intern signs emails with “stay gold,” can I wear black jeans to a job interview, and more

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

1. Intern uses “stay gold” as her email sign off

There’s an intern at my office who signs off all her emails with “Stay gold.” For example, an email from her might read, “Thanks for sending me the TPS reports! Stay gold, Jane.” I asked her about it and she confirmed it’s from the quote “Stay gold, Ponyboy” from the book The Outsiders. We work in a pretty casual industry so it’s most likely that people will write it off as a weird quirk, but I’m afraid that if she tried using that sign-off in a more formal industry or office that people would think it’s unprofessional. Should I encourage her to start using a more common sign-off?

First, this is hilarious.

But yeah, that’s going to come across weirdly in many (most?) offices, and as an intern she won’t have the capital built up to make it read “amusing quirk” rather than “inexperienced worker who doesn’t take work seriously / has no sense of professional norms.”

If you’re her manager or oversee any of her work, it would be a kindness to talk to her about professional sign-offs.

2. Can I wear black jeans to a job interview?

I have worked for most of my career in a very casual industry, where people wear Chaco’s, jeans, and flannel in the office 95% of the time. I have recently applied to a job (in the marketing/creative department) in a much more professional setting, a municipality/city government, and am unsure how to correctly gauge how professional my attire needs to be for an interview, given my last few years in perma-Casual Friday Land. Specifically, I’m wondering if clean, non-ripped black jeans are acceptable in place of slacks or other women’s business casual pants? I haven’t had to wear those kinds of pants in years, and don’t have any on hand. Can you give me some insight on this?

No, don’t wear jeans, even black ones. There are some fields where that would be okay, but they’re the exceptions to the rule and city government isn’t usually one of them. As a general default, jeans of any color are still a no for job interviews.

In a workplace with a professional dress code, more often than not you’re expected to wear a suit to a job interview (even if you wouldn’t be wearing suits every day while working there). There are some fields where you can go one step down from that, meaning a professional dress or pants or a skirt with a professional top. Even then, though, that clothing still needs to be business-y, meaning no denim or other less formal fabrics.

3. What’s a reasonable comp time policy?

I’ve recently been promoted to executive director of a quasi-governmental agency with around 40 employees. I’m struggling with our policy on compensatory time for travel. For years, every waking minute from departure to return has been counted as work time, with staff receiving comp time for any time over eight hours per day. For example, an employee leaves at 8 am to drive five hours to conference destination, participates in an evening event ending at 10 pm. Employee counts a 14-hour day. Important to note that this employee is exempt, a division head, and earns in excess of six figures.

I would contend that conference attendance is a perk, and that she is not an hourly employee, so this should really be an eight-hour day. What is a reasonable policy here? Is there a distinction between a conference (often at the coast or other desirable destination) and required travel to perform ordinary work tasks?

If you’re awarding comp time on an hour-for-hour basis to exempt employees (which I don’t think you should do — more on that in a minute), then it depends on the reason for attending the conference. If the employee needs to attend as part of her job, then all of that is work time, regardless of whether the destination is a desirable one. The driving is for work and the event is for work; it’s work time. If the reason for going isn’t so clear-cut (like it’s mostly personal desire, but there’s some benefit to the employer to her being there, etc.), it gets murkier. You’d need to lay out clear, consistent rules for when something is eligible for comp time and when it isn’t, so everyone knows what to expect and you’re not deciding it individually every time.

But the bigger issue is the way you’re awarding comp time to exempt employees on an hour-for-hour basis. Typically with exempt workers, the understanding is that their workload may ebb and flow; some weeks their work may take more than 40 hours a week and some weeks it may take less. If you award an hour of comp time for every hour over 40 in a week, you’re treating exempt workers as very close to non-exempt, just paying them in comp time rather than cash. More typically, comp time for exempt workers would be for times when a person’s workload is heavier than the normal ebb and flow. It’s intended to provide a break after someone has gone above and beyond what’s normal, not be strict hour-for-hour compensation. You can do it that way if you want to, but it’s not in the spirit of what exempt work is supposed to be.

4. Company wants advance approval of all personal vacations to Asia

I just received an email from the president of my company stating that due to the coronavirus outbreaks, any travel to Asia must be approved by management, including personal vacation travel. I have been planning a trip to Japan for March. I have been monitoring the situation in Japan and intend to go unless the outbreaks escalate considerably. Can my employer actually forbid me to travel where I wish on my personal vacation time?

They can’t forbid you from traveling wherever you want on your personal time, but they can make your continued employment contingent on getting their sign-off first. (So, in effect: Yes.) That said, that’s an awfully broad policy — all of Asia? And are they actually going to tell people they can’t go, or just ask them to self-quarantine after returning?

If it’s so they can learn more about your plans and figure out if there are precautions they’ll want to take (like having you work from home for two weeks upon your return), that’s pretty reasonable. But if they’re genuinely considering withholding approval for the entire Asian continent, that seems like an overreach.

5. Non-reciprocal networkers

How do you recommend dealing with non-reciprocal networkers? In a previous job, a colleague with a similar background moved to a great startup during my maternity leave. When I returned, I wrote her a message on LinkedIn wishing her well and saying it’d be great to keep in touch given our similar paths. She never responded.

Recently I moved to a great startup and she reached out over LinkedIn to say there are some jobs she’s interested in and she wants to meet for breakfast to talk about the company — and presumably get a referral from me. I want to ignore it but I realize that is petty. More likely, I’ll respond, get breakfast and begrudgingly refer her because she has a good track record and unless someone was truly terrible, job referrals tend to be a win-win for everyone involved. But in this scenario I feel like I’m being used. What to do that tows the line between being a good corporate citizen and not being a pushover?

Well, you’re not obligated to respond or help if you don’t want to! But I’m not sure she was non-reciprocal here because you hadn’t really asked her for anything earlier. When you messaged her to say it would be great to keep in touch, she didn’t ignore a request from you. She may have thought, “Yes, it would be great to keep in touch” and figures she’s doing that now by contacting you. Of course, it would have been better for her to respond at the time — but I’d be more concerned if you’d asked her a direct question or for a favor earlier, she had ignored you, and then she asked for help now. In that case, she’d come across as much more cynical and rude.

I could be entirely wrong and she could be a user! But I wouldn’t assume that just based on this.

{ 773 comments… read them below }

  1. Zoey*

    For letter 4, next March as in March 2021? I really hope the coronavirus situation improves by then. This def feels like an overreach and I hope they change this policy.

    1. MissGirl*

      I’m curious to see how other companies are handling this. My company just canceled all work-related travel to my client in the Bay Area. Granted my client is in healthcare so some of my meetings were in a hospital.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        My husband attends an industry expo in Taiwan every year around now. His company, not in the US, does work with a large US company. They have a big international sales meeting to coincide with the expo. First the US company cancelled the sales meeting, then my husband’s company cancelled their trip, and shortly after that the expo was cancelled entirely.

      2. SomebodyElse*

        My North America division has placed a travel restriction on China and HK. All international travel has to be approved anyway, so I think they are taking it on a case by case basis as we have a lot of partners in various country’s in Asia * The last update basically said, think carefully about if you really need to travel and know that flights may be disrupted or other shenanigans that could make your life painful.

        I made a joke to my husband a couple of weeks ago about how a nice quarantine would almost be welcomed by me and then said “Who am I kidding… they’ll just tell me to work from home” I checked my email a little later and yup… that was the recommendation if you have symptoms and had recently had contact with an infected person to stay home and work remotely where possible.

        I haven’t heard too much from our APAC and European divisions so I’m not sure what if anything they are doing.

        * although this is going to mean less and less as it spreads to other parts of the world as it is now.

      3. Veronica Mars*

        My (US-based) company has banned anyone from entering company property for 30 days after visiting mainland China. They don’t tell you you can’t go (although business-related travel is banned), but they do tell you you can’t come back.
        They just sent out an update requiring a 14-day quarantine for South Korea and Italy as well, and ‘strongly discouraging’ business travel to Japan and Iran.
        People are expected to work from home while quarantined.

      4. SDSmith82*

        TO THE BAY AREA!?!?

        That’s a little nuts if you ask me. I’m in San Diego (and originally hail from the Bay Area) and I find that shocking. Yes, I know, that’s where they are dropping off the quarantines (and I work near Miramar AB where they have a quarantine set up) but they have such a tight grip on the issue that I’m not really that concerned about it, yet. I work for one of the largest insurance firms in the world (if not the largest) and we have international branches that do more work with the effected countries, and even our policies aren’t that strict. I mean we have an approval requirement, but that’s been there since the beginning.

        1. AKchic*

          Right? They had people layover/fueling stop in Anchorage, and people panicked up here, but it’s been business as usual.
          Okay, yeah, the usual suspects* online did more than their usual online vitriol, but I think we all kind of expected it from them.

          *open racists.

            1. alaskapdx*

              Umm I also live in good old ANC and there was definitely curiosity tinged with panic/racism over a fuel stop on my AK centered social media I mean I had people tracking the damn flight to the minute with graphics learned something important about a few casual “friends” it’s like people have a hard time understanding that it’s a virus, a nasty one but it’s not Contagion movie level for crying out loud, the good old flu will still kill way more people this year but will anyone more people bother to get the flu shot… Nope for “reasons” and racism

      5. Mike S*

        My organization has cancelled all business travel to any country given a level 2 travel advisory by the CDC or State Department.

      6. Gumby*

        Huh? The Bay Area is not (yet?) in any sort of outbreak. There are 2 cases according to a map I saw. There are more cases in Toronto!

        Yes, San Francisco did declare a state of emergency – so that they could prepare for a possible emergency, not because it’s already here.

    2. D'Arcy*

      I would argue that this is gross overreach. And unless the company routinely makes such demands over relatively minor epidemics, it is more than a little racist of them to specifically overreact in this way to this particular epidemic.

      1. PubServ*

        Agreed! And now that Italy is experiencing it’s own outbreak… what next? Will they require approval before travel to Europe?

        1. From Italy*

          Unfortunately, yes they should. People are being advised to cancel/postpone their trips to Italy: many trade fairs have been affected, a lot of tourists have cancelled holidays planned to take place over the next few months, and study abroad programmes may also be cancelled.

            1. Media Monkey*

              i got a note from my daughter’s school this am saying that there was no risk from the ski trip (they hadn’t been near an affected area) but they had asked 2 families to isolate themselves following half term trips. scarily we were in Bologna 3 weeks ago!

          1. Sydney Bristow*

            My firm is asking people to notify them about personal or business travel to China, South Korea, and Italy (maybe others, but I don’t have any travel plans so I haven’t paid super close attention) at this point and has cancelled all business travel to China. They aren’t firing anyone. My understanding is they’ll need to self-quarantine and work from home if possible when they return.

            1. Nerfmobile*

              Yes, my multinational company is doing something similar. Plus cancelled some regional sales conferences in Asia and the Middle East.

            2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

              This is specific enough and thoughtful enough that it doesn’t strike me as racist. But just Asia does.

              1. CL Cox*

                We don’t know when this question came in, the company may have added other countries already. Chances are, they will add other countries as they become aware of the virus spread. Or it may be that the company doesn’t do any business travel to Europe, so that’s less of a concern to them. This virus is moving pretty quickly, I’m sure a lot of companies are scrambling to keep their employees safe and protected.

                1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

                  It’s also difficult from a risk management perspective to individually assess each country, maintain a list, communicate it, keep it updated, etc. There’s always a trade-off between effort and accuracy.

                2. Bumblebee*

                  It’s not that difficult to maintain such a list – my university has a person in our global affairs division whose job is exactly that.

              2. MusicWithRocksIn*

                If you could teleport yourself to a non affected country in Asia then your chance of exposure is minimal, but I think the biggest risk is passing through an airport in Asia with lots of other passengers who are traveling to and from lots of other areas of Asia, where the virus is spreading more rapidly. So it’s not so much all of Asia, as all the airports in Asia have a higher risk.

          2. blackcat*

            A friend of mine was supposed to go to a work site in the impacted area of Italy, and her company canceled.

            1. DaisyJ*

              Our company was also going to Italy in less than two weeks and cancelled the trip yesterday at the suggestion of the company that we were to be meeting with in Italy. I wasn’t going, but of the people who were, most were relieved it was cancelled.

          3. CupcakeCounter*

            Yup – I just had to pull together an analysis of the cost to the company if a trade show in Milan scheduled for late April/May is cancelled. Trying to decide if we should just pull out now or if we’ve already sunk too many non-refundable dollars into it. If we wait it out we would get a portion of that sunk cost back but then we risk paying double or triple for last minute tickets and accommodations if everything clears up in the next few weeks.

            1. Virus cancelled my conference*

              Cupcake Counter,
              If the employee paid for the plane ticket for a conference in March that was cancelled and is usually reimbursed after the trip, how do you reimburse them for the non-refundable ticket if it wasn’t used?

            1. Mr. Tyzik*

              Nothing really to add except that several churches in my metro area are offering drive-thru ashes. Something about that seems very sad.

              1. SomebodyElse*

                My area has that every year. I think it’s the effort to accommodate the busy work lunch time crowd.

          4. Bee*

            Yeah, my industry has a major trade fair in Italy, and they just postponed it from March to May. Which frankly seems like the worst of both worlds to me, because it’s just as inconvenient to everyone as cancelling it AND there’s no guarantee that the situation will have improved by May.

            1. bibliovore*

              And my Spring Schedule is already booked. Wondering about other events and conferences in the U.S.

          5. Office Owl*

            I agree. It’s disruptive to be canceling so many things, but this virus is dangerous, especially for older people and those with medical conditions. Healthy younger people can afford to be a little cavalier about it but, please, for the sake of others, don’t be.

            Also, we just learned that people can get the virus twice (see today’s story in The Guardian). So quarantines won’t be as effective as we would hope. And a vaccine is a long way off. Our best chance of containing it is to limit traveling.

        2. B.*

          Yes. People are reacting in racist ways to it, but even before it spread worse it did not strike me as racist when we got that one letter where somebody didn’t want to travel to Southeast Asia. This disease spreads especially fast and Southeast Asia is near China and therefore probably has more travel from China and places that also have a lot of contact with China, so it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect cases might start popping up there before long.
          Now that it’s bad in Italy, banning travel to Europe would be even more reasonable, especially the Schengen area. A quick Google search tells me Austria is taking measures but I will be assuming that somebody infected but without symptoms very likely has spread it within Europe already, and given that Europeans can travel more easily than Chinese citizens I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets worse here in the US and other countries that have been more isolated from it soon.
          I wouldn’t blame a company for stopping all non-essential travel, TBH, and I have a pretty high risk tolerance and might travel while taking extra precautions myself, though I do think it’s unreasonable to require approval for personal travel though a paid quarantine/work from home less so, and we are at the point where is say it’s actually racist to limit it to Asia.

          1. Lora*

            Ugh, I’m supposed to go to the Schengen area shortly. Not Italy at all though, and the only big city I’ll be in will be Zurich – and only the airport and bahnhof, though those are probably the worst places to be in all of Zurich. I wouldn’t be surprised if they told me to go home, though – there’s been 1 case in my city.

            Latest predictions are that coronavirus will eventually become another seasonal disease like flu, with shifting antigens every year.

        3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          They should be cancelling trips to Europe in general. Three travelers have already infected Spain. Just three travelers. We don’t yet have a handle on this thing. Please stay home and take your vitamin C.

        4. whomever*

          This is also where one points out that Asia includes Israel, half of Istanbul (I’ve taken the ferry to Asia for dinner and come back, it was great and one of my favorite cities in the world), most of Russia…I mean it’s pretty broad.

      2. From Asia*

        I’m an Asian in Asia and this is not a minor epidemic, nor is it racist. Many countries in Asia has cases of the coronavirus, and the government in my country has put in place measures to limit the spread within the community and prevent importing of the virus from travelling etc. We are also not allowed to travel to other Asian countries, especially where the virus hits the hardest. If we do, we have be quarantined at home before being allowed to return to work.

        1. Mameshiba*

          I agree. Chiming in from Japan here and local governments and companies are starting to implement measures like banning meetings and business travel, encouraging work from home and staggered business hours to reduce the number of people on packed trains. Major events and gatherings like marathons and trade shows are being cancelled or scaled back. Airlines have already stopped flights to China and there’s the situation on the cruise ship as you know.

          The situation on the ground is that in Tokyo, there is a lot of fear and concern: almost everyone is wearing face masks and they’re sold out everywhere. People are being more careful about washing their hands and using hand sanitizer. This is already an overcrowded metropolis and you can catch stuff from riding the train under normal circumstances. Outside of Tokyo, I hear there is less concern and you can buy face masks–not sure about other large cities like Kyoto/Osaka. It’s a very clean country but public restrooms don’t have paper towels or even soap sometimes (and only cold water) depending on where you go so definitely bring hand sanitizer/masks with you.

          I would not recommend anyone travel here for business right now. And I would recommend people postpone their travel for pleasure if at all possible. It’s one thing to shelter in place, it’s another to go through airports–where sick people are being sent home, plus “regular people germs”–and then go around major cities using public transport, then go to countryside places that have more old people, visit hot springs, give their phone to strangers to take pictures of them… You’re basically allowing yourself to be a vector all across our country and yours.

          1. Julia*

            Seconding this. As a resident, I am not too concerned about the virus (I am more concerned about tourists coming in for the Olympics making an already cramped situation worse and causing someone to run berserk – people are getting more aggressive the more crowded it gets here), but if traditional companies or even the government allow shifts to change or work from home (!), it shows they are worried. Of course, not worried enough to implement a sick leave policy…

          2. K*

            Also, as a traveler, you don’t want to aid in the spread of the virus across Japan. What if you pick up the virus in one city and then spread it to a town that doesn’t yet have cases? Regardless of whether you get dangerously sick or not, you might spread the virus to places that have not yet had outbreaks and thus cause serious sickness in others. Travelers have been playing a role in spreading the virus to new places (e.g. American tourist who brought it to Malaysia, Italian tourist who brought it to Tenerife, cruise ship passengers who furthered spread in Japan).

            1. Mameshiba*

              This! A lot of people are like “well I’m young and healthy so it’s OK if I travel”… please don’t take your big city germs to all our old people in our little countryside towns! Locals aren’t going anywhere, so tourists would be the only ones moving around.

          3. Lora*

            Singapore too. Large public events canceled or postponed, monitoring people at work for symptoms, anyone with any cough/cold symptoms to be sent home and not come back until they are confirmed healthy again. Anyone who traveled to mainland China or South Korea is to report to their doctor and may get a Stay-At-Home Notice (i.e. self-quarantine); if not a citizen of Singapore, you will be deported and banned from returning if you breach the Stay-At-Home Notice. If you are a citizen, you get charged with a crime and there are financial penalties, presumably you can go to jail, will be quarantined by force.

            1. Nerfmobile*

              I work with a lot of people who are in Singapore, and the country is being pretty hard-core about this, yes.

          4. Bookwyrm*

            I think concerns are growing in Kansai as well. I’ve been planning an event in Kansai for the second week of March, and our host organization cancelled it yesterday as they aren’t allowing any external visitors or events at their facility.

          5. AnotherAlison*

            Hmmm. Meanwhile, one of our project partners is asking us to travel from the US to Yokohama in April.

          6. Dust Bunny*

            Two of my coworkers–we’re in the US–were supposed to attend a convention in Japan later this spring and just got word that the entire event is canceled because of the coronavirus. That is, the Japanese organization that was hosting it made the call, not us.

          7. Lucie*

            Interesting! I lived in Japan for 10 years and I work at a Japanese company to this day in the States and I haven’t yet much heard of any effect through our company yet. Maybe it’s because we’re HQ’d in Aichi and that concern isn’t there yet. I don’t think I’ve heard of any travel either direction being stopped yet either.

          8. Stackson*

            Interesting. I work in the US but my company is Japanese, and my boss and a couple of others are leaving for meetings in Japan on Friday. They don’t seem concerned at all (although they’re heading to Hamamatsu), but I’m kind of surprised they’re still going.

            1. Mameshiba*

              I wouldn’t be concerned going to Hamamatsu either, honestly I’d be concerned going through the airports (Narita is where they’ve sent home Americans with the virus) and the train stations. So many people touch those train handrails and the arm rests on the bullet train and so on. An old couple got it traveling from Oahu to Japan somehow…

          9. Product Person*

            I just heard a doctor say on NPR news that masks are only useful to reduce the rate in which contaminated people spread the virus through coughing and sneezing. It has effect on protecting us from getting the virus as it does penetrate through the mask.

            1. Mameshiba*

              Absolutely, it’s health security theater, but it’s a good barometer for how concerned people are. You literally can’t buy masks in stores and they’re upselling them online–that’s how concerned people are in Tokyo, at least. So it’s not crazy to be concerned about traveling here because people here are concerned too.

          10. SK*

            I just cancelled a trip to Japan that was supposed to start on Monday. Not so much because I’m concerned about personally catching coronavirus, but for the reasons you give: I don’t want to accidentally spread it to more vulnerable people and lots of tourism sites are closed so I wouldn’t get to see everything I wanted. I imagine they may close even more spots in the coming days.

        2. AJ*

          In Hong Kong, which a c0uple of days ago barred non-Hong Kong residents travelling from Korea and those who have been to the country in the past 14 days from entering Hong Kong. Hong Kong also requires anyone coming from Mainland China, including residents, to go into 14 days’ quarantine.

          None of this is considered racist. It’s 100% precautionary. Suggesting that it’s ‘more than a little racist’ if a white or majority white country, or a company in same, makes a similar decision is risible, and quite possible racist against white people and for assuming it wasn’t a person of Asian descent making the decision.

          1. JM60*

            I think the best argument in favor of the policy being racist is that it doesn’t also apply to non-Asian countries that have outbreaks, such as Italy. I want companies to take strong measures to combat the spread of this disease, but I want those measures to apply to more than just Asian countries.

            1. Eukomos*

              The Italian outbreak hit severe levels over the weekend, they may just have not issued an addition to the policy yet.

              1. JM60*

                It occurred to me after writing this that the letter may have been written before the number of known cases in Italy blew up.

        3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          What is racist is that Asia is a big place, and these policies for Asia but not, say, Italy, are part of fear of the other. Stopping travel to Asia AND, say, Italy, is not the same as stopping travel to just Asia as a whole.

          1. CL Cox*

            As I pointed out above, we don’t know when this question came in. It’s entirely possible (actually probable, I’d say) that the company HAS added Italy and will be adding other countries as they get more cases. This is a fast-moving virus and it was only just revealed in the last few days that Italy screwed up in their quarantine and that the virus is much worse there than previously thought.

        4. Sunflower*

          My company is requiring everyone who travels to Asia to WFH for 2 weeks following their return which I think is fair and a fine compromise

      3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        Not sure how this translates to “racist” when the outbreak is centred in Asia (the geographical region), which has by several orders of magnitude the highest levels of infection.

        My sister lives in Shanghai and nobody leaves the house without a face mask, people are afraid to use the public transport because of the close contact with others, some workplaces have not reopened after the holiday, others have their staff working remotely, and people are avoiding travel even within the city as far as possible.

        Wanting to approve travel plans is excessive – people should inform the company of their plans and be prepared to be quarantine themselves at their own expense when they get back. I don’t think having concerns about employee travel is an overreaction at all, there are significant risks.

      4. Mazzy*

        This is not like our past smaller diseases such as Ebola. Ebola was spread through close contact and bodily fluid. Coronavirus can be transmitted through the air, making it spread more quickly and harder to contain. Remember that a million people died from one virus as recently as the late 60s

        1. Anon for this*

          Right. The mortality rate for this coronavirus is running over 2% . The mortality of a ‘typical’ flu is 0.2%

          The mortality of the Spanish Flu in 1918 was also 2-3%

          The population of the United States is approximately 330 million. 2% of that is 6.6 million.

          (All of the above stats are taken from Wikipedia, CDC, etc., this morning.)

          1. Anon for this*

            I post this to simply say, please be responsible. Do not be a vector. You may feel you are fine, but do you want to risk the life of your elderly parent, your toddler, because you were being cavalier?

          2. Can*

            The mortality rate in China is 2% but outside of China, its between 0.1% and 0.2%. If you’re going to spread this kind of information, please make sure you have all the facts.

            1. Renamis*

              The current mortality rate outside of China is about .2%. But we also are having way fewer cases. If we keep it that way, we’ll be fine. But if it spreads quickly it will go up, because the system will be overwhelmed.

              The problem with this virus is the long incubation period. The flu has about a 1 to 1 transmission rate. Last numbers I saw, covid-19 is about 1 to 4. You can have it, be non symptomatic, and CONTAGIOUS for up to a week. Average is 3 to 5 days, and they’re had one case over 20 days where it’s known they incubated it, but they don’t know how long that person was contagious. The virus lives outside the body for about 9 hours as well, which is a very big uh oh.

              THIS is why it kills people. With medical aid people can live, but the system can easily get overwhelmed. We’ve got overwhelmed just by the flu season before. And we’re still in the flu season, so if this hits full force it won’t be pretty. Add the fact that sick people frequently can’t afford to take off, and all it takes is a few retail workers to pick it up. We don’t have the same mask culture as many Asian counties as well. My work certainly would never let me wear one, even hacking up a third lung. So it’ll spread, people go to hospital, the flu and covid-19 have a party, people end up with BOTH (they’re not mutually exclusive) and complications happen.

              If the numbers are low, no biggie. If the numbers are high, that’s how we’ll get up to that 2%.

              1. Librarian1*

                I think it’s very possible that the mortality rate in China is lower than has been reported. Initially, there were issues getting enough testing kits, so some people who got sick weren’t tested. Plus, if people are sick, but not sick enough to go to a hospital, they may not be tested either, which means the number of confirmed cases will be lower than what it actually is.

            2. JM60*

              I think this 0.2% number for the mortality rate outside of China is misleading, because most cases outside of China haven’t been resolved. So we may not know how many people who have the disease and are currently alive will eventually die from it.

            3. Malarkey01*

              Wait Can, that stat of yours is the one that’s incorrect. Italy’s rate is currently 3% (12/383) and S Korea is 1% (12/1261) and Japan is 1% (2/172). It is NOT running at .1% but is 10x that. Until a country has 50 cases you can’t even measure 2% since people can’t half die. We’d need a country to have a 1000 cases to say that .o1% is the true factor.

              1. Lissa*

                It’s hard to say on both accounts – on the one hand you have a lot of cases where we don’t know if people will recover or not, but there’s also a likelihood that lots of people with mild symptoms haven’t been tested, which would drive down the mortality rate if they all ended up being tested.

      5. Mookie*

        Exactly. If they want to be sticklers, the whole world will soon be off-limits for travel. They’re not going to get to opt out on this inevitability, irrespective of the company policy. Enforcing it just sounds ignorant, xenophobic, and counter-productive. An entire continent? Piss off, guys.

      6. So Not The Boss Of Me*

        1. US people’s understanding of geography is so poor, it is possible that the email writer doesn’t realize that China, South Korea and Japan aren’t all of Asia.
        2. This is not an overreaction. The underreaction of the first two months has been the problem.
        3. Countries in Asia and Europe are closing cities down when they find the virus. They now realize this is a big deal, and not likely to be over quickly.
        4. Minor epidemic is an oxymoron.
        5. Air travel accounts for 99% of the spread of the virus. It only takes one person who isn’t yet sick to infect a new country or continent.
        6. As someone else said, the LW could catch the virus in one city (perhaps even before leaving home) and spread it to new cities all across Japan. Please think about it. Lives are worth more than your pleasure or freedom to roam.

    3. Admin4Life*

      My company (big global company) is doing this too. A big part of it is working with the employee so they know what they can and can’t do with regards to remote work. We are imposing a 14 day, work from home period upon their return from vacation. The important piece is where they’re working remotely from due to taxation-if they get stuck in the country they’re visiting they’re not allowed to work remotely and have to use pto or go unpaid until they return home (we’ve been sued by other governments because of staff working remotely from a country without a work visa).

      So our policy seems to be a way to insure the employee is fully aware of the potential risks and so our employer can work with their manager to insure that they have appropriate coverage should they need it outside of their planned pto.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        That seems like a more thoughtful approach than “we’ll need to approve your travel plans”!

    4. Restless Rover*

      If the planned travel is this year I wouldn’t consider it an overreach. I currently live in South Korea and in just a matter of a week the number of cases jumped to over a thousand with twelve deaths. While for most healthy people under the age of 60 this virus might not be a big deal, the fatality rate for older people is pretty high. If your state is currently virus free then keeping people from going to the country that’s in the midst of an outbreak is a small price to pay. This epidemic also had a colossal economic impact which is especially hard to absorb by small business owners who are losing customers because people are afraid to leave the house. You have your whole life to go to Japan. Don’t take risks that can potentially impact others.

      1. JonBob*

        I agree. It’s not just how it affects you, it’s how it affects the company, the people you meet on your trip, and the people you’ll be around when you get back.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I suspect it’s this coming March — next month. I’m actually going to tweak the wording in the letter on that assumption so that we don’t end up with lots of speculation/debate on that. (LW, please tell me if that’s incorrect.)

      1. kittymommy*

        Yeah if it’s the 4 days from now March, that’s different. I still am involuntarily cringing at trying to police private travel, but it makes it a lot more understandable why they’re concerned.

    6. Tyche*

      As an Italian who’s living in a region near the outbreak here, it’s *not* an overreach.
      An Italian from a region heavily impacted by the virus has gone to Tenerife island for vacation and now there are more than thousand people quarantined in n hotel because he is ill with Coronavirus.

      So, your company may not prohibit you to go to Japan, but they have the duty to protect every employee and their families. At least they have to self quarantine you for two weeks.

      I think Alison’s advice is thoughtless.

      1. Crazy Broke Asian*

        As an Asian living in Asia, I agree with your second paragraph. I think the company should include Italy, though, and other areas outside Asia which experience outbreak.

        I find it strange that commenters tend to downplay the seriousness of the virus, considering that this community is usually very vocal about the need to be considerate towards immunocompromised people and such.

        1. From Italy*

          And I’d like to agree with your second paragraph! I’ve learnt a lot about invisible disabilities and the risks that immunocompromised people face thanks to this blog, so I’m surprised by some of the comments so far.

          1. Crazy Broke Asian*

            Me too! I think, based on the comments these past couple of weeks, that people are wary of crossing the line between caution and racism.

            It’s not racist to state the fact that the biggest outbreaks happen in Asia (Eastern, Southeastern, and with Iran Western Asia). Outbreaks outside Asia, of course, shouldn’t be glossed over.

            Honestly, considering that there are multiple Asians commenting here that the company’s action is not racist, I find it a little patronising that some commenters keep insisting otherwise. Heck, I won’t do any travel to other Asian countries myself.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              I feel like these are carry-over opinions. Like, when the virus was still mostly in Wuhan, avoiding travel to all of Asia was racist. Avoiding Chinatowns in US cities is racist. Taking precautions and/or cancelling trips now seems very reasonable.

              1. Elenna*

                This. I would have said it was racist two weeks ago, when most of the Asian cases were still in Wuhan. At this point there’s been a big outbreak in South Korea and several cases in many other Asian countries? Less racist, although I did note that there seems to be no commentary from the company about trips to Italy. Especially if working from home is not an option, the company basically has to choose between LW taking an extra two weeks away from work or LW coming in and potentially exposing all of their coworkers.

                1. Old and Don’t Care*

                  It’s possible that since the op’s trip is to Japan they didn’t think it was necessary to copy/paste the whole policy into their post. It’s also possible as has been said elsewhere that this is a fast moving situation and the policy may gave changed from when the op wrote in.

                  People are going off the rails deciding whether this policy is racist when they don’t know the first detail about it other than how the op is impacted. In my opinion.

                2. JM60*

                  “I would have said it was racist two weeks ago, when most of the Asian cases were still in Wuhan.”

                  Well, that’s about the incubation period for this disease. So in the intervening time, someone could’ve caught, and subsequently spread, the disease, which could’ve been prevented by this policy.

            2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

              There’s a lot of people taking the moral high ground on AAM, and declaring comments or opinions or situations to be racist/sexist/something – often directly contradicting and disregarding the personal experience and views of other commenters.

              It brings a sour note into an otherwise positive community.

              Seen in the LA Times: Comedian Margaret Cho, famously said “White people like to tell Asians how to feel about race because they’re too scared to tell black people.”

              1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

                As a black American who’s lived in Asia and is married to an Asian person, am I allowed to say that some of the reaction to this crisis is certainly racist? I’m not telling Asian people how to feel, but I can see it.

              2. Blueberry*

                There’s a lot of people taking the moral high ground on AAM, and declaring comments or opinions or situations to be racist/sexist/something – often directly contradicting and disregarding the personal experience and views of other commenters.

                Wow, a person could write an essay about this statement, starting with the question of whose lived experience counts. I’m not going to write that essay right now but I’m certainly going to keep this comment in mind.

                Also, quoting a person of color as a weapon to use against other people of color is nothing new.

            3. Blueberry*

              Honestly, considering that there are multiple Asians commenting here that the company’s action is not racist, I find it a little patronising that some commenters keep insisting otherwise.

              I was thinking about this for a bit.

              Part of my view of this whole pandemic and recommended responses to it is as a POC in the US, where I’ve been seeing people say things like “this is what happens when you eat Weird Things” and “this is why you shouldn’t go to Those Countries” and “don’t go to Chinatown/don’t eat Chinese food/ don’t sit next to Asian people on public transit/etc” which background causes me to view many proposals a little suspiciously. People in the US have treated this as an opportunity to bring out a lot of terrible statements and attitudes, and that part of the public reaction has tinted the whole view of it.

              Which doesn’t make my opinion more informed than yours, as a resident of one of the countries people are advising restricting travel to — I’m trying to point out reasons that can cause different perspectives and why it’s possible to be suspicious that the company here might be at best doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.

        2. ThatGirl*

          From my perspective (which, granted, is that of a white Midwestern American) this is serious in parts of China because so many people were infected, and hospitals were overwhelmed. It’s not (yet) serious in the rest of the world, it’s just that attempts to contain it may be failing.

          As an actual illness, it’s not *that* serious, and many people have very mild or no symptoms — which in turn also makes it more communicable, ironically, since they may not know they’re sick. The mortality rate is nothing compared to SARS, MERS or H5N1.

          1. Changing it up*

            I don’t think a 2% mortality rate is not “that” serious. Would you like to take those odds because someone decided their trip was too valuable?

            1. ThatGirl*

              It’s not a 2% mortality rate, overall – the mortality rate in Wuhan is higher because hospitals were overwhelmed and many elderly patients or people with underlying conditions got sick. Outside of Hubei province it’s more like 0.16%. The actual mortality rate is probably well under 1% because many people do not get a serious infection and don’t see a doctor.

              1. Malarkey01*

                I don’t know why people are saying outside China the rate is .1%, that’s not true. I posted above but the current rate for Italy is 3%, S Korea and Japan are 1%. That’s a factor 10x greater. Most countries don’t even have 50 cases which is what you’d need to get 2% fatality number (since someone can’t half die- you need 1 fatality out of 50 cases and then you’re at 2% fatality rate). The CDC believes that 20% of folks will need intensive respiratory care. So even though 80% are fine, if 20% need hospital beds, almost every metro will be overwhelmed very quickly (my large city can handle about 30 ICU respiratory cases- we struggle under normal conditions sometimes. If 200 people show up (because 2k get it) we are going to be in trouble very quickly.

                I say none of this to alarm just to point out this is not the normal flu which already overwhelms us.

              2. Zeez*

                FWIW experts at WHO yesterday were saying that they currently *don’t* think severity /mortality rate is being artificially inflated due to mild and undetected cases (though I’ve seen others be skeptical of that and say that there wont be any way to know until serology tests can be given.)

            1. PVR*

              I think that is an unfair interpretation of ThatGirl’s comment. The mortality rate is much lower than the other viruses specified. Like the flu, many people who catch it experience mild to moderate symptoms. That was the point. Not that people don’t die, or that the people who do die don’t matter. In fact it is precisely because of its milder symptoms and lower fatality rate that is that much harder to contain. People are carrying the illness and contagious without any symptoms, most people live, people with milder forms of the illness may think it’s just a cold and not seek medical treatment. And most people recover, which actually is widening the pool of people exposed to the illness.

      2. Old Med Tech*

        I would not travel out of the US at this time. It is too risky. I have a BA in Microbiology, a BS in Medical Laboratory Science, and a MS in Clinical Laboratory Science heavy in Microbiology. I worked in Microbiology in a hospital lab and taught in both 2 year and 4 year clinical laboratory programs. I live in Nebraska. Our medical center is starting drug trials on the positive patients transferred there. This could be bad. You may not be able to reenter the US without spending 2 weeks in a quarantine facility.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          I wouldn’t either but I’m not wealthy enough to take a vacation outside of the US at this point. Hopefully the coronavirus will gradually lessen and become like SARS. I saw in the news they were testing a potential cure.

          1. PVR*

            Unfortunately, that seems unlikely. The incubation period of SARS was shorter, the disease was deadlier (9.6% fatality rate) and it was not as easily transmitted as COVID-19 is. All of that made it easier to contain. Many experts have said this Coronavirus may become a seasonal disease, like the flu, and expect it to be a huge pandemic over the next year.

        2. CL Cox*

          This. I think a lot of people haven’t bothered to look up what a pandemic is and what preventative measures are being recommended by the top health institutions. This virus is on the brink of pandemic and most experts agree that it’s not slowing any time soon and will, in fact, cross the line into pandemic very shortly.

          1. Artemesia*

            We don’t know that it isn’t loose in the US. We are not testing anyone except those with a China connection. There have been people ill with respiratory illnesses traveling from Singapore for example who were not tested because the US has very few test kits and those they have take 48 hours and many have proven defective. The US is woefully unprepared to prevent or treat people with this illness. To survive, serious cases need respirators and there are a few thousand of those in the country not the hundreds of thousands necessary if we have a widespread outbreak.

            And because the US doesn’t have affordable heath care for most people, it also means people will not seek care unless seriously ill and thus milder cases will be spreading the illness before it is realized. Who is going to the ER for hundreds of dollars or to the doctor for a couple of hundred for a ‘cold’? The US is set to be a perfect storm of bad government management of risk and inadequate health care as a pandemic hits.

            1. Lora*

              *stands up and applauds* THANK YOU

              Frankly, with the amount of international travel that goes through the US, it is just about guaranteed to hit the fan here. The CDC has said as much. And quarantines are not going to work here, for the reasons you said – people do not have infinity sick days, many of our workplaces are not properly set up with the infrastructure to work from home, and going to the doctor for what feels like a nasty cold is too expensive and too much of a pain in the butt, especially when the result might be “you’re going to be quarantined and all the problems that go with being out of work for two weeks”. In an awful lot of blue collar jobs, not being able to work for two weeks for whatever reason not federally-protected, means you will lose your job. If you’re working in The Gig Economy (TM) or freelancing, that’s two weeks unpaid and a 50% hit to your income for the month – and if you’re working in The Gig Economy, you’re not likely to have savings to cover the loss. That’s a heck of an incentive to simply take a lot of Mucinex, tell yourself it’s just a regular cold/flu, and go to work sick – especially at restaurants and fast food joints, where you get to cough and sneeze all over people’s food, which are notorious for the lack of worker protections in the US.

              1. AKchic*

                All of this right here, which supports all of Artemesia’s commentary.

                To reiterate: We. Are. Not. Prepared or Equipped to handle any kind of pandemic or outbreak in the US.

            2. Lauren*

              Yep. I know it’s a reaction to fear mongering, but I’m getting frustrated by the “people have more to fear from the flu” takes I’ve been seeing from a lot of people in my (highly educated, healthy, insured, economically secure) crowd.

              Like, maybe it won’t spread widely in the U.S., but if it does there’s a real chance that our healthcare systems could bet overwhelmed, not to mention that not everyone can participate in social distancing measures like not physically going to work and keeping their kids home from school without serious economic hardship.

              Also, I have to say hearing “it won’t be that bad if you are young and healthy” as a dismissal to concerns starts to wear thin when you have people in your life with compromised immune systems — Not because I’m freaking out over the virus (I’m not) but because of the implicit devaluation of those who are medically vulnerable.

        3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Risk of getting seriously sick or risk or getting trapped by travel restrictions? The former doesn’t worry me much. The latter does for sure.

        4. Pobody’s Nerfect*

          What would you recommend for air travel within the US, say within the next week? Still safe or would you advise against it? I have a family member traveling from one state to another for a very large business conference. Wishing they wouldn’t go, as things seem to be changing and progressing very quickly with this virus situation.

          1. pamela voorhees*

            I mean, nobody can know for sure, but it’s likely okay if they use hand sanitizer/wash their hands after touching public surfaces, don’t touch their face, and avoid people who are coughing or sneezing or just generally visibly ill. Be careful, but try not to panic. I hope their trip goes well!

          2. Rick Tq*

            I’d say wear a high-grade face mask (better than N95) during the flight at a minimum.
            Mask rating info:
            Modern filter media uses a built-in static charge to attract and retain particles as they are pulled through. Some grades of filter can have this static charge ruined when in contact with oil mist. The letter in a mask’s name tells you whether or not the mask can resist oil: N masks are not oil resistant, P masks are oil proof, and R masks are oil resistant.

            The number in a rating tells you the minimum amount of airborne challenge particles the mask protects against: an N95 mask keeps out at least 95% of particles but isn’t oil resistant, and a P100 mask is oil proof while protecting the wearer from at least 99.8% of particles.

      3. hands*

        You’re saying the response was thoughtless for saying it’s an overreach to require advance approval for all of Asia? Asia is more than China and Japan. In countries like Turkey, India, Israel, Cyprus, and a lot of other Asian countries, the corona virus risk isn’t appreciably higher than North America’s right now.

        1. Mameshiba*

          Definitely agree that Asia is much more than just China and Japan, but a) I think everyone everywhere should be careful traveling right now and reconsider nonessential travel and b) OP is going to Japan, where there is a risk, so I didn’t see the point in arguing that the company’s policy was too strict on cases besides the OP’s.

        2. Tyche*

          Yes, I think Alison’s answer was poorly tought.
          While I know that Asia is a big continent and it’s not “only China” (duh!), I think we should note that other asian countries are battling their own outbreaks, from South Corea, Japan, but also India, Iran, Algeria etc. In other countries there could be some risks as well because outbreaks are not known, and the number of the infected could be severely understimated.
          Travelling to these countries (and even in my country, Italy) could pose some verifiable risks, and I think a company should know if employees are going to vacation there. As an adult child who lives with an aging mother, I’d like to know if a coworker could pose a risk to my or my family health.

          1. Crazy Broke Asian*

            In other countries there could be some risks as well because outbreaks are not known, and the number of the infected could be severely understimated.

            As someone whose country has such an abnormally low number of cases, despite being a very popular tourist destination, I strongly suspect this is what’s happening here.

            Also: asymptomatic carriers.

        3. So Not The Boss Of Me*

          The news here in Europe now is that there are lots of cases in the middle east, not just Iran, but Iran is very hard hit. The next crisis they are looking at is the refugee camps. Think about that. This is not going to be easy. IMHO, going to Japan now is irresponsible. And everything may be closed by the time you get there. Watch the videos of Italian cities as ghost towns. There is some evidence this thing can take up to 3 weeks to show. We should all be hunkering in place until we get a handle on this thing.

      4. Linzava*

        Thank you for saying this Tyche,

        I think when you have to be somewhere in exchange for your livelyhood, the company is obligated to make it a safe environment. There are enough people who are too cool for school and don’t take the threat seriously, and will not take precautions. I don’t believe this virus will be serious, but I also know there’s no way to tell right now as we don’t have enough information, and that these things can turn serious fast. Who am I to put someone at risk who didn’t consent to be around someone who was exposed?

        The thing that makes this virus serious is the 2 week asymptomatic/contagious period. The flu has and asymptomatic/contagious period of 1-3 days, and we can’t stop it. In my city, we have a patient zero, who traveled to Wuhan, and self-quarantined when they came back. But they “came in contact” with a family member, who went to work, and patient zero came down with the virus. Now there’s an office full of people who exposed themselves by working with someone who didn’t understand or care what quarantine meant. This is a consent issue, not an individual rights issue.

        1. Tyche*

          Yes, the long asymptomatic incubation period is an huge problem.
          Here in Italy, almost all the contagion came from only a man who, during his asymptomatic incubation, had a very big social life and he participated in two running races, he went out to dinner with a lot of friends, to a cafe, to a seminar etc. Almost all the ill persons (more than two hundred) came from him and his little town. Even people in the other side of Italy!

    7. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      My and many of my coworkers’ work involves a lot of travel. Our several hundred employees in China work from home for weeks now, all travel to and from mainland China is suspended.
      Singapore is less restricted – a detailed risk assessment is required for every trip, and high-level management approval is needed from both the home and visited country. After the visit, 14 days self quarantine (including work from home) is the norm, also for private trips. This is paid time, so people have little incentive to hide the trip.
      I just had a trip refused after having all approvals but one.

    8. Agent Diane*

      I used to help with business continuity for a big organisation, including planning for pandemics. OP4, your company is not communicating this to you well but you also need to really weigh up whether you go or not.

      For pandemic planning, we would work out what would happen if we had 25%, 50% or 75% of employees unable to work. What would we have to stop doing due to lack of resources? What mitigations could we take? On mitigation, we looked at travel and also what work could be done from home. We would – and did – use government advice on travel and ask employees to consider not travelling or self-quarantining if the trip was absolutely necessary. Your employer does not want to be outbreak site and potentially have to shut down, and they are taking steps to mitigate it.

      If you can work from home for two weeks after your trip, ask your employer if you can do that. That shows you are thinking about the risks and mitigating them and means you are more likely to be approved.

      The UK FCO, who issue travel advice, have not said people must not travel to Japan but do advise extra care. They are not suggesting self-quarantine (yet). You should think about vulnerable people in your social circle who would struggle with this virus and plan for not seeing them for a couple of weeks after your return: grandpa can wait a fortnight to see your photos.

      1. Agent Diane*

        Update: I see Japan have switched to playing football matches in closed stadiums to reduce the risk of the virus spreading in crowds. OP4, please reflect on whether you can postpone your trip of a lifetime.

        1. Antilles*

          +1
          At this point, I’d consider postponing next month’s trip no matter regardless of the company’s dictum.
          Are you really going to enjoy Japan if you get there and a lot of stuff is closed because of coronavirus? Would you feel cheated if you can’t actually interact much with the culture? If you got over there, would you jump a little every time someone sneezed or coughed on a train? Are you going to look back on the trip fondly if the end of it involves getting quarantined for a week at the airport?
          Maybe your personal answer to all that is that you’d still go (and that’s certainly your choice to make)…but my answer would probably be to at least check into rescheduling.

      2. TechWorker*

        I have flights booked end of May and will follow the U.K. government travel advice. I am obviously hoping not to loose the whole of my flight cost.

        1. Media Monkey*

          a colleague has had a trip to china cancelled by the travel company in april and will be able to claim the costs on travel insurance.

        2. SpaceNovice*

          You may be able to get a refund on your flight considering the circumstances. Some airlines are already giving refunds for harder hit areas and may do so for Japan if it gets hit hard in the next couple of weeks. Keep an eye on things.

    9. Lizard*

      My company has imposed 14 day self-quarantine for personal travel – seems more reasonable than requiring you to ask permission.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        But lots of jobs can’t really be done from home, so adding a 2 week quarantine on top of a vacation that’s probably at least a week long itself means a total of 3-4 weeks away from work. It seems 100% reasonable to me to make that a permission-required situation. I’m sure there are lots of offices where you can work from home whenever you want but even with my laptop and VPN options available to me, I couldn’t just walk up to my boss and say “hey, I’m going to work from home for the next two weeks.” I would have to ask permission to do so. So if I put myself in a situation in my personal time that is very likely to impact what happens on work time–it’s not absurd that they would want a say in that.

        1. Antilles*

          And even in offices where you can work from home, it’s often something that needs to get coordinated – “working from home” normally where you can always jump in a car if needed can be a totally different situation than being quarantined for two weeks and being unable to attend whatever client meetings, team discussions, etc might come up.

    10. Zoey*

      I think the fact that it is the company making this rule about non-work, entirely personal travel that employee paid for makes it feel like an overreach. They can have policies about employees not coming into the office after traveling to an area, providing information, etc but your employer is not a government who gets to refuse to grant visas.
      I think the question isn’t should the OP cancel plans but is it understandable OP find it off that her employer is requiring approval for personal travel.

      1. snowglobe*

        I’m wondering if the employer actually used the word “permission” or if that was LW’s choice of words. It is possible that the company is just requiring that they be informed of travel, so they can decide on a case by case basis whether the employee will need to self-quarantine upon return. As stated above, they can also discuss the contingency of what to do if the employee gets involuntarily quarantined overseas, as could happen.

      2. Malarkey01*

        But I think it’s reasonable that your employer might not be okay with you taking a personal trip that will result in another 2 weeks off of work/work from home (and there’s a good chance it would be government mandated). If an employee is choosing to take an action that will affect their ability to work after their personal time I do think the company can weigh in. Otherwise they’ll be forced to give this person an extra 2 weeks off/2 week WFH.

      3. JM60*

        The company does have a duty to protect its customers and other employees from a virus being brought to the workplace, and working from home or taking an extra 2 weeks off may not be a option. Normally, this would be an overreach, but people’s health should be a priority.

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

      I agree. I was planning to go to the outskirts of Milan to visit my cousin and her family, and she shut my plans down in January, citing that “it will be a matter of time”. Since my father would be at risk being a ex-smoker who had a badly cured pneumonia, they’re 100% right. Now they’re almost isolated and working from home.

    12. OP4*

      Hi, OP4 here. We are planning to travel to Japan next month (March 2020, not 2021, sorry about the confusion!). We’re following the CDC’s travel guidance, which does not advise cancelling travel at present. I’m not willing to debate whether or not we should cancel/postpone our trip at this point.

      I’ve informed management of our travel plans and they confirmed that they won’t forbid me from going, but we’ve yet to have a more in depth conversation about the potential risks. My boss returns from PTO tomorrow so I’m hoping we can discuss it more then. Some of the comments have been really helpful, thank you! Parts of my job can be done remotely but I’m not sure if an entire 2 week quarantine/WFH period would be acceptable (particularly if we end up stuck in Japan for a couple of weeks, due to the visa issue someone pointed out), so I’ll be sure to ask about how that would be handled. If there are other things I should bring up with management that I’m not thinking of, please let me know!

      1. Just a frog sitting on a log sipping tea*

        I advise people to check the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites for updates.

        I’m currently waiting for my flight to Mexico for a conference and I’ve got hand sanitizer, face masks, and gloves, if needed. I also contacted my doctor’s office before my trip to just in case.

        “It’s better safe, than sorry”

      2. L*

        I share my sympathies. Back before this virus was on anyone’s radar, I had booked a trip to Japan for next week (!!) and have been running around from my company’s in-house medical department to my boss trying to plan for all potential outcomes. This was supposed to be a visit to see my aging grandparents (if it were solely for tourism purposes I’d have rebooked by now). I empathize with you because this isn’t an easy decision. I’ve been fortunate to have the support of my boss if I need to quarantine myself at home for 2 weeks, but that’s assuming the situation doesn’t get worse and I’m able to return. If your job can be done remotely, can it be done remotely overseas? Because there’s a difference between working out of state and out of country. Would you have to take PTO in the event you’re unable to work remotely, and do you have the PTO that you can and/or are willing to spend in such an event?

      3. Agent Diane*

        If there are tasks you do that can not be done from home, ask them if you can rejig your work for the two weeks. It’s no different to when you are on leave – someone else will have to cover the tasks that can’t wait so can that be extended? (Maybe you do more grunt work that can be done from home and a colleague gets the cool client meetings you’d normally do?)

        This kind of business continuity planning is something your manager should be able to do anyway, in case someone is off unexpectedly. The difference is you are planning for it and working with the company to keep them operating without risking your colleagues’ health.

      1. Virginia Girl*

        Originially, it said “next March” but Allison removed the word “next” to make it more clear.

    13. Anonymous for this*

      Epidemiologist here. The current outbreak is not minor. The inability to trace the origin of the outbreak in Italy is extremely worrisome and does indicate restricting travel. My state health department has activated its incident command system which put people and protocols in place to deal with a potential outbreak. Whether or not a company should restrict travel, I cannot say. However, anyone who travels to a country where there is an outbreak should account for the possibility that they will be quarantined upon their return. A company may not want to have to accommodate an extended absence. I can see why a company would judge that it is more productive to have someone at home healthy and working than at a conference that might result in an extended absence. Same for canceling a conference. That being said, the United States does have a good infrastructure and policies for controlling an epidemic. Remember to wash your hand. A mask is not much good except that it reminds you to not touch your face.

    14. Mephyle*

      This is a situation that is changing day by day. Maybe if the spread continues, we will look back at this discussion next week and think how naive we were to think that it could be controlled by voluntary measures. We may look back at OP#4’s company and think that their policy was much too lax (it has already been commented that by now at least Italy should be included, perhaps soon other countries.) (But maybe the policy still seemed reasonable last week if that’s when OP#4’s letter was submitted.)
      I saw a comment made yesterday in the media (Tue., Feb. 25) that for the first time the increase in new infections is slowing down in China, even as it accelerates in other foci around the world. Once the Chinese authorities pulled their heads out of the sand and stopped persecuting the early warners, they imposed strict measures that drastically limit personal liberties and damage economic movement.
      It seems that that’s what it will take, and so far such strict measures have only achieved the effect of slowing down growth in infection – lowering the rate of acceleration, not actually lowering the rate of infection. Will other countries that value personal liberty higher and are afraid to hurt economic movement be able to be so strict? I doubt it. And so they will not be able to achieve that deceleration in new infections until the entire human population has been exposed.

    15. Hodie-Hi*

      I just returned from a trip to Cortina, Italy and Zermatt, Switzerland, planned months ago.

      Passengers arriving Feb 12 in Venice had their temperatures taken. I saw no such screening in any other airports. It seemed business as usual at the ski resorts, town squares, markets, and restaurants. I did see some people wearing masks.

      I’m “lucky” to not be working now, so I’m semi-quarantined, and will be alert for cold symptoms. My DH just returned from Cortina/Massachusetts/Quebec, with a slight cold. He’s no longer working either.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      There’s a lady in the local Democratic Party who always signs off with “stay blue, pony boy”. I always thought that was just her thing. I finally know what it refers to!

    2. Lynca*

      I remember reading The Outsiders for school and immediately recognized the signature. I agree with Alison that it’s hilarious and I love it.

      It’s a good instance for teaching how professional norms help set your image. I like quirkiness in people but, it isn’t always the way you want to introduce yourself in a professional setting for the first time. I get to know a lot of people via email before I meet them in person so how you present yourself there is important.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I thought Alison had a good distinction of how quirk lands from a person with other known qualities, vs as a way to introduce yourself. Like if you’re the CEO you can write all your emails in Comic Sans, but it lands very differently from the new junior hire.

        1. Jessica*

          Yes, she definitely articulated it very well. I had the same gut reaction, but would have struggled to express it so precisely, or at all.

      2. Elenna*

        Same! It’s great, I loved it, but as a new intern maybe you want to be known as “that person who writes great reports” or whatever rather than “that person who tells people to stay gold”.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        “Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy and you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back on your shower shoes and the press will think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you’re a slob.”

    3. Mookie*

      I do, too. I understand the objection, but it’s upbeat, funny, and totally uncontrived. I see why it may be verboten for young professionals early in their careers, but past that and in the right industry, I’d love it. Much better than boilerplate and totally unobjectionable according to my sensibilities. It’s better than “get that bread.” “Happy trails” is one I’ve seen a couple of times and I enjoy its dryness and versatility; depending on the recipient, it’s a great FU.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        I love it too! I hope the intern finds a way to keep using it at some point in her career without it negatively impacting how she is viewed. So cute.

      2. Filosofickle*

        There are definitely work places where it would not be a problem! In my creative world, it would be fine. Recently I worked on a corporate values project and we made one of values Stay Gold. The CEO absolutely loved that one. She would love that in a footer and she plays at a very high level.

        Then again, because of that creative world, I also partly disagree on the jeans advice. Black jeans in a marketing/creative environment are more often than not just fine. I would wear a skinny black ankle pant instead just to be safe especially since it’s gov’t, but I have rarely seen a creative interview where I couldn’t have worn black jeans.

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          As someone who works in marketing and in a very casual office, I still wouldn’t wear jeans to an interview. There’s lots of room for creativity in interview wear, but I still think looking smart in slacks or a skirt is a significantly safer bet.

      3. Ace in the Hole*

        I think it’s 100% fine with peers at your workplace and any work contacts you have a more casual relationship with.

        On the other hand, I think anything requiring email signature levels of professionalism it would not be appropriate. In other words, if I’m emailing my boss, a colleague, or an external contact I have a long/close relationship with – go for it! If I’m emailing the CEO, the county health supervisor, or someone I just met as a conference speaker – keep it a little more formal.

      4. emmelemm*

        On the other hand, I don’t object to it (it is a little funny), but in my opinion it’s 100% contrived.

      5. From Italy*

        I don’t get the “happy trails” one: the only definition that comes to mind doesn’t seem very work-appropriate! What am I missing?

        1. ZSD*

          It’s like, “Happy traaaaails, to yooouuuu, until we meeeeeeet again.” It was a song that some cowboys closed their show with on old TV.

        2. InsufficentlySubordinate*

          It was the theme song from the Roy Rogers tv show in the 1950s. It just means good luck.

          1. From Italy*

            Thanks! When I googled it, that was nowhere to be seen in the first results… which I guess proves the point about how these things could be perceived!

    4. Lexin*

      It made me smile, too.

      Our office all sign off with ‘regards’, ‘kind regards’, or (from the senior management) ‘thanks’, and when I first worked here I used to wonder what I’d done to annoy them so much in my first few days – all of those seemed to me to be a blunt dismissal. It took me well over a week to realise that it’s the norm in this office and to stop letting it bother me.

      1. Jenny Jen*

        I’m also very curious about what you were used to before if “thanks” was unpleasantly blunt to you.

    5. MBK*

      If LW does decide to address it, they can just say, “Nothing gold can stay, and neither should this email signature.”

    6. Night Cheese*

      When I worked in radio, my sign off was “Rock on with your bad self.” I was recently discussing this with someone at current job (in academia/performing arts), and they (jokingly) urged me to start using it again. There are a few friendly colleagues I know would get a kick out of it, but overall, no.

      I did recently take a cue from Alison and shared a pic of my cats on an email to some student workers, though.

    7. annalisakarenina*

      I did not know what the reference was until now!

      I ended things with someone (I was seeing casually) and he closed his text with “Stay gold, ponygirl” and I was so. CONFUSED. But mostly relieved that was over lolll

    8. Ann Perkins*

      Ditto, I’m tempted to use this. I live in Tulsa, where S.E. Hinton is from and where the movie was filmed, and everyone here would know where the signoff is from. I’m in a formal industry though so I definitely would not be able to use it with most communication.

    9. foolofgrace*

      I would look askance at this sigline. I don’t know what Outsiders is, and using such a signoff, instead of bringing people together, it emphasizes their differences. It borderline says “I am cool and you are not because you don’t know what this means.” I would take the writer less seriously with this sigline.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s funny how you’d say this when the book is about literally “Outsiders” of the “cool crowd”.

        Anyone who thinks they’re cool by quoting the book are completely missing the point.

        And please by all means, don’t take the person seriously. It’s really not that big of deal, unless you’re in a very stoic industry.

      2. Happy Pineapple*

        Haha definitely not a “cool” thing any more than is quoting To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s considered by some to be a literary classic, usually read by pre-teens. It was required reading for my year 8 English class.

        1. It's business time*

          I prefer my sign off to be “Are you there God? I’ts me Margaret”….. required reading as a pre teen!

      3. Delphine*

        It just says, “stay golden.” I don’t think you need to be in on the reference to understand that it’s a positive signoff.

    10. Happy Pineapple*

      Me too! That book had a profound effect on me as a 13 year old. I used to sign off MySpace that way lol.

    11. Glitsy Gus*

      I love it too! My roommate and I regularly use, “Stay gold, Ponyboy” as our personal farewell to each other and I would be tickled to see it at work.

      That said, I might tell her that it’s fine at your office (if it is, it sounds like it’s a bit unusual but not out of the realm of OK from your letter) but she may just want to keep in mind that some more formal offices might not appreciate it the way you do, or that she just may want to be aware that it could become her “thing” and to make sure that is what she wants to be known for in general.

    12. Chaordic One*

      This is great. (I may steal it.) In my office with mostly younger people this would definitely fly. Maybe not for more serious communications with higher level executives or with customers, but certainly for inner office communications.

    1. Anne of Green Gables*

      Yes! I personally love this as a sign off and immediately assumed it was from the Frost poem, most likely via The Outsiders. I would love seeing this in my email from time to time.

      Slightly more seriously, while I do agree with Alison that this may come off oddly, I do think that is likely pretty industry-based. It would not be that bizarre in my work place, but I could see it being very odd in others.

    2. Kaila*

      I’m so confused that everyone is loving this as a sign off. It is someone’s last words as they lay dying. I would not use it as a sign off, ever.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Yes, it is, and in that sense it’s sad, but it’s also intended as an inspiration. Johnny’s telling Ponyboy to not give up, don’t let their situation stop him from trying to have a good life.

        1. Thomas Merton*

          Yep, it’s inspiring. Now, “Ponyboy, listen, don’t get tough”, from the end of the book, is depressing and inappropriate for work.

    3. Glitsy Gus*

      This comment is the best comment.

      Also, I hate to say this, buddy, but you gotta wear clothes to work. There’s a law or somethin’.

      Blame the Socs.

  2. AnneMolivia ColeMuff*

    #3 – You might be right about what’s appropriate for comp time, but it’s also important to decide if you want to change the policy so early in the role.

    Removing what can be seen as a perk is a big deal, and you’d need to weigh up what it’s currently costing the agency vs. what you’d be losing in engagement.

    1. CatCat*

      I got comp time when I was in the Federal government and exempt. I loved it and would have been pissed to have it taken away. Also, working less than 40 hours a week was not really allowed even in an “ebb.” It was actually quite a rigid system, but it worked well for me because I could earn comp time.

      1. triplehiccup*

        Yes, I am currently an exempt Federal employee, and our time tracking is quite strict–stricter than any hourly job I have worked, in fact. It is unusual for the type of professional work we do, but I think the higher level of accountability for public employees makes sense given that we are funded by tax revenues. (Or appear to be–my agency actually isn’t but the average person would assume we are).

      2. Overeducated*

        Yup. I’m not sure what “quasi-governmental” means but in my experience, exempt government employees don’t always get the flexibility perks of private sector exemption. It would be jerky to, say, hold them to using PTO for a 2 hour doctor’s appointment but not allow comp time. If your exempt employees have full flex schedules this may not apply, but that raised a flag for me too.

        I do think it’s normal and acceptable to say that evening dinners and receptions may not count as work time.

        1. J.B.*

          Absolutely this! As a lower level professional state government employee, I had to use use leave for any time out of the office. I was discouraged from working over 40 in a week because they didn’t want the comp time to accrue. So mostly people who traveled to a conference took off on Friday.

        2. Anonymous for this, colleagues read here*

          Welcome to my state, where we must use sick leave for doctor’s appointments, annual leave for days at the end of the December when the university is closed, and do not get comp time.

          My new supervisor allows us to flex. But previous supervisors did not, because an early experiment in flexing = one person abused it.

        3. ASW*

          I work for a quasi-governmental organization. For us, it means that we are technically a government entity and we have to follow state law as it applies to governments and we have to use government accounting, have regular board meetings that are open to the public, file our audited annual financials with the state, etc. However, we do not collect any tax revenue and we are funded by our customers, so from a practical standpoint, we operate more like a business than a typical government such as a city.

            1. ASW*

              Yeah, sort of. We provide a service to certain businesses that they would have to do themselves if we weren’t doing it for them. It’s more efficient for them to pay us than for each of them to build the infrastructure necessary to do it themselves. We have to make sure we charge enough to cover our costs. We have some customers who are under contract to pay us a certain amount no matter what so that we don’t have problems if their output suddenly decreases.

            2. Brett*

              A really good example of quasi-governmental is municipal utility companies or certain public transit companies.
              Another typical difference between quasi-governmental and governmental is how they are run at the top. Government agencies typical ultimately report to an elected official or group of elected officials.
              Quasi-governmental reports to an independent board. The board members are appointed (often with several different governments having the authority to appoint seats), but otherwise independent after their appointment. The board will appoint the CEO of the quasi-governmental organization, and then all authority on day-to-day operations stems from the CEO.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        Also, working less than 40 hours a week was not really allowed even in an “ebb.”

        That’s the problem, isn’t it? It’s all fine and good to say you’re expected to work as long as it takes, until it takes less than 40 hours.

        1. Anon for this*

          Ugh! Current BF predicament! New boss says: sure it’s fine to work 50 one week and 30 the next! Then calls the following week to figure out where BF is when the schedule clearly shows appointments until 7pm *insert eye roll here*

      4. CheeryO*

        Right, there is no ebb in most government jobs. What we do is to allow comp time between our official 37.5 hours per week and 40 hours per week, and allow OT over 40 hours per week for staff below a certain salary grade (around $80K). I think that strikes a good compromise between giving a perk and not paying out ridiculous amounts of comp time/OT (which is generally discouraged).

        I think LW’s instincts are correct that a high-level employee traveling for a conference shouldn’t necessarily get a ton of comp time for their long travel day.

        1. M from NY*

          I’m confused. High level or not, a normal commute is not 5 hours. By driving and attending same day the employee has saved company at least one day of hotel costs. If this was policy and it was changed I’d forgo any future same day driving. In the long run this will cost the company.

          1. Cercis*

            My read of it was that this is a conference that starts the next day, but has an opening ceremony/reception the night before. The big annual conference I attend officially starts on Monday at 8am, but Sunday at 6pm is the opening ceremony (celebrating the winners of the industry competition that occurs just prior) with a reception on the trade show floor. You don’t earn any educational credits for these events so they’re not technically part of the conference, but they’re included in your registration so it’s a free almost meal (it’s hor d’oeuvres that range from “wow, I’m so full” to “did I really even eat anything” depending upon the location’s caterers) and of course you get the chance to network with peers.

            So they’re driving up “early-ish” and taking advantage of the networking opportunity and then getting up for the conference next day. I think a lot of conferences do this recognizing that most people arrive the night before and often don’t have anything to do in the city.

      5. merp*

        Same to all of this, except state not federal. I would have been pretty annoyed to lose my ability to earn comp time, since I am also never allowed to work less than 40 hours. I don’t really understand why blurring exempt/non-exempt is an issue but that’s probably because I still don’t really understand a lot of things about these statuses in a legal sense.

    2. DipPlated*

      This is my situation now. Salaried with comp time given for work over 40 hours (must be pre approved) or work-related travel outside of the work day. It is a really great system that I think the private sector really should implement.

      However, Allison, I disagree about the assumption regarding ebb and flow and that salaried people are given more leeway to come and go. What about those jobs where there is *always* something to do? Where on your quieter weeks you need to catch up on the million other things that didn’t get done during the last however-long of craziness?

      Every job I’ve had (both in the private sector and federal government) has been an 8-5 situation where any absence needs to be approved ahead of time, and there has always been the expectation that your work is never truly done (though, to be fairrr, you could probably get away with coming in late the next day if you solve the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict).

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, jobs where there’s always more to be done are usually my default assumption for exempt work (even though there are exceptions to that). But in that situation, that doesn’t mean you never go home or work until midnight; you work whatever hours are reasonable for your job and your work culture, and adjust based on the needs of the work at any given time. So let’s say you normally work roughly 40 hours a week (or whatever it might be for you), but you’re really busy every August leading up to a major event and work some late evenings and a weekend or two then, and you adjust your hours accordingly while that’s going on. I’d argue that for orgs that give comp time, it would make sense to give a day or two of comp time for August, but not for random times the rest of the year when you occasionally work 42 hours or so forth.

        1. Bubbles McPherson*

          I used to work for an organization with required conference travel once a year. Even as exempt employees, we were expected to count all the time we spent traveling and on conference matters – so if I left for the airport at 4:30 a.m., that’s when my clock started. If I went to a happy hour to represent the organization, that counted as well. If we had dinner on our own, that didn’t count. It seemed eminently fair because that was not my time to do with as I liked, it was time spent on behalf of the company.

          When I moved to a new organization, the expectation was that we didn’t get any comp time even for weekend travel or attendance because we were having the privilege and opportunity of going to a “cool” conference location, and many employees extended their trip with family members as personal vacations. That was a bullshit policy that screwed over those unable to treat it as a vacation, though. They eventually gave us a flat allocation of hours to cover the time, though it didn’t even come close to the actual time we put in.

          At neither of these places were we able to flex or adjust our time the rest of the week after these conferences unless we took PTO. If we’d have tried to do so, we’d have been written up. So I would argue there is a significant gap between how “exempt” employees are treated and what the law says.

        2. Senor Montoya*

          The thing is, in these jobs you almost never work LESS than 40 hours. If it were the case that some weeks you work a bit less and some weeks a bit more, then this system makes sense. More often, you work 40 – 45 hours (in the reasonable places) every week. So essentially the employer is getting several days worth (those extra 1 – 5 hours add up) of free labor every year. Why should the employer get all the benefit?

          Anyway, that’s my experience.

        3. CheeryO*

          At least in my experience as a state government employee in a union environment, that’s not really how it works. No one wants to give anything away for “free,” and there is generally no flexibility to come and go or to sneak out for an appointment during a slow week. If you have to take two hours of PTO to go to the dentist, then you should be allowed to take two hours of comp time for a late meeting. Granted, the LW is only in a “quasi”-governmental org, so it may be different.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, and I’d argue that having to take 2 hours of PTO for the dentist is also outside the spirit of how exempt work is supposed to work too (and have written about that here before). Lots of places are managed in bad ways; I’m talking about how healthy orgs should function, and hour for hour comp time for exempt workers isn’t part of that. (That said, my answer would have been more complete if I’d pointed out to the OP that she’d need to look at other aspects of how they manage their exempt people’s time, like this one.)

            1. Stateemployee*

              They probably can’t. In ever state or city agency I have worked for or with or have friends in, you have to take leave like that. I do not know federal agencies so maybe it’s different at that level. But at least in this state, it’s pervasive and probably not something OP can change.

              With that in mind, pushing back on the comp time policy is only going to upset people.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        You may disagree with the ebb and flow but there are many different situations outside of your experience. I’ve always been exempt and salaried. And with my latest job, my team just needed to be available during normal business hours for any issues that came up so there was a significant amount of down time (outside of the busy season, which lasted about 5-6 months). Like Alison said, if you’re truly exempt, comp time per hour is not much different than being paid hourly. In my case, I’ve been given comp time if my manager is busting my ass and working extra hours on a project, which usually means an extra day off here and there.

    3. Agent Diane*

      One change you can make is to change the rules on comp time a bit to reduce it. Do that by expecting employees to deduct their normal commute time from the travel time.

      So Jane normally drives an hour each way From home of office, and works an 8 hour day. she doesn’t get comp for that drive time, obviously. She has a conference a 4 hour drive away. She does that, and spends 8 hours at it. She can claim comp for 3 hours each way (4 hours less her normal commute). She’s still getting 6 hours comp but you’ve just cut 2 hours off the pay bill. Multiply that for all the claims in a year.

      1. TechWorker*

        That doesn’t really make sense though because it penalises those with long commutes. You could deduct some sort of ‘average commute time’ but it doesn’t make sense to do it on an individual basis.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The rules for non-exempt workers and travel time are that you can deduct the amount of time that particular person would normally spend on commuting. So that’s one model the OP could use if she’s committed to the hour-to-hour compensation (which is really outside the spirit of exempt work and I don’t recommend it, but it’s something to throw in the mix).

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I’m used to policies where you only count travel time from the usual place of work (this is written into UK employment law in certain places so it’s a useful rule of thumb for us).

            There are four places along a roughly straight line geographically: A, B, C, D. You live in Small Town B and normally work in City C, you’d be able to expect the following:

            To attend the Llama-llama-ding-dong conference in City C, minimal travel expenses and time reimbursed (like maybe half an hour and the cost of your Uber from the office to the conference centre).

            To attend the Teapot Spectacular in City D, where you need to take a train from B to C and then connect to D: clock starts ticking when you depart C.

            To attend AAM-Con in City A, the clock starts ticking the moment you leave your home.

          2. J.B.*

            People are making the point though, that many of us in exempt roles still have to take leave for anything out of the office, and are not given the flexibility to just leave early. If you don’t get paid for over 40 hours and have to budget leave for anything less than 30 hours, it doesn’t seem like the employer is really following the spirit of “exempt”.

            1. Senor Montoya*

              Or in fact must budget leave for anything less than *40* hours. That’s been my experience my entire working life, and I’ve worked for medium sized private universities, very large state universities, small businesses (under 50 employees), and a large national corporation. (My point being, that’s a lot of employees with my same experience.) Under 40 hours — use leave. Over 40 hours — you’re salaried and exempt, it’s expected and you get no comp time and, in most of the places I’ve worked, no flex either.

            2. Mr. Shark*

              No, that doesn’t sound right at all. I agree with Alison that it isn’t within the spirit of Exempt.
              My CurrentJob we just notify our manager if we need to be unavailable in the afternoon or morning because we have an appointment. No paperwork, no tracking, no nothing.
              If we take a day off or multiple days off, it’s obviously PTO.
              We mainly travel during the week on workdays, but we don’t track time of travel. And if we do travel on the weekends, it still isn’t tracked as a separate day. Nor is any after hours time.
              We don’t have comp time.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Not really. It means that everyone gets compensated for the extra time they are spending on work related matters because they are away from the office.
          If you have a long commute then that is something outside the control of the employer – why should one employer get more comp time because they have chosen to live further from the office? You don’t normally pay for commuting, why would you suddenly start paying for that time just because the person is working at a location different from their normal office? You wouldn’t expect someone to work extra hours because they happen to live near the office or near a conference they are attending.

          It seems eminently reasonable to me that, if you are giving people comp time at all, they get comped for the extra time they spend because they are away from the office, in comparison with what they would be spending in a normal working day.

      2. J!*

        I used to work for a state agency and had a similar setup to what the letter writer describes (we got half an hour comp time for every hour over 40, but similar principle). That policy was inflexible and set by state law. The letter writer may be asking about how to count hours because she has no control over actual accrual rules.

      1. SweetestCin*

        Right. I was informed that I wouldn’t be given any consideration for attending a conference (that I’d been told I was going to attend at the last minute, as in, they called at home on Sunday morning for a Monday 10 a.m. flight), and that they expected me in the office up til the time I needed to leave for the airport, and that I had a download meeting scheduled for 7 a.m. the morning after I arrived home. The conference itself started at 4 p.m. on Monday with a meet and greet, had early meetings and sessions, and late “networking” events that I was expected to attend, with a noon on Thursday completion. I wound up with two customer visits tacked on, as I was “in the area” and didn’t wind up with a flight home prior to 9 p.m., which was of course, delayed. ::eyeroll::

        Prior management at that position would have taken the stance that, “you are not expected in the office prior to your 10 a.m. flight on Monday, and we will not expect to see you on Friday after a four day out-of-town stint that put you home at 2 a.m. on Friday. Matter of fact, who in the travel department scheduled you for a 2 a.m. arrival?!? Even with a flight delay, what idiot?”. The newly instated management, however, decided that we weren’t working hard enough unless we were clocking 55-60 hours a week, week in, week out. Yes, salaried exempt professional.

        Multiple reasons I no longer work there, but hey, I digress. This, the “we’re going to send you all over the continental US with almost no notice, no consideration, and then nickel and dime you in every sense for your travel” was a pretty decent chunk of “why”.

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          Yes, what Pickles said! And even if someone enjoys conferences, in most cases (I would argue actually all cases) they are still work. You are representing your employer, you make connections that benefit your employer. Even when it’s primarily professional growth, that benefits your employer.

          1. Paulina*

            I also enjoy other aspects of my work, yet still get paid for them, and I don’t get bonuses for tasks I hate. I’m paid for my work, not my level of misery (though a 5-hour drive to an event might qualify as the latter anyway). Comp for travel may be an issue if the conference-goer is specifically choosing to attend (either the entire conference or the evening event), when they wouldn’t otherwise be sent, but this (in the letter) is a division head and is presumably using their judgement on what is work-relevant. Micromanaging the details of their conference travel likely won’t go well. If there’s a problematic pattern, or the comp time means their other work is behind, that would be more addressable.

      2. Carlie*

        Exactly – sometimes it’s a real burden. If they have to somehow find and arrange pet care, child care, elder care… take those costs with time spent setting it all up and going to a conference ends up costing them a great deal of money and stress.

      3. Roseclef*

        Absolutely. I don’t care where a conference is, or how much I’m allowed to exercise my discretion to bunk off and do touristy things there, a 5-hour trip where I have to DRIVE, a schedule that has me at a work event until 10 PM, and the presumed 5-hour drive back at the end of the trip? That’s grueling. I am going to need some serious compensation for that nonsense (there’s no way to let me fly? There’s no way to let me stop working and get to bed at a more reasonable-to-me hour?) I would even say that for me, comp time doesn’t go far enough in the proposed scenario – I’m going to want at least some paid overtime compensation. And I generally enjoy my sporadic work travel!

        But then, I work for the federal government, which is very strict about these things. All of that time would ABSOLUTELY be comp time or OT, and I couldn’t be compelled to take comp time in lieu of OT if what I wanted was the OT. I understand other situations are different. But the fact is that the scenario presented as a “perk” that might need to be curtailed from becoming too cushy is obviously a nightmare.

    4. EPLawyer*

      If you want to tank morale, tell your employers that the 5 hour drive to the work event is not considered “work.” I would start looking for a new job if they put that policy on me. No seriously I would. That is how seriously I take comp time.

      If you have exempt employees, they already put in a lot of hours. Don’t nickel and dime them on what counts as “work” and what doesn’t. They still have to drive that 5 hours, and put in that 14 hour day. They are away from their family probably overnight unless you want someone driving home after that kind of day. They are doing their best to represent the company positively. In return they get “yeah, that wasn’t really work so no comp time?”

    5. Governmint Condition*

      Where I work, comp time for exempt employees is strictly prohibited. And any time you are not here during your assigned core hours, you must charge. Even if there’s some crazy emergency, and you have to stay at a field location until 4 a.m., if you’re assigned time starts at 8 a.m. the next day, you either have to come in on time, or charge the time to PTO. Put another way, the “exempt” rules only work one way.

      These rules were actually negotiated by our union. The union is afraid that if any discretion in flexibility were allowed, some bosses would play favorites, and this union actively works to prevent any rules that could lead to favoritism.

    6. MCMonkeyBean*

      That was my first reaction–I had assumed they were looking to improve the comp policy rather than taking some away.

      But if I’m reading the letter right it seems like in their example someone would basically have one really long day, and as a result would be given 14 hours of comp time which is basically two days off? That does seem like a really odd setup. I think that’s why Alison was saying the hour-for-hour part of it is what is weird.

    7. RecoveringSWO*

      I’d also compare your employees salaries to the private sector to help frame your decision here. A position with a quasi-governmental salary of $120k could very well garner $250K+ and include generous bonuses. Those employees likely value the mission and the benefits/work life balance greatly. Once you start picking away at those benefits, you’re likely to lose good employees.

  3. Ariaflame*

    If anyone messaged me via Linkdin I’d be very unlikely to even see it since I so rarely log on to it or read the various bits of spam it sends me trying to get me to connect with someone it won’t let me connect with unless I give them money.

    1. Laure001*

      LW4, I want to say like Ariaflame that if the message was on LinkedIn, I NEVER would have seen it. I even miss mails sometimes (I shouldn’t, but it happens.)
      I have a friend who, like you, overreacts when someone doesn’t answer a message, to the point that it is a cardinal sin for her… She feels ignored and offended to an irrational (imo) point. Are you sure you are not overreacting a tad also? If your colleague had ignored three attempts to contact you, sure. But I would argue that one non answered message doesn’t count…. There are so many ways to miss one.

        1. Leisel*

          I could see how the message might have previously been missed, but also why the OP might feel a little hesitant to help out. Personally, I’ve gone to message someone before and realized there was an unanswered text/email/whatever from that person from a while back. Oops! I would want to address that at the beginning of the email. Acknowledgement of a goof, even a little one, goes a long way in maintaining relationships.

          1. Misstoffer*

            I’m the LW on this question and @Leisel, that has been how I’ve approached these things as well. It was kind of surprising to get an invitation to meet up about a job directly after an unanswered message from long ago without a friendly, “Whoops! Hi there!”

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Fun fact: a random LinkedIn message from a former boss saying “let’s meet and catch up” was how I got my current job. Granted, it depends on who’s in your network and whether you are looking in the first place.

      1. ArtNova*

        I have gotten several jobs this way. I used to not pay any attention to messages on LinkedIn, and that was because, in the early day, the only people who would reach out were strangers trying to grow their network or recruiters. So I blocked email alerts.
        Then one day when I was updating my profile, I saw that I had missed messages from people I did want to hear from (and I felt awful!!!). I apologized to them for not seeing and replying to their messages sooner. I’m positive that I burned at least one bridge because of my inattention to LinkedIn. I just wish I could express to my former colleague that there was a time I was getting inundated with recruiters, sometimes multiple times a day, and it was both frustrating and annoying (I have a unique skill set, so every time a position comes up, every recruiter in town seems to contact me about the same position). It had nothing to do with her.
        Now I am more active, and treat LinkedIn very differently.

        1. Misstoffer*

          I’m LW #5 and this has been my experience as well! I’ve heard from long-lost connections with cool opportunities so I’ve remained pretty active on LinkedIn and am surprised when others aren’t (though I totally understand the frustration with being inundated with messages – it’s another inbox to manage!).

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yeah, my linkedIn is basically to give strangers I might meet professionally a way to know I’m not a con artist who’s killed Traffic_Spiral and stolen her identity, and occasionally for me to go “huh, I wonder what [random former co-worker or schoolmate that I never bothered to keep in touch with] is up to now.”

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      That’s what I was thinking–a lot of people are not active on LinkedIn unless they are job searching so it seems very likely that she never even saw the first message. OP is definitely not obligated to help her out, but holding it against her that she never responded to a very casual message that she probably didn’t even see would be petty.

      And I’m not sure why she feels “used,” it sounds like the recent message was pretty up front about what they are looking for. It would be different if she had reached out pretending to just want to catch up as friends and then brought up the job piece up later.

    5. MissMeghan*

      When I recently changed jobs, I got messages from a ton of LinkedIn contacts saying “Congrats!” and variations thereof, which are auto-suggested by LinkedIn when someone starts a new position. I didn’t reply to them because it felt more like replying to every Facebook like with a “Thanks!”

      I wouldn’t read into this as a slight or a one-sided networking situation without more than this incident.

  4. AcademiaNut*

    I work in a job that is the equivalent of exempt, and involves travel, both relatively local and international.

    We don’t get comp time for normal travel, but we do get reimbursed for travel expenses, including meals, from the time we leave home until when we arrive back. We do get comp time, in the form of an extra day’s leave, if we’re working on weekends or holidays for project related duties (as opposed to personal research activities). So if I were attending a Saturday meeting for an institute project, I’d get a comp day, if I were attending a conference for my own research I wouldn’t.

    However, we are allowed to be flexible about our time at our own discretion after working long hours. So after a 14 hour day, it’d be normal to sleep in or leave early the next day; after a bout of intense deadline work, taking day to run errands or catch up on household stuff would be fine.

    If you’re giving hour for hour comp time, though, it’s be reasonable to subtract off a typical commute time, because employees don’t normally get paid for the time it takes them to get to work. So if a commute in your city is typically about 45 minutes one way, you wouldn’t get comp time for the first hour and a half of driving to and from meetings.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      That’s sort if how my job does it for salary people, only it’s not really an official policy though, more like something you discuss with your immediate manager.
      For example, I arrived early to setup for a trade show on a Saturday, and then worked the show Sunday-Saturday. I arrived home late Saturday night, but wasn’t expected to work Monday.
      The same thing applies if you have late flights, and sometimes if we would have weekend client meetings and the like. Again, it’s not “official” but you just clear it with your manager. I’ve never heard of anyone being unreasonable with it, but I suppose there is that chance.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      Your third paragraph is how I think about it. We don’t do a ton of travel, but when we do have conferences or evening events or what have you our manager expects that we’ll balance out our own time in our own way, generally off book rather than through any sort of formal comp time.

      So when I go to a conference in a couple of weeks that starts on a Sunday afternoon and where I’m taking a redeye home (my choice due to family obligations), the following day I’ll “work from home” and not put in a real day of work other than maybe catching up on email, but not take any PTO. I don’t track my time around work travel and handle it hour-for-hour, but I do kind of balance things out. It’s handled at the manager level, and some more junior staff definitely have a more one-to-one hours approach. At my level that feels weird – even if I could ask for the one-to-one hours it would probably come across strangely.

      In my case this conference does feel like a perk – it’s part of a professional development program I applied for and it also happens that I get to fly out a day early and see some family in the area – but it’s also still work and exhausting. But the fact that I initiated an optional trip does make me less inclined to be a stickler about comp time.

    3. Where's the Orchestra?*

      I have a relative that is Federal Service, exempt, who can earn comp time for travel days only. The way they explained the policy is this.

      If your enter airport to leave airport time goes over 8 hours, you earn hour for hour comp time for all time over that normal 8 hours. You don’t earn comp time for commuting to the airport because they give you one of the following options: reimbursed for milage round trip (total distance reimbursed varies by region*) to the airport for a family member to take you, reimbursed for taxi/Uber/shuttle service to the airport, or reimbursed for standard parking at the airport while you are away – pick the option that works best for you. If the choice is made to take an agency vehicle and drive, and the drive after getting in the agency car is again more than 8 hours one way you again earn comp time hour for hour. The cars are stored at the agency office, so getting there involves your normal commute.

      They are also allowed flexibility in their schedule of how they get to 40 hours, but have to be “on the clock” a minimum and maximum of 40 hours every week, and no more than 80 hours in a pay period. They have said there have been some instances in crunch times of overtime being authorized, but its approved in advance every time. Also, they have to use any comp time they earn within four months, and its all tracked through the same system that is used by HR to track standard hours worked.

      They’ve never complained about this policy to me, and from their descriptions generally use their earned comp time on the return day of most trips to be more rested for the next business day in the office.

      *Total milage reimbursement for getting to the airport is determined on a formula that looks at: location of airport in relation to the office, available housing options in the area, and what sort of zoning area is the airport contained in. For my relative’s office the total round trip they will reimburse you at is the federal milage rate for 70 total miles. They said the longest total distance on the chart they saw was 90 miles.

  5. Disastrous Times*

    I once ended up wearing jeans to a job interview for a senior civil service job. I did not get the job and was mortified.

    The long version of the story is that the job was a full day’s travel from my home, so I decided to travel there the day before to be rested, put together, and ready for the interview. Not a single one of those three things happened.

    First, I got stuck in horrible traffic on the way, and didn’t arrive at the hotel until 2AM. I woke up and went to get breakfast and check out of the hotel.

    After breakfast, I walked outside and slipped on a patch of muddy ice. I fell, covering my suit with mud and slush, plus ripping the seat of my pants. I also (this will come up later) hit my head. I may have even briefly lost consciousness.

    I changed into my “backup outfit” which is black jeans and a decent shirt (a bit above normal for my office) and drove to the interview.

    Went through, but everything seemed a bit off and I felt slow answering the questions. Started the trip home and received the expected rejection about two hours later, laughed a bit with hiring manager over the situation.

    About thirty minutes later, I end up with a splitting headache and all the wonderful symptoms of a concussion.

    On reflection, had I not been suffering from a concussion, I’d like to think that I would have had the sense to call them and request the phone interview that they had originally offered, but turned down. I really wanted the job and find that I come off a bit odder than usual on teleconference.

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      If we’re sharing Inappropriate Interview Attire Stories, I got the job I currently have after interviewing in a shirt with bleach stains, a ratty pair of slacks, and a bandanna covering my un-showered and un-brushed hair.

      On the other hand, it was a second interview after wearing normal attire for the first, and it was scheduled on extremely short notice. (They called me and asked how soon I could come in that same day due to some other scheduling constraints that made perfect sense given our field. I told them 30 minutes in my work-in-the-yard clothes or about 60-90 minutes dressed professionally. They chose the former.)

      1. Meg Danger*

        I also wore jeans to the interview for my current job! My last industry was pretty casual (jeans every day even for managers) – so I dressed up my regular outfit: clean dark-wash jeans (my “fancy” jeans) paired with a navy blazer and ballet flats. When I arrived my interviewer/current boss was dressed in a full suit (which I now know he wears every day), and several team members were dressed to the nines as well. I was somewhat surprised I got the job (academia if you are curious) – but find that I can still wear jeans most days, so I was not quite as wildly out of touch as I thought :)

  6. Ann Onimous*

    OP #4 ooooh I’m so sorry about that.
    Still, if you’re planning on going in 2021 (that’s what you mean by next March, right?), then your bosses might actually not refuse flat out. But I would not expect a go-ahead either. More like a maybe…

    For reference, the company I work for also asked for all non essential travel to China, South Korea and Japan to be avoided. So even though your company’s policy is definitely too broad right now (re: the whole of Asia), unfortunately Japan is considered to be one of the more high risk countries, so your situation would still be the same.

    Fingers crossed that the permission goes well.

    1. MK*

      The world might end before March 2021. If the OP does mean that, the only reasonable response would be “let’s talk about it in eleven months or so”.

      1. Ann Onimous*

        I see that Alison clarified above, that the OP meant to go next month (i.e. March 2020), so my initial advice is moot. I would definitely advise him against going.

        Still, for the sake of argument: A few years ago I was planning a 3 week vacation to the other side of the world, and since this involved a lot of travel and accommodation arrangements I made sure to get my company’s approval about a year before. We had started buying plane tickets an a like very early, to get better deals. And I would’ve been extremely pissed to lose the equivalent of 3 months salary at the last possible minute.

        1. TechWorker*

          OP could well have booked the time off and flights ages ago – telling your company what you’re *doing* with said PTO often isn’t part of the conversation.

        2. Yorick*

          The question isn’t about PTO approval, but the company wants to give or deny approval to go to that particular place

        3. MK*

          I understand that, but it’s not really a given that your employer should commit themselves on PTO so far out into the future so that you can get better deals in hotels. And even if they do approve it, an epidemic and potential health risk to colleagues is such an unforeseen event that I wouldn’t be that sympathetic to someone insisisting on this. I get being upset if the company arbitrarily revoke your time off, or, in this case, if they are exagerating the risk. But the fact is that when you make plans for so far into the future, the chances of something upseting your plans increases. That’s why insurance exists and why people often pay a bit more for refundable bookings.

          1. Ann Onimous*

            Yorick: yes, I know. But my initial advice was relevant IMO, if the OP had wanted to go next year.

            MK: I know insurance exists, but getting the money back is VERY difficult. At least all insurances in my “neck of the wood” basically say they’ll reimburse you in case of a death in the family or something equally serious. Your employer suddenly pulling your PTO approval is unfortunately not among “acceptable” reasons.

            So IMO, going to your employer saying “hey, I want to go pm holiday for X days, and need to start paying for stuff now. Can we discuss ways to ensure I have time off during that period has always worked for me.” Heck, my bosses generally appreciated getting such a head’s up, and helped ensure that things went smoothly. Then again, I’m not in the US, so it might be a difference in culture here.

  7. Lime and Salt with my Corona Please*

    Never trust a.coronavirus that crosses species. The mortality rate is 100x that of the flu. Not a minor situation. The here a reason the CDC is telling us to prepare for significant disruptions.

    1. blaise zamboni*

      Where are you getting mortality rates for something that is still so new? The reported cases and deaths are, by the nature of healthcare and disease, skewed by people who are worst affected. There are plenty of people who have a minor course of illness and recover without incident — those people just aren’t flooding the hospitals so they aren’t being counted, yet. My employer is one of the hospital systems treating quarantined travelers, and nearly all our quarantined patients have shown no signs of the disease at all. The ones who do have a minor cough for a week.

      Don’t get me wrong, many people are being tragically affected by this disease, and healthy people obviously want to avoid contracting it. But for most areas outside of China, this is definitely a minor epidemic. The international healthcare community is on high alert because of the past complications from other coronavirus strains, not because of the impact this particular strain has had. Epidemiologists and healthcare providers are doing a great job tracking and controlling the spread of the disease. Most people who take the normal precautions they should take during flu season are unlikely to be affected at all.

      To the actual question: I can sorta understand your company’s stance because of the obvious hype around this right now. That doesn’t justify the overreach of their policy, though. My company is reacting in a similar way to many other commenters, by imposing a quarantine for employees returning from affected areas. Some are allowed to work from home during that period, some have to use PTO. Because we’re healthcare, our rules are stricter and some jobs are impossible to WFH. If we’re able to accommodate our traveling employees, your employer should be able to as well. Definitely ask!

    2. C*

      Luckily the mortality rate is not nearly 100x that of the flu. Estimates now are around 2%, but that estimate is probably too high as mild cases will probably not go to the hospital so are not counted. It can still cause major disruptions, but that will most likely be due to overloaded hospitals and large numbers of people being ill at the same time.

    3. 3rd Shift Cassie*

      It’s incredibly irresponsible to repeat something this inaccurate. The mortality rate for this strain of coronavirus is 2-4%, lower than that of the average flu. It’s more of a concern that the average flu because many of the people that are infected with it have no symptoms, so they are more likely to spread it around. The disruptions the CDC is talking about it from people missing work due to being out sick, not from large numbers of people dying. https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2020/02/covid-vaccine/607000/

      As for the the actual question, if by “next March” they mean March 2021, this will have long blown over by then and their bosses will have long forgotten about it. If by “next March” they mean the month that starts in 4 days, yeah, that trip is probably going to have to be cancelled.

    1. nom*

      Chacos are a shoe brand. Sort of outdoorsy sandals, though I think they make other types as well. But very active / outdoors styling, like you could wade in a creek with them.

      1. nom*

        Example: https://images.app.goo.gl/8F7zLByzjkUM3Nt57

        I went to uni in a very outdoorsy mountain area, and this is what we all lived in from about May to October, unless it snowed sooner. And I’ve definitely seen some very laid-back office cultures where this would be common footwear, at least when it’s warm outside.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      The letter writer used a comma between the word “Chacos” and “pants” because they’re two different items of clothing.” Chaco is a manufacturer of sandals for outdoor activities like river rafting, hiking, etc.

    3. Huff*

      Chacos are a brand of sporty sandals/river sandals. Many people wear them in the Pacific Northwest in situations that really surprised me when I first moved here.

      1. DipPlated*

        “in situations that really surprised me”

        This gave me a giggle. Then I thought about sandals in the workplace and seeing Bob in accounting’s toes. Nope, no thank you!

        1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

          I used to work for a bank where the divisional head of our area (reporting to the exec level) wore shorts and slops to work. If he was wearing closed shoes and his knees were covered you knew he had a meeting with the higher ups.

          #NotInTheUS

          1. Drtheliz*

            I work in Germany. The chap who just gave me my all-staff safety induction was wearing… socks and sandals. Yes in February. Yes it’s raining today. Oh, Germany.

              1. Jdc*

                Don’t even get me started on how many people wear Crocs here in the snow. Kids walking to school through snow banks!! They have holes!! And not even those equally hideous but more appropriate fleece lined Crocs.

            1. JustaTech*

              Ha, I live in the Pacific North West where wool socks and sandals are totally a thing. When I worked for the university here there was a huge to-do over the new safety regs that said (sensibly) that you have to wear close-toed shoes in the labs.

              Several very senior or very long-time employees were allowed to stick with socks and sandals because the university couldn’t risk them quitting over footwear.

              (Also, just got back from Germany and I think it’s amazing they sell yarn for knitting socks at the local chain drug stores.)

      2. Jdc*

        Now that I know what they are i agree with the situations that really surprise me. Add socks and I’m straight up shocked!!

      3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Also in the PNW and yeah, we have both kinds of shoes here: sandals and hiking boots.

    4. NewReadingGlasses*

      My search autocorrected to “chaos pants” which are a thing, and unlikely as work attire. I came back with sooo many questions, but then read the letter again. Oh.

    5. It's a No From Me*

      I googled Chacos and am sorry that I did. It’s a type of shoe that is possibly the most hideous thing I have seen on the Internet this century. I have the vapors now and need a shot of tequila.

  8. Granger Chase*

    LW #5: The best piece of advice I can give you regarding this is that I would not accept the invitation to meet for breakfast to discuss the open positions at your company unless you plan to refer this former coworker. With networking requests from strangers, you can decide after the meeting if they would be a good fit, but since this was someone you previously worked with (and you presumably have a passing knowledge of their experience & abilities), it would be much harder to justify why you decided only after meeting not to refer them. If you found this coworker to be generally conscientious and capable when you worked together, like you said, references can be win-win.

    On the other hand, if you found this coworker was someone who asked for a lot of favors but was never returning them (or even offering), I would think the request over again before responding. You are not obligated to meet this person for breakfast if you decide you do not want to give them that much of your time. A good alternative could be offering to flag their resume for the hiring manager(s) when they apply instead. That way they still get a referral but it is less time for you (and maybe will help you reframe it from feeling used?).

    1. Lily in NYC*

      I realize that I’m pettier than most about this kind of thing, but I would blow that former coworker off and not bother responding. I’d actually be tempted to meet with her and then not give her a referral but that would be too mean.

      1. Just a frog sitting on a log sipping tea*

        My question is, how much weight would a referral from the OP #5 carry? I’ve had people who have requested referrals from me, but I had no contacts or dealings with the hiring manager (s) for the job they were going for.

        Also, unless this former coworker is a rockstar preformer, do you want to spend your reputation capitol to refer her? How long ago did you work together? (Over X time?)

        Ultimately it’s up to the OP. I’d love an update some time (if able)

  9. Sleve McDichael*

    #2, it looks like it’s time for some op-shopping! Scope out your local op-shops within a reasonable radius and take a fashionable friend. If necessary, pay them in milkshakes.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I endorse this recommendation.

        Also, consider borrowing from similarly-sized friends. Does your friend Sally work in a bank? Maybe she’d lend you a suit, or smart pants, for the occasion. As well as being thrifty and environmentally conscious, it shores up your friendship.

        (this also works for formal occasions – don’t spend $100 renting a tux if you can pay your friend a pizza to borrow his)

        (but also be as generous a lender of Nice Stuff as you are a borrower of it)

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Should go without saying that you return it in as good or better condition than you received it.

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        So you can bring all the boys to the yard while you’re popping tags..? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    1. June First*

      Yes, shop second-hand stores or borrow from a friend. One of my most-complimented blazers is name brand black velvet from the *Halloween section* of a thrift store.

      There are also solid online second-hand stores or even ebay. Ebay works if you know the brand and size you want.

      And…a coworker was almost eliminated from the hiring process for a job she ultimately earned. The interviewers didn’t like her brightly colored pants. Another interviewer convinced them to do writing samples and other exercises. She excelled at all. But…Pants, man!

      1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        I can’t help but wonder if your coworker would have faced the same level of scrutiny over her level of skill had she been a man wearing Hammer Pants instead?

      1. kittymommy*

        I love Rent the Runway. I have used it for weddings, cruises, special events, and formal wear. They have a great selection.

    2. Ace in the Hole*

      I couldn’t agree more!

      I live in a very casual part of the country, and work in a very casual industry (think somewhere between construction and elementary school teacher). I own literally one blouse and one pair of slacks and I wear them to every interview. Even in my SUPER CASUAL industry it would be risky to interview in jeans. You can’t go wrong dressing up a little more.

  10. Clementine*

    I can’t see a 5-hour drive plus conference attendance, plus a 5-hour drive back, as some sort of wonderful perk, even though I love conferences. I agree this comp policy sounds a little odd, but please consider that sounds totally exhausting.

    1. Fikly*

      Yeah, I’m boggling at the idea of attending a conference for work as a perk. Also at the notion of the conference being at a desirable location as a perk – who has so much free time when attending a conference to be anywhere other than at the conference or passed out in their hotel room?

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Especially as a higher level employee, even if they’re not presenting/on or facilitating a panel, I’d expect the kind of work they’d be doing at a conference to be of high value to the organisation.

        It feels like the employers who think training is solely an employee perk and not a way to get higher quality work for their organisation without the costs of hiring.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        My husband does a lot of business travel, and the conference rooms of the world are pretty interchangeable as exciting travel destinations. You could skip the flight to LA or London and just go down the hall.

      3. hbc*

        In my experience, the people who see work travel as a perk have never done it. I try my best to see something interesting on a longer trip, but most of the time, all you see is the airport, hotel, and work site. It’s never quite the boondoggle that everyone back home thinks it is.

        1. SpaceySteph*

          I see work travel as somewhat of a perk because of 3 things:
          1. I have a 2 year old who on personal travel usually comes with me, so 3 hours on an airplane without a whiny child (and all her STUFF) actually does feel like a vacation.
          2. I don’t spend all my per diem so I come out a little ahead.
          3. I get to charge travel time, and I can either flex my hours the rest of the (2 week) pay period or bank some comp time if flexing isn’t possible (comp time isn’t automatic, we have to justify that flexing wasn’t possible due to other work obligations)

          If OP is thinking of getting rid of one of those 3 perks, well then, yeah, work travel would become a lot less perk-y to me and I’m sure many others.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        I was trying to figure out the “desirable location” part, too. Is the idea that it is inherently desirable to be in a town where you could be doing fun stuff if you weren’t cooped up on the conference? Or is it assumed that of course conference attendance is a ruse, and the attendee will sneak out and go do fun stuff? Also, on the matter of coastal locations being desirable, in many parts of the coast this is seasonal. Often conferences are located in these places during the off-season because rates are low, which in turn is because the location is decidedly not desirable that time of year.

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          Also, so many employees might self-police their attendance harsher while the OP might be thinking “of course my employees will pick a couple less interesting presentations to skip and do touristy stuff.” Please don’t assume that and if it is okay for employees to use their discretion for attendance, tell them!

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I attended a conference in San Diego last summer for my hobby interest of baseball history. I was there for the usual reasons: networking and flogging my book. The hotel was just a short distance from the USS Midway, a decommissioned aircraft carrier turned into a museum. I was excited when I discovered this. Ships-turned-museums is totally within my interests (not all of which are tied to baseball). So I figured I could find a slow period and hike up the road. Never happened, of course. That isn’t how these things work.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              A lot of my work travel last summer took me to Los Angeles which had much better weather than the Houston summer I left.

              I was lucky enough to enjoy said nice weather… on the twice daily walk between the indoor job site and my rental car, because there was basically no other time to do so.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      10 hours travel, I wouldn’t go without an overnight. I couldn’t have physically functioned at the end of that even in my 20s. Although maybe in first class flying sleep is possible, but in a car or standard train? Nope.

    3. Staja*

      This!

      The last conference I went to was in Disney World – first time I’ve ever been there. It took an entire travel day to arrive (Saturday), started Sunday, 2 full days of events, and then an entire travel day home. I didn’t even have time to find a Mickey waffle.

      I was just bone-tired and sick as a dog by the end of it. I took 1 day off when I got home, because I was sick, not as comp time.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Yuuuup. I recently spoke at a conference in a city that sounds really cool, with lots of interesting stuff to see and do. I saw some cool things, like the inside of my hotel and the conference venue (which were both really nice), but there was no time to actually see anything because I was in and out in less than two days, plus there was still work that had to get done while I was in the conference city.

    4. mreasy*

      I came here to mention that conference attendance – even without such a grueling travel day – is NOT a perk in most cases. Especially for a senior exec, they’re going to be networking nonstop, even if they’re not presenting/speaking. Signed, someone who travels to tons of conferences.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        I once attended a work retreat that was considered a perk because of the location in January. And while we did get many nice lunches, dinners and drinks, the majority of the time was spent listening to, or delivering presentations and having breakout sessions with colleagues from other countries. You know: working.

        Meanwhile, you still did have your normal job to do as well. I’d stay up quite late in my room trying to stay on top of emails and normal work fo the week so it didn’t fall completely behind.

        1. Carlie*

          I’m more annoyed when a conference is in a “desirable location” because at best you get to take a forlorn glance at it through a hallway window between sessions!

          1. ThatGirl*

            Yeah, my husband got to go to Puerto Rico for work once, and the only perk he enjoyed was ~20 minutes of standing on the beach at the end of the night just to say he did.

        2. Colette*

          I had two days of meetings in California in January. When I came back, the customs agent asked if it was nice. My response was “it looked nice from the conference room window.”

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Not a conference, but at an OldJob, we went on a trip to Atlanta to do an installation. We flew in, drove to the plant, did the install, finished at midnight, had dinner at Denny’s (because nothing else was open), drove to the hotel and crashed. Woke up, drove back to the plant, finished the install, drove to the airport, and flew home. It was springtime in Atlanta and was supposedly beautiful. I wouldn’t know. This was my only visit to Atlanta. I have no idea what this city looks like.

    5. snowglobe*

      If the conference itself is something you’d want to attend on your own, and if the employer is paying all your expenses for attending, that would be a perk.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I mean, most of the time I enjoy doing what I do for work, but that doesn’t make it a perk. Is the employer sending me to the conference because it’ll improve my skillset and make me more productive as their employee? then it’s not just something they are doing for me out of the goodness of their heart.

      2. Fikly*

        It’s only a perk if your employer is getting no benefit from you being there. Otherwise it’s just work.

    6. blackcat*

      Yeah, I’ve parachuted into conferences in a desirable location for a day (6am flight down, 8pm flight back kind of thing). there is nothing perk-like about those days!

    7. Koala dreams*

      I was also thinking about that when reading the question. 5 hours of driving in the morning and then working 9 hours on top of that? At least, the driving is in the morning when you are not yet exhausted, which is better than having to drive in the evening after a long work day and risk an accident because of your exhaustion. However, it’s still exhausting far beyond most normal work days, and very much not a perk.

      Maybe you can compromise and have people sleep in and work a shorter day for the day after they come back, or something like that. You need to acknowledge that for the employee this is an inconvenience that messes up their everyday life.

    8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Getting up at 6:30-7, getting on the road at 8, driving 8-1, participating in a conference 1-10pm, and driving back 10:30-3:30am the next day is something that would take me weeks to recover from; if I even make it there and back in one piece. Definitely not an equivalent of a single 8-hour day.

  11. Clementine*

    For the LinkedIn person, it’s often hard to stay in touch without a specific event driving it, and it’s so easy to miss a LinkedIn message for so long it feels weird to respond later. If you feel this person would be a good employee for your company, then meet with her and refer her as you feel comfortable. I don’t really see matching good candidates to open positions as doing them a favor, but as a good business practice.

    1. Smithy*

      Totally agree that in addition to this being good business practice – it can still provide plenty of personal benefit to the OP.

      Where the OP works, the hiring manager will likely be thankful for a good candidate (regardless of whether or not she’s hired). If she is hired and is a good asset to the team – even if there’s no future opportunity for networking through her – then again, that hiring manager and team is positioned to be appreciative to be connected with a goo team member.

      And lastly, should the OP make this effort – the person in the network is far more likely to respond kindly to specific requests from the OP in future. Not that networking is always such a pragmatic quid pro quo, but when someone does support in making those connections, most people are inclined to be helpful if possible in the future.

      Staying in touch via occasional coffees, happy hours, personal emails, etc. certainly is the method that some prefer for networking. But for a lot of people, unless there is a very pragmatic result or discussion – they’ll avoid it.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Yup. Recommending a good employee raises your standing in your company (you’ve done the company a favor and proven you have good judgement) and puts someone in the company that you like and who owes you a favor. Pretty much all upside.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      I’m assuming that must be what they mean because otherwise the concern about the current outbreak would be odd, but I’d also normally expect March of the current year to be expressed as “this March” and “next March” to imply the following year. I know we’re not supposed to nitpick language but in this context it adds ambiguity and makes the letter a smidge more confusing.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I see ‘next month’ to ‘next March’/’March’ as an easy editing slip, especially in emsil.

  12. WoodswomanWrites*

    #2, As a rule of thumb, it’s better to be overdressed than not dressed up enough. You want to convey that you are taking their norms seriously.

    I had the same challenge when I went from years in a casual environment to a more formal one. The interview was expedited because I just squeaked in at the end of their hiring process and they fit me in before I had time to shop for much. I found a friend who is the same build and she outfitted me with a blouse, necklace, and dressy jacket. I was able to get by with some black khaki creased pants from L.L. Bean and the only item I had to buy was a pair of inexpensive black flats. After I got the job, I had time to go to thrift stores, etc. and find other clothes.

    If there’s anyone you can borrow clothes from, that’s great because they can also chime in about what goes with what and make suggestions. Good luck with your interview!

    1. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Yeah, in general, you want the clothes you wear to your interview to be one step higher than you’d expect to wear on a daily basis if you get the job.

      If you don’t have anyone you can borrow from, check a second hand store in a high income part of town, or even your local outlet mall. I have a great pair of pants that I got for under $20 at the Ann Taylor outlet store near me. And take an inventory of your closet before you go. Do you have a nice dress you wore to somebody’s wedding that could be paired with a nice blazer and a good pair of shoes? Or a flattering top that just needs a good pair of pants and a cardigan to make it work appropriate?

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        You could also try out one of those websites that rents out clothes if you just need an interview suit. It would require a few days for shipping, but it is an option if you don’t want to invest a lot before knowing what you really need for the given office. I’ve used Gwinniebee from time to time and it work out OK for this kind of thing.

  13. LDN Layabout*

    This might be a UK vs. US or public vs. private sector but we very much get TOIL (Time off in lieu) if we work over our set hours (37 a week).

    Now, not everyone enters every half an hour extra onto their timesheets, but when there’s travel + a full day’s work/training? 100% yes.

    1. TechWorker*

      It’s not UK vs US, though maybe is more common in public sector – I work in the U.K. private sector and the only person I ever knew get TOIL was essentially because the job was not well paid, but required lots of evenings & they were in danger of paying less than minimum wage otherwise. We don’t have quite the same exempt/non-exempt split but minimum wage law gives something not all that far off.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Interesting, I technically didn’t get TOIL in my last (private sector) job, but if there was a situation where I’d worked a decent chunk of extra time there’d be a casual conversation with a manager about leaving early/coming in late the following week.

      2. DaisyGrrl*

        Canadian public sector worker here – we get TOIL (unless you’re fairly high up in the food chain, in which case you’re essentially exempt and expected the hours needed to get the work done).

    2. londonedit*

      UK here and we don’t get TOIL in the course of a normal work week if we go over our contracted hours. We’re not expected to work overtime, and it’s unpaid anyway, so it’s our own decision if we stay late every now and then. Of course sometimes if it’s really busy then we might have to work longer hours on occasion, but that’s pretty out of the ordinary and the understanding would be that you’d probably even it all out by coming in slightly later/leaving slightly earlier once the rush had died down. We don’t have timesheets or anything like that, so it’s all more ad hoc. We only get TOIL in exceptional circumstances, like if we volunteer to work at a trade show on a Saturday – then we’d get a day/half day to use in lieu.

      1. Ferretygubbins*

        UK Civil Servant here – Everyone in my organisation, at least up to Deputy Director level (*), is on flexi-time and until relatively recently we clocked in to the minute. As long as you attend within core hours (10:-12:00 & 14:00 – 15:00) how you manage your time is up to you as long as you hit your 37 hours (**)per week. You are permitted to accrue hours equivalent to 3 days up (***) and go minus by 1 day. If you wish to take full or half days then this is just requested like you would for the usual 31.5 days annual leave. I can’t remember this ever being refused.

        As previously noted ‘normal’ commute time is subtracted from any time spent travelling but if I am travelling I just use the time I get to the railway station as my start and finish time as it is close enough to my office to be largely comparable.

        If I was expected to just lose 10 hours of travel time in order to go to a conference you can bet that this would affect my attitude to being there (****)

        (*)At this level people will often check emails at home and may be on a rota as duty manager
        (**) or part- time equivalent
        (***)not unknown for people to accrue other a week’s flexi time but this is officially frowned upon but in reality mostly ignored
        (****)my record is spending 35 minutes(*****) at a conference that was on my way to my home town. This meant I had my travel paid to go to my sister’s wedding as well as not needing to take a day of annual leave for travel.
        (*****)I saw all the stuff I needed to as well as obtaining several carrier bags of tat to distribute to my team as evidence I had attended

    3. Bagpuss*

      I don’t think it is a standard thing in the UK. It depends a lot on the job and the pay structure.
      Everywhere I have ever worked the norm has been that for more junior / support staff, if they were asked to work more than their standard hours they would be paid overtime or offered time in lieu, often on a fairly informal basis (e.g. if my assistant stays late to finish the typing & copying for an urgent set of papers, we would informally off set that against the next / last time that she needed to leave early / some in late to take a child to the dentist / go to a parents evening / wait in for a home delivery.

      For more senior people the expectation is that you manage your own workload and there is the same informal flexibility – it’s normal to have to stay late on occasion if you have a particularly period but equally if you need to leave a bit early or take a long lunch break to deal with personal errands that’s not going to be an issue either.
      Formal time in lieu would normally be when you have worked on a non-working day – so I took a day in lieu after coming in to the office on Saturday when the electricity company had to replace all our meters, as Saturday isn’t a normal working day. We also gave a day off in lieu to everyone who came in to the office last time we had heavy snow, rather than requiring those who didn’t come in to use the time as holiday or unpaid leave.

      For a training course where the actual time spent might be longer than a normal working day I wouldn’t expect to be paid or get time in lieu – it might be different if the travel involved was more than a couple of hours each way, though, or of the event itself (aside from travel) was significantly longer than the normal working day. In my field, training courses normally run 9.30-4.30 and on the day they will often shorten the lunch break to bring the end time forward, so normally it’s not an excessively long day.

    4. Sleve McDichael*

      This is off topic, but when my Mum first started working she heard the term ‘time in lieu’ and thought it was ‘time in loo’. She was horrified at the thought that now she had a job her boss would be tracking how long she spent in the toilet!

    5. the gilbert principle*

      I’ve worked for a few engineering companies in the last few years. (UK)
      generally apprentices/graduates don’t get overtime. They have to keep their hours down to 37 in order to leave time for study etc.

      Then when you get to lower levels you get overtime – I’ve had a couple of companies where everyone clocks in and out (up to exec level) so if you do over you have to go talk to your manager about if they will be paid out/TOIL/flexi.

      Then execs don’t ever get overtime – they manage their time so generally its flexible.

      The place that had the most comprehensive policy was: First you get 2x pay on anything over 37 hours a week, (up to something like 25k a year – I don’t know the numbers off the top of my head so the rest will be rough)
      then overtime is paid at 1.5 at the next pay band. (I dont know 25-35
      then overtime at 35-50 is just at the normal rate.
      Then finally over 50k a year you only get overtime when traveling (minus your usual commute – so say there is 3 hours travel, your commute is 30 min each way, you can only claim 2 hours)

      but generally, if there is a longer day or If you do extra hours in the office you can offset them on other days (there’s no clocking in, or core hours) and that is usually either agreed with your manager, or mostly you just manage your time (I only tell my manager when he may need me, which is rarely)

      I quite like this – although I would expect a higher band where there is no

    6. No Tribble At All*

      I’m just here to say TOIL is an amazing acronym for comp time. Well done, whoever did that.

  14. Eliza*

    For #5, if she didn’t respond earlier then I’d be loathe to entertain her requests for help. Maybe I’m being petty, but I’d consider a lack of response rude. Also I’ve stopped doing the stuff I used to do grudgingly. An effect of stepping into the 40s, maybe.

    1. LadyByTheLake*

      Nah, not rude. When someone changes a job, particularly at a higher level, they can get a LOT of “keep in touch” messages — last time I moved a job I think I got about 100. I did my best to respond, but I couldn’t be sure I had caught, or even seen, all of them.

      1. Annony*

        Yep. She could have been swamped and missed it. Or she may not have thought it required a response since there was no specific question or request. It is possible that since there was no specific ask, it got bumped to the bottom of the list to deal with and eventually it felt too late to send a vague “Yes we should keep in touch.” I would feel differently if she ignored an actual question.

  15. Rexish*

    #1 I this this is awesome sign off. I would absolutely love it and it would totally brighten up my day! Now I need to brainstorm my own sign off.

    #2 I’ve always worn blackjeans to a job interview and it has never been a problem. But this is definately a location and field variant. I don’t work for local governent but I do work for stuffy public sector Office where people are pushing how far you can take professional dresscode (sports shorts and t-shirt ok, “formal”sweatpants/leggings and hoodie ok, spaghetti strapped tank tops not ok) so suit to work would not be appropriate but you could wear it in an interview. It might be better to be safe than sorry, but I do personally think that you can get away wth Black jeans and then a more formal top and blazer.

    1. Nancy*

      About #2 – you’re in an industry that is an exception (“formal sweatpants”?) or maybe your region is. Black jeans would be much too unprofessional for an interview in every job I have worked in. Don’t tell people jeans are fine for interviews, that’s really bad advice if you’re making it universal!

      1. Rexish*

        I wasn’t trying to give universal advice and I meantioned tha location and instrury are factors. I said that it’s better to be safe than sorry (ie. wear a suit) but I actually do think that in a lot of professional offices you could get away with Black jeans and a professional tophalf even in interview. If suit wasn’t LW’s “obvious” choise then I have a feeling it might be a job where suit is not a must. Wether it is a deal breaker in this job interview, no idea. And yes, my Office takes it to the extreme and I’m not by any means suggesting that it’s anyway the norm anywhere

        I feel like this is a subject that there will never be a right answers. The opinions of professionalism and professioanl appearance/dresscode vary so much. I think majority of my social circle are in “professional jobs” and only one who wears a tie is my dad (with a mix suit) and my boyfriend (no jacket). I’m sure there are tons of places where a suit is a must. This is reminding we about last weeks debate with family about what is Smart casual. Thre were massive differences in opinion.

        1. Fikly*

          Given you acknowledge that you are in an industry that is an exception, how many interviews have you seen in other industries where you have been able to observe what people are wearing and what impact that has had?

            1. Fikly*

              That’s not the issue. The issue is Rexish making assumptions about things they have no experience with and stating those assumptions as if they have some basis in reality.

                1. Fikly*

                  She is, right until she starts speculating about industries she is not part of? Then it’s not personal experience, it’s guessing.

                  Did you not read the entire comment?

      2. Veronica Mars*

        I think this is just so much a “better safe than sorry” situation. Sure, 5% of the time, you might be able to get away with wearing jeans to an interview. But you’re never going to LOSE points for wearing slacks to an interview.. so why take the 95% risk???

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Yep. I showed up for an interview wearing a suit and a silk blouse, and the guy interviewing me was wearing jeans and a flannel shirt. Did I feel slightly overdressed? Maybe. Would it have been better to err in the opposite direction? Oh no, no, no.

          1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

            When coming in for an onsite interview after being recruited from my university, I got a great e-mail from the hiring manager mentioning that the office’s dress code was casual and that we’d see people walking around in jeans and sweaters, but arriving in business professional attire would not be seen as overdressed or out of place and to please not feel uncomfortable I was there for the interview.

          2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            I did once turn up for an interview in a suit and heels, while everyone else was in muddy jeans and fleeces. I felt incredibly out of place and awkward. I do think it might have been a factor in me not getting the job.

      3. TechWorker*

        Our job interview guidance explicitly says we don’t expect suits, and to wear what you feel comfortable in. We obviously get plenty in suits as well as plenty in jeans, but honestly it’s just not a factor I care about. If their attitude otherwise says ‘I can’t be bothered and didnt prep’ at all then clearly that’s something to take into account but clothes? Nah.

        I’ve also been to a job interview in jeans (diff company, same industry) where I would have looked *totally* out of place in a suit and was very glad I wasn’t wearing one.

        Finally as another anecdote, my brother applied for a job in Germany and overheard someone interviewing him mockingly calling him ‘suit boy’ (in German, his application said he spoke fluent German so idk why they thought he wouldn’t understand).

        None of this changes the default – but the advice of ‘a suit will never look out of place’ is not *actually* true in all industries imo.

        1. Do I need a hard hat for this?*

          Well put. I’m a woman in construction and I wear some form of denim every day to work. If it’s a regular work day we can be pretty casual, though usually no one wears tshirts. On a day with a meeting I’ll probably still wear jeans, but wear a nice sweater or a button down shirt. On a first meeting with potential clients I usually swap the pants for black denim instead of blue.

          For me, because I’m in a position between our clients and the sub contractors, I have to find ways to bridge the expanse between sturdy work clothes and attire that’s more professionally acceptable. Even if my client comes in wearing a suit, it would be odd for any of us in our company to even wear a blazer. In 5 years with this company I’ve only ever worn a dress one time, and it was because it was hot outside and I was meeting a client at an outdoor showroom.

          Someone walking in for an interview in a suit would definitely earn them a “suit boy” nickname, and not in a good way…

        2. Filosofickle*

          The worst interview advice my mother ever gave we was you can’t be overdressed for an interview. YOU CAN. I started my career in a creative field, and absolutely showed I didn’t fit in by wearing a traditional suit to interviews. The looks I got were incredibly judgy and I am positive I ruled myself out for many jobs before I caught on what those looks were about.

          That said, I still don’t wear jeans to first meetings because even though my clients/interviewers will probably be in blue denim I don’t want to risk it. A simple pair of black pants with a blouse is a good compromise. (Slim ankle pants and wide-leg pants are my go-tos, avoiding traditional corporate trousers that make me feel frumpy.) However, looking back I could have worn jeans, at least black or white ones to nearly all of them safely, except for financial clients.

          While most fields are not this way, the OP is applying to a creative dept so it feels relevant to at least consider this POV.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I’ll posit that if it’s an industry where formal sweatpants and a formal hoodie are normal attire, black jeans might count as an interview step up.

      1. Rexish*

        Honestly, I don’t know if they are okay. Nobody just said anything and therefore it is now assumed by some (like 2 people) that it is ok. This is the only job I’ve had where I’ve seen men come to work in sports shorts.

    2. londonedit*

      Smart black jeans would be fine for an interview in my industry (I’d probably wear them with a smart t-shirt, ballet flats, a blazer and some statement jewellery) but if OP is going into an industry with a ‘professional’ dress code then I can imagine they wouldn’t be appropriate.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Agreed (UK, law). Although people might wear black jeans to work, they would be very black – like, brand new, dark as Satan’s kitten, might leave marks on a white chair black – and would be paired with a more formal top, AND you’d only get away with it as a very established employee.

        I would honestly only risk jeans for an interview if I had been given to understand it was a very casual *or* very hip workplace (e.g. something in fashion, publishing, marketing) where a suit or suit-lite would be wildly out of place. There are very few employers who would mark you down for dressing formally so it’s much safer.

        That said, it is daft that a smart new pair of black jeans would be read as less professional than a slightly tired pair of cheap black dress pants, but here we are.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, I was thinking — I have some new SUPER black jeans that, with a jacket, probably wouldn’t get a second look. But if there was any way around it (see suggestions above re: borrowing from friends or buying used), I wouldn’t risk it.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        I guess I’m just more baffled that black jeans are a thing people wear in some places. I haven’t owned black jeans since the 90s. We have jeans Fridays in my business casual office, and people who are dressing up their jeans wear dark blue jeans. Are black jeans making a universal comeback, or are they just something people wear in areas where people don’t typically own dress pants?

        1. curly sue*

          I wear them for backstage work quite a bit – they’re a lot more durable than dress pants or yoga pants, have much better pockets, and black is a job requirement for techs.

        2. londonedit*

          I wear black jeans all the time, and I see other people wearing them all the time too! I don’t think they’ve ever gone away (UK, London). Plenty of people wear dark grey jeans as well. ‘Dress pants’ aren’t really a thing in my industry (I don’t really know what they are…? Like, the sort of trousers that might come with a women’s suit?) and every day is ‘jeans Friday’ in publishing, in my experience. In fact, black jeans are seen as fairly smart attire – no one bats and eyelid if you wear ordinary denim jeans.

        3. Bee*

          I am correspondingly baffled that you are baffled about black jeans! I see them ALL THE TIME in NYC. (I mean the 90s are definitely back, but these are just a staple.)

          1. AnotherAlison*

            I think there could be an urban / midwest-suburban difference going on here. . .or maybe it’s just me.

            They don’t read urban cool to me. They read more like you’re from the rural town 30 miles outside the main city/burb, and you’re on your way to a Slayer cover band show. Kind of like mullets. In the city, perhaps this could be edgy and cool, but out here, you can be mistaken for someone who has been wearing their mullet since the 80s. (Similar to urban/suburban, seems like if you’re 20 you can recycle trends, but if you’re 40 people, less so.)

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              When I picture black jeans, I mean super skinny, possibly ultra high waist, very fashionable. Almost a jegging (though that would definitely be a step too far for work).

              Black 501s or boyfriend cut would absolutely not be a thing, I agree.

            2. EventPlannerGal*

              I think this maybe says more about the people you know than it does about jeans. Black jeans, particularly skinny jeans, have been a classic item for years.

            3. Jen B*

              I think you are picturing stone wash or acid washed black jeans, which are really mostly grey and look very casual. There are lots of dark, solid black jeans on the market now – lots of which barely look like “jeans”.

        4. Le Sigh*

          Black jeans are a wardrobe staple for many people. I don’t understand your smugness; like you are proud not to own any. I live in NYC, and everyone wears them all the time. Surely you aren’t saying that people in the fashion capital of the US are rubes who don’t know how to dress?

          1. AnotherAlison*

            It’s not smugness. It’s just not a thing people wear here. I explained why I think this might be true. I certainly agree NYC people are more fashionable than people where I live, but what is fashionable in one place doesn’t necessarily translate to another. Black jeans may make there way back here. I haven’t gone to NYC or a similar large city in about 5 years and I don’t follow fashion, so I have no idea what you all are doing. It was a genuine question if people were wearing black jeans now.

        5. Can*

          Black jeans have always been a wardrobe staple. A lot of them look like black pants rather than jeans, so maybe you don’t notice that they are jeans.

        6. sofar*

          For women, we are talking black skinny/fitted jeans. Dark grey, too. I own several pairs. These aren’t the chunky black jeans from the 90s.

          Typical outfit for me at work is black/gray skinny jeans, top, ankle boots, gold ball earrings or minimalist necklace.

          This is the 30-something go-to outfit in a lot of cities.

      3. Anonymous Poster*

        I work in marketing and black jeans would be fine at my company. So would the outfit you just described. I think OP should err on the side of conservative since it’s a government job, and wear more formal clothes if possible, but they don’t need to be too concerned.

    3. aebhel*

      I’ve never worn a suit to an interview (and in all of the hiring I’ve done for my job, I think I’ve seen a grand total of one person wear one), but I work in a public library that’s wayyy on the casual end of ‘business casual’.

      That said, I also haven’t worn jeans. Dress pants or a skirt, blouse and cardigan is about what I can manage.

      (I’m very glad of the fact that I don’t need to wear a suit, because I’m tall, broad-shouldered and lanky enough that basically no women’s off-the-rack suit is going to fit me.)

    4. Sunflower*

      To me, jeans are a very hard line on dress in the office and most policies use them as a defining thing. It seems like most other articles of clothing can be reasoned either way (including leggings which I actually think you can get away with more if worn the right way than jeans) so I would definitely not wear them to an interview unless the recruiter specifically said ‘jeans are fine for the interview’.

      The OP states people are wearing slacks- so if the OP wears black jeans, it seems like she’d actually be under dressed for everyday in the office.. Not good when the good rule of thumb for interviews is to be slightly overdressed from the typical office environment.

    5. sofar*

      Yep. Black jeans and a nice top would be totally fiiiiiine in my company and in my industry in my city. I tend to be paranoid, so I interviewed at my current company wearing a nice shift dress, blazer and heels. I was so overdressed (and my interviewer cracked a joke about it) that I returned for my second interview there in a more casual outfit (black skinny pants, dressy top, jean jacket, flat boots).

      In our most recent round of interviews, if we’d disqualified people for jeans, we’d have had 0 candidates. All of the six people we interviewed in person showed up in some variation of jeans, black jeans, flannel and a jean skirt in one case. Was I rolling my eyes inwardly and secretly annoyed? Yes. But my industry is simply this way. When I brought it up to my boss and grandboss how people were dressed, their reaction was, “We didn’t even notice!” The ONLY time we dress up is when people from the NY office come into town, and we are warned with a “Please don’t wear crocs and sweats, ya’ll” email.

    6. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I’m sure I could get away with nice jeans in my field. I never seem to have the right ones so I have yet to try this theory, but on the rare occasions I have had an actual formal interview the interviewers are often dressed in quite casual clothes. My field is very dirty and we are often covered in mud at work so if you turn up looking *too* clean and polished, especially as a woman, it can create the impression that you won’t be able to handle the reality of the work. Unfair but true.

    7. Emilitron*

      I will completely call out the difference between black jeans that are solid color black twill fabric with black stitching, versus black jeans that are faded to grey (either all-over or in fashionable “wear patterns”) and/or with contrast topstitching. While I wear the former to work (gov’t science lab) all the time, with solid color top and cardigan or blazer, I stay very clear of the version that’s not SOLID BLACK, and retire a pair from workwear after about a year, when it starts getting greyish. As to whether I’d wear it to interview in, I have other options that I’d definitely prefer (slacks!). But if good black jeans are all you have, whether it’s worth a mad scramble to upgrade for a one-shot interview is kind of questionable. Whether you’d anticipate an ongoing need (dress code at new job, multiple interveiws this year, etc) would influence my decision on the mad scramble.

  16. 3rd Shift Cassie*

    For #5, you sent a message on work related social media about wanting to keep in touch about profession matters. Now she’s contacting you about work related professional matters. She’s literally doing what you said you wanted to do.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      The polite thing to do when someone reaches out to wish you well at a new job is to reply and say thank you.

      1. Lawyer*

        I got literally over a hundred LinkedIn messages from coworkers and contacts wishing me well on a recent job change. I only acknowledged those that were substantive, had a call to action, or were from very close contacts (so a generic best wishes – no; a “hey, I work in the building next door to your new gig; let’s get together and I’ll show you the local lunch spots – yes”). I don’t think politeness requires an acknowledgement of every LinkedIn message.

  17. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    Re OP1, I work/consult in the digital design department of a big bank. One of our senior design managers signs off with “stay creative”. I think the difference is that
    – everyone knows what he means
    – it’s relevant to our work environment
    – he’s established and respected

    So an informal sign off might be okay, but not just any sign off.

    I read The Outsiders when it was published and I have no recollection of “stay gold” so I would have assumed that it was made up by the intern. Of course that would not make it more (or less) quirky than using a sign off from a book, that nobody recognises.

    1. Random IT person*

      I haven`t read the Outsiders (yet? Should I?) – but if one uses a book reference, a bit more mainstream is more likely to be acceptable I would think.

      1. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        It’s a YA book written in the late 60s I think, when there was no YA category :) it’s a classic coming of age novel, and had a big impact on me. Is that something you’d enjoy reading?

        1. Random IT person*

          My usual stuff would be Dragonriders of Pern series, Discworld, Belgariad etc – so generally fantasy & science fiction.
          Belgariad could be seen as Coming of Age in a fantasy setting.. but not sure.

          1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

            Off topic, but coming of age fantasy genre: Farseer Trilogy. Still one of my favourites!

            1. Random IT person*

              Thanks Cat Meme.
              I`ll look into those.

              Somehow, i find it easier to relate to characters in a fantasy world than in the roundworld…

              1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

                Oh, I hear you Rando! I’d much rather be absorbed in a story about an imaginary someone’s cantankerous dragon than a real-life someone’s cantankerous Teams connection ;)

          2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

            I never see an Eddings reference in the wild! The Belgariad/Mallorean were about as formative for me as a middle schooler as The Outsiders and Perks of Being a Wallflower (which is to say: very!).

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          It was also a very popular 80s movie with Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillion, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane.

          So it’s hardly obscure.

          1. Lily Rowan*

            I’m guessing there is a pretty narrow age bracket (mine) where it would be seen as a nearly universal reference, and then gets more obscure the farther you get from there.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              I don’t agree–I’ve never read it myself but it is a very famous book, pretty commonly on required reading lists in schools even, and I encounter references to it all the time in pop culture.

            2. Donkey Hotey*

              I’m with you, Lily.
              I’m a loud and proud “child of the 80s” (graduated high school in 89). I recognize the name of the book/movie but never read it or watched it. So even in the supposed demographic, it’s faaaaaar from universal.

          2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

            Yes, and actually I think I saw the movie first and then read the book. I don’t think anyone said it was obscure, I certainly didn’t.

          3. Vicky Austin*

            Yes, it was the movie that launched all of their careers. I remember that we watched it in my 8th grade English class after we read the book, and all of us girls were swooning and fangirling over Matt Dillon.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I got it from my library for a reread on being reminded of it by this post. It’s pretty quick. (The movie was decent too, and peppered with the flowers of mid-80s VERY young manhood, heh.)

    2. Manya*

      Just because you don’t recognize it doesn’t mean no one recognizes it. I certainly knew where it was from and it made me smile.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think with this stuff, there’s an acceptable level (no hidden off-color meanings, reads as a tiny individual quirk if you have no idea of the literary reference) and a ramped up level where people can tell there’s an inside joke but they don’t know what it is and moreover, they really don’t want to expend any effort figuring out what it is.

    3. Arctic*

      I love The Outsiders but I still didn’t immediately make the connection until LW pointed it out.

      That being said I’d still find “stay golden”’charming. But I agree it’s more when you have established yourself.

      1. Elenna*

        Meanwhile, I read The Outsiders a couple times for a middle school class and I recognized it :P But my brain has a tendency to make/notice a ton of references.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think what’s particularly off about something like that as an email signoff is that it’s something you would say as a final fairwell. I think it would start to feel really weird and insincere after the third or fourth email I received.

    4. Anne of Green Gables*

      I want to point out that while the exact sign off “Stay Gold” is a quote from The Outsiders, it’s a reference to a Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” There is discussion of the poem in the book (and the movie).

  18. Former Employee*

    I never read The Outsiders, but I know it is classified as being a YA book.

    If someone is going to use a quote as their sign off, it would make a lot more sense if it were something most people were familiar with and did not come from YA fiction.

    I also would advise people not to use “Plunk your magic twanger, froggy”, which was from an old TV show with Andy Devine.

    Finally, no religious references, either, unless you work for a house of worship or a school, charity, etc. affiliated with a religion.

    1. Crazy Broke Asian*

      It’s not YA in the contemporary sense though. Like someone said above, it was written before YA was a genre. It’s more like The Catcher in the Rye, i.e. classic coming of age novel.

      1. Lynca*

        Should also be pointed out that a lot of people read it as part of required reading in school. I remember reading it in 8-9th grade. I’d place it in the same level as Hatchet, Sounder, Where the Red Fern Grows, Bridge to Terabithia, etc.

        1. hbc*

          Yeah, I think that’s where this one gets me. It wasn’t assigned reading, but my friend group discovered SE Hinton in middle school, so using that as your Thing has me at least sub-consciously pegging someone as immature. Like if someone says the last book they read is Lord of the Flies–if I don’t know a lot more about you, I’m thinking you haven’t advanced much intellectually since 9th grade.

    2. Julia*

      Why is YA a problem for you? Harry Potter is YA and highly quotable, and some children’s books even have great quotes. The point to me is more that a) quotes in emails are weird but b) I can live with them as long as they’re not inappropriate, i.e. violent or sexual.

      1. Vicky Austin*

        I love Harry Potter as much as the next person, but unless you are a school teacher or a children’s librarian. work email isn’t the place for Harry Potter references.

    3. Mookie*

      The novel is a mainstay of the American canon since its publication* and, to a lesser extent, the English-language canon, was adapted into a pretty awful movie last century, and many, many people who have never read the former or saw the latter are aware of the quote and use it, some knowing its provenance and some not.

      *the conditions under which it was written, the history of its publication, and its reception are rather widely known, in and of themselves

      1. Laura H.*

        I love the way you put those words together and absolutely agree! It’s great to understand a reference but something like the above example isn’t only usable in the confines of the novel- perhaps recognized as part of the novel but able to stand somewhat on its own.

        And that’s not a bad thing.

    4. Arctic*

      The Outsiders is pretty commonly assigned readings in schools. It’s not an YA novel the way most would think of it.

      And it’s pretty widely known.

    5. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I said this elsewhere, but it was also a very popular 80s movie with Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillion, Ralph Macchio, and Diane Lane.

      So it’s hardly obscure.

      1. Sunflower*

        I read the book before the movie came out so I was already familiar with “stay gold” but the movie really made the quote famous, especially among my teenage peers back in the 80’s. Good times.

      2. Annony*

        80s is pretty long ago though. How many people are going to remember one conversation from a movie they watched over 30 years ago? Most people won’t recognize the reference even if they read the book or watched the movie since it isn’t recent. So the intern comes off as a little quirky. It isn’t the end of the world, but also probably not the impression she is trying to make.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          That’s not true at all. Its a cult classic. People rewatch as adults. That’s like saying don’t quote The Princess Bride.

            1. Willis*

              A much more appropriate Princess Bride quote for an email signature than what came to my mind: “Now prepare to die, Willis.”

    6. Lora*

      Oh, come on – you know you miss those giant sigfiles that were longer than the actual emails, complete with MIDI files, animated Blingees, entire paragraphs of quotes and with html “stationery” backgrounds!

      I feel bad for the young people these days who don’t remember sending a richtext email that went:
      Hi Joe,
      Can you please send the ABC draft report to Shirley? She needs it by Friday to get it to Mike for review.
      Regards,
      Lora

      And getting in response:
      purple flowered HTML background with Beethoven’s 5th midi file auto-playing, a sparkly Charlton Heston-esque Jesus and the entire 40th chapter of Isaiah in pink script, with animated birds flying across the screen and a link to a Geocities / Angelfire page that says JOE’S WEBSITE in 44-pt bold Comic Sans
      “OK
      -Joe”

      1. Marthooh*

        Heaves a nostalgic sigh for the days of sparkly Charlton Heston-esque Jesuses in your inbox. “Nothing gold can stay…”

  19. Random IT person*

    For OP#1 – the sign off might need to be professionalized.

    But – in ones signature (you know, the bit with that the mail is for X, not for Y, and privacy statement of the company and legal small print) – you can add the quirky things.

    I have done a tiny ‘me’ bit in my signature forever here (well, actually more like 11 years, 3 months and 5 days – but who is counting) but working in IT i`m more easily forgiven ‘weirdness’ than if one is an accountant I suppose.

    As an example, i have had a Haiku about a screwdriver:

    Need a screwdriver
    IT says vodka in fridge
    work has many tools

    And currently I have this one:

    When all is said and done,
    in spite of or because of what we may or may not do or think,
    it is just as likely as not that,
    for better or for worse, everything will turn out one way or another,
    sooner or later.

    but my sign off is always something boring (regards, Tom) or friendly (cheers, Tom – depending on recipient) or inviting (Please don`t hesitate to reach out in case of any questions, Tom).

    1. Marny*

      I strongly disagree. I can’t stand quirky signature lines and think they seem unprofessional. The sign off would bother me much less.

      1. Allypopx*

        Same I can’t take people seriously who have this kind of thing in their signatures. The sign off is much more likely to just come off as quirky (though I agree someone early in their career should stick to standard sign offs for awhile).

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’m not a fan either. I wouldn’t say I go so far as to consider the user unprofessional in general, but every once in a while I’ll think “do you really think this is okay, and what does that say about you?”

      3. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yeah, the only thing I want to see under your work signature is your full name, company position, and your phone number in case I have to call you to follow up on something in the email. If I wanted to read a bunch of trite quotes and sayings, I’d follow some more annoying relatives on facebook.

        1. Roseclef*

          Having any kind of personalized signature smacks so much of message-board culture (and not mature message-board culture, like the comments section of this fine website, more like Yahoo message boards) that I can’t believe it’s being suggested as a better alternative to a quirky sign-off in any seriousness. The fact that it’s a haiku about drinking at work has me convinced that this is a joke.

          I work in a very serious kind of office where a lot of sweat is spilled worrying about how every single action will represent the agency. A quirky sign-off, even exactly the one in the question, would not raise an eyebrow. A signature line containing anything other than the standard name and contact options would be entirely out of place, to the point of being unique in my 60+ member office.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        I feel like I understated this. Don’t have a haiku (!) saying you need a drink at work (!!) and you’ll use the vodka that’s in the office fridge (!!!)

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, this is not a good example of what is office-appropriate at all! This is so much worse than the signoff in the OP’s question.

          1. Random IT person*

            And yet – several of our colleagues have them.
            Our company is a large multinational within the petrochemical field – perhaps our office culture is different.

            Then again – the CEO for EMEA is located in my office (if he is in) and both he, and all other people in this office – are on first name basis (except when there are outside customers present).

            Plus – I may not have been clear – on communication outside our company it`s strictly the name/title/phonenumber /legal disclaimers / company banner – and no ‘me’ thing.

            The only difference to that one – was in the year Terry Pratchett passed away – i had in really small print ‘GNU Terry Pratchett’ and nothing else – as a mark of respect to The Man In The Hat.

            What is valid for your company in regards to sign offs / signatures apparently is not valid for us.
            There are no corporate rules beyond the ‘common sense’ one (that said – with hindsight the vodka one is a bit over the line – but then hindsight is always 20/20) – and no politics, profanities or religious things….

    2. James*

      Depends on the company. Folks in our company used to have all kinds of quotes in their signatures (many of them from the Bible, as many people I work with are in the Bible Belt). Then the executives handed down mandates on what could be in your signature–we were told what to include, to only include that, even what size, font, and color to include. Makes our signatures more uniform and maybe to some makes them seem more professional, but to me it always came off as more “clueless corporate goon needs to justify his position”.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        I would tend to disagree a bit. It’s too bad if that’s how the gesture came across, but we have similar restrictions in our workplace and I completely understand why. Left to their own devices, people will do whatever they want, for example including a poem about drinking a screwdriver in their email signature. Or people will use a “glitter” font. Or people will include Bible verses which may cause discomfort for some fellow employees, vendors, or customers.

        I’m not sure who the “executives” are that you mention, but it sounds like one of their responsibilities is safeguarding the corporate image (and maybe even avoiding potential liability issues). A business email is not a personal email. It’s not a platform for personal expression. It’s a communication from the business. It doesn’t really offend me that the executives would want that to be predictable, professional, and inoffensive.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        That seems unnecessarily harsh. Corporate branding is a real thing, and uniform signatures are important. I think all the vendors and clients I work with have fairly uniform signatures. It would be weird to be working with 2-3 people from one company and each of them has a different signature format. (I’m an engineer btw, not a corp comm person trying to justify my position.)

        1. James*

          The way it came about was pretty harsh. We were told “By COB on Friday everyone’s email signature will follow the attached guidelines. Compliance is mandatory” or something like that. It was a very heavy-handed thing, and very counter to the culture of the company previously. The idea of having standardized signatures isn’t necessarily bad, but the way it was done wasn’t great.

          I mean, I get the idea of corporate branding. My signature has always been my name, my location, and my phone number (I figure anyone getting an email from me has my email, by virtue of me emailing them). But I was the odd man out at the company.

          Honestly, the quirky signatures weren’t too bad. Who reads signatures anyway? I’d read it once, think “Ah, Bible verse”, and ignore it after that. The sender is in the header of the email, as is the subject, so the signature bears no useful information for internal staff.

      3. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        I’d be far more annoyed by religious quotes than boring, uniform signatures.

      4. Lora*

        What I object to and find unprofessional is when Corporate replaces personalized GIANT sigfiles with Corporate GIANT EVEN BIGGER sigfiles.

        Dear Brand Management People:

        (60-pt corporate logo in Approved Corporate Colors)
        “one of five rotating twee slogans chock full of jargon”
        employee title
        employee division
        employee division’s twee slogan
        employee division location
        HQ location
        link to company webpage
        link to latest press release
        link to company LinkedIn page
        link to company Facebook page
        disclaimerdisclaimerdisclaimerprivacynoticedisclaimerdisclaimerpleasedeleteifreceivedinerrordisclaimerlegalnotificationdisclaimer

        Is only marginally better than:

        extra-long Bible quote
        Justin Bieber Blingee with sparkles and rainbow
        auto-play MIDI file of holiday music
        animated unicorn leaping across page
        “stationery” background with purple Comic Sans font

        They are both pretty bad. Please, for the love of all that is holy, have sigfiles be small and contain only phone # and location information, in non-HTML readable files.

        1. James*

          I think a happy medium can be found between “corporate straight-jacket” and “signature so big it kills email capacity”. A short quote below the typical name/phone/address doesn’t really hurt anything.

          I had a safety manager who’d always include a brief safety message from corporate, for example. It rotated, not on any regular basis, just whenever he felt like it. A PM had a quote from the company founder on project management. That sort of thing doesn’t hurt anyone, is on-brand for the company and the individual, and takes up about as much Inbox space as a blank email.

        2. MsSolo*

          My previous employer liked to do corporate email sigs with an image (occasionally blinking/revolving/moving gif banner) advertising upcoming events or exhibitions. They were relatively tame when I worked there, though still irritating in a long email thread (especially internal ones) but while my husband was researching his PhD he came across a local council meeting in which the councillors absolutely tore the marketing director to shreds because they hated our email sigs so much.

          (I didn’t like her – she’d arrange meetings at our site without telling us and then keep her guests waiting up to an hour while we looked like idiots because we didn’t know why they were there – so I was entirely unsurprised to learn she’d rubbed the council up the wrong way to the extent they had an entire meeting about it)

      5. Mr. Tyzik*

        Not so much a goon justifying position, but a reaction to offending signatures, yes, even those that include Bible quotes.

        I’ve worked for Fortune 50 companies exclusively and have seen the standards over the years, usually in response to acquiring a new division or contracting firm that is lax and needs to understand the brand and appropriate messaging. We contracted from Manila for a while and I swear almost every email had a scripture in bright pink below the signoff. That got cut down *real* fast.

    3. AnotherAlison*

      Nope. My company has a policy on signatures. You can only use formats and language approved by corporate communications. Thank God. I’d hate to have to read someone’s poem, Bible verse, favorite quote, etc. every single time I correspond with them.

      1. Anon for this*

        A manager had “There are multiple solutions to every problem and we solution better as a team!” in bold italics in their signature. Cannot tell you how annoying it feels to see this perky quote for the 20th time in one day when there’s an email chain going. Especially if the things they’re saying in their email contradict the signature quote.

          1. Anonymouse*

            I literally heard the opposite yesterday! Someone in a meeting called a solution a “solve”–both are ICK…

            1. Oh No She Di'int*

              Oh yeah, that one’s been going around for a while. The one I can’t stand is “spend” as a noun, as in “What’s our spend gonna be on that?” You mean our budget??!

              1. Kat in VA*

                Also not a favorite for me:

                “So, the ask here is…”

                That being said, I love making up words and using them in odd ways – just not in a professional context.

    4. Lucy P*

      Some of our workers have different signatures–one for internal emails where they can be less formal, and a separate for external.

  20. Mx*

    4 Your employer shouldn’t have a say about where you go in your private time. Could you just go without telling them ? I am not normally a fan of lying but I would if my employer minds my business.
    Do that only if you are sure of not being caught of course.

    1. Np*

      Sorry, I’m not usually this absolute, but when it comes to such a pandemic, it is absolutely your employer’s business. At work we have pregnant women and a couple of immunocompromised people. It is not ok for me to go gallivanting off to a region which is high-risk and not let me employer know beforehand — even if it is so that arrangements can be made for me to work from home when I get back.

      There are many, MANY areas of life that are not an employer’s business. This is not one of them.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I agree, as long as the employer is staying in the realms of “please provide us with information useful to our planning” and not “we will veto your plans if we disapprove”.

        I’m in an area where a few places are closed and some people are self-isolating while tests are carried out. We are continually being reminded of the current government guidance regarding hygiene precautions, non-essential travel, procedures on return from named affected areas, and so on. It’s a real thing that’s happening to real people.

        Possible consequences to a business of an employee’s travel at the moment might include:
        – government advice on travel to already-affected areas changes, and employee’s return flight is cancelled or delayed
        – government advice on which areas are considered affected changes and she is obliged to go into quarantine
        – employee falls ill during vacation and is hospitalised or quarantined
        – employee returns to work after vacation but later falls ill, and entire workplace is obliged to self-isolate while testing goes on

        All of those are things that are actually happening right now, even where the individual employee doesn’t have COVID-19.

        Although in general I think it’s none of your boss’s business what you do when you aren’t at work, I think this is a special case, and while they are only asking for general background (that is, they don’t care if you’re going for sightseeing or rock climbing or Duck Club, just whereabouts) I think that’s acceptable.

        1. JM60*

          I agree, as long as the employer is staying in the realms of “”please provide us with information useful to our planning”” and not “we will veto your plans if we disapprove”.

          What “planning” do you have in mind? Working from home might not always be an option, and an extra 2 consecutive weeks off of work after returning from vacation might not work either.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Well, anything that takes into account the employee’s potential extended absence. Not booking a crucial in-person meeting on site for the day she’s due back, perhaps. Looking into the possibility of remote work just in case.

      2. Sleve McDichael*

        Ok sure, but unless an employer doesn’t penalise the employee for telling the truth by allowing employees to work from home for 14 days and not making them use PTO then they’re incentivising employees of a less than 100% honest turn of mind to lie. So they lose the moral high ground because they have the power here, and the ability to ensure people aren’t tempted to do that. If they’re just looking to make sure they can say ‘Well we told you not to do that, tut tut.’ then they’re just as much at fault as the employee, because the balance of power rests with them. Not that I advocate lying, but it is clear some people will, and so if a company can prevent that they have a responsibility to do so. It’s like herd immunity via vaccination, we all have to do our part to protect the immunocompromised from those who don’t want to join in.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          This is a really good point.

          The WHO official guidance touches on a similar point in their official guidance. Discriminating against people causes them to go untreated and spread the virus further. Don’t contribute to that!

        2. JM60*

          Just because people have an incentive to lie doesn’t make it okay. I get the need for employers to incentivize people to be honest, but if an employer didn’t do so, and someone lied, it’s still the liar’s fault.

      3. Mx*

        It’s one thing to let them know and another thing to have to request their approval. I’d be okay to tell my manager I go to Asia but not requesting their approval and taking the risk that it could be denied.
        Pregnant women and people with weak immune systems could get contaminated by many things anywhere. There is never a guarantee we will be safe. It is sad but these risks are part of life. Otherwise we have to stay indoors all the time and never meet anyone.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          Please educate yourself on epidemics/pandemics in general and on Covid-19 specifically before you advocate for someone to put themselves in a position where they could cause tremendous amounts of harm.

          I’m providing a CDC link in my next comment.

          1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

            What is the difference between someone coming to work after having been exposed to Covid-19 and someone coming to work after having been exposed to the flu?

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              The chief difference is that nobody has immunity to COVID-19 because it’s new but many people have immunity to whatever this year’s flu is, either because they’re vaccinated or because it’s not new to them.

            2. Hedgehug*

              Also the “flu” is not a specific virus. COVID-19 is an actual, specific virus. The “flu” is a blanket term. Immuno-compromised people are not regularly exposed to deadly viruses. Immuno-compromised people still have to go to work to make money to support themselves and their families. You however, do not HAVE to go on your vacation to ground zero- or near ground zero, of an epidemic.

            3. JM60*

              So far, COVID-19 seems to have be an order of magnitude more lethal (per infection). The flu tends to have a fatality rate about 0.1-0.2%, while COVID-19 is estimated to have ~3% fatality rate.

            4. Mameshiba*

              Really?? One is a pandemic that we have no immunity or treatment for or knowledge of, and one is a seasonal risk we know lots about. Let’s start with that!

        2. River Song*

          There is a massive difference between normal, every day risk and traveling to a place where theres an active outbreak and keeping it a secret from people who are forced to share a space with you. You get to make your own educated decision on that risk, but I should have all the facts so that I can make mine

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yikes, no. I tend to agree with Alison’s comment that a travel ban on the entire continent of Asia might be a bit extreme, but Japan is close enough for this trip to be dangerous.

      To your second point, how do you take time off work to travel overseas and “not get caught”? Of course it will come out.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I don’t think anyone should do that, but right now someone could go to Tokyo or Venice, and say they were going to Paris, Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro, or Vancouver.

    3. CRM*

      OP, lying about your trip is not a good idea. Not only is it extremely unethical, but it could definitely get you fired.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Agreed. Also, ethically, this falls into the same boat as the letter about coworkers with bedbugs. It is reasonable for your employer to ask you to take measures to not infect your entire office with something that is very easy to transmit.

        I do think OP may want to look into the spirit and action of that directive a little before saying anything so they can better prepare, but they absolutely should not lie.

    4. Malarkey01*

      But if there’s a somewhat reasonable chance that through your employee’s travel they are placed under a quarantine and now need addition unscheduled leave or WFH permission, I think it does become more of a business issue. We have stopped sending people to certain countries (and Italy was just added to the list) because upon return they’d need a 2 week quarantine and that’s not offset by the benefit of the travel.

      Without clearing the trip, LW could find themselves out of a job because they can’t come back to work.

  21. WorkTravelIsntRoses*

    Regarding conference attendance being a perk – PLEASE rethink that. When you don’t travel for work often, it sounds like fun. But the reality is a different story. Yes, it has its fun moments, but it’s also a lot of WORK, with huge personal costs. Here’s what attending a conference is actually like for me: Long days of travel, preparing my conference presentation, being “on” all day at the conference, then work until 11pm responding to email that came in while I was at the conference. Flex time earned for my travel time at least helps me deal with some of the chores that didn’t get done while I was traveling but still need to be done. Also – my old job had so much travel that it made it extremely difficult for me to become pregnant – between jet lag messing with my cycle and just being away from my partner; that was a major reason I quit.

    1. Dan*

      I do some substantial travel (mostly international) for personal reasons, and one would think that I would jump at the chance for work travel, right? May as well get paid for something I’d do for fun anyway, *especially* if the company is footing the bill for a business class plane ticket.

      Except… it doesn’t work that way. When I travel for personal reasons, I can schedule some time to acclimate to the time zone change. Stay long enough to enjoy myself, and vice versa coming home. Work travel? Some people have to hit meetings mere hours after stepping off of a plane. And many times, you may only be there for a week, so by the time you’ve gotten over the jet lag, it’s time to go home and wash-rinse-repeat. In whose twisted world is that enjoyable?

  22. Myrin*

    #1, leaving aside that this is about an intern just for a moment, I think stuff like this in general so often depends on the person in question.

    I went to school with a guy who tried really hard to project his image as that of a quirky, easygoing sillyhead when really to most of us he came off as a sleazeball with an arrogance problem (and in my particular case, it didn’t really help that by the time we graduated, I was the only one who went as far back as preschool with him, and I could still vividly remember that he used to cry and throw tantrums every day to such a degree that his mum had to stay for literal hours because his behaviour was so out of control). He’s a doctor at the local hospital now and when I saw him last year when I had surgery he still gave off that exact same vibe to me, and I assume I’m not the only one. An email signature like the one in the OP from him would make me majorly roll my eyes and just seem overall off-putting to me.

    On the other hand, a neighbouring department at my alma mater was headed by a woman with a very quirky personal style and demeanour. However, she was known – even outside her field – as a brilliant mind with outstanding rhetorical and analytical skills, a sharp wit, and great leadership skills (which is sadly somewhat rare in academia). Seeing a signature like this come from her, it would probably seem charming and very in-character to most people who know her.

    So, that’s it as far as personality goes. When stuff like this feels forced, it just comes across as cringe-worthy. However, in this particular case, we’re talking about an intern, someone who by definition doesn’t have high standing and who probably hasn’t had the chance to make much of a name for herself yet, so people won’t really know how to take such an unusual signature, at least those outside of her immediate working environment.
    I’d say it’s fine for her to use this send-off when she’s writing to people who know her well and recognise this style of hers, but I’d definitely have a broader conversation about how this is also very much a know-your-audience type of situation.

  23. 867-5309*

    OP4, Many conferences around the world, including Europe, are being canceled all together because of the virus, and some businesses are cancelling ALL international travel. You can agree or disagree, but your employer is not entirely outside the norm about their concern, assuming your travel is next month and not March 2021.

    As one example: Google “Mobile World Congress,” an event with typically 100,000 people and this year held in Barcelona, was cancelled because so many companies pulled out. There was also the cruise ship fiasco in Japan.

      1. JM60*

        But the main issue is spreading the virus to other employees, and the fact that it’s for personal vacation rather than business doesn’t change that.

  24. Miso*

    I work in Germany for a city and we get comp time as well for everything over our set hours. Of course we don’t have that whole exempt/hourly construct.
    In theory we could get overtime paid out, but you have to pay so many taxes on it that it’s not really worth it, so we just take the time off at some point.

    (Oh, and I totally interviewed for this job in black jeans!)

  25. doreen*

    I am an exempt government employee, and I don’t get comp time for travel or otherwise extra-long days. What I can and often do is adjust my schedule in advance. It rarely works out to be hour-for hour -but if I expect to work 11 hours on Monday , I can schedule Tuesday to be a 4 hour day.

  26. RC Rascal*

    Regarding the black jeans :

    I have I interviewed for jobs in some casual environments & that included walking tours of heavy industry factories as part of the interview. I wore a black J Crew Schoolboy blazer, ankle length black pants from Loft, & a good pair of black loafers. For a top I wore a white button down with a small pattern. It’s professional yet simple & allows me to be on my feet for an extended period.

    1. Veronica Mars*

      This sounds like my interview outfit, also someone who often has to be prepared to walk factory floors. Blazers do really help dress up the pants.

      LW: please, also, resist the temptation to buy the “yoga pants that look like dress pants” which seem to be the only thing available at TJ Max / etc these days. Nobody is fooled, it still looks like you’re wearing yoga pants. Its worth shelling out the extra few bucks for pants pants.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Although, if you’re looking for comfort, actual dress pants made from ponte fabric (with buttons and zippers) are extremely comfy.

  27. Retail not Retail*

    Op2 – I have had relatively few in person job interviews. For a county clerk position (which I got but turned down), I wore a light knee length summer-y but long sleeved dress with flats I barely remembered to change into in the lobby. I can’t walk in them! I also shaved my legs for that. Reason for no pants – july in tennessee is brutal and the dress doesn’t wrinkle.

    For this job and my new summer job, I wore moderately nice pants over thick leggings because both incorporated outdoor walking.

    I used to work customer service at a grocery store and one guy came up and said he had an interview and he was dressed tennessee southern super casual and I was like… okay then. Turned out our HR person called him while he was in the store to say can you interview now. He lasted a few weeks. No connection.

    What I do with my interview clothes is put them on last minute and keep them far back in my closet because I used to live with shedding monsters.

    Frankly I love my uniform requirement – they even provide pants and shorts if we order them. We usually don’t. Today’s a media day and it’s like. Well these are warm and moderately less muddy than those.

  28. Bree*

    The amount of misinformation going around about coronavirus makes it really difficult to distinguish between legitimate precaution and unhelpful sensationalist panic, often racist. Both are out there!

    As someone who works in health care, everyone should be extra careful about checking their sources of information right now (and washing their hands).

    In the LW’s case, it’s definitely worth asking for more detail on the policy. A two-week WFH period would be reasonable (though I question it applying broadly to just “Asia.”) But I’d think about delaying the trip if possible anyway, as all the precautions and restrictions are likely to make the experience less positive.

    1. Veronica Mars*

      Fake News!!!

      Sorry, I couldn’t resist. But yes, there is so much misinformation out there right now that its really hard to know what the truth is. More so when you add in the weirdly xenophobic news coverage and the seeming lack of basic geography knowledge (whereby China suddenly equals all of Asia). But the bottom line, it makes the best business sense for companies to use extreme caution – if not because of reality, because they want employees to feel safe coming to work. So if you help your company alleviate (admittedly misplaced) fears of you returning and infecting lots of people… that’s your best hope of getting approval.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The CDC released a statement yesterday warning Americans that there could be “significant disruption” due to the spread of Covid-19. I think I’ll trust them.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Significant disruption to what, though?

        This is not how you do risk assessment and management. (I.e., panic!)

        Here’s the link (awaiting moderation) to the CDC statement: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

        Also, this quote:

        For the general American public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 is considered low.

        1. londonedit*

          I keep hearing and seeing news reports about how ‘UK schools could be forced to close and travel bans could be put in place’ and ‘The NHS could be put under crushing pressure’ if coronavirus was to spread throughout the UK. Really not helpful, if you ask me. At the moment those things are just speculation (we have something like 13 cases here at the moment). Yes, those things *could* happen *if* the virus starts spreading at a much greater rate here than it has so far, and of course we all need to be aware of the possibility. But at the moment there’s no need for people to panic about things that may or may not happen at some point in the future.

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            I saw those all over the likes of the Express/Fail/Sun earlier and I would have to agree, it was worded as though such a thing was imminent when from what I understand, at this stage it’s not.

          2. Agent Diane*

            At the moment some UK schools have closed as a precaution where there’s been a connection to areas with confirmed cases.

            I agree that is different to the “all schools will close” line some media is taking. But equally, the number of UK schools that have actually closed is greater than 0. Trying to get a balance between “we’re all doomed” and “don’t panic mr mainwaring” is tricksy!

        2. Bree*

          The CDC recommendations at the end are also worth reading, to keep things in perspective.

          I think people are missing an important distinction. Yes, governments and health care providers and even employers should be taking steps to prepare for the absolute worst case scenario. That is their job. The problem arises when media, etc. act like that worst case scenario has already arrived or is a certainty, which leads to enormous fear in the general public.

          That fear causes people to be less attuned to the reality of the situation and the real steps they should be taking (flu shots, hand washing, staying home from work if ill, understanding of when their symptoms are of real concern and what they should do about it). It can overwhelm the health care system, if anyone with a cold starts going to the ED. It can create counter-productive behaviours (there’s no need for people who aren’t ill to start wearing masks, and this can even make things worse if you touch your face a lot adjusting them). And in a small number of real cases, it can lead to racist paranoia (there are a few incidents in my city already.)

          You can take the threat seriously, but still maintain perspective about which precautions are necessary right now. (In the case of the LW, I think they should probably postpone their trip for a number of reasons.) But fear is not a good long-term strategy if we do need to cope with a crisis. Fear-based headlines get the clicks, though!

      2. Bree*

        I didn’t say you shouldn’t trust the CDC? At all?

        The kind of misinformation I’m talking about is the dramatic overstatement of the mortality rate in the comments here, or the fact that people are saying it’s dangerous to eat Chinese food in my Canadian city and Asian people are being harassed on the street. And the general lack of understanding of how this compares to something like the annual flu.

        But yeah, trust experts. Don’t trust social media fear-mongering.

      3. IEanon*

        I mean, voluntary quarantines and cancellation of international business travel are causing significant disruptions in some industries. The CDC statement was addressing those kinds of impacts, rather than the catastrophic pandemic kind.

        In fact, the first recommendation the CDC makes in their report is to get the flu shot, as the flu is a more immediate concern for Americans.

    3. Blueberry*

      “The amount of misinformation going around about coronavirus makes it really difficult to distinguish between legitimate precaution and unhelpful sensationalist panic, often racist. Both are out there!”

      Yes, this.

  29. Arctic*

    “Typically with exempt workers, the understanding is that their workload may ebb and flow; some weeks their work may take more than 40 hours a week and some weeks it may take less.“

    This is just not the case in most government settings. There is no “some may take less” you work 37.5 hours a week or you take time. You aren’t allowed to just go to an appointment or leave at 4 or something and not take time. (Generally. I know some are more flexible.)

    And people will riot if your first act is to get rid of comp time. Realistically, is that how you want to spend your political capital so soon after a promotion?

    Also, does the organization have union employees? It said quasi-government so maybe not but if it does think hard on this. While a director and management wouldn’t be in the union, manager benefits are often linked to the union contract. Many think managers should have as least as many perks as their union employees.

    Getting comp time for conference traveling as you suggest is happening is absurd. No question. I’ve never seen anything like that. Conferences aren’t always a perk to people but, still, travel time is expected. When I was in government I had to travel my state a lot (which meant up early and back late) and never would I dream of asking for that. Pushing back on that aspect seems reasonable.

    But don’t try to attack the concept of comp time for non-exempt folks. It will not end well.

    1. ap*

      What you say about gov’t work is odd because that is EXACTLY how it worked for my friend in a US federal agency. Travel time outside of work hours yielded comp time.

      1. Arctic*

        Yeah others have said the same for federal government. I worked for the state. We definitely didn’t get comp time for travel.
        But I get that it varies now.

    2. CheeryO*

      Agreed on your first point, but people definitely do take comp time to travel for conferences IME. Generally it’s preferable to do a one-time schedule adjustment, though (and no one would ever ask someone to do that long of a day at my agency – you’d stay overnight).

    3. Percysowner*

      Agreed, I worked in government, a library, and there was no “you can leave early when your work is done”. because the work was never “done’ and people have to staff the library, and other government offices, during open hours, because people come in to use the services and if you’re not there, you here about it. Comp time for exempt workers generally means the extra time gets used after being scheduled, so staffing can be shuffled as necessary.

    4. Veronica Mars*

      Yep, in my exempt govt contractor world, we had to record every single 10 minute increment and hit at least 40 hours a week, or else it was ‘stealing taxpayer money’ etc. “Exempt” just meant they didn’t pay you overtime (or comp time). It didn’t mean you could leave early.

      But, you could get the 40 hours however you wanted in a week. So if I had a 12 hour travel/conference day, I’d take a half day Friday (if I didn’t have any work that needed to be done, hah, hah).

    5. Brett*

      The federal government and most states have well defined rules that require giving both exempt and non-exempt employees comp time for travel.
      Almost everyone follows the OPM definition, which basically states that _all_ travel time between your permanent duty station and your temporary duty station (the conference) is compensable travel time if it falls outside your normal work hours. If it is inside your normal work hours, then you must be paid instead of receiving comp time (and overtime rules apply for those). Travel from home is a bit more complicated, and depends on where you are going (e.g. if you are going to an airport terminal, it is compensable, if you are going to a temporary duty site directly, it is compensable after deducting normal commute time _but_ all your time is compensable once you arrive at the site.)
      There is also “usual waiting time” (e.g. sitting at an airport) that must be comped, and is defined in a way that hotel time in between days of a conference would not count, but waiting at the hotel for a cab to the airport would count.

      The detailed OPM rules are here:
      https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-administration/fact-sheets/compensatory-time-off-for-travel/

  30. migrating coconuts*

    #5 I have to say personally I would ignore her like she ignored you. Yes, your message wasn’t specific question, but you wished her well. She should have at least acknowledged your best wishes with a thank you.

    1. Fikly*

      It’s impossible to ignore her like she ignored the LW, because the two messages are very different.

      Or you can be petty, and potentially not get a good consequence of being known as the person who refered a great hire. Personally I try not to hurt myself in my desire to be petty to other people who have “wronged” me in some minor way.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I just logged in to LinkedIn for the first time in months and see 3 messages I had no idea I had because I rarely use the service. I wasn’t ignoring them–because you can’t ignore something you don’t know exists. It’s super common not to use LinkedIn unless you are actively job searching so I don’t think there’s any reason to think that no response to the first message was some sort of malicious diss.

  31. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

    #3: I don’t see conference attendance as a “perk.” The conferences I’ve been required to attend have been exhausting and not really beneficial. (I think they just benefit the conference organizers making money.) Even if the conference takes place at a desirable destination (and most of them do in order to entice people to attend), it shouldn’t be like the company or manager is doing the employee a big favor by having them attend. If I have any sort of mandatory work travel, it shouldn’t be considered a “perk” if it’s not in a crappy location.

    1. NoLongerStuckInRetailHell*

      Really, because how much time do you actually have to enjoy that “great location”? Doesn’t do you any good if all you see is the airport and the inside of the convention center!

  32. AnotherFed*

    #3 if you are quasi government in the sense that you have to follow the same rules as the federal government employees in regards to time keeping then yes employees earn travel comp any time they are in a travel status past their duty hours. The fed plays by its own timekeeping rules compared to industry and though a lot of us are exempt we are not allowed to work without claiming our time, the would be consider a donation to the government, is technically illegal and could cost someone their job of their agency wanted to push it. But the compline should be in 15 min increments, not hour increments.

  33. SleepySally*

    For letter #3 I would be curious to know how often this comes up. If this person is attending a conference once every couple of months then I would say it’s just part of being exempt especially if it’s only a day or so.

    I’d be more interested to know how your company handles longer travel. I frequently catch flack from my boss because I don’t travel on weekends if it can be helped in anyway. My company does not offer comp time at all, and the trips they want me to take often involve about 11hrs worth of travel with multiple layovers. He says that I’m not really working on the plane so it’s like I’m taking a day off if I travel on a Monday. I say that I’m also not doing my laundry, or grocery shopping, or going out with friends, so I’m also not living my life.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Ugh- that’s awful that your boss feels entitled to infringe upon your personal time by trying to make you travel for work in weekends. If your boss or company wants you to travel for work, then that travel can happen during the work day. You’re already giving up part of your life by being away from home for them.

    2. Antilles*

      My rule has always been that if I’m traveling for work for any reason, all of the travel counts as work time from the instant my car leaves my driveway until the instant I lay down at the hotel – driving to the airport, waiting on security, sitting on the plane, getting my luggage, renting a car, etc. Since I’m exempt, I might not be asking for comp time per se, but it’s all billable time that’s going on my timesheet.
      He says that I’m not really working on the plane so it’s like I’m taking a day off if I travel on a Monday.
      I assume your boss last traveled on a plane in like, 1978, because I can’t imagine this attitude from anyone who has actually dealt with the modern air travel system.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Argh! It’s not about whether you’re actually generating work, but whether the work obligation prevents you from leading your private life. On the red-eye in coach between meetings instead of reading your child a story? WORK HOURS.

      2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        I once worked for a company where their written travel policy was to take the first flight out and the last flight back in order to “maximize business hours.” Oh, ok… Most people thought it was ridiculous.

  34. Malty*

    The fact that not every comment here is signed with ‘stay gold’ is a failure i’m not sure we can come back from.

    LW2 when interviewing outside of my own similarly casual industry I found a professional dress easier to mentally justify as I’d wear a dress again but obvs that depends on your style/preference. Good luck.

    stay gold y’all

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’ll pop up in comments on other posts. Calm those cheap ass rolls of yours down, Soda Pop ;)

  35. Mbarr*

    #2 as Alison said, please dress more formally.

    I’m in the tech industry and I recently interviewed a potential manager for the R&D department. I was… Uncomfortable (?!) by her appearance:
    – She wore nice (not casual, but not formal) clothes (I don’t expect a suit, but I expect dress pants and a nice shirt)
    – She brought in her open backpack instead of a purse or briefcase
    – Her hands/fingernails were blue/green because she obviously touched up her hair dye the morning of/night before (I had no problem with the hair colour, but your hands shouldn’t look like their mouldy)
    – She had a neon orange hair elastic around one wrist
    All this being said, we did hire her. She answered all the questions well, and she seemed like a great culture fit. But when I met with the other managers to discuss her potential, *I’m* the one who pointed out that I was a bit surprised by her physical deportment (the men didn’t care). (She also swore like a sailor, which is the norm for our office… But I would never do it during an interview.)

    Now, whether that says something about our the norms of interview apparel in North America, or whether it says something about gender and how women are harder on each other is a different thing. Because the interview was held in a glass room that all could see, multiple people (not involved in the interview) commented to me and to each other on her non-professional appearance before/after the interviews.

    1. Arctic*

      Are backpacks really considered that unprofessional?

      The rest I get but I don’t see an issue with that. It’s a smarter option for your back.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        +1 on that. I use a leather purse/tote most of the time, but I use a backpack when traveling or if I need to carry more things. A large percentage of the men I work with, including executives, use a backpack. These are business backpacks, not novelty, school, or hiking ones, but I’d have trouble dinging someone for their Targus backpack.

      2. CupcakeCounter*

        Probably depends on the backpack. My mom uses a leather backpack as a purse and I can’t see anyone having an issue with that or a “standard” laptop backpack. The sparkly pink and purple backpack with the unicorn horn that says “Magical AF” or the ripped backpack leftover from college with the beer stains and iron on patches all over it…I can see that not coming across well especially combined with everything else.

        1. Arctic*

          I totally get that but that’s true with everything. A sparkly pink purse with a unicorn horn wouldn’t be professional either. Or a genuinely torn apart briefcase (as opposed to tastefully distressed which is quite dashing.)

            1. Senor Montoya*

              It would be seen as unprofessional in my workplace (large state university, academic-adjacent). It wouldn’t disqualify you, but we’d be attentive to other signs that you didn’t understand professional norms. If there were a lot of those, and also you were otherwise an excellent candidate, we’d discuss whether you seem likely to be able to quickly learn those norms and follow them. If there were a lot and you were just a good-enough candidate, we might send you up the line as “recommend with reservations”. Or not recommend you, if there were plenty of other candidates without your, um, baggage (sorry-not sorry!)

              1. AnotherAlison*

                Even a business-type backpack would be out of place? Can you share some of the reasons behind that? I could see that at a university you may try to distinguish yourselves from students, but is that the reason?

                My direct manager is a formal dressing kind of guy. Even through we’re biz casual overall, he wears suits, a wool overcoat, and carries a nice leather briefcase. He wouldn’t carry a backpack, but his boss would. I guess I understand that if you’re formal, you’re all in and don’t want to look like you’re playing dress up for a day by not having the right accessories, but I’m not there in my personal look yet.

      3. Mbarr*

        Her backpack was definitely not a “professional” backpack. It was fabric, old, novelty patches, etc. I might not have even noticed, except that it was slumped over in the corner of the room, with its contents falling out of it.

        I agree with others – if it was a “nice” backpack I’d have shrugged at it.

      4. Another worker bee*

        Agree. Half of the interviews I’ve had in the past 5 years in the tech industry have asked me to give a presentation of some sort, which requires bringing my laptop. I could cram the smallest laptop in our household into my largest purse, but…..why?

      5. MCMonkeyBean*

        I feel iffy about the backpack (especially if you live in a big city) but personally I feel like judging a hair tie on someone’s wrist is a little too nitpicky. That is a normal, practical thing for anyone with long hair to carry around on their wrist (as well as a fairly unobtrusive options for people who need to fidget with something).

        1. Avasarala*

          Then don’t make it orange!

          Also it’s not just the orange hair tie… it’s one item in a list of items.

    2. Joielle*

      It sounds like you might be the one out of touch with the norms in your industry, though, if you were the only one who cared and you ended up hiring her. I guess other people commented, but apparently nobody important enough to affect the decision had a problem with her appearance.

      I do think the OP should wear something more formal than jeans, but nothing in your example seems unusual to me, unless the clothes were much more casual than I’m imagining. Perhaps she should have tried harder to get the hair dye off her hands, but if you’re ok with people having unusual hair colors, it sort of comes with the territory.

      1. Mbarr*

        I really don’t know where the norms fall for my industry. Our office does have a dress code, but it’s not super enforced. I’m chill with casual clothes, crazy hair, and swearing in the office… But not during an interview.

        That being said, she did have a pre-interview with our Director who is waaaaaay more lax than others (E.g. the VP in our building wears more formal clothes than anyone else – we toe the line with him), so she might have gotten her queues from him.

        And I have many friends who have crazy hair, but none of them look like smurfs afterwards. :)

        As I said, I also endorsed her being hired, and I really like her (hell – we went hiking a few weeks ago and she was wearing an anime shirt and an EYE PATCH – don’t ask)… But I’m being honest about my surprise at her physical appearance for an interview.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This sounds like a matter of her whole comportment– if her fingers hadn’t been blue and she hadn’t “sworn like a sailor,” would you even have noticed the backpack or the hair elastic? Because yes, I agree that people should dress more formally for an interview, but I think that at the end of the day, in a casual industry like tech, dress plays a backseat to overall attitude and presentation. I think the dyed fingers thing is really weird and shows a cavalier attitude that would put me off– not that it’s wrong to get hair dye on one’s fingers, but that if you know you have an interview, you wear some gloves when you touch up. I wouldn’t cook with fresh turmeric the night before an interview, for example, because the stuff stains and I would walk in with yellow fingers– something I can very easily avoid if I think ahead, a quality most managers are looking for.

      And the swearing. I am pretty loose with language but I am extra careful during an interview for two reasons: 1) I don’t know the culture of the office, and 2) it’s important to me– and in my field– that I can express myself well with “regular” language.

  36. Out of the Box Thinker*

    RE: Travel to Asia. While the word ‘approval’ might better have been ‘informed’ One thing that I havnt seen mentioned is the fact that if you are traveling to Japan or one of the other countries you may face a formal quarantine when you return home besides whatever additional self quarantine that your company requests. Doing a blanket statement for Asia is due to both the original source, the areas of highest number of new known cases, number of self quarantines and suspected carriers. Also you are forgetting that while Asia is a big continent, to get there from areas other than Europe require flights or ships coming to only a few ports/airport hubs. This means you are more likely to possibly catch and spread something or end up quarantined on your return. Now while your vacation time is your own time. How much of an impact will it be on your company if you are unavailable to work for 2 weeks or more due to formal quarantines? (this is assuming you dont get sick.)

    It doesnt help that the blood tests when done can give false negatives until you get closer to being symptomatic, however you can pass it on during that time.

    Frankly I think the US should expand the quarantine for Iran too, since they are insisting on continuing some events that will have a high number of visitors in a set place without ensuring they are first healthy. (of course the problem is that goes into the murky mixing of religious/cultural priorities trumping safety).

    Preventative measures that then look like false alarms are far better than being in disaster and realizing a few actions early couldve prevented it.

    Here in GA, we get made fun of when we close schools because of the potential of snow.. and we end up with a dusting or none at all. Yet you should hear the blaming and accusations when a precautionary closing doesnt occur and we end up with a Snowpocalyse for 2-3 days.

  37. Lady Blerd*

    I’m going to throw a 2%er and see if there are any Friends of Desotos here who chuckeld at “Stay Gold”. For the non FoDs, it’s a very niche Star Trek reference related to The Greatest Generation podcast.

  38. ap*

    At first, my impulse is that Asia, which gas a loooot of countries that do not yet have cases, is overly broad.

    But, it’s possible/probable that requiring the approval will let them review the requests as the virus expands. Going to Israel or Turkey or Kazakhstan or Sri Lanka in 2 weeks? Not a problem.

    But the company should add Italy to the list tout de suite.

    1. Can*

      The employer should not be telling employees where they can and can’t travel during their time off. That’s a huge over reach. The only thing that would be appropriate is to ask people who have traveled to places of active transmission to self quarantine when they return.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Unless the employer absolutely needs them to be in the office when they return. Then it is very much the employer’s business.

        Not everybody has a WFH option or can afford an extra two weeks of PTO to cover the quarantine period.

      2. Ramblin' Ma'am*

        This is what my company is doing. WFH for 2 weeks after travel to certain countries. I am not sure how they will handle those whose jobs are not conducive to WFH.

        1. Clisby*

          If employees can’t WFH during a quarantine period, it seems like they should have to take PTO or unpaid leave.

  39. Oh No She Di'int*

    LW5 For all the reasons already provided upthread, I would not take her lack of response as any sort of slight, including for example, that she was trying to avoid putting yet another email in your inbox that essentially just says, “Ok”.

    More importantly, I would urge you to think about networking on a much longer time horizon. Yes, she is reaching out to you now for whatever reason. If you think you can help, consider doing that because it strengthens your network. Right now you’re in a position to help, but at some point it’s quite possible that she’ll be in a position to help you, or will know someone who can, etc. Networking is not a game of ping-pong. It’s about making yourself useful to an entire professional community. You never know if at some point she might say to a colleague of hers, “Oh you need XYZ service? I know someone really great for that.”

  40. Karo*

    #3 – I want to push back on the notion that work travel is a perk. The location would have to be *amazing* and would have to cost an arm and a leg to get to for the travel to be a perk. And even then, I struggle with the phrasing.

    For instance, if I’m flying from the U.S. to London for a typical conference (e.g. long-ish days and expectation of after-session networking), and I am only in London during the days of the conference, that’s more of a punishment than anything else. The travel is certainly less of a burden if I can add some time to enjoy myself, but it’s still something I’m doing for work. It’s not like I’m planning a trip on my own to London and then looking to see if there are conferences in the area so I can pin the cost of the flight on my employer.

    1. Allypopx*

      Agreed. Some people like work travel some people don’t, but it’s still certainly work, regardless, and shouldn’t be regarded as anything else.

  41. Honoria Glossop*

    Ah, #2 is exactly one day too late for me, as I wore black jeans to an interview just yesterday! Luckily it was an internal interview and I think pairing them with a black blazer was the best I could do to toe the line between interview-ready and not obviously-and-unusually-dressed-up.

    1. Allypopx*

      I think that’s a different set of circumstances, and also an environment where you have a really good sense of the expectations and the norms – much more than you would in a typical job interview.

  42. Person of Interest*

    For #3, at my old company the way travel time for exempt employees was handled was pretty reasonable: if your travel day started before some crazy early time like 6 or 7 a.m., and/or extended after 10 or 11pm., we got something like 2 comp hours with the expectation they were used the next day or later that week/ASAP – meant to be “recovery time.” I think it was a reasonable policy in terms of being both fair and manageable to track. So you might see an email from the traveler to their supervisor/team like: “I got home from the conference at 12:30 a.m. tonight, I’ll be in the office by 11 tomorrow morning.”

  43. blink14*

    OP #3 – I’ve been in two different versions of comp time scenarios while being salaried. At my old job, the office hours were very strict, taking an hour lunch break was a requirement, and comp time was hour for hour, on 15 minute increments. At that job, there were two seasonal events that required working every other weekend for about 6 weeks of the year, plus some nights, and one after hour event. I had to keep track of my time meticulously – my boss was so paranoid and such a PITA that she would circle the building on the weekends I was in the office and track when she saw my car (very small office, and she did this to the hourly workers as well). I felt very taken advantage of in that job, knew I was underpaid, and made every minute of that comp time count.

    At my current job, also salaried with standard office hours that include an hour lunch break, things are a bit more flexible. I’ve actually never worked “overtime” type hours, but unofficial comp time is a thing and varies by department. Going to a conference is absolutely considered working hours, travel included, and if it is multiple days and/or there is a lot of travel involved, there is leeway after returning to come in late/leave early to compensate that time.

  44. Bee*

    That policy is definitely an overreach. Also potentially based on some low key racism — the entire continent of Asia? My job just requires that you work from home for two weeks after returning from China specifically. They are monitoring if there other travel advisories and will update as needed.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Yes, people in the United States have a terrible understanding of geography and history.

      I noticed that nobody is worried about travel to Italy, and yet there is an outbreak there.

      1. Jennifer*

        “Yes, people in the United States have a terrible understanding of geography and history.”

        Yep, it’s called racism.

        1. Donkey Hotey*

          Dayum…. Shots fired.

          I mean, you’re not wrong. I just wasn’t prepared for something that sharp this deep in the comments.

      2. Anon for the moment*

        I have a coworker who is in Italy right now and I don’t mind saying that I’m worried about what’s going to happen when she comes back. For context he is traveling throughout the country but I don’t know whether he started in southern Italy and hopefully had warning and canceled his plans to the northern part of if he started out in the northern part of the country.

    2. Bluesboy*

      I don’t know, I kind of get it, as long as this policy was put in place BEFORE the virus really got outside Asia.

      They aren’t saying you can’t travel to Asia. They are saying that they want to approve it. I assume that if you told them you were going to Israel, or St Petersburg, they would say yes, if you said you were going to Wutan they would say no.

      They could, of course list a number of places where you are or aren’t allowed to visit. But then they have to constantly update it whenever the situation changes when they don’t even know if any of their employees have any plans to travel.

      So I get the logic and don’t think it’s racist, as long as the policy was proposed before the virus was really outside Asia. It would be interesting to know if they have since added Europe to the list.

      1. voyager1*

        We don’t know when the letter writer wrote in. Some of the early reporting and hot takes were racially motivated.

        I just glanced at CNN and they are reporting that Corona virus is now on 6 of 7 continents. At this point you are probably just as likely to get it in Europe as Asia. The CDC call that Maddow ran on her show Tuesday night is pretty scary. The CDC said that this virus will get into the US. It isn’t if just when.

        1. Bluesboy*

          Yes, my point was basically this, that we don’t know when the letter writer wrote in. I think the policy would be racist if you applied it now, but not when the virus was exclusively in Asia.

          I am actually in North Italy, so I am well aware of the chances of catching it outside Asia! Schools are closed, offices are closed, the city is half deserted. If the company is taking this seriously then they NEED to add Europe. If they don’t add Europe…well at that point, it’s definitely racism.

          Chinese businesses are all empty here, which is ludicrous. I went to the Chinese restaurant the other day and they were like “wow, a customer!” But it isn’t just them. People who work freelance, people who are paid by the hour, people who run their own businesses…really struggling.

    3. Enginear*

      This is absolutely low key racism. Just like how all the stories of people getting scared and denying services to people who are Asian here in the US. Just because they look/are Asian, people group them into one group and assume they have the virus. That’s exactly what this company is doing.

      1. Mameshiba*

        Maybe the company is racist, but it’s not racist to postpone travel to China/Japan/South Korea and be concerned about the spread of coronavirus from people traveling there for personal reasons. I’m in Japan right now and people are discouraged from traveling locally.

    4. Mediamaven*

      I don’t believe this is racism. Asia isn’t a race, it’s a place, that happens to be ground zero for a highly contagious disease. The policy doesn’t say, Asians cannot come to work, it says anyone who travels to Asia. While it may not be inclusive of the whole continent information is still coming out and they’ll probably continue to add additional geographies as they see fit. I believe there is racism associated with this disease, but this isn’t it.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      It’s “stay gold”. It comes from the Robert Frost poem:

      Nature’s first green is gold,
      Her hardest hue to hold.
      Her early leaf’s a flower;
      But only so an hour.
      Then leaf subsides to leaf.
      So Eden sank to grief,
      So dawn goes down to day.
      Nothing gold can stay.

      So the idea that against all odds, you will nevertheless “stay gold”.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        I didn’t understand the first five lines of this poem until I lived in a place with a real spring. My favorite line is “So dawn goes down to day” — devastating!

        Stay gold, Ponyboy — it’s bittersweet, isn’t it? because nothing gold *can* stay, no matter how hard you try.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        Dangit, now it’s all dusty in my office.
        Seriously, that poem has been so tied to that book in my head since High School that I can’t unlink them.

      1. Kathenus*

        Yup, ‘Stay gold’ was in Johnny’s letter to Ponyboy that he put in the Gone With the Wind book, which Ponyboy found at the end. So it references the Frost poem but the ‘Stay gold’ quote itself is specific to the book (and later movie). And agree with Malty above that it’s a travesty that it’s not a default, widespread sentiment.

        Stay gold, all.

  45. blink14*

    OP #2 – Both of my longer term jobs have been business casual, with my previous job leaning more to the casual side because there was a good bit of physical activity mixed in. In both situations, I have long worn black, navy, or gray khaki kick boot style pants from American Eagle, Old Navy, Gap, etc. Buy a nice new pair in black, pair with a nice top and a sweater or blazer, pair with a nice pair of shoes, and it’s a good interview outfit for most jobs (depending on the industry, an actual suit set may be more appropriate).

    That style of pants are still the basis of my work wardrobe, and I rotate the top style and cardigan style depending on the season. While not made of the best materials, I can often find this style of pants on sale and buy several pairs a year, and the budget for it is reasonable. Also has been a really good option for weight gain/weight loss, as they aren’t very expensive and can be easy replaced.

  46. AndersonDarling*

    #3 My issue is when I have to travel on a weekend. I’m an average exempt employee and I was miffed when I had to drive 6 hours on a Saturday to get get home after a training conference. I figured I’d be given a day off (or at least a half a day) to compensate for a full day of driving, but there was no policy around it, not even an informal department policy. I wasn’t at a lavish destination and stayed at a regular chain hotel, and I busted my chops every day to cram in all the training. I was exhausted when I got back. It certainly wasn’t a vacation/perk.

  47. SleeplessKJ*

    #2 Most definitely invest in a pair of basic black slacks and a jacket or tailored sweater. Any kind of government job (whether it’s the school district or a municipality) is going to expect at least business casual attire. Jeans of any color are a big no. (I worked in city government and schools for 18 years) After you’re hired you may find that your particular department has a more relaxed vibe (doubtful) but always err on the side of “professional”

  48. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: My first reaction was to wonder how old this intern is–I didn’t know anyone was still reading that! The movie came out when I was a kid so we Gen Xers know it, but I guess at least a few younger people do, too.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      English teachers still teach it because they have all the lesson plans, worksheets, quizzes, and tests in place.

      I fought against this book when I was teaching because there are far better and more relevant books, but worksheets rule, so we will apparently be teaching this book to middle school kids for the next hundred years or so.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      My oldest kid read it (he’s 22), but I think I personally fell into the period where it was not new but before it was a “classic”. I had the book as a hand-me-down from my older cousins who are now 50-ish, but the movie came out when I was 5. I did read part of the book, but it didn’t resonate with me. . .I think I was still in my Judy Blume phase when I read it. I finally saw the movie a couple years ago.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I was six, but it was still common on video rental shelves when I was a preteen, and by then the actors in it were established heartthrobs.

    3. OyHiOh*

      I know several middle school English teachers who, right now in 2020 are teaching The Outlander to 6th or 7th graders.

    4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Outsiders was mandatory reading in 8th grade.

      Also us Millennials who grew up with the Pop Punk explosion of 1999-2007. They were all GenX who wrote songs about it.

      It’s very popular sub culture.

    5. Marny*

      Students seem to still be required to read the same old books we were required to read for the past 40 years. It’s like no new books have been written in all that time.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        It’s because English teachers are reluctant to create new teaching and learning materials. BT, DT. (Also, no longer teaching as a result.)

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        It’s because why change something that isn’t broken? There’s a reason why we also still watch “classic” movies and not just the new crap they churn out.

    6. Bibliovore*

      Required reading in Middle School. 1974. I signed up on twitter because S.E. Hinton mentioned how she talked to “the boys” (the movie actors on Supernatural ) on it at a publishing lunch for the anniversary edition of The Outsiders. Yup. I had lunch with S.E. Hinton. Still can’t believe it.

  49. Dust Bunny*

    Jeans: I interviewed for a position as a veterinary assistant, which is a job in which you wear scrubs and get pooped on on a regular basis, and still wore dress pants and a nice shirt. Don’t wear jeans.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        I would assume they would, given that it’s definitely a professional field. Unless the interviewer made it clear I was going to be given a practical skills test, I’d show up in dressy clothes.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Norms have changed since I got my first job as a teenager in the 1990s, but my mom told me to wear a “suit” to that interview. The job was “on the floor” at a printing company, where you would wear jeans because you get dirty and for safety. My suit was some weird 90s outfit with an over-sized blazer, striped khaki slacks, and doc martens, but the point is I was always told to dress up for interviews, and now it seems more common that people think you should dress like you’re on the job. For some jobs (let’s say dirty jobs with uniforms), dressing up might mean jeans and a polo, but I still think you’re supposed to step it up, not see if you can slide by with something that might be more casual than everyday wear in that office.

    1. OyHiOh*

      Yup

      I have an interview in a few hours with a company that I *know* has a quirky laid back business casual but moderately on the casual side culture. I’m wearing a knit sheath dress, blazer, and low heels (there’s a tour, inclusive of the “factory” side of the operation included). People I know who work there wear jeans and nice blouses daily, but jeans are not interview wear, no matter how tailored and well maintained they are.

    2. James*

      I once interviewed–and got the job–in torn blue-jeans, worn-out hiking boots, and a ripped t-shirt. Interviewer called last-minute saying they had an opening, while I was on my way to help my grandfather on his farm. Eyebrows were raised, yes, but once I explained the situation and we got to talking it was more or less brushed aside.

      That said, it was a very junior position, where the fact that I was actively breathing meant I’d likely get the job. But context does matter.

      For my interview where I currently work I wore slacks, a polo, and dress shoes, and was the best-dressed person in the room.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      We’ve had plenty of people interview for all sorts of positions who show up in really not-interview attire. We still hired them in the end. I still joke with my boss because he was so put off by one hire we made who showed up in street clothes but has been fantastic at their job, so we made the right decision to overlook that snag in process.

      But still I strongly encourage people to “do better” whenever they can. If you think “Is it appropriate to wear jeans” the answer is usually “Probably not, try something else.”

  50. Miss May*

    A while ago I saw a meme where it put common email sign offs on the Dungeon and Dragons alignment chart. I think “stay gold” is definitely under chaotic good.

  51. TravelCompanyGirl*

    In a similar vein – my company has banned all travel to Asia, including personal travel, and will suspend us without pay for 30 days if we go – is that illegal???

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      At Will employment allows for this.

      Suspended for 30 days is much more generous than getting fired for it. And you’ve been warned…so.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      They can’t stop you from going, but if you choose to go, then yes, they can definitely stop you from coming back to worth.

      1. JM60*

        The policy is very broad, but I don’t think you’d have a good legal case against the employer. I suppose that you could argue that the policy has disperate impact on Asian employees, since they’re more likely to travel to Asia. However, antidiscrimination laws typically have exceptions for incidental disperate impact when such policy is necessary.

        If I were a juror on such a case, I think it would be an easy ‘not guilty’ verdict in the employer’s favor, unless the law was not carefully written.

      2. Mameshiba*

        I don’t see how being of Asian descent or not matters… the issue is not “stop Asians from traveling” it’s “stop people from traveling to places in Asia where there’s an epidemic right now”.

  52. cncx*

    i worked in a company where everyone except interns are exempt. Their comp time was a little special and it has been abused. we also (europe) had different kinds of exempt- lower level employees still have to do time tracking, of which i was a part.
    Someone like me, who travels infrequently and does time tracking is allowed to bill/track/comp travel days from the moment they step out of their house until they walk in the door and take it off in kind (hour for hour, time and a half if weekend). Someone who travels frequently is supposed to be reasonable, e.g. if it’s part of their job to travel two days a week, then the 14 and 15 hour comp time i could declare isn’t gonna work, but they can do stuff like leave early on friday, or sleep in the day after they come back, or take a day off on either end if time zones were involved.

    In non-travel, some of the employees at my level who had to time track would literally comp every minute they spent checking an email over 40 hours a week and we had some really laughable comp time situations with people claiming weeks and months of overtime because they checked their work mail on their phone at 7pm on a Tuesday.

  53. Sunflower*

    #2 It’s a good idea to invest in at least one pair of black dress pants and classic style dress shirt. They can be can be pulled for many years whenever you need to dress up a bit, both in business and personal life.

  54. CAM*

    Once at my work, we had an external vendor that signed their emails “ALVB, [their name]”. After some googling, it was determined that this stood for “Hasta la vista, baby!”, which is laughable enough on its own, but with the addition of using “A”, instead of “H” for “Hasta”, it’s just TOO ridiculous. Always gave us a chuckle and I had fun explaining it to new staff who received their emails. If this was an intern doing this and I oversaw them in any way, I’d definitely have a conversation about it.

  55. Jennifer*

    #1 I love this girl!

    #4 Not only is that an overreach but it’s borderline xenophobic. Y’all are really scared, huh?

      1. voyager1*

        I am actually a little scared. The virus is scary. It is spreading. I am most fearful though of the response of the US government. The US has a President now who takes a sharpie to weather maps. The US has a President who cut funding to the CDC. The US government is not prepared for this, and the very top official the President is more worried about the Dow Jones and his re-election then protecting people. The sharpie thing to the weather map would be laughable but it makes me not trust the government and its ability to respond.

    1. Anonymous for this*

      Check out policy on travel to china for north carolina state university. I have Chinese students who have to decide whether to go back to China this summer or stay in the states, because they can’t be sure they’ll be let back in.

  56. HR Ninja*

    At my old job one of our bank teller supervisor’s last name was “Bomber.” He would always sign off his e-mails as, “The Bomb”, even after he was told not to. It was eye-rolling at best.

    1. Myrin*

      I have to admit, I laughed out loud at this. I mean, I probably wouldn’t laugh if an employee at my bank signed an email to me like that, but just reading your comment has me giggling.

      1. HR Ninja*

        I wish he looked like the Mayor of Flavortown. He looked like THAT kid in high school who would nominate himself as homecoming king.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh but That Kid makes it make just as much sense to me. Bomb diggity diggity diggity oooooout

  57. You can call me flower, if you want to*

    Regarding letter 4. I’m leaving for a personal trip to Vietnam and Thailand in March, and all of my plans are fully booked and paid for already. I’m sure yours are too. I think this is a huge overstep from an employer. You are a competent adult who can read the CDC guidelines. Once they see your plans what is their game plan? Are they going to insist you cancel your trip? Are they going to to pay for all of those fees for canceling. This is just a huge overstep and one more thing for you to deal with while trying to navigate flights, visas, lodging, the CDC. I totally get your frustration. I would not be happy. This seems really unreasonable to me.

      1. Lix Tetrax*

        You can go! Just don’t complain when you’re staying home in a quarantine for two weeks without pay.

      2. JM60*

        Just because there isn’t a law against it (at least not yet) doesn’t mean your employer has no right to restrict it when it affects fellow employees.

  58. Special Agent Michael Scarn*

    “Stay gold” is amazing to me, and I’d much rather see that than “cheers” “regards,” etc.

    1. Anonymous Poster*

      +1

      And I don’t think it would necessarily be “a kindness” to tell her to change it because it wouldn’t be appropriate in some other job.

      I think that saying something to the effect of “that email signature’s okay here, but some people somewhere might not like it :) :)” is passive-aggressive. If it’s actually not okay in her current workplace, just tell her that.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Yes, but part of an internship is learning about professional norms across a spectrum of organizations, not just your own. I don’t think there is anything passive-agressive about saying it’s okay here, but probably not in other places.

        FWIW, I would ask her why she chose that. Is it something that carried over from college? Did she see another worker in this org use it? Context matters, and would probably color how I counseled this intern.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I had a formally fashionable hoodie emblazoned with it. Courtesy of Pete Wentz…

          I don’t think digging for her reason is necessary. It’s either okay or it isn’t.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      ‘Stay gold’ would get my attention because, hey, I love semi-obscure literary references. Still, the intern has to consider the audience.

      This particular audience member is adding ‘Best’ to your list, Special Agent.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Will you accept “Thanks” or “Thank you”? What about “Kind regards”? I see that one from people from Canada and Wisconsin specifically. Not sure why.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I accept polite sign-offs of all kinds! ‘Best’ just seems to be the signature du jour and highly overused in my field – but I’ll never tell those folks to stop using it.

        2. Clisby*

          At the company where I worked before retiring, “Kind regards” was pretty common from our German partners.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        “Best” and “Regards” always seem like they’re missing something….

        Like “Best Wishes,” and “With Regards”, that’s really the only reason they rub my feathers the wrong way a bit.

        I just want to start ending emails with “Bye now” since I keep getting it in face to face contact, why not in writing too =X

  59. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Awwww the “Stay Gold” from an intern in 2020 warmed my cold old Millenial heart though.

    I used “Follow Your Bliss” for a sign off for years though. So that intern and I are kindred spirits like that.

    I had someone with a signature block with a picture of Skittles and “chase the rainbow” once from a giant corporation. The giant corp wasn’t related to candy or a MARS subsidiary to say the least (and sadly it wasn’t from Marshawn Lynch either…)

    1. DivineMissL*

      Oh, boy, I always thought the Skittles ads were whispering, “Taste the Rainbow”. My latest mondegreen!

      1. londonedit*

        I’m pretty sure it is ‘taste the rainbow’, isn’t it? I’m sure I’ve seen it written out on Skittles adverts!

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        LOL that was probably what it was.

        I’ve been listening to Waterfalls, so it probably melted my brain. Don’t chase waterfalls, skittles or rainbows just to be safe!

        1. A Non E. Mouse*

          I’ve been listening to Waterfalls, so it probably melted my brain. Don’t chase waterfalls, skittles or rainbows just to be safe!

          Thanks for that ear worm. Genuinely.

          I’m now likely to bust out in the Left Eye solo at unsuspecting coworkers

  60. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – I agree with Alison’s advice that your former coworker may never have thought you expected them to do anything. There was no “ask” in your message to them, just an expression of good wishes and a statement that it would be good to stay connected. Being connections on LinkedIn IS staying connected, when you don’t have anything specific you or the other person need. Besides which, unless you were looking for an ongoing friendship with that person, with regular lunches out, what would you have expected from that person? I mean, a message once in awhile would be nice, but considering all the former colleagues and contacts out there, sending out periodic messages to a lot of people can get time consuming (in the aggregate) and come off a bit odd if you aren’t close.

    If you felt that the former co-worker was a good colleague and professional, I would meet with them, discuss their interests, and would refer them, if it made sense. You’ll be building goodwill. Consider that – if positions were reversed – your former colleague would likely have done the same for you and that they would very likely do the same for you in the future.

    Yes, it’s transactional, but this is business, not friendship. And that’s okay.

    PS – of course, if your past experience is that this person is someone who does NOT reciprocate and wouldn’t provide the level of support to you that they are asking of you, that’s different. It would also be different if you thought the other person wasn’t someone you could refer to your company. I still wouldn’t blow up the connection, but I’d be careful about how engaged I got.

  61. Beverly C*

    Regarding the non-reciprocal worker: I’d be a bit miffed too, in your situation. At best, her ignoring your attempt to stay in touch was a bit careless. You could just not answer. But, bottom line, if you won’t enjoy referring her, then don’t. You’re not obligated to treat someone like gold when they’ve demonstrated less than that to you.

  62. Theory of Eeveelution*

    For #2, I have personally seen candidates not get the job because they wore a suit to the interview. You really have to know the company/industry, and it’s becoming more and more common for even the stuffiest industries to mimic tech in this way. There was just an article in WIRED about this (“Silicon Valley Ruined Work Culture”). Also, denim has really changed in the last few years, it’s pretty common now for high-end denim to be more expensive and even look nicer than traditional pants. I think the number of industries for which nice jeans would be ok in an interview is starting to outnumber “suits” industries.

    1. Macedon*

      Yeah, I wouldn’t close my door to a starting reporting knock-knocking in a suit, but I’d get a distinct whiff of cultural misunderstanding and watch out for other signs of mismatch. I think the common wisdom that dressing up beats dressing down is frankly outdated — you dress for a job, not a cookie cutter graduation album.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        But people don’t know the details about the culture and the job until after the interview stage, so that seems very unreasonable to hold it against them that they choose the option that is correct 99% of the time to be safe.

        1. Macedon*

          I’ve yet to be in a newsroom where the standard suit is the go-to. You should have a sense of the industry before you go to interview — and you should definitely ask around people who work in similar positions (or professors) if this is your first attempt at a job in the industry. It’s not about the company culture, it’s the industry as a whole.

          But like I said, it’s not a deal-breaker for me, just something that signals the interviewee could have perhaps spent more time researching, or might have misconceptions about the nature of the job. We report about suits, we are not the suits. And I make (wannabe) journalists fewer allowances on the “how should they have known???” front because proactively chasing information is such an intrinsic part of our field.

  63. SheLooksFamiliar*

    LW5, what did you expect from y our former colleague? Monthly lunch dates? Regular invitations to get drinks and gab about your industry? And did you expect her to extend the invitation first because she said, ‘Let’s stay in touch’? She’s not a non-reciprocal networker because, to be plain, you weren’t networking with her. Instead, it seems like you were doing a slow burn because she wasn’t meeting your unspoken expectations. Now that she has contacted you – for a totally valid reason! – you’re irritated and plan to do the bare minimum of ‘networking’ and then write her off. Please don’t!

    Also, you’re *assuming* she wants you to put in a good word for her. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn’t. That doesn’t mean you must give it (although I hope you will, if warranted). A good referral works for you, too.

    On the whole, you seem resentful of her and, from what you’ve written, there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for it. Instead, it seems to come from a lack of understanding what networking truly is. So: toeing the line between being a good corporate citizen and a pushover is being clear in your requests, and in your expectations, and in what you agree to do. It also means knowing what you’re dealing with, and I think you’d do yourself a favor if you read up on professional networking. Learn what it is/is not, and how you can benefit from it.

  64. Oh dear*

    Oh man, this is so relevant for me today as I am definitely wearing black jeans to an interview this afternoon. The interview is for an internal position so I’ll be interviewing with people I already work with and just flaked this morning and put on my regular work clothes (we dress pretty casual and jeans are very common) instead of thinking of interview clothes.

  65. Orange You Glad*

    I’m exempt salaried and I’ve never received any official comp time for travel. My employer is reasonable so I’m able to change my hours to make up for times I may be traveling outside normal business hours. For example, an industry organization I am part of frequently has their multi-day conferences start on a Sunday evening which means I need to fly there Sunday morning or afternoon. Since I’ve given up one of my weekend days for work, when I fly back Friday morning I do not go into the office unless there is a major issue I need to deal with (which is rare). When I have lots of back to back travel to our various office locations, my boss will give me a day off “off the books” to make up for the personal time I gave up to travel for the company.

  66. Andrea*

    #1 – I have a coworker who ends every phone call with “peace” — but the way one might say “PEACE, I’M OUTTA HERE” before they drop a microphone. I work in a stodgy, old school manufacturing industry, and the first time he did it, it threw me off, and I spent a couple minutes wondering if I should say something to him about how it was weird. Now I find it endearing.

  67. Auntie Social*

    An intern who is looking for a reference will see that a movie quote is not appropriate for a company email sign-off. Her boss may andwer her reference request with “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Off topic, but today I saw a meme reducing that cinematic classic to:

      tbh bae idgaf

      and the comments discussed in thrilled excitement how language develops and is so very tightly “of its time”.

  68. Radiant Peach*

    I once had an intern who signed emails with “Blessings”. It was not a religious organization and she attended a state school so I’m not sure what the heck made her think that was appropriate or professional.

    1. James*

      Was she Southern? I work in the South, and before the company put the hammer down on our email signatures (they now dictate what’s in them, the font size, the colors, everything….) many people had Bible verses or the like in their email signatures. I work for a large multinational company (some 70,000 employees), and in most areas this would be considered odd, but in the South it’s part of the culture. It’s somewhat annoying since I’m not a member of their religion and the culture is such that I’m not comfortable being open about my religious beliefs, but on the whole I’d rather do that than (and this has happened) have someone try to convert me after a meeting or while doing oversight at a job site!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I see and hear the old “Have a blessed day” throughout my life, both at work and at the store. And no, this is not the South by a long shot.

      Most highly religious folks believe that it’s perfectly acceptable behavior. They simply will not leave their religious beliefs out of it unless.

      Like James said above, I still see Bile verses and I’m in an industry that’s rarely dealing with religious entities!

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Gurl…

          I took over for a Pagan who did that to a known religious client because she ripped into me when I first started for asking her to pay us money that was owed [LMAO my crude audacity, seeing a past due account and trying to collect kindly.]

          So since she was on her way out and honestly the boss didn’t care either way, she snatched the keyboard and fired off a response to her when I was like “Uh…what would you suggest I do about this kind of reaction, what does Boss expect from us when people are mad for no actual reason?” =X

    3. Close Bracket*

      There’s a very senior guy at my defense contractor employer who signs things “Blessings,” so if I were to hazard a guess, she might have seen it modeled by senior people and copied it.

    4. StrangerThanFiction*

      Working as I do with several people of Nigerian extraction, I’d probably assume that was her name.

  69. stitchinthyme*

    I wore black jeans to my interview at my current job, but I work in the software industry, where such things are pretty normal.

  70. James*

    I find the idea of an “informal fabric” rather amusing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not arguing against the advice here. I even know why denim is considered informal (the history of clothing is actually pretty fascinating–the history of suits and ties in particular!). But when you take a step back and look at what’s being said, there’s an inherent absurdity to this idea.

    1. OyHiOh*

      Agreed, and part of why I’m facinated by the work of designers who use denim and other informal or non traditional fabrics/materials to make formal wear.

    2. Jedi Squirrel*

      Now I’m thinking of all those kids who make duct tape prom outfits!

      That’s a very informal fabric.

      1. James*

        A common thing in the maille community (chain maille armor, jewelry, etc) is to make a maille tie. I’ve seen woodworkers do the same. Never been sure if that’s formal or informal.

  71. interrobang*

    I work in a professional office (lawyers) with an incredibly casual dress code, which I knew going in. Still wore a full black skirt suit to the interview…why risk it?

  72. hlinak*

    Re: Letter 3

    First, never commented before, and wow the comment thread is long. Honestly tl;dr.

    I used to work for a “quasi-governmental” org, though an order of magnitude smaller. We had to travel a bit outside of working hours. The policy, which I thought was fair, was that any time spent outside of the 8 hour work day doing “real work” (e.g., writing documents for the next day, staying for a meeting that ran over) was comped at one-to-one and that any time spent traveling beyond the time of a normal commute was comped at two-to-one.

  73. Gumby*

    For #3: What did the employee do between 1 p.m. when she presumably arrived at the conference location and the start of the evening event? If you are doing hour-for-hour comp time, that seems to matter. Travel time for work absolutely counts. Cocktail hour if part of the conference (arranged as an official conference event, less clear cut if it was personally arranged) sure. But going to a 2-hour lunch with friends or family in the destination area or watching TV in a hotel room for 4 hours doesn’t count. And this is why hour-for-hour comp time is probably a bad idea — because it leads to this sort of micromanaging of every moment of the trip.

  74. Ladybugger*

    I’m sorry but I can’t sign off on the intern answer. STAY GOLD, intern, you sweet summer child. Never change. One day you will be the manager with the weird thing and I live for it.

    1. Enginear*

      Right?! I actually like it! It’s something different and fresh besides the fake Best Regards everyone defaults to.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It helps her weed out the fuddy duddy folk too in case she’s interested in you know…not being that traditional type.

      If someone came at me for something this insignificant, my response is “I didn’t want any of those apples anyways…”

      But I have blazed my path myself, sometimes taking my own eyebrows off accidentally along the way. *shrug*

    3. James*

      The idea that this sort of sign-off is somehow problematic is why we can’t have nice things as a culture. Any time anyone strays a little outside the norm, everyone comes down on them. If someone reprimands you for an uplifting literary quote, they’re without a doubt intolerable to work with in other ways. The only people I’ve worked with that take offense to that sort of thing have 1) WAY too much time on their hands, and 2) delusions that they are somehow the Enforcer of Corporate Policy.

      I say, be quirky. Professional, but quirky.

      1. Close Bracket*

        And the whole, “Well, *I* don’t judge, but you know, *SOME* people might.” Passive aggressive concern trolling is what that is.

      2. Ladybugger*

        100%. IWhen people write in about things like this I’m sometimes like…so? You could practice not caring about it? Or get a hobby?

        No disrespect to LW who I’m sure feels a responsibility to guide her intern in appropriate office behaviour; this is just so far off my radar of ‘things which are a problem at all’.

        1. James*

          I think the LW is coming from a good place–they’re trying to help the intern. But I also think that we as a society should push back against the principle on display here. The LW didn’t make this rule, it’s one I’ve seen in action many times, but perpetuating it is an error.

          If the intern is forced to stop using a quirky but positive and intelligent sign off, you can bet that intern isn’t going to be willing to put forward many new ideas in the future. They’ll learn that taking even minor risks (and this shouldn’t even be a risk!) results in getting your wrist slapped. This, if systematic, leads to the organization stagnating. Who’s going to speak up with a real innovation (always a risk) in such an organization?

  75. Employment Lawyer*

    1. Intern uses “stay gold” as her email sign off
    This obviously calls for a gift of old “Solid Gold” memorabilia. Just my $0.02.

    2. Can I wear black jeans to a job interview?
    No.

    3. What’s a reasonable comp time policy?
    Wow, you’re in a lose/lose situation and they are milking it.
    Salaried employees get paid even if they leave early and generally can’t get docked hours for things. But they don’t get extra pay for overtime. Hourly employees get paid for OT but they don’t get paid if they aren’t working.

    Your folks are trying to get the best of both words.

    You’re probably union if you’re government so this may be beyond your control. But generally, comp time sucks and you should avoid it. Most of the time my view is that the ONLY appropriate view of comp time is to balance unequal worktime for hourly employees.

    Salaried employees should almost never get comp time. The whole point of salary is that you can work more/less to accommodate reasonable fluctuations in the job. If you really want to reserve comp time then you can limit it to situations where unless they exceed a predefined time, like “over 55 hours in a week,” or where they have to do things like work all day on a Saturday. But really, if they’re salaried then this is supposed to be worked out intelligently and you don’t need a formal system. “feel free to pop off when you get your project done, since you’ve been putting in late hours at the conference.” Etc.

    If your salaried employees are bitching when they exceed 35 hours on a normal workday, as do many such employees, then they are acting like hourly employees who can be fired if they arrive late, go over on lunch, take unauthorized breaks, etc. You should switch them back to hourly–they may still be exempt from time and a half depending on the state–and they’ll stop.

    4. Company wants advance approval of all personal vacations to Asia
    Reasonable in context; possibly even wise. If you don’t like it, quit. Or lie, and risk getting fired (and infecting people.)

    1. Enginear*

      Regarding your response to #4, if you were Asian would you have answered differently? When you’re not the race that is being discriminated against sometimes the point of view can be skewed.

      1. Mediamaven*

        I don’t see anything racist about the policy, whether it’s fair or not. The policy did not say Asian people, it said going to Asia. Asia isn’t a race, it’s a place, where people besides Asians live, and is ground zero for a very contagious disease. That’s just a fact. Please don’t try so hard to find racism where there isn’t because there are plenty of legitimate places that it exists.

      2. Lix Tetrax*

        Literally not racist. Do what you want, go where you want. Don’t complain about pushback though!

      3. Employment Lawyer*

        “if you were Asian would you have answered differently?”

        Ask the general question first:

        “there’s an outbreak of a contagious and possibly deadly infectious disease. We don’t know for sure how infectious or deadly it is, but in the interim, my company is apparently scared. They are forbidding employees from traveling to that entire geographic area. Can they do that?”

        My answer: Yes, they can.

        It just so happens that the center of this particular virus is in a place with racial homogeneity, but it’s likely that this rule is because THAT IS WHERE THE VIRUS CENTER IS and not “because people are Asian.”

        If you’re sure it’s racist there’s probably not much I can do to change your mind, though.

        1. Mameshiba*

          Uh I agree with most of your comment but Asia is certainly not “racially homogeneous”! And that has nothing to do with the disease or with health regulations anyway!

  76. Submerged Tenths*

    And yet:
    “Each year, 1.35 million people are killed on roadways around the world. **Every day, almost 3,700 people are killed globally** in road traffic crashes involving cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles, trucks, or pedestrians. More than half of those killed are pedestrians, motorcyclists, and cyclists.”
    We don’t see companies changing their policies about driving, being driven, or using the roads.

    1. Enginear*

      Heck, the company mind as well ban all employees from coming back to work since there’s cases of the virus here in the states. /sarcasm

      1. JM60*

        Though you’re being sarcastic, since people in this thread actually take that argument seriously. This disease is highly contagious, has a long incubation period, and is an order of magnitude more lethal than the flu (on a per infection basis). The fact that it’s not the only disease one can catch is a terrible reason to not take measured against exposing unconsenting employees to it.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      This is a false analogy. I agree that car wrecks are more likely to kill you than any particular virus. However, car wrecks are not contagious. You’re not going to pass them on to your coworkers. There’s no reason for companies to have policies against them.

      1. JM60*

        I think a lot of people in these comments are failing to recognize the difference between taking a risk for yourself, and taking a risk for others (in addition to yourself).

    3. James*

      The company I work for has instituted mandatory annual training for all staff that drive more than X hours (some absurdly low number, I’ve had commutes that exceed it) for the company. We also have a robust traffic control program mandating specific procedures for working within or near (within 20 feet) roadways. We’ve banned all phone use (even hands-free) while driving. They wanted to ban changing the radio station while driving, but there was too much push back against that.

      Maybe it’s not universal, but companies certainly are taking the risks of driving seriously.

    4. Colette*

      The presence of a virus doesn’t stop people from dying in vehicle crashes. It’s an extra risk, on top of all the ones we all deal with every day.

    5. Oxford Comma*

      If someone dies in a car accident, the physical damage ends there. It’s awful. It’s horrible, but it ends there.

      If someone is infected with a virus, it does not stop there. It spreads. From person to person. To a lot of people. I work at a university. I work in public spaces through which hundreds of people could be at any point in time. If god forbid, I get this thing and I don’t realize it, while it’s incubating, there I am infecting everyone around me and they in turn are infecting everyone around them.

  77. Enginear*

    #1, I don’t see anything wrong with stay gold. Doesn’t seem offensive to me.

    #4, talk about racism. You can’t just bunch up all Asians into a single group and think they’re all Chinese. Reminds me of me of growing up as an Asian American ironically.

    1. JM60*

      Though not all Asian countries are experiencing major outbreaks, China isn’t the only one either.

      For what it’s worth, there should be policies about travel to counties outside of Asia, such as Italy. However, this letter may have been written before the number of known cases blew up there.

  78. Plush Penguin*

    Letter #1 is reminding me of the mailbox I could find in my email by searching for the term “die in a fire,” because the mailbox’s controller had that phrase in their signature. (It was a bit more complex than that, but I definitely remember that phrase!)

      1. Plush Penguin*

        The guy who managed this particular mailbox had, in his signature, the following: “Will bring marshmallows for when you die in a fire. – my friend”

        And this particular mailbox was one I needed to email for getting approvals for certain things. So I got this email back, saw the signature, and thought “You know, I have to send this to my director.”

        I ended up forwarding the email, signature and all, because it wasn’t my concern if this guy decided that having inappropriate text in his work signature was the thing to do.

        He eventually changed it, but it was some time (and many approval requests) later.

  79. BigRedGum*

    for # 1, part of me thinks the person should know how awkward their email sign off is. someone at the university i work at always uses “have a blessed day” and it makes me cringe. It’s so wildly unprofessional. It can give people a really unfortunate impression of you. Someone should let her know – her boss, for sure. or his. I don’t remember now.

  80. Hedgehug*

    OP#4
    Just yesterday someone told me that her brother in an overseas country can’t go his own mother’s funeral in his home country in southeast Asia because if he does, he will not have his job when he gets back because he works in a nursing home, or home care or something. So if you are in the medical industry around vulnerable people…then perhaps yes, your employer might be allowed to take your job away if you go.

    1. ThatGirl*

      Nope, it’s “Stay Gold” – in The Outsiders, Ponyboy recites to Johnny a Robert Frost poem with the line “Nothing gold can stay”. Johnny tells him to stay gold.

  81. Turanga Leela*

    Chiming in as one more data point on comp time: I’m an exempt worker at a government agency with a very similar policy. Our cultural norm around comp time (or at least what I’ve picked up) is that we don’t take leave for a late arrival or long lunch, and we don’t take comp time for working through lunch or staying a little late. I do take comp time for all travel outside the work day, anytime I work on a holiday, and projects that take significant evening time (like a few extra hours for a few nights running). I wind up using the comp time for whole days off or, like, if I miss 3+ hours for an appointment.

    That feels in keeping with the spirit of being exempt, while still getting comp time for going beyond my theoretically 40-hour week.

  82. Retail not Retail*

    Ha i just came from dropping off onboarding paperwork straight FROM work and it’s like the cat shredding their adoption papers – “you’re stuck with me now!”

    I did dress nice for the cattle call interview but I’m currently covered in 2 kinds of mulch and one kind of soil and most damningly of all, in a (mulchy/dirty) across the state university hoodie! (That’s not allowed at work either but we were out of sight today and it was just so cold!) This is an equally filthy job though, so the only negative is the hoodie.

  83. pcake*

    Doesn’t Johnny tell Ponyboy to stay gold as he’s dying? I haven’t read the book for years, but it’s something like that. Not a very upbeat email closing for those of us familiar with it…

    1. Close Bracket*

      The circumstances are sad, but the sentiment is encouraging. I like to focus on the sentiment.

  84. Oxford Comma*

    I think with regards to the jeans, it’s a real risk. I can count on one hand the times I have noticed what applicants have worn in any kind of specificity. When I have, it’s always been that they were dressed weirdly or far too casually.

    OP: I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money, but I would invest in a pair of actual trousers, whether you get an inexpensive pair from a place like Target or a thrift store or whatever. If you don’t have a blouse or button down, I would get one of those too and maybe a pair of flats.

  85. Epsilon Delta*

    I think I’ve been a software dev too long, because both “stay gold” email signatures and wearing black jeans to a job interview seem great to me. There’s a tiny, distant voice in the back of my head saying, “that’s a bit weird tho!” but honestly I can barely hear it.

  86. NeuroticProfessional*

    I keep thinking about this post and how much it would entertain me forever to change my signature block to “stay gold”. Can we just all do that now?! Yep. It should be mandatory.

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