. The algorithms are complicated.

                  And that assumes someone the OP is connected to didn’t post something like “So excited that X is pregnant!”

                2. a1*

                  You don’t have to “friend” someone (FB) or “follow” (Twitter) to see their posts, though. If they are friends of friends, or use certain hashtags, are trending, or set their FB post to public rather than friends, or a whole host of other things they can appear in your newsfeed. Social Media is really and truly public, and the algorithms pick things for you to see based on location, mutual friends, mutual details in your profiles, mutual groups or likes or follows, as well as if you actually friend or follow them.

                3. Oxford Comma*

                  It can get so complicated, though. I am FB friends with people who used to be peers. Now they’re in supervisory roles. And vice versa. Do you unfriend? Unfollow? Stay off it entirely.

              2. RUKiddingMe*

                Why shouldn’t the employer self-regulate? Why is that soooo onerous? Saw something on here the other day: “the devil has enough advocates.” I think it applies here.

              3. schnauzerfan*

                Exactly. It may be different in Metropolis, but here in Smallville I pretty much have to assume that everyone I meet is separated by no more than two degrees of separation. It doesn’t matter if we are friends on faceB or not… I know your Mom, or your sister is engaged to my cousin, your uncle plays poker with my next door neighbor. It always amazes me when people “let it all hang out” on social media and then are shocked—shocked— when others find that gambling is going on in here!

                I am friends on fB with several co-workers, staff and supervisors, and it just doesn’t matter because I sit in the same waiting room at the doctors office, we turn up at the same concerts, etc. We rub along tolerably by tending our own gardens.

          2. Working Mom Having It All*

            I mean, yeah, sure. To an extent. When I was pregnant, I did not post anything on FB about my pregnancy that I wouldn’t have wanted my boss to find out. When it was time to announce things, I pretty specifically thought about who would have access to social media information and what they might do with that information. And from my sense of talking to other women who’ve had kids in the era of social media and the internet, this is definitely a popular way of thinking about how/whether to announce your pregnancy, and whether you even want to post about it on social at all.

            But that doesn’t mean this information is your employers’ to do with as they will. If I post on FB that I am pregnant, that does not give my manager license to start discriminating against me.

        2. Nancie*

          I just want to point out, the employer may not have been “mucking” around at all. Posts are always dropping into my feed because one of my friends has liked or commented on it. All it takes is for the LW and their employee to have one mutual friend.

          That’s why anything you might not want your boss or Great-Aunt Sally to know, should be friends-locked.

        3. temp anon*

          At the risk of going off topic, some industries REQUIRE supervision of social media accounts. In finance, firms need to make sure their employees are not selling products without authorization or appropriate disclosures, or guaranteeing against loss, etc. This is probably not the case with this situation but it’s out there.

          1. pleaset*

            “At the risk of going off topic, some industries REQUIRE supervision of social media accounts.”
            So employers follow all employees? I did not know that. That’s remarkable.

            Do bosses typically friend/follow all their staff, or is social media following typically assigned to specific roles?

            1. temp anon*

              It depends on the platform and whether it is used for business. I have to use my work email for my Linked In account, and any updates I make to my profile, etc are automatically sent to compliance. I don’t use FB but the process there is the same if you use it to solicit business. Those that use Twitter have to alert/include compliance as a follower. If your FB is not used for business you need to certify that annually, I have no idea how that is checked, it might only come up if there is a complaint and then the firm comes down on you for lying about it.

              This might sound really draconian to most people (along with email monitoring, all my work email is spot checked) but I can see the reason for it, unfortunately there are some bad apples in our barrel and they can do lots of damage.

              As for who does it, that depends on the size of the firm. Typically a local or branch supervisor does some things such as monitor email but other aspects are handled by a compliance department.

            2. MatKnifeNinja*

              Everyone of my bosses trolled employees on social media. Some people leave their accounts public, so anyone can see them. My idiot SIL does that with her FB page, so that is why my real name is not on FB.

              The worse was a principal who would spend her lunch hour doing trolling.

              I assume work busy bodies are always snooping around.

          2. SenseANDSensibility*

            With the law enforcement story today about racist/violent/negative social media posts by current & former officers, I’d expect all Law Enforcement agencies will follow and monitor all their employees now if they don’t already. Many other government agencies do this as well. We check social media posts & history before we make any hires.

          3. Michaela Westen*

            I would think in this case it would be security staff monitoring employees’ social media, not their direct supervisors.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes OP should ignore what they saw, and more importantly not treat the employee differently knowing what they know, but there was no indication they were social media stalking the employee. Sometimes you see things when you’re both connected to the same people.

    3. Eukomos*

      They said “through the grapevine,” that implies multiple steps. I don’t think they’ve friended their employee on Facebook, I think one of their Facebook friends knows the employee and mentioned something.

  4. JamieS*

    #5 without knowing why you were rejected it’s basically impossible to know ahead of time if it’s a courtesy interview or not. I’d guess not though since they already rejected you and I think it’s less likely someone would schedule a courtesy interview with someone who’s already been rejected. My few guesses on what happened are your skills/resume sound more impressive coming from a person than they do just on paper, they were looking for specific experience/skills that weren’t highlighted on your resume but your friend convinced them you have the experience, something similar, or would be able to pick it up easily, or you were rejected based on non-skill criteria such as culture fit concerns and your friend got them to reconsider.

    That’s just a few possible explanations but there’s probably dozens of plausible reasons. Whatever the reason just approach the interview like you would one that’s definitely not a courtesy interview. Even if this one is a courtesy you never know what may happen in the future so always want to leave a good impression with any possible connection.

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Yes. It could be something like “Jane doesn’t have a Llama Carer degree, but has volunteered in llama sanctuaries for the last two years”.

    2. Policy Wonk*

      It could also be that they received way too many applications, had to use the weed whacker instead of the pruning shears to select candidates, and missed some good applicants. This happens in my world all the time when it comes to entry level positions. Someone comes to me to ask why I didn’t interview their relative or friend and I never even got their resume for consideration. In government I don’t have the option to then invite that person for an interview, but I would imagine in the private sector a hiring manager could.

      1. Steve*

        I noticed that it was entry-level and thought the same – their application could easily have been missed. I know someone who had this happen (based on their experience, my suggestion to anyone applying to these jobs is to tell the system that you meet all of their requirements (even the obvious ones, like citizenship)), yet his friend asked politely about him and in the end the person was hired and was a good employee.

        I would treat this very much as a situation where the application was initially missed, and the OP has as good a chance as any of the other candidates.

      2. Bee*

        Yeah, the last time I hired (for a part-time entry-level position in a very competitive industry), I got about 75 applications, and probably 45 of them looked great. I had planned to interview ~6. A LOT of people got cut for fairly arbitrary reasons*, just because I had to be so ruthless, and if a friend had specifically recommended someone after I’d eliminated them, I would have happily brought them in. OP, even if this IS a courtesy interview, think of it as your chance to blow them away!

        *They were job-related reasons, but if we’d been hiring an assistant for me instead of for my boss, it would have been a totally different set of criteria that would have brought in a totally different set of equally-qualified applicants.

      3. JR*

        This happened to me, too. An acquaintance referred a candidate to me, we chatted, she was awesome, she applied. A week or two later she reached out for feedback on why she hadn’t gotten a first round interview. Turns out HR screened her out for job hopping, which was a combination of not understanding her resume and valuing long-term stays more than I did. I interviewed her, hired her, and she was one of the most amazing people I’ve ever worked with.

      4. Working Mom Having It All*

        This was my thought, as well. They got 100 applications, can only interview 3-4 people (especially if it’s an entry level job where lots of people could conceivably do the work), and they went with people who came with personal recommendations first. Once OP’s connection stepped forward and said, “hey, wait, what about my former llama walker OP?” it was recognized that he was one of the folks with a little extra clout, and room was made in the interview pool.

        This comes from working in a field so in demand that it’s almost impossible to get an interview anywhere without a personal connection.

    3. LQ*

      It’s possible that OP has experience with X software which is the web based version of Y and they had enough Y’s so they screened out anyone who didn’t have it even though it wasn’t important because it was easy for the person screening. Or any number of things.

      But it is really important to note that you got an interview, that interview can be entirely earnest and you still don’t get the job. I say this because it’s easy to start to drift to thinking that if you didn’t get the job then everything else was meaningless, but that’s really unlikely because that’s a waste of their time too. Treat it like an earnest interview. Not a shoe in, not a courtesy.

    4. Phoenix Programmer*

      I was once rejected for a specialized secondary school of science and mathematics. I appealed and got on the waiting list and eventually got in.

      I was very uneasy the first trimester and felt I did not belong, but by the end of it everyone who had something bad to say about the waiting list dropped out. I on the other hand rose to the top 3rd of students graduating with honors among the State’s best and brightest.

      Don’t let an errant rejection get you down. Do your best and good luck!

    5. Spreadsheets and Books*

      It’s also very possible that OP was screened out before every getting to a real person. Some ATS systems look for pretty inane things depending on the company or have high filters of some sort for positions that get tons of apps, so it could be that OP was a great candidate they’re now excited about because no one ever saw her resume in the first place. I’ve applied to jobs I know I’d be a great fit for based on prior experience but got an auto-rejection (maybe ATS, maybe people – no real way to know) pretty quickly. It happens.

      1. epi*

        Yeah, this is what I was thinking. I think there was even a recent question about it. More can be going on with the system, for example overly rigid questions that make applicants feel like they have to either downplay or exaggerate their experience, or answer something that may be disqualifying on a technicality, with no opportunity to explain. When that happens, good people can get rejected even if a human does review their materials.

        A lot of entry level jobs are also, well, entry level! They rely on having subjective qualities like reliability, professionalism, and willingness to learn. They’re hard to demonstrate credibly in materials you wrote yourself, especially if you’re inexperienced, lots of people *might* have them, and hearing about them from someone the hiring manager trusts goes a long way.

        If I were the OP I’d think about how applying felt. Did the job feel like a reach? Like a good fit but they were struggling to explain why? Did they feel like they had to add, leave out, or portray information differently that they didn’t want to? Did they think their background merited an interview, and feel genuinely surprised to be rejected? That will provide some clues as to whether this is a courtesy interview or simply correcting an error in communication.

        1. Works in IT*

          I’m pretty sure some form applications have auto rejected me for selecting “other” as my degree. They didn’t have an option for selecting “computer science”. For a generic helpdesk tech job. For an insurance company.

          Web applications are weird…

          1. Michaela Westen*

            This means the program was written, overseen and approved by people who either weren’t paying attention or didn’t understand what they were doing. Or knew nothing about the tech field.
            I’m sure they got the applicants they were screening for, and it serves them right.

      2. JamieS*

        That was my original thought but after 12 days I’d guess a real person saw it unless the system auto rejects just every 2 weeks. Which it might, I’m no expert on that.

    6. MassMatt*

      OP– regarding “how do I cope”, it will really help you to develop a thicker skin about the job hunting process. It’s a hard thing to do, it’s easy to get your hopes up about a job and feel dashed when you get rejected, and obsess about reasons why you don’t hear back, etc. I think we have almost all been there.

      Most job hunts involve at least some rejection, sometimes LOTS of rejection, or cases where you just never hear back. It’s really tough not to take it personally but it helps to remember a rejection is NOT a statement about your self worth, it may not even really be about your ability to do the job. They may have lots of applicants, they may have strange criteria, it may just be bad luck. The best thing to do is keep applying/interviewing, hope for the best and prepare for the worst (assume you didn’t get it and keep applying).

      In this case your network came through for you which is terrific! At the very least, you are getting a chance for the phone screen, prepare your butt off, practice likely questions, and try to get to the next step. Good luck!

      Oh, and be sure to thank your family friend, no matter the outcome!

    7. MoneyPowerPizza*

      It’s also not uncommon to uncover that the first screenings have been eliminating good candidates by being too literal when someone asks why one of their referrals asks for follow up. I can think of a half dozen cases off the top of my head when people were eliminated from consideration for roles until a real person did a second look because their old company had a weird name for a common role. I’ve also found that while customized/tailored resumes and cover letters can be very convincing to hiring managers, they can confuse the hell out of automatic systems and entry-level HR assistants who can’t infer what specific industry terms mean in context.

  5. Jen S. 2.0*

    This this this! Just proceed like you know absolutely nothing about the contents of her uterus until she decides you need to know, and that includes with assignments, workload, future planning, her health, whatever. In fact, the state of any woman’s reproductive system is not up for discussion at work unless and until she makes it so.

    I thought this was common knowledge, but many, many women don’t let the cat out of the bag regarding even wanted pregnancies that they expect to carry to term until at least the 4-month mark, if not later. She likely will announce it around the time it starts to be fairly obvious.

    1. Asenath*

      That was certainly the case when I was a child – my mother told me and my sister that we were going to have a new baby brother or sister, but not to tell anyone else. It was the norm not to make a public announcement of a pregnancy until it was or was about to become quite obvious. As a child, I thought it was just one of those family traditions; now, I know my parents didn’t want to “go public” for a while just in case something happened – maybe a miscarriage – and then they’d be asked unwanted questions about it. It’s still a good general rule NOT to comment on an assumed pregnancy until the woman herself announces it. And then, all you usually say is “congratulations!”, although of course in a work setting, you can also ask about her plans for maternity leave if they didn’t come with the announcement.

    2. Jessica*

      In fairness to the LW, I’m due at the end of October as well and I’m 19 weeks along today. I don’t know how long ago the letter was submitted, but I think Alison misread part of the question — the woman hasn’t known *that she is pregnant* for a few weeks, she has known *that her boss knows she’s pregnant* for a few weeks. A woman due in October has already done almost all of the fetal health tests, is past the point of abortion in most states, is probably already visibly showing, etc.
      All of this doesn’t change the answer, that the boss cannot bring up the subject with the woman. But it does make it more understandable to me that the boss would write to Alison with a question about it — socially it’d be fine to acknowledge the pregnancy at this point, and it probably feels a little weird that the social and employment norms are so different in this case. (Again, in the end the point is that they are and the boss still can’t say anything.)

      1. Reba*

        I think it makes sense to assume the letter came in at least a few weeks ago. (Let’s say the pregnant person learned and confirmed her condition around week 8, announced online around week 12 or 13, a pretty normal-t0-early announcement timeline… those numbers can still fall under “a few weeks,” I think.)

        ANYWAY at the time of writing, the pregnant person did NOT “know that her boss knows,” I think that interpretation is a stretch! She had just made an announcement to her friends on social. And of course, thereby announced to all and sundry, but — many folks would not assume that an instagram post or whatever means their boss would get the intel!

      2. dealing with dragons*

        It’s hard to tell (for me anyway) when the letter came in – it could have come in around April for instance, which is before some of that.

      3. Observer*

        The employee doesn’t necessarily know that the boss knows (or didn’t at the time of the letter). Keep in mind that the OP saw it “through the grapevine” – ie they are probably not “friends” of the employee but saw something that the employee might not realize her boss can see. (Facebook still makes it incredibly hard to know who can see what.)

        And, by the way, in many circles it would most definitely NOT be ok to socially acknowledge an unannounced pregnancy at 19 weeks. In some cases it’s a “never do that” and in some communities you’re looking at 22 weeks or so.

    3. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Yup – most miscarriages happen in the first trimester, so most woman don’t announce until it’s over to avoid having to let the whole office know they miscarried. I kept it to myself until my throwing up in the sink in the mornings gave me away. Plus once you announce it people around the office start to call you mama and stop you to talk about it all the time – and if you aren’t feeling super well you might not feel up for all the extra socializing that goes with an announcement.

  6. Archaeopteryx*

    #1, yeah, your boss is doing a generic Kung Fu movie trope, not literally referring to you as a child. If you want to deflect it, it’s better to do it with a joke than to make it too serious.

    1. EtherIther*

      Yeah, I would avoid the word infantializing… It isn’t very casual… a joke would be better, especially the first time, or just say that it’s not your preference

        1. valentine*

          Yeah, I would avoid the word
          It is infantilizing, though. Grand wizard is more obnoxious than dad, the power difference being so much greater.

          1. Human Sloth*

            Geez… Grand wizard is more obnoxious than dad, the power difference being so much greater. Bahahaha

              1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

                Yeah but most ppl will never ever know that though unless affiliated with or knowledgeable of such things due to other reasons (I’m deep in history needless to say).

                It’s mostly known in the fantasy world.

                1. Seacalliope*

                  I would actually count it as general knowledge and nothing that requires a background in studying history, politics, or civil rights. It doesn’t even require routinely watching the Daily Show, though the Daily Show has done tons of jokes off of KKK terminology.

                2. nutella fitzgerald*

                  I would also have thought that it was just general knowledge. I don’t think I have an above-average awareness of KKK terminology :)

                3. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  It’s a title that gets news coverage. David Duke was a state Rep and his former title made news half a country away.

          2. EtherIther*

            Yeah I agree, but she isn’t having this discussion with a friend or partner, it’s at work. The goal isn’t the same, less honesty and more politeness.

          3. Natalie*

            Are you under a magic spell that requires you to be the most precisely accurate at all times? If not, it’s okay to chose a more casual, less serious word in the interests of maintaining a friendly relationship with YOUR BOSS.

            1. Myrin*

              I know I alway appreciate your comments, Natalie, but this one is certainly a favourite!

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      This was my thought too (at least that it’s a reflection of a movie trope, and not meant to be infantalizing).

      But you definitely have standing to push back, OP! Things don’t have to be malintended for you to dislike them and want them to stop. In particular, this phrase has religious connotations to many people which can be weird for many in the workplace. I’d say make a joke if you’re comfortable with it, otherwise just a simple “oh, do you mind not doing that with me? I’d be grateful,” should be enough.

      Better to ask him to stop than to allow any resentment or annoyance to build up.

      (Plus, this is really the sort of joke that is best used sparingly, or at least among a certain cohort of people.)

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        This is also the kind of scenario that making a visibly-surprised, uncomfortable face at in the moment might be enough to deter.

        But yeah, definitely a “Ooh, I don’t like that” is acceptable here. I think bringing it up after the fact would be making it weird (and making it seem like a bigger deal than it is) but if he does it again, OP can definitely push back. I’d steer clear of calling it infantilizing, because the boss is almost definitely making a lighthearted joke and making it An Issue is less likely to be productive than just saying you don’t like it.

    3. Marthooh*

      Or just be perfectly honest and say “I don’t know how you expect me to respond when you call me that.” That’ll probably make him uncomfortable enough to stop using this meme with you.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It doesn’t matter if he’s quoting a movie, they don’t have the kind of relationship for him to joke like that and it makes her uncomfortable. And if she deflects it with a joke, he’s not going to understand that she doesn’t like it.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        We don’t actually know if they aren’t in a joking-level relationship. We only know that she doesn’t like this particular joke, and apparently didn’t realize what type of joke it was. But yes, if she jokes right back, it’s not going to tell him that she doesn’t like it. It’s going to do just the opposite. He’s already shown that when someone asks him not to use that particular joke on them, he responds appropriately, so I’d do the same.

    5. Name of Requirement*

      It’s a joke. Just act confused, like you don’t get the joke, it should stop if he does it again.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Confused look, and ‘Child?’ in an honestly puzzled tone. Maybe a glance around to see who he’s talking to. Then shake your head, obviously choosing to ignore this confusing thing, and move on to the actual conversation.

        Performative deflection can sometimes get the point across with minimal confrontation.

        1. mamma mia*

          I think this strange acting performance would come off way more odd than a simple (and very non-confrontational), “Hey could you not call me child? Thanks.” I know that personally, I find it obnoxious when I think people are being deliberately performative so I find the frequent advice for a LW to use a “honestly confused” or “genuinely puzzled” tone on this site kind of baffling.

          LW already has the important information that when another coworker told the boss that they did not enjoy the “child” comment, he stopped making it to that coworker. That’s more than enough to assume that the boss would be reasonable if LW just asked him in a calm, not over the top, way to “please stop calling me child. Thanks!” Offering an explanation isn’t necessary. Pretending to be confused isn’t necessary. Being straight up with people is the best option 95% of the time.

          1. Name of Requirement*

            I guess I don’t find a confused look to be especially “performative”, I would put that in the category of communication. Using one’s words is important and not done enough, but the wrong tone and facial expression can convey the wrong message.
            I like your script, and if this bothered me, I’d use it with some people.

            1. mamma mia*

              Sorry if I wasn’t clear, I was referring to Jules’suggestion of saying, “Child?” in a confused tone and looking around to see if he was talking to someone else/shaking of the head. A confused look isn’t something that I would do if I wasn’t genuinely confused but I agree that its not performative to a problematic extent. I just don’t think it would be as effective as using your words.

    6. Lynn Marie*

      Totally a joke to reinforce his putting aside his phone and turning to give you his full attention. Because I remember priests using this IRL mostly to younger people but occasionally older parishioners too, it would make me laugh especially in this context.

      Make a face if you don’t like it or just go “huh?”. He’ll get that it’s not funny to young people who don’t have that cultural knowledge. If you just feel you must speak to him about it, don’t use the word “infantalizing”.

      1. Scarlet*

        Agree with this comment. It doesn’t have to be some kind of confrontation or formal getting-together with your boss. It’s a joke, he’s not actually referring to you as a child. I would personally laugh, but if you don’t like it, follow Lynn Marie’s advice above – “huh”? Just like like you would if someone made another movie/TV reference that you didn’t understand.

    7. Cee*

      I disagree, I think if OP is joking then the boss won’t take it seriously. He seems to have issues parsing whether calling his employee “my child” is appropriate, so why make it even harder for him to understand that he’s making her uncomfortable? Being direct with feedback is more kind and likely to get OP’s desired outcome.

    8. Cascadian*

      I’ve known a few people who address coworkers in this fashion for the sole purpose of demeaning them while maintaining plausible deniability. LW presumably has a better read on the nonverbal aspects of these exchanges and should speak up, jokingly or not, if they feel they are on the wet end of a pissing contest.

  7. FabJob Tag*

    #4 Alison’s advice is ideal. The small business I co-own has few openings (our first two workers are still there 20 years later), and when we do advertise a position it’s not unusual to receive 500 applications because most of the openings are what many people consider a “dream” career. When a job ad runs, there’s invariably dozens of LinkedIn messages, emails, and phone calls from people wanting me to contact them about the job. (I don’t, and anyone who follows up repeatedly, like the woman who sent me 4 “hire me!” messages in a single day, is generally seen as someone we don’t want to work with.)

  8. Blue Horizon*

    Regarding #5, I got my first job in similar circumstances. I sent in a paper application and was rejected, but ran into them a couple of weeks later at a job fair, talked to them for a while, and was offered an interview. (I didn’t mention the rejection). Everything from then on went well and I went on to get the job.

  9. I have a "Is it legal?"-type question*

    Regarding letter #2, if the company is a “at-will” employer, then do they have the legal right to terminate the letter-writer for “insubordination” and/or “failure to comply” if she refuses to travel to an unsafe country? I’m assuming all at-will employees have the legal right to not be terminated for “refusing unsafe work”, so most likely this situation would fall under that category?

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      “At will” means you can be terminated for any reason or non-reason, so long as the reason doesn’t violate other labor and employment laws (e.g., wage claims, labor organizing, child labor limits, antidiscrimination laws). An employer doesn’t even have to call it insubordination. They could just wake up one day and be like, “Hmm.. nope!”

      But hopefully the employer is reasonable and would not want to incur the cost of firing and re-hiring someone over an issue like this. Frankly, as a risk management precaution, they should be evaluating the State Department’s guidance, anyway, to mitigate any potential harm to their employees.

      1. human fidget cube*

        The insubordination bit is usually added or included to gain a rationale to deny unemployment to the fired employee and claim they’ve been fired “for cause”

    2. New ED*

      You could definitely be fired for refusing to travel to a location that your employer requires you to travel to. The fact that you are the country as unsafe would be irrelevant. A lot of job requirements are things that are “unsafe”. Regulations may require an employer to do things to make work tasks safer but they provide no protection against firing someone who refuses to complete a task they deem unsafe. I work in a travel heavy industry and a person refusing to travel anywhere with a state department advisory would inevitably lose their job, not because we are heartless but because they would be completely unable to fulfill the job requirements. Our staff travel regularly to Yemen, Iraq, Mali, etc. We take all kinds of safety precautions but our work requires us to be on the ground in those locations or it can’t get done

      1. JustaTech*

        But you tell them that before you hire them, right? Like, everyone knows that, say , MSF travels to some really dangerous places so don’t get a job there and expect to never travel.

        My industry has very little international travel, so if my boss said tomorrow “You’re going to Syria” my response would be “That’s funny, no.” Because there isn’t any business reason to go there.

        In the case of the OP it’s not clear why she has to travel to El Salvador specifically (since the client has locations in other countries), nor why the work can’t be done remotely. Additionally, it doesn’t sound like her company has really considered taking steps to make this travel safer. I’m sure New ED’s organization has all the security stuff down pat, which makes all that travel much safer.

  10. ENFP in Texas*

    OP#3 – if/when your employee wants you to know, she’ll let you know. Till then, no one needs to know that you know.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Yup. OP, I’m trying to be diplomatic here, but boy oh boy do you need to check yourself. ENFP in Texas, I’m an ENFP in NYC!

  11. Heshtok*

    #1 Years ago, I had an older collegue who used the same phrase. I started responding with “Yes, Grandmother Willow?” He stopped after a while.

  12. Not Australian*

    It probably doesn’t help the OP much, but I had a middle-aged boss who referred to *himself* as a child the whole time; i.e., if he was being demanding – which he did in a nice way anyway – he used to say, “Oh, I’m such a dreadful child!” I got the impression this was a family thing and said completely without agenda. We all just took the view that it was a verbal tic – endearing in this case, but I could see how it might not be elsewhere – and he honestly didn’t know he was doing it. I can see how referring to a member of staff as a child – especially with an age and gender differential – could grate, but at the same time it truly may be that the person is saying this almost without realising it and has never considered that it may be offensive or uncomfortable to those around him.

  13. KateUK*

    #2: Does the company actually have the appropriate travel insurance to send employees to El Salvador?

    1. New ED*

      This is something which is very easy to procure and I would assume that, if they are a reasonable employer, they would have this.

  14. Mookie*

    For US Americans and on-line lawyers: does traveling to listed countries for work affect eligibility for travel and health insurance and workers’s compensation? If the clients are paying for an in-person visit, would it be reasonable to request that they also purchase corporate high-risk insurance for visiting employees? Or would they not be the ones with a duty-to-care?

    1. quirkypants*

      I can’t speak to corporate travel insurance but I’ve easily obtained personal comprehensive travel insurance for countries with a warning against them. I didn’t do a direct comparison at the time but it was in line for the same kind of travel insurance I’d purchased for countries without a travel advisory.

    2. Jilly*

      You can buy policies for specific periods of time to cover named individuals for specific countries including those much more dangerous than El Salvador. The company doesn’t have to carry a blanket policy. Health insurance usually either works abroad or it doesn’t, it’s not really a country specific thing. And so the company can get a supplemental policy for a specific period of time. For example, I travel internationally for work a lot. My regular insurance covers me abroad if I am traveling for work up to X months. If I’m abroad for longer than that, HR switches me over to a different plan automatically. Because my company has federal contracts, I am covered by a specific workers comp policy called DBA (Defense Base Act) when I travel to certain countries (some countries are considered DBA waiver countries and I’m not required to be covered when I travel there) that only has one authorized vendor so I can’t speak to the regular workers’ comp coverage.

    3. CDM*

      We sell foreign package policies to our US-based clients who have international offices and/or international travel for employees.

      The workers compensation section of the foreign package covers injuries or illnesses from departure to return for any international business trip regardless of destination. (like domestic workers compensation covers anything that happens on a domestic work trip). There is also a limit of coverage for “Political, Security and Natural Catastrophe Evacuation and Relocation Expense Coverage” which would apply to employees regardless of where they travel to.

      The Kidnap and Ransom section of the coverage, however, would exclude coverage for incidents that occur in El Salvador. In addition to excluded countries one would expect to see (Sudan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela), it excludes some that are a bit more unexpected (Israel, Argentina, Peru, Egypt, Nepal, Saudi Arabia)

      And that’s specific to the policy that I have access to from this particular insurance company, other policies available to US based employers may vary. One could probably find kidnap and ransom coverage elsewhere (Lloyd’s of London, maybe) at higher cost for travel to riskier countries.

      Health insurance shouldn’t come into play, as anything should be covered by workers comp. I don’t happen to recall any country exclusions the last time I purchased international health insurance. In general, US health insurance will extend to coverage abroad, but usually expects you to pay up front and submit a claim for reimbursement. The travel plan I used would front expenses and file themselves for reimbursement from your US health insurer.

      1. JM in England*

        In response to your last paragraph, a lot of the travel advice on the UK’s Foreign Office website says to have both insurance AND sufficient accessable funds to cover medical costs whilst abroad.

    4. blackcat*

      Another arm of my husband’s company sends people to dangerous places. Like active war zones level dangerous.

      They have travel insurance (and life insurance) up the wazoo. It was actually kind of scary, but basically, it’s totally clear that the company has planned to handle liability in these cases. And, oddly, the polices all cover “travel” so if my husband is on a work trip in New Jersey (where he goes frequently) and say falls and breaks his arm, it will cost us $0 for medical treatment. If the same injury happens at home, it’s regular (kinda crappy) insurance and we’d probably be out 1k. And heaven forbid he should die on the job *while traveling* but if he did, I’d receive 20x his annual salary in life insurance.

      I don’t think any of this is ridiculous for companies that regularly require dangerous travel. They plan for it, there are clearly insurance companies that specialize in it.

      Also, like quirkypants, a friend of mine easily obtained good travel insurance when she was going to go backpacking in Afghanistan. I was baffled 1) that she would do that and 2) that someone would insure it, but it wasn’t ridiculously expensive. The thing that made it more pricey was that it was insurance that would have covered transport to and treatment in Europe should something bad happen.

  15. Friday Eve*

    OP3- I didn’t say anything at work until i was 25 weeks. I had a high risk pregnancy and was never very confident that it would go well. I was terrified to say anything. Your employee will tell you when she’s ready. Until then you need to let it go.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

      A good point. There are SO many reasons why your employee may not be ready to tell you. People don’t usually spread the news the very moment they find out, because sometimes pregnancies… just go away. Or are ended intentionally. Or are high-risk. Or are unwelcome news. Or are welcome, but will require major lifestyle upheavals that she’s still trying to figure out a plan for. Or, or, or… so many possibilities. Even in a completely healthy, welcome, low-risk pregnancy, the employee may also be worried about professional repercussions, like her boss changing her workload or not giving her training & development opportunities.

      Say nothing until she actually tells you.

    2. 2 Cents*

      I second this. I had a high-risk pregnancy after a miscarriage, so I spent basically the whole pregnancy afraid it wasn’t going to be healthy. I told my direct manager immediately because I had to get a bunch of tests done (and I knew he wouldn’t say anything), but didn’t tell the office until I was nearly 16 weeks—after I got a whole bunch of test results back and everything looked good.

    3. Anon2*

      Right, but you probably also waited to announce it to the world via social media, right?

      1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

        Why does that matter? Some people see social media as a strong social support network, which is their prerogative.

        1. CMart*

          Indeed. I have in fact told social media (to “friends of friends”) that I had a second trimester miscarriage. It was a monumental event in my life and my husband and I were grieving and it seemed odd to have it be a secret from our friends and family.

          But I did not tell my employer or colleagues. I was there to work, not be lifted up by a community.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        We don’t know that employee posted it. Unless OP has updated and I missed it . I, it was “grapevine”. I could see a careless “do we know if she wants a baby shower” discussion by co-workers.
        Or in a tight knit community boss knows his employee’s ditsy relative and read a public wall post by relative.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Or what could have happened in my husband’s case, he’s working now with the wife of someone he worked for in the last job.

  16. human fidget cube*

    #3 is precisely why you stay away from your employee’s social media. She’ll tell you when you need to be told, and taking any action before that is a gross violation of her privacy and is going to reflect badly.

    Act as though you don’t know and take extra care to not carry any accidental biases.

    1. Norm*

      I know I’m out of step with the majority of commenters here, but I think my perspective has value because there are so many managers like me who see social media as public information. I don’t put anything on my Facebook page (or any other platform) that I don’t want everyone in the whole world to know. I certainly don’t expect my boss to ignore the social media post I put up.

      It’s not a matter of bosses intruding on employees’ private lives, because social media posts are public, not private, information. If I want to keep information private, I don’t post it.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Based on the letter, OP isn’t friends with or following the employee. Norm has a point that most people don’t really seem to “get” these days. No matter how privately you set up your account, once you post it, it’s out there for more than those you intended to see.

          1. Jessica*

            I actually think the boss is friends with the pregnant person, because the letter also states that the pregnant person knows that her bosses and managers have seen her social media post. That indicates to me that the boss is on her friend list/was accepted as an instagram/Twitter follower.

            1. Angelinha*

              Did Alison edit the post? It doesn’t say anywhere right now that she knows her bosses saw the post.

            2. Observer*

              No, the OP doesn’t say that – It says that the employee has known “that” for several weeks. “That” is much more likely to be the fact that she’s pregnant.

            3. Batman*

              She might or might not be friends with the pregnant person. The letter says “she has known for a few weeks,” which I’m pretty sure means “she’s known she’s pregnant for a few weeks” not that she knows her bosses have seen her social media post.

      1. Anonymous 5*

        That is definitely true (and I’m with you on not posting anything that I wouldn’t be okay broadcasting over a PA system). But the advice to the OP remains: respect the employee–and possibly the law–and let the employee disclose before making any professional calls based on the information.

      2. Observer*

        So, firstly, it’s quite clear from the OP’s letter that they were not looking at the employees page. It doesn’t matter whether it’s social media or not “the grapevine” is gossip and hearsay, nit solid information to base decisions on.

      3. Jimming*

        I agree. There’s also nothing in the letter that says the boss follows the employee on social media. Just that’s how she heard this info. They could have a mutual connection who liked a post or something that caused her to see it. I do agree in general managers shouldn’t friend their employees but we don’t have enough info here to jump to that assumption.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Staying away from someone’s social media account is not the answer because the letter states they found out “through the grapevine”. Things pop up that you weren’t looking for if you’re connected to similar people. OP just needs to pretend they didn’t see it, and not treat the employee differently because of it.

  17. Retail*

    I have a male coworker who calls me “young lady” and “good girl.” The most recent young lady was said with such a patronizing tone that I finally reported his sexist disrespectful language. It was making me dread work because we are a small crew and I work with him every single day.

    I told him young lady was belittling and he said everything is belittling to you and I said YES, young lady and good girl are belittling but you know what’s not? My name*. Then hr told me to be quiet.

    *I’ve been here almost 4 months and he continues to mix up me and my coworker’s name even when all 3 of us are working together. This put us in a dangerous situation that day because he said my name 3 times vut meant her.

    If a boss did any of that I’d hit the roof.

    1. Anon for this*

      Wow. I’d be so tempted to ask him if he thought you were a minor child or something. And what the hell is wrong with him that he said that you find “everything” belittling?! And if there was any doubt of his a-hole-ish-ness (a-holery?), the fact that he can’t remember just three people’s names who he works with daily seals it. Also, screw your HR.

      I wrote this in a previous open thread, but a guy who worked in the same building as me called me “missy” and “kiddo,” which admittedly aren’t as bad, but they ended up grinding my gears way more than I anticipated. He was on his way out anyway, so it wasn’t a huge deal, but my condolences. I’d be tempted to just ignore him whenever he says any of your names since it’s inefficient to work with him since he probably doesn’t mean you yourself anyway. I’d also be tempted to start calling him “young man” and “good boy” regardless of his age.

      1. LQ*

        Oh, this happens a lot, people who are jerks look at people who call them out for being jerks and are like “well you just hate EVERYTHING don’t you” because …nearly everything they do is jerkish. So of course he thinks that OP finds “everything” belittling…it’s a way of belittling the OP and ignoring that they are actually jerks.

      1. Retail*

        Oh crap! Typo! He, not HR

        My boss actually passed my statement up the chain to his boss and big HR bc in addition to saying sexist things to me, he insults guests. I only included 2 of the insults – making fun of their weight, calling people trash – and left out the negative comments on women’s clothes, black women’s hair, and children’s behavior. He also only rants about customer service being dead after seeing black women.

          1. Anon for this*

            As a quick note though, depending on how this plays out, I’d love Retail to submit this as a question in the future!

          2. Retail*

            Sorry! But thank you for calling it horrifying, I feel so stupid for microaggressions annoying me.

            1. MassMatt*

              I want to respect Alison’s request not to derail but had to say–you are NOT stupid, or crazy, for getting aggravated by what your coworker is doing, he is being an a-hole! I encourage you to write your own letter!

            2. Close Bracket*

              “Young Lady” causes me to see red. It’s a deliberate reference to your age (regardless of what that age is) in order to take to the focus off your capability. You are not stupid for being annoyed.

            3. Michaela Westen*

              This is a fine example of chauvinism. He’s been getting away with this behavior all his life because chauvinism is allowed in our culture. It’s not stupid to be annoyed – I would also feel threatened because what else would he do? – it’s a normal reaction. His message is that he has no respect for you and won’t respect you even if you stand up to him. That’s both annoying and scary. He’s keeping you “in your place” with this behavior.
              If he has had any consequences, such as being fired from a job, he’s convinced himself they were wrong and he is right. He does the same with you and everyone else. He’s an utterly self-centered person who doesn’t care if he’s hurting others and justifying that they were in the wrong. I could go on about this type of man, but you get the idea. :p
              My father used to verbally abuse me and then say I was too sensitive when I objected. No matter how I tried to approach it, he always put the blame on me. That’s what such men do, and I hope they’ll get a good talking to in the next life because they won’t hear anything in this one.

              1. Financial consultant*

                Here in Switzerland it is acceptable to call young “mademoiselle” and Russians say “devushka”

                US centric comments

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Wait, HR told you to be quiet? or he told you and it’s a typo?

      Because if HR told you to be quiet on this one, it’s time to document the heck out of all of it for your EEOC complaint and fire up the resume.

      If there’s anyone out there wondering, documentation would look like (assuming hr should be he):
      June 4th, 8am conversation about X work topic, with Fergus, Ann: Fergus said ‘Now see here young lady’. I replied, ‘Please stop calling me young lady, that’s belittling’. Fergus said “Everything is belittling to you”. I said “YES, young lady and good girl are belittling but you know what’s not? My name.” Then Fergus told me to be quiet.

      June 6th, 3pm phone meeting about Y, with Fergus, Jamil, Ann: Fergus said “Good girl!”, I told him to stop calling me a girl. etc

      Date, time, context, witnesses: Conversation as accurately as possible, using quotes when you have it exact, no quotes when you’re paraphrasing.

    3. Close Bracket*

      You know this, but I’m going to validate you: Your coworker is a sexist, misogynistic m****f****. I bet he never mixes up your male coworkers’ names.

  18. TravelJunkie*

    OP#2: I spent the month of August 2018 in El Salvador. It was a fantastic experience, and would go back again. I understand your concerns, when you look at the country’s history coupled with the State Dept warning. I was all over the country, based in San Salvador, went up to the mountains Santa Ana, Lago De Guija, El Congo, and to La Libertad to the beaches for their excellent surfing. Went out at night, walked around by myself, and never encountered any problems. Even drank the water (Don’t do that. I was fine, I also travel alot). The Salvadoran people are the nicest people I’ve ever met. They were so friendly and welcoming, and because they don’t see alot of americans, they were very curious about us, and asked us alot of questions about the US. They really want to encourage tourism from the US. We ran into alot of South African and Dutch tourists, especially college age kids taking their gap year. I went with my best friend, we’re two young women, and were vigilant about our surroundings, but never felt unsafe. I live in NYC so I’m comfortable in big city environments. I’m happy to answer whatever questions you have about El Salvador. If you go it’s recommended to get a Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines.

    1. quirkypants*

      I’ve found the same thing in countries with similar ratings.

      I find it comforting and illustrative to look at all countries with a similar rating and think about places I’ve been (or places I’ve heard enough stories about) to know how worried I should be. Right now, our Canadian travel warnings place “El Salvador” under “Exercise a high degree of caution” but other countries in that list include Costa Rica and Bahamas (plus a few European countries for threats of terrorism – which, while possible, seems about as likely as finding myself in a terrorist or mass shoorter situation in the US).

      If you’re not comfortable, feel free to tell your boss that but it might be worth doing a bit more research aside from travel advisories.

      1. Lake*

        I agree that OP should do some more research before refusing to go. As others have mentioned, those travel warnings tend to be overly cautious. Unless her bosses are as concerned about safety as she is, she could end up losing a lot of standing by refusing to go on this trip.

        That being said, OP should definitely request that her employer book the trip through a travel agent who can arrange international health/travel insurance, safe transportation, and a safe hotel. Those are all standard at companies that do a lot of international travel and it sounds like OP’s company doesn’t normally do a lot of this kind of travel.

        1. Reba*

          Yes, those warnings can affect the cost of travel insurance! Do carry insurance, get the business to cover it, and read the fine print.

        2. MassMatt*

          Research could help, and maybe things like insurance, assurance about secure hotel, transportation, etc, but still OP gets to decide whether she feels safe enough to do this.

          I have traveled all over on my own, but I am a guy. It is definitely a different experience for a single woman. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Agreed. IME the research will be useful whether the OP finds it reassuring or not, though – if she’s only looked at the government travel advice then it’s very possible her bosses will respond exactly as many of us in this thread have done, by pointing out that the advice is usually very cautious and not necessarily accurate. If she can go to them with specific questions and concerns, I think that will help her make a stronger case for not going.

          2. yup*

            I’ve traveled all over the world as a single woman. While I fully agree that men and women have different safety concerns, I disagree that it is much different while traveling compared to just living their daily lives. The truth is that bad things can happen anywhere and your own hometown/ country is probably not any more or less safe than 75% of the rest of the world.

            “Don’t confuse your comfort with your safety” is the quote I read when I was debating on traveling solo and how “safe” it was. It’s literally changed my life.

      2. Fergus*

        There should be travel warnings for Bronx, LA, Baltimore, Chicago, parts of Washington D.C., Detroit, etc.

          1. Lake*

            I did not interpret Fergus’ comment to be racist. I think the comment was intended to point out that parts of the US have safety issues that are equivalent to safety issues in countries like El Salvador.

            1. pleaset*

              I did.

              Six (6) places that in popular culture and media portrayed as heavily black and/or Latino. And actually they have do have a high percentage of black and Latino people.

              Check yourselves if you feel the need to jump up and share that you didn’t find something racist – PARTICULARLY if you’re not in the group that the alleged racism refers to.

              “LOL always people taking things out of context.”
              And some people always jump up to mock accusations of racism. Well-done.

              1. pleaset*

                I’ll add that I very much support Fergus’ overall point about danger in the US. Very good point.

              2. Lake*

                Fergus did not mention race at all. He mentioned cities known for crime in a conversation about safety.

                I am a woman of color and do not feel that I need to check myself. I also do not feel the to need to assume racist intent based on a one sentence comment that doesn’t mention race. Maybe you should check yourself.

                1. pleaset*

                  “assume racist intent”

                  I don’t assume about intent – doing so that makes calling out racist action speech and racist actions really hard. Intent is not my measure.

                  I like Fergus BTW.

                2. Fergus*

                  It is a fact, plain and simple, Chicago and Baltimore compete for which city can have the most crime and depending on who creates the statistics it’s Baltimore or Chicago.

        1. Eillah*

          So…. neighborhoods known to be overwhelmingly black & Latino? Yikes, Fergus. This comment is not a good look.

        2. Fergus*

          i added etc, but before my fingers fell asleep I could add Miami, parts of Philadelphia, Camden, NJ, and more. I have been to some of these places and I wouldn’t recommend anyone be there, especially after dark. Anyone can think whatever they want but if you don’t believe me go to those places after dark walk down the street with lots of gold chains.

          1. Courageous cat*

            You should honestly just look at the latest wikipedia article for crime by US city because you’re just spouting off stuff that isn’t necessarily based in reality. Not sure that Miami is exactly at the top of this list here (along with many of the other ones), not before places like St. Louis and Detroit.

      3. TravelJunkie*

        Yes, if OP is considering going at the very least see what people are saying on trip advisor or business travel sites. I’m going to Bolivia and France later this summer and there are some similarities in the State Dept alerts for both and they’re clearly very different environments. I don’t want to understate possible risks, because you never know. Whenever I travel out of the country I make sure to have as comprehensive as possible travel health insurance, I always register with the US embassy and if I’m in a tropical climate I always bring Deep Woods Off and sunblock.

    2. Sharkie*

      Also don’t wear red, since that color has deep ties to gangs/ not so nice things in some parts of the country.

    3. It's always sunny in Juba*

      While I don’t disagree that many of the travel warnings over overblown and/or political, not all of them are. But more broadly, I can’t tell from the letter how much international travel to more far-off lands was expected, which I think has a bearing on how much the OP can reasonably push back–if they were expecting to only be traveling in the U.S. and Canada, for example, that would be different than thinking that they could be sent anywhere in the world. Not everyone is as comfortable with travel to new places, and while there certainly are dicier parts of the U.S., it’s different when you are in a completely unfamiliar country and aren’t familiar with local customs, attitudes, unwritten rules, etc.

      If the travel isn’t optional, then asking about the companies travel insurance policies is definitely important (as others mentioned). Evacuation, medical insurance, medevac, etc. as well as what sort of security protocols are in place. The company should double check the countries of coverage or any exclusions before sending you anywhere–exclusions can be based on other factors beside the travel warning (e.g. the U.S. is usually an (expensive) add-on to most foreign travel health insurance policies; another weird one is that our international health insurance policy requires that the company notify them ahead of time if anyone is going to Iraq or Syria, but not other countries (like say, Libya)). Usually if there is an exclusion linked to a government’s travel advice, it only applies to “do not travel” as opposed to just warnings. That would normally be more of an issue for individual policies; if your company does business throughout the Americas they should have a corporate policies that covers all countries people might travel to. But “should” =\= “does”, so the OP might want to check.

      Also, a word of advice to the OP: don’t camp under coconut trees <– my main takeaway from security training. More seriously…plan your movements ahead of time. Know how you will get from the airport to the hotel, if someone is picking you up, know how to find them, contact them, etc. Will your phone work automatically or do yo need to set it up in advance. Will you get a local phone once you are there. Knowing these little details will go a long way towards keeping you safe (says the lady who spent an hour at night wandering through though the construction zone outside the Addis Ababa airport trying to find the hotel shuttle….even though Ethiopia is a generally safe country, that was not a shining example of good travel behavior…do what I say not what I do).

  19. SigneL*

    for OP 1, I’d use a Darth Vader voice and say “I am not your daughter,” assuming your boss has a sense of humor.

  20. PSPC*

    OP #3-when I was pregnant with my child I didn’t tell my employer until the anatomy scan was done and even then it was just my immediate manager and no one else. We’d had a few losses and struggles on the way and wanted to avoid having to potentially broadcast deeply personal and crushing information. Whatever your intentions, thinking your employee owes you that information when it best suits your schedule and not theirs comes across as incredibly entitled and bordering on invasive.

  21. Argh!*

    OP 1: humor may be the best response. Obnoxious humor!

    Boss: Yes, my child?
    LW1: Surely you don’t really think of me as a child!
    Boss: Don’t call me Shirley!
    LW1: Don’t call me a child!

  22. Fuzzyfuzz*

    OP5–This was me. I was rejected off the bat for a job I applied to, but a contact who had recommended that I applied convinced her boss to pull me out of the digital “no” bin. I got the job, have been there for 7 years, and have excelled in the role/been promoted twice. Sometimes HR departments have weird screening processes, sometimes hiring managers aren’t great at seeing potential, or maybe you are under-qualified on paper. None of this means you aren’t capable of doing the job well! Good luck!

  23. Former Help Desk Peon*

    #5 a former coworker applied for a position with my new company and was almost rejected as being over qualified for the role. It was my knowing him and putting in a strong recommendation that got him past the initial screen, and we’re all glad I did. He IS over qualified, but he also loves working here and is much happier than his last job.

  24. Trout 'Waver*

    In regards to #2, I really don’t want to get into politics, but I think there is significant context there. The current travel warning (due to crime, allegedly) on El Salvador was placed on January 29th of this year. The president declared a national emergency shortly thereafter calling immigrants from El Salvador “dangerous criminals”. One might conclude that the travel warning was a pretext, given the political debate and questionable legal ground for the national emergency declaration.

    Again, I don’t want to get into politics. I’m just saying that the travel warning may be politically motivated and not be an indicator of increased risk.

    1. Angela*

      I’m not sure that’s a consideration. Those kinds of dangers don’t seem to be anything new in certain countries in that region. And since the warning is pretty specific (referencing being out at night, getting robbed, etc.) I’m willing to bet it’s based on specific reports or intel relevant to the country.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Your comment is contradictory. If the dangers don’t seem to be anything new, how can they be in response to specific reports or intel?

  25. 2horseygirls*

    OP#1: “Excuse me?”

    My (2 years younger) BFF since college has taken to using “kiddo” as an add-on. Annoying AF but she seems to not do it as cavalierly around me (perhaps because I know it has not always been part of her vernacular?), so I don’t worry about it. I did have a boss who did the same, but she was older than me, it was a natural part of the rhythm of her speech, and it was a universal thing, so it did not grate as badly.

    1. VictorianCowgirl*

      Ugh “kiddo”…. off topic, but a long ago ex boyfriend who is quite a bit older than me resurfaced a few years ago. He was making a run at me but he kept calling me “kiddo” affectionately (I was in my 40s already). Man did that ever shut his attempt down and to this day I don’t think he knows that that’s mainly why.

      Anyway “kiddo” at work seems inappropriate. “Yes my child” said jokingly seems fine to me, the boss is just going for some levity if he says it to everyone. If I was OP’s friend I would probably suggest having a sense of humor and loosening up a bit. Wait for the real sexism to die on that hill. You know it when you see it.

  26. LaDeeDa*

    I have had to travel to some countries before that had travel advisors, what my company did was find a safe hotel that had security and front desk people 24/7, and provided a personal driver. I was only permitted to leave with him and he was to take me straight to the job site or back to the hotel, and I was not permitted to go any place else. Also, if we travel to any country that has any type of warning- we are allowed to opt out, and we never go alone. It is the only time they insist that 2 people fly together and have hotel rooms next to each other. I felt very secure doing this, but I also trusted my very experienced company and legal team to make sure I was safe.
    Do not feel pressured to go someplace that you don’t feel safe. If your company is not experienced in dealing with certain countries, then don’t go.

    1. Lake*

      Out of curiosity, what countries does your company require people to travel in pairs?

      1. LaDeeDa*

        Egypt- I am not sure why because it is a level 2, and any level 3 countries – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey are the countries we tend to travel to.

    2. BusyBee*

      This was the exact situation at my old job. My coworker and I were asked to travel somewhere that had an advisory to work with a consultant based there. Our company advised a secure hotel and a personal driver. When they ended up calculating the cost it was actually more efficient to bring the consultant to us, so we ended up not taking the trip. But I was impressed with the precautions and amount of thought that went into the decision.

    1. Angela*

      I admit I laughed at the idea- not to downplay OP’s reaction (I completely understand where they’re coming from) but something about the phrase is so absurd in the world of today. I might use it myself a bit, but only with close friends who would find it funny. Also- I would throw in some invisible beard strokes to emphasize my point.

    2. Amber Rose*

      It feels on the same level as the Royal We.
      We enjoy it very much, my child. xD

      I actually do talk like this with people I’m close to, when I’m feeling silly.

    3. Indisch blau*

      When I had questions about fonts or layout I used to address my boss as “Oh, (Name), oh great typographer!” He’d smile benignly.

    4. anonami*

      I would be temped to break into a “confession,” but some people could actually find that offensive.

      Imagine responding something like :
      Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been 22 years since my last confession. So last week, I coveted Linda’ green dinosaur mug. And I was envious when Jenny got the promotion I wanted, and…..

      I would find that hilarious, at least

    5. Pippa*

      Yeah, seemed like fairly clear and harmless humour to me, too. But then I sometimes end class lectures with “here endeth the lesson. Go in peace, to do the reading for next time.” It’s mildly irreverent, but no one has reported me for blasphemy yet.

      And just to overthink it, I’ll add that this type of humour is often a bit self-deprecatory, in that the basis of the joke – which the listener is invited in on – is that the speaker is pretending to a type of authority or role that s/he clearly doesn’t have. That is, when I do this, I’m making a small joke about me as the speaker, not you as the recipient.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        There’s harmless humor and there’s “if Boss tells me ‘yes, my child’ again I’ll have to grit my teeth so I don’t scream.”

        To put it another way, jokes have a shelf life, and it may expire before the jokester stops finding it funny.

    6. Close Bracket*

      It would be hilarious if men did not regularly refer to women of all ages in a professional capacity as “young lady,” which is completely diminishing. If the funny thing you like strongly resembles a marginalizing thing, then you should shut it down in your workplace, not be all in.

      1. Jam Today*

        It does not resemble “a marginalizing thing” in any way. Its so broad a joke there is no way a reasonable person could mistake one for the other.

        1. Close Bracket*

          A man calling a woman “my child” very much resembles a man calling a woman “young lady.” In fact, unless the man in question is clergy, they are practically identical.

          1. anonami*

            The OP said that he uses joke with lots of people, and unless all of them are women (and men are excluded), I hardly find this equivalent to the other example.

            I think she is perfectly fine to ask him to stop because she dislikes it, but your interpretation of it is not universal

        2. Cascadian*

          But it actually does serve as a marginalizing thing in many workplaces. So there’s that.

  27. freedlabrat*

    OP #5
    If it makes you feel any better my brother recently got a job via a courtesy interview. Our Dad is a well known figure in the community and asked someone he knows through work, saying something like “Hey remember how you owe me one, you should interview my son”. So my brother prepared like crazy and was ready to argue for why they should hire him despite no experience in the field…. the interviewer straight up told him at the end that this was a courtesy interview, but that it was the most impressive interview of this round, and offered him a spot in the training program right there.

    However you got the opportunity or however much of a long shot it is take the chance, if nothing else its always good interview practice!

  28. Wantonseedstitch*

    OP #3, as someone who’s currently trying to conceive, when I do get pregnant, I do not intend to spread the news at work–or even generally among my friends–until I’m out of the first trimester! A lot of miscarriages happen during those first three months, and I think a lot of pregnant people–especially those for whom it may be a risky pregnancy for one reason or another–are reluctant to go public with the news that they’re pregnant until the risk becomes a little lower at that time because they don’t want to have to announce a miscarriage to everyone if, gods forbid, such a thing should happen–or have people continuing to talk about their pregnancy because they didn’t announce it!

  29. blink14*

    OP#2 – I think there is some validity in the fact that State Department warnings can be exaggerated, and that may be the case here.

    However, if you are uncomfortable with the idea, especially considering you would be traveling alone, you have the right to say no to your managers, based on the warning for travel safety, and offer to travel to another office or something equivalent. If you were traveling with someone else or a group, maybe the situation would be different.

    Feeling unsafe and nervous, and having a lack of confidence in where you are, can often manifest itself in physical signs and project those feelings to observant people with bad intentions – and that may make you more vulnerable to a pickpocket situation or another scenario. My goal when traveling, even locally and in the US, is to always do some research on where I’m going, have a sense of the public transportation (or parking garages, meter info, etc), and a general map in my head of the local surroundings to my accommodations. This projects a sense of confidence in your local knowledge and you look like you know what you are doing and have been there before, even if you haven’t.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      I agree with this. There’s a lot of people here sharing their experiences traveling there, which is great. But the bottom line is, if OP doesn’t feel comfortable, then she doesn’t feel comfortable and should push back. I could see a state warning being really worrying to a lot of people, especially those who don’t travel internationally a lot, or at all. Who wants to spend a trip on high alert if it’s not absolutely essential? Ultimately this is the OP’s decision and if she doesn’t think she would feel secure, then that’s enough to push back on.

      1. Lake*

        She might not be able to successfully push back though. It doesn’t sound like this trip is optional and unless her bosses agree with her about the seriousness of the travel warning, she may end up losing a lot of her bosses’ respect by refusing to go which could make things difficult for her in the future.

        1. blink14*

          From my interpretation of the OP’s email, she has told her managers she is very uncomfortable with the idea, but it’s not clear if she has flat out said no and suggested an alternative. Another alternative could be sending another co-worker with her, or as I said above, meeting at another office or some kind of equivalent visit.

      2. JM in England*

        Also, if the OP is in a state of constant high alert, she’s not exactly going to be in a position to give her best work during the trip. Perhaps she should include this point when talking to her boss…

    1. MassMatt*

      It’s not to do with her marital status, she would be a woman traveling solo to and around the place and doesn’t feel comfortable or safe doing so.

      It sucks that a woman and a man can’t feel the same sense of safety travelling alone but here we are.

      1. It's always sunny in Juba*

        I think men often feel more safe than they should.

        While sexual violence is a greater concern to women, when it comes to armed robbery or other sorts of non-sexual violent crime, I really don’t think that men fare any better (statistically, they are more likely to be murdered, I think for most other non-sexual crimes (e.g. assult, robbery) they are as likely as women or more likely to be victims. Obviously there are many other factors/confounding variables, but my honest opinion (based on personal experience) is that lots of men just assume they aren’t in danger until proven otherwise. (FYI – above generalizations are just generalizations, I don’t mean every single man nor every single woman).

        1. CMart*

          That has been my experience with friends living in a major city. Most of my male buddies exercised very little caution and nearly all of them were mugged with varying degrees of violence.

          And even after that several of them were mugged or jumped on repeat occasions because they simply did not doubt their safety or ability to “take care of themselves” even when it was proven to be unsafe.

          1. Ico*

            How is this any different than victim blaming? I’ve seen people roasted in this comment section for less.

    2. L.S. Cooper*

      Probably something to do with the fact that many ill-intentioned men will leave a woman alone if she has a wedding ring, and is therefore already “claimed”.

  30. Observer*

    #3 – Here is a question for you: Why do you have a question about “how to proceed”? At this point, why is this any of your business and why would you change you behavior because of this information?

    And do yourself a favor – stop paying so much attention to “the grapevine”.

    1. Delphine*

      Jamaica and the Virgin Islands are up there too, but I imagine we wouldn’t hear about someone refusing to travel there for work…

      1. Genny*

        How much of that is because people never leave the touristy areas of those islands though? I doubt the beach that Royal Caribbean is sending all its passengers to is where the murders are happening. I don’t know enough about El Salvador to say where the murders are happening there, but it would be something to look into before saying that El Salvador and Jamaica carry the same risk for the average U.S. traveler or implying that traveling to any of these countries is functionally equivalent.

    2. quirkypants*

      There are a few US cities with very high murder rates (I read an article that Baltimore’s murder rate was something like 55 per 100k last year).

      Part of travelling is knowing in advance where you should and shouldn’t go. Parts of Rio are dangerous, so dangerous Brazilian friends warned me not to go and cab drivers sometimes refuse to go there, and other parts are just fine, parts of San Fran aren’t safe after dark (or weren’t the last time I travelled there – about 8 years ago), etc.

      The person travelling there should be sure they are comfortable travelling there but murder rates and violent crimes can be very local and vary by city or even neighbourhood.

  31. Observer*

    #1- Are there any movies, TV series or similar cultural items your boss is into? Because I agree that a light request to stop in the moment is a good idea. But using a character reference can be a good way to do it.

    “Hey, you’re not Gandalf” would go along way to someone who doesn’t take himself tooo seriously.

    In my experience, people who have used that kind of language don’t intend to be initializing. They have either been self-aggrandizing or drama lamas with a bit of a tin ear.

    1. Angela*

      I had a similar thought! Only Gandalf is too cool. Next time he says it, OP should go “Okay then, Tom Banbodil.”

      Everyone wants to be Gandalf. No one wants to be Tom Banbodil. :)

  32. uranus wars*

    #3 & #5 both have happened to me…

    #3 As Alison said, please don’t do it. It just puts the person in an awkward spot. I had this happen to me once; the person was getting my position because I was being promoted, and I was hiring for it (no way he would know that). I felt awful blowing him off and never answering, but he wasn’t qualified and I didn’t want to give false hopes OR tell him he didn’t meet the qualifications; so I just said nothing. Which doesn’t feel exactly right either..

    #5 I was once rejected but got an interview because an ex-coworker mentioned me to their internal recruiter. And the I got the job! I found out later it was really more of a “Jane wouldn’t refer someone she didn’t believe in, so we should at least grant her an interview” but then the interview and 2 subsequent went really well – and I ended up excelling in the job.

  33. ATX Language Learner*

    #2 – The State Department Warnings can be a bit exacerbated. As a few other people have commented and said that El Salvador is a wonderful country and they have been recently. I know an American woman who lives in El Salvador. I know an American man who lived there for several years.

  34. Hamburke*

    I had to tell about my pregnancy very early bc I worked in a lab with all sorts of unknown chemicals. But nearly everyone else I know outside of the lab waited a long time – 20 weeks, often so they had ultrasound pix to share! If it won’t effect work duties, it’s not a big deal to keep it to yourself.

  35. misspiggy*

    For OP 2, their objections would come across more reasonably if they enquired about security measures and then decided whether they were happy to go.

    In an insecure or crime-ridden setting, there should be the following measures in place for business visitors:
    Host company arranges individual pickup from the flight, with a password that the driver should give the visitor.
    Hotel has security gates and guards, and OP’s room is on the second floor or above.
    Hotel can provide full services such as meals, exercise facilities and snacks, so that visitors don’t have to go out.
    Host company arranges secure travel to and from its offices (vetted taxi firm or its own drivers).
    Visitor’s company arranges full travel insurance including medical and emergency evacuation.

    If all those measures are in place, OP shouldn’t have to worry. If not, there would be reasonable grounds for OP to decline the visit.

  36. Ann*

    I’m a little surprised at how seriously people seem to be taking #1. Sounds like he just made a silly joke/cultural reference one time and it’s not an ongoing thing of him regularly calling OP “child”. I think people really need to learn to let small things like that go. I think that bringing it up or making a thing of it would probably make OP look uptight and make her boss stiffen up around her.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I agree to a large degree, but if she doesn’t like it, I think it’s fine to say, in the moment, “Oh, I don’t like that–it feels weird. Can I ask you not to say it to me?”

      This doesn’t make it a “big thing”–it’s just a personal preference. And he’s responded well enough to that already.

      And multiple people saying, “I don’t really like that,” might be feedback he’d benefit from hearing. It sounds like he might actually take it in.

    2. PSPC*

      I was thinking the same thing. I don’t think I would even notice of my boss or any coworker said that to me. This isn’t some insidious, gender-based power play remark, it’s just a boss letting some personality show in a casual greeting.

    3. Cascadian*

      I am surprised and disappointed at how many AAM readers are ok with demeaning comments if made in a joking way. And ok with belittling people who don’t liked to be demeaned, jokingly or not.

      1. That guy (in Brussels)*

        It is not demeaning, it is called having a tiny sense of humor (or being a LOTR fan, etc.) I think LW is being too sensitive. It is bloody obvious he is not literally calling here child. Ppl who take themselves so seriously need to flayed with a wet noodle

    4. Samwise*

      According to the OP, He does it to a lot of people and only stops when directly called out about it. More importantly, the OP doesn’t like it, particularly because her boss is older and male and she is younger and female. “It’s just a small thing” — I’m sorry, that smacks of “Lighten up, it’s just a joke.”

      The boss needs to stop it and the OP is not being overly sensitive or unwilling to overlook a small thing. Because it’s not a small thing.

  37. TootsNYC*

    #4: contacting the person who is leaving the position you’re applying for.

    Even if you do get the interview, don’t contact that person directly. Ask someone that you DO know to reach out on your behalf and ask if they’d be willing to talk to you.

    If someone I didn’t know (even if they knew someone who actually knew me, but even moreso if they just knew someone who vaguely knew me or who worked at my company) contacted me to ask this, I’d be really put off, and I wouldn’t provide much information.

    I might not anyway, especially not if I was leaving on good terms all around, because I wouldn’t want to mess up my boss’s hiring by giving one applicant an advantage over another.

    If you were someone I knew, then I would be far more forthcoming, especially if I felt I had a really good sense that you’d be great at the job.

    So by contacting me through a mutual acquaintance or friend, you increase the chances that I’ll be open with you–and increase the chances that I’d respond at all.

  38. 5 month mommy*

    #3: A lot of the comments seem to be that the employer did something wrong by reading/finding out something via social media—but if his employee did not want some people to know that she is pregnant, she should not have put it on social media, right? I agree 100% with Allison’s response, of course (and feel generally worried that the tone of the letter seems to be that something needs to be done, but maybe I’m reading too far into it). Obviously, this woman should be treated no differently even AFTER she tells her company that she’s pregnant, when that time comes. But isn’t it always a bad idea to post something on social media that you do not want an employer to know?

      1. yup*

        I don’t see anything about a “victim” in the letter. The OP is speculating, (which may not directly be appropriate but probably hard for her to ignore) but nothing indicates they are “victimizing” the employee. Language like this downplays true victim-blaming.

        1. Hrovitnir*

          I don’t know if you’re being deliberately obtuse, but this is a completely reasonable use of the phrase “victim blaming”. It’s nothing to do with whether the person is a victim of something terrible, the point is that it’s gross to say someone deserves to have no privacy because they don’t lock down their life to the degree the OP thinks they should.

          Victim-blaming as a concept applies just fine to relatively mild situations, as well as the traditionally awful ones.

          1. 5 month mommy*

            I believe my question was misinterpretted. As a brand new mother who just went through the process of announcing pregnancy at the workplace, making sure my work did not suffer and will not suffer now that I am back and that I’m treated no differently than my coworkers, it’s particularly upsetting to be told i’m victim-blaming. Certainly not my intention.

            I didn’t think of the fact that “found out through the grapevine” of social media would not necessarily mean that the woman posted a pregnancy announcement. My question was, in short, “IF she posted an announcement, that was a bit unwise, yes?”

            I hope the OP takes Allison’s advice to the letter.

            1. 5 month mommy*

              Scratch this—I’ve answered my own question. She should be able to do what she wants.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      We don’t know if SHE posted it. Boss says s/he heard through the grapevine, not where that grapevine took root.
      Gramma-to-be asking for a registry? Husband asking a friend to help him finish his new shed “because that hobby room of mine is going to be a nursery “.

      1. 5 month mommy*

        You’re 100% right. And the victim-blaming accusation above makes me realize that she should have been able to post it anyway, if she wanted to.

  39. LizB*

    #2, travel warning: I agree with all the comments above that when you think about the travel warning, you should know how cautious/conservative the State Department tends to be when issuing warnings. It’s also worth mentioning that “If someone tries to rob you, don’t resist,” is just standard advice if someone tries to rob you. I know it sounds really scary, but it’s the smart thing to do if you are being robbed: just give them your stuff. You are more important than whatever belongings they want. (I’ve unfortunately had occasion to put that advice to use — in the US, in a safe neighborhood, in broad daylight, around other people. It’s just… the way it goes sometimes.)

    Ultimately you can still decide you won’t travel there, and then Alison’s script is great if that’s the decision you come to. But do consider all the context commenters are providing here to make your decision.

  40. AliceWatson*

    A few years ago my company sent an employee to El Salvador to handle training for a satellite call center they had there. She was booked into a secure hotel that was gated and guarded 24/7 and had secure transportation to the job site that was also gated and guarded. This worked fine but she was nervous the entire time she was there because of the “what if’s” and since it was a two week trip she was essentially trapped at the hotel at night and on the weekend. When she got back she told us there were two men in the room next door who were State Dept AND former Military, one afternoon one of them thought it would be OK to go one block away to a convenience store….he was mugged and stabbed. About a year later my manager called me to his office and said there was talk of sending me there then he said if it was requested I should give them a flat Noand that he would fully back me up because of the safety issue. Luckily the plan fell through and they never even asked me to go. Yes it was several years ago but I don’t think the situation there has improved much. You should have an honest talk with your employer and do what’s safest for yo.

  41. Anonymeece*

    #4 – Oooh. That is… please don’t do this. It just puts everyone in an awkward position. I was actually functioning in an interim position, but applied for the permanent one. While the committee was interviewing, a potential candidate called to find out more about the job… from me. Who was in the running with her. I politely told her that I couldn’t talk to potential candidates, and that she could speak to HR if she had any questions, but it was SUPER awkward, because it put me in a weird position talking to another candidate, and also because we have very strict rules about confidentiality around hiring and I was inadvertently thwarting those.

  42. ArtsNerd*

    OP4: In addition to Alison’s comments, I had a few people do this when I was hiring for the position I was currently in at the time.

    My boss was transitioning out and I was moving into her role, but since I didn’t officially have the title change yet we hadn’t updated our public-facing materials. So plenty of people assumed that she was the hiring manager and not me — which was an understandable assumption. But it was kind of disorienting to get emails from strangers who clearly didn’t consider the possibility that I was running the hiring. Even if the content was inoffensive, as a candidate, you don’t want your first impression to be “disorienting.”

    My favorite was a candidate who called and asked for my boss, and when they were informed that she no longer worked, there scoffed a bit and replied: “Well can I be considered for THAT position?” (They were not a top candidate for the lower level position.)

  43. ThursdaysGeek*

    For #2, one concern I have is that the boss will say “ok, I’ll get a man to go instead.” And the OP will lose out on opportunities because of that. I don’t think that a man is necessarily more safe, but we deal with perceptions as much as reality. Nor do I know the solution.

  44. c56*

    #1. That’s an obnoxious response. It’s probably meant to be funny, not rude, but I agree with Alison that you’re within your rights to request they don’t use that with you.

    But … is it worth it?

    1. SaffyTaffy*

      We’re supposed to give substantive advise here, and if you’re saying that you live in the country now, can you confirm that the travel advisory is inaccurate? That would be helpful.

    2. Ann*

      The US state dept are pretty overzealous in their travel advisories, and I think it scares less experienced travelers. A lot of Americans (most actually) have never even left the US,.

      Having said that, I agree there’s probably a bit of racism at play. There are many cities in the US that are probably much more dangerous than El Salvador. I wonder if OP would refuse to travel to Chicago or Houston (both on the US top most dangerous cities list)

      1. anonami*

        In dangerous US cities, I am able to communicate with no barriers and find plenty of information of what areas I should avoid. If I am accused of a crime, I am a citizen and have certain rights to protect me. I don’t think it’s the same at all. The op is looking at something that is supposed to provide reliable information and is concerned accordingly.

          1. anonami*

            I’m not even sure what you are trying to say here?

            I’m pointing out that traveling to another country inherently carries more risks than traveling within a country that you are familiar with, especially one where you are a citizen. Obviously it varies tremendously from country to country and is partially based on your country of origin.

            I’m not saying that she shouldn’t go, but given the travel warning, I think it is reasonable to look into it and evaluate if additional security measures should be taken and whether her employer would provide them. Many people here have said that the Level 3 wanting given is not warranted and is at least partially political, so that may be enough to reassure her.

            I just find it kind of bizarre to suggest that since parts of Chicago and Boston are just as dangerous, if someone will would go to those cities but not to El Salvador, it’s probably racism at play. I mean, there are many areas of Chicago I would happily live in but there are also areas I wouldn’t drive through.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m not denying racism, but not all unfounded/weakly-supported fear is based on that. I mean, some people in the U.S. freaked out about me going to France a couple of years ago, for basically the same reasons.

    4. Shades of Blue*

      Hello, fellow Salvadoran person! :)

      Also, I’m glad I read other’s responses on #2. My initial reaction was one of irritation, but I’m thankful for the thoughtful responses.

  45. Samwise*

    OP #5. Many years ago I applied for a very good academic job. I didn’t even get a send your writing sample request. In other words, completely and utterly rejected right from the start. As it turned out, the search failed. They needed to hire someone pretty fast, but wanted someone good. A close friend worked there; said Take a look at Samwise’s application, she’s really good. They were skeptical but trusted my friend, did a quick phone screen, flew me out, offered me the job five days later.

    You never know. Treat the interview as a real opportunity.

  46. Rosie*

    Op 2– I do feel like the State Department warnings are ridiculously alarmist. I travel regularly to countries that have these warnings, exercise the usual level of caution and have never had an issue. Frankly, I think the average American is far less safe going to work or school, given the issues we have with gun violence. And as a woman who always travels alone, I deeply resent the “women who travel alone are so at risk” trope. We aren’t precious flowers in need of special protection, and I feel it does women a disservice to perpetuate this stereotype. By using common sense, there’s no reason why women can’t travel alone most places. I could certainly understand if the OP’s supervisor were making a ridiculous request like asking her to go alone to Saudi Arabia or Iran without drivers, interpreters, etc.— but that’s just not the case here. If women expect to be treated as equals in the workplace and given the same opportunities for advancement as men, we just can’t do the “I’m to scared to travel alone in another country” thing and refuse reasonable requests for work travel.

  47. Ico*

    A few commenters above were saying they wouldn’t like the boss’ greeting in letter #1 because they find the religious connotation problematic in the workplace or feel it’s out of step with current cultural norms.

    I just wanted to point out that this works equally well from the opposite perspective as well – if I were the LW I’d be pretty irritated with the boss for making a joke of pastoral authority. The boss shouldn’t, even in passing, be borrowing an authority he hasn’t earned, especially one connected to a protected class.

  48. Former Employee*

    Many of the comments about the possibly pregnant employee include assumptions such as, if there are hazardous conditions for pregnant employees, the woman would already be aware of that or it’s treating women as if they are too dumb to realize that they need to avoid “x” situation if pregnant.

    Given that supposedly intelligent women will make excuses for why they continue to drink during pregnancy despite the risk of fetal alcohol syndrome, I would not make any assumptions about the intelligence or perspicacity of someone I don’t know well.

    1. atalanta0jess*

      Well, with drinking you do have the additional element of potential addiction, right? I assume most pregnant women are either drinking very lightly (the research on light drinking during pregnancy, as far as I can tell, is inconclusive); or they are drinking because they have an addiction.

      Which is different than continuing to work with hazardous materials.

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