I’m doing two jobs, my boss thinks I’m dating a coworker but I’m not, and more

It’s five answers to five questions, plus a bonus letter with an AAM love story! Here we go…

1. I’m doing my coworker’s job plus my own while applying for his role

I am going though a situation at work where we had a coworker depart the organization and I inherited his responsibilities. I am interested in his position and I am happy that I was given to opportunity to handle his workload in the interim. I have indicated my interest in the role and received positive feedback from both the hiring manager and director, but I am afraid that the hiring decision is going to be drawn out and there will not be a selection made for another two months. Can you please offer me some advice on how to deal with two workloads and not burn out all in hopes of being selected as the new replacement? I know that I have to be realistic with others on their expectations of my existing role, but it is difficult when I am starting to feel burned out and it has only been a few weeks since his departure.

It’s actually important that you not try to do the entirety of both jobs at once, because (a) that’s impossible if these are both full-time jobs and (b) you don’t want your employer to see you doing that and decide to just fold his job into yours rather than actually moving you into his position.

Instead, give your manager a plan for what you’ll prioritize and what you’ll push to the back-burner so that the most important pieces of each job are covered but everyone understands that you are not in fact two separate people. It’s one thing to decide to work a few extra hours per week during this period, but you shouldn’t come anywhere close to actually doubling your workload, especially if you’re not getting any extra compensation for that. Figure out a reasonable plan of attack (including things that won’t happen until the role is filled) and talk it through with your manager.

2. My boss talked to me about dating a coworker — but I’m not

Recently I was called into a private meeting with my boss. He said he had been told by my grandboss that he needed to talk to me about my relationship with Tim, a member of the team I lead. He reminded me that dating a teammate needed to be disclosed to the company, and even though Tim doesn’t report to me, my leadership role made it even more important.

Normally I’d totally agree, except Tim and I are not dating! We are close friends, but that has never been a secret. In fact, when my boss proposed moving Tim onto my team last year I was concerned about the potential for trouble, but both he and my grandboss assured me it was fine. Clearly they now have the wrong idea, though. I explained that to my bosss and later to my grandboss, and both seemed to believe me. It was unclear why they reached that conclusion, but no harm, no foul, right?

The problem is that my family disagrees. They have been outraged, saying that my bosses were inappropriate, that it was none of their business, and even that it was sexual harassment (I’m pretty sure it’s not). They think I should go to HR or even a lawyer, because “things like this will follow you.” I’m not mad, and even if I was I can’t imagine a good outcome from taking steps like that. Which of us is wrong?

(I didn’t think it warranted calling out above, but Tim and I are both men, and there has been a lot of “can you imagine if you were a woman” and worrying about my “reputation” coming from my family. There’s probably some undercurrent of thinking it especially slanderous to accuse someone of a gay relationship, as well.)

What on earth?! No, this isn’t sexual harassment, and if you and Tim were dating, that would be very much your company’s business since he’s in your chain of command. It’s odd that they thought you were dating when you’re not, but if they did suspect that, they’d absolutely need to talk with you about it. Their sexual harassment problems could come in if they didn’t and instead turned a blind eye to a manager potentially dating someone on their team.

It does sound like this could be homophobia from your family, but the “can you imagine if you were a woman” thing is throwing me off, so I’m not sure — but regardless, your family is way off-base on this!

For what it’s worth, a manager having a close friend on a team they lead can indeed be problematic and you were right to express concerns about it initially. I’m not clear on the structure, but it sounds like Tim’s manager might report to you? If so, that’s a tough situation for her — and potentially for others on the team who might think (correctly or not) that Tim gets more access to you, special treatment, etc. In fact, it’s possible that led to the report your boss heard — so it’s worth taking a look at whether people on the team do have concerns about that.

3. Bed bugs on work travel

I recently returned from a trip for work. The hotel was selected and booked by the company. Upon returning home, it was clear I had been bitten by bed bugs during the stay. The hotel confirmed in writing that they checked the room and found bed bugs.

Should I notify my company of this happening? I already told my managers about the bites because I wanted them to know why I was distracted in the few days after returning, and also warn them since they stayed in the same hotel. In case I end up having any expenses due to the possibility of bringing the bed bugs home, is there any chance my company would pay for it? Or would it look totally out of touch to even ask?

You can ask! They might say no, but it’s not outrageous to ask if they’d pay for the cost of an exterminator, etc. Some employers do cover extermination costs when people get bedbugs from work, and this was basically work. (And frankly, it’s in their best interests to do that, to lower the chances you could end up bringing some to work.) If they won’t agree to that, you might have a better shot at being given extra paid leave to deal with the problem, if you end up having to take time away from work to deal with it.

And ugh, I’m sorry.

4. Talking with a mentor who’s dying

I need some advice on what to say to a mentor who is dying. She was my college professor and I’ve known her for about 20 some years now. Her classes ignited my interest in my major, her advice and guidance set me on the course to my career. In the years since college, she has continued to be a mentor to me and has been someone I could always turn to for advice. I truly admire her career and her expertise and have been constantly inspired by her. Suffice it to say, I would not be where I am today without her guidance.

I received news today that she is terminally ill (weeks, probably not months left). She is receiving visitors, and I know that she will be glad to see me. The thing is, I’m worried I’m going to make it weird. She’s been such an important person in my life, but I’m afraid that when I get there I’m just going to blurt out “I’ve modeled my career after you!” “You’re the reason I’m successful!” and in general be too over the top and effusive with someone who is at the end of her life. I haven’t been in the position of saying goodbye to someone I know more professionally than personally, and I am worried about how to do it right.

I think you could say those things! It would probably mean a lot to her to hear how much she’s meant to you.

But if you’re not sure she would be comfortable with the conversation or if you’re just concerned about making it weird, another option is to write her a letter and give it to her while you’re there. You could tell her in person that you wanted to her to know how much she has meant to you and so you wrote it down, and then leave the letter with her when you go.

5. How much notice do I need to give to cancel an interview?

I’m currently job hunting and had an interview a week ago for a job I’m really interested in. The company called last Friday looking for references and I know they’ve already been in touch with my referees. I got the impression from the call that I should be receiving an offer relatively soon.

On Monday another company reached out to invite me for an interview in two weeks. I’ve said yes, as I don’t know that the first job is a sure thing. However, if I’m offered the original job, I’ll take it. Should I cancel the interview with the second company if I get the first job, or does it depend on how close it is to the interview?

I don’t want to cancel last minute and annoy them, and it’s a company I could potentially work for in the future so I want to make a good impression. However, I also don’t want to waste their time or take away an interview spot from someone else. Is there a rule on how much notice you have to give before pulling out of an interview?

It’s okay to cancel at the last minute if you need to. Obviously you want to give them as much notice as you can, but if your circumstances change right before the interview — even just an hour before the interview — it’s far better to cancel at the last minute than to waste their time with an interview when you know you have no intention of taking the job. Most interviewers would much rather have an hour freed up unexpectedly than to waste time with someone who’s just going through the motions.

If you do need to cancel last-minute, you’d just explain that you’ve just accepted another job and are sorry for the last-minute notice but it just happened that day. No reasonable employer will hold that against you; sometimes the timing just works out that way.

6. An Ask a Manager love story

I work as a hostess in a restaurant; we use an iPad to track the tables and in my idle moments, the ONLY website I go to is Ask a Manager. So everyone that works there and comes to “visit” me by the host stand knows I love your website.

My restaurant has an exchange program, where people from other countries can work here for one year. Last year we received a few guys from Turkey and I got along with everyone, especially one of them, but I didn’t think anything of it. I’m fairly new to the country myself, so I was just happy to be making friends!

Well, to my surprise, a few months later, this Turkish guy comes and gives me your book. He told me he noticed how much I enjoyed your website, saw that you had a book written, went to Amazon, bought it, and gave it to me. Just like that. I was both surprised and happy.

It may sound that I’m very easy to fall for people, but I started looking at him differently after he pulled this sweet surprise. Today, as I write you this, we have been together for three months and counting!

I love Ask a Manager and now I can say I love him too, thanks to you! So, long story short: thank you! (And lastly, your book is great!)

The book is here, for anyone else who wants to find love!

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 234 comments… read them below }

    1. JessaB*

      Exactly, what a lovely romance story. Congratulations matchmaker Alison, for helping love grow. And very best of everything to the OP

    2. MtnLaurel*

      That’s the sweetest thing i’ve ever seen. Thanks for Sharing, #6, and best of luck to you both!

    3. Buttons*

      AWWW <3 <3 <3 I am a sucker for a good love story! I hope these two make it! I think Alison should get ordained and officiate their wedding! ;)

  1. Mop.*

    I’m a mean and unsentimental old bag, but I’m a little touched by the unexpected love story. Brought a little light to my late-night work. Good luck, fellow random reader!

  2. Mary Richards*

    Aww, what a cute AAM romance story! Alison, have you ever considered doing an “ask the readers” to see if others have stories about your blog helping them in a non-job-related way?

  3. Circe*

    LW5, cancel with a clear conscience. Our office used to have an abysmally slow HR department, so our hiring process took forever and this happened to us fairly frequently. And the reaction was always:
    1. Relief to get 60-90 minutes back.
    2. It’s a bummer a promising candidate is going elsewhere.
    3. Warm feelings that a promising candidate has found the right spot for them.

    However much time they spent preparing to interview pales in comparison to the time they’ll spend interviewing and evaluating your candidacy. Anyone who behaves otherwise is someone who isn’t worth working with.

    1. Hiring manager*

      100% this! I enjoy interviewing but it can be very time consuming and tiring, so if you know you’ll be accepting another job, it’s fine to cancel late. I am interviewing this week and a candidate cancelled the day of the interview – I’ll be honest in saying that it felt like an unexpected gift.
      There are companies out there who might take a last minute cancellation badly but in my experience those aren’t the types of company you want to work at anyway – for me it’s an indicator of taking things personally and not treating work as work. Others’ mileage may vary.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes to all of this. I’m interviewing this week and next, and we had an interview cancelled pretty last minute because our HR rep realized that we were wildly misaligned on salary with the candidate (he had way more experience than we were asking for). I was so happy to not have to spend that hour being “on” in a way I find a little draining, maybe getting my hopes up about him being a good fit, filling out the paperwork with my notes, scoring his candidacy, etc. if there was no chance of it working out. (It’s government, so I’d have to fill out all the paperwork regardless.)

        1. Linguist*

          Out of curiosity, was it the candidate who cancelled? I’m asking because we’ve had letters here where candidates were wondering how to pre-empt employer doubts about their salary expectations even though the candidates were happy about the lower pay (or a lower-level position) for different reasons.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            I’m not 100% sure because of how our HR rep handles that part. We flagged for the HR rep that salary might be an issue just based on the candidate’s experience level. Either the HR rep checked the candidate’s stated preferred salary from the application, or called the candidate to have a pre-screening conversation before the interview.

    2. LW5*

      That’s great to hear. This is only my second time job hunting, I’ve been in my last position since college so it’s great to get advice from people with more experience of these things. It’s hard sometimes to figure out the differences between work norms and other social etiquette.

      1. BethDH*

        This is an interesting way to phrase a bigger workplace issue. I’d love to see a discussion at some point (Friday work thread?) about the times or situations where you can’t use normal social etiquette norms as your guide for figuring out workplace etiquette.

        1. Antilles*

          Yeah, that would be interesting. Like, if this was a normal situation with a friend, you’d be right to be pissed that a friend basically said “yeah, something better came up, so I’m canceling”. Heck, I’ve dropped a couple friends who did this repeatedly because seriously, what’s the point in even making plans if you’re going to bail on them anyways?
          In a work scenario though? Canceling a meeting shortly before it happens is perfectly normal and often even a benefit. Go right ahead and cancel this afternoon’s call, while you’re at it, can you cancel next week’s too?

          1. Jadelyn*

            One of the senior managers in my department will gladly cancel our monthly meeting if there’s nothing that needs everyone’s attention at once, and whenever she does she refers to it as “giving everyone the gift of an hour back”. Which is how we all see it. That’s one less hour we have to spend in a meeting, and one more hour we can spend on actually getting shit done.

            1. Ariaflame*

              Though still some advance warning can be good, especially if you’ve been doing some scheduling around that meeting and knowing ahead of time allows reshuffling to more optimum times for some activities.

            2. SusanIvanova*

              My manager *apologizes* for missing our one-on-ones. I could spend the rest of my career without having a scheduled one-on-one and be happy. If my manager doesn’t have the big picture of what I’m doing, a weekly meeting won’t fix that. And if it’s something that needs to be discussed *now*, then, well, it needs to be discussed *now*, not next Tuesday.

      2. hbc*

        I think in any kind of transactional meeting, if the reason for the meeting goes away, the proper etiquette is to cancel. How well it’s taken depends on how much work the other party has done in setting it up and how foreseeable your change was. In your case, anyone reasonable would expect that people have overlapping interviews, an offer might pop up after the interview is scheduled, and you’d be wasting time on both sides to have the interview. If it was, “Nah, decided to keep my old job” or “I read the job posting again and realized I don’t want to do X work,” then they’d probably be annoyed, but still better than having the interview and getting that excuse afterwards.

        1. LW5*

          I think it’s definitely down to experience, it’s been great reading the different viewpoints of people here, and the underlying thinking involved. In my current role I wouldn’t hesitate to cancel or reschedule meetings as needed as I have relationships with people or they at least have knowledge of my prior work and reputation. I think job hunting adds another dimension as I’m going into new organisations where they are still forming an opinion of me and I don’t know how they do things. It’s just a bit of a learning curve

      3. Qwerty*

        LW5 – How would you feel about asking the second company if they reschedule your interview to be sooner? In my industry it wouldn’t be unusual to tell them that you are in the final round of interviews with another company and do not know how fast/slow their timeline is, but that you really want to explore Second Company.

        Most companies I work with even ask during the phone screen if the candidate has any offers or deadlines that we need to work around and to alert us if any come up. For my field it is easy to speed up the early phases of the interview process, so that we have a chance to compete with the candidates’ other offers.

        1. LW5*

          I would definitely prefer the role in the first company so I’m happy to leave things as they stand and wait for an official offer but prepare for the next opportunity if its necessary.

          I know the second organisation have quite a strict internal calendar, the dates for application, call backs, interviews and offers were all laid out in the original job ad, so I don’t think they are very flexible on their end either.

          1. CM*

            Then I think you’re in a great situation. You would prefer #1 so if you hear from them first, you can call up #2 and say, “Thanks so much for the opportunity, but I’ve just accepted an offer at another company and need to withdraw my application.” and if it’s last-minute just add on a quick, “I apologize for the short notice.”

      4. Witchy Human*

        On the other side of things though: don’t feel bad if you don’t cancel the interview.

        If there’s even a 5% chance that the other job doesn’t come through–and personally, if I haven’t signed an offer letter, I never consider it a done deal–then I say keep the interview. Consider it insurance and good practice and don’t feel guilty.

        1. TootsNYC*

          also–I once had an “informational” interview that taught me something important.

          I sent a resumé to someone (a contact of a contact; she might have heard my name before) on an over-the-transom basis (“I’m in the market; if you hear of anything, or would you keep me on file?”). It was a reasonable contact, but also not one I expected to result in much.

          She called me in for an interview. She was upfront about not having any openings and said, “I’d like to meet with you anyway.” She was quite insistent that we meet in person. She asked many questions about my experience, skills, attitude, etc. A thorough interview.

          At the end, she thanked me quite sincerely for coming in, as though I had done a favor for HER. And she said, “I like to get to know who’s out there in our field. If someone asks me for a referral, I like to be able to tell them about great people, so I like to know more about them. And of course, if anything comes up in my own organization, then I’ve got a head start on the pool of candidates.”

          It made me realize that such an interview is a benefit to ME as a hiring manager.

          So if you were a good enough candidate to make it past the original screening, then it’s always to my advantage to actually interview you. Because you never know!

          So if you go to the interview, treat it like a real one. It just might be the interview that gets you the job AFTER the one you take at Company A.

      5. TootsNYC*

        There are some interesting similarities between the etiquette/dynamics of job hunting, and the etiquette/dynamics of a social life or dating.

        They often have the same core (respect for others, for example), but some are different (you want a friend to realize how much you care about them, so cancelling for “something better” is hurtful; that’s not true of a job opening).

        And I’l also say that every time a promising candidate has canceled, I’ve said to them, “If ever you’re in the market again, get in touch.”

        Whatever regard I had for their skills stays in place.

    3. Anne of Green Gables*

      I’ve been the interviewer in this very situation and was glad the candidate called to cancel. I got the call around 8:30ish in the morning? It was a 9am start. He had gotten a job offer the day before from California (I’m on the east coast) and it was too late to call at that point–he hoped to talk to me directly instead of leave a message. I appreciated the suddenly free day! And do not at all consider it a burned bridge. (Well, candidate was rude other times and would have had to knock my socks off to be considered at that point, but the cancelling of the interview was not the bridge-burning element.)

    4. akiwiinlondon*

      I also wanted to add, if the cancelling is due to another job offer it’s usually a relief that it came before the interview so that I wouldn’t take the time for the interview, weigh up the candidate, make an offer – then find out they had an offer elsewhere accepted and reject ours.

      If you were an incredibly promising candidate or we were late in a process, we might negotiate on our process, see if you want to still come in before you formally accept the other offer. But definitely be transparent so we can make those offers and you can make a decision.

      If you get that other offer that’s great for you, if that burns any bridges that is not a person you want to work for, like Circe said as a person I’d be happy for you even if as a hiring manager I might be frustrated we lost a good candidate.

    5. Umiel*

      I have had candidates cancel the same day several times. The only thing frustrating about it is the disappointment to lose out on a good candidate. I promise you that there is no ill will on my part against the canceler, and I don’t even remember the names of the candidates involved. It would have to happen several times with the same candidate before I would even begin to notice.

      Also, I was in a similar situation myself recently, but I didn’t get an offer until after I had already interviewed with a second employer. After I accepted the offer, I called the hiring manager for the second position to let them know I was withdrawing my candidacy. She let me know that she was about to call me to offer me the position, but she had no hard feelings as the position I was taking paid more than she could offer.

      To sum it all up, don’t fret this.

      1. TootsNYC*

        There’s talk in the comments today about similarities between social or dating and job hunting.
        Sometimes I think we’d be better off if more DATING situations played out like this particular job hunting one.

        “Oh, this relationship isn’t for you–that’s OK, best of luck in the relationship you DO want, and I’ll move on to consider other relationships.”

    6. Tupac Coachella*

      I second this. It happens frequently when I’m on hiring committees, and it’s NBD. It’s the cost of having a good pool-sometimes someone beats you to the punch on a candidate. I’ve been annoyed that a top choice was no longer available, but that’s always annoyance at the situation, not at the candidate. I would be VERY annoyed at the candidate if I found out I coordinated my schedule with four other people, went to another building, and skipped lunch for in interview with someone who had already accepted another job.

  4. All Outrage, All The Time*

    OP4 – I’m so sorry for your loss. I wouldn’t worry at all that you might be too effusive. Tell her how much she means to you, tell her family. Tell her you are proud to carry on her legacy and that you are who you are in no small part due to her influence and inspiration. As sad and difficult as it is, it’s wonderful that you get a chance to tell her these things. Don’t avoid it. It won’t be weird, I promise. Talk to her from your heart. I think Allison’s idea of a letter is good, too. It’s something that would mean to lot to her family.

    1. All Outrage, All The Time*

      I’ll just add that I paid a visit to a mentor in hospice and said goodbye and thank you. That was decades ago but I still think about it and am so glad I got a chance to say goodbye.

      1. Massmatt*

        Good for you! And I hope the OP takes advantage of that same chance.

        OP, people we care about often die suddenly, and we so often carry regret for the things we wish we’d said. You have an excellent opportunity here to actually say them.

        It may feel awkward at the time, but that is OK! This is an awkward situation and few people have lots of experience with it. It’s OK to feel awkward, or scared, but you can do it!

    2. Detached Elemental*

      This. I lost my mentor a few years back and I still regret not picking up the phone or going to see her when her treatment started to fail.

    3. V*

      Completely agree. I’ve been in this exact situation and the best advice I had was “She is still herself, just because she’s dying” which really helped me adjust / set my expectations for visiting her. I initially decided I’d treat it like any other visit to her and that worked well until she said “One of my big regrets is I never really influenced anyone’s life” and I burst into floods of tears and said “You influenced my life SO MUCH” and she hugged me and we cried and it was so so lovely and so so sad. I am still so grateful that I got the chance to tell her how much she meant to me. I also wrote her a letter and her family contacted me after she had died to say how much they had appreciated finding the letter when they were sorting out her things.

      1. Minocho*

        I really like the letter too, especially for the reason that the mentor will be able to read and re-read it, if they find it helpful, and the added joy the mentor’s family could receive upon finding the letter and knowing their beloved departed was loved and appreciated by others.

      2. Filosofickle*

        Oh, that happened to me once, without the dying part. After hearing a story like this, my best friend told me she really wished she’d deeply influenced someone’s life. And I was floored — I told her she completely changed my life! She was also floored. She’d had no idea. I’m so sorry I had not told her how much it meant to have her friendship at a really hard time in my life and how much it’s meant to keep that friendship for 25 years.

        Tell people how much they mean to you while you still can! I wasn’t able reach a beloved teacher before she passed, and that will always make me sad.

      3. juliebulie*

        That’s wonderful.
        I think many of us worry that we haven’t made enough of a difference to others. Letting someone know the difference they’ve made to you is one of the best gifts you can give.

      4. mrs__peel*

        That’s lovely!

        My grandfather was a high school and university teacher for many years (including in Japan in the ’80s), and kept in touch with a lot of his students. Many of them came to visit or called him when he was in hospice before he died, and one of his former students actually flew all the way from Japan to the U.S. with her son to come see him. It was incredibly moving and really meant a lot to all of us.

      5. Artemesia*

        I flew out to see an old friend dying of a brain tumor a couple of weeks before the end; she was having a lot of mental issues, but we had a terrific hour together and it was fun to be able to share with her and also tell her how important she had been to me — she had more than any other friend helped me deal with issues and live my best life. The 2000 mile trip was worth it — my only regrets are situations like this where I didn’t step up.

    4. zoz*

      OP4, I have been in your situation and taking the time to say goodbye and to tell my mentor how much they meant to me and to say that I wouldn’t be where I was without her was the one of the best decisions of my life. I know it meant a lot to her, and to her family (and as she was a teacher for many years, I know that I was not the only person who felt that way).
      Whether you go in person or send a letter is up to you, but it is worth doing and I’m sure will be appreciated.

    5. Poppy the Flower*

      I agree and I’m sorry, OP. I have a mentor whom I’m very close to but I think anyone would appreciate hearing this. I also like the letter idea. One of my family members recently died and we knew it was coming. I visited but I also wrote them a letter/essay because it was hard to really say EVERYTHING in person and I love writing so it was more comfortable and natural for me to do that. It ended up being nice for my family to read too.

    6. Ethyl*

      Agreed — go see your mentor. My mentor passed away very quickly some years back and I didn’t even get a chance to tell him I had gotten into grad school (he had written me a recommendation), and it’s one of the biggest regrets in my life. I think this is one of those situations where pretty much anything you say is going to feel a bit uncomfortable or awkward but that NOT saying anything will be worse. I’m so sorry for your loss.

    7. OrigCassandra*

      I’m thinking of a mentor of mine who passed so suddenly I did not get to say goodbye — and oh, I wish I could have. Do go, OP4. Whatever you say, however you say it, I predict your mentor will love you and it and you will not regret going.

    8. TootsNYC*

      I would absolutely do the letter to leave behind, even if you say the same things verbally.

      I think she might really enjoy sharing that letter with her family and friends. And I think they’d really value it too.

      Sometimes the most valuable thing you can offer someone who is dying is solace for their loved ones. Leaving something that those people can ponder is really powerful.

      I know that what mattered most to ME when my mother died was a comment from someone I’d gone to high school that told me they had a strong and positive memory of her.

    9. Susan*

      An additional benefit to the letter is that it could be somethat that their family could look at after the death as well, and have that as part of good memories of their loved one.

    10. CM*

      I really love the letter idea too. I think some people would enjoy an in-person “you meant so much to me” and others would find it too sentimental and uncomfortable, but everyone would appreciate a heartfelt letter.

    11. juliebulie*

      I had a sort of similar experience recently. I was sending cards to my former boss every couple of weeks. I was a little worried about getting too effusive too “early,” but I’m glad I didn’t wait too long, because her timetable was much shorter than I expected. I’m glad that I had a chance to say what I wanted to say.

    12. TardyTardis*

      Definitely write the letter as well. My husband received a letter like that when he had to retire from teaching due to cancer (he’s still around). He *adores* that letter, and had it laminated so it would last.

  5. Dove*

    As far as #2 goes, the LW’s company might actually be trying to get ahead of potential sexual harassment issues, considering that some of the most recent Me Too scandals in the video game industry actually *have* involved a guy who was dating his direct report…*twice*, and denied it or downplayed it both times and didn’t move the direct report to a different manager until way late in the relationship (after the relationship had ended, in the first instance, I think).

    At the very least, it looks like they’re trying to do due diligence and make sure there isn’t an unreported relationship going on between a manager and their report. Which is a good thing, really.

    1. Approval is optional*

      Let’s hope they’re having the same conversation with all their managers in that case, given they have no evidence (it seems) that the LW is involved in anything other than a friendship with Tim.

      1. Yorick*

        If they’re close friends, it could look like a dating relationship to people at work. (I’m not clear on whether either is gay.)

      2. China Beech*

        We don’t know what kind of “evidence” the managers may or not hav, as the LW didn’t report any. I can’t imagine that this came out of nowhere, unless they are just super homophobic. And in even that case, I would imagine that there IS reason to ask. The LW needs to examine their behavior in the what they feel is an obviously close friendship.

      3. TootsNYC*

        I don’t think they need to have a conversation with everyone! That’s like those emails about “never microwaving fish” when everyone KNOWS that it’s only Fergus who does it.

        There has been some indicator; they’re reacting to that.

        Even if it’s just that the friendship is being misinterpreted, that’s a real thing to react to. Maybe the conclusion is wrong, but the stimulus is still there. It didn’t come out of thin air.

        In fact, if I were the OP, I might go back to my boss and say, “In thinking about this, I’m wondering what things set that off. Of course I want to minimize drama here for everyone, and if there’s some action that’s confusing the issue, I’d like to know what it is. I don’t need names, but if it’s coming from something, let me know.”

        I think the OP needs to figure out and address whatever made this arise.

    2. Tinuviel*

      I am genuinely confused about how this could be homophobia, as opposed to just awkward confusion. Or did Alison mean that about the family, not the company? Family sounds like they’re so angry and flabbergasted that they’re at the “well, I never! and… ugh! they just… argh it’s so…!” stage. I don’t know why they’re so upset. Sounds like OP and Tim have a visibly close relationship that is giving the impression of favoritism, or skirting dangerously close–that’s why the company wanted to bring it up.

      1. OP2*

        I know I was speculating on why my family might be so upset, and I think that’s what Alison was responding to as well. My company’s response actually seems like the opposite of homophobia, since they seem to have handled a potential same-sex relationship that same as any other.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That occurred to me as well – the company isn’t making assumptions about the sexual orientations of the people involved (and really, they shouldn’t be, because it’s none of their business), so they’re treating it the same way they would a close, possibly dating relationship between opposite gender coworkers.

          It’s actually kind of refreshing to see that, given how often people assume that a close friendship between a man and a woman couldn’t possibly be platonic, and therefore they must be dating (or having an affair).

          1. Vicky Austin*

            And now it’s escalated to “if two men or two women have a close friendship, they must be gay.”

        2. JSPA*

          When society looks at two men being very comfortable in each others’ presence and sweet to each other–and not doing that tired old, “no gay!” thing at each other–and thinks, “aha, gay!” I suppose it’s fair to argue that something at least…adjacent?…to homophobia is going on.

          Men have been standoffish or wooden or arm-punchy or mock-insulting-jokey towards each other for so long, in fear of a hand on the shoulder or enthusiastic enjoyment of each others’ presence being seen gay. Now, even when gay is OK, plain old niceness (at a level which would not raise red flags for F-F or M-F pals) still seems to have registered with someone as “clearly gay.”

          I mean, if you’re regularly hugging, holding hands and calling each other “sweetie” at work, then yeah, they had to look into it! But “they just seem really comfortable and happy together, and one of them said, ‘see you later’ to the other, when they left work” should not be “looked into because it means they’re dating.”

          Assuming that it should–and giving credence to that assumption–are some sort of gender-related phobic behavior, derived from homophobia.

          1. Colette*

            I think this is a stretch. When you’re a manager, close relationships with subordinates (whether they are sexual/romantic or not) are a work problem, and it’s completely appropriate for your management to investigate.

            1. Eukomos*

              If management had a problem with OP and his subordinate having a close relationship they wouldn’t have made Tim his subordinate in the first place, though. OP even double-checked with them on that, so they must have actively said they were OK with it. It almost seems like they’ve discovered OP was right to be concerned and it is an issue, but instead of admitting they were wrong to move Tim into OP’s department they’ve convinced themselves the relationship is closer than they knew it was? Weird vibes if you ask me. Management hasn’t done anything inappropriate, but their judgment does seem to be questionable.

          2. OP2*

            Interesting – it’s always been my impression that society was accepting of close male friendships, given the existence of the “bros” stereotype, popularity of buddy movies, etc. Maybe I’m out of step and that’s why I was surprised this came up.

            We certainly aren’t holding hands, but are warmer than “see you later”. For an example of the upper end of closeness, it’s not uncommon for him to come home with me after work on Fridays and spend the night. Neither of us announces that to the office, of course, but “over the weekend, Tim and I…” comes up naturally in conversation over time.

            Also, I know that our grandboss has commented positively on Tim’s involvement in work-sponsored Pride events (straight ally, but it’s not like the shirts say that), so all together…I get it, and don’t think it was coming from a bad place. I just thought of it as an innocent mistake, unlike my family.

            1. JSPA*

              OK, yeah, that’s a level of close friendship that could easily register as a relationship. (Sounds indistinguishable, on paper, from some Ace relationships. Not meaning it is one–meaning, it’s all in how you and Tim feel about it, not how it looks from outside.)

              Depending on age of boss and grandboss, they could be from an era where that level of not-a-relationship/not-gay bro thing either didn’t happen or wasn’t acknowledged (again, a “no gay”). Or at least, not in WASPy type circles (which at some time were defining for “business normal” in the US).

              I guess it brings up the question, when is a friendship close enough (or the flip side, when is a sex thing casual enough) that the work-bending implications of a close friendship carry as much or more weight, than those of a “thing”? Don’t know the answer to that.

              I do think it’s possible that “really close friends” vibes could also set a team off-kilter. If you’re close enough that you’re completing each others’ sentences / bringing less-than-two-independent-minds to the table, it’s worth thinking about how that gets weird. Same’s true for that level of “work spouse” situation, even if you don’t do weekends together, and regardless of gender. “It’s the Charlie and Taylor show! With Jesse, Lonie and Alex in supporting roles.”

              I’ve been half of the binary star role, and I’ve been supporting cast. It’s not the best overall dynamic. Works great when it’s a two person project, and you’re both 100% revved for it. Or if you’re super chill, and with other people around, you function as individuals, not as each other’s “automatic second” to every motion. But then you also need to not strategize and pair-think things outside of the group sessions, or really, it’s just behind-the-scenes “pair think.” Probably worth unpacking that further, in case there’s a dynamic in the team that’s skewed, not just that grandboss saw you leaving together many friday nights, coming in together Monday mornings, and heard you talking about “our weekend camping trip.”

              1. OP2*

                “I guess it brings up the question, when is a friendship close enough (or the flip side, when is a sex thing casual enough) that the work-bending implications of a close friendship carry as much or more weight, than those of a “thing”? Don’t know the answer to that.”

                I have been wondering the same thing since this happened. I mentioned below that I’m aromantic, so I’ve never been in a romantic relationship. To me it seems like if I were a less honest person I’d be just as willing to lie at work for Tim as I would a romantic partner, but friends that I’ve talked to have said that the romantic involvement actually is an on/off factor.

                The continuum you’re describing seems more natural to me, which means maybe reporting rules are a bad approximation of what they should be.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  if I were a less honest person I’d be just as willing to lie at work for Tim as I would a romantic partner,

                  I had my kids in a daycare once that troubled me, because there were two people working, and they were great friends.

                  If one of them got too harsh with the kids, would her manager/friend call her out? Correct her? Be willing to fire her? If it was the manager who was acting badly, would her friend/subordinate be willing to talk to the Big Boss?

                  I saw one of them be too harsh with a kid, and I wondered whether it would do any good to talk to her manager/friend about it. (The manager was there and didn’t say anything, just sort of softly redirected; I was there, so maybe she didn’t want to say anything in front of me.)
                  I ended up saying something to the manager, and in my comment, I pointed out, “I know you’re her friend, but we’re all counting on you to weigh in if she’s getting too stressed to handle a frustrating kid well.”

                  So yes, I think there is a HUGE risk that a friend would overlook bad behavior on the part of their friend at work. I’ve heard of it happening at all sorts of places–we hear it here!

                2. Vax is my disaster bicon*

                  FWIW I’m also aromantic, and I’ve noticed that I don’t have a very good meter for what appears romantic to other people. It may just be a factor of not sharing those experiences? Anyway, I can totally see myself winding up in a similar situation where other people think a close friend and I are dating.

            2. Owl*

              I feel like society is great w close male relationships as long as you’re not TOO kind and constantly yell no homo. Like most of the trappings of sexism, men are privileged in one way, while simultaneously being forced to never express emotion.

              As a queer woman, I’ve gotten a lot of “oh she’s queer too, you should be/are definitely secretly dating.” Clearly not the case here, but this also often comes w people I don’t really like or have anything in common w at all. Idk if I’d call it homophobia per say, but I’d Deff files it under “annoying shit straight people say.”

            3. WellRed*

              “it’s not uncommon for him to come home with me after work on Fridays and spend the night. Neither of us announces that to the office, of course, but “over the weekend, Tim and I…”

              Yeah, I can see why they asked you. Also, maybe you and Tim should not be on the same team. I can’t see this as being a good idea in any way.

              1. blackcat*

                Yep. If people know Tim spends the night at your place…. I see why they think you’re a couple!

              2. OP2*

                Lol, I agree, honestly. It looks like that might change in the nearish feature, which I would welcome.

              3. boo bot*

                I think it’s the “Tim and I” phrasing that’s making people think “couple,” and it’s because of the mixed social/work context.

                If my cousin Jane and I went to a movie, and you’re not close to both me and Jane, I’ll phrase it as “My cousin Jane and I went to a movie,” or “My cousin and I went to a movie.” I don’t give you her life history, just her relationship to me.

                If I say, “Jane and I went to a movie,” without explaining who Jane is to me, people tend to assume that Jane is my partner. It’s not weird to find out that actually Jane is my cousin/friend/sister/dog/child/roommate, but it’s not usually the first assumption.

                So, the thing is that everyone at your work knows Tim, so of course you don’t have to explain who he is – but you’re omitting to tell them who Tim is TO YOU, which means you’re triggering the social convention that suggests he’s your partner.

            4. Steve C.*

              Both the “bro” stereotype and the buddy movie genre (the largest sub-genre of which is the Buddy-cop action comedy) are examples where the closeness of the friendship is undercut by a lot of masculine-coded activity. Although most men crave close friendships there is a expectation of masculinity in our culture that makes it tough to be seen to be seeking it out, which is why a lot of men have few close relationships besides their romantic partners and maybe a few guys they have been friends with since they were kids.

            5. Holly*

              I’d say having sleepovers with any colleague is unusual for just a casual friendship – and that level of closeness could definitely have the appearance of impropriety! And just to clarify, you didn’t mean that you are sleeping with him, right? Because obviously that would be improper regardless of whether you are “dating.”

              1. OP2*

                No, to be clear, we are not sexually involved in any way. It has me chuckling a bit that the confusion even comes up a bit here!

                1. Holly*

                  I totally misread you quoting another commenter above “when is a friendship close enough (or the flip side, when is a sex thing casual enough)” to be your own words so that raised an eyebrow! My mistake – but thanks for taking the time to clarify!

            6. Kiki*

              It seems like they may have caught on to the spending nights and weekends together thing, even if you haven’t explicitly said it at work. And while platonic friends of every gender composition sometimes do overnights, in my experience, that is most commonly a thing significant others do. I can definitely see why the bosses felt there could be a romantic relationship when there isn’t one.

              1. Jadelyn*

                Yes, the detail of overnight stays kind of clicked the rest into place for me. Unless you’re traveling and staying with a friend while you’re out of town (or over-partied and crashed at a friend’s place), platonic sleepovers tend to be seen as a childhood thing that people grow out of and adults spending the night at each other’s place regularly, absent a specific circumstance, will definitely flag for most people as some kind of relationship thing.

            7. Indigo a la mode*

              But there’s a reason they call that a “bromance.” It’s considered odd enough to see two men who love each other and are close friends that people made up a relationship-adjacent name to “explain” it.

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          I think whether there’s a tinge of homophobia to it depends a bit on how you and Tim present and how you act with the world. The more stereotypically gay your presentation, the higher the chance that they are misreading “acting like gay men who are friends” as “must be dating” in a way that is a little problematic.

          I work with quite a few gay men, including my office mate. With one or two of the other gay men in particular, I notice that their manner or demeanor changes when they’re talking with my office mate compared to a mixed group – not hugely, but noticeably, and in a way that tends towards gay stereotypes. (It’s not everyone, and not my office mate, just one or two individuals.) If there were a reporting relationship there, I can see where a higher-up might be concerned by that behavior shift but also where it’s not great to see a sexual relationship based on that kind of thing.

          (FWIW, I’m a lesbian, and I think that may be part of why these guys are willing to turn off their “act a little straighter at work” filter when they’re talking to my office mate in front of me.)

          It sounds like you feel like they handled it professionally, though, and you should trust your judgement on that.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Oh, wait, I think I misread the letter or read in context that wasn’t there. I read it as you and Tim were both openly gay but it seems like that’s not the case. Never mind.

            1. JSPA*

              Eh, people don’t necessarily (and no reason they should have to) “present” or “read” as whatever gender or preference they label themselves as. People pick up styles and inflections from all over. Not every important (even primary) relationship is sexual, not every sexual interaction is a relationship, and not every relationship fits our own expectations of who or what we’re into.

              All kinds of things could be in play here, as far as “why the bosses felt the need to ask.”

              But OP ideally should only have to worry about, “Am I breaking a conduct rule” (No) and “Is our closeness nevertheless doing some dramatic damage to the team dynamic, beyond the annoying-but-normal level people in workplaces deal with all the time” (Could be, no way to know from here).

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                Oh, I totally agree with your first paragraph. I just misread the letter thinking that it was two openly gay men acting like good friends. And I do think that whether OP’s management’s response would be a touch homophobic in that context depends a bit on the specifics of how the people in question act around each other.

                I have one guy in my office in particular who is pretty flamboyantly gay. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where management questioned whether he was dating a colleague based on his standard level of friendly behavior, when they wouldn’t question other colleagues based on that same level of friendly interaction. That’s especially true since he’s more toned down in mixed groups and less so around the other gay men in the office. And seeing romantic relationships in all his interactions would be homophobic.

                But it sounds like in OP’s case, management had a valid concern, checked in with him, and believed him when he told them there was no romantic relationship. Which all seems pretty good, actually.

            2. OP2*

              For the record, Tim is straight and I’m aromantic, so not pursuing a relationship with anyone.

          2. Jadelyn*

            I’ve seen the same thing – I’m bi and NB, share an office with a gay man and my boss is another gay man. Both the men are married, but when it’s the three of us in an office I definitely see their demeanor shift toward each other, vs how they act with others of our team around, and I agree, I can see someone outside of that dynamic wondering about it.

        4. MissGirl*

          I’ve noticed my family tends to overreact to things that happen to me. I think sometimes we get over offended when it’s a loved one and there’s a perceived slight.

          I was going through an interview process where they didn’t update me when they said they would. It was only an extra week. I told my mom (I’m in my thirties, BTW) that I figured they were making an offer to someone else and were holding off on rejecting me until they had the other candidate’s response. She got blustery about how dare they, and I explained it was perfectly normal and professional.

          1. BadWolf*

            Sometimes it’s nice to have your family and friends react strongly for you — especially if you’re trying to navigate something unpleasant and tend to downplay it. A little “momma bear” action.

            But it can definitely go too far or too strong!

          2. Le Sigh*

            I do this with my spouse–second-hand(?) outrage on their behalf. More than once they’ve told me, “hey–I really appreciate you having my back, but I promise I’m okay.” Meanwhile I’m still all amped up, muttering “how dare they!” and “who thinks that’s okay?”….

            Occasionally they’re under-reacting and realize I have a point. Most of the time though I’m just being, well, me.

        5. Qwerty*

          Not knowing anything about your family or their biases, one reason I could see for the “Can you imagine if you were a woman” comments is that this kind of assumption is very common for women in the workplace who are friends with their male colleagues, and for women to bear the brunt of the criticism in those scenarios. I have lost count on the number of male coworkers that I’ve been seen as romantically linked with, mostly due to general coworker friendliness (meanwhile the guys are constantly hanging out outside of work and texting each other at all hours of the night). I’m sorry that you had to have this awkward conversation with your bosses!

          It might be worth keeping an eye out to see if the rumor mill at your company typically converts co-worker friendships into rumors of relationships or affairs

          1. The Bean*

            Yeah to be fair, if OP were a woman having sleepovers with a superior it would definitely damage her reputation professionally.

            I’m a bi woman and I know I have to monitor my interactions with make work friends because people are more likely to read something into it, whereas female friendship doesn’t get looked at as closely.

          2. AMPG*

            Yeah, I actually had this argument with a co-worker where it turned out there was a rumor that we were involved. His response was basically, “So what? We know it’s not true, and everyone else can shut up and mind their own business.” I had to explain to him that I would face consequences he wouldn’t, just by virtue of being a woman.

      2. Myrin*

        I think you got it right when you say Alison meant the family, not the company, the reasoning being something along the lines of what OP himself says: “There’s probably some undercurrent of thinking it especially slanderous to accuse someone of a gay relationship.”

        My personal guess would be that that the family members have a feeling that there’s something wrong and upsetting about this scenario but they can’t really put their fingers onto what exactly that is and so they’re grasping at different straws to air their frustration with the situation (your “well, I never! and… ugh! they just… argh it’s so…!” captures that amazingly well!).

        1. Eva*

          I think that’s a lot of it. I have an extremely close friendship with someone of the same gender, and even when we were be dating other people (of the opposite gender from the two of us) there would be people gossiping about the two of us.

          And sometimes when we would be laughing about the whole thing with someone, they’d think we should be offended that someone thought we were a couple. And really it boiled down to “aren’t you upset that someone thinks you’re gay when you’re not?”

          No, not really. It doesn’t bother me at all. But it certainly bothers some people and most of the time it’s because of homophobia.

          There _could_ be a little bit of a thing where close male friendships are generally Not A Thing and so someone (bosses, someone on the team, hard to say) made the leap to them being in a relationship rather than being friends because of that, but I’m not sure if that would fall under homophobia or toxic masculinity really, either way it’s not a good look for the person making the assumptions. But also isn’t the OP’s problem really.

      3. Approval is optional*

        But they knew he and Tim were friends – because he ‘warned’ them. And if they thought there was favouritism they should have raised that as a ‘maybe we were wrong, as it might be a problem that you are friends with Tim’ conversation, not a ‘don’t date Tim’ conversation.
        I agree the family sound more upset than they need to be. LW perhaps just tell them that you hear their concerns, but you are handling your career, both the ups and downs, your way, so now that everyone has voiced their thoughts they should leave you to do that.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I think they were fine about the idea of them working together as friends, but they’re concerned about dating not about favouritism but about the possibility of a superior pressuring a report for a relationship. And I think that’s valid. There are ways that you can compartmentalize friendship at work when making decisions but even if a superior isn’t consciously pressuring a report, the report is often (understandably) still endure about career effects of declining a relationship.

          1. Approval is optional*

            Well sure. but I was responding to Tunuviel who said it sounded as if the LW was giving the impression of favouritism. My point was that if he was, then the reasonable thing for a manager to do would be to have a conversation about said favouritism. What wouldn’t be reasonable would be to immediately leap to the assumption they were dating, and ‘ban’ it.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I am genuinely confused about how this could be homophobia, as opposed to just awkward confusion. Or did Alison mean that about the family, not the company?

        Yes, from the family. I clarified in the post.

    3. OP2*

      Yeah, I thought them asking was _totally_ their business. There really isn’t a more basic way of investigating something like that, and it should be investigated if there’s a concern.

      1. Approval is optional*

        You’re a much nicer person than I, LW! Given they already knew you were friends, I don’t actually agree it was likely to be the most basic (or best) way to investigate whatever it was that they were investigating. But I’m old and crabby and I don’t know them or how the conversation went. :)

        1. blackcat*

          IDK. I can see OP2 saying “close friends” and mentioning “spending the night”…. and regardless of the genders of the people involved, it’s reasonable for them to think “Oh, I think OP2 is banging Tim. Maybe they’re not exclusive or whatever, and so aren’t using the term boyfriend? Hmm. Maybe I’ve read this wrong? But sleepovers mean banging to me. I better straight up ask OP2.”

          I don’t see anything *at all* wrong with that approach.

          Overall, though, it does sound like you and Tim are too close to be on the same team/for one of you to have authority over the other.

          1. Approval is optional*

            Really? You think it’s reasonable to assume that if a male person ‘crashes’ at a males friend’s place overnight, and one (or both) of them is gay, they must be banging? Crashing on a friend’s couch after having a few drinks etc, is hardly so uncommon that it should reasonably be the last thing they think of. And- to make my point again – according to the letter they didn’t actually ask. As the letter is worded, they went from assumption to ‘lecturing’. without the ask the LW step. That’s not a reasonable way to handle it.

            1. NoviceManagerGuy*

              I’m a straight guy who has slept on a gay friend’s couch after a few drinks, and from everything written here I would still assume Tim and OP2 were a couple.

              1. Tinuviel*

                Agree that one friend “crashing” at another’s gives off different vibes from “staying over” or “sleepovers” or the “Tim and I” type relationship OP describes.

        2. JB (not in Houston)*

          I’m curious what you think would have been the most basic way to investigate whether two people are in a relationship besides directly asking the people involved. Poking around on facebook? Asking coworkers if it seems like they are a couple? I mean, I am also crabby, and I totally would not want my employer asking me about my personal life. Not at all. But if they are concerned that two employees may be dating but having declared that as required, the best, fastest, clearest way to find out if that’s true is to ask the employees involved, and I’d much rather my employers do that than do it indirectly by digging into my social media or asking my coworkers for gossip.

          1. Approval is optional*

            Asking would be pretty basic. But according to the letter they didn’t ask. Quote ‘…needed to talk to me about my relationship with Tim, a member of the team I lead. He reminded me that dating a teammate needed to be disclosed to the company,…’. Nothing there is a question. I mean maybe they did ask, and the OP didn’t put it in the letter, but I’m commenting based on what’s in the letter, not on what *might* have been left out.

        3. TootsNYC*

          I can also see the Bosses thinking that “close friends” has changed into “romantically involved.” Because that could happen.

          Even if their activities haven’t changed (hanging out for the weekend, for example), those patterns may be more EVIDENT now that they’re working on the same team every day.

      2. TooTiredToThink*

        You know the managers asking; so I think your read on it is appropriate. I’ve had an upper manager check in with me once (although the way he handled it was not great at all); but he had seriously good reasons for asking (intraoffice dating tend to be quite the spectacle in our office). If they have probably cause (and they did) they have reason for asking. As long as they were treating you with respect as they were asking; then I believe its fine.

  6. Irene*

    OP 4. It’s lovely that she meant so much to you and that you want her to know, but please be careful. Based on my recent experience of losing someone close – how people are feeling when they’re dying will vary. There is a difficult issue of them sometimes feeling they have to manage everyone’s feelings about their death, right at the moment when they don’t have the energy for it. So the letter suggestion is a really good one because she gets to be more in control. My best advice is, go along & see how it feels. Maybe ask a close family member for their advice beforehand. Make a judgement based on that. You can feel a little “trapped” by others, however lovingly meant, when you’re very sick. My father said the same thing to me before his death.

    1. Awesome Possum*

      Excellent point. Other people’s attempts at encouragement can so often feel like a burden. “Thank you for your encouragement of me, now I guess I better smile and hug you and act happy, cuz you clearly came here needing me to make you happy about my passing, or make you feel like you fixed something.”

      I was already writing my own thoughts in a separate thread below, so I put in a response there. OP4, I think if you’re careful of your emotions and following her lead, your effusiveness will be fine, as long it’s within the context of stories or good memories or meaningful choices. Things that make her calm and happy and want to keep remembering. (“Remember when you taught about this? Well, I went and chose to study that as a result, and look at my cool job now! I even got to travel here to study this thing you always recommended!”) If you are effusive in a way that feels like you’re trying to build your professor up (“You’re so awesome and kind and cool and I just know that no one will ever ever be as awesome as you!”), you could make her feel like she is the one who has to encourage you, like you can’t handle her sickness.

      Most of all, have no expectations and be very flexible. I wrote more on that below, after reading Irene ‘s note.

    2. JSPA*

      OP should do a quick read up on “ring theory” if not familiar with it or if they have not formally thought through how this differs for a professional mentor. Indeed imporatnt to make sure they’re not doing any “dumping in,” in the process.

      OP can’t necessarily know how central the role of “being a mentor” has been, to their mentor. If mentor (and mentor’s family, if they’re gatekeeping) don’t feel mentor has the time or energy to meet, having a letter written is an excellent option. Mentor can read it (or not); it might be read at the memorial, where it can help others feel how loved the mentor was; and OP gets to say the important words (while knowing that they’re not intruding on what is very limited time, and may be a hard time in which to be gracious and mentor-y).

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I really liked the idea of writing a letter but delivering it in person. You can say some generally nice things when you are there but save the really sappy stuff for the letter so they can choose when they want to deal with the emotions that may come with it.

    4. Gdub*

      I agree that the letter suggestion is good. Not only can the mentor have some control over when to read it and how to react, but the family may treasure it forever.

      1. NotMyRealName*

        I know that my family truly appreciated the lovely things my sister’s colleagues and students wrote about her after we lost her.

  7. Awesome Possum*

    OP4 – Thank you for a question I have direct experience in! I work as a caregiver for the elderly and disabled, and I have helped many clients and families through their passing.

    One of the best stories was a client (“Rose”) whose family threw a celebration of life while she was still alive. She was a retired teacher, and her favorite stories were those about how she had affected others’ lives. She specifically told me that her best encounters were with people who remembered her advice, or an example she had set, and shared how they took that advice and changed their life for the better. Those stories gave her life meaning beyond just her time on earth.

    Rose said that she didn’t need to hear people talk about how kind or brave or awesome she was. All those adjectives felt silly and unimportant at the end of her life. But when she heard how her words and actions had changed lives – that was inspiring and humbling to her.

    Please don’t worry about yourself or about how to act. The less self-conscious you are, the more you’ll put her at ease. Go in with the goal of sharing her effect on your life. Share some specific stories. If you get emotional, that’s totally normal. It’s also fine to want to sit a little in her presence, as long as you are not exhausting her, and are paying attention to any cues her caregivers give you.

    If you write it down (great idea!), make sure you let her family or caregivers know. The house will get really disorganized as she passes, and the family may want to keep track of that letter for their own enrichment. Also, if you are wanting to stay in touch or receive updates, you will have to initiate that with her caregivers. It is impossible to remember or contact every visitor, esp when someone so influential passes. If you’re wishing future updates, the best way is to get a relative’s or caregiver’s number, text them your prayers or best wishes, and then stop by again with food or needed supplies. That way they will see you as a blessing, and not a burden.

    Irene ‘s advice above is excellent. This is why I wrote above about not being self-conscious. If you are going in with *****NO expectations*****, you will be more of a blessing than a burden. You are going there to bless her, not to make her feel like her death is too much for you to bear. Cry happy tears about her influence on your life. Cry with her if she does. Save your wailing, angry tears for when you’re far away from her. Don’t try to fix her or manage her emotions. Be okay with ***whatever*** emotions she feels like expressing. Be okay with frank discussions of death. Be okay if she has to cancel or reschedule or push you to the back of the line. Be okay with whatever the people around her express. Be normal and chill when arriving and leaving, so that no one feels like they have to worry about your emotions or slap a smiley face on for you.

    Rose had a ton of visitors before she passed. Many people talked, and a few wrote letters. She treasured the letters, although she didn’t often have energy to read them. I would read them to her and to her family, though. If you feel close enough, you could quietly visit and make all the important letters/cards into a scrapbook for her family. That’s one of those small things that most family doesn’t have the energy or emotional bandwidth to do, but will bless them.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is a perfect comment. Thank you for writing it for us.

      I never got to say goodbye to my mentor and former boss due to his terminal illness being cognitive based. But I have had the opportunity to say everything to his now widow. It can mean a lot to their loved ones to know how their family/ friend has shaped the world of others.

      I echo to always let the others closest to the circle of grief lead the way. Follow their emotional guidance and think about their comforts above your own. You’re there to bring good energy and love.

      It reminds me of the struggle when it’s not necessarily end of life but the unknown that comes with major surgeries as well. The gatherings we’ve had for my dad and uncles when they’ve been on that doorstep to “what’s next?” with life changing and possibly ending procedures. Everyone who gathers has to bring the right energy at the right moment. The support group is there to do the emotional heavy lifting and be fully aware the person who’s life is now ending is the one that needs the focus.

      I’d write it down and offer to read it to them if you’re up for it. It’ll give you a way to make sure you get it all out as well. You can reread and redraft if necessary as well. This also helps you ensure you say everything and don’t leave anything out, helping to eliminate the possibility after a conversation/visit you don’t suddenly think “I forgot to mention this or that”.

      1. Lady Carrie*

        I agree with all of this!
        My father mentored many young folks. My father died suddenly in an accident. In the years since is death, my family has really really really enjoyed hearing stories from his mentees. It is such a treat to have someone reach out, years later, and share a happy memory.

    2. Asenath*

      This is an excellent response. And sending notes later to the family is good, too. After my father died, we got letters from former co-workers (he had long been retired), and it was so touching to read how he’d influenced them. He would have been happy to hear that when he was still alive, too.

    3. BethDH*

      I love the way you distinguished between general compliments and specific effects. I’m lucky enough to have gotten a few notes from students written in the years after my classes (not in the context of dying or illness, luckily). The one that really made me happiest was all about the student’s life since my class. I think a lot of people feel like they shouldn’t be talking about themselves, so they almost depersonalize their compliments to “your class was so interesting!” in an effort to make it centered on the person they’re complimenting. The one I was so touched by Was mostly about the student’s feelings and interests and how they’d changed during and after what we’d done in/around the class experience.

    4. OP4*

      Thank you so much for this. You really pinpointed my worry, that I don’t want to put an emotional burden on her during the visit. These comments have been wonderful in helping me find my words.

  8. Elan Morin Tedronai*

    I was about to deliver a verbal reprimand. Then I read post #6 over lunch. Now I shall just give that person a talking-to. Thank you for saving my sanity. ;)

  9. OP2*

    Thanks for answering my letter, Alison! To clarify the reporting structure, Tim and I have the same manager, so he is nowhere in my report chain. Instead, I’m the leader of a project team that includes him. I don’t know how common it is to have leadership roles that are distinct from reporting chains, but it’s normal in my organization.

    1. voyager1*

      Honestly my first thought was when reading your letter is both you and Tim are out at work and your boss/grand boss was basically letting you know that he doesn’t approve and is homophobic.

      I really hope I am wrong, but honestly I can’t think how someone would come to the conclusions your management has without some homophobia playing in.

      1. voyager1*

        Edit to add: It is the assumption you and Tim are dating is the part I find unnerving. I could see grand boss asking, but to just assume seems unnerving to me.

    2. sacados*

      It’s pretty common where I work too. Even though you’re not Tim’s manager, I’m assuming you have some authority to assign him work related to the project, perhaps reviewing that work and/or giving feedback to Tim’s manager about his performance on the project?
      Judging from some of your other comments, I could see how other team members might assume there could be a more-than-friends relationship happening. In which case, like Alison says, the biggest concern is to feel out your other team members and see if there is any discontent or impression of favoritism. It’s possible this just came to your bosses’ attention in a “team members gossiping about coworkers maybe dating” type of way, but it could also be a “Team Member Y shared with their boss concerns that it looks like OP2 and Tim are dating and also Team Member Y wonders if Tim gets treated better/gets better assignments” kind of way.
      Even when there is no actual favoritism, the impression of it can be just as damaging to team morale/cohesion. So if that’s the case, you definitely want to take steps to address it — whether it’s speaking to team members and making sure to be visibly impartial going forward, scaling back on the friendship with Tim, or even deciding that he shouldn’t be on your team after all.

  10. Bagpuss*

    LW4 – I thinkAlison’s suggestionto write a letter for your mentor is great. Quite apart from anything else, it means that if she is not at her best when you vist, or if she is on medication which afects her memory, she has it to refer to, and it may well be of comfort to her familyafter she passes.
    it also lets you plan what you wnat to say, give some specifc examples of particular help or skills she gave you which you have found helpful, or situations you specifcally remember in terms of her advice and/or you being able to use the skills she taught you.

    Plus, it addresses your worry about being over the top – you can give her the letter and say something like “You are a are huge influence on me, and I feel you are a big part of why I am sucessful in my carer – I wanted you to know how much I value your friendship and guidance” – then folow her guidance as to what she wants to talk about – she might ask you about what you have said, or she might steer you onto a diferent topic but still go bakc and read the letter afterwards.
    But definitely visit, and do tell her how you feel.

    1. BethDH*

      One of my close friend’s mentors died last year. We knew she had a terminal condition but she went downhill faster than expected. Friend was still agonizing about writing the perfect letter and didn’t get it sent in time.
      That’s not meant to scare anyone: friend sent it to the family anyway, who she knew peripherally, and they appreciated having that to read after the funeral was over and things had gone back to “normal.” But also to say don’t let worrying about being perfect stop you from saying something now! In fact, I think I should go write a few notes to people who I hope will be around for decades …

  11. Carlie*

    LW4 – please write a letter, do it now, and don’t worry about it being just right. When I got the news that my mentor was terminal, I sent a brief email to his wife expressing my love for them and promising that heartfelt letter soon. He died a few days later, with my feelings still meticulously, agonizingly half-written into a card on my desk.

    Do it today, blurt out everything you want them to know, slap a stamp on it and send it. Weird and awkward is nothing compared to knowing you didn’t say anything in time.

    If it’s an option for you, it would also be a kindness to send their family a gift card to a restaurant local to them, even fast food. It’s the long-distance equivalent of bringing over a casserole, and is more useful then sending flowers later after a funeral.

    1. Red 5*

      As somebody who has experienced a bit too much loss in recent years, I want to second this.

      Every time I’ve waited for another day to send a message, there hasn’t been another day to send it in. And I’ve regretted the things I didn’t say and the letters I didn’t send far, far more than I would have regretted a sloppy card or a quick phone call.

      But also as someone who’s been on the family side of those losses, say something. Do something. Be there somehow. Even if it’s small, even if it feels like not enough to you. It matters, and it means something.

    2. BethDH*

      Wrote something like this just before I read your comment — like the way you put it much better though!

    3. Susan*

      I want to emphasize this – definitely don’t try to make it “perfect”. I’m visiting with my Dad who is actively dying, and from day to day he could be in and out of understanding what is going on, so waiting could mean your mentor doesn’t get the message themselves.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I wrote a letter to a friend who was dying, but I didn’t have a way to mail it. I sent it to her care of the hospital she was in, and it came back as undeliverable months after her death.
      I’m still sad.

  12. Reality Check*

    OP3: Insurance agent here. If you have medical expenses arising out of this, your company’s worker’s compensation insurance should pick up the tab, as this arose from the course of your employment.

    1. Quickbeam*

      Came here to say that. States may vary but you seem to have a clear through line (cause/effect) that’s documented. Although the WC law is medical, nothing stops your company for reimbursing you for cleaning supplies or time off to address the issue. It’s reasonable to ask.

    2. Blarg*

      Yea, I’m allergic to them and got the joy of filing WC cause I had to seek medical care. Since I was in a remote location, this also involved my boss taking photos of my swollen, itchy self. But they took care of everything.

      I really hate those things. Sorry you’re dealing with this.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I didn’t even think of WC! That’s so true, bug bites are covered. There’s been a couple spider bites that have needed medical attention that I’m recalling now.

    4. Dasein9*

      Oh, OP3, I had an infestation several years ago and am very sorry you have to address this.

      I had to keep repeating to myself: “This isn’t my fault. This isn’t dirty. This can happen to anyone.” There is something about bedbugs that seems to set off our more primal loathings.

      I hope you don’t need to use this info, but the really big plastic bags with zip closures are cheaper when purchased online.

      1. lilsheba*

        You have to go through hell to do a proper extermination and get rid of ALL of them. Everything made out of cloth has to be washed and run in the dryer for an hour. Then put into plastic bags and sealed with duct tape. If your bed is infested with them you might as well throw it out. Anything wood has to be cleared off and everything wiped down with an alcohol and water solution. You also have to vacuum everywhere every single day and seal up the vacuum bag in plastic bags and sealed with duct tape and throw it out. And the plastic bags have to be the heavy duty trash compactor type. TRUST ME on this, I’ve been trough it and it’s awful. Oh and a professional exterminator, don’t try to do it yourself.

      1. Gumby*

        And really, most hotels will bend over backwards to help out. I have a friend who saw bedbugs in a hotel room – was not bitten as she saw them before she slept that night – and alerted the hotel. They:
        moved her into another room
        paid to have *all* of her clothes dry cleaned
        did something to her luggage to protect that (one of those oven things?)
        upgraded her on at least her next 2 stays at hotels in that chain

        If there is something reasonable that the hotel could do, you probably only have to ask. It’s a little harder since you are now back home, but they’ll likely spring for cleaning at least the clothes you took on your trip.

        Also, bed bugs are not caused by lack of cleanliness. So remind yourself that having them is not a sign of your poor housekeeping or anything at all that you did wrong. (Sadly, that also means exemplary housekeeping does not eradicate them.)

        1. Canthinkof a cool name*

          Everyone that travels for work needs to make sure they take precautions for bedbugs these days. The best hotels in the world can still have infestations. Simple things like leaving your suitcase in the bathroom in the bathtub and inspecting the room before unpacking. And then when you return home leaving your suitcase in the garage for at least 2 to 3 days Before bringing it inside can go along way in preventing bringing any stowaways home.

  13. Rebecca*

    #1 – please listen to Alison’s advice, and my only additional comment would be to put it in writing. Have the conversation with your manager, and follow up with an email along the lines of “per our conversation, we will prioritize X and Y, and Z will be done as needed”. This would depend on your organization, so if you have reasonable managers who value you and your contributions, and if they are really going to hire someone, your manager will help you through the next 2 months.

    1. Feline*

      LW1, listen to Alison on this about not fully doing two jobs. If you absorb the workload of the second job entirely, there is no justification for that headcount, and even if you get the other position, yours may not be backfilled. Over the past six years, I have absorbed the work of 2.5 laid off people to do along with what was originally my own. That’s now just considered my workload, and I’m really sorry I somehow pulled a rabbit out of my hat for every deadline along the way. Those are good deeds that don’t go unpunished in additional responsibilities being yours forever.

      1. Rebecca*

        That happens here, too. When I read the OP’s letter, I thought oh no, here we go again. The same things happen here. When help does come, it’s in the form of brand new hires, lengthy training process, so we’re training on top of trying to keep up with heavy work loads. I too wish I would have left things fail spectacularly instead of somehow managing it. You nailed it, no good deed goes unpunished.

        1. WorkIsKillingMe*

          Same here. When someone leaves IF we are allowed to fill the position it has to be at a lower level. So for example, an electrical engineer level 6 retires, and we can hire an electrical engineer level 2. Which means that the more senior staff are doing a lot more work to make up for the lack of experience. If we aren’t allowed to fill the position the team, and usually the high performer, takes on their duties.
          Just two months ago I was in a meeting about how our benefit claims are the highest they have ever been. I just looked at the head of benefits and the CEO and said “No kidding! People are not being replaced and every single person is doing the work of at least 2 people. No one has time to take off to go to the doctor, and on top of that our deductible is so high people won’t go to the doctor until it is serious.”
          Sheesh. They are working us to death.

          1. Feline*

            They let you hire a level 2? Our company is excitedly hiring occasional interns to replace a platoon of 20+ year employees they are offering sweetened packages to entice them to retire. I’m sure this is in part an attempt at healthcare cost containment. Driving these hired interns to early stress-related illnesses won’t contain those costs, though.

            1. Ariaflame*

              Perhaps they think there will always be new interns and dump the ones they’ve burned out?

    2. Senor Montoya*

      Formerly my office would find someone or a couple someone’s on staff to pick up every piece of a departing co-worker’s responsibilities, while still being expected to cover all their own work. This happened to me several times when I was newer to the organization — then I wised up and did just what Alison recommends. Since I was no longer new — and because, let’s face it, the boss was in no position to lose another worker — this was not a problem.

      We’ve had a restructuring and the new bosses are great: after the latest departure, they identified the most important pieces of that person’s work, distributed it among five people, who each had some responsibilities back burnered. If your boss is not doing this, help her do it by going in with your own plan.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Agreed. I would even make a list of all of the duties you’re taking on for both positions. Yes your manager should know this, but sometimes they forget and if they see it in writing it may provide a reality check as to the amount of work you’ve been doing since your colleague left.

    4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Everywhere I have worked, the “interim” position was considered an audition for the full-time position, and if you couldn’t juggle both, you were not likely to get the full-time position. Even if asking someone to do both was unreasonable and impossible.

      I do not agree with this, but sometimes that’s the rules of the game.

    5. juliebulie*

      When someone at my workplace leaves, they are replaced with a jar of Folger’s Instant Coffee and no one can tell the difference except for the unlucky coworker who inherits the workload.

      It’s all true except for the coffee.

      So please please do not give them the impression that you can handle both of the jobs, because then you will just end up with both of the jobs and no promotion or new position or anything.

  14. Asenath*

    Take the time to say good-bye, and do it while she’s still able to hear you and respond. The only thing I’ve regretted about similar situations was when I was too uncomfortable to actually say what I felt (well, assuming you want to tell that person how much they meant to you! I’ve never been in the position of making a final visit to someone who wasn’t important to me in a good way). It’s not about you; it’s about what would mean a lot to a good mentor who doesn’t have long to hear from her friends. Writing a note to leave for her to read is an excellent idea.

  15. Teeming With Learned The Hard Way*

    OP2: Regardless of yours and Tim’s chain of reporting, it does help your team interactions if your behavior with the rest of the team is impeccably professional in that setting. If the friendship is nearly invisible until you’re away from work, all the better.

    1. Quill*

      My deepest and most skin-crawling sympathy for the day of paranoia you are about to experience.

    2. BadWolf*

      If it makes you feel better, about a year ago, I’m 75% sure I had a bed bug encounter at a hotel but did not bring any home with me.

      1. Quill*

        My dad gave the entire family a hotel bedbug scare that involved me nearly moving in with a local friend, and then we discovered that he had gotten chiggers, not bedbugs.

      2. Filosofickle*

        Me too. (Well, 4 years ago.) I came home from an international trip with bed bug bites, but no bugs. I was terrified! I took every precaution possible and constantly inspected everything, yet no evidence any of them traveled home with me.

    3. Dasein9*

      This is also why I refuse to share a hotel room with co-workers.

      It’s not foolproof, but can help a lot to keep the suitcase and all clothing in the bathroom and sleep nude. That way, any bedbugs in the room may get the chance to dine, but less chance to hitch a ride home. (Alternatively, if sleeping nude in a hotel skeeves you out, put sleeping clothes in a zipper bag to isolate any potential bugs, then put in the dryer on high for 20-40 minutes upon returning home.)

      1. Lauren*

        I put everything even my shoes on the desk. Nothing on any furniture, and shake everything. Every zipper is zipped too at all times. I recently chose an Airbnb because the company chosen hotel was disgusting, and I felt safer in someone’s house to avoid bringing bed bugs home.

        OP – Have your luggage steam cleaned even now, do it, and next time open your luggage outside on a driveway. shake everything out. And honestly get your company to pay for the $1000 to steam your house now as a precaution or get the hotel to pay. Its worth the piece of mind before they multiple. It only takes 1 pregnant bug to destroy your sanity and its a lot more money to do the heat treatment multiple times. Vacuum or check for any live or dead bugs in there too. Any bug. Call the hotel and tell them you want to know who the exterminator should send the invoice to.

  16. OP4*

    Thank you so much to everyone who has commented, especially with your personal experiences. I wasn’t sure if my appreciation would come out as a nice reminder of how much of an impact she’s had or if it would be an emotional burden. Your comments have also helped me to temper my expectations about the visit going a certain way. You’re right I can’t know what she or the family will be experiencing in that moment, and having a letter in my pocket will let the visit go more naturally. I’ll be writing my letter today.

    1. bdg*

      OP 4, I’d like to encourage you to write the letter about how much your mentor meant to you, but if you can, consider sending a letter to her family with some stories about her, or even just add that into your letter to her. My dad died recently and getting cards from his coworkers with funny stories about him meant so much to us. We got a glimpse into his early work life and it was hilarious and meaningful in a way that “so sorry” isn’t. It helped a lot knowing that people remember him all the way from 1982, and will continue to remember him in specific ways after he’s gone.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Family often doesn’t know the full extent of their loved ones in their professional sense. But they understand and appreciate that is a huge part of who their parent, spouse, sibling or so on was. I’ve always had people be very touched by the outpouring of love from all the corners of their life when the end is near or has come.

      I’ve lost a lot of people and have had a lot of scares along the way from very young. I know others haven’t experienced a lot of loss and it’s so new and raw.

      I still think of my mentor/boss all the time and he passed almost a year ago. And I got steady updates the last 5 years he’s been in care. I hope you’re able to say everything you need to xoxo

  17. Roy G. Biv*

    OP #4 – I have been in this same situation, when a mentor I greatly admired was very close to the end. I wrote a short letter expressing my gratitude for knowing the person, and listed some of the traits that had spurred me on to better behavior/goal setting/career advancement. I closed with something along the lines of “with greatest admiration and friendship” and signed my name. Years later, I saw the mentor’s daughter at an event, and the daughter mentioned how much they had enjoyed reading all the letters and card with her parent, and saved them in a memory box, along with all the funeral cards.
    Your letter does not have to be long, just sincere, and to the point. They family will probably cherish it.
    Good luck!

  18. Ted Mosby*

    For OP #2, i totally see his parents point about if he were a woman.

    I (a woman) work in tech. 80% of my coworkers are male. My work place is super social, and I’ve made at least one close friend on each team I’ve worked on, mostly men. However, it’s become a “thing” with my boss and others tease my close friend and me constantly about our “crush” and several have asked if we are dating or I wish we were dating or when we’ll start dating. It’s added an extremely uncomfortable element to our relationship, esp bc he has a girlfriend. Things never felt weird until the reading started.

    All of my coworkers have at least one close friend on the team who they hang out with on weekends. But I feel like I need to police myself, because the fact that I’m a woman somehow makes this a problem or a “thing.” I feel like I’m so much more limited socially at work. It really highlights for me how to some of these guys my social company can’t really be anything nonsexual, which is really a bad feeling at work. It’s beyond frustrating. Kind of surprised Alison would find the comment odd. I think this is really common in male dominated fields.

    1. LarsTheRealGirl*

      That sounds like a super frustrating (and possibly hostile) environment. I’m sorry :(

      But it sounds like the OP isn’t dealing with ongoing “joking” (in quotes cause what your company is doing isn’t funny), but a singular conversation about company policy. Which, as Alison said, would be worrisome if they didn’t have.

    2. Koala dreams*

      I’m sorry that you have to deal with such sexist and mean people at work. Thanks for sharing your story.

    3. OP2*

      Yeah, that really sucks. Perhaps that kind of environment is what my family is imagining, instead of it just being a single, professional (though a little awkward) conversation in private.

    4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Can confirm, this has been the worst part of my professional career in tech until probably my 40s. Ours is a young industry, so all of a sudden most of my coworkers were a lot younger than myself, which somehow led to people no longer assuming that I was having a hot, steamy affair with every male coworker I’d ever stopped by to chat or had lunch with. Or that any raise or promotion, or job offer I’d gotten were somehow a result of me having sexy times with the man or men in charge. One day, all of it just stopped. Thank you, old age :)

      First job out of college was the worst. I was engaged and madly in love with my then-fiance – none of that stopped people from spreading a rumor that I’d slept with a 19-year-old guy in the hardware support group, who had a crush on me. When someone finally confronted me about it and I said no, the person did not believe me. Good times.

  19. Buttons*

    LW1– Alison is right, do not do all the work. A couple of years ago when my department was going through a re-organization two people quit, and I took up the slack. Long story short- I lost the headcount and did the work of 3 people for 2 years until I had a near breakdown and flat out refused to do one of the jobs. I still do the work of 2 full-time employees.

  20. 3DogNight*

    LW1–Allison’s advice is spot on! I wish I had been given this advice so long ago! As others have noted, been there, done that, have the ulcer to prove it.

  21. Goya de la Mancha*

    #1 – doing two jobs never works out well for yourself, employer will reap all the benefits (which they will RARELY if ever pass along to you) while you bear all the stress

    AAM the matchmaker, love it!

  22. Goldfinch*

    #3 All my sympathies regarding your bed bug situation. I recommend asking for compensation from the hotel before going to your company, because they will probably expect you to pursue that avenue first.

    One of the straws that broke the camel’s back of why my husband quit teaching was because he was not allowed to prohibit students with active bed bug infestations from coming to class (though getting stabbed while breaking up fights was also a major factor). Per administration, “bed bugs are not active disease vectors” and so kids “cannot be denied an education simply for the teacher’s convenience”. They also refused to pay for us to remediate our home. It costs four figures.

    1. Phony Genius*

      Since the hotel admitted that they found bedbugs, they should be on the hook here. You might even be able to sue them, if needed.

      As far as the school is concerned, I’d bet that policy would get changed if enough parents start complaining that their kids are getting bedbugs from other kids.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        No, most schools have the same thing with their lice policy. Kids cannot be banned from class for having an active lice infestation, which means some families spend the entire school year battling repeat infestations of head lice, and the cleaning to de-infest one’s home is quite costly and time consuming.

        1. Phony Genius*

          My local district has a no lice policy. They will send students home. They have no policy either way for bedbugs. We’re off topic, so I’ll end it here.

      2. NotMyRealName*

        At least the hotel admitted it. My boss was at a conference, and one of the attendees found a bedbug, bagged it and brought it to the front desk. The desk clerk claimed it wasn’t a bedbug. But the thing is, it was a meeting of parisitologists and entomologists.

        1. Gumby*

          How nice of the hotel to arrange a live demonstration for their valued conference attendees. Most hotels don’t go anywhere near that level of above and beyond customer service. However, I would warn any law enforcement conferences to avoid such a customer-focused hotel for fear of what they might arrange. (Cupcake conventions, OTOH, should absolutely book that hotel.)

    2. Jaydee*

      It would be great if there were more public health resources available to help low income individuals and families pay for effective remediation of bed bugs. That was the biggest problem I saw with bed bugs as a legal aid attorney. It’s expensive to replace clothing and furniture, heat treat or properly chemically treat for them. Landlords wouldn’t treat or would do an ineffective job and bill the tenants for it, even when they legally couldn’t do so. They would then evict the tenants, who would either have to get rid of most of their possessions or end up moving the bed bugs with them to a new place. Bed bugs don’t discriminate, and they’re not caused by uncleanliness (hence why they can be found in even very nice, very clean hotels). They just want sweet, sweet human blood. But at least people with more financial means can pay to remediate them.

  23. AwesomePossum*

    OP4–Write the letter, and/or, if you can, say it out loud.

    My fairly niche community just lost someone who was a mentor and friend to many of us, and it’s been hard. But one of the hardest parts for me is that I didn’t get the chance to say thank you to him before he died (he went fast). I think he knew, but it’s not the same.

    I’m sure your mentor will have wanted you to be successful, that’s why people mentor others. Barring very unusual circumstances, I doubt she’ll think it’s a burden if you say how much she’s meant to you or that she did right by you or that you’re grateful.

    All the best.

  24. Bibliovore*

    Question about #5: Are there any changes to that recommendation for candidates who are being flown in for an interview, particularly if they know the ticket is nonrefundable or if they’ve already landed but haven’t interviewed yet when their circumstances change? (A friend has had several promising interviews and is about to fly out for another one.)

  25. 'Tis Me*

    Can I please also say – as well as “aaw, AAM love story” this is also a respectful way of approaching somebody at work. He paid attention to her interests, made a thoughtful gesture based on that, and it sounds like the relationship grew pretty naturally from “regular” to “thoughtful sweet regular I like talking to at work” to “person I want to see on my own time, romantically, because they are awesome” <3

    1. CM*

      I was thinking the same thing — this example should be in a textbook for healthy relationships! I would be bowled over if someone was paying so much attention to my interests. And not only that, the gift wasn’t overly personal or boundary-pushing, it’s just a book that would be appropriate to give a casual friend — it was meaningful because of the thought he put into it.

  26. Phony Genius*

    For #1, in many government jobs, due to the long bureaucratic process of filling a vacant position, it is common for a departed worker’s tasks to be given to the next person down, sometimes in an “acting” position. It is also common for that person to be responsible for all of their own old and new work, essentially doing two full-time jobs at the same time. There are no extra hours, nor extra pay, but it is limited to one year. No consideration of this is used to decide if this person will get the job full time. This is all within the rules and the union contract permits it. However, there is no chance of the position being eliminated. This usually results in a decline in the quality of both jobs during this period.

    For clarification, many positions must be left vacant for six months after an employee departs, in case they change their mind and want to come back (we’ve had a few who did). Positions aren’t filled much quicker in cases of death, either.

    1. CDM322*

      OP 1 here! I am not in a government job, but I certainly understand that positions being absorbed in this case can be similar.

  27. Sharon*

    LW #1 – This was me several years ago! I was asked to “hold things together” after someone departed and they didn’t have a replacement. They decided to make the position a manager level (it hadn’t been before) and after a few weeks, I decided I wanted to go for it. They preferred to hire someone with more experience in that particular job, so I did my job, plus the other job for four months! It paid off though, because I got the promotion, a big bump in salary, and a year later when the company was bought by a competitor, I was eligible for much higher retention bonus. I got into the office at 5AM and stayed until I could get the work done. It was really hard, but since I knew it was doing to be a finite amount of time, I was able to make it work. If you can make it work for a finite amount of time, it’s worth it.

    LW #4 – ALWAYS share your appreciation for people that have helped you! A few years before the job I mentioned above, I was stuck in a dead end job that I loathed and since it was just after 9/11, the job market was stagnant. A guy I knew from the gym helped me get my foot in the door at a company where the job was a step up. I realized after the fact that the ONLY reason the company took a chance on me was because of this guy’s recommendation. Fast forward to this summer; everyone from that job has moved on. Another former co-worker had a medical issue and he message me to find out some information about getting in touch with her. I made sure to thank him for sticking his neck out for me – he was really touched! It’s a small thing to share your appreciation for things that other people do and it really can make a big impact and brighten their day.

    1. OP1*

      Yes! I think that if I’m going to be doing this for three months at least then that gives me the time frame to understand what I need to be successful in this potential new promotion. I had a conversation with the manager today and I told him that I cannot get to every single thing, but if I hit the top 3 action items of the week I’d call it a success. He said he was on the same page as myself so this conversation is good on expectations. I was mostly afraid that others would just expect me to do both without no issue. If I got this new role it would be a big step up for me.

  28. OP3*

    Thanks for responding to my letter! I ended up talking to my manager about the situation and he said I can submit any expenses related to the bed bugs for reimbursement. An email was also sent out through HR notifying everyone else that stayed in the same hotel just in case. I had an inspection done and they didn’t find anything in my house so I am cautiously optimistic. The whole time have felt like I was simultaneously overreacting and under reacting, so I’m glad to hear others think it was reasonable to seek help from my employer.

    1. Thany*

      OP3- Good news that it looks like you’re in the clear! I would still keep an eye out on any future bites because you may still have brought eggs home which can still take a few weeks to hatch. I’d recommend washing everything you brought in your luggage, and vaccuuming and carefully inspecting your luggage as well. Also, buy quality bed bug mattress covers for the mattress and box spring (people often forget the box spring) to protect yourself from any future infestations (if they are there that will also help contain any infestation). Also, always check the mattress in your hotel room. Signed, Someone one who experienced it and never wants to again

  29. Dessi*

    Okay for real the AAM love story is the cutest, most wholesome thing I have read in a long while lol oh my heart!

  30. Jennifer*

    #1 It’s so weird to me how people are so quick to jump to the sexual harassment conclusion. It happens a lot here too. I’m glad that we’re talking about it more as a society, but bringing it up in every situation isn’t helpful.

    That being said, it’s annoying that you flagged the potential conflict of having your close friend report to you, and the same people who are causing problems now told you it was no biggie.

    Put what your family had to say out of your mind, well-meaning though they may be, and reiterate to your bosses that you and Tim are only good friends.

    1. CM*

      When I first read the letter, I could understand the family’s reaction — why would they accuse the gay guy of having a relationship with a male friend? I wouldn’t call it sexual harassment, but definitely homophobia in that they were making an assumption that a gay man hanging out with another man must be having a romantic relationship with him.

      But the OP’s updates above really clarify things, and after reading that I don’t think the bosses did anything wrong. The OP said he regularly goes home with his friend after work, spends the night with him, and talks about what “Tim and I” did over the weekend. So I think it would be totally reasonable to assume he and Tim are dating, and it sounds like once OP corrected that assumption, they didn’t push it.

      1. CM*

        Oh, I misread — OP#2 also said in a comment above that he is not gay.
        Still, he is in an extremely close friendship that could easily be read as dating.

  31. blink14*

    OP#1 – I’m in somewhat of a similar situation. I am in an office of 3, and my co-worker left a few months ago, so it’s just me and the director of the department. When I was originally hired, it was just us two and it was manageable, but having that third position upped expectations and implemented a variety of tasks and programs we’re now picking up the slack on.

    Early on, I told my director it wasn’t going to be possible for us to both do our own jobs, and take on all of the third position’s tasks, in the interim before a new person is hired. We both agreed to drop a major program offering temporarily, and I keep reminding myself it’s not possible to do both of my job and the other job, both because there isn’t enough time, but also because by covering all the tasks, it could give the impression that we don’t need to fill the position and backfire.

    I would speak with your manager and determine what tasks are necessary, what can be put off onto another co-worker temporarily, and what can be dropped for now. Make it clear that it isn’t realistic to take on both positions long term, and you would like to come up with a plan on how to handle the temporary situation.

    1. OP1*

      I did just that today! I was helpful to have a candid conversation with both managers and they have both been supportive.

  32. Bunny*

    I had a very close friend of years that everyone were convinced we were dating and it was incredibly annoying to deal with because we absolutely were not dating. Even good mutual friends would give us what they thought were knowing winks as we insisted that we were not in a relationship. Like seriously, we would tell you if we were, we are absolutely not together, we are just two good friends.

    Anyways, we are married now. And everyone thinks we were lying to them the entire time. But it’s the honest truth, we absolutely, 100% were not in any sort of romantic relationship, nor were either of us interested in being in one for years before we started one.

    1. Jennifer*

      Suuuure you weren’t *wink* :)

      But in all seriousness, I love this story. AAM is full of cute love stories today.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Someone should start a thread on the weekend free-for-all post for cute love stories. I’d eat that up in a heartbeat.

    2. IsbenTakesTea*

      I sympathize, Bunny! It is infuriating to tell people you don’t like a tease, and to have them do it anyway because they think it’s cute or amusing–especially if it leads to complete strangers joining in because now it’s a “thing.”

      Platonic relationship solidarity!

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Same here, married to a longtime platonic friend.

      We really weren’t in a relationship before we were in a relationship. We were just friends! He was dating a long-term girlfriend, they were together for probably 3 years before their relationship ended.

      1. Anonymouse*

        The only person I have ever even imagined myself marrying was a long time platonic friend. We never dated. He ended up marrying someone else.

        I’d never heard the term “demisexual*” until a few years ago but I immediately recognized it as how I form attachments!

        *A demisexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone. It’s more commonly seen in but by no means confined to romantic relationships.

      2. Arts Akimbo*

        Ha! Same here. Spouse and I were great friends for like six years, and I had a long list of reasons why I would NEVER date him… and one day, suddenly all those reasons seemed stupid! We practically moved in together as soon as we started dating, because, well, we already knew each other extremely well. Next year will be our 25th wedding anniversary.

  33. anon4this*

    OP#2…You didn’t ask why they thought you were in a relationship? Neither of your sexual orientation is mentioned in the letter (not that it should matter), but if you’re both heterosexual males who are friends…what?! And if they said neither of you disclosed anything…this doesn’t make any sense.
    Or is it because you’re both the only openly single gay men who describe their working relationship as “close”? That’s obviously not a good reason but at least adds a context that may make sense.
    “It was unclear why they reached that conclusion, but no harm, no foul, right?”
    Actually, the fact that they approached you like they knew you were already dating, without any disclosure from either of you, is troubling to me. I’d also be a bit troubled they assumed your sexual orientation, your choice of romantic partners, and tried to make it seem like you would cover a power disparity up in a work setting.
    Good luck with all this moving forward.

    1. Jennifer*

      Sounds like employee gossip. He said he’s aromantic. People start to make assumptions if someone never mentions a romantic partner at work instead of minding their business.

      1. Quill*

        Oh yeah, been there. You can’t prove a negative so people are never going to believe that you’re aromantic, just think you’re pining for someone unavailable.

  34. mayfly*

    I was on a work trip earlier this year. Woke up in my hotel room at 2 am to the feeling something was lightly brushing my arm. Yep, bedbug. Even I’m an entomologist, it was not a pleasant thing to see.
    I scooped it into an empty water glass and took it down to reception, who were able to book me into a completely different hotel. Washed all my clothes and bags on hot when I got home and baked everything in my car in a garbage bag. No issues at home, though I had a difficult time sleeping in hotels for a while after that.

  35. JoAnna*

    Awww, that love story is so sweet!

    I met my husband due to our mutual love for the Harry Potter books. :)

  36. pamplemousse*

    The advice for #1 is really great. We’ve had several departures in my office and backfill has been relatively slow, and so my high-energy, high-performing department has been asked to pick up the slack on various important tasks.

    Our department head has been awesome at being crystal clear to her team of passionate Type A people-pleasing overachievers (including me) that sometimes we are going to say no to things or not be able to do them. Including important things that we also want to see done for the good of the company. Because the C-suite MUST see that we do not actually have the bandwidth, as 5 people, to do 9 people’s jobs. If it seems like we are handling everything no sweat, and working 14-hour days behind the scenes while our hair falls out from stress, they will say, hm, why spend the money to hire anyone to fill those roles.

  37. Safely Retired*

    Regarding #4, I suggest being ready to talk about some recent positive experience that your mentor can relate to. In other words, the same sort of conversation you would have if nobody was ill and you were having a chat over coffee. Giving them a feeling of normalcy amidst all the emotions can be a breath of fresh air.

  38. Curmudgeon in California*

    OP #4, go see her. Tell her what she means to you, and how much she influenced your life. It will help her to know that she made a difference in someone’s life. It validates her career in many ways. You don’t have to gush, just tell her that you have appreciated her friendship and guidance.

    People when they are knowingly dying usually want to put their affairs in order and assure themselves that their life was worth the living, IME. Also, it’s better to say goodbye while they are alive to hear it.

  39. Jihbeach*

    Just because someone is dying, it doesn’t mean that everything has to be somber, quiet and reverent. You aren’t holding a vigil. You are visiting a person who was important to you. Have a normal conversation and tell them how important they were in setting you on your career path. She’s still the same person. Don’t treat her differently just because she’s dying. Most people want things as normal as possible before they die.

  40. Laura*

    As a reoccurring sick person, I have had to cancel interviews at the last minute. Of course, I feel really terrible about doing so and always apologize. I say something along the lines of, “I’m ill and am unable to make our interview. I am so sorry to cancel at the last minute but will follow up in the next few days when I’m feeling better.” There is the likelihood that the position will be filled when you are better, but I’d rather be at my best than at my worst (and avoid getting my interviewer sick). As long as you’re professional in your tone, you’ll be fine.

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