asking coworkers to go to vegetarian-friendly restaurants, contacting my team with support while they’re laid off, and more

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

1. Asking coworkers to go to vegetarian-friendly restaurants on business trips

I am vegetarian (by choice). Normally, this is not a huge issue, and many of my friends and coworkers don’t even know I am vegetarian. If we’re going to a restaurant that doesn’t have good options, I can eat separately and everything works out.

This doesn’t really work on business trips, though, particularly if we’re sharing cars. If we’re all going to a restaurant, then I have to go to that restaurant too, and I have to eat something while I’m there so I don’t starve. This is sometimes a significant issue, since a good number of fast food restaurants don’t offer solid vegetarian options (a salad or fries is not a sufficient meal).

Is there a good way to steer groups away from restaurants where I can’t eat, and towards ones where I can eat, without making me the rude person? This is particularly of concern to me as someone who is significantly more junior and doesn’t have a huge amount of office good will built up.

It’ll help if you research the area ahead of time and come prepared with specific alternatives to suggest; a lot of times people suggest fast food on the road because it’s easy and familiar, but if you’ve already done the legwork to find other places, often they’ll be perfectly amenable to that.

Then you can just be matter-of-fact about it: “I’m vegetarian and they don’t have anything I can make a meal of there — would you be up for going to X or Y instead?”

(Keep in mind, though, that if they’re suggesting fast food because it’s fast and cheap, it’ll help to look for alternatives that mirror that as much as you can.)

2. How often should I contact my team with support while they’re laid off?

I had to lay off my team in mid-March with a return date of mid-August. I am struggling with how much to contact the team with inspiration and team support during a time when I am really not supposed to contact them — at least that is my understanding of how layoffs work. One person on the team tries to initiate group texts with fun topics like “Show us your fridge!” but maybe this feels tone deaf to the rest. I have sent them pertinent information on a group email, with only a few who respond regularly. I want to keep the family-like feel we had before COVID happened, but I want to respect their privacy at the same time.

There’s a good chance that they don’t want to be contacted with inspiration and team support at all while they’re laid off. They want to contacted with any news about their return dates and it wouldn’t hurt to check in monthly to confirm your timeline hasn’t changed, but I’d leave them alone beyond that.

I’d also ask that “show us your fridge!” person to ask people to explicitly opt in if they want those texts (because it’s likely that at least one person, if not more, is annoyed but worries that saying so will make them look less of a part of the team, thus jeopardizing their chance of being offered their job back).

3. My boss texted me about a conversation she saw me have on Facebook

I work for a small business whose owner requires us to be friends with them on Facebook, as they use a community page as a unique form of communication for work things, separate from email.

I recently posted an article regarding our state governor’s decision to re-open non-essential businesses two weeks from now, which included the type of business I work at. I am friends with a coworker on Facebook who commented on my post and agreed with my grievances on the issue. We are both very frustrated and upset by the recklessness of the governor’s order.

Soon after, my boss texted both of us stating that they saw our conversation and wanted to express that they disagreed but respected our views and proceeded to provide information from articles they’ve read stating that health conditions have improved in the area. Furthermore, they stated that we did not have to agree with their choice to reopen, but that they put a lot of thought into their decision.

I felt very intimidated by this text, given that they are my employer, and saw this as extremely unprofessional. Is my reaction justified?

Yes. You weren’t talking to your boss and if you wanted to raise your concerns with her, presumably you would. It wasn’t exactly eavesdropping since Facebook posts aren’t private, but it sure would make most people feel their employer was monitoring their social media conversations, as well as have a chilling effect on their online conversations with colleagues.

Of course, this is an employer who requires people to use Facebook for work communications, so there were already some problems here. (Why do they even want to do that? There are five million alternatives that don’t involve forcing people to use a platform with all the problems Facebook has.)

If your manager wanted to explain the reasons behind her decision to reopen, she would have been better off explaining it to everyone and not tying it into the conversation she saw.

4. Letting an old boss know I’m not going to return

I am in my last year of school and going to graduate this June. I really enjoyed the firm I worked at this past summer, but I recently interviewed and got a job with a firm far more in line with where I want to be, both geographically and professionally. The firm I worked at over the summer is smaller and in a different city than I want to be in.

The issue is that I hinted to the head of the firm that I’d be interested in coming back after I graduate, and I’m fairly certain he’s been operating under this assumption. There’s no contract or even a serious talk, but I did ask him if he’d be willing to raise the salary (he did not agree) and I’ve had lunch with the firm since. We have a really good relationship (we text about TV shows, etc.), and he’s been a really good mentor to me. That being said, I do have qualified friends still looking for jobs, so I’m fairly certain he would be able to find someone quickly (and I could probably even help him find someone).

I know I shouldn’t take the new job when I committed to the summer one, but I was wondering if there’s any way I can take the new job without burning this bridge entirely.

You didn’t commit to the summer job! You “hinted” that you’d be interested in coming back (which is as far from a commitment as you can get), and you asked about salary but didn’t come to an agreement. There’s no job offer, and thus there’s no commitment. At most there’s been an expression of interest on both sides, but no commitment from either of you. There can’t be until a salary has been offered and accepted.

All you need to say is, “I want to let you know that I’ve ended up accepting a job with X for after graduation. I know we’d talked a bit about the possibility of me coming back, so I wanted to let you know as soon as possible. This firm is based in (city) and will let me work on (interest area) so it seems like a great fit. I of course want to continue to stay in touch — my relationship with (firm) has been incredibly important to me.” Or so forth.

5. Can my company tell us we can’t cancel previously scheduled vacations?

I know you have fielded lots of questions about people not being able to take their vacation days, but with COVID, we are having the opposite problem. We’re being told we can’t cancel scheduled/approved vacation requests because no one is taking vacation right now and management is afraid of us all having to burn all of those use-it-or-lose it days off at the end of the year.

Can management say, “No, you asked in January for two weeks off in June. Now you have to take them whether you want to or not”? When push comes to shove, short of locking vacationing employees out of the company VPN, I don’t see how they can prevent us working those weeks now that we’re trapped at home.

Yes, they can indeed say that you have to take vacation days you’ve already scheduled. Hell, for that matter, they can assign you random vacation days you don’t want and make you take those. Neither is a good idea, because it will frustrate and demoralize people to have to waste vacation time when they’re stuck at home (and presumably would prefer to save it for a real vacation), and your company would be better off just explaining they will need to limit how many people can be away toward the end of the year (and then enforcing that) … but they can indeed do this.

For what it’s worth, though, I wouldn’t be confident that it’ll be any smarter to travel later in the year than it is right now. A staycation might be the best that it gets this year.

{ 499 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric*

    What are people shopping with vacation time this year? I’ve got 3 weeks of use it or lose it that I was planning to spend going overseas this summer.
    The need for a break from work to recharge still exists, but stuck at home all I’d do is worry about work if I was on “vacation”

    1. My Dear Wormwood*

      I think the key is to think of something you would *like* to do at home, or that you’ve been meaning to do but never seem to have time.

      A bunch of us had vacation time booked after our grants were due this year…which happened shortly after our no-travel, not-even-day-trips orders went into effect. We all just had a week or two’s staycation. It was good to not be tethered to the computer if I didn’t want to be, I went for a long walk or bike ride most days (we’re allowed out for as much exercise as we want, it just has to be local), I dived into some reading, viewing and crafting I’d been wanting to do, I did a couple of jigsaw puzzles, restarted my bodyweight workouts that I’d let slide. Some of my colleagues did clean-outs or minor renovations they’d been meaning to get around to. My boss started taking daily walks in the nearby bushland with his son, who turns out to be excellent at spotting koalas and goannas and loads of other critters. I found it really refreshing, even though I was sad to not get to go on the camping trip I had planned.

    2. Software Engineer*

      I’m working in Europe and have 29 days of vacation to burn so I’m taking 4 day weeks by taking Wednesday off. It really helps a lot since I have young kids and it’s stressful ignoring them while I work, honestly (my husband is taking care of them). It just makes the week suck less for me. The kids and my cooking projects keep me busy enough not to be thinking about work when i take a day off

      1. allathian*

        I’m also in Europe and have a long vacation to burn as well. For the last few years we’ve started our vacation with a road trip (last year we drove around the Baltic Sea in 10 days). I enjoyed it, but if I’m honest, I needed two weeks to recover from that! But at least I forgot about work to the point that I couldn’t remember my computer log-in ID when I got back to work…
        Last year we were able to schedule the same weeks off with my husband, because our son went on a day camp for the rest of his summer vacation. That isn’t an option this year, neither is traveling. So this summer it’ll be us taking turns off work and spending time with our son and try to keep him away from screens for much of the day…

      2. Mary*

        I’m in the UK with the same, but my feelings are the opposite: At the moment, work is a refuge: me and my partner are taking it in turns to mind the kids (both under 6), whilst the other one goes up to the office in the attic to work, and it’s a haven up here. Everyone kept saying how important it was to still take a break but work IS a break!

        1. RachaelM*

          This is exactly our situation! We have 18 month old twins, so work has definitely been the refuge. I was furloughed last week and it’s so much more exhausting now…

      3. logicbutton*

        Taking Wednesdays is genius. It’s like having two short weeks instead of one long week!

    3. MK*

      What do you like doing that can be done at home or at least without breaking quarantine? If you are someone who defines vacation as ”doing X” instead of ”not working”, it would be better to make definite plans; I realise it’s more difficult for peoplewho don’t have many indoors activities they enjoy.

    4. TimeCat*

      What about burning it in smaller chunks? 2 weeks off at home may be too much but a 3 or 4 day weekend might not be bad.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        That’s what I’m doing – I’m taking a day here or there as I feel like I could use a break.

      2. Salsa Your Face*

        In past jobs, this is what I would do with excess vacation time–the long weekends were really nice! In my current job, though, there’s this whole convoluted coverage process we have to do any time we want to take off half a day or more. It takes hours! Most of the time it’s just not worth spending half a day scrambling in order to get one day off. So now that I can’t travel anywhere, I feel stuck–should I take random days off knowing that I’m going to have to do all that extra work just to make it happen, or take a whole week off and sit around the house twiddling my thumbs?

        (I realize that people who aren’t working right now would love to have this dilemma, and to them, I sincerely apologize and hope they can all get back to work soon!)

      3. KTB*

        I’m doing a similar thing with long weekends. My state just reopened some outdoor recreation, so my husband and I are planning to do some paddleboarding and mountain biking on a weekday, when there are likely to be fewer people out.

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I’m taking two “staycation” trips this summer. For one, I’m going to set up a tent in my fenced backyard and go camping, going only into the utility room and the bathroom off of it and otherwise staying in the backyard rather than the house for a few days.

      For the other, I’m time-traveling to the 90s for a week or so. I’m going to wear a flannel shirt, re-watch Babylon 5, re-read some favorite books, and stay off the internet. I may also dig out some old video game systems and/or some emulators. (If it is the 90s, it must be time for Klax, after all.) Maybe I’ll replay the original Warcraft if I can get one of my old computer systems working or get it running in a VM.

        1. Person from the Resume*

          I have been wanting to do that for some time now. Babylon 5 is probably my favorite television show, but I haven’t seen it in years. Does it hold up?

          I can binge watch – i.e. get addicted to something and watch nonstop – but I don’t have chunks of time to do that since weeknights and weekends are time for chores and cooking and cleaning and exercise and reading (which can have its own binging problem).

          A staycation where binge watching is actually the plan and I don’t feel guilty for not doing something more productive sounds lovely.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            It holds up, at least the first 4 seasons + Day of the Dead. We’ve rewatched with our kid, and it’s still great.

            The other thing we rewatch regularly is Avatar: The Last Airbender and Legend of Korra animated series. I think our kid’s seen it 4 or 5 times, the parents have watched most episodes at least twice. It’s a great series.

            1. Clisby*

              I loved Avatar: The Last Airbender – my family rewatched the entire season on a family vacation about 3 years ago. Maybe it’s time to break it out again.

        2. WantonSeedStitch*

          I’m also revisiting B5! Just finished season 3, and G’kar’s soliloquy at the end of the final episode of that season never fails to give me chills.

        3. Nessun*

          That is an excellent plan! I’m gonna add that to my required-vacation to do list – been far too long since I binged all of B5.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’ve given myself a project of getting my old sinclair spectrum running again (the actual computer, not an emulator. It’s in pretty good shape!’) but I’m far more tempted by your B5 idea (Ivanova FTW!)

      2. Thankful for AAM*

        Ooh, 7 hobbits, I’m adding “time travel” to my Staycation class when I get back to work!

      3. logicbutton*

        Oh, for 90s week you should stock up on 90s foods – I hear you can get Crystal Pepsi again!

    6. Rexish*

      I don’t know where you are and what the restrictions are but I just had my 1 week Holiday and we rented a cabin in the woods, quite close to home. I’m ok with staycation but with everything closed, I would have literally just sat at home. Now I had change of sceenery which is what I needed. Oiginal plan was a trip to Italy. I’m thinking of doing the same for my summer Holiday. While staycations can be fun, in this situation I’ve been at home a bit too much.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        In the UK it’s not permitted to spend the night somewhere that isn’t home (with exceptions for eg healthcare workers who can’t go home and are in temporary accommodation as a result) even if it’s your own second home. This has been clarified over the past few days.

        I’m using up holiday to binge Netflix guilt free. If we can get a skip, we might deal with the jungle the garden has become.

      2. sofar*

        We’re looking into the same thing. A few self-service cabins have been advertising on my feeds for “socially distanced” vacations. So we might drive three states over and stay in one for a week. We are supposed to be abroad right now. For me, travel/vacation is about going to places where you can have new experiences, so it’s hard to come to terms with all this.

        If for whatever reason even camping/cabin/glamping becomes impossible, I won’t be taking a vacation this year (and I’ll gamble my vacation days in hopes that, by the end of the year, I might be able to spend some extra time at home for the holidays). I’m not a staycation person. I despise being home. I can do my home improvement projects on the weekends and after work.

        I’m not going to deal with the stress of prepping for my time off at work (and the stress of coming back), when I don’t get the payoff of an actual vacation.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          sofar, saaaaaaaaame. The idea of spending even more time trapped inside these same four walls, without even the distraction and structure of work, sounds awful to me. The state parks are open for camping where I live. If my employer absolutely insisted that I take some time, that’s where I would go. If nothing like that were available to me, I’d be asking whether this was really truly mandatory, and offer to sign a form saying I understand I may lose the days or whatever.

          1. sofar*

            Yep, being stuck at home thinking of the fires I will need to put out upon my return after several days off, without an actual vacation to distract me, is not something I’m into.

            If I lived in a cooler city and could take some fun long socially distanced walks and awesome pictures, then maybe I would take a staycation. But I’d rather have a structured day of WFH than a depressing walk through the same park, closed businesses and aisles of Target. I’m jealous of everyone who is using this as a chance to “explore” their city.

    7. AcademiaNut*

      When I do a staycation, I spend the first day (or half day) preparing for it. I tidy the apartment, scrub the bathroom and kitchen, vacuum, wash the bedding, take out the garbage and recycling. Then I go to the grocery store and get food, including some treats, and some stuff that’s a bit different than normal. Anything work related gets tucked away, and I log out of my work email. I also try to have some new media on hand – a couple of books I’ve been wanting to read, a new video game or DVD.

      Then when I start the vacation, I’ve got a shiny clean apartment, nice stuff to eat, clean sheets, and something fun to watch or play. It helps separate the start of vacation from normal life.

    8. LDN Layabout*

      I’ve been doing long weekends and it’s been so relaxing. A four day weekend isn’t long enough (for me) to get stressed about work piling up but it’s long enough for me to feel like I’ve had a break, unlike a two day weekend.

    9. Alex*

      I’ve had a few annual leave days already since the Covid/working from home/lockdown situation started in my country. My best advice is to plan your days off.. Monday is board games day, Tuesday is Netflix marathon, Wednesday maybe you get started on that craft project you always wanted to do, Thursday is designated scrub-the-bathroom-clean day, Friday is video games & an at-home date night. Make a plan, even for fun stuff, and stick to it.. it means less time just sitting on the sofa thinking “what do I do now?” and being tempted to get back online and on work mode.

      1. Not a Blossom*

        Or, if you’d rather not plan each day, just make a list of possible things to do and pick from the list each day. That way, you get to be looser but you still have options already selected so you don’t get stuck trying to come up with ideas.

    10. blackcat*

      We are considering a camping trip if that is feasible. Lots of places will have facilities closed, but we used to do a ton of backpacking before we had the kid, so that doesn’t particularly bother us.

    11. 4 walls*

      We’re in the UK with a relatively generous leave allowance and a similar instruction has just come out, although we’re allowing people to switch out their booked time off for an equivalent number of days around about it – maybe to long weekends or similar, as people seem to be better with those and suffer less from the “work gives structure /resentful that I am not on a beach” stuff that might come up if they were off for a longer period.

      It sucks but it’s been really clearly explained that the business can’t cope if everyone waits until the last quarter of our leave year so we can’t all be off at once, and that if we don’t use it, we lose it. They have been really strongly messaging work/life balance and breaks for mental health, too, so there hasn’t been a lot of grumbling other than that everything is bad right now.

    12. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I hate taking staycations; they are the absolute opposite of restful and de-stressing for me. I *maybe* could make it work for a couple days if stuff was open and I could do things like go to the zoo or a midday movie or whatever, but when I can’t functionally leave my house and it’s literally entertaining myself with the same things I do on weekends and evenings? Drives me buggy. And I’m about to lose my second actual vacation that had been planned during the meltdown. I’m just super glad that we don’t have a use it or lose it policy – I can keep stacking it up until I hit the cap, which is something like 24 pay periods away, so almost a year from now.

      1. Former Employee*

        Where I used to work, we were allowed to accumulate quire a bit of vacation time before we had to start taking it. When I left, I got a nice check for all of that time that went unused.

    13. Lora*

      Renovations. I’ve had a couple of renovation projects, one very big, that I was going back and forth on, do I hire it out or DIY? and it mostly comes down to having the time to DIY. Where I live it’s absolute misery trying to find a contractor and then get any kind of quality work done, and even simple things that only take a day to do and aren’t Norm Abrams level carpentry, require nearly a year to schedule in advance and several calls, appointments, re-scheduled appointments, re-scheduled re-scheduled appointments, missed appointments, call another contractor, get more bids…it’s actually quicker, cheaper and easier to take a class on how to do the thing and then DIY it, if you have the time to spare. So I broke the big renovation project down into stages of what needs done at what point in the project and which parts I can do myself vs. what absolutely must be contracted. I can do quite a bit of the basics, and my next vacation will be spent doing a construction project (building doors, stairs, subflooring). If travel continues to be restricted, well, it’s a big renovation project and I’ll just make a bigger dent in it.

      1. filosofickle*

        Love the Norm Abram reference! I grew up watching This Old House with my dad :)

    14. Thankful for AAM*

      I teach a staycation class for my public library, I dont have access to my materials bc we are not really at work yet, but here are some ideas off the top off my head:
      -plan a cruise style staycation where there are nights with formal dinners where you dress up, days at sea where you just read a book all day, and shore excursions where you go visit something (that could be a social distancing walk at the beach or a park, a visit to a local tourist spot when it has fewer ppl, etc)
      -do a camping trip in your own backyard
      -make each week a destination week, cook foods from that location, read about it, look for virtual tours of it, order google cardboard or similar low cost VR goggles (there are many free VR tours of tourist sports around the world), learn some of the phrases tourists would want to know.
      -google staycation, there are many ideas out there that can be adapted to keet social distancing guidelines.

      Basically, fill the days just like they might be on a holiday so that you dont have the opportunity to think about work.

    15. Amethystmoon*

      Yes, I’m still going to use my vacation days but will probably have to take a “staycation.” Maybe come 4th of July or Labor Day weekend, we will be able to at least visit family at that time, but probably not this month.

    16. Koalafied*

      I’ve always preferred staycations to travel so have some experience with this. There are some logistical things to take care of, like making sure you aren’t logging onto a work laptop to browse the internet where email or slack messages might pop up and make you feel you need to reply – either completely exit those software programs or ideally use a separate machine for personal browsing (I have a cheap Chromebook for this purpose). You also need to set expectations with your team that you are not going to be available, even though every conscientious part of you is going to want to say, “but if there’s an emergency I’ll be near a computer most of the time.” Bite your tongue and don’t offer that. You are entitled to a real vacation even if you’re near a computer and even if there’s an emergency, and to be honest you deserve and need it now more than ever.

      As for what to do, I use them for all the stuff I never seem to have enough energy to do on just nights or weekends. Cleaning out a closet or the garage, doing major landscaping projects in the yard, fixing that door that isn’t hung quite right, rearranging furniture, going through clothes to get rid of stuff I don’t wear anymore, dying that black top I accidentally partially bleached or and have been meaning to fix for the last six months or replacing a broken zipper on a pair of pants that’s been draped over the back of a chair for months waiting for me to get around to it, deeper cleaning than I normally do, digitizing my photo albums, repairing a hole in the drywall that I hung a painting over as a temporary fix 3 months ago, etc. I basically always have a pile of stuff I’m meaning to do when I have time, and never feel like a 2-day weekend is enough time to recharge AND get stuff done, so it gets done when I have time off. I’ll also cook up a lot of food in big batches to freeze individual portions and have them on hand once I’m back at work and no longer feel like cooking every day. I take my dog on much longer walks than she normally gets.

      And depending on the length of the vacation I might do something like spend one entire day curled up in my favorite chair with a book and not do anything else that day and not have to feel guilty or like I wasted a day like I would if I spent one of my only two weekend days on that, instead it helps with not feeling like I wasted my vacation doing (house)work instead of relaxing and recharging.

    17. ten-four*

      We rented an Air Bnb a state over (we’re in the midwest). We picked a place on a lake and near a ton of hiking and biking trails. This isn’t ideal from a shelter in place standpoint, but we’ve been isolating for 10 weeks and we’re still wearing masks and limiting our store runs. I think we’re doing pretty okay safety-wise all things considered.

      It’s been really good for us – the kids have room to play outside, there’s a lot more space inside than we have at home, and just doing something different is really nice. We didn’t even take PTO; just relocated our regular routines. We’ll definitely do this again later this summer when it warms up (we caught the polar vortex again, because of COURSE it should be 30 degrees in May).

      For what it’s worth, there are a LOT of deals on Air BnB right now.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Ten Four – yup – I just “LOVE” the polar vortex. DH and I did a two day stay-cation and put the whole yard, flowerbeds, and veggie garden in order just to get nailed by it. Lost all my veggies except for the peas and spinach, plus half of the flowers. Now I know what I will be doing this weekend………

    18. Person from the Resume*

      How do you not worry about work when you are on vacation? I assume that you have a distraction. Try to find a distraction locally. Projects, exercise, bike rides, walks, reading, binge watching, cooking, crafting, audiobooks, podcast, journaling, writing. If I found myself with 3 weeks off, I’d definitely try to start a exercise routine that I’d hope to continue once I returned to work. I’m already bicycling a lot, but I’d do more during a cooler, quieter mornings. Books, audiobooks, and TV shows all work as escapism and distractions for me.

      I’d also second that instead of a long vacation break those 3 weeks into shorter ones. Maybe 2 different weeks off and then 5 additional mid-week days or long weekends. Grocery shopping on a weekday should be less busy.

    19. Harvey 6-3.5*

      I’m fortunate that my Government agency lets us donate our “use or lose” leave to a leave bank for those who have medical needs, so if I don’t end up able to take any vacations this year, at least I will be able to help someone else. So even though I have more than four weeks of leave, unless we can do something, even just go sit at a beach, I’m going to just donate most of it.

      1. Former Employee*

        Thank you for doing this and thanks to your agency that is run by people who understand that sometimes their employees need more time than they have available to recover from illness, surgery, etc.

        If only all employers (at least larger ones) were so compassionate.

    20. ThatGirl*

      I have 3 weeks of PTO and 2 personal days and I can only roll over 1 week (unless the company changes their policy) … I’m still hoping our trip planned for October might happen, but obviously that’s very much up in the air. So I guess I need to build in some days off in the next few months even if I can’t really go anywhere. (I did take a day off in late March, shortly after the stay-at-home order started, and spent it taking a bubble bath and doing curbside pickup from favorite local businesses, but it was a poor substitute for the spa day I had to cancel.)

    21. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      At the beginning of the lockdown, I had 8 days that all were set to expire at the end of May. I’ve been taking Fridays off to just take it easy and do things around the house. My hobby is gardening, so a lot of my time off has been/will be spent on that. To be honest, work never entered my mind on my days off.

    22. Nope, not today*

      I was meant to be returning to work today after an overseas holiday…. sigh. My plan is to use my time in summer and take random days to do fun stuff (hiking, bike rides, etc). Even if I try to plan a fun weekend day, there are still household things to take care of. Knowing that ‘today is VACATION’ I can safely ignore the chores (also, my kids are with their dad one day midweek so I can plan to do stuff WITHOUT them which is heaven). However, if I’d been forced to take the last week off as I had originally planned I’d be so upset – our weather has been cold and awful, I’d have been stuck indoors staring at housework I dont want to do, crying all day and not enjoying any of my time. Forcing people to take time when they don’t choose is really just awful in my opinion – the times I choose are based on things like weather, which directly impact my ability to actually relax.

    23. Spreadsheets and Books*

      My husband and I are moving apartments on Friday so I’m taking time off later this week and early next week to finalize details, get everything prepared to pack (we are paying for a full service move, so the movers to pack for us because it’s just too much mental stress to pile on right now), and enjoying our new home for a few days before going back to the WFH chaos. We’re going to order from some favorites (delivery cocktails for the win!), relax, play some Switch games, read, and pretend the world doesn’t exist for a while.

    24. IheardItBothWays*

      I have been cleaning out the house. I am almost done with the kitchen – got rid of lots of stuff I never used, freed up cabinet space and it all just looks better now. Also makes me feel like I got something done.

    25. Quill*

      My parents (well before this was a concern outside of New York and Washington) spent the first week of this outbreak camping. Campgrounds are now closed because they’re not exactly essential, but backyard camping, some sort of semi-intensive class or home project, sounds like they would be able to keep your brain thinking you’re doing something.

    26. Animal worker*

      I just booked four days in a cabin a couple of hours away from me for early summer. All cabins are completely secluded so you never have to see another person if you choose not to. I’m soooo looking forward to it to recharge and relax since I’ve been working both at home and the office throughout and I’m definitely burning out.

    27. Dahlia*

      My mom took 2 weeks off from work as vacation (separate sick time) because she’s a grocery store worker, exhausted, and the heavy cleaners they have to use in the store affect her. She rested.

    28. SDSmith82*

      There is a good chance my “vacation” time is going to be used up by a move. My husband’s school program has basically been put on ice for at least a year, and since he’s using Veteran’s programs- we have no choice but to find another school. His program is considered specialized, but not “essential” by the school he’s at now, so it looking like we have to head to another state at this point. Ideally, my job would let me go full remote (as we are currently) and stay on with minimal disruption, but after i sort of discussed the situation with my boss yesterday, I’m not as sure that’s going to happen. I’m a great performer (both in office and remote) so I’m not sure why they’d be so hesitant, especially considering it’s a state we operate in, but now I have to brace for impact and join the many job searchers during COVID-19 to see if I can find an employer that will let me go remote or pay for relocation.

  2. BeesKneeReplacement*

    OP3, you can restrict your employer from seeing your posts without unfriending or disconnecting from them entirely. I’m sorry they make you use Facebook for this.

    1. Four-legged Fosterer*

      Related to this:
      My experience with FB is that the hidden private groups require that you be friends with the moderator to join (I don’t know why I can’t just send someone a link and admit them, as that would be logical, but that’s what it is). Once you join, then you can delete the friendship and still be in the group. As you are in the group, you might just delete your boss as a ‘friend’ and if they notice then just explain that they can still contact you via the group or messenger.

      I message non-friends all the time (the first message goes to a special Requests folder but after that it’s the normal folder), and am part of groups that don’t have ‘FB friends’, and it works well for me.

      Your boss may be pushing you to be friends, in which case FB does offer the option to mute yourself, but if you can Unfriend then that might be the best option.

      I’m not a fan of FB, yet I find that Groups have been useful for our animal rescues. Mostly we share photos of fosters, and occasionally help answer each other’s questions. I wish we had a better platform but I am also clear that it is not at all required although we did have a few people join the site for the photos. Hard to blame them! I think having it as a requirement for work is problematic, for many reasons.

      1. Jade*

        You can put people on restricted lists in facebook so thar they only see Public Posts.

        1. c*

          This, but keep in mind that many people are very cavalier about their posts on FB and let everything be public instead of friends-only.

          1. Koalafied*

            Yep, and Facebook oh-so-helpfully likes to randomly show your friends the comments you’ve been making on public posts in their feeds, so even if boss isn’t friends with Lucinda it has any earthly idea who Lucinda is, the fact that Lucinda always makes her posts public means boss is likely to see your comments on Lucinda’s posts.

            There are some friends whose public posts I would love to comment on but don’t because of this “helpful” Facebook feature. It’s like if every time you left your house someone sent your friends a video log of you walking around downtown running errands. Just because I’m in public doesn’t mean I want everyone I know, including people who live in other places and so would never be downtown to see me, to be proactively shown everything I’m doing in public.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Same. A friend was making his posts, about politics and religion, public, and I hadn’t realized that until a random guy started arguing with me in the comments on his post, and *a coworker of mine* jumped in to defend me. I was horrified! Messaged my friend like “Hey Fergus, do you know your posts are all set to public?” and Fergus was “yep, I like to promote public discussion”. Well, *I* like to promote my privacy by no longer commenting on Fergus’s posts. Sucks, as he used to be a good friend and I always enjoyed chatting with him, but it is what it is.

              1. MsLipman*

                Is there some reason you can’t communicate with your friend in any way except Facebook wall posts?

                It’s really on you that you weren’t paying attention to whether the posts were public or private. Even if they had been private loads of randoms would still have seen it, since Fergus could have any number of friends you didn’t know.

                1. Avasarala*

                  It’s not clear what other people set their privacy settings to. You can’t easily tell whether a post is public to the world or just your friends.

                2. MsLipman*

                  Yes, you can. Directly next to the time stamp on every post is a tiny symbol showing the privacy settings for that post. The globe symbol means public, a symbol of two people means friends only. If you hover your mouse over the symbol (or press a finger to it when using a smartphone) a pop up appears saying, “Who can see Fergus’s post? Everyone” or “Who can see Jan’s post? Jan’s friends.”

                3. rainman*

                  Ava, it literally says whether a post is public or friends-only right there. You’d have to be spectacularly unobservant not to have noticed it.

            2. Ginger Baker*

              I have a very open (but almost all private posts) approach to FB that my friends love – I write very freely about sex, among other topics frequently marked as taboo. I found out years ago, much to my amusement, that some of my FB friends who *never, EVER comment or interact with my posts in ANY way* religiously read my posts and (with the person who told me this) pull their then-bf over all the time to have him also read my posts. I had NO IDEA this was happening, but it made perfect sense once she said this – she has conservative friends and family all connected to her FB and could not risk any of them seeing her comment on any of my posts. Since then, I have come to strongly suspect that this is the case for probably a strong handful of friends…

              1. Ginger Baker*

                Uhhhh I meant to note that my FB is under a different name than my work name and is 0% connected with any workplaces I have been employed with and the TINIEST number of coworkers (two former, total, and both only after lengthy conversations/friendships that made me comfortable sharing my personal life – I generally keep work (even work-friends) VERY separate from my personal life).

              2. Quill*

                Facebook’s security concerns started to be public around when I started college, our college friend group has a secret channel and a secret chat for precisely the “complain about professors, bosses, post shit we don’t need getting circulated from mom to aunt nancy to conservative great aunt murgatroyd who would make thanksgiving hell if she knew we were all queer” kind of stuff.

            3. Lynn Whitehat*

              I HATE THAT! There are some public groups I joined that I will never, ever, ever post in or comment on the posts of for that reason. I just don’t need the drama of my friends from Activity X seeing my interests in Activity Y. (Think: evangelical friends from hometown seeing posts about paganism. That’s not the real X and Y, but that level of dissonance.)

              Good Lord, Facebook, learn to read a room! Why do all the tracking to figure out people’s age, gender, location, interests, etc, if you’re just going to randomly show public posts to someone who’s never seemed interested in the topic, just because they have one friend who is?

            4. filosofickle*

              Is this still an ongoing problem? I used to see this a lot, but haven’t seen this happen in a couple of years. I assumed they fixed it.

            5. Pennalynn Lott*

              I have several FB friends who make every single post of theirs public. So I get to enjoy reading them but will never, ever comment. Even if it’s innocuous (“Let’s start a positivity thread! What’s the best thing that has happened to you this week?” Nope. Not gonna put anything personal like that out in the public space).

              But I also honestly don’t understand why anyone would want to do the virtual equivalent of standing up in a restaurant and yelling, “Hey everyone! We got a new puppy today! Here’s a picture of her, isn’t she adorable?” Different strokes.

              So, yeah, I’d lock down the privacy settings on my FB posts if I were in the OP’s shoes.

                1. MsLipman*

                  Yeah but most people have them public. Twitter and Insta are designed to be a public forum, whereas Facebook was always intended to be for more private circles.

                  It’s just a bit… weird and judgemental to be all “wow they existence of 90% of social media totally baffles me!!” I mean, most people, unless they are very elderly or live in a deprived area, are on social media. It’s not some rare or obscure thing.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I had to create a special group of access to my posts after my parents joined FB recently to keep in touch with us all during lockdown. Most of what I post is pictures of my cat or my sewing but sometimes it’s a rant over how being disabled is horrible or similar and it turns out that really upsets them to read.

          So, new settings for me, cat pics go in all friends and rants go in ‘not parents’

          1. Quill*

            Food news goes in facebook, stuff about my joints trying to murder me generally goes somewhere I exist under a pseudonym. All hail forums!

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Next time we have the non-work open thread I think I’ll ask for some forum recommendations on that subject then, it’s a good plan.

              1. Quill*

                My favorite one imploded dramatically last week, unfortunately. Partially over me getting shadowbanned by new management for… zero reason beyond that my avatar was very similar to that of an avatar one new mod had beef with. (I was hardly the only one – 30% of us got shadowbanned before the exodus began – but I was the one that tipped the forumites over into realizing that the bans were basically grapeshot because the mods, who are not community members, banned anyone with differing fandom opinions from them.)

                So we’re in a closed discord now and it’s been confusing but kind of glorious.

        3. Paisley*

          I was going to suggest this too. There are a few different ways and the “friend” doesn’t know. You can change their status from a “friend” to an “acquaintance” and they can’t tell the difference, then post so that only friends can see. Or you can block specific people from seeing any of your posts. If you google it, you’ll get step by step instructions for the different options.

      2. Beehoppy*

        Yes, at a former employer part of my job was to maintain and update our Facebook page. In order to have admin powers I had to first be friends with the COO who had originally created the page. I just made sure to hide all of my posts from her. Except for the occasional cute pic of my dog so she wouldn’t suspect.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’m also on there mainly for my groups (and, before the pandemic, to follow venues and events). I came here to say that the boss *will* notice right away. As soon as someone unfriends you, FB helpfully shows you that person under “People you may know”. But as long as OP is prepared with an answer that her boss will accept, it’s all good.

      4. Chloe*

        On this, when I was managing social media accounts for my company, I simply created a new profile with my work email. Problem solved. I very clearly said I didn’t want my personal Facebook account affiliated with our business one, so I just created a new one. I also agree with keeping your boss on Limited Profile.

      5. Letter Writer #3*

        Oooh didn’t realize you could unfriend the moderator once you are in the group…great inside information! Thank you!

      6. Letter Writer #3*

        I have added my employer to my restricted list on Facebook with the knowledge that unless I set a post as friends-only rather than public, they will be able to see my postings. Thank you all for the help!

    2. PeanutButter*

      THIS. Most of the union organizing in my last workplace happened on facebook (and according to friends who still work there, it still happens there). We all had to friend each other to send private messages but it was understood that the default for workplace connections was not seeing any non-public posts.

    3. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

      What if you are one of the many people who don’t do Facebook – or indeed any social media?
      Can they make creating an account a condition of your employment?

      1. TechWorker*

        I mean I’d be very surprised if there’s a law against it. Jobs can require you to have your own car, your own phone number… I don’t think a free social media account is much more a stretch. There’s no requirement to *use* it for anything other than work.

        1. SarahKay*

          Bear in mind that Facebook insists on a realistic sounding name, but it doesn’t actually have to be your everyday full name. My FB account is my first and middle names, which worked fine.

          1. MsLipman*

            Fb does require you to use your legal name, and if they suspect you are not, or if someone reports you, they suspend your account till you upload your passport. A family friend is a TV actress and she’s constantly having to create new accounts because if she makes one under her real name she gets hassled, but one under Jane Smith gets suspended.

            Using middle name is a good solution, though.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Also, for very valid safety and family reasons, I know several people who will not get a Facebook account under any circumstances.

        1. Anon just Here.*

          Yup – this is me. I’m not on social media at all (this site is the closest I get) because of the job a family member has. They have been very strongly urged to not be on social media due to security concerns.

        2. KoiFeeder*

          Yup, that’s me. I had one when I was younger, and it was so harrowing (random strangers trying to friend/message me to get at another family member!) that I didn’t last six months.

        3. MsLipman*

          My former boss used to work a high security government job and wasn’t allowed any form of social media. They actually wiped his entire google footprint, so for years if you googled his name nothing came up. Even now the only results for him are a handful of things related to our workplace.

      3. Seven If You Count Bad John*

        Yes, I had an employer who used gmail for everything, and one that used Skype. We had to create a personal Skype account for the team chats. (My current employer also uses Skype, but they provide the program and the logins for professional use only.)

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      Yes, much lower stakes but pretty much all my posts on Facebook are set to be visible to “Friends except: my mom” just because she is embarrassingly effusive with comments, so I let her comment all she wants on Instagram and then block her from seeing most things on Facebook lol.

      I think most posts default to whatever your last privacy setting was, so if you set your next post to “Friends except: boss” then the next posts should go the same way. Highly recommend!

    5. Letter Writer #3*

      Ironic update: the employer decided to not re-open their business after staff refused to work.

      1. Mama Bear*

        I’d still look for ways to get out of this FB thing. I also know people who have a Professional Personna and a personal FB. If the boss uses text what about something like GroupMe instead of FB?

      2. SQL Coder Cat*

        Glad to hear that! I hope you and your co-workers continue to stand up for yourselves and prevail.

      3. tinyhipsterboy*

        HA. Honestly, good. If you’re in the USA, there’s not really anywhere in the country atm that should be reopening (even if plenty of states are).

      4. JSPA*

        Oh good! But this still kicks the can down the road; reopening will happen sooner or later. You may (all) have to manage from below, to get adequate safety materials and procedures in place, for whenever that is.

    6. Helpingwithsocialmedia*

      I’m a marketing strategist with a decade of experience in the industry. Facebook for business is free and does not require that anything be linked to a personal account. This is what all businesses should be doing. You only pay money for advertising not for the other business functionality because no one wants to have to friend their boss on Facebook for this. The problem is that pages are often set up by small business owners who don’t know the options Facebook offers and tend to hire people with less experience who may not realize the option exists and assume their bosses know what’s up (they don’t, that’s why they hired you).

      Anyone who does this work and is friends with your boss on Facebook (and doesn’t want to be) go to to see how to set it up. It is specifically designed for this scenario.

    7. Letter Writer #3*

      I have added my employer to my restricted list on Facebook with the knowledge that unless I set a post as friends-only rather than public, they will be able to see my postings. Thank you all for the help!

  3. Hrodvitnir*

    Oh boy, LW#3. I would have recommended you having a separate work Facebook account (you’re not technically allowed, but people do it all the time) in this situation, and I think it would be fine to do now. If you are not comfortable with that, you can most certainly block your employer from your posts and I would strongly recommend you do!

    I have a variety of lists on my Facebook that I use judiciously to pick my audience. I am not inclined to completely censor myself online just because my work life could, maybe, be effected by it, as many recommend. But it’s pretty easy to keep either an entirely one-way relationship (they only see your public posts when you set them as restricted), or specifically exclude people from anything controversial (by picking “friends except X”).

    1. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

      This!! The ability to put your boss and anyone else from work on “restricted” status is your friend here. They will never know it (unless you tell them) and you’ll still appear to be participating.

      1. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

        Oh, and if a coworker you didn’t set to “restricted” mentions something you posted or commented on and someone “restricted” says they didn’t see it, you could always play dumb and say “Really? That’s strange…” and blame it on technology.

    2. Avasarala*

      If OP must use the same FB account for both work and play I would recommend those judicious privacy settings.

      I’ve noticed a difference in how some people use Facebook/social media–in my experience it seems to be loosely correlated to age and experience with social media at different stages of life. People who frequently use social media, and those who used it at socially formative stages of life, often have subtle differences in what they post on their wall/timeline, on someone else’s, vs what they tweet or text or Snapchat or Instagram. Someone commenting on a post on your timeline has a different social meaning than someone DMing you about it.

      Some people think Facebook is like a party, where you can hop into any conversation at a table even if you don’t know the participants, because they’re a friend of your nephew and you’re all at the same party. So they do things like comment on their nephew’s friend’s timeline because their nephew was tagged in a photo, and ask how nephew is doing and how is school. This comes across weird to the formal group of social media users because those questions should be posted on nephew’s timeline, not the friend’s. This is how you end up in a political debate with your friend’s aunt.

      It sounds like OP’s boss uses Facebook in the latter way–everything is open and available to be commented on. In this context, boss happened to overhear OP expressing a concern, and boss wanted to assuage those concerns (this is a good thing). But to OP, OP was having a private conversation, boss eavesdropped, and then later went to OP to “correct” what OP said (this is unspeakably rude).

      1. blackcat*

        Yeah. I’m in academia, and my research community is pretty connected through our (personal) facebooks.

        I’ve got lists to cope with this, anything “personal” that I post is not visible to “colleagues” or, the even more dangerous “former students” (I am connected to a few of my former high school students, who are now all in their mid 20s or older).

        I do post the occasional political thing to all friends because certain aspects of my politics are well known to my research community and, frankly, if you can see by my CV/website that I work with undocumented college students *as a part of my job* you shouldn’t be surprised about a post advocating for immigrants every once in a blue moon. There’s a definite line, though, and I’m careful when to cross it. The only things I post truly publicly are new publications.

        Oh, and since coronavirus, I have shared the occasional cute kitten video to all friends. Because who doesn’t need kittens right now.

    3. RecentAAMfan*

      At some point my (then teenage) sons allowed me to be their friend on Facebook. I was reasonably flattered till I noticed they never posted much and then finally realized I was “blocked” from anything interesting.
      If it worked for me, it should work for your boss.

      1. Hrodvitnir*

        Haha, yeah, I mentioned off-hand to my mother that she’s only able to see photos and she was mildly offended, but honestly. I am really sad that having any boundaries on or around Facebook has pretty much become impossible as most people either will not or just opt out altogether.

    4. PennyLane*

      Yep, getting a separate Facebook account you use just for work was going to be my recommendation. I have this too because I like a separation between my work and home life, but am also friendly with my coworkers. I just used my company email for the account. That’s insanely stupid that they require you to be friends with them.

      1. JustaTech*

        The other thing you might suggest your boss consider is to use Workplace by Facebook rather than regular Facebook for work communications. It’s basically a tiny Facebook for your work, so it’s not visible to people outside of the work group but still looks and acts like Facebook. (I don’t know if you can link it to things like a Facebook page for the business or not.)

        I think that it is currently free to sign up for, and doesn’t require a Facebook account.

      2. Hrodvitnir*

        Awesome! I would have been incredibly uncomfortable in your position, but I guess at least you know you’re being monitored.

        Also I’d never heard of Workplace by Facebook, that sounds great.

    5. RemoteHealthWorker*

      Honestly it will be easier to unfriend them and create a work only fb account where all your current coworkers and boss are friended. Eg an alt-account. If asked state you are taking a break from social media but didnt want to miss out on work communications.

  4. lazuli*

    LW1, you’re not obligated to hide your vegetarianism or to not “inconvenience” your co-workers, regardless of why you’re vegetarian. It’s ok to have needs and preferences and ask others to work with you to accommodate them.

    1. Artemesia*

      The key is to do the research — I was the organizer of dinner meetings of colleagues at national conferences after too many lousy dinners on the fly. I’d make reservations for 8 at 2 or 3 good places and then recruit people to eat with.

      People who care about where they eat, need to take the lead on identifying some options. If you can identify 2 or 3 places with menus that work for omnivores and vegetarians, they have have choice and you get what you need.

      1. lazuli*

        I mean, yes, it’s helpful to do the research, but it’s also ok to just say, “I can’t eat anything at that restaurant.” I don’t think that accommodating vegetarians is such a ridiculous thing now that whoever is doing the planning should feel horribly inconvenienced by it. (Especially the LW’s friends!)

        1. MK*

          It doesn’t sound to me like anyone is doing planning; they seem to be going to the most convienient restaurant while on work trips. If yhe company is giving a lunch party, say, it’s gine to ask the organizer to pick avegetarian friendly place. But when coworkers suggest going to X chain restaurants across the street from their hotel ot at the town’s central square, it’s not really ok to say ”I can’t go there” and leave it at that.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. I care about food a lot more than the colleagues I usually travel with (as I have some food sensitivities). So I google ahead and suggest a place that I think we’ll all like. When I travelled to the Hague with a Muslim colleague, he asked beforehand if we could go to a Halal restaurant and I asked him to WhatsApp me a couple of ideas within walking distance of the hotel. He found a really good, well recommended Indonesian restaurant and we had a lovely dinner. On that occasion he cared more than I did so he did the work.

            I think if the OP did the work and found somewhere that was reasonably priced and had a menu that worked, most reasonable people would accept it. I’d say you’ll get more support if you go for something fairly conventional in food terms because many people are unwilling to go out of their comfort zone when travelling. I know for example my colleagues will almost certainly accept a Chinese or Italian restaurant without questioning but I got more pushback when I suggested a Georgian restaurant (which is a shame because the khinkali (dumplings) were to die for).

        2. LW #1*

          In general, I do that! But last year I was on a couple of business trips with people I didn’t really know (like, met them on the trip), so it felt a lot more awkward saying that kind of thing. Also given that I didn’t do the planning (and was pretty new to being vegetarian at the time, so I didn’t know what my best options were off the top of my head), it would have been a bigger deal than I was looking for.

          Definitely going to do more advance research in the future, if business trips are ever a thing post-COVID.

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            As you are vegetarian for longer, you will get a longer mental list of where you can go to eat and what to order there. One of the easiest “vegetarian fast food in a pinch” tricks, if you eat eggs, is to pick a fast food place that serves breakfast items all day and then get an egg and cheese breakfast sandwich by asking them to leave the meat off of some meat, cheese, and egg sandwich on their menu. This works at both Jack in the Box and McDonald’s since they both offer at least some all day breakfast items, and means you at least get something with protein in it. (Jack in the Box is my preference. I like their Breakfast Jack since I can order it without meat to basically get an egg and cheese burger.)

            Taco Bell is the easiest ubiquitous fast food option for vegetarians, so it’s what I’ll suggest if the mood is fast food but people are open to suggestions about where. They’ll substitute beans for meat on basically anything on the menu as well as having bean-based options as-is.

            If you’re going for sit-down restaurants and eat eggs, suggesting a diner that serves breakfast all day is also usually an easy sell to omnivores who don’t want to go any place complicated or “weird”. I’ve eaten at Denny’s many times as a compromise on trips, and they’ll serve eggs any hour of the day. Also, if you’re willing to eat a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, most diner or dive bar places are willing to make you one as long as they have other grilled sandwiches on the menu. Some hotels even have them on their children’s menu, so I have many happy memories of the convention hotel where I could get dinner for stupid cheap by getting a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries. (I made up for it by ordering fancy benedict-based breakfasts. Pretty much everyone will sub spinach for ham on a benedict at no cost, and some places will swap for avocado or let you add it as an extra charge.)

            If you do specific internet research, you can probably find better options in most metro areas from either local places or smaller chains, but those are the options that tend to work even if you’re stuck at the convention hotel near the airport in a strange city with no chance to do any research. (I have also gotten a cheese pizza at 7-Eleven before out of desperation at a convention when I was stuck at a hotel with a really terrible restaurant, but that would be a hard sell for most groups.)

            1. Not A Girl Boss*

              I agree with all of this. I’m a lifelong vegetarian, been on hundreds of business trips to towns that don’t have a lot of options, and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve not been able to make a perfectly decent meal work at a restaurant. So I guess I’m just a little perplexed. I get that salad isn’t an adequate source of calories, but often salad + a few sides is. And I’m not saying all my meals have been delicious (some states don’t really do veggies, lol). But they’ve been perfectly acceptable.

              One thing that does help me a lot is that I bring protein powder when I travel and have a shake before heading out to whatever dinner. That way I don’t have to worry about getting a protein source with my meal.
              I also always skip the hotel breakfast when I can and find somewhere to order an omelette from, so I’m starting off on the right foot.

              I have never had anyone be weird when I say “Eh, I’m not a fan of that place, could we try ____?” I have some restaurant “types” prepared that I know will be easy to find vegetarian options, mostly Mexican or Greek and steakhouses (because they always have great sides). Then we can Google if there’s anything of that type nearby.

              1. Delta Delta*

                Was coming here to say this about steakhouses. I’m not a strict vegetarian but generally don’t eat meat. More than once I’ve been in a “let’s go to X steakhouse!” situation and I can make a pretty good meal out of a big salad and a side or two. And then there’s usually room for dessert, which makes other people jealous and I can smile and say that I planned it that way.

                1. Anna*

                  I’ve been a vegetarian for literally decades and all along have avoided steakhouses because in my mind, they just serve meat and more meat. Never thought of this angle. Thank you for the tip!

                2. JustaTech*

                  In college we used to do a thing called “Vegetarian Night” were a big group would go to a steakhouse (a cheap one) and bring at least one vegetarian per table to eat all the salads and sides so the people who did eat meat would actually *finish* their steak (because leftovers never worked out given the state of the dorm fridge). Usually the vegetarian didn’t pay.

                3. Indigo a la mode*

                  @JustaTech: That’s hilarious and I would have 100% appreciated being your token vegetarian.

                4. emmelemm*

                  Every time I’ve been to a steakhouse as a vegetarian, the sides and salads offerings have been pathetic! My usual mantra is: I’ll go anywhere with you except a steakhouse.

                5. Former Employee*

                  All or a least most of the steak places I’ve been to have been more high end. I get a (usually gigantic) baked potato and some broccoli and I’m done. If I have room, I get dessert because they usually have good ones.

              2. AcademiaNut*

                It sounds like it’s fast food places. The vegetarian options at a McDonalds, say, are pretty dire – the salads are tiny, not to mention dreadful, and then you’ve got fries and ice cream. Or a Subway – a vegetable and processed cheese sandwich. Or the KFC where I live, which would get you a cob of corn, a very sad side salad, and fries.

                1. Not a Girl Boss*

                  I mean, yes, fast food is tough. And generally speaking I try my hardest to avoid eating at them for food quality / ethical reasons anyway.

                  Burger King has the impossible burger now. And McDonalds I’ve always ordered a grilled cheese (as a burger with no burger) and the parfait. Subway works. Its all… bad. But its also just as bad for meat eaters, so I guess I’m just blessed to never have worked for a company that expects us to eat fast food.

                  When we go on road trips I try to fill up on gas station food instead – nuts, cheese sticks, yogurt, a Muscle Milk, apples and bananas.

                2. Alex the Alchemist*

                  Yeah, I always struggle with McDonald’s especially since I learned in the last year or so that their fries are actually not vegetarian- they contain beef fat which is very disappointing :(

                3. doreen*

                  Even if it is fast-food places, it might not be that the company expects them to east fast-food. It might be that the coworkers prefer fast-food for some reason – either because they actually like the food, they don’t want to spend an hour or two in a sitdown restaurant, it’s right in the service plaza on the interstate/visible from the hotel parking lot or some other reason that has nothing to do with the company’s expectations

                4. Amy Sly*

                  True “fast food” is rough, but there are a lot of vegetarian options at fast casual places like Chipotle, Panera, Zoe’s Kitchen, and Noodles and Company.

                  I’ll echo the choir: the important thing is to have options at your fingertips so that you’re making positive suggestions, not just shooting ideas down.

                5. Not a Blossom*

                  I’m not even vegetarian, but I actually love the veggie subs at Subway. It’s like a salad on bread.

                6. Indigo a la mode*

                  Taco Bell is absolutely fantastic for vegetarians, and lots of places are expanding their vegetarian menus (like Burger King’s Impossible Whopper). Subway has actually add a sandwich with a filling veggie patty for many years. You can get lots of fun sides at KFC – mac & cheese, cole slaw, baked beans, veggies, biscuits – they’re all vegetarian and yummy. And at McDonalds, you could pretty easily fill up off the breakfast menu. There are a surprising amount of options out there.

                7. Gumby*

                  Huh. The Subways near me have a veggie patty as an option. I see that it is not on their national web site so it must depend on location. It’s not fine dining, but then again, neither is the cold cut trio or whatever non-vegetarian sandwich you get.

                8. pancakes*

                  Alex the Alchemist, McDonald’s fries don’t contain beef fat, but they do contain a beef flavoring that’s non-vegetarian. (Some beef flavoring in processed foods is vegetarian / totally synthetic). I’ll drop a link to a good summary of this in a separate comment.

                9. MsLipman*

                  I actually quite like the McDonalds veggie burgers, and those weird vegan fake chicken dipper things.

              3. Elemeno P.*

                It really depends on the place. I live in the south and a lot of perfectly good sides are made with lard or bacon, which is unfortunate since I’m a pescatarian and also allergic to pork. Larger restaurants usually have at least two filling options or a collection of good sides, but smaller places are tricky. I’ve seen a few places that are themed to a specific meat dish that only have a side salad as an option.

                1. Not a Girl Boss*

                  That’s so true about smaller places. When I’m traveling, I often default to chains just because I can look at the ingredients list and macros online.

                2. Jack Russell Terrier*

                  I was two weeks in Albany, GA back in the early 2000. You have no idea – this is a small town in Western Georgia. I think I was the first vegetarian for everyone I met there and they wondered how I could eat. Given the approach to cuisine, I understood that. I think I lived mostly off pizza and salad and potatoes and breaded fried veggies for the two weeks. As you say, most vegetables and beans had pork added ‘for flavor’. On the up side, I did have some amazing fried okra – that was great!

                3. MC66*

                  Yeah, agreed. You have to be careful because it can be in the most inconspicuous places or made by those who don’t fully understand what vegetarian or vegan is. One time, I ordered veggie fajitas off the vegetarian menu at one place, but until the waitress told me that the rice was cooked in chicken stock, I would never have known.

              4. Veg*

                Agreed. I have been a vegetarian for 35 years. I can almost always cobble something together from a menu. Plus I always have protein bars and snacks like nuts/seeds in my bag in case I need to supplement.

            2. Hillary*

              I agree completely. I’ve been vegetarian since middle school, so more than 25 years. I generally do a lot of business travel to rust belt and southern cities, but also to Europe and Asia. I learn menus and typical ingredients and I’m prepared to compromise as long as I get enough calories to keep me going. I’ll make it up with protein bars when I get back to the hotel if necessary.

              A few things that make it easier for me – I’m always ready with categories of restaurants I like or can make work. Thai, Indian, Mexican, and Italian are all doable, as are most fast casual places. Sushi? Sure, I like avocado rolls. Steakhouse? Not my favorite, but the sides and salads are usually fine. Family places (not chains) will usually make something off-menu, whether that’s a grilled cheese or on one memorable occasion plain tomato pasta with a side of steamed vegetables. They had other vegetarian options, but I’d been there for a week and was so tired of butter on everything, thanks Iowa.

              Worst case, I’ll basically tell the kitchen what to do. I was in a smaller city in rural Poland last year – please make me a plate of pierogi fried in butter with a side of green beans, also butter. No bacon fat.

              1. Jack Russell Terrier*

                ‘ Thai, Indian, Mexican, and Italian are all doable’. Depending on how careful you want to be, Thai and Mexican and be difficult. Thai food often has fish sauce, even in the ‘vegetarian’ part of the menu, so I always ask for no fish sauce. Mexican restaurants in the south often cook their beans in lard, so that’s s no-go.

              2. Mameshiba*

                I’ve never seen avocado rolls outside of the US. Every time we get guests from the US who say they love sushi, they are *shocked* that it is only raw fish, no cooked fish, no avocado (not a Japanese food)… the only non-fish option is usually an egg roll. I am always baffled when vegetarians say they like sushi.

            3. Rusty Shackelford*

              if you’re willing to eat a grilled cheese sandwich for dinner,

              I’m not even a vegetarian, but on my last business trip, the hotel’s grilled cheese sandwich was so good, I had it for dinner two nights in a row.

              1. Quill*

                I tend to push for asian (indian, thai, nepalese, japanese… mongolian sometimes depending on what’s on the menu) food if possible when we’re looking for fast sit down or takeout options. Most of them will make an actually vegetarian meal, usually one that is suitable for people who don’t have a high lactose tolerance. So it works for a variety of people who eat only certain types of meat, your pescatarians, your vegetarians, potentially for your vegans…

                Things get exponentially harder when you combine vegetarians with other dietary restrictions.

          2. hbc*

            Honestly, I would expect some of your meals to not be substantial/fully balanced and bring protein bars or other supplements with you. I’m a vegetarian too, and a six pack of protein bars is pretty much the first thing I pack. There are just too many times where it’s a big hassle to get a real meatless meal.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I have eaten a fairly restricted diet for decades. It’s a PITA to set up, but I do this with protein bars/drinks, travel size snack packs and some fresh fruit travel well also. I worked with someone before and after they also modified their diet. We had a running conversation about prepping for our trips by searching for these places with variety. And there were times when the situation was pretty bad, we couldn’t really find that much to fit our needs. We ended up with meals where we did not eat parts of the meal or we told the server to skip x or y that was included in the meal ordinarily. The waste does bother me, even though I have no interest in that particular food item.

              One idea that we latched on to was sometimes supermarkets have a salad buffet and we could piece together a meal between the buffet and other ready-to-eat foods. This worked because it was just the two of us. When you add more people to the mix, this might not work.

              1. Pilcrow*

                I had grocery store salads on my last business trip and felt so much better for it. I’m not a vegetarian, but I have problems with the amount of salt in fast food and restaurant meals.

                1. Veggie Party*

                  I’ve been vegetarian/vegan since I was a teenager so I know this feeling well. I think it’s ended up with some food anxiety where I’m always stocking up on snacks at the airport gift shop, haha. One option would be planning ahead to see if there is something near by a meat heavy fast food place that you can go too (like if there is a McDonalds in the same shopping center as a “Veggies Galore” place and then you can go off and have dinner by yourself. And super markets are great. Maybe there is a supermarket next door to where McDonalds is and you can pop in and stock up on snacks or if you’re lucky they are one of the ones with premade food like salads or sandwiches. If they’re set up for it you can eat there or pick up stuff to bring back with you. I’d also research the hotel to see if they have a mini fridge and a hot water kettle/microwave (or a communal microwave). That will take you far! Also just think about how you can re purpose stuff and take advantage while you can.Jelly and Peanut butter travel spreads at breakfast? LOAD UP! Crackers left over from the soup bar at the hotel? LOAD UP! Now you’ve got the option to make yourself some tiny PB&J cracker hor d’oeuvres on the plane ride home.

                  P.S. Oatmeal packets/cups and soup cups are usually good options since they are fairly light and you can usually get hot water pretty much anywhere.

            2. Joielle*

              This! I eat a bit of meat these days but was vegetarian for about a decade in my 20s. I get hangry pretty easily so I ALWAYS kept a couple of protein bars on hand, especially when travelling with a group. It’s not ideal, but it’s not always possible to get a hearty vegetarian meal when you’re on a road trip, stopping for a quick bite off the interstate in a small town, or whatever.

              Especially since you’re the junior member of the team, I personally would just have a salad and fries and eat a protein bar in a couple of hours when you get hungry again. People can be weird about food and it can turn into a big deal when you didn’t intend it to (which I know from experience!). You don’t want this to be the thing people remember about you.

          3. Yep*

            Get a cab or Uber and go where you need to. It may cost you a little but well worth it. After a few trips, your fellow employees will find having their dining options restricted to be tiresome.

            1. A*

              Ya I think it needs to be a balancing act, especially given OP’s stance that salads are not a viable option. My boss is vegetarian and we’ve traveled all over the world together, it’s only been an issue one time and it was in a very rural area of a semi-developed country where meat was the primary source of calories. Aside from that, has never been an issue. And we’ve eaten at fast food places plenty of times. It might be a top level gourmet meal, but it isn’t for anyone.

              I have zero issue with accommodating food needs or preferences – but I do think there is a difference between needing accommodation because you are vegetarian, versus needing that accommodation plus XYZ doesn’t count (salad). When it comes down to general preferences, everyone has them so it gets trickier to balance.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                The only salad at McDonald’s that doesn’t come with chicken and/or bacon on it is a sad side salad of iceberg lettuce with a cherry tomato and a slice of cucumber on top. Their online menu says it’s 160 calories, 145 of which are from the dressing.

                I’m a vegetarian and I’ll happily eat a salad for dinner, but it has to include enough stuff that will provide energy and keep me full – cheese, nuts, seeds, beans/chickpeas, avocado, hard boiled egg, dark leafy greens instead of iceberg lettuce, etc.

                It’s totally reasonable to declare that McDonald’s side salad is not an acceptable meal.

                1. Not a Girl Boss*

                  I agree with A’s assessment with Guac’s addition. Vegetarians just don’t get to say that salads aren’t acceptable. But also, that off-brown calorie-free thing McDonalds offers is not salad.

                  When I travel I often ask for customized salads – extra eggs, extra cheese, avocado, extra dressing, etc – to make them a full meal. I just tip a bit extra to cover the inconvenience, but honestly no one ever seems bothered by it.

                2. Wing Leader*

                  I agree with A and Guac. There’s no good reason for a vegetarian to say a salad is not acceptable so we must go somewhere else. However, that salad does need to be an actually filling, nutritious meal. Agree that Micky D’s salad is a no go. That thing is just enough to make me angry, but not actually quench any hunger. So, salads are a yes, but actual meal salads, not a scoop of lettuce.

                3. Dahlia*

                  “There’s no good reason for a vegetarian to say a salad is not acceptable so we must go somewhere else.”

                  There’s PLENTY of good reasons for that! Salad is not a neutral food and vegetarians can still have food sensitivities and dislikes.

              2. Alex*

                I suppose the thing about McDonald’s which makes it popular with a lot of people is that it is one of the easiest places for those who would be described as picky (where else is it acceptable for an adult to order nuggets and fries?). Let’s face it nobody wants their eating habits being the topic of conversation especially if they are already self conscious about them and know they aren’t particularly healthy.

          4. pancakes*

            I recommend the site Roadfood dot com for researching road trip food possibilities. The couple who started it, Jane & Michael Stern, are long-time food writers who used to live near family of mine in Connecticut, so I’m very familiar with their opinions on the finer points of various ice cream stands and seafood spots.

          5. BluntBunny*

            I would suggest a pizza place. For fast food style cheap and filling. Most people like pizza and they are easily customised. Should be able to find a pizza place in most cities or an Italian restaurant and they tend to be slightly healthier than say McDonald’s. Also it is more of a sharing food so it’s nice to eat in big groups.

        3. AcademiaNut*

          My personal rule is that if I suggest a place to eat, and someone vetoes it, then they can make the next suggestion. I generally have no problem going somewhere other than my own idea, but I don’t like the feeling of having to keep coming up with options until something meets with their approval.

          1. UKDancer*

            I think by and large the easier the OP makes it for people to eat somewhere, the more likely they are to agree. So if they find somewhere with food people are likely to be alright with eating and suggest it, people are more likely to go along unless they have a reason of their own for objecting. The easier you make it for people to do something, the greater chance of their complying in my experience.

            It doesn’t need to be a big thing. Just something like “I’m vegetarian so I wondered about place X which has a good range of options. Here’s a link to their website.”

            1. Not a Girl Boss*

              I agree. I’m a lifelong vegetarian, and while I’ve really never had trouble finding food at any restaurant, I’m constantly amused by how hard people think it is to find a restaurant that works for me. Friends will genuinely ask whether an Italian place is ok. They totally have no idea what restaurants work for vegetarians.

              I guess all I’m saying, is that you need to make it easy for people to fulfill your request. Even though its obvious in your mind that Buffalo Wild Wings won’t work, but literally anything else will, you’re actually doing them a favor if you suggest an alternative. If not X restaurant, at least a category like pizza.

        4. Viette*

          I think when it’s a business trip, especially with people senior to the OP, where it’s a decision on the fly, it’s totally appropriate and necessary for the OP to do a little research — yes because they’re junior and yes because they’re the one with the dietary restrictions but mostly because otherwise nobody is going to know where to go for them to find something to eat. If the OP doesn’t know what’s good in the area without looking it up, why would their boss know?

          Their bosses probably aren’t aware of which places do and don’t have vegetarian food, and there’s a big difference between someone planning a work outing and someone in a group saying, “okay, let’s eat at the restaurant across the street because it’s convenient.”

        5. LDN Layabout*

          People who say ‘Oh I can’t/won’t eat there’ without offering alternatives are annoying people.

          It’s a case of someone already having done the work of making a decision, effectively being told they need to do it again, with no help or guidance from the person who’s shut them down.

          Is it a huge deal? No. But you still don’t want to be annoying people on a regular basis if the solution is a quick look on Happy Cow or a google search of the restaurants in the area.

          1. Avasarala*

            Yep, suggestions of restaurants, suggestions of cuisines or chain restaurants (“usually Thai is OK!”), or a solid description of what you will/can eat (not “vegetarian but I love sushi”). I find those people difficult and annoying. You have to put up with it in a coworker but I don’t make friends with people like that.

          2. A*

            Agreed. I’m baffled by the commends stating its YOUR RIGHT and no need to offer explanation or suggestions etc. Like, ok, maybe it’s ‘your right’… but it’s also unprofessional and putting your colleagues in an uncomfortable position completely unnecessarily. Especially if it goes beyond a need for accommodation and is also coupled with general preferences (i.e. must be vegetarian friendly, BUT salads don’t count).

            Not a big deal at all to say ‘why don’t we try X?’ – why would you go out of your way to not offer a potential solution and instead be ‘that person’?!

        6. TechWorker*

          Coworkers, not friends :p

          Its easier to eat veggie in some areas than others – so sure it’s not ‘unusual’ really at all but there are still places where it severely restricts where you can eat & you have to read the menu carefully first. (I didn’t exactly have great food experiences on a work trip to California, though we were extra restricted by not driving and trying to work out where we could walk to from the hotel :p)

        7. Perpal*

          I think people will quickly grow weary if there is a group trying to come up with restaurant suggestions, and one person just repeatedly says “I can’t eat anything at that restaurant”. It really is helpful to give positive suggestions, not just negative ones.

          1. Yep*

            That’s why there’s Uber. They will try to hide their disappointment when *once again* they can’t eat where they want to bc of you and it could possibly cause them to subconsciously pick others for business travel and career opportunities. I adhered to a vegetarian diet for a decade and had to stop for health reasons. I found people liked me more if i let them go where they wanted and got a ride elsewhere. Today’s ride sharing services make that easier.

            1. Perpal*

              I’m not sure we’re talking about the same thing but I’m only agreeing with allison’s advice to put forth acceptable options and disagreeing that just saying “I can’t eat there” and waiting for someone else to come up with a plan you like is a good strategy. Of course splitting up, and a million other possibilities may work, and that’s fine too.

        8. MusicWithRocksIn*

          In the rules of a group of people trying to pick a restaurant, if you veto something, you have to suggest something. Nothing is more annoying than trying to pick something and have one person vetoing everything that is suggested without offering any alternatives.

        9. Sparrow*

          When I have co-workers, friends, etc with dietary restrictions, I obviously want them to be able to eat if we’re doing something together. So if I know they have specific needs that need to be accommodated, I’m happy to do so (though I do actually need to be informed about it – OP needs to start there). However, I don’t know what will work for them. I can make my best guess or find a place with options and hope they’ll be satisfied with one of them, but I might be wrong. If you’re the pickier eater, regardless of the reason why, I think it’s on you to figure out what places will fit your needs and not make someone else guess.

          A vegan coworker of mine wanted to go to a restaurant with desserts she could eat while we were at a conference. Fine, but she hadn’t done any research, so we were literally wandering around, checking menus at each restaurant in the neighborhood. When we finally found a place, she said she didn’t like that particular dessert and wanted to keep looking. Please don’t do that, OP. Don’t expect other people to know what will work for you, and don’t be particular about where you can go without offering a solution because I won’t lie – while I was perfectly happy to accommodate her when we started that evening, I was quite annoyed (and hangry) by the end because the way she handled it majorly inconvenienced the rest of us.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            I was once the annoyed and hangry one, and wound up saying, “Look, *I* need to eat or I will lose it. You can watch me eat, you can window shop, I don’t care – BUT I’M EATING.” This was after about six or seven different restaurants were perused and rejected.

            I wound up dialing back on the friendship just because I felt this person was selfish. Obviously you can’t do that with coworkers, but it will not help the LW to be seen as picky or selfish or expecting others to put in all the effort. So yes, definitely eat vegetarian! Just do the research to find the options and don’t put the effort on others.

            1. Jack Russell Terrier*

              Oh my goodness – you don’t want me getting hangry. I’m always amazed at the way I have to emphasize that. I’m so glad we now know that hangry is a physiological change. I cannot let that switch get flipped, because if it does I turn into a raving lunatic. It’s horrendous for everyone, including me.

              1. Wing Leader*

                Me too on the hangry! I once had a lunch meeting that was just supposed to be a very casual get-together to talk business stuff while we enjoyed a sandwich. Well, we all sat down, and everyone immediately dove into business talk and forgot about ordering food for a bit. We were all hungry, but we just got carried away. After a while, I started realizing I couldn’t concentrate on anything they were saying, so I was like, “Okay, let’s take a break and order before I do unspeakable things!”

              2. JustaTech*

                This is why I never, ever schedule a meeting for my boss between 11:30 and noon, because he needs to eat then and if he doesn’t he gets so hangry. He does his very best to not take it out on anyone, but why risk it?

                I’ve also had to tell both my boss and a coworker to go eat something (and leave me in the lab) because my boss gets hangry and my coworker gets light headed and neither of those make for good science. (They should know better and schedule in breaks for themselves, but sometimes they get all caught up in what we’re doing and forget.)

          2. Allonge*

            wow… I don’t even get hangry, but that would have pissed me off and fast. I get having dietary restrictions / preferences, but then it’s on you to prepare for this, or be left behind at some point. I have food allergies, I know it’s not always easy!

        10. Annony*

          I do think it is important to be able to suggest alternatives if you are the one with dietary restrictions. It can be difficult for someone else to figure out what is and is not ok as well as ensuring that the safe option are not something the person with dietary restrictions hates. I have dietary restrictions and I make sure that I have a list of safe places to eat to suggest if I say no to another location. I don’t feel it is fair to offload the legwork.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            I also have dietary restrictions and usually suggest several different types of cuisine that are safe. Once people pick the type of food they’re wanting I find it’s a little easier to narrow down the restaurant. Plus it’s easier to do a Google search for “Italian restaurants vegetarian friendly” rather than just general “vegetarian restaurants nearby” if you’re in an unfamiliar area.

          2. Sarah N*

            Also other people may literally not know how to accomodate you! Although being vegetarian is pretty common, some people truly don’t realize that stuff like chicken broth or gelatin is not okay. And on the other side, I know people who say they are vegetarian but eat meat sometimes/eat fish/do or don’t eat eggs and cheese, etc. I do know the technical definition of vegetarian but this doesn’t stop people from defining it different ways for themselves. So when you say “I want a vegetarian restaurant,” your coworker doesn’t know if you’re working off a standard definition or not (and they themselves may also misunderstand the term!). Much easier to have suggestions ready of what will truly work for you.

            1. hamsterpants*

              For some self-identified vegetarians, chicken broth and gelatin ARE ok. Back the the 60s/70s “vegetarian” could include chicken and fish, and I know tons of vegetarians who will look the other way over things like gelatin, lard in refried beans, fish sauce in Asian food, etc. On the other side of it, some vegetarians who get angry and offended if you even ASK if these things are OK. It’s just not reasonable to expect your co-workers to keep track of your dietary vagarities.

        11. Dust Bunny*

          It’s not cool to pull this during travel, though, when everyone is hungry and you’re pressed for time and suddenly somebody goes, “I can’t eat here”, so now you all have to drive around until you find someplace that person can/is willing to eat.

          We have the Internet. All this person has to do is find out the route the group is taking and look up ahead of time which restaurants are available along potential stops. It’s totally fine to be vegetarian, it’s just not fine to surprise everyone with it when they’re trying to find lunch on the go.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            One of my in-laws is a vegetarian so we go to Subway a lot. It’s not anyone’s favorite but it’s fast and this person can get the same general type of food as everyone else, minus the meat, quickly. And there are a lot of them around so the odds are pretty good there will be one available in the general range of lunch time.

      2. TimeCat*

        I have a friend with celiac and she extensively researches her options to find safe restaurants wherever she goes (if you have full celiac like she does it’s so serious she usually checks out places on special forums to get knowledge of their reputation). You can’t just say no, you need an alternative ready to go.

        1. Annony*

          finemeglutenfree is amazing! I had to show the app to my Dad last time he was trying to take the whole family to a restaurant. He did not want to believe that the place he picked would not be safe until I showed him the reviews where everyone with celiac got sick there.

      3. mystery bookworm*

        This is especially true because you never know when others will have dietary restrictions as well. If everyone has a sense of what places they can / can’t eat, it will be much easier to coordinate.

    2. Old person*

      Years ago, I went to a library conference with a group of librarians and one was a vegetarian and another was vegan. One of us found an app that listed all the vegan and vegetarian restaurants in the city. We had a lot of fun before the trip began researching all the menus ahead of time to see the best place to rat. So one tip I would give is to ask beforehand and get people excited about the food adventure before you even pack your bags. Anyone can stop at a McDonald’s but few can say that they discovered a great local place in a tourist town with unique dishes you rarely get the chance to eat in your hometown.

      1. Rock Prof*

        Not to sound like an ad, but Happy cow is one of the apps like that if anyone is interested. You can search by vegetarian, vegan, or just vegetarian-friendly.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Thank you! I’m not vegan but I do have a dairy and egg allergy so I end up eating a lot of vegan food by default.

      2. JustaTech*

        I’ve done this with a coworker who has celiac – she found a list of restaurants who were very serious about gluten-free options and we ate at some unexpected (and delicious!) places.

    3. Rock Prof*

      I’ve learned to embrace fast casual while on trips since they tend to have more vegetarian-friendly options and also are likely to be clustered near interstates/hotels (in the US). My parents think I really love Panera since that’s often the most readily available option when we’ve taken trips together.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Plus one for fast casuals. My partner is a vegetarian and stopping at Panera on road trips has become our default. We never eat Panera at home! Chipotle is another one we both really like, and of course there’s Subway in a pinch. I think big national chains are a good default in this situation, especially if they’re always looking for something quick. You know what will be on the menu, for the most part.

        I say this as someone who enjoys all types of food and am used to taking dietary concerns and restrictions into account when choosing a restaurant. If the OP said to me, “By the way, I’m vegetarian,” I would find that useful information that will help us narrow down restaurants– it’s not restrictive, it helps direct the choices.

        1. Quill*

          Mod pizza is a new favorite because it’s fully customizeable. I’m not a full time vegetarian (I mostly cook and order vegetarian stuff but I eat meat if it’s already there / the only thing on the menu I think I’ll actually like,) and all my friends are on the “what is a vegetable besides a carrot?” side of omnivory.

          So I can get a $6 mountain of artichoke hearts and pesto on a flatbread while someone else can get pepperoni.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I’m always massively disappointed when I’m on a trip to somewhere I’ve never been and I get dragged to Panera, Olive Garden, TGI Friday’s, etc by unadventurous or picky coworkers (usually one of those categories rather than vegetarians; most vegetarians I know are good at finding something they can eat on almost any menu). If you’ve got enough people involved to split into smaller groups and use Uber, the people like me can get their BBQ/cheesesteak/Cajun/whatever fix, the chain restaurant people can go to Applebee’s, the vegetarians can pick something that works for them, etc.

        1. Lynn*

          That’s my SO’s family. Only chain restaurants no matter where we are. If it’s a meal where we get to pick the location (one of our birthdays), then we make sure to choose someplace that we believe they can find something palatable. And the vast majority of the time, they enjoy the meal.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            My mom. We took a trip last year and ate at TGI Friday’s, I think, three out of the first six meals there (the motel had breakfast). I am not a fussy eater but I finally put my foot down and made them go for Chinese dumplings one evening.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      OP has chosen not to say anything, and you seem to be putting all of the blame on the co-workers when they’re not aware of OP’s preferences. When you’re sharing a car on a business trip, you need to make compromises. And coming prepared with some options would help the situation because it sounds like they’re making food decisions on the fly, and OP isn’t speaking up. It can be frustrating when a group is trying to make a decision, and one person is saying no to everything without suggesting alternatives.

    5. Cassidy*

      If it’s available, I’ll order a salad that automatically has, say, chicken on it, and either ask for the chicken to be served on the side (which I’ll then offer to my meal companion(s)), or to be substituted with a couple of hard-boiled eggs.

      Also, while not a complete protein, I carry around raw almonds just for a quick fix, which also have come in handy for those impromptu “Hey, let’s go out to lunch right now!” gatherings. Almonds are quite filling. Making a meal of meatless sides also is an option, although this can be slightly more expensive.

      I was a restaurant server for nearly five years at a well-known steakhouse, and in my experience with restaurants, it seems most, including fast-food restaurants (which I worked in for many years), normally will accommodate whatever modifications you request. You just have to ask.

      I hope what I have written is helpful to you in some way, and I apologize if you are already aware of these things. Either way, good luck!

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I’ve never been able to get chicken on the side or left off a salad at a McDonald’s or similar. They come shipped from wherever in the package with the chicken on them, so there’s not much the staff can do.

        But at anything a step up from McDonald’s, it’s usually pretty easy to get the meat left off of salads and such. That may or may not leave something with enough calories for dinner, but usually when combined with other sides it works.

        1. Genny*

          That doesn’t track with my experience working at McDonald’s. The salads are prepped each morning and the chicken doesn’t get added until the salad’s been ordered. I suspect that’s how all fast food restaurants do it. Otherwise the salad would be brown and wilting and the chicken would get all soggy before it ever got to the customer.

    6. Donkey Hotey*

      I’ll add for emphasis: you’re not only not obligated to hide it, please DON’T hide your dietary choices.
      I will never forget enduring a cross-country flight followed by a couple hour drive with three co-workers. Three of us start trying to decide on food and go back and forth until we find somewhere. And only after we decide on somewhere does the vegetarian chime in with “but I can’t eat there.” And the whole cycle started again.

      This may catch me some fire, but I put vegetarians, vegans, and food allergies in the same category: Strong food preferences. Those with strong food preferences absolutely must speak up early and often and it is vital they do their own research. I am a pretty broad omnivore. I will bend to meet most anyone’s strong food preferences but I am not a mind reader.

      1. Wing Leader*

        Agree with this. I am a very flexible omnivore and can eat almost anywhere. But I can’t help you if I don’t know what you prefer. And, most of the time, I don’t even know what restaurant to suggest. You have to tell me what you want and I’m generally fine with it. (I had a friend who used to do this–she shot down every suggestion someone else made but wouldn’t suggest anything herself. Grrrr)

      2. Allonge*

        Absolutely. I had an extremely picky vegan colleague once, like really super limited range of food accepted. But she did all the legwork on figuring out what she wanted to eat and where. No problem, ever, she had great reastaurant recs. And she talked about this well in advance, so everyone else also got to say what they preferred. It actually made things a lot easier to have her involved, as things got decided pretty fast.

      3. Dahlia*

        …how is an allergy a strong food preference? I mean, I guess I also prefer not to die but I think that’s pretty standard.

        1. Not a Girl Boss*

          I STRONGLY prefer not to die, therefor its a strong food preference? Lol.

          But, I agree with the rest of the paragraph. Be your own advocate by taking an active role in planning.

        2. Third or Nothing!*

          I see how it fits in the same mental category. For anyone who straight up can’t eat something due to strong convictions or chronic illness, the outcome is the same: get accommodations or go hungry. On the planner’s side, it doesn’t matter why, it just matters that it is a consideration that needs to be taken into account. You can bring cross-contamination into the equation, but as a person with food allergies I would still hope that a halal or vegan diner would be given the same care and consideration as me since their dietary choices are the same level of importance to them as mine are to me. (I mean, no, they won’t die, but I understand how important deeply rooted convictions are and I respect that.)

          1. Donkey Hotey*

            Thank you for putting it better than I did.
            I’ve been off work on quarantine so long, I forget how to make the words line up right.

        3. Donkey Hotey*

          Dahlia & NAGB

          Flip the perspective: I’m putting vegans in the same category as people with food allergies. Their needs trump mine. I don’t care if it’s a choice, an allergy, or that genetic twist that makes cilantro taste like soap. Rather than split hairs over why they have that need, I accept it, give it a non-HIPAA-violating term, and lump them all in the same “we defer to their food needs” category.

        4. Dust Bunny*

          It’s not literally the same category, but in this context it doesn’t matter: The point is that all of these are people who aren’t going to be able to eat just anywhere. Why they can’t is beside the point.

      4. Katie B.*

        I think there’s been a lot of great suggestions here, so I’ll just add a couple of pointers that have been helpful for me in my 20+ years of navigating vegetarianism in restaurants.
        – Pick your tolerances. If you want to be impeccable, it will take some work and you will need to interrogate some waiters. Thai restaurants use fish sauce copiously. Mexican restaurants often use lard in beans and tortillas and chicken stock in rice. Most soups have chicken or beef stock. Deep-fried things are almost always fried in oil shared with meats. Sauces frequently have chicken stock or other bits of meat. Anchovies pop up in the weirdest places. Gelatin can pop up in sour cream. Many cheeses, including genuine Parmesan, are not vegetarian. Decide ahead of time how much time you’re willing to spend negotiating with the waiter and eliciting answers from the kitchen. I decided years ago that if I’m around other vegetarians I’ll do full due diligence, but I go easier on myself if I’m the only veg at the table.
        – Very few cuisines are genuinely impossible to navigate. Steer clear of Cajun, Japanese, seafood places, and stripped-down burger joints. Otherwise:
        – Always look up the menu ahead of time. Even looking it up in the car on the way to the restaurant can be incredibly helpful. Look at the menu as a list of components, not full meals – I’ve had some amazing meals that consisted of “this pasta with that sauce, subbing the chicken for the broccolini.” Also, you can always ask for a larger size of things.
        – Tell the waiter, ask the waiter. Most waiters worth their salt will know what your looking for and will be able to help you navigate. Some of them are amazing champions and some are worthless, but it never hurts to get their opinion, and it’s good to get them on your side.
        – Depending on how veg-literate your co-workers are, do not ask them to go a more veg-friendly place in so many words. Many, many people have no perspective at all on what makes a restaurant vegetarian friendly and will freeze like deer in the headlights. Instead, suggest a specific type of restaurant (Italian! Mexican! Pizza!) or restaurant (Chipotle! Panera! Taco Bell!) . If you can do some research ahead of time and pick the place yourself, even better. I’ve earned myself a bit of a reputation as a foodie among my coworkers because I always investigate on Yelp ahead of time to find something that will be delicious for us all.
        – The HappyCow app is great for when you don’t want to wade through Yelp, but it’s not exhaustive. There’s really no substitute for building up a solid mental catalog of veg-friendly places over a few years, but HappyCow can help you get started.
        – Fast food, you’ll want to stick primarily with Taco Bell, Burger King, Subway, Taco Cabana (although their refried beans aren’t veg), Jimmy Johns… I think Wendy’s had a baked potato at some point? There’s a lot more going on at the fast-casual level. Chipotle is the bees knees.

    7. MsLipman*

      I have to say I’m always surprised when I visit America and find so many restaurants with no vegetarian options. Here in the UK it would be extremely rare to find a restaurant without vegetarian/vegan options, even if it’s a steakhouse or something. It’s just standard.

      1. Over Analyst*

        It really varies among the states. In the northeast near where I live I never have problems finding vegetarian options anywhere, but when I went to a steakhouse in the south, fully expecting to be able to get chicken since I don’t generally eat steak, my options as a non-steak eater (who has really no other restrictions) were a baked potato, fried shrimp, and basically a lettuce mixture passing as a salad.

  5. LittleRedRiding...huh?*

    LW3: the first thing I would do now, is to “boss proof” my Facebook posts going forward – meaning, use the privacy options to limit her access/viewability for your future posts.

    This here is the main reason why I don’t have a Facebook account anymore.

    1. Diamond*

      Yup, just put her on ‘restricted’ mode, she won’t see anything but it will still say you’re friends!

    2. Lady Jay*

      Yep, I did this! I friended my boss at my last job (we were a religious institution and despite the story I’m about to tell, fairly well-run). Anyhow early on in the job, I posted on Facebook venting about the particular platform we used to organize our business on; it was convoluted and difficult to use. She asked me not to make those posts, so I didn’t hurt our IT guys’ feelings.

      I took down the post, was more cautious about venting in the future, and also as FB added more privacy settings (this happened back in the early 10s) arranged my privacy settings so the boss couldn’t see them.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      And this is why I’m very selective about who I “friend” on social media because I don’t want to have to sensor myself. Trying to control who specifically on your list can see your posts is way too much work. I’d just unfriend the boss and deal with the consequences when they figure it out.

    4. Not a Girl Boss*

      Yeah, in general, I have often regretted venty facebook posts, and I’ve never once been glad I did. Sometimes I’ll type it up and then delete without posting, if I need to process.

      My Facebook is now reserved for posting cute dog pictures for my (27, no literally) aunts to comment on.

  6. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    #1: Another way you might be able to avoid restaurants where you can’t have anything is to politely decline going to dinner and order in. You could say you have to stay in and catch up on some work (or whatever) and then use your favorite delivery app to order something suitable.

    It’s definitely hard to go along when there isn’t anything on the menu that you can eat. I hope this is one solution that makes it easier!

    1. LW #1*

      I had a couple of trips last year where we were basically working in a conference room at someone else’s office all day…I couldn’t have ordered lunch in. That could definitely be an option in the future, though!

      1. caps22*

        It’s an option I’d use sparingly, though, as it’s true that having dinner together is good for work relationships. So definitely have it as a backup plan, but not a plan A.

        1. Yep*

          As someone who has been there, it’s better for networking to NOT nix everyone’s dinner plans every time. People are outwardly happy to go along but it wears on them after awhile.

        2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          I totally get what you’re saying, but I have sucked it up far too many times and gone to dinner with people I didn’t want to spend time with at places where I didn’t enjoy the food. And I didn’t benefit from it. Sure, it’s sometimes a good idea to have dinner with colleagues, and you sometimes can’t get out of it. And it can also be enjoyable. There are plenty of colleagues I enjoy spending time with. But if you don’t want to go to dinner with anyone, that’s okay too.

          1. hamsterpants*

            +1 for introverts! After a full day in a conference or whatever, I am DYING for alone time. I’ll do much better and be much more outgoing during the day if I get a chance to just be alone for a bit!

      1. Greg*

        Sorry, for clarification: delivery and order apps like GrubHub take a significant chunk from the restaurant that makes their operating profit almost zero. Call the restaurant directly and order so they get the full amount.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          But then how do you get the food when you don’t have a car? The OP said this happens when everyone is riding together.

        2. Annony*

          That’s a great option when the restaurant offers delivery. If they don’t then GrubHub/Doordash/uber eats are sometimes the only options if you are working and can’t take the time to run out to get the food.

  7. FaintlyMacabre*

    For the vegetarian: I work in “llama grooming” and a lot of my fellow groomers raise lamas on the side for eating purposes. I am a vegetarian. Honestly, I end up packing a lot of easy to eat food on work trips, so I can eat something before and after the inevitable trips to the meaty mcmeat meat restaurants that my coworkers want to go to.

    This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try pushing back, but it doesn’t always work. (And to be fair, a lot of times I’m traveling to places where restaurants are limited in general, so it’s better to be prepared for no restaurant choices.)

    1. TechWorker*

      Yeah, at a push I have eaten a supermarket sandwich or salad and then shown up to dinner for a drink or dessert. It’s not ideal – but not impossible!

    2. White Peonies*

      I came to say this, it really helps to be more proactive about this on work trips especially car trips. I’m not completely vegetarian but I am very picky about the quality and quantity of meat I eat, so a lot of restaurants do not work for me. In a work setting if its people I am not normally working with or I don’t have a good suggestion I don’t push back on where we eat. I do pack things to eat in my hotel room or to snack on in the car. Fast food stops on the road never work out for me, but we don’t always have time for a sit down meal.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        On a family trip, I googled and found a health food store right near by. After that we stopped at that store every time we went to visit family. It worked out really well.

    3. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I’m not a vegetarian, and I always pack a lot of extra food for work trips. When you aren’t in control of your own schedule its good to have some backup food in case your coworkers don’t get hungry when you do, or suddenly there is food provided that is awful. Always be prepared.

    4. Mockingjay*

      Before I travel, I look up grocery stores and quick marts near the hotel, so I can stock up on snacks and meal stuff. Many grocers have upscale delis and salad bars, so it’s easy to purchase a healthy meal and keep in the room fridge.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        This is also one of my strategies for travel, particularly convention-related travel. It can be difficult to convince a group of people to “go out to dinner” at a grocery store, but some will and it can be a really good way to get an inexpensive meal with actual food groups involved. It’s certainly a good option for solo meals.

        I have particularly fond memories of the natural foods co-op a few blocks from the convention center during the Spokane Worldcon. They had an excellent hot/cold bar and deli, so my fellow vegetarians and I were able to eat well for reasonably cheap all weekend even though Spokane isn’t exactly the center of the vegetarian universe. (Plus, the fallback if I don’t like the ready-to-eat food options at a grocery store is to buy groceries and fix myself something, so it’s pretty hard to strike out entirely on meal options at a grocery store. I can live on fruit, raw veggies, and peanut butter sandwiches for a few meals if I have to.)

    5. Annony*

      Yep. I have celiac and keep energy bars in my bag to eat in a pinch. Sometimes there just isn’t somewhere safe for me to eat.

    6. Obfonteri*

      Total aside, but… I did not know people could eat llamas! I can’t even imagine what llama meat tastes like. Huh!

  8. nnn*

    #5: Even if they can’t prevent you from signing into the VPN and doing work, they can still say “You were on vacation for these two weeks in June as agreed upon previously, so two weeks of vacation have now been used up”. Your doing work when the employer has ordered you to take your vacation days is not going to cause them to give you back the vacation days.

    1. OP5*

      OP5 here. My employer has given us the edict in the past that if you take a sick day or vacation day and then do some work, it can’t be counted as a sick or vacation day because days off are in whole increments only. I think this was intended to prevent taking half days, but their wording made it seem like if you logged in to check email, the day off was no longer counted as off.

      1. doreen*

        I can almost guarantee you that they weren’t checking to see if anyone logged in on a vacation day and that policy was meant to prevent people trying to take vacation time in smaller increments ( I’ve had jobs where it could be taken in 15 minute increments. But even if previously it meant that a day wouldn’t be counted as a vacation day if you did any work , they are perfectly free to change that policy now, when they don’t want everyone saving their vacation time until maybe December,

      2. Thankful for AAM*

        I suspect that if you try working on your covid holiday days off, they will either not be happy with you as you did not do what they said or they will still count the days as your holidays and you will lose them.

      3. Annony*

        Odds are that they will still take the vacation day in this situation. If they can’t they will be very upset that you are blatantly disobeying them. They could fire you over it if they are serious enough about this policy. In general, an employee with a “you can’t make me” attitude about something that is not unsafe or illegal is not a great employee they want to keep around.

    2. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      To me, the problem isn’t preventing burnout, nor even reducing the liability on the accounting books. The problem is that doing so in this way affects people in semi-random ways. I’d almost prefer for forcing everyone to burn off their PTO at the same rate they earn it, averaged over each quarter.

  9. jman4l*

    OP#5-This is a difficult situation-I see both sides of this…if everybody waited until 4Q to take all their vacation, it would be impossible in most places to cover this. We have to use half of our vacation in 1H of the year and the rest in 2H. To me, this is a pretty fair balance considering the situation.

    1. Nessun*

      Yeah, there’s really not a lot of wiggle room. The vacation is a liability of it’s not used. Our year end is September, so we don’t even have 6 months left to use up our time – and some of us have a lot to use! I had lots of plans for my *over 7 weeks* of time, including carrying some over per our regular policies, but now I have to use ALL of it per the new policy they just rolled out. So…yeah, lots of staycation in my summer this year. It’s sad, given that it would be nice to save and use for something, well, useful or fun – but this is the reality. I can either take it and read/game/hike/paint the house, or I can lose it.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        …Did they literally change the rollover policy because of C19? That’s just insanely poor on their part.

        1. CupcakeCounter*

          My company is use it or lose it and they actually changed the policy this year so that people can roll over up to a week of vacation.

        2. Annony*

          If the company is really struggling financially I would far prefer a “no rollover” policy for vacation than layoffs.

        3. Nessun*

          Yes, they changed it for covid. Next year it will be back to normal. But I don’t mind – it’s the only thing they’ve required of us so far: no furlough, no layoff, no pay cuts. So if I have to take all my vacation time so they can clear that off the books, I’ll do it. And there is an exception program that can be discussed with leadership if it’s required, so if there’s some extenuating circumstance where someone HAS to have time early in the new year, the rollforward might be permitted (plus we have a very robust program for planning with a performance manager if you’ll end up in a deficit for vacation time; TPTB are quite understanding).

    2. Recursion, see Recursion*

      In a typical year we regularly accommodate international colleagues who take off for 3 – 4 week breaks, multiple times per year, overlapping within the same office. August and December we have very little EU coverage. So, why, just for once, can’t the company do without US coverage for a whole 2 – 3 weeks? Or allow us an exception to carry-over for next year?

      1. jman4l*

        From a financial standpoint, that will carry a liability over to the next year if you aren’t allowed to carry over vacation now.

      2. TechWorker*

        I mean it probably depends on the company but if it’s anything like mine the US office is the ‘command centre’ where the top level execs are based and they probably can’t imagine not having folks around ‘just incase’. But regardless this is a worldwide problem! So letting the US have 2-3 weeks coverage wouldn’t solve the holiday issues in Europe (where I assure you all the same conversations are being had…)

      3. Quill*

        In my team we have 1-2 week full country holidays in every non US location, plus other vacation time for single day holidays, then personal vacation time… and in the USA we get Memorial Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving/black friday, Christmas / boxing day, and new year’s day.

        Unpaid, in my case, because I’m in contract hell.

    3. KitCat*

      I’m in a job in the U.S. where I get two weeks of vacation a year. If we don’t use it, it rolls over. I would mad if I had two weeks scheduled, say in August, and was forced to take it even though I couldn’t go anywhere. Because that’s actual vacation time I could have used next year. Or spaced out and taken a little off at a time.

      My employer did do this, btw, and also made us take any planned sick time when we started working from home. You couldn’t cancel either one if you had already asked for it off. So if you were having elective surgery that got cancelled when hospitals were stopping that (say, knee surgery), you still had to take the days off. Now you’re still going to need surgery, but you won’t have any days left for whenever it’s rescheduled.

      1. Koala dreams*

        The vacation I can understand, but the sick time thing is just too strict. If the surgery is cancelled, you shouldn’t have to use your sick time. :(

      2. Annony*

        The sick time thing sucks. They really shouldn’t do that. I think a far better vacation time policy would be to let people at least space out the days instead of taking a chunk. So if they really can’t handle carrying over all the time, tell people to take off the same number of days they had scheduled but let them move it so that instead of taking a week off they get every Friday off for five weeks or something like that. Give what flexibility you can.

    4. TechProf*

      Yes, for many businesses it will be about the liability, and not wanting (or indeed being able to handle) everyone going on vacation later.

      I’m in a more extreme version of this, as a professor; my sabbatical year starts in a few weeks. I’ve talked to administration about the possibility of delaying it, but no, they want to keep things as scheduled, and without a very compelling absolutely-must-be-elsewhere plan, I’m stuck. So I can go to conferences virtually, which won’t have anywhere near the same benefit, and I can do my R&D work at home, and next year I’ll be back in the same straitjacket of a teaching schedule without having been able to do any of the travel I wanted in the only year I would otherwise have been able to do it.

      Silver linings are that I don’t have to deal with a significant part of the virtual-offerings mess, and that I can attend more conference lectures since I don’t have to travel to go to them. I’d trade those for getting a fall that actually let me travel, but they can’t let me do that because the accumulation of leave liabilities would be too much of a problem later.

    5. LCH*

      my company is requiring us all to use 10 vacation days before the end of June (end of fiscal year.) it’s for financial reasons, although not clear how. my best guess is that if they have to start laying off people, they won’t have to pay out the vacation time. it sucks!

    1. My Dear Wormwood*

      Right? I try to keep the mould to a minimum but it’s not exactly a display home piece.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My moulds are a display piece! :p

        (Joking of course. Although my student fridge got me the nickname of ‘Egon’ for a while…)

    2. Diamond*

      Right?? As a ‘fun topic’ I’m completely baffled by that one. It’s not ‘tone deaf’ it’s just weird.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      My fridge is covered with magnets that I’d be happy to talk about with any interested parties, but that’s more “further evidence of the specific kind of geek I am” than “thing I expect is also true of everyone else”, and I have little interest in seeing everyone else’s fridge unless they have similar tastes in Nerd Stuff and/or small children displaying artwork. (The inside of my fridge is pretty much my beer and dairy stockpile, which I definitely don’t need to share with all of my co-workers unless they’d like to discuss specific cheese and/or beer opinions.)

      1. Koala dreams*

        Yeah, I have some fun magnets, but also medical appointments, boring shopping lists, important phone numbers. Not things I want to share with lots of people.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh my word you’ve just reminded me that our fridge has a lot of fridge magnets that are … well not work appropriate. (Rude words. A lot of rude words)

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I won’t put a picture up here (really not safe for work) but there’s a lot of Malcolm Tucker quotes. (I used to write The Thick of It fanfiction…)

          2. Not a Girl Boss*

            Yes, like, honestly, now I kind of want Alison to do a show us your fridge post?? But also, not?

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Most of my magnets are Babylon 5 quotes or things I bought from local musicians. Nothing that’s blatantly offensive, but pretty much all things in the category of “things I would wear on a t-shirt, but not a t-shirt I would wear at a work function”. It’s also just such a weirdly specific request. It’s both kind of invasive and unlikely to tell me anything interesting in most cases. (“Ah, I see Fergus has a stainless steel fridge with no magnets on it, at least for this photo. That tells me he is the kind of person who owns a fridge, which I’d long suspected about him.”)

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          Yes I’m pretty sure that means show what you’ve got *in* your fridge, to which I imagine multiple people wanted to respond with “there is very little in my fridge because I have been laid off.”

    4. allathian*

      Especially if you’ve been laid off or furloughed… Tone deaf to say the least.

      1. MistOrMister*

        I was thinking that….what if people are having food scarcity issues? Being asked to show their fridges would likely cause anxiety.

        Now, anyone who wants can see a picture of my fridge. My light went out and it’s dark as a tomb in there so my privacy will be protected b/c when you get down to it, I don’t need my coworkers know what brand of apples I prefer :)

        1. OP #2*

          MistOr Mister, the “food scarcity issue” was exactly my concern. The team member who initiated that text is the lead Chef so I believe he was just trying to find common ground with the rest of the team.

          1. It's mce w*

            Can they check to make that everyone has been able to get on unemployment or benefits?

                1. Observer*

                  I’m glad to hear that. This will do a lot more to foster good will in your employees than any number of “inspirational” messages.

      2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Definitely tone deaf. So you furloughed then and aren’t paying them right now and you’re asking them to show everyone the contents of their fridge- when they aren’t making money to buy food with? Because you aren’t paying them? Umm…

          1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

            In any case, still-people shouldn’t be asking their furloughed co-workers to show the contents of their fridge when they are still earning money but their furloughed coworkers aren’t.

        1. MCL*

          OP is not the person who initiated that chat. Someone else on their team (presumably currently laid off with everyone else) did. Not saying it’s not tone-deaf, but also not sent by OP, who said they are sticking to more business-pertinent check ins.

      3. Emmie*

        I’m glad OP asked about this. . It’s tone deaf for low wage workers too. Allowing opting in only means they are pressured to participate in a few people’s “fun” activity just to make work connections, or to avoid the drama that may come with opting out. I’d put a hard stop to this all the way.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      So not work appropriate. I’m one of the few people who actually has posted that kind of picture, but it’s in the VERY specific context of a members-only housekeeping group, reassuring someone that they’re not the only one. (Kind of like when people here post “don’t kick yourself over X, I did X and xyz and still have a career.”)

    6. Princess Deviant*

      With a “family-like feel”, um.
      Any employer who refers to their workforce as family is about to ask the employee to do something above and beyond.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        This! “Family-like” can also mean they take license to be as intrusive as they please.

      2. Groove Bat*

        Yeah, that rubbed me the wrong way too.

        You don’t lay off “family.” This might not have been anyone’s fault, but people lost their livelihoods and they are bound to be feeling anxious and betrayed by their “family.” OP seems a little tone deaf by not recognizing this.

        Things are not going to be the same if and when employees get called back.

        1. OP #2*

          That’s a super great point, Groove Bat. What I was trying to imply is that the team was pretty tight, knows lots about each other’s lives outside of work & tries to support each other when times were tough (pre- COVID). The other thing I have been really working my way through is how it WILL be, when we get back.

          1. Polar Bear Hug*

            When you say “we”, does that mean you are laid off too? If it doesn’t, then I wouldn’t use “when we get back”. If only “they” are laid off, your use of “we” would really upset me if I were part of your staff.

            1. OP #2*

              I was not laid off. I am salaried, but I could still get laid off. BUT your point of using “we” is well taken! Thank you for the insight!!

    7. Not So NewReader*

      OP, when I supervised, I took a huge step back from their personal relationships with each other. So this is how I view this one also: step back from all this.

      I understand the emotional tug, your people are out of work, that is your core concern here. Use that as your focus by giving them any updates you have. Try, try, try, to give them solid up dates not things like, “we are considering opening up on Friday” only to be followed up with, “now we are looking at two Wednesdays from today”. Don’t send them messages that are all over the map (or calendar) like this. The news media is already doing this for us so we don’t need more. Give them concrete information of what the company will actually be doing.

      I do have an example: A place here hired a cleaner to come in with a disinfectant bomb, which coated everything with a fine mist of disinfectant. This type of thing would be a concrete and relevant update that they would like to hear.

      You will find it much easier to stay on track with business only communication if you let go of the idea of “family”. We have to be chatty and supportive with family. In business relationships, we have to be informative, we have to show that we understand the problems and we are addressing the actual problems where ever possible. If you want to keep their morale up then show them what the company is working on to keep the place safe or make it safe for them to return. Eh, take a picture of the cleaning company’s vehicle out front and cheer about preparations for their return.

      The truth is that if you try random things to keep morale up, you will probably fail. The refrigerator thing would annoy me for many reasons. I realize the fridge idea did not come from you and that is a GOOD thing. But if you had sent it to a group I was in, I would wonder why-oh-why does the boss think this is a good idea and I would have reasons numbers 1 through 17 why I was upset.

      They need you to just be a boss. You are the ONLY person in their lives who can be a boss (leader) for them and they super-need you to focus on that.

      1. OP #2*

        Not So New Reader,
        You really hit the nail on the head. I was struggling with “should I be posting more upbeat stuff” or just try to keep it all business. I do keep a professional distance with them & they respect that. They are very supportive of each other, so when there was sort of radio silence on their collective end, I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, our workspace is still on lock down & no one is allowed access. As soon as I can get back in there, I can start sending out updates like you suggested. Thanks for the great advice!

        1. BRR*

          Your additional comments are very helpful at putting things into context. I think any replies here that come off as harsh are a knee jerk reaction to using the word family to describe a business (I’m in that group FWIW). But a) even though it’s a business you can still care about people without stepping into “we’re a family” territory and b) the food industry is a unique field.

          When I read in this response “silence,” that triggered something in my head. People can be uncomfortable with silence and I’m wondering if that’s playing into things? Because a lot of people right now are in the middle of a prolonged waiting period, there’s just not much to say. Definitely keep them up to date on information they need to know, but don’t feel there is a required minimum for how often you need to communicate.

        2. Not a Girl Boss*

          I think the key here is that you want to support them, and think that silence = lack of support. But really, it can be the opposite.

          People are having a lot of feelings right now, and there’s not much you can do to help with any of it. I know being unable to help is a bad feeling, and sometimes you want to take action to make that feeling go away.
          But one way you CAN help is by not forcing people to perform emotional labor – not expecting them to participate in upbeat discussions with someone who reminds them of the job they don’t currently have.

          I currently still have my job, with a paycut. The money thing is an enormous stress for me, in a way it isn’t for the rest of my team (who are all only a few years out from retirement, while I am still paying private student loans off).
          My boss has instituted ‘coffee hours’ to talk about ‘things’ and honestly its just so exhausting. How things are is incredibly stressful, in large part because of the paycut my job gave me, but thats not appropriate for polite coffee hours, so instead I have to plaster a smile on my face and talk about the ‘fun, free, social distancing’ activities I have planned.

          Because the bottom line is, you’re not their family member, so they can’t be 100% honest with you about how they’re doing, which means you’re not really in a position to be someone for them to lean on.

          1. OP #2*

            Wow, Not a Girl Boss, THIS is truly fantastic & truthful. Thank you so much for your insight. This is extremely helpful AND helps ME feel less guilty, if that makes sense. They are a really great team & I just wanted to make sure I could help keep it that way. The truth is that we will all have to redefine “normal” & maybe all I need to do is just give them factual information and let them feel their way through the rest of it.

      2. Lucy P*

        My boss has appointed me as the unofficial official contact for our very small group that had an indefinite furlough.

        We’ve all known each other for 5+ years. Some people don’t mind hearing from me when I check in on them. Others don’t want to be bothered unless I have definite news and have bluntly said so.

        Last week the company asked me to call everyone to say we would be opening on day X, but may have to delay it by a day or so, but wanted everyone to be in the frame of mind to start work again. I did. After some internal consideration, the company decided day X would not work. They sent out simple one line emails to everyone saying, “We will be opening on day X + 14 days”. No further explanation was given in the emails. I think that those who are missing the extra income would be perturbed by this zigzag type of communication.

    8. OP #2*

      To give you some context, we are in the food industry. It’s a pretty diverse team, so bringing in something to share that reflected your style of cooking was normal. I think he was just trying to expand on that.

    9. OP #2*

      To give you some context, we are in the food industry. It’s a pretty diverse team, so bringing in something to share that reflected your style of cooking was normal. I think he was just trying to expand on that.

  10. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    OP1: Haven’t most fast food places started offering impossible burgers or something along those lines? You might not need to do worry about this. (Wanting to avoid fast food altogether is a different issue, but I don’t think OP could credibly day she couldn’t eat a McDonald’s veggie burger when everyone else is sucking it up and eating stuff they’d rather not eat either.)

    1. Quoth the Raven*

      I think this is location dependent. In my country, most fast-food chains don’t really carry vegetarian options other than the sides (and even then, that’s not always a sure bet); the only burger chain that has a vegetarian option is Carl’s Jr, while McDonald’s and Burger King don’t have any veggie options at all, and even their pre-made salads have chicken in them (remove the chicken and all you really have is lettuce and some tomato).

      1. PurpleMonster*

        In NZ McDonalds and BK have just started offering veggie burgers…but they’re careful to state that they’re not really vegetarian because they cook them on the same grill as the meat patties. I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but I don’t completely consider myself vegetarian so that would be fine for me (if I had no other options). But depending on how strict a person was, even that might not be an option.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          I’m flexitarian myself, so I’m okay with ocassionally eating beef/chicken/pork/fish if I push past my discomfort. If I were vegetarian, I wouldn’t really feel comfortable eating food fried in the same grill or frier as the meat options.

          Furthermore, at some point it isn’t safe physically — after a good days of not eating animal products, I do have a hard time digesting them, and I have vegetarian friends who have been made sick by eating “residual” animal fat picked up from the grill or from vegetarian options that aren’t quite vegetarian and that only had the animal products removed.

        2. Anna*

          Depends on the person, I think. I am vegetarian because I don’t want to eat dead animals; since no extra animals were killed to cook that veggie burger, it would be fine by me. But I know some people are more strict.

          1. leapingLemur*

            The texture of meat sometimes makes me feel nauseated, and even fake meat sometimes has that texture, so not everyone could deal with the impossible burger.

        3. JustaTech*

          As far as I know you can request that the Impossible Burger be cooked on a different grill, but you have to ask and be willing to wait, and it might depend on the location if they’re willing to do it. Also, I think the Impossible Burger at Burger King comes with mayo, so you might need to be specific about your toppings depending on what you eat or not.

        1. Barney*

          That sounds totally unappetizing. I would never expect a vegetarian to eat that and be satisfied. Especially when there are so many restaurants that do have decent vegetarian options.

        2. Bella*

          I actually witnessed this happen a couple months ago and it was hilarious because the McDonald’s employee taking the order was refusing to make it happen.

          The mom tried to order it for the kids and failed, then the dad tried to step in and was also shut down. They kept trying to explain that they would pay for the burger, just leave it out and she was like “sorry, can’t do it!” and looking like she wasn’t sorry in the slightest

          and it didn’t get resolved until a manager came over and was like “YES we can do it, SURE!”

          this won’t matter to the OP unless she wants a kid’s meal ha. I think it more depends on where they are (if it’s US) – there’s a lot of chicken-focused fast food places that really don’t have great veg options.

    2. Not A Manager*

      Interestingly, the people I know who like Impossible Burgers are actually meat eaters. My vegetarian friends don’t like them because they are too similar to meat and it’s distasteful to them.

      1. many bells down*

        We tried some of those “Beyond Meat” sausages, and they are quite good but very “meaty”. I can see that being an issue.

      2. LW #1*

        I totally feel this! I still will eat Impossible, but it tries to mimic meat in a super weird way. AFAIK they actually add heme (a protein found in blood, but not inherently animal-based) to make it taste more like real meat…but now it tastes kinda like blood, which is offputting if you are a vegetarian who *doesn’t* miss meat.

        IMO Beyond is much better

        1. stem bem*

          I’ve found that the Burger King Impossible Burger mostly just tastes like cardboard and smoke flavor…haven’t had a burger in 15 years but I assume it’s close enough to the fast food burgers for meat eaters, however it feels fake enough to me to happily eat! Taco Bell also has a lot of vegetarian options, so those are my go-tos when on the road.

          1. Fellow Vegetarian*

            Taco Bell is by far the best fast-food vegetarian option. You can sub in beans for meat in 100% of their menu options (for FREE). Unlike the “salad hold the meat” options, you still get full flavor and protein.

        2. tinyhipsterboy*

          I’m trying to incorporate more plant-based meals into my diet to help the environment rather than being full-on vegetarian or vegan, personally, so my tastes might be a little off compared to someone who full-on doesn’t eat meat anymore, but I agree! Del Taco has some Impossible products that are pretty okay, but that’s primarily because their food is so heavily spiced compared to a Carl’s Jr. or McDonald’s.

          Beyond has that strong fake-meat (almost… fake-oniony?) taste to it that’s a bit frustrating, though. I really love the Beyond sausages (the hot Italian one has no right to be as tasty as it is!), but when I’ve tried to use their ground ‘beef,’ it’s overwhelmed the flavor of the dish it’s in. I’ve found Lightlife’s burger patties taste a bit more neutral, as do Sweet Earth’s, but I think those are soy-based, so they won’t work for everyone. :/

          That was mostly a tangent, but I hope you’re able to find some alternatives for when you’re out with coworkers! I know some places will be more than happy to do a grilled cheese, but I’d imagine that even with burger toppings on it, it wouldn’t exactly be satisfying every time you need to get food…

        3. Quill*

          We had a meat substitute with Heme in it the other week and my dad, the obligate scavenger who would prefer meat but doesn’t want to bother making meals for one, was very impressed.

          The two full time vegetarians and I were just a little bit confused.

        4. knead me seymour*

          I also much prefer a veggie burger that just tastes like lentils or tofu or whatever it is. Some fake meat falls into the meat uncanny valley for me–and I’m not even vegetarian.

      3. MistOrMister*

        I think it depends on the person. I will happily eat the most realistic fake burger you can find, as long as I am assured it’s fake meat. But there was a mixup with some pizza this weekend and I ended up eating about half a piece that had meat on it (vegetables on top of the cheese and meat underneath, so I thought it was the vegetable only pizza we’d ordered) and I thought it tasted just horrible, but couldn’t figure out why. Until I saw a piece of ham. Oy….

      4. Daisy*

        I know a number of very strict vegans (they do seem to cluster together), and most of them like Impossible Burgers. If you avoid meat for ethical reasons, rather than not liking the taste, I can’t see why that would be an issue.

        1. Tate Can't Wait*

          30 years vegetarian here. I’d just like to point out, respectfully, that I’ve met hundreds of vegetarians over the years and I’ve never met one who became veg because they didn’t like the taste of meat. It’s either ethical reasons (probably 70%) or health reasons, or a combination thereof.

          This is why, when we’re asked why our meat substitutes are named after and modeled after real meat dishes, it causes frustration – because the question comes from the idea that we don’t like the taste of meat (or maybe we really do) so why eat something similar? But that’s not the case.

          Just needed to get that out there. Peace.

          1. Blueberry*

            I personally know some vegetarians who don’t like meat, such as my nephew (I’ve known him all his life, and he just doesn’t like meat) and there’s Sharon downthread, and a food vlogger I follow, for three examples. Which is not a statement that people should hassle anyone about eating realistic meat substitutes, just that the world contains many things.

            1. Tate Can't Wait*

              Understood. I would argue that if people “don’t like” meat, it’s the ethical component coming through and not the taste. Meats have many different tastes, just like vegetables, fruits, bread/grains, sweets, etc. and it’s unlikely someone would dislike them all. Much more likely their conscience is rebelling against eating animals and their mind is translating it to “I don’t like this.”

              1. Blueberry*

                Heh, I would be surprised to find a 2 year old that cares about ethics to such a degree, and we were noticing this preference in him before he was 2. I’ve been feeding my nephew since he was born. He just doesn’t like meat, be it beef, chicken, or fish. (We haven’t tried pork for religious reasons.) He’s a splendid and unusual person in many ways but I would have a hard time believing he’s unique in this one.

      5. Bella*

        they are definitely more for health conscious meat eaters than vegetarians (by volume anyway). I like them better than McDonald’s old option (available in Europe) which was essentially a potato patty.

        But I always worry they’re going to mix them up and just give me meat so I would prefer a hearty black bean burger ha

        1. ...*

          They’re not exactly healthier than meat…they’re ultra processed and have tons of saturated fat

    3. lazuli*

      And there have been issues with fast-food places frying the vegetarian options on the same grill as the meat burgers, meaning the vegetarian burgers are now covered in beef fat. I couldn’t eat those.

    4. Confused*

      Vegetarian here: I would not eat at McDonald’s or similar restaurants because they would be grilling the impossible burger on the same grill (with leftover grease etc) as the meat burgers. Even if that wasn’t an issue, this would mean OP would have 1 option and has already said salad+ fries will not do, not sustainable on multi-meal/day trips.

      1. Sam I Am*

        Burger King dis their Mornigstar brand veggie burger in the microwave. I haven’t had their beyond burger, so I don’t know about that one.

      2. Quill*

        I know that’s a huge problem for people who have Tick aquired meat allergy, which is probably not a huge number of vegetarians but a decent number of people who are vegetarian for medical reasons.

    5. LW #1*

      Some have, and I really appreciate it! But there are still some issues, sadly.

      Personally, the shared frying space isn’t a huge deal to me, but it both gets old (how would you you feel if all you could eat for several days was burgers and you don’t really eat burgers otherwise) and isn’t universally available. Particularly at restaurants that advertise themselves based on the quality of their meat or similar (think Wendy’s, Arby’s, etc), that tends to not really be available.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Another option is to research places which have good pick up meals. I’m a total omnivore, but I try to keep a healthy diet when travelling – a fast food meal for me is a special treat, but I wouldn’t be happy with days on end of it. But I’d be okay with going to the Wendy’s, having a coffee while the others eat, and swinging by a grocery store to grab something from the deli section for my own meal.

        1. Lora*

          Oh, I came to mention this! I have no particular food restrictions other than “picky eater,” but there have been plenty of work trips to places that had NO food options that were at all reasonable (think: big industrial installation in the middle of nowhere that consists of a hole in the ground and a lot of spiders, with the nearest gas station 25 miles away and the nearest town an hour away) – what I did in those cases was stop at a supermarket and load up the hotel mini-fridge with stuff that didn’t need much work or could be made in a microwave. I pack a set of cutlery in my suitcase for this purpose. In the US I eat a lot of quesadillas and burritos made with instant powdered refried beans, overseas it gets more complicated depending on what’s available and whether there even is a hotel kitchenette, but there’s usually something I can figure out – instant noodle bowls with pre-cut veggies or something.

        2. A*

          Excellent point!! My boss is vegetarian, and we travel for work a lot – she has a jumbo list of chains she knows the menus of like the back of her hand / feels safe with so we always have backups. I’d say at least half of them are places that if we go to it’s a curbside/takeout arrangement kind of like Applebees.

          Luckily for us, when it comes to food I’m up for anything so I go wherever she takes me. Although I draw the line at raw vegan – tried it once, not for me!

      2. Sharon*

        The main reason I don’t eat meat is that I find the taste, smell and texture revolting, so “meat analogues” do not work for me! That said, of all the fast food places out there, Wendy’s is my go-to because they do have a decent, meat free salad and their baked potato is a reliable, healthy standby

      3. BeansBeansBeans*

        Ooh, what are everyone’s favorites for best vegetarian fast food options? As a vegetarian for 11 years (for environmental/sustainability reasons; I think meat is delicious) I think Subway and Taco Bell (or other sub/Tex-mex places) are the obvious front runners, but maybe others disagree. At Taco Bell you can substitute beans for meat in literally any one of their menu items, which is awesome (and their beans are vegan.)

        I’ve been on many road trips where most of the group went into the Arby’s or Burger King and I snuck across a couple parking lots on the side of the service drive to walk over to the Subway or Taco Bell or Starbucks or grocery store down the road.

        1. Reba*

          Seconding Taco Bell and Subway. I also find success at KFC, ironically, as the baked beans, green beans, and corn are vegetarian. I believe KFC is trialing a meatless chicken product, but it would be fried in the shared frying oil.

          I know these are not available in a lot of rural markets, but there are a boatload of fast casual places that can offer good vegetarian meals, particularly the “bowl-based” ones. In my area we have several Mediterranean options in this vein.

      4. TL -*

        I think a lot of people on work trips are eating a lot of fast food/restaurant food when normally they would eat something else, and they end up getting really tired of it.

      5. tinyhipsterboy*

        I should have mentioned this in another comment that I responded to you in, but at the very least, Chipotle and Taco Bell are relatively easy to make vegetarian! Taco Bell’s beans contain no animal products, and Chipotle allows for a few different possibilities (just stay away from their pinto beans, which do use meat for flavoring; the black beans don’t). As far as I know, Chipotle and Taco Bell are relatively widespread instead of regional, so that might help at least a bit :)

    6. Crop Tiger*

      Those impossible burgers are nasty. I’m a carnivore and would much rather have a veggie burger, which my BK has offered for years.

  11. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    #5: I can understand wanting to save your vacation days for when you can travel again. But it’s also okay to be at home and be on vacation from work. Some coworkers might think that just because you’re home, you don’t have anything better to do and therefore you should be working. I don’t know about you, but I have plenty to do at home that isn’t work related. Your own time is important, too.

    1. MK*

      It’s understandable, but it’s also about denial, I think. The simple reality is that travel and many activities, even going out to restaurants, is going to be complicated all this summer; in my country quarantine is slowly being lifted after flattening the curve, but my friends and I couldn’t go out to eat unless we booked more than one table, split outselves in groups and talked to eachother from 1,5 meters away. And come fall there will be the danger of the virus resurging, so a new quarantine is a real possibility. I doubt people are seriously considering putting off all vacation till next year; they hope they will be able to take it in couple of months, when things get back ti normal… and reallistically, things won’t be back to normal anytime soon.

      1. OP5*

        OP5 here. It’s not about denial at all. I don’t expect to travel this year, even for the holidays. I live somewhere with brutally hot summers and want to wait for the heat to let up before taking my inevitable staycation. Doing stuff around the house isn’t practical until then unless it’s strictly indoors, and I have already spent two months locked in indoors at home. Painting the front door would be a nice change of pace, but I can’t leave it ajar to dry until probably October.

        1. Vina*

          One thing that I have done during this pandemic is take one day a week to try and learn some thing that I’ve always wanted to learn but never had time, read some thing I’ve been putting off, or do something fun and frivolous. As an example, one day I say and rewatched Bewitched on Amazon Prime while eating a TV dinner I loved as a kid and orange crush..,,,all what I did when o was 7. One day, I watched a bunch of videos on crocheting birders as I knit but can’t crochet. One day I sat in the bath and read all day.

          If you can’t get a physical break, try an emotional one.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Yes even just being 100% in charge of your own schedule for more than two days in a row is excellently refreshing. Whether you’re clearing out backlog projects like re-organizing the hall closet, or just playing games and reading, it really is recharging just to have a lot of days in a row structured completely around your whims.

            1. Vina*

              “Structured completely around your whims” is exactly it.

              The key to vacation is not just physical distance, it’s distance from obligation and indulgence of whims.

        2. Nope, not today*

          That would be my main problem with this – I was meant to be on vacation overseas this past week. If I had to still use my time I’d have been stuck indoors at home with chores I don’t want to do, depressed, because it has been too cold and wet outside to paint my porch, or garden, or go hiking. I’d rather use my time when I choose because I want to factor in the weather etc, to make sure I can enjoy my time…. rather than spend a week locked inside crying, not even able to work as a distraction!

        3. tinyhipsterboy*

          I’m in AZ–I feel you on the heat (though I know other places have equally brutal summers). If you can muster the energy for it, there are ways to pass the time, whether it’s video games and television or doing something a bit more personal and “productive” like writing or reading or learning something you’ve been wanting to. Hang in there!

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Yes your own time is important, but personally I don’t want to take a week of vacation to stay home. I’m a homebody but working is the only thing keeping me sane. A day off here and there is good, but taking an entire week off and being stuck at home sounds like torture to me. My company was just acquired by another with a “use it or lose it” vacation policy and I’m hoping they rethink it for this year. I get a generous amount of PTO, and I’ve used 2.5 days so far with a week planned off in August. Companies don’t “have” to do anything for their employees when it comes to vacation time, but they’re all going to look really shitty if they ignore the fact that nobody can travel right now and don’t make changes that benefit employees.

  12. Kiitemso*

    OP5, it sucks but it is what it is, and everybody is on the same boat. I had really fun plans in June to visit a friend in a foreign country, who I hadn’t visited since 2014 and we also had a destination wedding to attend in July. I still took the same time for both vacations off and another week off in September, since we have to use certain vacation time before September ends.

    The dream vacations themselves will have to wait until next year but I at least look forward to getting my mind off work for an extended period of time, and since my country is slowly opening back up, I can at least spend some time outside, provided the weather is nice.

  13. KP*

    LW #3, first of all that’s weird, but second of all just because you “have to” be friends with the boss/company on Facebook doesn’t give them the right to see what you post!

    I have some family members who are very religious and I’ve designated them all as “acquaintances” on Facebook, so if I want to post something I know they won’t approve of, I just set the post privacy to “everyone except acquaintances”, and we’re good. You can also block one or more specific people from viewing any post. Your boss should know that what they did was inappropriate, but I would still take precautions so you know for sure they’re not creepin’ on your stuff.

    1. Radical Edward*

      Exactly this! I have a strict personal policy of not allowing current coworkers/colleagues/etc to find or friend me on social media – and if they stalk me through mutual acquaintances, I politely explain my boundaries and then promise that if I ever ‘move on’, I will add them to keep in touch. (I then add them all to a filter for ‘work-adjacent’ friends, because there are still plenty of things I don’t need them to see or weigh in on.) This has worked out well but it started when Facebook was young, and I was a page admin for my workplace. The way business pages were set up at the time really skeeved me, and everyone at that workplace was connected on various social media platforms in a really gossipy way, so I started being really careful with my own accounts.

  14. Heidi*

    I’m not sure I even get the “Show us your fridge” thing. Are you supposed to text each other photos of the inside of your refrigerator so they see your food or the outside where all the magnets are? And then are you supposed to discuss it amongst yourselves? I think it would feel weird to comment on what other people are eating.

    1. Betty*

      I would totally just text a link to the model on the store website where I bought my fridge with some personal pros and cons. “I really like the extra deep vegetable trays, but to be honest the egg dish just takes up space and it’s frustrating not yo be able to move the door shelves.”

      1. Avasarala*

        What a great way to handle this. Treat it like those Amazon emails, “how is your product?”
        “It’s pretty good, like the color”
        “I got this for my son so I don’t know”

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m a brit so my impulse would be to link to a brand of fridges that has a name very funny to anyone who watched Red Dwarf…and then just link to a video of Red Dwarf outtakes.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          We have an oven from that manufacturer. When our children started watching Red Dwarf they suddenly found the oven entirely hilarious.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Now I wonder if there is any household appliance that carries a name that could call back to ‘Allo, Allo’ …. (I’m assuming that’s where your username is from, apologies if not)

    2. Overeducated*

      Inside, I think. This also seems a little tone-deaf given that it’s a group of people who’ve just been laid off.

      1. Amy Sly*

        See, I would assume outside, because lots of people have fridge magnets from interesting places, the kid’s latest artwork, or other “things you’re okay with people knowing about you that they may not know already” type conversation starters hanging on the fridge.

        1. Barney*

          In mid-March when people were stocking up on food for what we all thought would be a few weeks of SIP, there was a social media trend of sharing a picture of the inside of your fridge to show what food you stocked up on. The trend didn’t go very far because people realized quickly that it was a bit tone-deaf, but I’m assuming that’s where this employee got the idea.

          1. Amy Sly*

            Well, I completely missed that trend. Of course, I miss a lot of things like that.

    3. OP #2*

      Heidi, yeah, it was pics of the inside. We are in the food industry so I believe that team member was trying to find some common ground.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Heh. My husband is also in food service and laid off, but our fridge is so pathetic when it comes to actual food.

        Now our freezers are crammed full …

      2. Observer*

        Still tone deaf.

        I think that Allison’s approach is the best thing here – don’t “manage” this. Just tell them that they should make sure to make further texts etc. opt in so that people who are not up for this don’t have to deal with it.

      3. Blueberry*

        Random tangent, but I’ve often found that people who work in food have the Shoemaker’s Children problem with their personal kitchens, and that certainly happened to me when I worked in food — my cooking at home went way down. (As a possibly cheerfuller side thought) have you noticed that?

        1. Amy Sly*

          It’s true with my husband, at least. One of the few Covid bright spots is that he’s cooking every night.

          1. Blueberry*

            Ooh! They say everything has a silver lining, and that does sound like a shiny one.

  15. Bowserkitty*

    OP5, take advantage of that staycation. I just had 7 days in a row off (2 days of PTO total, timed it around holidays and the weekend) and it was amazing. I got so much cleaning done, organized some computer files, and played a video game every night. Even if you’re working from home you’re still working a good chunk of the day, so try to look around and think of things you’ve wanted to try out lately! Heck, even just spending an entire day in bed can be worth it.

    1. Dan*

      I have to cancel an overseas trip over Memorial Day weekend. Of course I’m disappointed, but… usually when I take PTO, I’m almost always going out of the country. OTOH, Xmas last year was a scheduling nightmare (Wednesday holidays suck, but they’re still better than no holidays). I ended up taking 5 days off and not going anywhere, and you know what? It was glorious. I’m doing the same thing at the end of the month, and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m serious when I say that I’m looking forward to that just as much as I would actually being out of the country.

      As for the “working” aspects of working from home, yeah… the thing that’s messed me up is the essential places that are open are closing much earlier than they used to. So running to the grocery store or getting takeout is sort of an interruption, and I’m often “back at work” afterward to get my stuff done. I’m pretty sure I sit on my couch less “working from home” than when I go into the office.

      1. Vina*

        I missed my 50th birthday party and 20th anniversary trip.

        As heartbreaking as it is, our friend have kids whose senior year of HS and college graduation were ruined. So I’m not going to wallow in self pity bc I can celebrate later.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I just got off a 5day furlough and spent the dry days in my garden…the wet days in two very fat books.

  16. Rich*

    OP 2, I agree with Alison’s advice, and I’d strongly recommend erring on the side of leaving people be. If I’m laid off, I care about hearing new information (good or bad) about the prospect and timeline of returning to work. That’s it. If you have a close personal connection to some employees, checking in on them as a friend (how’s it going, anything I can help with?) may be fine if they’re really friends rather than “workplace proximity acquaintances”. But from my boss-who’s-not-really-my-boss anymore, I want a job.

    And bad news is as important as good news. “We’d hoped to be ramping back up by June 15, but it’s now looking like at least August 1” isn’t _nice_ to hear, but in that situation I have plans to make and responsibilities to fulfill. Knowing what my prospects are is essential data to my decision making. I may become a lot more flexible in my job search of a return to work is X months away rather than the Y I expected from your last update.

    Checking in with motivational messages would make me feel like I need to participate in the motivational spirit / attitude / activity to make sure I’m still part of the team. It’s unfair to create those expectations — even inadvertently or with good intentions — in people who don’t actually work for you.

    1. Dan*

      Yup, I agree. In addition, there’s a good chance the business will not reopen at all, and if I had to “fake it” to look like I was still part of the (non-existent at the moment) team just to find out my job evaporated, I’d be highly annoyed. I want to stew in my own misery in private and not put on a show for anybody.

    2. MistOrMister*

      Yep, I don’t want any motivational messages from a place that has let me go!! Heck, I mostly don’t want them from a place I’m still actively working, either. Give me the facts and let me go about my business.

      I understand wanting to keep the cameraderie going, but a lot of the times that family like feel is because you’re in close proximity for the bulk of your waking hours. Which is not to say you can’t keep relationships going even with layoffs, but the same way not everyone who leaves for a new job is going to stay close, not everyone who has been laid off or furloughed is going to want to do so either. And someone who has been let go against their wishes seems, to me, more likely to be anxious about finding new employment and maybe not as inclined to foster previous work relationships unless they were already very close

    3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “I want to keep the family-like feel we had before COVID happened ”
      The family that kicked them out physically and cut them off financially?

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Ha ha, yes! I was just coming here to say that. Do you furlough family members when the budget gets tight? “Sorry, but times are tough all over. The cat’s only coming in twice a week.” The OP made a business decision to (hopefully temporarily) lay people off. No matter what a logical and necessary decision it was, it really makes it impossible to keep leaning on the whole “oh, but we’re really a big family here!”

        1. OP #2*

          All of the team will have their jobs, with all of their benefits intact, when they return & we are in a profession that will reopen (assuming the whole world doesn’t go apocalyptic). I just can’t give them a specific date because the place where we work has not set one.
          The “family like feel” comment was more to generate the idea that the team was already pretty tight, with or without my presence.

          Rich, your comments are invaluable because you are laid off & this is exactly the kind of advice I need. Thank you so much!!

          1. Observer*

            I agree with all of the advice you’ve gotten. I think you are also going to have to re-frame how you think about the team, and your influence on the culture and interaction.

            They had warm and close personal relationships? Great, you want to foster that to some extent. But do NOT frame it or talk about it as “family” for all the reasons that people have pointed out. It won’t help and could actively cause people to distance themselves.

            Also, it’s not your place (especially given the circumstances) to try to push that kind of relationship. You want a workplace where this is *possible*, where people have warm collegial relationships and where cooperation and trust is high. But you do that by being a good boss, treating people fairly, actually rewarding team work, not pitting people against each other, and leaving some space for people’s human lives that are not work.

  17. Dan*


    Context is everything. If it’s “grab what’s convenient because everybody’s in a hurry”, you probably won’t have much pull. There are going to be other times where “the group” will have inertia that you can’t sway.

    That said… if there’s flexibility at meal times, figure out who the foodies are and ask if they’d be willing to try something different. I don’t have any dietary *requirements* but the same-old same-old is the last thing I want to eat if there are *any* other palatable choices. TBH, as long as dining as a group wasn’t truly mandatory, I’d go out to a local veg place in a heartbeat if it has good reviews.

    Side note: When I go to Indian places in the US, half the time I’ll order off the veg section… just because it’s good. Yet, more often than not my dining companions will exclaim, “I had no idea you were a vegetarian!” I’m not, it just tastes good and I need more vegetables in my diet.

    1. NforKnowledge*

      I get that “you just ordered a meal with no meat, I had no idea you were vegetarian!” too, and it’s so baffling. What is going through these people’s minds?!

    2. angstrom*

      Agree. “Let’s try this cool local place with great reviews that I found” has worked well for me. Spinning it as “want to try something new & different” or “something we can’t get at home” sounds like you’re trying to help the group have a good time instead of dragging it down with “no, can’t go there……” If you’re the one with a short list of good choices you’ve researched in advance, you’re a hero, not a burden.

  18. Uldi*

    LW #2:

    I’m going to be blunt: you laid them off. They don’t have a job anymore, in the middle of a pandemic. You and your company showed them how the company really sees them, and they will not forget it. The “family-like feel” of your team is almost certainly dead and any attempt to pretend otherwise will come across as insulting. No matter the reason, they’ll never forget that when things got hard the company dropped them like dead weight.

    If you have news about when they’ll be rehired, share that. Otherwise, just let it go. Oh, and be prepared for a significant number of your team to have found other employment by the time your company is ready to rehire. Five months is a long time to be unemployed. Five months unemployed during a pandemic? That’s an extremely long time, full of immense stress. With that in mind, do you honestly think they want non-rehiring contact from you right now?

    1. Dan*

      I agree with most of what you wrote, but your tone is a bit harsh. I think most rational people will understand that if money isn’t coming in, bills (and paychecks) can’t get paid, and “hard decisions had to be made.” 5 months may be a long time, but given the current state of things, there’s not a whole lot of hiring going on right now. Odds are the laid off people are going to be happy when the boss calls them in a few months.

      This reminds me of a job I had a few years ago. My company lost a pretty decent sized contract at the last minute, while we were in the process of bidding for a much larger one that we were expected to win. If we did win (which we did) but had let a lot of staff go in the mean time, it would have been a challenge to staff up the new contract. Lots of people we let go wouldn’t have come back, and this is a knowledge-heavy industry that requires a skillset that can’t be learned over night.

      So… management decided to retain everybody and pay some people on overhead for a couple of months. They thought they would try and talk themselves up by talking about how “they take care of their people” and all that yada yada. I think most people knew management was making a business decision, and nothing more.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        I don’t think it’s harsh, I do think it’s a bit of a needed wake-up call

        The company/LW have taken away their most substantial inspiration/support: their livelihood and ability to shelter/feed/clothe their families.

        Pretending to haven’t done so and offering some kind of lip service ‘keep going!’ and wanting to retain a family atmosphere? Is unrealistic.

        And quite frankly, if it’s coming from someone who’s still employed it’s horrendously tone deaf.

      2. boo bot*

        I think the “it’s the business decision and nothing more” kind of sums up what the OP is missing, though – it is a business, not a family, but the OP is thinking about it like a family, and assuming her former employees see it that way, too.

        Most people probably don’t fault the company for not having endless resources to pay everyone indefinitely. But that’s just inherently different from a family dynamic, where you might expect people to pull together, share resources, and do whatever it takes to make sure that nobody is left out in the cold. So, when a business says “we’re a family,” then lays people off in a crisis, they’re showing that “business” is stronger than “family.”

        I don’t think the issue is that anyone expects a business to act like a family – it’s that we all know it’s not, and it’s annoying to have the management insist that it is.

      3. James*

        Normally I’d agree with you. If my company fired me today, I’d be upset, but it’s just business. As far as the company is concerned I’m a resource, to be used or discarded as fiscal needs dictate.

        The fact that the company went out of its way to be all “We’re a family” changes the situation. The company set the tone, and then violated the tone. Feelings of betrayal are to be expected. That doesn’t mean I think what the company did was wrong–sometimes you have to let some staff go in order to salvage what you can–but the company needs to acknowledge the new direction they are taking and own it.

    2. Koala dreams*

      I think this is a good point. The employment relationship that used to exist isn’t there right now. They are former employees and former employer. Maybe that will change in five months, maybe not. If you think of a former employer of yours, maybe a few years back, do you really want a family type relationship with them? I think most people rather not. Keep to business related communication. Timeline on re-hiring, offers to be a reference for those you’d want to do that for, things like that. Short and to the point.

    3. Groove Bat*

      Well said, and I can only imagine that their sense of betrayal must even greater if the company truly was one of those “family like” environments.

      I work for a company like that. I know nothing is forever, but I cannot even imagine how devastated I would be if they let me go, no matter the business justification.

    4. Valegro*

      I agree. If you laid me off the last thing I consider you is family. It’s not personal, it’s business and I DEFINITELY don’t want any team building emails while I’m not being paid that may influence my job if/when I get back based on my participation.

    5. WellRed*

      I agree with many of your points, but “this is what they think of you” is making it too personal. They didn’t lay off people because they didn’t like them, it was a business decision. But yeah, drop the family feel crap going forward.

    6. Jedi Squirrel*

      This is really harsh. This wasn’t about how the company feels about them, it was a business decision. If you don’t have money coming in, and little if any cash reserves, you can’t pay people. Period. We know nothing about the nature of OP’s business.

      If the company didn’t like them, they certainly didn’t wait until this global pandemic to lay them off. They would have found some other way to get rid of them. And please note, they are laid off, not fired. A lay-off indicates the company is intending to rehire them at some point.

      I do agree with you second paragraph, though. It’s possible some, many, all, or none of these employees will have moved on by August. Best to keep any contact to information about re-hiring.

      1. Joielle*

        It’s not about whether the company “likes” them though, it’s that if the OP hopes to keep a “family” feeling, that probably isn’t possible anymore and they shouldn’t try to force it. I don’t doubt that the team was close before all this, but laying people off in the middle of a pandemic really highlights the fact that you’re not a family, this is a business.

        I’m sure it was a business necessity to lay them off! There probably was no other choice. It’s happening all over. But you can’t have it both ways – you can’t say “we’re a family” out one side of your mouth but “you’re on your own during a pandemic” out the other. If you lay people off, you can’t make them still be your friend through encouraging emails or whatever.

        Also, “lay-off” does not generally imply you’re planning to bring people back. I think you’re thinking of “furlough.” And even in that case, it’s of course not guaranteed.

    7. OP #2*

      To be clear, I did not make the decision to lay them off. The State shut down rather quickly. I did not have a choice in the matter.

      1. OP #2*

        Also, everyone of them is guaranteed their exact job, with their benefits intact, when they return.

        1. A*

          Were they furloughed? I’m just a little confused – I thought I had a solid understanding of the difference between lay off and furlough, but now am second guessing myself. I.E. at my company those that we couldn’t keep on during the shut down were furloughed with our employer paying the full cost of benefits for the duration. If they were laid off, don’t they need to go through the re-hire process etc?

          Not being snarky, I’m genuinely curious / confused.

          1. OP #2*

            WOW! I had to look this up! In my ignorance, I did not really understand the difference in the definitions. They are in fact, furloughed. I guess we just used the term “layoff” kind of like how you would use the term “kleenex” or “bandaid”. Here’s a link to the definition:

            Thank you for educating me today!!!!

        2. Happy*

          I don’t see how their jobs can possibly be guaranteed.

          What if the company goes under? So much is up in the air these days.

  19. MistOrMister*

    OP1 – it really is ok to make announcement that you’re vegetarian and will need that factored in to your stops. I don’t run around annoucing my vegetarianism, but if I was going to be on a road trip with coworkers, I would definitely bring it up. It really shouldn’t inconvenience anyone. Even if everyone else still wants to stop at mcdonalds, there is nothing keeping them from a quick stop to pick up something you can eat elsewhere. The big gas stations that have food prep areas would be able to make something for everyone and hey, you gotta stop for gas and to stretch you legs anyway! While you’re at the event itself, you might not be expected toeat every meal with the coworkers, but if so, having researched the area, if you can, would possibly help. But also, if your coworkers are at all reasonable, they don’t want you to go hungry just because you’re junior and don’t eat meat!!

    If space in the car and finances permit, you might want to bring some heavy snackage. I have gotten into the habit of taking food on trips b/c for some reason I think I’ll be stranded. So I usually brijg bread, crackers, cheese, peanut butter, fruit and some vegetables (along with the junk food everyone wants). But this is for family trips. I still think you could potentially bring along some food or even go to the store and buy a few things once you get where you’re going. It makes for some peace of mind…for me, at least.

    1. Kiki*

      with regard to PTO

      My company isn’t requiring we keep all the vacation time we had booked, but they are “requiring” us to all take 16 hours of PTO a month. We have unlimited PTO, so it doesn’t have financial impact on anyone or impact future vacation time. I think it was noticed that a lot of people were getting cranky— it was affecting how people were interacting and work output. A lot of coworkers were surprised by how much a day or two off improved their moods.

      OP5, would it be possible to ask if you could split that time off up into smaller chunks, but still take the same total time over the course of 2-3 months? So it addresses your employer’s concerns about too many trying to take all their vacation at once later in the year, but you won’t be at home twiddling your thumbs for 2 weeks straight.

  20. Meißner Porcelain Teapot*

    LW 2: Speaking as someone who was laid off with next to no warning (one day we were all still coming in and no-one in management was even talking about wfh, three days later the office closed completely and everyone was laid off effective immediately), please do not contact your team during this time unless it is to give them an update on when they’ll be returning to work (at the office or at home), and when you do, keep it quick and simple. I have since been brought on again by my company to wfh and we get emails of “support” pretty much every other day. It is, frankly, annoying and exhausting and by now I pretty much move every all-company email with a Covid headline right into the spam folder, because I am just so tired of there never being any relevant information. If I had gotten those mails to my personal address while I was laid off, I would have written to HR to take me off that mailing list and take me out of the “re-hire” pool effective immediately.

    1. OP #2*

      Thank you so much for your advice! I came here hoping to hear from folks in your situation. I hope your spam filter is helping!! Thanks again!!

  21. Koala dreams*

    #1 It’s easier the earlier you speak up about needing vegetarian options. If you can, mention it the day before or the first day of the trip. Also, be prepared for your co-workers to not know very much about vegetarian restaurants. Sometimes you’ll get pleasantly surprised, but plan for being the one to suggest alternative restaurants and having to explain what works and not for clueless co-workers (I’m including myself in the clueless category as I’m an omnivore/flexitarian).

    #5 A staycation is just as real as travel. Not everybody has the same interests. No need to dismiss other people’s interests just because you don’t share them.

    Anyway, it’s unfortunate that you can’t do the travel you planned on your vacation, but seeing as we don’t know when travelling restrictions will be lifted, it might be better to plan a non-travel vacation. Many people use vacations for other hobbies such as gardening, book reading, TV show marathons, crafts, art, spending time with friends and family (using phone, Skype, zoom, walking together at a distance), exercise (running, bicycle, online classes). Maybe you have a hobby you would like to try or friends who would appreciate a zoom party? If all of that sounds boring, you could see if there are volunteer work to do or if you have any home projects you’d like to do. That way at least you feel you are doing something useful of the time.

    I was planning on taking a short language class but as classes have been canceled or moved online (I find online class exhausting), I will probably spend time on my other hobbies instead. I want to take walks and take photos of the trees, see some movies, eat cake and read some books. Maybe I’ll do a stitching project. Maybe…

    1. Delphine*

      LW5 didn’t say anything dismissive of staycations and they didn’t even suggest they intended to travel. The truth is that we *are* all trapped at home, most of us when we’re working and not working, and that changes how enticing a vacation is right now.

      1. Koala dreams*

        Yes, it was Alison that dismissed staycations as not “real”, not the letter writer. I’m sorry to hear that you are trapped at home. Where I am people are encouraged to take walks and do other exercise at their balconies, their gardens or in their neighbourhood. I hope you will soon be allowed outside too!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Definitely not my intent. When I wrote that it sounded like the LW might prefer to save her time off for a real vacation, I meant that only as a contrast to not going anywhere. Sloppy wording — I’m a huge fan of staying home.

    2. Crop Tiger*

      No, please, a staycation is not the same as travel. One you stay home because you want to and have projects or hobbies you can do. One is getting far far away from your regular life and seeing/doing something new. After I’ve been trapped at home for months, I don’t want to take time off to do things I do all the time. I can’t see my family. Cleaning out my closet is torture, not relaxing. I pursue my hobbies on a regular basis. Let’s not pretend that gardening is a substitute for, say, Egypt. Or the Grand Canyon. I’m absolutely staying home, but this isn’t some wonderful gift. When I’m not working, it’s boring AH.

      1. Koala dreams*

        Of course gardening is not a substitute for travelling, just as travelling is not a substitute for gardening. I know that people want to do new and interesting things on their vacations, that’s why I suggested trying a new hobby. I’m sorry to hear that you find your life boring. I don’t think that problem can be solved by a vacation. I do agree that vacations are not gifts, they are part of your compensation and you have earned them, just as you have earned your salary.

        1. tetris replay*

          Staycations can be (but are not always) great, and I’ll probably be requiring my team to take them. This particular reply comes across as really condescending, though, and also misrepresents what Crop Tiger said.

  22. Princess Deviant*

    With a “family-like feel”, um.
    Any employer who refers to their workforce as family is about to ask the employee to do something above and beyond.

    1. Betty*

      Also, do they never consider that some people have really shitty families? “With the family like feel of an emotionally abusive home” doesn’t quite have to same ring to it…

  23. TimeTravlR*

    In a previous position I felt it necessary to have Facebook for certain community interactions. I set up a completely separate work profile. No way I was becoming Facebook friends with all my work colleagues, except in this way.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      This is a smart idea. I have a Twitter account (somewhere..I’ve long forgotten the name or password) that a previous employer asked us to set up (and I’ve forgotten the reason too! It was in 2009). Never updated it.

  24. Roscoe*

    #1 I think its fine to ask for SOME vegetarian restaurants, but not expect that for all of the meals. It may just mean you need to get your own lyft or eat alone on occasion. For example, if I’m on a work trip to New Orleans, you can bet I’m going to use my time there to get some great, authentic gumbo. Similar if I’m in Texas and want BBQ. I’m definitely willing to go alone for those things, but depending on who the person/people listed as drivers, they would probably get priority. Now of course, this depends on a lot of factors. I just wouldn’t go in thinking everyone will be joining you at a vegetarian place for every meal.

    #3. I understand you are required to be friends, but can you put them on a list where they don’t see your posts? My family (who I love dearly, but are kind of busybodies) are on a list and they basically don’t see anything I post on there. Not that it helps with THIS issues, but it can help for future ones. However, I do think when you say things about your company on Facebook, and you are friends with people there, you can’t be surprised when they see it.

    1. Lynn*

      There’s a difference between requesting vegetarian-only restaurants and vegetarian-friendly ones. I can’t imagine every great gumbo joint refuses to offer vegetarian dishes. Insisting that co-workers also avoid meat is not a reasonable request.

      1. Koala dreams*

        Also, if there is a specific restaurant that people want to go to, you can call ahead and see if they have a vegetarian dish or could make one for you. In that case you can still join the group, even though you don’t eat the local speciality.

  25. MC66*

    LW#1: You have my sympathy completely. I’m a vegetarian but much more vegan inclined and it can be really difficult. Fortunately, I’m on a team now where I’m not the only one (and a few colleagues have severe allergies/gluten sensitivities) so it’s no longer an issue anymore. That said, I still feel this in my social life; even though it’s not a solution, I would recommend keeping snacks in your bag that, should you find yourself in a situation where there’s really nothing for you to eat, you can still eat something and not starve. I get it, though. For me, the frustrating part was being reminded–once again–that so many restaurants rely on animals and animal products for their menus and the choice presented to you is to either eat them or starve.

  26. Yorick*

    Burger King has the Impossible Whopper now, so you could suggest that if people are debating which fast food to choose.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I have had that and it is phenomenally delicious.

      But, it’s cooked on the same grill as their regular Whoppers, so it’s not an option for all vegans. Still, OP described herself as vegetarian, not vegan, so it may be a good option.

  27. Health Insurance Nerd*

    Facebook letter writer- I imagine that this has already been posted in the comments somewhere, but please lock down your privacy settings- you can stay “friends” with your boss and severely limit what they see on your page (I had to do this to my mother in law after she started friending all my friends and posting random comments on their stuff- why does she do this????).

    1. Benefits Broad*

      I second this! In effort to not offend coworkers who send friend requests, I accept but add them to a group titled ‘work peeps’ that’s locked down to only see my nearly non-existent public posts. I also unfollow their profile so I don’t see theirs in my newsfeed. This is also helpful for contacts who go on political rants (regardless of their party affiliation), angry indivials, or strangers I’ve added because of FB games. If I get asked if I saw something, my honest response is that I’m mostly on FB for memes and fun distractions.

  28. Data Analyst*

    Good advice to LW 4 – early in your career it’s easy to take job discussions too seriously, on both sides! Which is why we see so many of those “were these people leading me on when they made offhand comments about hypothetically giving me a job?” questions. Off topic – I wondered about texting with the head of the firm. Maybe that’s fine and normal but I got a little “ping” at the idea of the head of a firm texting a college student about non work things.

    1. pamplemousse*

      Yeah, that stuck out to me too. It’s definitely unusual, though whether it’s inappropriate or problematic depends, I think, on a lot of factors — how frequently they text, who’s initiating, etc. There’s nothing really wrong with “Neither of us knows anyone else who likes [show] so sometimes we text about that week’s episode,” but it’s definitely a little unusual given the power differential in the past and the possibility of future employment. I’ve had many interns who I gel with personally during the time they’re working for us, but it would seem inappropriate to me to text them socially either during or after their time at the company.

  29. agnes*

    #5 employers should consider modifying their “use or lose” policies instead. They could modify their policy to convert whatever hours the person would “lose” under the current policy to no=cash-value “time off” hours that could be used at a later date. This would remove the financial cash liability from the books–they would not have to actually pay out the hours if somebody leaves employ— but it would still allow the employee to use the time for vacation at a later date if they stay.

  30. Mannheim Steamroller*

    LW #1…

    There is no shame in saying, “Fifi’s has nothing I can eat. Could we choose one of these three places nearby where I can eat? Or, if your hearts are set on Fifi’s, then I can still go across the street to Joe’s and meet back with you later.”

  31. Minerva*

    We are required to take x amount of PTO before July 31st (The amount depends on your total number of PTO days) so that we don’t have everyone out at the end of the year. We have a separate allotment of days off if you are diagnosed with COVID or otherwise impacted.

  32. Sharon*

    LW#1 – I’m 46 and have been vegetarian since age 18. If there is going to be work travel or food-involved meetings, I always make sure to have a big breakfast (even if you’re not at home, breakfast is usually reliably veg friendly) and pack snacks. Most people won’t notice if you’re not eating or just pushing some small amount of food around your plate.

  33. Sharon*

    LW#1 – I’m 46 and have been vegetarian since age 18. If there is going to be work travel or food-involved meetings, I always make sure to have a big breakfast (even if you’re not at home, breakfast is usually reliably veg friendly) and pack snacks. Most people won’t notice if you’re not eating or just pushing some small amount of food around your plate.

    Also, regarding the fast food suggestions, my go-to is Wendy’s as their baked potato is a solid stand by.

  34. BellsaPoppin*

    I’m just coming off a two week vacation (scheduled in January) that went from an international adventure to a staycation. While I’m disappointed I didn’t get to go to Europe, my staycation was actually pretty awesome. Instead of the frustration of trying to get (and stay) online with our proprietary platforms, and getting maybe 6 hours of actual work done for the 9 hours I’m online, having multiple annoying video calls, wrangling expectations from above and below…I read books, watch Netflix, washed windows, listened to music, destressed and relaxed.

    I know not everyone is in the same situation, but getting away from work – even when I’ve been working from home – was awesome. It turned my house back into my home, instead of me living at my office fulltime. I could focus on my husband and our child, instead of feeling like they are just annoying me while I’m trying to work.

    Since I’ve come back, I’ve told my reports that while I understand they may want to save their two weeks for later in the year, they need to take a day or two (if not more!) here and there to get offline and detach from work. It will help their mental health, help their physical health, and help their emotional health. It certainly did for mine.

  35. Genuinely Curious*

    Re: LW#3 — I’m genuinely curious if Alison’s advice would change if LW3 had written their response as a letter to the editor or an Op-Ed? And then the boss read it and wanted to talk with LW about the opinion – related to their business – that was expressed publicly?

    I’m not saying this boss isn’t odd (see: using FB as a work communication platform). But I also think there’s a need to think critically about what one posts on social media. It’s generally not safe to assume it’s a private communication (use email or text, if that’s your objective); it’s making a public statement of your opinion… like an Op-Ed. If it was an opinion you didn’t want your employer to see, I wouldn’t advise making it in a public/semi-public forum.

    And, to be honest, I don’t think the employer’s response – as characterized by LW – is intimidating. It’s acknowledging that the employee made a public statement about their opinion related to the employer’s business decision; boss is trying to clarify to an employee the rationale behind the decision, and that it was made thoughtfully, while acknowledging that employee may not agree. I suppose the boss could have used this op-ed as an impetus for a whole-company communication instead, but I don’t know that it’s intimidation to have a calm 1:1 with someone who publicly expressed disagreement with your policy?

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I think the issue lies with how different people view Facebook in totally different ways. There are a lot of people who (like you and presumably the boss in this scenario) who view it as essentially public and the online version of an op-ed. But many others view it as being essentially private, like a conversation. Here, you have a private-conversation person and a public-editorial person interacting on the same platform. So I guess that as far as the OP (and a lot of other people) the issue is not whether it’s appropriate for a boss to respond to a public statement, but more like whether it’s appropriate for them to respond to a private conversation they overheard in the office bathroom. (I realise this analogy is not perfect but hopefully it communicates the general idea.)

      1. Observer*

        Except that the OP is wrong for looking at it as a private conversation if they don’t set their filters correctly. It’s like saying that the boss is overstepping to respond to hearing a conversation held at normal conversational tomes in the office break-room.

        It’s not like the OP doesn’t know that by default FB is an extension of their office specifically.

        Don’t get me wrong – the boss is out of line. But not because he responded to a public post. It’s because it’s just ridiculous to use Facebook as an extension of your office.

    2. Letter Writer #3*

      My discomfort with my employer’s response lies with the fact that my opinion about the governor’s re-opening of many types of small businesses was not an attack on her company, it was a response to the governor’s reopening of the economy during a pandemic that is still yielding an increase in cases & deaths in my area. I was upset that my employer interpreted my response as an attack on their decision to reopen, when it my post was a response to my state’s general approach to the pandemic. Hope this clarifies my stance a bit! But many thanks for providing different viewpoints — definitely important to consider where my employer might be coming from.

      1. Letter Writer #3*

        Furthermore, it seems that my employer saw my post as an attack on her company specifically, rather than a general response to the governor’s state order.

        1. Blueberry*

          Ugh, I am so sorry that your employer took your post so utterly personally, and that your having to be friended to her on Facebook set you up for this situation. But there’s what ought to be and then what is, you know? While you ought to be able to state your views publicly and not have your employer take them so personally, I think that may require more self-reflection on her part than a lot of people would exercise, especially concerning their ‘babies’, such as their businesses. She’s told you something important about how she’s going to react to what she can see you say, and whether or not that’s how she *should* react, I’d advise you to take this information she’s given you under consideration when you decide what to post.

          Good luck.

          1. Letter Writer #3*

            Totally, I have definitely learned a lot from this experience regarding being more aware of what wording I use when I post articles. Luckily, acting on the advice given from readers, I have added my employer to my restricted list on Facebook with the knowledge that unless I set a post as friends-only rather than public, they will be able to see my postings.

            1. Observer*

              That’s an excellent idea.

              It’s a shame that she is taking things more personally than they were meant, but you can’t change her. It’s also not surprising. But you CAN protect yourself…

      2. JSPA*

        No matter how insane their stance is, given that they believe what they believe (or choose to believe what they choose to believe) it’s normal and natural that they’d try to pass along the truth of the matter as they see it. That’s not intrinsically a threat.

        It may make you feel better (and be safer) to close the circle, rather than leave it hanging.

        “I didn’t intend to bring my political opinions on state policy into the workplace, but I suppose there’s always the risk of blurred lines when Facebook is involved. I wanted to respond to your response, to thank you for putting a lot of thought into the details of reopening. I’m sure you agree that reasonable people can disagree on exact timing and absolute / statewide risk, while still being 100% onboard with taking concrete steps to reduce risk in their particular workplace. Thank you for sharing your reasoning.”

        Basically, be emphatically appreciative about everything that they actually are doing, in the name of safety… without actually ever saying that you agree with their decision to reopen. And if there’s one small thing that would make a big difference to you, it’s possibly not crazy to add, “when I hear about [X], it would make me feel a lot safer if I knew you were proactively going to do (or supply) [Y or Z].”

        Maybe that’s plexiglass, maybe it’s stickers on the floor for distancing, maybe it’s promoting free curbside pickup, maybe it’s allowing 10 feet between stations because of limited airflow, maybe it’s gaining the right not to serve customers who refuse to distance, maybe it’s reopening only Mon-Tues, then waiting a week to see if cases balloon, and repeating next Mon-Tues (rinse and repeat).

  36. Anonymous at a University*

    OP 1, please do a little bit of research so you can suggest a good place with veggie options that will work for you, while keeping in mind that your coworkers might be going to fast food places because they’re convenient or because they’re cheap. The only time I’ve ever had trouble switching restaurants with someone was on an academic conference where someone wanted to eat at a vegetarian place that did look good, but was $30 a plate, and we had poor graduate students in the group who couldn’t afford that kind of thing. This person absolutely refused to go somewhere else even after we explained the problem, saying that was the only restaurant she could eat at, so we ended up splitting the group and the graduate students went along with me and several others to a cheaper place. It was mortifying for them and I got secondhand embarrassment from my colleague’s later, “Well, but it’s for ME” attitude. We were in a huge city; I sincerely doubt that was the only place that offered vegetarian food. Just be prepared to look for restaurants that would be within a lower price range.

    1. A*

      If this was a social situation I would agree 100%, but OP mentions this specifically in relation to work trips – so I assume food costs would be expensed.

  37. Dagny*

    LW1: I’ve been a vegetarian since forever, and it’s really not a big deal. Just say, “I’m a vegetarian so McDonald’s doesn’t work for me, but I’m a fan of Subway, McAlister’s, and Panera. Any of those sound good?”

    Unless you’re out with people who are into food, I recommend knowing which chains you can eat at. People usually know if they like the chains.

  38. arkangel*

    Most of my department were furloughed, and some of them EXPECT our manager to contact us to see how we’re doing. This has not happened. My gut feeling was this was unreasonable. Apparently the manager of a different department has been doing this with their people, so they expect it too I guess? We don’t have a return date, and in our weekly update from HR we were notified they can’t bring everyone back. I’d think those calls in our case could potentially lead to more pain for everyone down the road. It’s nice to know I wasn’t tilting at windmills on this!

  39. Nina Bee*

    #1 OP, try Happy Cow app for researching vege/vegan friendly places anywhere in the world, it’s fantastic! :) It includes restaurants that have both veg and non-veg options so everyone should be happy.

  40. Cassidy*


    I have a grand-boss with terrible boundary issues. The second I found out she was friending my co-workers on FB – and what a terrible position to put them in, as it’s tough for some people to say “no” – I blocked her so that she couldn’t find me, let alone try to be ‘friends’ with me.

    Word is she whines and frets all the time on her FB page.

    Bullet dodged.

    1. Letter Writer #3*

      Nice! Given the advice from other readers, I have added my employer to my restricted list on Facebook with the knowledge that unless I set a post as friends-only rather than public, they will be able to see my postings.

  41. Mrrpaderp*

    LW3 – You publicly said your employer shouldn’t be allowed to reopen, and that allowing your employer to operate is “reckless.” This suggests that your employer is being irresponsible by following “reckless” government advice to reopen. That’s… not an awesome look for any employee, particularly when the statement is made on a Facebook account that’s used for work purposes. It’s real close to the line – don’t bash your employer on social media. I think the manager was right to contact LW, and if there’s a social media policy in place, that contact needed to be in writing (ie not a phone call). I would view this as a warning to be more careful about how your words can be interpreted when you post online.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      The employer wasn’t right to contact LW, because the manager’s whole stance is wrong in the first place. As is requiring your employees to friend you on Facebook!

  42. KP*

    To the #3 mandatory FB user- if you absolutely must have your boss as a Facebook friend, there is a privacy setting for status updates that allows you to exclude specific people. You can access it by clicking the icon of the globe (if you share with everyone) or the icon of people (if you share with just friends) and choose “friends except…” This way you can update your personal FB without your boss easily seeing all your opinions.

  43. Benefits Broad*

    I have the opposite PTO situation. I work an Employee Benefits Manager for a medical center, so I’m very fortunate and grateful that I can continue to work. My vacation to a beautiful and warm locale was supposed to start today. People think I’m completely out of my mind because I’m still taking my PTO to stay at home! My reality is that I need a break – the ADA/FMLA/STD side of things was off the chain initially. I have a complete faith in my wonderful team to keep things rolling in my absence and I’m’m 10 minutes away if anything hits the fan. Plus, we’re already having renewal discussions and preparation for our autumn Open Enrollment will start in August for my team, so my window of opportunity is limited. It might sound cuckoo, but I’m cleaning out closets, reading and trying to relax (while resisting the urge to check work email) on my very low-key vacation.

  44. tetris replay*

    #5 – I’m sympathetic to the fact that people aren’t getting the vacations that they’d planned, but as a manager, the truth is that I’m watching people burn out and they need to take time off. A lot of people online are very openly angry at their employers about not being able to save up for a far-off ideal vacation (whether that be a staycation in the right weather or specific travel plans), but even if it’s unfair, I’m more concerned with the fact that people do come back far more functional after a few days away from work email.

  45. AnotherSarah*

    LW1: I have a few tips for veggie dining on the road:

    -always bring a snack, to avoid getting hangry (not a substitute for a real meal but just in case)
    -Taco Bell is your friend. My husband told me this is because of the large numbers of customers who observe Lent? I have no idea whether that’s true, but their veggie options are much better than most
    -HappyCow app is a great way to find veggie and vegan restaurants and places with good options. It may not have as many options in smaller places, but I’ve found it to be pretty reliable
    -Diners–they usually have eggs all day
    -Indian buffets–when my husband and I were travelling cross-country, we were really surprised by the number of Punjabi buffets at rest stops and truck stops. Not quite fast food in the usual sense, but fast and usually under $12 or so
    -you’ll also start to get a good handle on what you like at places with decent veggie options–Chipotle for example.

    I’d also say that if you’re eating at a rest stop, you can usually go to a different place than your coworkers and eat in a common area, same with a food court. When I’m at a conference, I often choose a foodcourt with a bunch of people for this reason

  46. Bratmon*

    On answer #2: I’m not even convinced that making people opt in to these team-building texts is sufficient. If I’m unemployed and anxious about wanted to be seen as a team player if/when jobs come back, I’m going to be signing up for whatever dumb thing my company wants to do, putting on happy face, and hating every second of it.

  47. LV426*

    I was supposed to go to Curacao next month for 2 weeks. It was my first trip overseas and I’m 45. I was so excited and I had saved up the money to go with my mom and sisters on an exotic Caribbean vacation all inclusive with a snorkeling trip and a sunset boat tour of the island and just probably one of the most amazing vacations I could ever have. And then covid hit and my vacation was cancelled and on top of that I didn’t get a refund I just got a credit to use at a later time. But who knows if I will be able to go on such a trip again and plus prices might go higher or the hotel could go out of business. And I don’t know if I can get everything lined up again so I can go. So that sucks. On top of that our company is making us take time off in small increments, 1 day here, 2 days there, throughout the rest of the year so we don’t all have a bunch of PTO accrued.

  48. Fellow Vegetarian*

    OP#1 – I’m also a vegetarian and normally travel about 50% of my time with a team with varying degrees of success.

    The last company I worked for were super obnoxious about it — particularly during a trip to China where the menus are much more limited than your typical American menu where I can at least find SOMETHING (even if it’s only 1-2 options). My manager used to say “I’m the ultimate vegetarian – I eat the things that eat the plants so I’m really supporting them!” I would often skip the team meals as a result and then he brought it up during my performance eval as being ‘difficult to work with’. During my exit-interview, I told HR all about it and they were appalled.

    My current company is great about it though! My teams are open to trying new foods and have even tried exclusively vegetarian/vegan restaurants. They wouldn’t want to do it every meal but there have been a few times where they’ve agreed it’s been one of the best meals on the trip. I usually try to propose a few different food options where I know I’ll have a few choices and then let them make the final decision and it’s worked well. A few co-workers have even made the leap and have gone either partially or fully vegetarian with me too.

    I highly recommend you download the Happy Cow app (worth the $3.99 or whatever it is right now) as it will give you all sorts of recommendations and reviews for vegan, vegetarian, and vegetarian-friendly food options all over the world.

  49. Just a plain ol' Omnivorous Food Snob*

    re: eating on biz trips while vegetarian/vegan – a lot is going to depend on the culture where you work, but I’ve always just done my own thing for meals. I’m an adventurous eater, so I’m perfectly fine going somewhere alone where I know I’ll enjoy the food and possibly get to try something new. If I really want to be social, I’ll eat at the bar and strike up a conversation with a local. If not, I’ll get a table. Walk, use rideshare/cab, hotel shuttle, whatever. If coworkers want to join me, that’s fine, but I’d make it clear this is where I’m going and I’ll just go alone if they don’t like the choice (in a more tactful way than I just stated it, of course). Usually by dinner time I want a break from my coworkers anyway…. My biz travel philosophy is similar to my vacation travel philosophy – take advantage of the opportunity to try something new. That outweighs more “team bonding” in my book.

    Also agreed that if you DO have restrictions, you need to be proactive and offer positive suggestions. Don’t be that person who just says “I can’t eat there” and acts put out about it. Personally I have a hard no fast food rule, so I’ll just say “I don’t eat fast food” and that’s that. I may even say “I prefer local independent places” which does get eye rolls sometimes, but again, if they don’t like it, they don’t have to join me.

    But, this is one of those situations that is going to vary a lot based on the culture where you work… but I’d think if people are flat-out hostile, it’s best to look elsewhere anyway.

  50. Former Employee*

    I have been a vegetarian for decades.

    If the group is not on such a tight timetable that they have to do fast food, you could still eat economically and have some options at Denny’s. They are almost everywhere and have much more extensive menus than any of the fast food places. IHOP is also a possibility, but I don’t believe they have as many locations as Denny’s.

  51. lazuli*

    To address my earlier comment encouraging LW1 to speak up for herself, it was specifically because she said she’s so concerned about not inconveniencing people that she hasn’t even told her *friends* she’s vegetarian. I absolutely do not believe that everyone always needs to be more forceful in asserting their rights — many, many people need to be more accommodating, not less — but *this particular person* sounds like she could move way closer to the “I’m allowed to have needs” side of the spectrum without getting anywhere close to going over the tipping point into selfishness.

    Seriously, it really is ok to have needs and preferences. Having preferences doesn’t make you rude! As a recovering doormat, I really, really wish more people had drilled that into my head earlier in my life! :)

  52. FionasHuman*

    Re: the boss who eavesdrops on your Facebook: I’d open a new Facebook account under a fake variation of my name, tell all my actual friends and family where my real Facebook account is, and just use the one under my actual name for whatever work contact the boss requires. I didn’t use my actual name on Facebook for years when I had to have an account to run a page for a communications client and still haven’t given my true birthday, place of residence, or “real” email to it (I use a throwaway account). Just like your personal Facebook page is none of your boss’ affair, your actual identity isn’t Facebook’s business.

  53. Cats and dogs*

    #1 I suggest packing a bunch of protein bars or nuts or whatever you find filling and portable. I eat healthily and work travel can be difficult so I always bring my own food as a supplement.

  54. Joyce*

    I was going to take vacation the week before Memorial Day (just a staycation) and when I came in the day after Memorial Day give two weeks notice of my retirement. Now I can’t do that because my 401K and other investments lost too much money so I cancelled that week. And cancelled my retirement plans for now.

  55. OP #2 Saying Thank You*

    Thanks to all of you who chimed in! It was extremely helpful & thoughtful. I am grateful for Alison & The AAM Community.

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