bedbug-sniffing dogs at work, using vacation time for a work training, and more

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

1. My company brought bedbug-sniffing dogs to work and people’s homes

I work for a large national company with many locations across the country, and I had a question about a situation that happened at one of our sister locations. The sister location has been having trouble with bedbugs in the building for some time, and over the past couple of months have gone through the paces of localized spraying, fumigation, and even bringing in bug-sniffing dogs (I didn’t know there were dogs that could sniff out bed bugs!) to try and track down the source.

After the latest round of fumigation, the traps were still catching bugs and the dog was brought back to the location, but this time to sniff individuals as they entered the building. That already feels weirdly invasive to me, but it got weirder! When the dog identified people as carrying the bedbugs, she was brought to the employees’ home to sniff and confirm. When presence of the bugs was confirmed at the employees’ homes, they were asked to stay home and not come to work. Am I alone in feeling this whole exercise is invasive and overstepping? Especially bringing bug-sniffer dogs to employees’ homes!

Given how easily bedbugs can spread if people bring them to work and how much of a nightmare they can be for people who get infested, I don’t find this terribly unreasonable. (I assume the employees gave their permission to have the dogs in their homes.) It’s not uncommon for employers to ask employees with bedbugs to stay home until it’s dealt with, to avoid spreading them to others — although they should be paid during that time, and a good employer will cover or at least contribute to the extermination costs to facilitate their quick return (and because otherwise employees who get infested will be more likely to hide it).

2. I’m supposed to use PTO for a work training

I am working on two projects related to a software platform that I have very little exposure to. My manager and I have had a few conversations about getting me enrolled in a week-long, off-site training course offered by that software platform. None of the trainings are in my area, so I priced out the total cost of upcoming training in a few different locations. The total cost is around $4,000 for the class and airfare, lodging, and meals.

My manager took it to her boss, and her boss’s boss, and they decided that I would have to use my tuition reimbursement benefit to cover $1,500 of the cost, and the rest would get paid by the company out of other budgets. However, our tuition reimbursement policy clearly states that all tuition reimbursement classes must happen outside of work hours or be completed while on PTO. So now I need to take a week of PTO and pay for everything up-front, out of pocket to be reimbursed after I get the certificate of completion. I don’t have the money to do this, nor do I feel like I should have to do so to attend training directly related to my job. And even if they decide to give me comp time for that week, I feel like it doesn’t model our organization’s values and commitment to ethics.

I spoke to a friend in HR who said she couldn’t give me advice, but she validated that the situation doesn’t sit right with her. She also denied my tuition reimbursement application, for now. I plan to push back to my boss about this, but I am having a hard time doing so because I feel like everyone assumes this is the best path forward. How would you handle this situation? Am I wrong in thinking that I shouldn’t be forced to use a benefit in this way? I was planning to use this money for other classes around my areas of interest, but this class would be extremely beneficial for me to attend to ensure my projects are successful.

What on earth! That’s ridiculous. I’d frame it this way: “My understanding is that tuition reimbursement is a perk, not something intended to cover training costs incurred in the process of doing our jobs. Since the training would be work time for me, I can’t use PTO for it or pay the costs up-front myself. Would it make sense to find some other way to get me trained in this or would the company be able to cover it like any other work training?” Note that offers two options and neither of them are you using vacation time for it — proceed as if of course an option so unfair can’t really be on the table.

3. Manager insists on thank-you emails for routine messages

I’m a part of a group of managers who each have our own team that we manage, across five different office. Since we all do the same work, we try our best to keep each other informed about changes and work that needs to be completed in order to maintain consistency. Above us are three managers who oversee our operations.

My manager let me know that one of other managers at her level had mentioned I never respond to emails. I felt that I was responding once the task was done, but I think what’s she is referring to is that I don’t say “thank you” back each time they send out an email. Most of the time, the emails are FYIs or “fix this data.” It really bothers me that each of the other managers when replying to “all” are each required to respond by saying things like “Thank you so much, this is great information!” even when it was general or info I already knew, and you have to imagine how annoying getting five or six emails back all saying “thank you” is. If a task is being requested, I usually respond before the deadline to let everyone know the progress and again once completed, but now that is not enough.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but when I say thank you for an email, I want it to be authentic. I don’t want to thank someone for something I’m already aware of, and I don’t want to make it some verbal command to show that I read the email. I dont know if the other manager needs the validation, but my direct manager made it seem that she understands my frustration, but to just answer back “thank you” anyway. Am I being unreasonable? Is there a better way to respond to an email other than thanking them?

Your stance isn’t unreasonable, but your unwillingness to bend on it probably is. A manager who’s senior to you wants acknowledgements to emails. If she’s insisting they be thank you’s specifically (and not “great, I’m on it!” or “got it” or so forth), then she’s ridiculous. But your manager has asked you to do it and it’s not worth battling over. Roll your eyes internally if you want, but your capital is so much better saved for something with more importance.

(As for it not being authentic … much of what we do to be professional isn’t particularly authentic. Sincerity isn’t the point with this kind of thing.)

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Companies that ask you to send in your resume even if there’s not a current opening

Since one of the most important requirements to me in my job search is a shorter commute, I’m currently targeting local companies principally through monitoring their careers/employment websites where openings are posted. Many companies encourage “unsolicited” resume submittal through messages similar to “Don’t see a current opening in your area of expertise? Don’t be discouraged! We’re always looking for great future hires. If you’ve got the talent and work ethic—we want to hear from you. Simply email your cover letter and resume to…”

I would be concerned that submitting a resume without targeting a specific opening would just send my qualifications into a black hole, and then possibly make me look disorganized (etc.) if I were later to apply for a specific position. Or should I take companies at their word, and if so, would I continue to follow up on specific positions?

Take them at their word. If they suggesting sending in your resume even if there’s no suitable opening currently, it’s fine to do that. If you later apply for a specific opening there, you won’t look in any way disorganized; it makes sense to apply for something specific when it comes up if you were interested enough to send in your resume without an opening earlier.

As for how companies handle these general submissions, it depends. Some will look at your resume and contact you if you seem like a strong candidate for something they need right now that isn’t posted for one reason or another, but then never look at it again beyond that. Some will file it away for the next time they’re hiring for your skill set. Some will file it away intending to look at it later but then it never actually happens. So don’t put too much weight on it, like “well, I sent them my resume two months ago so if they thought I’d be good for this new job they just posted, they’d contact me.” Send it in now if you want, but make sure to apply for any specific openings you’re interested in later as well.

5. Interviewing while pregnant success story

I just wanted to say thank you so much for your site and your How to Get a Job book. I recently accepted a new position and I firmly believe that without using the advice from your book I wouldn’t have been as successful. I have been working at the same company for 10 years (different roles, but in the same general area) and was ready for a change. A former coworker passed along a position at his company but let me know there were other strong internal and external candidates. After 10 years my interview skills were rusty, but using the book I was able to get an offer – one that is substantially more in terms of pay than I get today, but is also a great opportunity for growth.

I also wanted to pass along my experience interviewing while pregnant, since I really wrestled with it and I know others do too. When I applied for the position I didn’t know I was pregnant, but I did by the time I phone interviewed (process lasted a couple months). To complicate things, the hiring manager specifically noted that one of the reasons he’s trying to fill the position now was that he plans to take a one month sabbatical next year.

I know common advice is to wait until you have an offer in hand to disclose pregnancy, but in the end I decided to give the manager a heads up before my on-site interview, for a couple reasons. First, the whole dept is only 10 people, and I was interviewing for the senior manager position. That combined with the sabbatical mention made me want to be upfront. Second, I knew they’d still interview me (since to rescind at that point would be breaking the law, most likely) but then I wouldn’t have to worry about mentioning it in the day, and I figured if it played into their final decision the position wasn’t a good match timing wise for me anyway. And then lastly I wanted to be sensitive to the fact that my coworker recommended me.

In the end I started to show early as well (as in, maybe noticeable on interview day – thanks, second pregnancy) so it was just as well. Once I had the offer I did bring it up again, since I knew I wouldn’t be covered by FMLA or eligible for the company’s standard parental leave. I got in writing that I will be covered for six weeks short term disability along with another month unpaid for bonding — which I am satisfied with. I’m over the moon to be making the switch, and pleased that the company was accommodating. I’m aware that many maybe would not be — but as I said then I think it’s not a good match!

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 432 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    Ooo, #1 is the rare case where the horribleness of passing along bedbugs outweighs the invasiveness of the dogs providing a “free pest test” at folks’ homes. But I agree with Alison that the company should also pay for extermination at those homes. Even prepping for fumigation is a nightmare.

    1. KinderTeacher*

      Such a nightmare! Although, not everyone reacts to bed bug bites, so as long as the company steps up and helps pay extermination costs, some people may luck out and discover they have bugs they weren’t reacting to and wouldn’t otherwise have noticed until there were way more of them. Having suffered through bed bugs myself, I agree that keeping other coworkers’ homes safe from them and being able to permanently eradicate them from the work place should be a very high priority that may necessitate actions that feel a bit intrusive (bringing dogs to ppls homes, presumably w/consent, not through breaking and entering). I would wish bed bugs on very few people, and would gladly have consented to a dog search for the sake of my coworkers, assuming I was being paid/allowed to do work from home while the bugs were handled.

      1. Hotel GM*

        Yep, something in the neighborhood of 40% of people have no reaction to bed bugs, which is how they spread so easily, because they don’t bother such a large portion of the population.

        Also, extermination costs are high for the average person, and while I use pesticides in my hotel rooms, a $5 bag of food grade Diatomaceous Earth spread strategically all over your home will take care of an infestation as well. It also works for fleas. The fine particles are actually rather jagged, and work their way into the joints of the bugs as they crawl over it, which shreds their exoskeletons to pieces, killing them. Metal af.

        1. Artemesia*

          We lived in a sublet in a high rise when we first moved to our city and they brought the dogs through twice a year sniffing our apartments and particularly our beds and other upholstered furniture. I thought it was great because who wants bedbugs. My colleagues privacy is not more important than the thousands it will cost me to battle a bedbug infestation.
          When we put our furniture in storage after the move I first spread diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of the 10 by 30 storage unit. It did the job. When we moved out there were lots of dead bugs in the barrier of this stuff. We did not bring any into our home. That stuff is cheap, effective and so safe you literally can eat it — there is food grade diatomaceous earth. We dusted it in all the corners of each new move. Very cheap preventative. That and we always put bedbug covers on the mattresses which also help prevent dust mite allergies.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            Will the diatomaceous earth hurt the dogs, though, as they sniff around? I always worry about that stuff around pets.

            1. Hotel GM*

              Nope, it’s kid and pet safe, which is why lots of folks use it (plus it’s cheap). The particles are very small, so they really only kill insects. For larger beings, it’s only as irritating as dust.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              The dogs are too big.

              DE kills by a mechanical method not a chemical method. Eating DE is like eating shards of glass- IF you are a bug. If you are a dog it’s like eating sand. A bug cannot develop an immunity to DE because it’s not a chemical killer. It’s lethal by a mechanical/physical means. It cuts up their insides.

              I also hear that DE is actually fed to cows? I guess it “scrubs” their insides and helps keep blockages from forming? Someone here will have a better explanation. But again, the size of the critter matters, cows are way bigger than bugs so their bodies can cope.

              This leaves concern about the dog’s lungs as the dog could breathe in this dust. A person who handles sniffer dogs would know what to do. If anyone does end up with dogs sniffing through their home, they should mention to the dog’s handler that they have used DE and where they have used it. Since DE works, probably the dog would not linger in any areas where DE has been used and that would minimize their exposure?

              But it’s a good question to ask the professionals handling the dogs.

              1. Feline*

                DE is safe to consume, but not to breathe. Absolutely notify a dog handler. They should be familiar with it, since it’s used fairly commonly to control pests.

                1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                  Yeah, if your dog is inclined to go SNIFF SNIFF at things, he could inhale it and get silicosis.

                  I have a silverfish problem coincidentally around my cat’s litter box (it’s in a cool, damp nook) and this is why we don’t use DE.

            3. ClashRunner*

              Nope! It’s a great pest management solution because it’s not toxic to children or animals (well, except for the insects you’re trying to eradicate). Museums like to use it because it won’t harm their collections, guests, or staff :-)

              1. JSPA*

                It’s still silica, and while the diatoms themselves are large enough to not get far into your lungs, the bits that crumble off could be a silicosis (inhalation) hazard.

                Remember, asbestos is also chemically inert (in a biologically-relevant way, anyway). Things that get deep into the smallest passages of your lungs, persist, and repeatedly poke holes are always a potential concern (holes –> extra rounds of cell division to fix the holes, extra cell division –> more opportunities for a random mutation, more random mutations –> increased risk of one or more mutations that promote cancer).

                It’s a documented risk in people who produce the stuff, especially for people exposed to very high levels over an extended time.

                The fact that it’s a moderate increased risk within the industry suggests that it’s not a major risk from incidental exposure. That said, kids’ lungs are always worth protecting.
                Link to follow.

                Oh, and the info below about “D.E. alone only being fully effective if there’s no chance for a blood meal” sounds legit to me. Great for a storage unit, or a place that you can close up and leave for a couple weeks; maybe not adequate for an occupied home.

                1. Artemesia*

                  my understanding is that it works by the larvae crawling through it and being desicated by it rather than them eating it. We laid down an inch+ wide strip completely around our storage unit and when we moved out there were hundreds of dead bugs rimming our unit (none were bedbugs so far as I could see, but I was happy not to be bringing any of those other bugs along either — we didn’t have any bug problems after moving our furniture and boxes into the new home.)

            4. wittyrepartee*

              That’s the awesome part about it. It’s literally fine for your pets to eat. In fact, some people feed it to their pets as some sort of deworming measure (I’m not sure it actually does anything, but it’s safe).

          2. MJ*

            “That stuff is cheap, effective and so safe you literally can eat it — there is food grade diatomaceous earth.”

            It’s ‘food grade’ precisely because it is our food!

            1. Fikly*

              Food grade (hopefully) means safe to eat. There are lots of things – including inadvertent bugs – that I would not call food grade.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                Food grade can mean safe to use around food.
                There is a DE used in pools. I think the distinction “food grade” is to highlight that it is not the same as what you put in a pool.

            2. JSPA*

              You can consume a lot of things that you can’t safely inhale. Water, for instance. Or, as we’re now learning, CBD in various oily carriers.

              I’m not being flip.

              Fully understanding how dramatically different risks can be, based on the type of exposure, is it’s own field of study.

              I would certainly use D.E. for bedbugs (and I do use it in the garden) but I wear a mask to puff it on the plants, and in a dry climate, I would absolutely either mist the areas or keep pets and kids from nosing around the stuff or moving it into the air column. Don’t know if mixing it with, say, sweeping compound would oil it up to the point where it’s not effective on bugs…

              1. Artemesia*

                you don’t want to breathe it or get it in your eyes. If I were using it in a kids’ room I would use it a long time before the kids were in the room and would not leave obvious piles of it around e.g. puff it into crevices and baseboard and corners but not leave visible amounts. It is primarily a preventative — if you bring back a couple of bedbugs in your luggage, you hope to intercept and kill the first batch of larvae that are produced — we still use it in the locker of our apartment building where we store our luggage between trips.

              2. K.R.*

                My understanding is that DE loses its effectiveness when wet. You can apply it wet, but it will only start killing bugs when it dries.

            3. kt*

              I’ve eaten it, FYI. It is used in animals to kill intestinal parasites. I was having a particular kind of digestive trouble after travel to a third-world country, did a lot of research, and determined I was comfortable putting 2 tsp in my coffee every morning for three weeks or something like that. I’m fine. It did have a moderate beneficial effect on my digestion.

              I’m very DIY when it comes to health, though, to an extent not everyone is comfortable with.

          3. KoiFeeder*

            There’s a story somewhere about a person who baked a cake with diatomaceous earth instead of flour. I don’t believe they ate it, though!

          4. Carlie*

            Be careful with diatomaceous earth, though – it will shred your corneas just as easily as it does bugs.

        2. Jdc*

          I didn’t know this. Explains why I am itching like crazy while husband and son are fine. Why must all bugs love me. I wish I could change my darn blood type.

          1. Artemesia*

            The one time we encountered bed bugs in travel was in Amsterdam in a very nice hotel about 25 years ago before everyone was hearing about bed bugs in travel. We woke to blood smeared sheets — it was the creepiest thing ever as it slowly dawned on me that no, it wasn’t that my husband had nicked himself shaving but that I had these spots under me too and it slowly dawned on me what it must be. Totally creepy. Neither of us had reactions to the bites. We might well a second time as allergies tend to work that way showing on second exposure. But we only know because of the blood and then we found the bug skins and bugs. Shudder. We were staying in an apartment in Paris and didn’t want to infect it, so we really cleaned the luggage and washed and dried every stitch on us and in the suitcases the moment we got home — we kept the luggage in the bathtub there and threw it out when we got back home.

        3. AnonANon*

          No way!! Great tip!! I have a pool and use DE in my filter. It is super cheap too. Good to know it can be used for pest control too :)

          1. Sally*

            Pool grade is different from food grade. If you’re putting it in your house, buy food grade.
            (As an aside, I’ve heard the food grade is commonly added to flour to keep out bugs)

        4. Adlib*

          Ha ha! “Metal af.” Absolutely! DE has been amazing in getting rid of all kinds of bugs in my house – ants, spiders, weevils. I stir a little into my corn-based cat litter (I think that’s where the weevils originated initially), and it doesn’t affect the cats. It’s water-absorbent so if you get it on your skin, it can feel a little weird/dry. I have a giant jug of the stuff so I feel like I’ll never run out. Seriously, if you don’t have it, get some!

          1. Quill*

            Thanks for the tip, I’ve been washing the crack that the sugar ants get into with vinegar on a monthly basis to kill their scent trails.

          2. Feline*

            I have never thought of putting some into my corn-based cat litter. Great idea! Going to scoop and finding a little something extra skittering away from the scooper is going to be a thing of the past now.

          3. LizB*

            Ooh, thanks for the tip about the cat litter! I also use a natural one and I’m so sick of tiny bugs it seems to attract.

            1. JSPA*

              the ones that use the grass / stalk / husk / cob rather than the grain itself have far less caloric value and don’t draw bugs (much or at all). Plus you don’t have the odd sense of using something that could have been food for your pets to crap in. Which honestly bothers me, even though I know it’s a renewable resource.

        5. K.H. Wolf*

          Please, do not recommend diatomaceous earth alone for bedbug control, especially in an occupied house. Diatomaceous earth works by dehydrating insects when their exoskeleton is compromised. Bedbugs both shed frequently, which restores their outer shell, and have a diet high in liquids (blood). It will kill some, but not very many. The exception is if the bugs have no access to blood, but the house would have to be unoccupied.

          Study link to follow.

        6. Aquawoman*

          I love DE. We had very persistent ants who found poison traps amusing or unappealing or something, and the DE not only got rid of them, we’ve never had them return since. And I feel better about it than pesticides.

        7. Mama Bear*

          That said, people should only use food grade DE and wear a filter mask. We used it (successfully) for fleas and we found out the hard way I am horribly allergic. We keep it only to exterior doors that we don’t use often now.

        8. Another Bedbug LW*

          I’m the person who wrote to Allison last year about bedbugs [] and I regret to inform you that although Diatomaceous Earth is good for roaches and certain other insect pests, it’s pretty ineffective for bedbugs. I would know- I tried everything in the process of attempting to retain sanity while being crawled on and bitten every night for eight months. I am reliably informed by an exterminator that these days (bugs having developed immunity to certain poisons), essentially the only thing that works for bedbugs is a) sustained extreme heat (at least 160C for 24 hours minimum), b) sustained extreme cold (0C for 4 days minimum), or very specific poisons that only exterminators have access to. I wish to god Diatomaceous Earth worked, but it doesn’t. Even roaches are becoming immune to it these days.

        9. Another Bedbug LW*

          I’m the person who wrote to Allison last year about bedbugs [] and I’m sorry to say that although Diatomaceous Earth is good for roaches and certain other insect pests, it’s pretty ineffective for bedbugs. I would know- I tried everything in the process of attempting to retain sanity while being crawled on and bitten every night for eight months. I am reliably informed by an exterminator that these days (bugs having developed immunity to certain poisons), essentially the only thing that works for bedbugs is a) sustained extreme heat (at least 160C for 24 hours minimum), b) sustained extreme cold (0C for 4 days minimum), or very specific poisons that only exterminators have access to. I wish to god Diatomaceous Earth worked, but it doesn’t. Even roaches are becoming immune to it these days.

          1. K.H. Wolf*

            While most of what your exterminator told you is correct, you can order at least two effective bedbug poisons yourself. They aren’t cheap, and you will have to order them online. CrossFire and EcoRaider are both reputable long-term residual poisons. They can be applied with a liquid poison sprayer like you can get at Lowe’s or Home Depot.

            I also had bedbugs. After trying everything (6 heat treats! 3 spray-based companies!) my household tried DIY using a few poison brands (CrossFire and EcoRaider) that I had found in some studies on residual contact poison effects (I can’t find the studies with a quick search, but they were publicly available at the time). It finally worked.

        10. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Yes, but DE is not effective if your living space already has bedbugs. (I would hate for folks to rely on DE and prolong their misery!)

      2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

        It seems like 100% rational decision to me. I cannot imagine how terrified people would feel in a place that has constant outbreaks that just won’t go away. I bet that place would start to feel toxic fast. Once people start to suspect a coworker is bringing it in it wouldn’t take long for people to get hostel and take sides and game of thrones starts playing out in the office. Good for the company for doing what it takes to let employees feel safe going to work.

      3. Just Elle*

        I mean, I really do get the massive incentive to violate privacy, but I think the consent thing is iffy here. Like “sure, I guess if my options are being fired or letting you into my home, you can come into my home” isn’t exactly consent. Even if that wasn’t actually threatened that way, I can see why people would feel unreasonably pressured.

        I’d have felt better if it was “Hey, GoodDoggo smelled bed bugs on you, so we have to ask you to stay home until its remedied. But if you’re confident you don’t have them, or if you’d like this neat free perk, we are happy to send GoodDoggo to your home for additional sniffs.”
        Like, why do they NEED to have the dogs go to the homes to confirm, if they are already carrying them on their person?

        1. Clisby*

          The person might have picked up the bedbugs in the office; the dog sniffing in the house could confirm whether an infestation is already established there. I’d be begging them to get the dogs over to my house.

          1. Just Elle*

            Well, she said they were sniffed on the way into work. And I’m all for allowing the dog as a way to reverse the ‘infected’ declaration. But to force a visit just to confirm what is already very likely feels like an abuse of power.

            1. Artemesia*

              It is really expensive to use bedbug dogs — it is a huge perk for the office to pay. And there are people who don’t care and are perfectly happy to keep infecting the rest of the world. There was a family in my kids’ school that didn’t treat lice effectively and it didn’t bother them that their kids kept infecting their peers at school. We got really resentful at having to constantly expose our kids to the toxic ‘cures’ only to have the Kalikaks returning with lice yet again because the family didn’t address it on everyone at home. Bed bugs are similar — you don’t get to have the freedom to not care if you have them. The dogs don’t sniff drugs — they sniff out bed bugs. I’d rather have that than be fired ‘at will’ for being the typhoid Mary of bed bugs at the office.

              1. wittyrepartee*

                Some people will happily infect, but other people honestly don’t know because they’re not reacting to the bites. I’d be eternally grateful if my work was like “hey, btw… you’re getting secretly eaten by bugs every night and you could infect your friends with bedbugs”.


              2. Carlie*

                I’ll be the wet blanket insert – it’s one of those terms that most people don’t know where it comes from so don’t realize, but Kalikak was the fictional name given to the “bad” branch of a family in an early 1900s foundational book on eugenics by Henry Goddard. He and it really helped usher in a very bad period in science and society, with half-understood pseudoscience directing social policy and encompassed both “positive” eugenics (the best people get to breed) and “negative” eugenics (the worst people don’t get to breed), which, to Godwin my own comment, philosophically basically led to Hitler.

                It gets used as a shorthand for people who are irresponsible/undesirable, but has pretty icky roots, so the connotations go beyond what people might mean. Just wanted to put that out there for the information.

                1. LawBee*

                  I have never seen that word before in my life! Thanks for the background; I won’t be incorporating it.

              3. Just Elle*

                I am all for preventing people from coming to work unless they ‘test clean’ with the bed bug detecting dog.

                What I am NOT on board with, is ‘encouraging’ people to allow the dogs into their home to ‘verify’ what the dog smells. Sure, if they think its a false positive and want to prove their ‘innocence’, or if they view it as a perk, you can offer it. But pressuring people to let you the employer into their home is really icky.

          2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

            I’d want the convenience of a bedbug detection dog already found and ready to deploy. The scenario reeks a bit of scary totalitarian regimes, but bed bugs are a nuisance!

            Diatomaceous earth, lots of hot dryer loads, and a handheld steamer to catch under baseboards and in nooks and crannies will do the trick. My episode also prompted me to bag up lots of extra linens and stuff that were all around, and which turned out not to be necessary to my lifestyle, so off they went.

        2. fposte*

          The other problem is that bedbug dogs can have a pretty high failure rate in both directions, both false positives and false negatives. They’re not the sure thing that companies promoting them like to claim.

        3. JSPA*

          Considering that dogs + paying for eradication would strike most people as a major free gift, I don’t see wouldn’t present it as such.

        4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think the goal is to prevent re-infestation, right? When the upstairs apartment had bedbugs, the entire building had to be fumigated. What was much worse were landlords who would only fumigate the affected apartment, which would lead to the bugs taking up residence in the walls and coming back in never-previously-infected apartments.

          Similarly, the employer can fumigate the office building, but if folks are carrying bedbugs home with them, the extermination is not going to take. It sounds like they’ve been contending with this for some time, so the only viable options are to tell staff: (1) don’t come to work unless you can provide expert verification that you don’t have an infestation in your home (which is undoubtedly expensive for staff to do, and once they know they have bedbugs, all sorts of other responsibilities accrue), or (2) we’ll pay to help you determine if you have an infestation using these dogs, and we’ll work with you to cure it.

    2. Redwing*

      I hope the company would pay for extermination – presumably the most likely reason many of the employees would have infestation at home would be that they brought it there from the office.

      1. Koala dreams*

        Yes, and I hope the office was closed while it was being treated for bedbugs and nobody was required to come there! I feel sad for those employees who got bedbugs in their home because of work.

      2. Jamie*

        Ah – this is why company should pay. I couldn’t figure out the reasoning of that, but it makes sense now, thanks.

        I have ever had or known anyone with bedbugs so off to google the horrors…

      3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Yes, and if you live in an apartment, in some states it is the landlord’s legal responsibility to pay. Except many landlords refuse to do so. So it is a HUGE benefit if the company is paying for treatment.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Ah, so… if that happens in NYC you can legally stop paying your rent. You can also do this if you can document that they’re not following the law to keep the heat or water on to a human-habitable level. I’ve met people who did this.

          1. pancakes*

            This is something that people really need to look more closely at the law on before withholding rent. There are requirements about providing notice to the landlord and restrictions on the amount the tenant can withhold. In some circumstances the rent has to be paid into escrow rather than withheld.

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            That’s true, but there are lots of downsides to withholding rent in NYC. There was a great Times’ article on the way that landlords collude to blacklist tenants who withhold rent on habitability grounds (or who are taken to housing court and win). It’s important to hold landlords accountable, but it’s also important for folks to have a plan so that they’re not rendered homeless as a result of enforcing their rights.

            1. pancakes*

              That’s a great point, PCBH. I remember that article. City council people have since tried to pass legislation about the widespread use of blacklists by landlords, but I don’t think they’ve had any success.

        2. A*

          Really? If you bring bedbugs back to your rental, your landlord is obligated to pay for fumigation? Wow, that’s kind of mind blowing!

          In my state the renter is on the hook for full cost of individual unit, or 50% of full building (if you are found to be the patient zero apt, which from my understanding almost never happens and is virtually impossible to prove/enforce).

    3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Having been exposed to bed bugs 20 years ago after staying a night at a backpackers hostel, I can say that if my office was infested and my company didn’t take strong and effective steps, I’d be looking for another job. I reacted really badly and it was awful.

      1. Jenny*

        I once worked a project helping people with landlord tenant issues and had a client whose apartment had, among other things, bedbugs. His baby had a bad reaction to the bites and he had to take her to the hospital a few times. They are no joke for some people.

      2. No Tribble At All*

        I had bedbugs from a summer camp while in high school. It took us a month to figure out what was going on, because we thought they were mosquitoes at first. It was horrible. Some people can get PTSD from having bedbugs.

        1. Artemesia*

          my one experience in a hotel long ago still makes me shudder at the thought and we just had one night and didn’t bring them home — I can imagine it causing PTSD if you battled for long enough against these terrors.

        2. Filosofickle*

          I can see it getting that bad. I have some trauma related to two rodent infestations. Those f*ckers got everywhere! Whenever I see anything small and dark on the kitchen counter (which is also very dark, so visibility isn’t great), I have an immediate panic reaction. And my partner scatters a fair number of coffee beans, so I freak out like once a week. Even though it only lasts a couple of seconds, it is unpleasant and it usually causes me to inspect all the edges and corners with a flashlight.

      3. Shamy*

        Me too! We had them once and my whole body literally broke out in hives, just massive wheals that literally connected all over me, my feet were the worst and looked like I had on red socks. I had never had a reaction like that to anything before. It took awhile to figure out why since I guess it was one of those things where my first reaction was horrendous, but once healed, the subsequent bites weren’t quite as bad, still awful though. I had no idea some people don’t react at all, it was excruciating. Even members of my family that didn’t have the reaction I did still itched terribly from the bites. I will never forget the day I found one in my little baby’s pj’s. I was so angry. I ripped his bed apart. It took us months and months to get them under control because my dumbass of a bf at the time never told me his apartment was infested. I would take the baby to visit on the weekends and we would bring them back. It was literally not until years later that I was talking about the horrors of it that he said, “oh yeah, my apartment then had those.” I literally lost it and yelled, “IT WAS YOU!!!”

      4. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

        Yeah I had bed bugs in the grad student dorms I used to live in, and it was so horrible. They bit me every night for like 6 months because the whole building just kept getting re-infested. It was a nightmare. I would 100% be ok with bed bug dogs sniffing me for them and coming to my house to look for them if there was an outbreak at work to avoid ever going through that again.

    4. Mainely Professional*

      I think the OP may not understand how difficult it is to eradicate bed bugs. If one employee who has them is lax about working the steps to get rid of them, the workplace will continue to be infested, and creates the possibility for new infestations at the homes of other employees. So yeah, identifying who is infested is kind of important.

      Does it maybe feel gross and invasive? A little. Does it set up a kind of “you’re the problem” feeling? Perhaps. However, after having dealt with a bedbug infestation myself, I can honestly say…I’ve never been the same. It is deeply disturbing, exactingly difficult to prevent them from spreading, and costs a lot of money. At risk? All your personal possessions, and the goodwill of your friends, employers, and neighbors. It’s a high stress, high stakes situation. Your employer understands this. You do not.

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        We didn’t suffer thru it but we watched my SIL endure not one but two treatments to remove them from her condo, wash things, bag things, throw out things. She had to cancel planned events because she was prepping her tiny place for the treatments. She lost weight from the stress. She had to give away clothing because they shrank from drying them on high heat to kill the possible bugs in her clothes. She slept poorly, wondering if she would be bit again between treatments.

        Tiny little critters that are awful. Her experience now has me scared to find them in our house. I had a mystery bug bite over the summer and stressed about it for two days (it was too big of a bite to be a bedbug).

        Then we heard there is a federal building that is not far from regular bus routes that was being treated for a bedbug infestation. And I’m like, I used to ride that bus that goes near there! Could I have brought them home?

        I would be mortified but I would also welcome the dogs.

        1. BadWolf*

          I had a bed bug scare 2 years ago and it was awful, disposed of pillows, bought mattress cases, washed stuff. I think either I didn’t bring them home (thankfully) or I had a rash that looked suspiciously like bites.

        2. Filosofickle*

          My brother fought them for 6 long months — multiple “treatments”, constant washing/drying, throwing things away, in/out protocols. It was incredibly disruptive and expensive. So when a few bites showed up on me after an international trip, I was terrified! Because they can show up as much as two weeks after you were bitten –and it was more than a week after coming home that they appeared — it was impossible to pinpoint any sort of timeline. It was scary to learn you could not know about an infestation for two weeks…that’s a long time for them to get established and you to spread them before you even realize.

          After weeks of quarantining, inspecting, and heating, I never found a single body or spot. I probably got bit in a hotel or on the plane, but they didn’t hitch home with me. I did not get a lot of sleep during that time.

        3. Arts Akimbo*

          I threw away so much expensive furniture! We bought beds with metal legs so that could set their feet in little bowls of mineral oil and grease them up with vaseline! And yes, there’s a known psychological effect of having bedbugs, where people just feel phantom bugs crawling on them, long after the infestation is treated. ::shudder::

          1. #WearAllTheHats*

            Yep. I have the “brain bugs” now. I stayed at a very clean hotel (bed bugs don’t care, clean or dirty… they just want blood) and got bit. Because the bed bugs weren’t visible around the mattress and the bites didn’t show up until days later, I didn’t know if we brought them home. We took precautions at the hotel and they dryed our clothes and bags and whatnot on high heat, but… you never know. I have a small office and told my coworkers because I’m good with full transparency. Bed bug sniffing dog came to my house and $200 later we were negative. I still bought encasements, laundered everything, bought a high temp steamer, bed bug spray, interceptors for the beds. I don’t F with bed bugs. And if we had them at work, my rear end would be all over sniffing people out. I wouldn’t do it in front of everyone, but I would definitely be getting a dog in there. I had about 15 bites and i’m $550 into it thus far. It’s a MESS.

      2. Yorick*

        I had them once and it sucked but it wasn’t a nightmare. The exterminator cost a couple hundred bucks, high but not insane. He used a spray that’s made of chrysanthemums (it was safe for my dog) on the bed and around the bedroom and put some poison powder in the bedroom outlets, and then came out again a week or two later to do a follow-up spray. He told me to wash and dry the sheets and blankets on high heat and put the pillows and things outside overnight (it was still below freezing at night, and either heat or cold will kill them). I put a bedbug cover on the mattress and boxspring. Kept using that mattress for like 5 more years with no problems.

        1. Awful*

          I just had them and it was a nightmare. I spent thousands of dollars, I barely slept, I got sick from barely sleeping. They did the heat treatment and my home was in upheaval for well over a month. And I had a very light infestation.

          I’m glad it wasn’t a nightmare for you. But yeah, nightmare. (I’m still having the literal nightmares from it too.)

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          I was in a hotel room that had them. I avoided bringing them home and it wasn’t that hard. All fabric objects I had with me (including shoes, purse and backpack) went into the dryer on high heat while I stayed out of the room wrapped in a blanket that hadn’t been in the room (and had itself just been through the dryer). One round of dryering and I could put my clothes back on and gather up the other stuff that I’d left in the tile bathroom. Exit hotel. It was a nuisance but not a disaster. We do keep diatomaceous earth scattered liberally about our house, but that’s because of ants.

          1. fposte*

            Yes, similar thing here. And if I were working in this workplace, I’d wear clothes I could do this with and that would be the drill every day when I got home.

            1. Lore*

              That is a lot harder in apartment living, though–at least in NYC it’s pretty rare to have in-unit dryers.

              1. pancakes*

                Even if they did, not every object that bedbugs or their larvae might be on or in can be put in a dryer. Avoiding infestation isn’t nearly as simple as people who haven’t experienced infestation make it out to be.

                1. fposte*

                  I have experienced infestation, actually; that’s what I’m speaking about. (FWIW, just about everything can go in the dryer as long as it’s not wet, but you can also use the freezer if you have access to one that gets cold enough.) The pest control guy who treated my house does the same thing when he travels. I’m not saying it’s a guarantee and I realize not everyone can eat these particular pest control sandwiches, but I would hope that the workplace is advising people in it to take these steps if they can.

                2. pancakes*

                  Things like cashmere sweaters and silk blouses can’t be put into a dryer and remain wearable when they come out, though, and larger things like mattresses and box springs don’t fit in a home dryer or freezer.

                3. fposte*

                  @pancakes–you absolutely can put cashmere sweaters into a dryer. I did it with mine. They’re fine as long as you don’t put them in wet. (For that matter, you actually can wash cashmere in the washer and it’s good to dry it for a few minutes in the dryer initially, but that would be at low heat, not at the high heat you want for bedbugs.) I put my silks in the freezer.

                  I described this as the recommended process for clothes when you come home, so unless you’re wearing a mattress to work, the bed is not really relevant :-).

                4. pancakes*

                  fposte, Everything I’ve read about killing bedbugs and their larvae by freezing says they need to be kept at zero degrees Fahrenheit for 80 hours. Home freezers are not that reliable — the temperature fluctuates, which gives the bugs a chance to hibernate rather than killing them. More broadly speaking, the idea that people can bring bedbugs home from work and definitely not wind up with any in their bed or box spring so long as they’re careful is wishful thinking.

        3. Rexish*

          My borther had to buy (some)new furniture. THe exterminator came over several times. Also when they sold their house later on they had to disclose it and sell the house at a cheaper price. Theory is that they came witht the next door neighbour who moved from the student accomodation. That place was known for bedbugs and companies refuse to collect recyclable furniture from there. Therefore, it can be a nightmare but it’s not necessarily.

        4. The Other Dawn*

          It might not *always* be a nightmare, but it can be for sure. Depends on how extensive the infestation is and the measures needed to exterminate. We had them last year and, while it was small infestation, it was a nightmare *to us* and was really upsetting.

        5. Feline*

          Just a PSA: A spray made of chrysanthemums sounds natural and safe, but it’s called a pyrethrin and can kill cats. My mother inadvertently killed my childhood cat that way, and it’s a horrible death with seizures and neurological dysfunction. This chemical is why you should never use dog flea preparations on cats.

          1. JSPA*

            My cats were sickly for a while after I used it in a room that shares air space, even though they literally never go in there directly. They sell low dose permethrin flea collars for cats, which confuses me. The flea isn’t going to be sensitive to a lower dose on a cat than on a dog, is it? And why would you creep anywhere close to the toxicity level of something cats are known to be dramatically-sensitive to, ignoring that individual sensitivity almost must vary dramatically (pharmacogenetics being a real thing)?

            1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

              Here is some information re: pyrethrin/permethrin in cats:




              It says that it is far more hazardous to cats when wet than dry, though our vet said that ideally cats shouldn’t be in the building when it’s applied, and if they are, they should be in a room where the cracks around the door are sealed and the windows to the outside are open.

              1. emmelemm*

                Whoa! I have definitely put flea treatment on my dog at home and then the cats’ own flea treatment, in the same house, at pretty much the same time.

        6. blackcat*

          Yes, I know someone in New England who got rid of hers by winterizing her plumbing (involves shutting water off and pouring antifreeze around) and leaving the house unheated for a few days in the winter. I think they die around 25F? It has to be pretty cold to kill them, but a hard freeze definitely does it.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            The problem with using cold and heat is that sometimes they’re living somewhere that never gets that cold or that hot in the walls or the electrical box. Glad it worked for her though.

            1. blackcat*

              If it’s below 10F and the windows are open, the entire house is gonna get cold enough after a few days. It took like 5 days of her heat being back on to make it livable again though…

        7. pancakes*

          It would absolutely be a nightmare for anyone to be trapped in a cycle of eradicating them from their home, bringing them home for work, and having to treat their home again and again, though!

          1. Shamy*

            Sounds like a torture derived from The Bad Place. We did this once due to my stupid bf at the time never telling us his place was infected. Can attest that it was one of the most stressful things I ever experienced in my life. I shudder to go through that again.

            1. pancakes*


              I meant, in my comment, bringing them home from work, not for work. I suppose it’s clear in context but now I’m laughing at the idea of someone bringing bedbugs home from the office to work with them, maybe help them make teeny tiny expense reports or something.

              1. Shamy*

                Well, the least they could do would be to finish the work you had to bring home and clean your house Disney Princess style!

        8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think it’s difficult to predict because there are varying levels of severity and of intervention. For example, when I lived in a 3-unit building (multi-story home turned into apartments), my upstairs neighbors developed a “mild” infestation when a person’s boyfriend moved in with a contaminated mattress. It took about 2-3 weeks for them to figure out that they had bedbugs.

          I thank all my lucky stars that my unit wasn’t infested, but it cost over $2,000 to test and treat the building. The upstairs mattress was not salvageable and required special care when disposed of, which cost the neighbors about $200. They had to dispose of some of their upholstered furniture, because there was no way to ensure it was adequately treated. I had to find alternate housing for me and my dog for several days during fumigation, which the landlord had to pay for, the prep for the exterminator was Not Fun, and it took days to blast everything in a dryer… which also jacked up the energy bill. We were advised that if the infestation had gone on longer or been more severe, it would have easily gotten into the $5,000 range.

          Which is all to say that the cost depends on a lot of factors. I suspect in an office building that’s had this problem for some time, there’s a high likelihood that the infestation has contaminated employees’ homes. It’s likely that treatment would be extremely inconvenient and certainly expensive for those employees if they had to come out of pocket.

      3. Paralegal Part Deux*

        Thankfully, I’ve personally never had to deal with bedbugs, but I remember my great-grandmother saying you just about had to burn the house down to get rid of them.

        I’m sorry you had to go through that.

      4. A*

        Yup! Normally I’m in the camp of ’employer needs to stay in their lane / stay out of my life outside the office’…. but this is an exception. When it comes to bedbugs, eradicate however and whenever possible. Violate my privacy, my freedom of speech, I don’t care so long as you’re keeping the bedbugs out!! (only partially joking)

    5. Jdc*

      I agree. We are dealing with bed bugs. I’d give anything for someone to have informed me early on. Anyone could come into my home right now to not deal with this one more minute. Murderers, dogs, parrots you name it. Just make it stop!!

    6. Patty Mayonnaise*

      I would see the dogs being sent to my house as a perk, honestly – it’d be nice not to pay for that consultation myself!

      1. pleaset*

        Yes. BUT I’d also try to have some privacy elements in place – keep the number of people in the company who know the results to the bare minimum (perhaps only people involved in managing payments to the dog scan company). And stick to that.

    7. Beth*

      Yeah. I’m allergic to dogs and have a mild phobia as well, but this is one case where I would welcome the dogs and deal with the phobia.

    8. Awful*

      Pay or people will hide it and it will be so much worse. So much worse.

      I’ve been fighting them off and it’s horrible. I guarantee it is a severe hit to productivity for the company. Bringing in dogs and testing will help get people back on track. You want actual health and wellness, paying for this is absolutely a critical component.

      1. PharmaCat*

        So, late to this thread. We went through a bed bug situation a few years ago. We purchased a portable heat unit. We still use it to treat suitcases after questionable hotel stays. It turned out to be a good investment. But I am definitely purchasing DE for my current batch of fleas. I am one of those ppl who react extremely to bug bites – I look like I have some sort of pox.

    9. Goldfinch*

      No dog is entering my home, period. I despise dogs, I’m allergic to them, and I’m not traumatizing my cats.

      Otherwise, I applaud the employer’s initiative in getting an infestation under control. I’ve seen multiple employers (including public schools) not care, since bedbugs don’t spread disease.

      1. Quill*

        I would hope that the company would accept either “I’m allergic” or “my cats are terrified of dogs” as sufficient reason to not push on this!

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          That would be fine, but then that person should be told not to report to work until they show proof that they took steps to combat the bed bugs.

        2. Artemesia*

          I had a cat when the dogs were used in our apartment building. We locked the cat in the bathroom. If YOU show positive for bedbugs in the scan at work then I don’t think a cat excuse should hold — leave the apartment or house with the cat and have a friend or spouse supervise but please don’t be the vector of misery for everyone else you work with.

          1. wittyrepartee*

            Yeah, and honestly? A working dog should have been trained not to bolt after cats. You’ll never see a seeing eye dog do this, and the reason why is the extensive screening and training that dogs with jobs have to go through.

            1. Ariel*

              It’s honestly not that hard to train dogs to do this. I have a dog who is a birding dog. His instinct was to chase cats. We broke him of it in under two weeks.

              Now, when a cat is nearby, he makes a point of showing me “See, mommy, how much I’m not looking at the cat.

              I know he does this even when I’m not there b/c I’ve seen him on our home video

              If the issue is, however, that the cats were once mauled by a dog, the simple solution is to take them out of th house for the hour it takes to check the residence.

              Removing the cats for an hour or so is not a gross inconvenience. It certainly doesn’t outweigh the social compact of not spreading these pests.

              As a cat lover, I would absolutely not let an employee get by with “but my cats…”

          2. A*

            Yup. IF you’ve already tested positive (which it sounds like in the letter is the only scenario where the dogs were brought in), you should be held accountable. Truly unwilling to compromise on the presence of dogs for the test? You should be required to provide proof of consultation through other means.

            I feel you on the cat trauma, as a fellow cat owner. But honestly – them living with bedbugs is not a better solution. Not to mention that the large number of people being potentially impacted needs to be taken into account. I love pets, but I’m all about the greater good even when it requires sacrifices.

    10. Anne Elliot*

      In the last job I had, bedbugs were discovered in our office. People were absolutely horrified. They brought in the special bedbug sniffer dogs and they found the problem concentrated in the cube of a particular administrative assistant. So management investigated the cube and found the entire space under the desk was full of plastic bags and paper and garbage, with more stuff piled in corners. They told the admin she needed to throw it all out, but she refused and carefully packed it all up to take home, with people saying to her, “You realize there are probably bedbugs in there, right?” She didn’t care. That was the first inkling the admin had a problem.

      So then they fumigated AND heat-treated three entire floors of the building, ours and the floor above and the floor below. Everyone had to take a day off (they would not consider it a work day, we had to take leave) so they could treat the building on a Friday/Saturday/Sunday. So everyone was inconvenienced and had to pay the price of losing day of leave, and it was hugely expensive to the agency.

      Meanwhile, the sent the sniffer dogs to the admin’s house, which she initially said was fine, but when they arrived she would not let them in. It turned out she was a severe hoarder and could not cope with the idea of letting people into her house, much less cleaning it out sufficiently to have it treated. So she could not be permitted to come back to work and ultimately was separated from the agency.

      The agency definitely would not have paid for treating her house, although they certainly were insisting she have it treated before she could return from work. There was no question that the problem originated with her — that the bugs came from her house to her work space, not from her work space to her house. But they never even got to the point of arguing about who should pay for the service, because she simply refused to have it done.

      There was a lot of resentment among coworkers for the amount of inconvenience and stress the lady had caused, even though she had not meant to. She had other issues in terms of how she interacted with others and productivity, so frankly no one was sorry she did not come back.

      1. Blue Anne*

        That’s a really sad story. That’s definitely a person dealing with really severe mental health problems. I hope things have gotten better for her.

        Still… if I were her co-worker, I definitely would’ve been resentful too.

      2. pleaset*

        I would resent that person BUT be ashamed of that resentment because she clearly has a mental health issue.

      3. Mama Bear*

        I would not be happy to lose a day of work, but I’d be sympathetic to her situation. Hoarding is much more than a pile of trash. I hope she eventually got the therapy and support she needed for it.

      4. Anne Elliot*

        I agree! I felt and continue to feel conflicted about it. Her way of keeping people at a distance by being hostile and unpleasant — that made more sense once it became clear how much she was trying to keep hidden from others.

        What it threw into relief for me, was how a person can just be hanging on by their fingernails, and no one around them even know because they work so hard to maintain a facade of normalcy. One small pebble added to the wrong end of the scales — in this case, one bedbug walking across the metaphorical scales — and all the careful balances collapse with potentially catastrophic consequences. It was a reminder how close some people live to the edge, and helped prompt for me some volunteer work I do since that is focused on safety net services for vulnerable populations.

        But there wasn’t much I could do for this particular lady, because she was so hostile and defensive and really didn’t like me (didn’t like anybody, really).

        1. Not So NewReader*

          One small pebble is absolutely correct. And how many times do we see this in the news? A person seems to be going about their day and their life and suddenly everything crashes to the ground.
          It’s in these extrreme examples that we can see to never take for granted our own ability to ask for help. Those who don’t ask for help can sometimes end up with way more problems than most of us will ever have.
          For this reason, I am a big fan of encouraging people to talk things over with well-chosen other people. Some stuff can be really hard, so hard in fact that it’s difficult to even frame a question. “I have a problem here and I am not sure what the problem even IS.” In situations like this start with the current episode of the problem. What is running amok and why. Get that under control then look back of at the previous examples of the same problem to find patterns.

          This approach can be used in many different settings. I remember a psych teacher saying, “When I was doing counseling, the people who came in and said ‘I think I have a problem’, were not the people who worried me. It’s the ones who insisted they had no problem that were the most worrisome.”

      5. GreenDoor*

        A situation like this is what I’d be afraid of. When my kid got lice I was SO EMBARASSED because I was afraid my child would be stigmatized based on all of the stereotypes associated with a bug infestation – that we’re poor, that our house is filthy, that we dont practice good hygiene, that I’m a neglectful parent, etc. None of it true – but people judge. I would hope companies that understandably have to go to extremes like the OPs workplace could be as discrete as possible so that people aren’t unfairly shamed based on untrue stereotypes.

        1. Arachnid Admin*

          2nd. My oldest got head lice in the third grade. Hair salon stylist discovered them when I took her to get her hair trimmed. I was mortified and had to do a couple of at home treatments to get rid of them, laundered all bedding and pillowcases, anything she had gone near, in hot water. Even after treatments my SIL refused to let her kids near mine for a month, another SIL grumbled behind my back about my daughter being at my mother’s birthday dinner. It hurts.

    11. Ghostcat*

      Yep, agreed. I unfortunately brought BB’s home from somewhere, and it was the biggest nightmare of my life. I had just started a new job, and was SO nervous to tell my boss, but I did because I knew it could become a bigger issue. And I’m glad I did, because they ended up testing the entire office and found them in a neighboring cube (likely where I got them from). It was awkward and embarrassing and completely exhausting but it’s a necessary evil when it’s such a difficult issue to tackle.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I live in a small co-op apartment building, and one of my fears is bringing them home from a hotel or something, because dealing with our co-op president would be so incredibly awful. And I’d never hear the end of it.

        1. Filosofickle*

          Ooh, yeah, that would be tough.

          The pleasantness of leadership aside, multi-units are a bigger challenge, period. If units are not all treated thoroughly at the same time, it can be very hard to get all of the bugs. You’d just keep cycling. (And likely blaming.)

    12. Blue Eagle*

      As someone who has gotten bedbug bites at a hotel and had an extreme reaction, I totally support the employer finding out who was bringing the bedbugs in and keeping them out of the workplace until the situation was resolved. There is NO WAY that I would be in the least bit happy about a situation where someone brought bedbugs into work and they found their way onto my clothes and I carried the bedbugs back into my house. Yuck!

    13. Anon4This*

      My husband’s company had a bed bug issue and they brought in dogs- everyone I talked to was glad about it because no one wanted to take bugs home.

    14. COBOL Dinosaur*

      We had bedbug infestation at work a couple years ago (so happy it wasn’t in the building I work in). An entire floor of one of the buildings was infested. They brought in a bug sniffing beagle who determined that there were 2 people that needed further inspections of their home. The company paid for the home inspections of the 2 people and found that one of the homes was severely infested and one was a very mild case. They thought that maybe the mild case of bugs was them bringing them home from work.

      I believe the company subsidized the cost of home treatment but neither person was allowed to return to work until after their homes were treated. The floor of the building was treated as well. I see the exterminator’s vehicle on campus once in awhile so I’m sure they are doing followups.

    15. No Tribble At All*

      I would refuse to go to work in an office building that had those bugs in it.

      Story time, y’all — just seeing that word made my stomach clench. I had them in high school. I got them from a sleepaway camp weekend over spring break. This was from a weekend. Three days, two nights. They must have gotten in my bags. I brought the bags home, put them in my room. Within the week I started noticing bug bites. I sleep with the windows open, so I thought it was extra-itchy mosquito bites. They kept getting worse, all over my whole body and my face. When I scratched, they would swell up into huge welts. People would ask me “What happened to your face?!” because I put bandages all over so I wouldn’t touch the bites.

      I’d previously gotten hives from an allergic reaction, so we thought these were hives. We went to two different allergists with no luck, and I was afraid I was becoming allergic to air. Summer started. Finally we went to a hives specialist, who took one look and said “yeah no, those are bug bites.” We went home and pulled up my mattress, and you could *see* the little dots.

      Bedbugs can live in tiny cracks in furniture, carpet, and walls. The eggs can survive for weeks. Insecticides will kill the live bugs, but to really get rid of the infestation, you need to kill all the eggs. (Or I guess you can do multiple insecticide treatments). Heat and cold are your best bet. All my clothes went in plastic bags, carried down to the washer, and washed and dried on the hottest settings. Things that couldn’t be heated up went in ziploc bags into the freezer for a week. Other things went into the car, which went out to bake in the hot sun.

      We took apart my loft bed, wrapped all the sections in plastic, and took them to the dump. I slept on an air mattress surrounded by a circle of diatomaceous earth like salt to keep out ghosts. I still got bit. Finally, we got a propane heater, taped off my room, ran a duct up from the yard, and heated up my room. If you get it to 114F for an hour it will kill them. All of them. You have to spread out all your books, etc, to make everything hot enough. We ran it for 4 to 5 hours, going in every hour to turn everything over. That was the 0nly thing that stopped it. We had a bug-sniffing dog come by (a very cute beagle) for peace of mind and she declared my room clean.

      Some people can develop PTSD from bug infestations. I can’t look at pictures of them, and hearing the word makes me upset. I spent a painful month thinking I was going allergic to air, then learned bugs had been crawling over me, biting me, and sucking my blood at night. Then my whole family had to turn our lives upside down while we got rid of them. We were lucky it was during summer so we could bake things in the car.

      For the people who react to bites (eg, ME) those bugs were horrible. I absolutely understand wanting to screen people for bugs. The office should implement work from home, heat the entire building, and help pay for treatments for employees. The camp I got the bugs from was being sued for knowing they had a severe infestation and staying open. Don’t inflict bugs on your employees. Just. DON’T.

    16. Anon for this*

      Bedbugs are awful. My husband had a horrible rash for 2 months and was being tested for autoimmune disorders before I found a bedbug in our couch. I legit cried. It cost $3k to get rid of 13 bugs, including the cost of dry cleaning everything in the house. We think they came from our movers, but there’s no way to prove it.

      1. Ariel*

        I view bedbugs like a contagious disease:

        People spend a lot of time trying to find some ultimate source to blame b/c they feel ashamed. It’s useless. Set aside the guilt and focus on the problem.

        It might harm some people but not others. Therefore, the people not harmed see the issue as no big deal.

        Sometimes one has to take invasive steps into other people’s lives in order to fight it effectively.

        I think if this were repeated cases of a contagious disease, LW might be slightly more willing to accept the drastic measures required.

        1. pancakes*

          This isn’t just a guilt issue, though—it’s a hubris issue at times, too. There are people in these comments who seem to think the reason they’ve never had a bad experience with bed bugs is because they’re more careful than people who have. There’s tension between that mindset and expecting people who feel ashamed to feel less ashamed.

        2. IndoorCat*

          But we don’t treat contagious diseases this way; nobody thinks exposure to a contagious disease is a good reason to violate someone’s privacy or coerce them into sanitation of their private space.

          I mean, listen, I got the respiratory flu this year. It’s was awful. I was hospitalized for three days and put in partial quarantine. In 2017-2018, 80,000 Americans died from the respiratory flu, and over 10,000 were in the least risky age category (18 – 64). I’m in that age category.

          Respiratory flu seems to be getting more lethal every year: maybe it’s evolving more weirdly, maybe it’s because more people than ever live in close quarters and use public transportation. Droplets on surfaces (handrails, keyboards, etc) account for almost 50% of incidents of transference of influenza viruses.

          Nobody has ever suggested making mandatory any of the things that halt influenza contagion: making sure at least 95% of people in a workplace get flu shots, imposing influenza-specific sanitation of shared surfaces, washing or purell-ing hands five times per day during flu season, using mouth-and-nose masks to prevent contagion via airborne droplets.

          Like…no employer does this. Nobody at any place I’ve ever worked has ever said, “hey, to protect our most vulnerable co-workers from a literally lethal disease, we all have to put up with the discomfort of a flu shot. Also, we’re doing mandatory biofire tests, and anyone carrying the influenza virus will be sent home, started on Tamiflu, and must have the surfaces in their home sanitized before they return.”

          That’d be bananas. I almost died a month ago and I still think it’d be a bananas suggestion. People have the right to privacy in their homes, and the right to make potentially foolish, harmful-to-others decisions when it comes to illness risks.

          My point is, I’m sure bedbugs are crap, but they aren’t…special. They aren’t crap in a way that’s so uniquely terrible that suddenly mores about privacy and personal autonomy go out the window. They can’t kill anyone. I don’t have a moral obligation to do anything about a bedbug infestation that’s not affecting me, simply to protect the health of my co-workers, and it’s not the employer’s place to try to impose an ethical imperative on me.

          When I work somewhere where flu shots and biofire tests are mandatory, and everyone has four weeks of paid sick leave that they have to take whenever they have something contagious, I’ll consent to being checked for bedbugs on my person (or at my private home????) by my employer. Otherwise: nopity nope nope nope. Never going to consent to that. I would probably quit over being asked, frankly.

          Currently it’s a moot point because I work from home. But I can’t imagine ever changing my mind on the issue.

          1. Snuck*

            COMMUNITY health is a thing. We are a community, we live in close quarters, and just as we expect our neighbours to put their trash out and not hoard it to bring plague rats, or keep their kids home when they have gastro, or manage plague levels of cockroaches in their apartments… we as a community would expect management of bedbugs.

            I would completely and utterly consider looking for a new job if my office had repeat bed bug invasions… they are so invasive, tenacious and expensive to get rid of, before you even get into the squicked out factor.

            If there was a chance my workplace was going to cost me months of awful mess, destruction of loads of my stuff, cost me thousands of dollars ($5k, not including whatever gets destroyed in the process, hotel rooms etc), and cause me to be the dinner party conversation for years for my friends? Nope. I’m gone. The idea of spending at least 5% of my income for the year plus countless days off managing pest controllers, or all my ‘not at work time’ managing the infestation… Ahahahaha. I’m out of there.

            If my workplace handled my coworkers with infestations with discretion… that would be grand. I’m not sure a dog sniffing in the lobby would feel awesome (maybe indications shoudl be handled sensitively!) but… frankly bed bugs scares me silly, I don’t have time for that… I assume the company is doing this partly as a retention plan – people must be saying they will leave if they have to face the bed bugs… and the company has worked out the cost of managing it for a few, vs the cost of losing key talent and more staff.

            1. IndoorCat*

              But community health obviously isn’t a thing for many of the deadliest things, which is kind of my point. It’s not for influenza or pretty much any other contagion.

              People don’t risk losing their jobs if they send their kid to school with gastro, or if they don’t get vaccinated, or if they don’t take the trash out, or if they don’t do much about cockroaches. They might risk eviction for the last two, but probably not if they own their own home.

              If an office has bedbugs, obviously the employer is going to want to do everything possible to get rid of the infestation. But it crosses the line to try to pin it on a specific employee and violate their bodily autonomy and the privacy of their personal home. If there’s an opt-out option and it’s clear that nobody is penalized for taking it, awesome: then everyone who views this as a perk rather than an invasion of privacy can opt-in and take advantage of the free check.

              But otherwise, we live in a world with diseases and viruses and parasites, and we’ve more or less decided, as a community, that the way to deal with that is try to make sure everyone has the information and resources to make wise, safe choices, but not mandate wise, safe choices from every individual. Even when unsafe choices (like not getting the flu vaccine, not washing your hands often enough, not taking out the trash often enough, or not consenting to a bedbug check) could potentially harm someone else. I’ve been harmed by others’ unhealthy choices, and I still believe freedom and consent need to be taken seriously here. Fear is a terrible reason to throw those values out.

              It worries me how little people seem to value that, or understand why different people draw their own lines of consent differently and understand those reasons could be valid. Or even think they *get* to judge whether someone’s lines of consent are valid or not, just because someone’s line is drawn at an atypical place!

              1. Snuck*

                I agree… that the line needs to be defined…

                In some parts of the world the dense living and basically human sardine can lifestyle though means that there’s more likelihood of issues than in other places.

                How to define it though? Who should bear the cost of it?

    17. BedBugAllergic*

      As someone who is highly allergic to bedbugs, and has had them twice, I would want the company to take every measure to try to prevent them from being spread. The times I have spent battling them took such a toll on my mental health.

      1. Mainely Professional*

        Yes. Exactly. I date my first experience with panic attacks to the period when I was fighting a bedbug infestation. Which took approximately three-six months to fully combat and be sure they were gone. A friend of a friend confirmed that if they had to go through it again, they’d probably just walk away and check into a psych facility. They lost everything–books, furniture, records, *everything*.

        I realize checking into s psych facility sounds funny or like hyperbole, but it’s absolutely not. I fully understand and agree. I would not be able to function if it happened again, and I was able to contain the infestation, fight it, and not spread it anywhere. All it took was $3000, half a year, and an elaborate and complex system of plastic bags, showering multiple times a day, washing clothes, linens, and towels constantly, etc.

        The level of paranoia, fear, and sense of violation and helplessness brought on by a bedbug infestation is indescribable and has done real damage to my psyche as well. I can sort of laugh about it, seven years later, but all the comments above about “Oh I got them once, or I slept in a bed with bedbugs one night, nothing happened,” are completely at odds with what many, many people experience.

    18. K.K.*

      Oh I disagree strongly with this. Your employer could find out so many things that are none of their business – that you’re homeless, for example, or you live in a hostel or trailer park or that you commute 3 hours each way.

      Dogs sniffing the office, yes, reasonable. Offering dogs for homes also seems reasonable. I would even get behind firing people who the dogs alert on again say a week later or who fail other repeated bedbug tests. But consenting to a search of your home as a condition of employment oversteps way too many boundaries.

      1. Jen2*

        But your employer would already have your address in order to send tax documents every year. So the only new information would be about the interior of your house.

    19. Snuck*

      My impression is the company has already invested significant capital in addressing this in their premises, and short of shutting down for a week every month or whatever it takes to kill these beasties (I’ve had a friend who had a visitor for ONE NIGHT bring them into a Western Australian home, and it took her about $5kAUD and four months to eradicate them, plus everything she destroyed in the process too, antique silks etc).

      It sounds like a nit invasion… Schools can’t get rid of the critters and they go on and on and on and oon.. Eventually someone has to do something about it. If people don’t want the dogs in their home I’d say they have a right to it, but if the dog indicates in the workplace, then I’d say it’s reasonable to ask them to provide a certificate from a pest controller to say they are clear… the dogs aren’t going to be fool proof, and if the company is willing to send the dogs around for free it’s a good alternative (and thus if you don’t want the dogs, maybe it’s fair to ask you to pay for an alternative provider, given you are rejecting what seems a reasonable offer)….

      Should the company pay for pest control of infested homes? This is complicated – it’s very expensive, there’s zero evidence where the infestation has come from, and in a multi dwelling building (apartments/units etc) there’s a complex interaction with many owners required, it also opens up landlord issues etc if people are renting… I’d suggest the company should contribute within a reasonable amount, particularly as there’s no evidence that the bed bugs didn’t migrate from one of their own previous infestations at work… but if a person is renting an apartment and the neighbours don’t treat… or if they have difficult landlords…. or if they have many expensive and precious products in their home that could be damaged in the process… then how to resolve that isn’t easy/obvious. It’s not just a matter of walking in, spraying some roach spray in the back of the cupboards, and walking away… it’s carpets back from skirting boards, it’s all soft furnishings and clothes inspected and treated possibly (Or put through a dryer on high for 40mins) etc… and how to calculate what should be contributed etc… plus the time off to deal with it all (days)… plus the need possibly to stay elsewhere while the house is being treated and the impacts of that on the entire household… without necessarily being culpable … is complicated. I’d take whatever they offer with open hands, and save my pennies to deal with what ever else they don’t cover.

  2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    It is insane to me that you would be asked to allocate part of your own compensation package (tuition reimbursement and PTO) towards a work-mandated training, OP#2. If it’s mandatory, they need to pay for it without dipping into your compensation package.

    It’s like they decided they couldn’t pay, so they came up with the easiest plan for them (which coincidentally is the most burdensome for you, OP). And now they’re so committed to implementing that plan that they’re ignoring that (1) it’s entirely possible for them to change their own policy on this (e.g., by not making you use your tuition reimbursement), and/or (2) finding a more logical and workable solution. At best, they’ve lost the forest for the trees, in which case they’ll need you to help them understand how to zoom back out and see the forest.

    Oh how I wish you were in California, OP#2.

      1. valentine*

        Assuming they thought through the PTO use, I’d suspect part of the point is they don’t consider the training work time and wouldn’t otherwise pay OP2 for those days.

        1. Lance*

          It doesn’t sound like they are thinking about the PTO use; it sounds like they’re just thinking the tuition reimbursement should be used here (it shouldn’t) and by their own policy, it’s attached to PTO (which would make sense for personal development… but this is something they specifically need).

          I’m glad this at least felt wrong to the HR rep OP talked to, because there’s plenty wrong with this.

          1. Quill*

            On the one hand it is ludicrously common in some industries to make people take, and pay for, outside classes in their vacation time (see: teachers having to take x number of college courses per ten years to maintain accreditation, or to qualify for any higher pay scales) but it shouldn’t be!

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I agree with your general statement, but I have to disagree with your specific example. Continuing education is a part of many professions. In your example maintaining teacher accreditation is usually a state/government requirement to teach anywhere not just at one particular school, so it should be up to the individual teacher/lawyer/doctor/engineer to pay for and take their time. If the school said WE want you to get certified in xyz, then yes the school should pay for the course and pay it as work time.

              To qualify for higher pay scales again the school is not requiring teachers to take those courses, they are optional. In a lot of jobs if you want to get paid more one way to go about it is to get more schooling or training. If a physicians assistant wants to qualify for a higher doctor pay scale, they have to take their own time and money to get their M.D.

              I agree if a particular school/company is asking you to take a training they should cover it. But if it is something required by government or just for your own personal advancement I don’t see why they should have to pay for it.

              1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                Typically a professional license is considered a prerequisite for hire, so anything done to maintain that license is your responsibility. Though some employers, as a perk, will cover those expenses or allow you to take those trainings on the clock.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                As a person in a profession requiring CE, I agree with Quill! There are a good number of employers and industries where it’s expected that the employer will cover the cost of CE (or at least cost-share) because they want to keep you employed (and ensure you’re licensed). It’s also true that a lot of employers will not cover this because they view your license as your individual responsibility and choice.

                But especially in “service” professions where folks are already significantly underpaid (or for “non-service” based professions where someone has taken a below-market job to contribute to the public interest/service), it’s worth taking a step back to ask if it’s reasonable for those folks to pay for a work-related cost when their license is valuable to their employer and to them.

                1. Sarah N.*

                  Yeah, it’s very dependent on profession. My husband just got licenced for his work and he had all his costs for exams/licence reimbursed plus a significant raise for getting the licence.

              3. pancakes*

                Attorney registration fees and CLE obligations aren’t optional. Likewise doctors’ professional obligations. Whether you want to think of it this way or not, everyone who uses their services ends up paying for this stuff.

              4. Quill*

                But with what teachers get paid already? It’s ludicrous to expect them to spend college coursework money to maintain their licenses and then pay them the absolute birdseed that they’re paid overall.

              5. nonegiven*

                DH needs CEUs to maintain his license. His employer pays for the courses and he takes them on company time with company equipment.

          2. Dana B.S.*

            My guess is that they fear LW may use this training to go get another job within a short period of time. And by using the perk to pay for it, it makes the company feel like they wouldn’t be out as much money.

            Of course, if LW were to go get another job in that time, it’s likely because the company isn’t treating her right and not because she’s suddenly more employable.

            1. TootsNYC*

              or they view it as a training that is the employee’s responsibility to have, and that they could conceivably hire someone who already had it.

          3. OP2*

            Lance — this is how it totally felt to me. They were choosing the most convenient option for them without thinking through all the specifics!

            1. JayNay*

              hey OP2! it’s totally worth pushing back on this, and stress that doing this training doesn’t just benefit you personally. you actually need this to complete your work successfully. THat’s something the company directly benefits from, and making you shoulder the burden of getting those skills is unfair.
              There could be other options as well, like remotely doing the training (skype session with a coach, for example), or starting remotely and completing only part of the class on site, therefore saving on travel costs.

        2. doreen*

          I thought so too – people at my job frequently attend trainings/conferences that they pay for and use PTO to attend. But it’s not because my employer expects them to do this for a work-mandated training- it’s because my employer is specifically not mandating this training and my co-workers want to attend anyway.

        3. Beth*

          “they don’t consider the training work time”

          Yes, this is a real problem — when you have to travel to attend a professional training or event, some managers act as if you’re taking a vacation. Never mind that this kind of training can be insanely exhausting.

          I remember a three-day intensive I went through for a new software platform — even thought the product was good, the training was well done, and I was doing well at it, I was so exhausted and drained by the end of the second day that I just went back to my hotel room and cried. I needed a vacation after it was over!

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            And it’s almost worse if your training takes place somewhere interesting. I had a friend who went to a conference in Anaheim and everybody kept saying how lucky she was that work was paying for her to stay in a hotel next door to Disneyland. But because of the office’s schedules, she couldn’t get any extra days approved for vacation before or after the conference. So yeah, she got to stay at a hotel in walking distance from Disneyland, but she didn’t get to go to Disneyland because she was working the whole time she was there.

          2. Kat in VA*

            I went to a training conference – for work – and didn’t use PTO for it. Which is just as well, because my laptop was up, open, and running through every hour of that conference. It was also fully paid for by the company – the cost of the conference, my travel, meals, everything. Which is how it should be. It wasn’t to attain a certification I should have had before starting my job; it was continuing education and networking.

    1. T2*

      Yeah no. PTO is not for work time. Not now, not ever. The PTO solution to needed training is ridiculous on its face.

      1. Witchy Human*

        A loophole for that–though not for the rest of the sketchiness in the situation–would be to just increase her PTO by however many days she takes off for the training.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      AGREE. Also, I hope they don’t intend to try and collect back from OP2 if she quits before whatever length of time is specified in the tuition reimbursement agreement, but I fear they might. Ugh.

      1. Mama Bear*

        Right. So either it is mandatory for work and should be handled like a conference OR it’s not mandatory and OP should have the right to decide not to do it. I decided not to do some non-mandatory personal development/training for a past job b/c the reimbursement would mean I would have to with the company longer than I thought was probable (and I was right). Maybe if it was a degree, but not for a certificate.

        We also had several contracts where staff were required to have x or y certifications and they were paid for by the company, just like if we’d needed a new piece of software. It’s really not that unusual or difficult, but sounds like OP’s company isn’t thinking of this as a tool for the job when it comes to money. Or they’re really tight on money and are trying to play a shell game.

        1. OP2*

          Thankfully, my tuition reimbursement policy doesn’t have a timeframe associated with it. I have had to pay back other companies in the past when I didn’t stay the full 3 years after payment.

    3. Just Elle*

      All I can think of is that they see this as a perk / professional development opportunity for you. Like, if they listed the software package in the job posting, you didn’t have experience, they hired you anyway because you said you were a fast learner, and then you ended up needing additional training because you had a hard time picking up the software independently. So now they’re thinking, “how gracious of us, we will cover a lot of the cost of this training and allow her to go attend it with PTO, she will only need to use $1500 instead of the full $4000! What a deal for her! Such resume building!”

      …and even then, I’d still side with “the company took the risk and needs to cover the cost.”

    4. CupcakeCounter*

      I don’t think it is mandatory training though. It sounded to me like there is a software that OP will need to utilize extensively on these projects they aren’t that familiar with and went looking for training options as it would be beneficial for all.
      I can see using the tuition reimbursement (with a little side eye) but the PTO and up front expenses is a no go. Cost of doing business is training people appropriately in the tools they need. If OP had lied about how familiar they were with the software package I might have a different take, but that does not appear to be the case.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Even if it’s not mandatory, if it’s training she needs for her job, then it’s on the company to pay for it and not try and jerry rig it into tuition reimbursement. Not to mention, most of the time if your company will reimburse you to further your education, they require you to stay with the company for a certain period of time after it’s used, and if you leave prior to that time frame you have to pay all or some of it back. I would push back hard on this one. If they want her to take this training, they need to figure out a legitimate way to pay for it.

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        I’m saying no even to the tuition reimbursement. Where I work, tuition reimbursement only applies to students seeking a degree or certification, and there’s an element of personal interest/growth to it that’s not generally present in training for skills specific to your current position. This software training feels like training for OP’s current position, not a professional development degree or certification that will carry weight for the rest of their career. That doesn’t fit the definition my workplace uses for tuition reimbursement, so if OP’s management want them to attend this training, they should pay for it out of the training/staff development budget instead of making OP pay for it on their own and request reimbursement.

    5. Czhorat*

      Yeah. Tuition reimbursement is more for “I want to earn my MBA to advance in my career” than “I want to learn BIM/accounting/other specialized software so I can do my job”.

    6. glebers*

      Anything reimbursed for tuition is taxable too, over $5200. Obviously the amount in this case is lower, but if the OP plans on using more tuition reimbursement for another purpose, they could exceed the limit. Depending on income, that excess may be deductible.

    7. OP2*

      OP#2 here with some updates / responses.

      My company has paid for this same training for other employees in the past without any request for them to use the tuition reimbursement to do so. The only reason I am considering taking this particular course is because it is relevant to my current work, and would help me do my job more effectively. I wouldn’t be interested in the class outside of that. If it were a situation where I was wanting to do something career-related, but not entirely in the scope of my day-to-day activities, I would happily use my tuition reimbursement and PTO for it.

      Anyway, HR officially declined my tuition reimbursement request, and my manager is using that to push back on this decision. My manager doesn’t agree this is the best way to go about it, so we’ll see how it pans out.

      My company is also hugely focused on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility right now, so I am planning to tell HR that while the tuition reimbursement policy is a great benefit, it’s not equitable. The way it’s currently implemented it ensures that only people with the disposable income to pay for classes up front can use it, and that will exclude some of the people who could most benefit from it. This is probably not something I am going to change, but I have been in a lot of conversations about equity recently, and I feel like I need to speak up.

    8. Kes*

      It sounds like they kind of have things backwards – they think the tuition reimbursement is the professional development funds provided, so OP should use that, but the requirement to use PTO makes it sound like the tuition reimbursement is specifically not supposed to be for required professional development, but for personal development, hence the requirement to take PTO for those courses and not do them on the clock, even if the employer is willing to cover it as a perk.
      Regardless, though, OP shouldn’t have to use PTO if she needs to take this course for her project.

  3. All Outrage, All The Time*

    #3 – I hear you. We are a bit like that. I just say “Noted, thanks.” or “Will do, thanks.” No worries, I’m already on it.” It’s a few seconds and makes us seem more personable, which is really important in the work place. You don’t want to be marked the grump or be seen as difficult for not saying “thank you” if it’s part of the culture of your office. It’s easy to quickly delete those reply all emails. I wouldn’t die on this hill.

    1. Lena Carabina*

      It’s easy to quickly delete those reply all emails. I wouldn’t die on this hill.

      I love that this is your (great) advice, but your name is “All Outrage, All The Time” :)

    2. Zip Silver*

      Yeah, it seems like the boss is looking for an acknowledgement email, rather than to be thanked. You don’t even have to do the reply-all thing, just email your boss directly saying ‘sounds good, thanks’, basically as a read receipt.

      My coworkers and I joke about the 4 of our 28 that report to our EVP who use reply all for everything.

      1. Tyche*

        I think the point isn’t to really “thank” who sent the email, but it’s a courteous way to say “copy” or “I’ve received it”.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          It would be nice if you could just press a single button to mark the email *at their end* as “on (recipient)’s to-do list” or “will update by 4/7” or similar.

          1. MayLou*

            Isn’t this exactly what a read receipt is for? The sender requests one, because it’s the sender who wants the acknowledgement!

            1. Witchy Human*

              Theoretically, but everywhere I’ve worked read receipts come across as the sender condescendingly implying “I don’t trust you to open your email” and everyone hates them.

              1. That Would be a Good Band Name*

                Same. I had a VP that loathed them early-ish in my career. He said that if he couldn’t trust his people to read emails then he didn’t want them working for him, so they should never be needed. As a result, I’ve never used them and don’t really like to see them used.

            2. Heidi*

              Is there a way to send a read receipt even if it wasn’t requested by the sender? It would be a fast way to acknowledge the email without saying that you’re thankful for it.

              If I were the OP, I would probably write up a signature for my Outlook that says, “Your email has been received and read. OP.” Then it’s a one-click sort of response that they can use just for that manager.

            3. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

              It is different. As others touched on elsewhere in the thread, what we’re looking for is confirmation that you’re going to fix the data, follow the instructions, etc. I don’t know what field the LW is in, but mine is very deadline-oriented and there are other people downstream whose work is delayed if there’s an issue with yours, so if you don’t reply to an email telling you to do something, the sender will generally wait a reasonable amount of time and then send a follow-up email.

          2. Vemasi*

            In Outlook, you can “like” emails like you do on social media. I use this occasionally when I want to confirm I am working on something, but don’t want to invite further replies. I like to interpret the “thumbs up” as “got it” instead of “awesome!”

        2. Beth*

          Exactly! I use “Got it, thanks!” almost as a reflex. It’s the little drop of courtesy that oils the wheels.

        3. Vemasi*

          Exactly. I used to work in a kitchen that had two rooms, and I was in the front one facilitating food out. The guys in the back would come hand me things or drop prepared plates on my prep table, or even RECEIVE things from me, and I always said thanks.

          Not because I was grateful (it was their job, and more than half the time they should have thanked ME for taking care of it for them), but as acknowledgement that the exchange had happened and I knew that it had, and what it was for. Which was important, as certain people would drop things off without telling me, and if I was facing the other way it might sit there getting cold until I noticed it, or they would hand me something and then I would have to read fifteen tickets to know what I was supposed to use it for.

          Right now I have a supervisor who never replies to my emails, and I don’t see the results of things she does for a few days. So I just have to wait to know if she has done anything about it, and whether I need to send more emails a few weeks later.

        4. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I’ve had a couple of bosses I was on friendly enough terms with that my standard reply to this kind of email was “Roger that.”

      2. LQ*

        I work with is someone who about 90% of the time gets my stuff and does the right thing with it, but 10% of the time doesn’t, so I have to check 100% of the time because he never does a damn acknowledge. Either be 100% so I don’t have to check your shit, or acknowledge.

        1. Kate Daniels*

          Same. It is the worst. My person gets annoyed and huffy when I check in. But if she was on it 100% of the time, I would not have to (and believe me, I’d prefer to save the energy required).

      1. TootsNYC*

        Probably getting familiar with the keyboard commands for “reply” (control-r ?)and typing “tx” and then control-return to send would be about as fast as any macro.

      2. Stripes*

        I did this! I made a MS Outlook quick step. One click and it sends a “thank you” email. I don’t have to open up their email (I use the preview pane) or type anything or press send.

    3. EPLawyer*

      Yes its only a few seconds. Yes its a higher ups quirk and one must accomodate those generally. But if you are getting several emails a day, that you MUST acknowledge receiving, that adds up. You gotta read the email, you gotta break your work flow and respond, then you gotta do the thing. Because you know if you don’t acknowledge receipt soon enough, the boss will think it never got received and it’s not getting done. then more emails, rinse. repeat.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        If the LW is currently sending what manager perceives as “zero” acknowledgments/thanks emails, then setting aside a specific half hour each day to do exactly and only that would satisfy the manager without interrupting the workflow in the moment.

      2. Jamie*

        She’s reading it anyway and will do the thing on whatever schedule she would have otherwise. The workflow isn’t that much more broken by replying with one word.

      3. Yorick*

        I think the issue here is that some of these messages aren’t requesting tasks from OP. They’re relaying information that OP already has or doesn’t really need. So it didn’t feel natural for her to respond. But I guess since the higher-up wants it, you gotta get in the habit of sending a “ok, got it” message back. That won’t interrupt work flow. It takes five seconds.

        1. VictorianCowgirl*

          Yes, “Thank you; this is in the queue.” takes no time. Heck OP could even set an auto-reply.

      4. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

        Has the boss said it needs to be right away? I work in an industry where confirmation emails are important and most people don’t mind if I leave it for a certain amount of time while I finish what I’m working on.

    4. Mel_05*

      Yeah. It annoys me when people need acknowledgement that I recieved their email (Did you get a bounce back? No? It went tbrough) but some people do and there’s no way to insist it’s unnecessary without seeming difficult.

      It could be worse though. The manager could insist on being cc’ed on every email *you* send.

      1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

        It’s not to acknowledge that it was received, but to acknowledge that it was *read*, and that you’re acting on it. Sometimes it happens that you miss a message, especially if you receive many each day!
        And the acknowledgment is particularly important if the message is “fix this data” but you can’t do it soon.

      2. ASW*

        No bounce back does not necessarily mean it went through. We have had plenty of instances at my job (and my previous job as well) where the sender did not receive an undeliverable message and the recipient did not receive the email. And it is not a matter of the recipient overlooking the email. In one case, it had something to do with the IT setup at the recipient’s company that prevented emails with images in them from going through (our company had our logo in our signatures). In other cases, no one knows why it happened. A search of the recipient’s trash, junk, quarantine, and all other folders yielded no results, but yet when the sender resent the email from his Sent folder, it was clear he had sent it to the right person.

      3. Oof*

        Having gone through a long period at work where emails didn’t arrive, I completely understand wanting confirmation.

      4. Smithy*

        I think this may also be indicative of this manager’s job if not the entire organization. If this manager deals with a set of teams, offices, regions, etc. where there is not close to 100% compliance with meeting deadlines when asked via email – then the request for confirmation of receipt means that this manager doesn’t forever have to remember “this person is basically 100% reliable, but their coworker is 90%, accounting is 75% and that other team is 40%, etc.”

        I work for a team that has lots of competing deadline that we deal with in our individual workload as well as team wide. Some deadlines are external facing, others are internal facing – some are standing “after every x, you should do y” whereas others are ad hoc. I would bet that our team’s overall compliance with deadlines is…..not 100%. Now how that impact is measured is definitely different by different measures. By the organizational set KPI’s – we’re making the right calls of what to prioritize and deprioritize. But if a senior leader is following up on me to confirm that I am doing things – even if I’ve never personally let them down on a deadline – I get where that larger assumption of “I can not 100% trust this person” comes from.

    5. snowglobe*

      Multiple people doing the ‘reply all’ to thank someone would be far more annoying to me than being asked to send a ‘thank you’ email myself. Just don’t make it ‘reply all’ unless you really need to let everyone know.

    6. Just Elle*

      Am I the only one who spends like 30+ second every time I receive an email agonizing over whether or not to send a thank you?
      Waffling between “I want them to know that I received their work and it is sufficient and I’m grateful for that” and “Is it going to be really petty and annoying that I acknowledge they spent 5 minutes doing their job?”

      …I am an overthinker.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        You are not alone!
        I used to alternate between thank you emails and thanking someone in the break room or when seeing them about the office, just a quick, “Oh thanks for that report it was very helpful”.

        But now that I’m 100% remote, I pretty much send a quick “Many thanks, Kevin” email for anything I receive.

    7. Lyudie*

      I actually had a situation many years ago where my habit of sending “Thanks!” emails to close the loop/acknowledge something worked in my favor. The email system had some sort of technical issue and I didn’t get an email asking for changes on something I was working on. The person who sent it noted there was no “thanks” email after and knowing there were system issues, contacted me later that day to make sure I got it. It had been eaten and I would never have known until later that I was missing changes that were needed.

      1. Desperately seeking cute kitty*

        Yes! “I received your delivery” emails are commonplace in my industry for exactly this reason.

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I hate unnecessary emails, and get annoyed when people feel the need to send me a “thanks” email. I don’t need it nor do I care that you sent it. But I grumble internally, delete it and move on. I agree it’s not a hill to die on.

    9. LurkerVA*

      I do try to say thank you, or acknowledge an email, when warranted. I think that’s just being polite. BUT: I really really hate reply-to-all “thank you” emails. They’re not thanking me, why am I copied?! Worse, I have a coworker who always follows up with a reply-to-all “you’re welcome” ARGH.

      1. Pobody’s Nerfect*

        The emails with just the words Thank You or You’re Welcome are maybe the most annoying emails ever ever ever. Such time wasters and it’s already implied! Sometimes I think stupidly highly paid consultants do this kind of thing just to while away the minutes and “earn” more more money, which is even more annoying.

    10. Sara without an H*

      Yeah, I think this comes down to organizational culture, rather than “authenticity” (which is grossly overrated, but that’s a topic for a Friday free-for-all).

      I used to work in a place where the standard response was “got it.” It takes all of two seconds, reassures the sender that her message isn’t roosting in somebody’s spam folder, and that you’ve actually read it. Just do it, file it mentally under “this is how it’s done here,” and don’t over think it.

      1. Elise*

        +1,000 to “authenticity” being overrated. I’m not aiming this comment at OP as people have varying opinions about email replies, but many times when I hear people at work complaining about being inauthentic or “not being able to be themselves” they are trying to rationalize tactlessness or being unprofessional.

    11. TootsNYC*

      I would do a simple “reply” and not a “reply all,” and paste in a thumbs-up emoji. I’d probably put that in a Stickies window on my computer’s desktop.

      Or, heck, just type in “got it” and send it. Anything fast.

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        I carried a radio for 6+ years. I’ll often respond to emails with “10-4”, which is radio speak for “message received.” I don’t know if it’s universal so I’ve tried to break the habit at my new job.

    12. Stripes*

      I agree. I recently created two “quick steps” in MS Outlook and it has been such a time saver. Now with just one click, I can automate simple email tasks.

      One quick step sends an email which just says “thank you”.

      The other quick step automatically moves all future reply emails for an email to trash (this one’s for emails that aren’t relevant to me so I avoid the inevitable reply all’s from everyone about it)

    1. Just Elle*

      Yes, Congrats!
      And FWIW I think you made a good move telling them. It probably built up considerable good will, instead of dropping a bomb on them day 1.

    2. blackcatlady*

      Many years ago I interviewed for a job and found out a week later I was pregnant. When I was offered the job I was upfront and told him, he hired me anyway. Thirty three and a half years later I’m still working for him. And that baby – she’s having one of her own this spring.

      1. fingers crossed*

        aw, I love this story! and kudos to you for being with the same boss for so long. You never hear of that any more.

  4. Lena Carabina*

    LW 3, this is indeed outrageous! Im wondering why they even suggested it? Are they thinking they can’t pay it so asking you to (both in terms of your perks and your free time) is some kind of compromise? They can’t really be that clueless, surely?!

    I would love you to use Alison’s script – because of course this is totally unfair and you shouldn’t even be contemplating it – and then let us know how it went!

    Good luck!

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I suspect that they were thinking mainly of the budget – “This is expensive. How can we pay for it? I know – we’ll have the OP use her tuition reimbursement! That will save a lot of money. Oh, it says that tuition reimbursement requires all this stuff. That’s no problem – it’s worth it to get the benefit of the course!”

      Not stopping to think that they’re taking away part of the OP’s compensation package (time off and tuition reimbursement) that are hers to do with as she wishes.

      Another thing to consider – she needs a certificate of completion to get the reimbursement. That implies that if for some reason she can’t finish the course (illness, disruption of travel) she’ll be on the hook for the cost.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Most of the time you’re also required to stay in the job for a certain period of time after you complete the course(s) and if she happens to leave prior to that time, she would have to pay it back.

  5. I usually lurk*

    #3 OMG this drives me insane too! I’m on the board of a generally lovely volunteer-run organization, but their email culture is just so over-the-top appreciative that it begins to feel a little… cloying after a while. We’re talking 2-3 sentences of effusive praise in response to every email I send. Sometimes I just want to fulfill my role and move on with life, you know? Also, I end up loosing threads in my inbox when there are so many “thank you” emails coming back, and it becomes hard to sort what’s actually got new info.

      1. Witchy Human*

        “Thank you!”
        “Thank you for thanking me!”
        “Thank you for thanking me for thanking you!”

      2. Forkeater*

        My colleague writes such effusive “you’re welcome!” it’s embarrassing.
        “Thanks for sending the file!”
        “You are so very welcome, it’s my pleasure!”


        1. juliebulie*

          “It was my pleasure to give you the chance to be pleased!”

          Oh no, I can’t stop…
          (I have a coworker who does this – she cannot let any email go unanswered.)

      3. Botanist*

        Mr Elton: Miss Woodhouse, is there any effort I might make on behalf of your father’s comfort?
        Emma: You are very kind, but I can only imagine that he’s quite comfortable. Thank you for being so thoughtful.
        Mr. Elton: No, thank *you* for thinking I am thoughtful!

    1. juliebulie*

      A few managers ago, I had a weekly conference call which would end with every participant (usually 4 or 5 people) thanking each other participant individually. “Thank you juliebulie, thank you Linus, thank you Chuck, thank you Lucy.” “Thank you Sally, thank you Chuck, thank you Lucy, thank you Linus.” And so on.

      It was cute at first, but it got tiresome after a while.
      One time I ended with “good night, John-Boy” but no one got the reference.

      Anyhow, unfortunately you have to go with what the boss wants. I do find it helpful to receive an acknowledgement from the person I addressed the email to, but I don’t want to hear from the CCs unless they have a question.

      And if I’m a recipient I sure as hell don’t want to see everyone else’s acks.

  6. nutella fitzgerald*

    #1: I was once nervous that a hotel I stayed at on a work trip had bedbugs (I woke up with bites that I hadn’t had before I went to sleep the previous night). The company paid for a dog to come inspect my apartment to see if I had brought them home. I mention all of his because the exterminator told me the bedbug sniffing dog was called a “dog scan,” which I found charming.

    1. Artemesia*

      A relatives friend moved in with her for a couple of weeks and then discovered that her roommate at the apartment she had just left had bedbugs and hadn’t told her about it. The friend paid to bring in a dog to make sure she hadn’t brought them into my friend’s apartment. I thought it was great that this friend didn’t hide the possible problem and that there are dogs that can do this job.

      1. Just Elle*

        I once brought my dog and went to stay at a friends house because my AC broke (in Florida, in July) and we came home with fleas/flea bites. I was so mad. My friend did not pay for remediation either lol.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          No offense, but if you were couch-surfing at my house because of bad luck on your end, and not because you were doing me a favor, I wouldn’t pay for your flea treatment either.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Right. But if you stay at my house because you’re having an emergency, that means I might not be prepared for your visit, so you get whatever is at my house. That might mean PB&J for dinner, that might mean a lukewarm shower because my water heater can’t handle two people showering at the same time, and that might mean fleas. I’d warn you that we had them, but I would not pay for your treatment. I mean, this is all hypothetical, because I don’t have fleas, but if I did, it might even mean I was having difficulty taking care of them in my own home, and would be even less able to take care of them in yours.

              (If I invite you to stay, that means I need to cause you no harm, and I will definitely pay for your flea treatment.)

              1. 2 Cents*

                But you’d warn her about the fleas. Her friend didn’t. I also think there’s a difference between feeding someone pb&j and sending them back home with pestilence.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  True. The original comment I was replying to didn’t say she’d been invited by someone who was aware she had fleas and didn’t disclose that. This is… not a nice thing to do.

          1. Yorick*

            I probably wouldn’t either, although I probably would if, like, they asked me if there were fleas at my house and I assured them there weren’t.

          2. Just Elle*

            I wouldn’t have expected her to pay, it would have been a nice gesture but not a requirement.
            But I thought it was pretty crappy she didn’t warn me she had a flea infestation before inviting me and the dog to come stay. It ended up being a totally sleepless night anyway, because the fleas were biting so bad. If she had told me, I would have just stuck it out in the AC-less house.

            1. felinefleafiasco*

              Flea eggs can be dormant for years and hatch in the presence of an animal. My cats just got fleas and informed me of that. They may not have had an active flea infestation — at least not to their knowledge.

    2. Mongrel*

      ” I mention all of his because the exterminator told me the bedbug sniffing dog was called a “dog scan,” which I found charming.”

      If they had the right breed it could also be a Lab test…

      1. Bank*

        I used to work in a residence hall at a university. Our bedbug sniffing dog that we hired was a beagle named ‘Sherlock’ which I thought was sooo appropriate.

        1. Quill*

          Beagles are pretty common scent dogs these days! My mom has a story about departing from hawaii with snacks packed for the airplane, and being pulled over by a beagle that she didn’t immediately notice was a working dog. So she’s trying to pet it, it’s trying to dig into her suitcase, its handler is annoyed and some old lady behind her is whisper-shouting “It’s probably DRUGS!”

          … It was an apple. You /really/ cannot take fruit out of hawaii.

          1. texan in exile*

            A beagle found an apple a guy had brought in from Europe, but the guy told the handler he had gotten it at the commissary at a US military base and the handler shrugged and said, OK. I didn’t know that exception existed.

          2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            It’s strange that they don’t want you taking things OUT of the area. Usually agricultural inspections are for bringing IN — they don’t want introduced pests that could devastate the local industry. Did they have a pest outbreak that they were trying to contain to one of the islands or avoid spreading it to the mainland?

      2. Anon Here*

        I used a bedbug sniffing dog once. It was a beagle. I had just escaped a bad infestation and wanted to make sure it hadn’t spread to my new place. Ugh, bedbugs are so terrible.

  7. jesicka309*

    OP#5 – your story gives me hope! I’m currently 13 weeks pregnant and am waiting to find out if my current contract role will get made permanent (I’ve been told end of November is when I’ll know!). I’m already showing a lot and have been SO nervous about saying anything because I’m worried that my permanent role will magically disappear. All signs have been really good re. performance but I am torn between wanting to keep it under wraps to protect the permanent role discussion vs. looking disingenuous/ridiculous for pretending I’m not pregnant until I’m almost half way and smuggling a bowling ball! I may have to review my current plan – I really like the thought around the pregnancy playing into the decision being a sign that it’s not the right match. Thanks for sharing OP – definitely food for thought for me!

    1. Quincy*

      You won’t look disingenuous/ridiculous unless you are actively announcing to people you are not pregnant. (which I assume you are not)
      13 weeks is still fairly early into the pregnancy so I don’t think you are doing anything wrong by not telling them. And even though you feel like you maybe showing a lot, many people won’t even notice. You are only 4 weeks away from finding out about the role. I would just leave it. Although you may need to bring it up in the offer stage if you are in the same boat as the OP (won’t be covered by FMLA etc).

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Agreed! I didn’t tell my job until 20 weeks (after the anatomy scan), and no one batted an eye. It’s still PLENTY of time to plan for a maternity leave. No reason to feel bad.

      2. LuckyJ55*

        Completely agree with this advice. I lost my job at 8 weeks pregnant (which was great because I was miserable and that place could cover quite a few letters to Allison), had to interview at 9 weeks and got a Contract role at 11 weeks on the promise that it would be permanent after 5 weeks. They brought me on contract into a different department because they didn’t want to lose me to another company for the permanent role. I heard too many horror stories about pregnancy discrimination. I stressed the entire 5 weeks because I was scared to tell them about the pregnancy until I was made permanent but I was also one of the “lucky” ones that ballooned up rather quickly so it wasn’t easy to completely hide.

        I finally told them before I signed the contract but during the meeting providing it to me and they were amazing! They were so excited, asked how I was feeling, backdated my permanent start date to the day the contract started, and have been accommodating ever since. Canada has up to 18 months of leave, I offered a lot less but they keep telling me not to make a decision until it’s closer to the time I am scheduled to come back. I’m due in March 2020 and I feel so lucky to have found a company so supportive but again, I know many that haven’t been as lucky.

        I know many women who wait til after the genetic testing is done and that’s around week 20! The right company will be happy for you and will stay supportive throughout this process. Stay positive and congratulations!!

        1. Desperate Times*

          Wow, 18 months of leave?! I need to move stat. I only get 6 weeks and I have to use short term disability, which is rotten. I love hearing that you got another job while pregnant because I have been sending my resume out at 15 weeks and am feeling a little nervous about it…

          1. LuckyJ55*

            Right?? I moved here from America last October so hearing the difference was a big shock! And from what I was told it used to be 12 available. The 18 is split between the parents as well and is definitely a combination of company and Canadian EI insurance but it’s there. I actually have a meeting set up for Monday to get all the details but I can honestly say I have not felt this lucky to find the right position with the right people in a very long time.

            As far as looking while expecting, It can definitely happen! It’s all about finding the right place that values their employees. It was definitely a little scary but I actually took a lot of advice I saw on this site to heart when making the decision to hold off on announcing.

            Best of luck with your search and your great news!!

    2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      A co-worker/friend knew about my pregnancy before I told our employer.

      One day she quietly drew me aside to point out that the outfit I had on that day looked “maternity”. I was wearing it to disguise what I thought looked like a bump, but she said I actually looked less pregnant in my normal clothes, even close-fitting dresses. So if you’re not wanting to advertise your pregnancy too early, you might keep in mind that a disguise may be more obvious!

      Very best of luck on all counts.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        (to clarify: I had told her as a friend at around 6 weeks, and she knew I was keeping quiet for another couple of months)

      2. Just Elle*

        Yes! I was once asked if I was pregnant just because I wore a shirt that had the signature under-bust ruffling into flowiness. And another time, I went to smooth the front of my shirt as I sat down, but it looked kind of like how pregnant women hold their bellies, and someone asked if I was pregnant.

        Meanwhile, literally growing a large bump but avoiding maternity clothes and affectionate belly rubs, no one notices.

      3. blackcat*

        I think this varies a lot on body type. I’m small and dropped A LOT of weight early in pregnancy. I found that looser dresses hid things far better than my normal clothes, since my 13 weeks, even as a first time mom, it was really obvious. I was like a stick with a belly. As it was, more than one person asked if I was okay because the weight loss was so alarming. But no one asked if I was pregnant….

      4. Jesicka309*

        Thanks for the tips! This is my second time around and I’m still wearing the same work clothes as usual. I got away with my pants/flowy top combo last time right up until I finished work at 37 weeks, and didn’t really show until 25-30? This time the exact same tops/pants are “sticking” to the bump instead of flowing. Just got bigger earlier! Last time I didn’t show until the weather was cool but this time it’s only just heating up. I’ve already felt a bit weird wearing pants on a 35 degree day! It will be a relief when it’s public knowledge and I can dress more for comfort over “hiding the bump”

    3. OP #5*

      I really struggled with what to do, so I feel your pain. As another commenter noted, if you won’t need to negotiate leave up front you might be best served by not mentioning it yet – that was definitely a large factor for me. It also helps that you’re already contracting there, so they know you already. I worried about going somewhere new and then having to go out only 5 months later. You can maybe wait to see what happens and then bring it up at the offer stage, to feel the most comfortable.

      Good luck to you! Whatever you decide will be right for you.

      1. Jesicka309*

        Thanks OP and congrats to you! I’ll be in a weird grey area. My due date is currently 2 days after my one year work anniversary (if I get made permanent) so if permanency works out and they decide to use my contract start date I’ll be eligible for maternity leave. If they use a different date like date I get made permanent then I won’t get any leave. And if I don’t get made permanent and can’t find another role there I’ll be five months pregnant and job hunting. I love the place and want to spend the next 5 years of my working life there however I can which is why I took the contract in the first place – just didn’t expect baby 2 to come along this quickly. I worry that the convo could be “

        1. Jesicka309*

          Could be:
          We can’t make you permanent but we’re doing everything we can to get you into x team/role instead.
          Which normally is a great outcome but in this circumstance could make me look tricky if they take me on and I haven’t disclosed? I don’t know. Maybe I’m overthinking. But your story has definitely made me think about disclosing sooner than later as they seem family friendly! Which is why I want to work there! Just don’t want to close doors I don’t have to yet.

    4. BethDH*

      I want to add that I’ve had a really good experience in a similar situation. There are still plenty of people who are bad about it, but you’re also less likely to hear about the times it went well or at least passably. It’s still very reasonable to be concerned about it and make contingency plans, but do give people a chance to show that they can handle it well.
      Note: I’m not saying you should disclose it in your situation! I agree with others that it’s probably not as noticeable as you think — not because your body hasn’t visibly changed, but because it’s gradual and you’re way more in tune with that than most people are. They don’t have to try to button your pants!

  8. TL -*

    LW#3 – I’ve worked with people who only reply once a task is done and unless they have an insanely fast turnaround time, it’s actually really irritating. Because unless you respond, I don’t know that it’s actually on your to-do list. And frankly, enough people miss an email every now and then that I’d really rather a quick, “thanks, should have something by Tuesday,” than realizing Wednesday that I really need it noon Thursday, sending a follow up email, and learning it never made it on to your to-do list in the first place.

    Obviously there’s a better way to handle this than endless reply-alls but I find acknowledgement of task and delivery of product to be pretty important emails for anything that takes longer than a day or two (three at most.) If it’s a sufficiently long project, acknowledgment, update, and delivery emails might be needed – but I’d skip the update email before I skipped the acknowledgment one.

    1. Mel_05*

      That’s true. I work in a field where things *are* really fast paced. If I don’t respond in a few hours with a rough draft, people really do have a reason to think, “Did she get this?”

      But it also makes it extra annoying when someone insists on knowing you got the email. They send the email, 5 minutes later they ask if you got it, 5 minutes after that you say you did… and sometimes in another 10 you’re sending the completed item right back. Wait half an hour!

    2. Yorick*

      This is true, but it sounds like OP does respond with a message about the progress. It sounds like the messages she’s not currently responding to are ones where there’s no task for her – they’re informational emails or whatever and it doesn’t feel natural for her to respond to just say “I’ve read this information now.” Yes, she’ll have to start now that a boss or senior coworker wants her to, but it makes sense that she wasn’t.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah that line stood out to me too. They admit that they don’t respond to emails until a task is finished but then immediately dismiss that very real concern and decide that people must be focused on “thank yous” instead.

      OP, I would not be so quick to assume that waiting until a task is done isn’t the main issue! I received feedback in a review one time along those lines as I too would wait until I had something useful before responding to requests. Now I make sure to let people know right away that I have received their request, and if possible try to give a timeline of when I expect I can have it done for them.

    4. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      Exactly this. Everything I do is deadline driven and the deadlines are FIRM. I generally need reports from others to build my final piece, so a confirmation that they’ll have it to me on time is pretty valuable.

      Now, if the OP is just getting grief because she’s not responding to FYI emails that don’t have action items, I can definitely see the frustration. But I’d just suck it up and send a quick “thanks for the update” just to keep management happy.

    5. Dana B.S.*

      I agree – it can be quite irritating. Plus, the letter even said that another manager thinks you don’t respond to emails. Not that you’re so considerate for not filling up her inbox.

      When I’m sorting my inbox and deciding what emails to keep, I actually keep the last email that includes the “thank you” to remind myself that the co-worker has the contents of that email chain somewhere on their radar.

    6. Cats and dogs*

      I agree. Others seem to be misunderstanding this as some form of need for validation when it is about closed loop communication. The sender cannot know you received the email and are on it unless you say so. I think any form of “on it” should do but I don’t see the big deal if the response is scripted by your manager either.

  9. Don't get salty*

    #2: your story is oh so familiar to mine. I was invited to attend a conference related to my field by someone above me in management, but in a different department. My direct management told me that they would not approve my attendance during work time and I would have to pay for my own hotel, my own transportation, and I would have to take personal leave in order to attend. I did all those things and don’t regret attending.

    Fast forward one year, my director sends an email to me and some colleagues on my team telling each one of us to choose a topic to speak on at this very same conference. Transportation and hotel were provided and this was considered a work-related event. Not once did they bring up the previous year’s conference where I paid out of my own pocket and used my own paid time off. And to this day, I have not received any reimbursement and I no longer expect it.

    My advice to you would be just as what Allison said, their policy stands to benefit them almost exclusively, since you’re taking this training in order to do work on their behalf, two projects worth. They’re not treating you like an employee, they’re treating you like an independent contractor or a consultant. You should push back on this and state that if you have to pay for this out of your own pocket, then it’s not worth your while to take the training. They’ll realize that they need you to have this training in order to continue to do work on the software and they will either have to cave or have to pay for someone else who already has the expertise. Either way they will have to pay; it makes more sense to pay you to attend the training then it does to hire someone else from outside to do temporary work, or to forego the expertise. They were just trying to get a little something for nothing.

    1. MK*

      I don’t really see any similarity. Some random person in your company (not your boss, not even in your department) invited you to a conference, but apparently they didn’t take any steps to make that happen, like going to your boss with a request that you attend or paying for you out of their own budget. It doesn’t sound as if this was necessary for your role and your boss was upfront that they weren’t going to cover your attendance. After that point, you shouldn’t be expecting any reimbursement, ever. Next year your boss decides to send people speak at the same event, and naturally covers their expenses. Why should she even think about the fact that one of her employees had attended the conference last year, without being asked by the department and on her own dime and time? Why should she offer retrospective reimbursement? I really don’t get your indignation about this one.

      1. Don't get salty*

        I get it. It wasn’t a random person who invited me, but the training officer. It was meant for development in my role. That’s why I decided to go on my own time. Four or five others also attended. I didn’t realize that this would become something that I would be required to speak at for the next year on the company’s behalf, that’s why I had the annoyance.

        But, it is not the same as #2.

        1. MK*

          Eh, I still don’t get it? Even if it was for professional development, even if it was the training officer’s suggestion, your boss decided not to offer you that particular conference. It’s usually a call your manager gets to make. Why are you annoyed that you were asked to speak a year later?

        2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

          Don’t get salty, I wonder if your manager gave you a reason for not approving the conference the first time. If it was, my budget is fully committed for that sort of thing, then I wouldn’t be annoyed at all. If it was, that conference doesn’t relate at all to what you do here so don’t be asking me to pay for your boondoggle, then I would be more than annoyed. I’d be pissed.

          1. Don't get salty*

            I didn’t get a reason from management for not approving it the first time, and it does directly relate to my work. I been giving speeches for years now as a part of my job, and I was recently promoted as a result of that, but seeing other perspectives noted here, I’m not going to think about it anymore.

  10. Sandy*

    I am less concerned about the part about bringing the dogs home— I am appalled that they are sniffing people at the door as they come in like they are some kind of Typhoid Mary.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      Are they a million miles away from being Typhoid Mary?
      Is there another way to do it that would be equally effective? I would think the one thing you could ask for here is that a screen be used and that the results of the sniff test be kept confidential as far as possible, although people will notice who stops coming to work that day.

      1. juliebulie*

        That “one thing you could ask for” is really important, though. Sure people will notice you’re not in the office, but that’s better than feeling as though everyone is staring at you when the dog growls disapprovingly at you and the Bedbug Police slap a giant blood-red B on your chest.

    2. Rabbit*

      You are appalled that they are checking to see if people are carriers for the problem because…. it makes them look like carriers for the problem?

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I think they could probably figure out a less public way to do it that wouldn’t be as humiliating for the people in question. Maybe a private room or a screen set up in the lobby or something. I completely get the seriousness of a bedbug problem, but at the same time the idea of being revealed as Bedbug Mary by sniffer dogs in front of all your colleagues at the office door makes me die inside a little. The actions make sense but I feel like there has to be a more sensitive way to go about it.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’ve had bedbugs. It is a horrible, expensive and embarrassing situation. If I had found out that I had brought them home from work, I would have been furious. If a sniff from a dog might help me or someone else avoid that fate, I would present myself right up to its little beagle-y snout. In my case, that sniff might even have helped me catch those little bastards sooner than I did.

      My bags get sniffed at the airport. I don’t see it is all that invasive. I’m just bummed I can’t talk to the dog.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      Uh, Typhoid Mary legitimately killed people. Did they lock her up on an island? Yes, because she wouldn’t stop handling food and spreading disease.

      My coworker has had to throw out all of her upholstered furniture *twice* because of bedbugs. It was a huge nuisance and massive financial burden. It’s a problem, and I doubt that anyone is lining up to replace my sofa and bedding so, yeah, I don’t need to know specifically who’s carrying them but I want something done.

    5. Joielle*

      I guess, but what would you suggest instead, then? I think bedbugs might be a more serious problem than you’re envisioning. Desperate times, desperate measures, etc.

    6. Mpls*

      Bedbugs and typhoid are both public health issues. So, yes, they’re going to track down the zero vector so that can contain the public health issue.

    7. Alton*

      I get how it could feel this way, and I’d probably be embarrased personally, but there’s a real risk of bed bug infestations recurring because people keep accidentally sharing them back and forth. No one knows how bed bugs originally got into the office, but if even one or two people managed to take them home, they’re now at risk of bringing them back to work, as well.

    8. Jayn*

      They treated the office multiple times and still couldn’t contain the issue—identifying a re-infestation vector is necessary in getting the problem under control. I get that it feels invasive but the alternative is to continue to fight the problem indefinitely, and they have a duty to all their employees to keep their workplace as free of pests as possible.

  11. Mind Blown*

    Removed because off-topic and derailing. We know other countries’ parental leave practices are different; it’s not useful to have this same discussion every time parental leave in the U.S. comes up (and it’s exhausting).

    1. Cheryl*

      Whatever system we’re introduced to becomes normal to us. If you lived and worked here in the U.S., you’d probably see the UK’s policy as overly generous or downright over the top, especially if you owned a business or were an executive or just a manager who had to deal with an employee being gone for such a long period of time.

      1. Susie Q*

        Speak for yourself. There are plenty of people in this country who are disgusted by our maternity and paternity leave policies.

        That being said, I’m glad OP was able to interview and negotiate leave while pregnant. This was one of the things that kept me from seeking a different job while pregnant.

        1. Sal*

          I think it keeps a lot of people in jobs for even longer than just the term of pregnancy–I knew when I was looking that FMLA and a lot of maternity leave policies don’t kick in until after you’ve been there for some period of time, and it affected my family planning as well as my career as I tried to consider both of those things while juggling an inter-city move and the attendant job changes. Not fun.

  12. CM*

    #3 — I think there are options in between continuing to ignore the emails until there’s a status update and acknowledging every single one. In the interests of making the other manager feel heard/seen, I’d see if there’s a subset of the emails you can try acknowledging — like maybe just the ones requesting that you do something — and see if doing that makes any difference. In my imagination, the acknowledgement in this case is less like, “Thanks for emailing me,” and more like, “I’ll look into it and let you know what I find” or something similar.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I wonder if there is a wider problem of emails being ignored or going astray, so this manager wants a “paper trail” of acknowledgements to feel confident that everything is being dealt with properly.

      In my field it’s absolutely commonplace to send and receive very short acknowledgement emails along the lines of “We note the 4 December deadline and will send a first draft next week” or even just “Received with thanks”. I don’t get the impression from LW that the manager wants flowery replies so that kind of thing may be sufficient.

  13. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    Sometimes applying “on spec” catches a company just before they advertise. If you’re a good fit you can save them several thousand dollars in hiring costs (advertising, interviewing, agency fees, etc) not to mention speeding up the process.

    I got two consecutive jobs this way – a total of 7 years’ employment – and so although it depends on your field and the specific employers it is something I do recommend.

    That said, I agree with Alison to “take them at their word”. An employer who says they want speculative applications is saying “We will hire without/outside a full hiring process if we encounter a suitable candidate”, but equally the kind of company who tells you to wait for an advertised vacancy will be put off by even charming and qualified speculative applicants.

    1. Fikly*

      I was confused at the concern that applying this way – as specifically requested by the employer – would be held against them later on. I have rarely encountered a potential employer that complains about you following their instructions, and if they did, would you want to work for them?

    2. juliebulie*

      I have gotten interviews this way. Not many, but two or three. I think of it as signing up for a contest that I don’t expect to win, but don’t want to miss out on needlessly.

      It really is mostly a matter of timing, but it’s awesome when it happens – sort of like finding money in the pocket of a coat you haven’t worn in a long time.

      If there’s a specific job posting later on, you should still apply to it just in case your resume’s not still on file.

  14. JSPA*

    OP#3, emails go astray or unread all the time. Alison misses the fact that you don’t reply UNTIL THE DEADLINE or UNTIL THE WORK IS DONE. That’s way off base; people 100% need to know that you’ve received the request or the complaint or the re-do orders and you’re complying.

    It’s not the “thanks” that’s missing, It’s “noted, will do” or “OK” or “no problem, can incorporate by original deadline” or whatever the relevant way is to tell people that their input / feedback / request actually hit your eyes, hit your brain, did not meet resistance, and will be incorporated in the final product, and on the original timeline–absolutely NONE of which, “goes without saying.” So, say it.

    I mean, it’s lovely if you’re the sort of person who assumes such things go without saying, but so many people are not. You leave those people contacting you with the (reasonable) anxiety that you’re one of the very, very large number of people who miss, forget, blow off or extend deadlines. Letting them know you’re on it = letting them know that you’re excellent in this respect. From the start. Without any mind-reading required. It is HUGELY worth your time to communicate that ACTUAL INFORMATION. Do it!

    1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

      In most of my working environments — including my present one — it does go without saying.

      Emails bounce when they go astray. Also, we can request read receipts if we wish.

      At least in my experience, it’s much more of a power trip. Certain managers want acknowledgement of their superior status — not really acknowledgement of the specific words in the message — based on the “etiquette rule” that the subordinate always writes back.

      Last but not least, note that clause above. Other working environments, which I’ve not experienced, may legitimately need some kind of real-time acknowledgement. But if so, presumably it would be the same regardless of relative ranks.

      1. LQ*

        I feel like read receipts are WAY worse than wanting an “on it” message. They do not seem like a solution because they don’t actually say that someone is working on it, when it will get done, or anything else of use, just that it opened on a screen. Maybe part of the divide on this is just who hates read receipts.

        1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

          Read receipts at least show the message was displayed on the recipient’s screen.

          Once that’s taken care of, I feel that if someone is capable of working for or with you s/he is capable of responding with any questions or issues without being required (explicitly or implicitly) to acknowledge.

          As for the when part…well, I say if you set a deadline and the other person doesn’t question it or raise any issues, they’re in effect agreeing to be held accountable. If you don’t specify a deadline, then feel free to just specifically ask when the other person can get it done by.

      2. Tyche*

        I’ve always found read receipts useless, because it doesn’t give any indication that your email has been rea; a lot of companies block read receipts by system default; and a lot of people don’t send them anyway.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        This seems like a pretty unusual experience, and I think it’s unreasonably aggressive to view people wanting to know that what they need is being taken care of as a “power trip.”

        Not everyone will need this sort of confirmation, but wanting them is very normal and reasonable.

        1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

          I think it’s unreasonably aggressive to deny other people’s experiences.

          As I thought I made clear above, I was speaking from my experience and acknowledged others may have different experiences.

          Not to mention we all also need things from our peers and even superiors. And if we do need actual acknowledgement that someone will take care of it, if anything we’d need it even more from a peer or a superior — who by definition isn’t expected by default to do what we ask. Why, then, do we only expect subordinates, not peers or superiors, to give them? Seems to me much of the difference is a simple power trip.

          I might also add that the superiors I mentioned above who snapped at me for not reading their minds about just acknowledging receipt, also power-tripped in other ways. Such as by literally yelling at me (starting with the phone interview — yeah, I sure as heck should have wished her a nice day and hung up), criticizing me in public and, when I asked one about something she’d promised me but hadn’t even gotten back to me about, she quipped “Priorities, priorities!” in the same tone you or I might say “Spring is here!”

          In fact, one of those incidents was the boss responding to my offer to help with a specific event, by calling me and leaving a voicemail that she accepted my offer. She waited until after the event, and then emailed me chewing me out about being “reliable” — and Cc:ing that email to another person. Of course, if she was actually concerned that I might not have gotten her message, she presumably would have (1) followed up with me before the event and (2) asked me if I’d gotten the message instead of yelling at me for not reading her mind as to what to do about it.

      4. Risha*

        I am one of the countless people who always click to refuse read receipts, no matter who sent it, and that’s not at all an uncommon position every time the topic comes up. People frequently feel harassed and micromanaged by them.

        1. juliebulie*

          I have one coworker who requests read receipts on everything. He’s the only one that I don’t send read receipts to. Anyone else who asks, gets one, because most people don’t ask often and don’t ask for stupid reasons, only for CYA reasons. Why that one guy wants them for everything, I have no idea. He’s not in a regulatory position or anything.

          1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

            I rarely request read receipts. But I usually/always honor read receipt requests, including from a few of my colleagues who always request them.

            My approach is just fine, and I’m sure yours is too.

      5. Jennifer Thneed*

        Emails can be delayed without bouncing. They can arrive in triplicate. Email is not a perfect system and sending an acknowledgement of receipt is always a good idea.

        That said, whatever works in your corporate environment works for you, but might not work for others.

        1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

          As I think I made clear, I was speaking from my own experience.

          In my experience, nowadays email (and other) communications are generally reliable.

    2. Susie Q*

      I agree 100%. It’s not about thanking the manager. It’s about acknowledging the fact that you received and understand the information. IMO it’s a simple courtesy.

    3. Yorick*

      OP says she responds before the deadline to tell them the progress. I read that to mean well in advance, but maybe not.

      1. Joielle*

        Maybe the OP can replace their current before-the-deadline email with an earlier email (like, maybe a day after receiving the original email), acknowledging the request and giving an anticipated timeline. It’s no more emails than they would ordinarily send, they’re just spread out differently.

    4. Llellayena*

      Oh yes. I get annoyed at this with people I request things of. I generally trust that people will get their work done on time, but that doesn’t stop me from worrying over it in the back of my head while I try to do other things. The quick “Got it. Will do.” email is enough for me to put it out of my mind until it’s done (or late). Especially when I specifically ask in my email, “Please let me know if you can do this in this time frame.” Dead silence is NOT helpful there. (Dealing with this right now, asked for stuff by Monday, still haven’t received acknowledgement that the task is being completed. Arg.)

    5. fhqwhgads*

      I think you’re ignoring that this can vary a lot by context. For example, if you’re asking OP on Monday to do something by EOD Friday, and OP does it two hours later and responds then that it’s done, not replying til it’s done seems entirely reasonable to me. If you’re asking for it done by EOD Friday, and OP replied that it’s done at 4pm Friday with nothing in between, that’s probably a good reason why they want more interaction with the loop sooner. My usual threshold for “respond with ‘OK I will do that for you’.” vs “wait until it’s done and just say that” is how long is it reasonable to respond to something in the first place? If my office would find it reasonable for me to not get back to someone within 24 hours, and I’m going to have the thing done before then, I just respond when done (unless the request itself is explicitly more time-sensitive than that). If it’ll take me more longer than that to do it, then I’d send some sort of acknowledge once I’ve read it and put it in my to do, and then the final response when it’s done.

      I’m kinda with the OP on the emails where there is no action requested of her and they’re just FYIs. I don’t find it at all intuitive to acknowledge those unless something in the message suggests it needs it, but since she’s been asked to, it’s worth the effort to at least more frequently acknowledge those. But personally I’m on team “that clogs my inbox” for stuff without any action items.

    6. Don't get salty*

      I think a good way to solve this is just to add vote buttons (yes/no) to each email that you want an immediate response to, and specify the response time. For example, “vote YES if you can complete this job by Thursday close of business.” If they don’t respond then you know that they didn’t see the email.

  15. Mannheim Steamroller*


    I’d love to hear from IT folks about whether all those “thank you” messages would clog up the email server.

    1. Beth*

      Not unless the IT infrastructure was incredibly inadequate for the task. The exception would be those nightmare sequences when hundreds of people end up using Reply All in a recursive snarl that ends up with hundreds of thousands of emails saying SHUT UP SHUT UP STOP.

  16. Ann Onny Muss*

    OP #4, the “general opening” was how I ended up getting a job with my current company. If a company is offering this sort of submission option, I’d encourage you to submit your resume and cover letter. You have nothing to lose by doing so. And potentially a lot to gain.

  17. Jeffrey Deutsch*

    I’ve actually had superiors snap at me for not responding (in words) to a request or even just an acknowledgement…without ever having told me they wanted a response.

    Some people seem to feel subordinates should always be the ones to write back…and should know that without being told.

    1. Beth*

      That’s often part of the job of being a subordinate; it’s certainly a job skill of a good subordinate. If you don’t respond/acknowledge, your superior doesn’t know that you received the request and are going to act on it.

      When you do, you’re communicating several important messages. When you don’t, you may be communicating a message that’s not working in your favour.

      1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        I say a job skill of a good subordinate is being able to (1) do what’s asked of you, when one is asked to do it, reliably enough so that your boss can assume implicitly you’re on it without needing your reassurance and (2) if one has any questions or issues, to raise them timely.

    2. Susie Q*

      I don’t understand how this is difficult to understand. It’s a simple acknowledgement of receiving and understanding information. You might find it annoying and trivializing but it is a simple gesture that requires very little effort.

      1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        I understand this perfectly. I just don’t agree.

        You might find it annoying and trivializing but it is a simple gesture that requires very little effort.

        By that logic, why shouldn’t I throw a penny down the sewer? It’s only a penny.

    3. JSPA*

      yeah, that is actually how the world works.

      When there’s an acknowledged hierarchy, the person above gets to give orders to the person below, not vice versa. The person below acknowledges receipt of orders as a matter of course, while the person above does it as a courtesy or because it’s effective.

      The person above can have the last word if that work is “thanks” or “OK” or something else that really requires no further response.

      If the person below feels they need to know the boss has seen what they sent, they can add, “I’ll continue with plan X on Tuesday unless you tell me otherwise.” This isn’t something one should normally need to be explicitly taught, as it’s something most people learn by example through the course of their schooling. If your learning path was somehow so self-directed and egalitarian that you’re new to the world of hierarchy, consider yourself instructed, I guess?

      1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        When there’s an acknowledged hierarchy, the person above gets to give orders to the person below, not vice versa.

        No one’s disputing that.

        The person below acknowledges receipt of orders as a matter of course, while the person above does it as a courtesy or because it’s effective.

        For one thing, that hasn’t always or even usually been my experience. (Keep in mind I’m not the one presuming to speak for the whole world or anything close.)

        For another thing, why should people be expected — let alone to assume without even being told — to respond just to say “I got this” or “I’m on it” when (1) communications nowadays are generally ~100% reliable (and enhanced with read receipts, fax transmission acknowledgments and voicemail systems that say “Your message has been sent”) and (2) subordinates are by definition supposed to “be on it” anyway (and to timely let the boss know of any questions or issues)?

        Last but not least, if explicit acknowledgements are helpful, why should they be a matter of rank? If anything, when I send a request for help to a co-worker let alone a superior, I have more need of assurance since I obviously can’t assume they’ll just carry it out.

        (Whenever I do send a request for information, help, etc., to a co-worker or superior, once they give it I make sure to reply “just” to thank them. That’s only good manners.)

        This isn’t something one should normally need to be explicitly taught, as it’s something most people learn by example through the course of their schooling. If your learning path was somehow so self-directed and egalitarian that you’re new to the world of hierarchy, consider yourself instructed, I guess?

        If you think you’re teaching courtesy, set the example.

    4. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      Default that it is a requirement. Look at it this way. If your boss is standing in front of you and says they need the TPS reports by Monday, what do you do? Do you turn and walk away without saying a word? Or do you say some variation of “will do, you’ll have it by then”? Email is no different. It’s communication. Same goes for just informational stuff. If they say from now on we’re grooming all the llamas with the llama groomer 3000 and you already know that, do you just say nothing and walk away? No, you continue the conversation. With a “ok, thanks” or “I saw that in the llama manual update” or whatever response makes sense.

      1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        Email is no different. It’s communication.

        Nope. Big difference between synchronous communication (face to face, phone, Instant Message [IM], etc), which is real-time, and asynchronous communication — like email, the method the OP was actually talking about — which is not.

        Of course if my manager talked to me in her office, IMed me, came to my cubicle, or called me (in order of how often she likes to do each of these things) I would respond on the spot.

        But if she emails me, by the time I see it (minutes or hours — sometimes a day or so — later), she’s long since gone on to other things, and I’m sure she hasn’t been waiting with bated breath for me for a simple “I’m on it,” or “I received your email”.

        Obviously, if she asks for a response right away, I give it. Obviously if she asks me to let her know what it’s complete, I do that. I follow orders just like anyone else does, and in those cases she probably has a good reason for needing information right away (especially if she’s relaying something from her own boss or even higher).

        And sometimes if, on a case by case basis, she hasn’t asked for a response when done but I have reason to believe she may benefit from knowing as soon as possible that it’s done, I will willingly respond even if she hasn’t asked — but it’s my decision, not an expectation on her part.

        But no, it’s not a default requirement where I work, nor do I have any reason to believe it was a default requirement at many other places I’ve worked. Nor do I believe it should be a default requirement, though as I’ve said before I believe there might be other working environments where it needs to be.

        That said, if a manager announces once and for all that moving forward it’s a default requirement while I’m working for him/her, of course I will obey.

    5. juliebulie*

      Hard disagree to some of the replies to Jeffrey D. I had a grandboss who snapped at me for replying. “I told you to do this thing, so you don’t need to tell me you’re doing it”

      I think subordinates should assume that they should write back unless told otherwise… but I also think that good managers make their communication preferences clear beforehand instead of expecting us to guess.

      My current boss usually adds, “please do this ASAP and let me know when it is done” or “when do you think you can do this?” so that I know he’s expecting to hear something and when.

    6. Starbuck*

      If someone at work walked up to you in person and asked you to do a task, would you consider it a helpful response to stare at them blankly, then walk away (maybe to do the task, maybe not, who knows)? It’s the same thing. Everywhere I’ve worked, requests assume a response.

      1. Jeffrey Deutsch*

        Big difference between real-time (face to face, phone, etc) communication and things like email — the mode of communication OP was actually talking about.

  18. Supervising librarian*

    For OP 2 yes this happened to me. Twenty years ago. The course that was essential to my position’s success came up. It was a week in another town. I had to pay the tuition in advance for reimbursement later. And take vacation leave to cover the time. I didn’t feel so cranky about the money as that was the policy for any position and in thier eyes it assured completion and competency for their investment. I was cranky about the time but from their point of view, the knowledge was portable and to my personal benefit. I did leave almost to the day when my commitment for repayment was up.

    OP 3
    My assumption for the requiring a response is a “ cover your ass” paper trail. A thank you isn’t necessary but a got this or O.K. is. Thanks, doesn’t mean thank you for your brilliance, just I received your communication.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Just because you were in the same situation doesn’t make it right. Tuition reimbursement is for furthering your education and knowledge, not providing you with knowledge to perform your current job duties.

  19. AnonANon*

    #2 Totally ridiculous. That is something you need to do your job. If you tried to learn it on your own I’m sure it would take longer than a week and end up costing them more money for you to spend time just on that. And that can be another angle….”Hey I need to know how to use X to do my job effectively, how do you suggest I get up to speed quickly?”

    Another suggestion in addition to Alison’s great advice: Is there anyone else in your company that would benefit from this training? Or any other companies that are close by that could benefit? I say this because in the past my company has paid a trainer to come to us or we have combined forces with other companies to host a training and the companies split the cost. That way you are only paying for 1 person (the trainer) to come and it may end up being cheaper. It could also be something that is worked into your contract with that company. That was something we had in our contracts with new software companies….they provide X number of hours or whatever for training.

  20. What’s with Today, today?*

    #1) One of the boards I’m on is a biocontrol alliance (we’re trying to save a Texas lake). One of our employees trains invasive species and bed bug sniffing dogs! It’s so cool. She has a contract to go to BIG lakes all over the country with her dogs and they set up at boat ramps & sniff out zebra mussels stuck to boats.

    1. Quill*

      Does she need an apprentice? Because I like dogs, have an extensive background in environmental science, and am currently freezing my butt off in Wisconsin. :)

    2. Artemesia*

      LOL Years ago I was strolling by Lake Washington with my mother and saw a guy come up in a pick up and hop out with a big dog with a neck scarf who proceeded to chase the geese (hundreds) into the water and then the guy took a remote control boat and encouraged those geese to leave the beach area water. His job was ‘goose control’ to keep these giant crapping machines off the public beach area. I thought ‘someone’s mother feared that her son would never get a job and just lie around playing video games and playing with his remote control toys — and voila — there IS a job for someone with his skills after all.

  21. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

    The dogs thing is kind of invasive but it makes sense given how hard it is to get rid of bedbugs. And they should absolutely be paying for at least some of the extermination costs, especially since some or most people presumably picked up their bedbugs at work!

    1. Joielle*

      Agreed – it is invasive, but it’s probably the least-invasive way to solve the problem. Or maybe the only way!

  22. AnonANon*

    #4 I would totally take them at their word. I see this as like an online job fair. When you go to a job fair you are usually just passing out resumes in hopes that one sticks. That is how I got my current job and I have been here almost 15 years.
    The resume just has to fall into the right hands at the right time and if that is their philosophy, they may have a system for going through those submitted resumes when they are looking for people to hire. Or they see something on your resume that jumps out and create a needed position.

    Good luck!

  23. Jam Today*

    I currently have 266 unread emails in my inbox, and I am on the lighter end of unread emails in my group. I get copied on “informational” threads, threads where I have to scroll back through weeks’ worth of information just to figure out why people copied me in, and yes the “thank you” thread. PLEASE do not clog up your colleague’s email with worthless junk. If *a* person in authority has this as their “thing” (everyone has a thing) then just reply to them and leave everyone else out.

  24. Jenny2*

    I had bed begs last year, and I caught it before it got too bad because I’m extremely sensitive to the bites. We called in an A+ exterminator, paid around $1K (this is a lot of money to us, and probably most people), and they were gone two weeks later. We did a second treatment on the advice of the exterminator, just in case. I tell this story because people who have never had bed bugs only hear the horror stories, and I have known people who have had true horror stories, but it’s not always like that. We were lucky that it was just our apartment, we caught it early, and we had a person with a horror story that had a good recommendation for someone to call.

    The thing is: I lied about it all at work. I know people claim they understand that bed bugs aren’t your fault, but they still treat you really badly if you have them and people *love* to blame individuals if they get them. I tried really hard after we had them not to try to trace the origin, because I know they could have come from anywhere. Yes, the company should be exterminating if this is a chronic problem, but they have to find the source because the extermination only lasts for so long before more eggs hatch and it starts again.

    I hope the company is able to be at least a little discreet about this situation, because it really shaming.

    1. Natalie*

      I had a very similar experience. We had an infestation in our apartment, the landlord’s exterminator came out a few times to spray, and then we didn’t have bedbugs anymore. It was a bit of a pain (pulling furniture away from the walls and taking our bed apart) and the landlord attempted to illegally withhold our security deposit (my city requires them to cover all pest control unless there is “gross negligence”) but they backed off. But as you say, I find people’s reactions to it were really extreme and that was way more annoying that dealing with the actual bugs.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yes people find they are not invited into other people’s homes or to social events with friends and people won’t come to their places either — you can quickly become a social pariah. I’d probably treat but be discreet too.

  25. Reality Check*

    #1, reminds me of a resort I worked at years ago. It was open spring and summer, closed in the fall and winter. The employees – hundreds of them – lived there. Think of Dirty Dancing, it was like that. There was a big salmonella outbreak one summer. The weird part is that with salmonella, usually there is one contaminated batch of food, people eat it, get sick, and it’s over. But that year, new cases popped up every single week. They were going nuts trying to figure out the source of the problem. They called in the state health department for help.

    One thing all employees had to do was get tested for it, that required a stool sample. To do this, we had to put plastic wrap on the toilet seat, poop on it, scoop some of it and put it in a sterile container, and it got shipped off to the lab for testing. Any employee testing positive was not permitted to work in the kitchen or dining room, or even put their own food on plates at mealtimes. (someone would have to do that for them) It was invasive all right, and just plain gross on many levels. But it had to be done. Employees and guests alike were being hospitalized; this had the potential to kill someone or bankrupt the resort. So we did what we had to do. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

      1. Reality Check*

        Bear in mind that one can still test positive, long after the acute phase of the illness has passed, and be back to work as long as they didn’t go near any food. This kitchen was so big that there was an entire room dedicated to washing pots and pans, and I heard that one of the pot washers had an atrocious lack of personal hygiene as well as some really gross work habits (you don’t want to know. but it was bad.) Among them was snitching food with his bare hands while cooks’ backs were turned. He was salmonella-positive, and they fired him after catching him at this. So maybe this guy caught it from the original bad batch of food and became a Typhoid John after that, spreading it around…

        Another curious thing about the situation was that for every 4 people to get sick, 3 would be employees. It was odd because we were all eating from the same food source cooked in the same kitchen. One day one of the health dept people mentioned to the GM that salmonella can be sexually transmitted. (who knew?) The GM freaked out and said, “Why the hell didn’t you tell us this months ago?”

        You know how I said this place was like the resort in Dirty Dancing? Yeah. They put a memo in every employee’s mailbox telling us it could be sexually transmitted, and there was a sharp decline in new cases after that.

    1. Susie Q*


      I was told I was lucky because I got an extra 6 weeks more after FMLA. Of course, it was all unpaid…

    2. Mavis*

      Yes, I hope this doesn’t count an off-topic derailing but…

      …I hope US readers read this and vote accordingly on Tuesday and every election afterwards. This should not be a success story but rather an anachronistic relic of a misguided past. Here’s hoping.

      In the meantime, congrats on the pregnancy and the new job, LW5! Good job navigating the system in place.

  26. HailRobonia*

    Regarding privacy: Having experienced the horrors of bedbugs before, I’d be willing to strip naked in public and tell strangers about my most embarrassing moments if that would get rid of them.

    1. kayakwriter*

      HailRobonia, funny you should say that. I had a friend whose apartment got bedbug infested. Because she was physically disabled, she needed us to wrap and tote her stuff to the big, portable “baking truck” that was going to kill the little buggers. I was so squicked about the possibility of bringing them back to our home I wore old clothes to do the job. Once done, I fetched a previously plastic bagged change of clothes out of the trunk of my car, popped down the alley next to her building, stripped off all my old stuff, right down to my shoes, put on the fresh stuff and bagged and trashed the old.

  27. K.H. Wolf*

    OP #1, please ask your company to properly investigate research-based techniques for dealing with bedbugs. Much of the casual information out there is inaccurate, including the information many extermination companies use. Yes, including the bedbug-specific extermination companies. There are many, many publicly available studies. Always use studies, which frequently contradict very widespread advice. Links to follow.

    Some tips:
    * Bedbugs are NOT substantially compromised by fumigation of any kind. It is a total waste of time, and more disruptive than effective methods.
    * Bedbug dogs are frequently inaccurate, and give false positives.
    * Bedbugs are killed with heat of 120 degrees F. Putting your clothes through a standard dryer meets this threshold. DO NOT attempt to heat a house or office building to these temperatures. While heat treatments are popular (and expensive), many buildings cannot be effectively treated in this way. (Bedbugs hide behind walls, under floors, and in ceilings. 2 bedbugs escaping is enough to restart the nightmare in 6 months.)
    * To prevent the spread of bedbugs, put your clothes through a dryer and store them outside your home. Put your potentially-infested clothes in a thick, sealable plastic bag.
    * To kill all bedbugs in your car, park in the sun at a time of year where the inside temperature will exceed 120 degree for several hours. All windows should be closed, of course.
    * The only effective type of poison is a residual contact poison. Luckily, these are almost all totally people safe, and pet safe when dried. I recommend Crossfire and EcoRaider, spraying every month and alternating. Wear a face mask (not strictly necessary) and coat the entire floor. You can use a standard poison applicator from Home Depot or Lowes. Both these poisons are rated for upholstery and cloth, so DO spray your furniture and mattress. Keep this up after you no longer detect bugs. I will be doing this in my home every 6 months for the rest of my life, or until I move.
    * Wash your bedding immediately before spraying; this will kill all the bedbugs on it when it is in the dryer, and then you maximize the amount of time the poison can be on there for the bedbugs to walk on.

    1. K.H. Wolf*

      A few more facts and tips:
      * Bedbugs move extensively through buildings. No rooms are ‘safe’, and all rooms should be treated.
      * EcoRaider is marketed as pet-safe, as it is made up of essential oils. Thus, it is probably harmless to dogs and humans. However, cats should not be subjected to essential oils.
      * EcoRaider is incredibly pungent. It smells of cedar oil, mostly. Do not use it if you are not prepared to open the windows for several hours. The building will smell pleasantly of cedar after a few days.
      * Do not depend on diatomaceous earth for primary bedbug control. It is harmless to use it as an adjunct to proper treatment, but it is simply not effective enough on its own.

      Study Links:
      Bedbug dogs:
      Heat-kill information and general myth-busting:
      Diatomaceous earth:

    2. K.H. Wolf*

      One final thing, and this is also directed at the commentariat and Alison:
      Dealing with bedbugs takes a lot of time, and it is not simple. (Cost varies substantially, depending on location and method. The DIY method above is relatively cheap and you provide all the labor. You will still be spending $80-ish a month, and you should keep it up for at least 6 months. A heat treat runs in the thousands, depending on building size and number of rooms. Commercial spraying runs $50-$300 per time, depending on building size and company, and must be done many times.)

      Keeping employees home while infested means keeping them home for 2 or more months. At least. That’s IF they use every known, evidence-based trick. Moreover, the “detection threshold” for bedbugs is much higher than you might expect. There is no way to guarantee that a building is bedbug-free. No. Way.

      I understand that the thought of getting bedbugs is scary. But don’t make people stay home for months on end, or make them jump through hoops that prove nothing, like bringing in bedbug dogs. Instead, create simple, effective policies around managing transmission risks, such as giving employees access to a private shower and changing station. Instead, learn how to actually deal with an infestation yourself. (The actions taken so far leave me with no confidence that bedbugs are being re-introduced. It’s far more likely that they were never killed off.) Instead, spread good, evidence-based information on how to treat and prevent bedbugs.

    3. fposte*

      Yeah, I really dislike the invasion of privacy for a method of detection that’s highly fallible but is being treated as gospel.

    4. Heidi*

      I laughed at the part that said we should not try to heat our homes to 120 degrees. You know someone was going to try it.

      1. K.H. Wolf*

        This is a real service many companies offer. It’s called ‘heat-treating’. I do not recommend it. It costs $3,000+, depending on company, area, and building size. Many household items cannot stand up to this heat and must be removed. (None of the companies address what to do if bedbugs are in those items too.) Then add to the fact that many spaces will not reach the proper temperature (like behind walls or under floors), even with professionals doing the work and taking the whole day, and bedbugs love to hide in spaces like that.

        It’s not a waste of time precisely, but many people will notice that they have bedbugs again after about 6 months. Only it’s not ‘again’, they just took a while to become detectable again after most (but not all) of them were killed. Most people probably can’t afford $3K+ unless it’s a sure thing, which it isn’t. Also, most warranties on this type of treatment are for 90 days, which is insufficient unless you are checking very closely and constantly. I have been unable to find any field studies on this technique, so I am not certain what proportion of the time it fails. It failed in my house, six times.

  28. hbc*

    OP2: My apologies, you seem to work for rule-followers who don’t understand letter versus spirit/intent of the law.

    I could forgive them making the judgment that this training program was actually good for your personal development and thinking that it qualifies under tuition reimbursement, especially if the training is something that makes you more marketable. Even moreso if hardly anyone ever uses training reimbursement, so they assumed that was just money that was going to go unspent. But the crystal clear intent behind the whole PTO/after hours rule is so that employees aren’t all “Sorry, my MBA classes mean I can’t be here 3 afternoons a week.” Since they get a direct, immediate benefit, they should have immediately made an exception.

    This approach to management is what causes to Leap Year birthday exclusions.

    1. German Girl*

      Yup, if it was just the tuition reimbursement I’d say let it go. It’s happened to me but to be fair they didn’t advertise tuition reimbursement as part of the compensation package when they hired me so I didn’t feel cheated when they decided to use it for that training.

      But the whole PTO and paying for it upfront stuff makes this particular case totally different and you should definitely push back on it.

  29. LGC*

    LW3: I’m actually with you that your boss is being weird (to use an Alison-ism), and with Alison that this isn’t a hill worth dying on.

    But…dude, just don’t reply all unless you really need to! I’m in a reply all office. I hate it. I rebel a bit by not replying all to team emails unless I feel like I’m adding to the discussion. (So, if it’s a “thanks” or a “okay, this is done,” I’ll only reply to the stakeholders. If I’m asking a question that I think is useful, I’ll reply all.)

    I know we’re supposed to take LWs at their word (which I’m terrible at), but…I feel like THAT might be the issue – everyone else replies all with their junk messages, and you (quite reasonably) don’t want to add to it.

    1. LGC*

      (So, because I can’t write worth a damn: reply to that manager (and the others) individually with the thank yous, not with a reply all! )

  30. Bookwerm*

    Re: pregnancy success story, I was hired for my current position 27 years ago when I was 6 months pregnant. And 10 years later, I hired someone who was noticeably pregnant. She was the best candidate for the job (and she is still employed here). I hope we can all get past making employment decisions based on reproductive timing!

  31. agnes*

    So I understand the suggestion that the person with bedbugs be given paid time off until the issue is resolved, but I am wondering if someone can explain their thinking about why the company that the person works for should pay for the extermination?

    1. WellRed*

      If only because otherwise, people might try to hide the problem and it therefore doesn’t get resolved.

    2. Quill*

      If there are bedbugs in the office, chances are that multiple people have infested homes because they brought them home from the office. You will never know the source of the office bug-bringer, so it’s best to treat everyone as office bug-takers and treat them all equally.

      There’s also the fact that if you’re nonreactive to bed bugs, the significant cost of extermination may lead to you hiding it (or not knowing it) and reinfesting the office.

    3. Janet, Sower of Chaos*

      Because if there’s an infestation in the office, at least some of the people who have them at home got them at work.

    4. AnonyNurse*

      Chicken or the egg … they don’t know if the employee got the bugs from work or vice versa.

      I once got them from a site visit. I’m allergic (actually medically allergic), had to get on steroids, etc. It all ended up being covered by worker’s comp.

    5. Anonymous for this*

      People said upthread that the company is probably how they got bedbugs in the first place.

    6. Awful*

      My thinking on this would be that if you don’t more people will lie, hide them, and continue to spread them. Doing this will increase the infected population significantly rather than actually getting rid of it, you’ll end up with dozens of employees who are dealing with it, not sleeping, doing poor work because they are tired, spending company time (not a lot but it’d add up) calling exterminators, and apartment buildings, and the like. Then you’ll have people start talking about it, and while this may just replace whatever else people would normally talk about at work, people will likely spend more time on it than they would like yay local sports thing, because it will feel both really personal, and very scary. So now you’re not just losing time from the people who have it, but others in the company who will be speculating on it.

      Now that all assumes you aren’t a company that has the public or clients in your space. Which adds a whole additional wrinkle, because who wants to be the company that is where people got bed bugs? Because someone will say something, likely to a client, even accidentally. You may lose business directly if people don’t want to come in. Think about your dentist. If you found out from your hygenist that 2 of the 6 hygenists at your dentist’s office had bed bugs would you want to keep going?

    7. ElizabethJane*

      My husband and I are both non-reactive to bedbugs. So if I got them, and I was 99% certain that I brought them home from work, and then work was like “Well, you may have brought them from our office but now you have to deal with it” I’d just …. not deal with it.

      Actually, that’s not true since my friends and family are reactive to them and I do stuff with my dogs and I would hate to infest the general public. But I can see how essentially forcing people to deal with something that happened at work would cause them to not. It’s infinitely cheaper to pay for bedbug treatment than to replace an entire disgruntled staff – half who are pissed and not coming to work because someone has bedbugs and half who are pissed because they think this shouldn’t be their problem to fix.

  32. Wordnerd*

    This may not go over well with everyone, but Outlook 365 has an option to “like” emails. Not a lot of people in my org use it, but it’s sometimes useful as an “I read this but it doesn’t need a reply”. It’s been useful for me in a few situations, both using it and receiving it.

  33. ElizabethJane*

    It’s absolutely bonkers that you have to use your own comp plan to attend a mandatory training. My company has tuition reimbursement and Learning & Development money which is roughly allocated per person (to make sure that Jane doesn’t use all of it in the first half of the year leaving none for Karen in the second half) for things like seminars and classes, but a mandatory training to do your job – that would just be paid as a part of the company’s operating expense.

  34. voyager1*

    LW3: I am going to disagree with everyone here. The problem isn’t emails, the problem is you got feedback that wasn’t clear. You say in your letter you “think” the manager wants emails that say thank you to everything but in the end you don’t really know. I would go back to your manager and ask for clarification or if I felt I could go to the manager in question, ask her for clarification.

    Oh yeah I would probably do it via email just to be a jerk.

    I personally think you are handling emails fine from your letter.

  35. SoVeryAnonForThis*

    #1 – This is one of my long list of worst nightmares! I have functional depression, meaning I’m able to do the bare necessities–going to work, paying bills, taking care of my pets, personal hygiene–but after that, and especially after the reading and writing that keep my soul alive, I don’t have enough physical or mental energy left over to do anything I don’t absolutely have to do.

    …Such as keeping my house neat and polished to the standard I was raised with.

    Literally no one other than my boyfriend (a similarly introverted slob) has seen the inside of it in close to a decade. It’s not smelly or a health hazard (I don’t think…), but there are giant stacks of unopened mail everywhere, books in stacks on the floor because I don’t have enough bookshelves, books in the kitchen cabinets because I don’t cook and just buy takeout or deli food every night, mountains of clothes filling my bedroom, stuff spilling out of piles and boxes, whole rooms without any furniture because I haven’t been able to afford it since moving from a one-bedroom apartment, decrepit old carpets impregnated with cat hair, etc. I honestly think anyone who knows me as a clean, made-up, cutely dressed, quiet but relatively normal-seeming person would be shocked at the state of it…and anyone who *doesn’t* know me would assume I’m a disgusting, trashy, mentally ill cat lady hoarder.

    I would quit my job without hesitation if the only alternative was letting someone into my house, because the stress of being unemployed for a hopefully short period, searching for a new job, and even treating any bedbugs there might be myself with diatomaceous earth would honestly be less than the stress of trying to get my house presentable and worrying about the impression it gives of me. I know that’s not logical, but nothing about depression is…

    1. lilsheba*

      To be honest, judging from what you describe, you couldn’t treat bedbugs yourself with all that stuff around. You have to clean/pack everything you own especially books/papers/fabric/wood items. In plastic with duct tape. You couldn’t do it by yourself it would need to be professionally done and it’s a nightmare, I went through it and hated it.

      1. SoVeryAnonForThis*

        LOL That’s part of why it’s one of my worst nightmares! But I would clean and pack everything in plastic myself (probably with some help from my boyfriend), and I would do what had to be done, no matter how long it took or how hard it was, because to me, any amount of private physical labor and difficulty is better than the thought of someone else seeing how I live and judging me.

        In the absolute worst case scenario, I would clear *everything* out of the house and into a storage unit or a pod in the yard, send everything fabric in bags for professional cleaning, and have the fumigators work with a completely empty house (after I’d spent about a week scrubbing everything down and vacuuming). If the company gave me time to do that, and I thought it would be easier than finding another job, that might be an alternative to quitting. Just as long as no one ever finds out my normality is a facade…

        1. lilsheba*

          well that all sounds like pretty good prep for an infestation. They really are nasty creatures and are HARD to get rid of. That was the worst time of my life, and I ended up tossing out a lot of stuff because I got tired of packing everything! I had to live out of a suitcase for weeks, and on an air mattress on the floor of my room. It sucked big time.

  36. lilsheba*

    Normally I wouldn’t like the invasion of privacy but in the case of bedbugs it’s warranted. I had an infestation a few years back and it was a nightmare to get rid of. Although I didn’t get to stay home during the months of fumigations I went through, and the thought of my work paying for the fumigation is laughable, there is no way they would have, because they are a huge greedy corporation. My apartment complex didn’t pay for it either, they ordered the exterminator and made ME pay for the whole thing. $3000 and a couple of years to pay it off. I’d like to know what company would ACTUALLY pay for this cause I’m curious.

  37. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Splitting it between tuition and employee training accounts is not just inconvenient it’s a total backwards mess.

    If your lodging and travel are being paid… it’s not PTO territory either. Their logic is so screwed and my accounting mind is screaming about it.

    I wonder if they’re trying to play fast and loose with the training budget. That’s my only logical explanation. And ef that, playing games with employees at a disadvantage makes me so angry.

    Did you have plans for that tuition reimbursement? If you did it’s an easier way to explain things. It’s not meant for training… it’s for programs outside of your current job in most cases. That’s why they’re structured differently.

    I’m relieved HR rejected the application. I would dig heels in. Nobody should be out of pocket for a training course, it’s a standard business expense.

    1. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      Budget was the first thing that came to mind when I read this. I’ve seen people do some, ummm, interesting things to try to get or keep their budgets in line as the end of the year approaches.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah that’s the curse that comes along with budgets and the fact that people are rarely trained or aware of how to utilize theirs properly. They spend spend spend until they’re almost out and oh noes, let’s get creative…and screw everyone around. Baaaaaaarf.

  38. Database Developer Dude*

    #2 reflects one of my very few complaints about my current employer. Training, even when needed for the job, counts against your billability, and you’re supposed to make up the hours by the end of the calendar year by working extra.

  39. Jamie*

    I have a question about the training…why are they assigning the OP projects she can’t complete without training? That’s something I’d arrange training for and then after assign tasks using the software. This seems backwards to me.

    Also, I echo a commenter upthread who asked if others need this training as well, since often having a trainer on site training multiple people can be much more cost effective.

    And while not cheap, can they purchase training hours with the software and do web based? I can’t remember the last time I used a software platform that didn’t have web based training (which doesn’t mean they all do, just that it’s a pervasive offering.)

  40. Cucumberzucchini*

    I have a condo that I’m still upside down on from buying it in 2006. I rent it out a loss each month. My last tenant moved out and left, it seemed like, everything they owned which I couldn’t figure out why someone would do that. So we had to get a junk removal company but then it turned out the reason they had left everything was the place was infested with bed bugs. I had to pay for a special kind of junk removal since it was all infested which was around $1,200. Then I had to spend like $2,800 on the bed bug treatment. I also ripped out all the carpets (they were ruined by the tenant anyway) which also had to be specially bagged for disposal. I think all in all I spent $6,000 dealing with damage that tenant caused which is A LOT OF MONEY to me, and I didn’t really have it to spare. It was a nightmare. I would be furious if this happened where I live because I have nice furniture and clothes. At least at the condo everything was being trashed anyway since it was junk and I didn’t have to deal with heat treating clothes or living in the property while it was being treated. So I fully support the company taking the measures they have.

    1. Filosofickle*

      OMG, that’s terrible. Being a landlord is not something I want to take on. This shows how a bad tenant can be super destructive.

  41. LizB*

    OP 3, I also hate this practice, but I agree it’s not the hill to die on. I’ve recently started using the “Always Move Messages In This Conversation” in Outlook function a lot more, and it’s been very helpful to my sanity. When I get an email that I don’t need to look at anymore, but know there will be more replies incoming, I can do right click > Move > Always… and choose the folder that conversation should live in. It’s not 100% foolproof (if someone changes the subject line or adds a different person, that response will pop back into my inbox) but it’s SO nice to not have irrelevant nonsense cluttering up my inbox when I’m trying to work. I can go through once a day or so and check my individual folders to make sure nothing truly important got added. I believe gmail also has a similar function.

  42. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    LW1: How meaningful is the permission to admit sniffer dogs that Alison is assuming the employees gave?

    Even if the sniffer dogs are well trained and will react only to bedbugs and aren’t also looking for cocaine, this would effectively be making “allow a stranger into your home to search every room, with a sniffer dog” a condition of employment. What happens if the dog-handler sees, or thinks they see, evidence of drug use? If I use marijuana, I can choose not to apply for a job at a place that drug-tests employees–but this could put an employee’s job at risk if their spouse or roommate used marijuana.

    1. Belle*

      The dogs aren’t police dogs – they are dogs owned by the exterminating company. So they are trained just to look for bed bugs and not drugs.

    2. nonegiven*

      Dogs are usually trained for the particular things they need to find, adding more training for more things would be expensive. There are different dogs for finding live people and cadavers in building collapses.

  43. awesome*

    #3 This is why I like the “like” feature for outlook. It’s a really easy way to indicate you got the email and are on it

  44. nnn*

    For #3, it might make you more comfortable to have a standard script for this kind of email response. You could even set it up as an autocomplete if your email client has that function.

    This might reduce your feelings of inauthenticity, because it isn’t *you* being effusively thankful in your own voice. It’s just “standard acknowledgement script” – like how some companies have standard phone-answering scripts or standard email signatures or standard blurbs at the bottom of their press releases.

  45. Anono-me*

    I am concerned about this tuition and PTO scheme for many reasons. One that hasn’t been addressed is the claw back provisions in the tuition reimbursement plan. What happens if you can not complete the training or if you leave the company for some reason shortly after training?

  46. Free Meerkats*

    My main concern with #2 is this line,

    I spoke to a friend in HR who said she couldn’t give me advice, but she validated that the situation doesn’t sit right with her. She also denied my tuition reimbursement application, for now.

    HR needs to go to the LW’s management and let them know how messed up this is, and if the LW needs the training to do their job, the company needs to pay for it. It’s not unusual to pay for expenses for training and be reimbursed, but having to use up your tuition reimbursement and PTO is something I’ve never heard of.

    LW should also look at the tuition reimbursement policy closely, using it may obligate them to stay with the company for a certain period of time or have to pay back the amount used.

  47. basementmatt*

    OP#1, as someone who went through two bed bug infestations in one year, I can attest that they have a distinctive odor detectable by even the human nose – eventually. We had to throw out so much that’d been destroyed from the inside by those little bastards – wood furniture, cushions, mattress, books, even old pictures.

    I’d welcome the invasiveness of a dog sniff over the trauma of another infestation, as long as it’s done discretely.

  48. Kitty*

    I work in a shelter and we bring in bedbug sniffing dogs on a regular basis. They wear cute little vests and are very well behaved. I’d actually think it was great if the company paid to have me and my home/apartment tested with a dog! I’d be nervous given how many bedbug alarms LW seems to have in their office.

  49. Qwerty*

    OP #3 It doesn’t seem unusual to want a response to “fix this data” type of emails. Those deserve at least an acknowledgement. You mention that you respond to tasks when they are done and before the deadline, but if I send you something with a deadline in 30days, I don’t want to have to wait over a week to know that you are on it. This sounds less about gratitude and more just closing the loop and acknowledging that information has been received.

  50. LawBee*

    #3 – This reminds me of texting my brother which is the MOST frustrating thing because he will only respond if the text asks him a question that requires a response. So, we either have to phrase every communication as an action item, or rest in the uncertainty of whether or not he read the text. It’s ridiculous when all he has to do is text “ok”. Or even “k”.

    This is worse though, because not knowing if he’ll show up for someone’s birthday dinner is on him, but what LW3 is doing is leaving people in the lurch for work. Just respond. Also, literally no one is ruminating on how LW3’s “thank you”s are so much more authentic than anyone else’s because they’re earned or something. It’s an internal distinction for the LW that is actually having negative consequences.

  51. Observer*

    #3- “authenticity” at work is highly over-rated. In any case, you don’t have to go all out with fulsome thanks etc. Just acknowledge the tasks and let then know you’ll be taking care of it.

    Also, if someone sends you information that you need, you SHOULD thank them, even if you already have the information. The person sending you the information doesn’t know that you have it, so they are making sure you have it. It’s a good thing they are doing, and it won’t kill you to acknowledge this.

  52. OnTheFritz*

    Okay, I have to share this story. I’ve attended a number of bedbug trainings for my job (I work in libraries, it’s terrifyingly common to see them in books and library furniture). My last training was with our city’s entomologist. She had live bedbugs in small vials, ranging from eggs to adults. She passed them around so we could all marvel at her “babies.” Towards the end of the highly informative training she had time for a Q&A and told us she trained her beagles to be bedbug sniffers for a private business she runs with her husband, which is one reason why she kept a lot of live bedbugs. I don’t know what compelled me to ask, but I inquired how she fed them — after all, they need blood. And sheeplish, she asked if we really wanted to know. Well, now I did. So she told us she puts a fine mesh on the open top of the vial and puts it on herself — they feed on her!

    She doesn’t suffer allergic reactions, but she told us one time her teenage son begged to let them feed on him and he had a severe enough reaction that they had to go to the ER! Imagine telling the ER doctor how that happened….

    That being said she was super interesting, informative, gave us tons of info about inexpensive was to kill them (heat and cold basically), and she’s my new hero.

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