my job’s travel conflicts with husband’s job, talking to my boss about imposter syndrome, and more

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

1. My job’s travel conflicts with my husband’s job’s Covid policies

My work is requiring me to resume my monthly trips to the home office, which involves flying to a high COVID infection rate state. They are starting to require these trips again because my state has decided to wave quarantine requirements for essential industries. My company is essential, according to the extremely loose definitions.

My husband is an (actually) essential worker who cannot work remotely, and is not allowed to come into work for two weeks if someone in his household visits a “high risk” state. His work does not follow the new state exemptions, because COVID can use people as a disease vector regardless of how essential they are. So, he will be losing two weeks pay every month (or I will have to quit my job or move into a hotel full-time).

My work is saying that they cannot be held responsible for another company’s policies. I guess I can see how that’s reasonable on paper? But I tried to plead with them that this was going to cause significant hardship for me, and they are insisting that it’s my husband’s company causing the hardship, not them.

My company’s solution seems to be that my husband just … not tell his job that I’ve traveled. They won’t come right out and suggest it, but it’s clear from their tone that they are sick of hearing me push back on this, because they think COVID “isn’t real” and that lying about travel would be akin to civil disobedience (insert humongous eyeroll). Is there anything I can do here?

They’re being irresponsible asses, I’m sorry. With the benefit of hindsight, it might have been better not to raise the husband issue at all and instead to make this about your own health risk, which they might have a harder time arguing against. And at this point, the best option might be to say, “I’ve given this a great deal of thought and it’s not possible for me to resume these trips right now. Not only is it prohibitive for my husband’s situation, but I’m not comfortable risking my health traveling right now. Given that, what makes sense?”

Of course, there’s a risk that they’ll tell you it’s a strict requirement of your job that they won’t waive, no matter what your concerns are, and that refusing to go could be a deal-breaker on their side. So you have to know how much value you have to them, how much capital you’ve built up there, and how invested you are in keeping the job if they won’t budge. If you’re not willing to risk the job, this won’t work. But there aren’t really other options here; they can require this of you if they decide to. (Although that assumes that the states you’d be flying to don’t have quarantine requirements for people entering. If you haven’t checked that yet, do.)

I’d like to say you should be willing to walk away from these jerks, but realistically that’s harder advice to give these days. If you do have that option, though, I’d seriously consider it.

2. My boss showed up in people’s offices to “observe” them

I’m writing to ask if my boss’ observations are normal, or a sign of a not-very-good boss. He became division head about five months ago; he still retains his previous title from another division (so he performs the job of two people. No, I don’t think he has enough time to properly manage our division of about 30 people, but that’s another story). Before this, he did not have any experience in our (division’s) particular field.

A couple weeks ago (I’m guessing at the suggestion of HR, because a couple people quit between him joining and now), he started going into peoples’ offices unannounced to “observe them and see what their job is really like.” For me, he sat behind me for about 30 minutes while I worked at my computer (I think he was on his phone the whole time) and then followed me to another section of campus where I did some semi-manual work. In total, he asked me about two questions.

Is this a normal way to get to know your employees and their responsibilities? He held one-on-one meetings with everyone when he first started where we went over our education, previous jobs, and current jobs.

No, that’s weird. Observing people can be a useful way of getting to know them and their work, and I’d recommend managers do it periodically for certain types of jobs — but watching you sit at your computer is not one of those cases. Observing makes sense if you’re running a meeting or interacting with clients or teaching a class or otherwise engaging in something that can actually be watched. In some cases it could even be helpful to sit at someone’s computer with them and talk through how they were handling particular tasks. But silently watching from behind as you type? No.

3. My therapist wants me to talk to my boss about imposter syndrome

I recently started seeing a therapist about a few issues, one being impostor syndrome at work. I know I am not an impostor because the phrase “perfect employee” was used in my most recent evaluation and I have a long history of meeting goals and good performance, but that hasn’t changed my feelings of not performing well enough and having too many mistakes. I have not mentioned my feelings to my boss because I do not want to project my insecurities at work or start broadcasting my failures.

One of my therapist’s suggestions was, “Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from ‘fessing up’ about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing.” (This is taken from a list of 10 things to do to address impostor syndrome that she found online). Specifically, her suggestion was to mention it to my boss. When I am called a “perfect employee,” she thinks I should reply with, “I don’t feel perfect because of the issue with my work from last Thursday” or other issues that are weighing on me.

I feel like this is bad because I am surfacing an issue in my work mid-evaluation, which I see as a bad career move, and because I am asking my boss to manage my emotions, which is not part of my manager’s job. My therapist told me that it is not up to me to define my manager’s job and I should proceed anyway.

I am leaning towards switching therapists due to dissatisfaction with other issues I am talking to her about, but I want to know if I am off-base with my interpretation on this one.

Noooo. This is terrible advice, and your take on it is exactly right.

It’s true that there can be value in talking about imposter syndrome, but that generally means in the the context of peer or mentor relationships. There could be times when it makes sense to mention it to your boss, but generally that would be if it comes up organically and in the context of a trusting relationship — like if your boss mentions that you always assess your work more critically than she does, or if you’re discussing some of the issues people face as they rise through professional ranks. But telling her you don’t feel perfect or highlighting issues with your work that she’s not concerned with just to “break the silence” about imposter syndrome would come across oddly, potentially harm you professionally, and (just as you point out) ask her to do too much of the work of managing your emotions for you.

Over the years of writing this column, I’ve found that therapists sometimes (not always) have off-base work advice, because they base it on what’s effective in non-work relationships, which doesn’t always account for the dynamics in professional ones. I think that might be happening here. (And also, giving you work advice based on a list she found online is worrying!)

4. Do I have to notify my job of a positive Covid test in my household?

I work for a company that deals with financial services and retirement plans, in one of several office locations. When the pandemic hit, our management decided that I would remain working in the office while everyone else would work remotely from their homes. Each office has at least one person working in the office, and at my location I’m the only one going in each day (or another administrator if I take any days off with advance notice). We have taken as many precautions as possible to social distance, which include having the mail slipped under the door and only answering the door for approved people (building management, maintenance, etc. but usually with prior notice).

I still live with my parents and sister, who deal with more people each day than me. My question stems from a conversation I had with one of my parents about the possibility of someone in the household testing positive. My parent seems to think that I shouldn’t have to tell my management if one of us (including me) tests positive, because I don’t deal with people on a daily basis now, and that I would just have to go only to work and back, while not interacting with anyone. But I feel like if I don’t tell management, I could get in a lot of trouble and I don’t want to run the risk of possibly infecting someone without realizing. Even if someone stops in the office, they never stay long. I stay six feet from them and clean the office once they leave. Plus, I would have to get tested, in order to prove that I’m not contagious if someone in my household tested positive.

Am I in the wrong for wanting to tell my management if someone in my household tested positive for the virus, despite dealing with as few people as possible on a daily basis? Plus, what would be the appropriate form of communication for notifying them, since most communication these days are through phone and email?

Don’t listen to your parent on this! People are still coming in your office, even if only sporadically. Withholding information about Covid exposure puts their health and lives at risk. And while this is especially true if you’re the one who tested positive (!!), it’s also true if anyone you’re in regular contact with does.

If your parent is worried about you being told to stay home without pay or something like that … (a) it’s still not a good enough reason and (b) there’s a new-ish law requiring employers to give you up to two weeks of paid family and medical leave if you’re unable to work because you’re quarantined (via a government order or on the advice of a health care provider) and/or experiencing Covid symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis. (Granted, it exempts employers with more than 500 people so it might not apply to you, but it’s worth looking at.)

But really, you don’t hide a positive Covid test.

5. Can I ask about other jobs with an organization that rejects me?

I’m a young professional with 3-4 years of work experience, and I’m in the process of applying to jobs at several large, national nonprofits and foundations — large enough that they typically have several job postings listed at any given time, including within the same department.

I recently applied for a job that I thought was a bit of a reach for my experience, and was pleasantly surprised to be contacted for an interview! I had the interview last week and, while I’m of course hopeful, I’m preparing myself for the possibility of a rejection too.

The thing is, this is one of my dream employers, and I’d really love to work for them — in fact, they have a couple other live postings I’d also be happy to do. In the event that I’m not offered the position I interviewed for, is it appropriate to indicate interest in working for the foundation in another capacity, and can I ask to be considered for any of the other open positions?

Yes! You can say, “I’m really interested in your work and would love to be considered for your other open positions, like X or Y. If you think one of those could be the right match, is it possible for me to throw my hat in the ring for those?”

If you’re talking to the hiring manager (the person who would manage you if you’re hired) rather than HR and the other jobs are in a different area of the organization, that might not be a question they can answer. In that case, I’d say, “I’m really interested in your work and would love to be considered for your other open positions, like X or Y. I’ll go ahead and apply for those and wanted to give you a heads-up that I’m doing that.” That way, if they were impressed with you, they might pass along a good word to the person doing that hiring, or even tell you they’ll forward your materials along for you.

{ 344 comments… read them below }

  1. pcake*

    LW#1 – you could start looking for another job, and while you do, you could stay in a hotel after your business trips. It’s far from ideal, but it’s the least dangerous for your husband, his job and income and would keep you from losing your current job. If you can afford it, I’d suggest leaving now, but that might leave you without a reference.

    LW#3 – time to find a new therapist!

    1. Reluctant Manager*

      Yes yes. Is there a possibility for public shaming of a company with such atrocious practices? Or a call to a state health department? Not by LW 1 if she wants to keep her job, but that is such an irresponsible approach.

      LW #3: Because therapy is confidential, it’s hard to get good info about choosing a therapist. Good news: Your gut is trustworthy on this. Your therapist has delusions of competence. Don’t spend another dollar per hour there.

      1. Annony*

        It sounds like the LW1’s company is not doing anything illegal though. I agree that their policy is terrible, but the health department won’t do anything about it.

        1. 2 Cents*

          They’re not doing anything illegal, but it’s not ethical to just not believe COVID is bad and stick their heads in the sand.

        2. Reluctant Manager*

          They may not do anything in terms of enforcement, but when the state is considering what policies to adopt, this is a piece of information that might influence them, and a company doing this might be doing other things that *are* illegal.

    2. Just Sayin'*

      Staying in a hotel or with a friend was also my first thought. Maybe the company can be persuaded to pay all or part of the cost, or maybe the hotel room could be split with another co-worker in the same boat. Perhaps also indicating that you need to quarantine after a trip to a high covid area to protect your family’s health (as opposed to someone else’s work restrictions) would be a better persuasion point.

      Additionally, is there a way to quarantine at your house? I could actually go in a separate door to a room that has access to a separate bathroom – no kitchen of course – and never see my husband for two weeks.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Staying in a hotel or with a friend was also my first thought.

        Mine as well. I’d go so far as to say that the two-week quarantine every time you travel is a hard requirement on your end, and submit the invoice for the hotel to be reimbursed before traveling. IMHO, it’s like airfare/mileage, onsite lodging or meals associated with traveling for business.

      2. Melly Belly*

        The issue with quarantining after every trip is that it turns a once-a-month trip that lasts couple of days or maybe a week into a two-week plus trip. Presumably, the LW would like to spend some time at home with her husband and/or kids or pets or other family, etc. and be able to live her non-work life, not sit holed up in a hotel room alone for weeks on end because of her job. I also wouldn’t hold my breath expecting her employee to pay for said hotel, either, given their attitude that this is the LW’s problem, not theirs, to solve.

        I just don’t think this is a feasible situation, LW. And, candidly, if they’re this awful about requiring (pointless?) travel during COVID, I suspect they’re probably a not ideal employer in other ways, too. I think the answer here is that it’s time for either you or your husband to find a new job. Which is also not ideal right now, but I just…don’t see how this could realistically work.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I agree it’s not a great long term solution, but it could be an option for LW1 to take for a couple of months while they look for another job.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I also wouldn’t hold my breath expecting her employee to pay for said hotel, either, given their attitude that this is the LW’s problem, not theirs, to solve.

          If it’s a business expense that the employer declines to reimburse for, doesn’t that make it eligible to write off on taxes? Consult a tax advisor or CPA, thresholds, etc.

          1. Dancing Otter*

            Employee business expenses deductions are severely limited under current tax law.

            First, there need to be enough other deductions to exceed the non-itemized amount, which includes both the previous standard deduction and personal exemptions. In other words, most taxpayers get no advantage from any itemized deductions.

            Second, employee business expenses are reduced by a percentage of AGI, so the first several thousand dollars cannot be deducted even if the taxpayer does itemize.

            You’re really better off not considering potential deductibility in making a decision.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              Thank you for a more informed opinion; looks like that’s not the silver lining it used to be.

        3. Kaya toast*

          The company that should be reinbursing extra hotel expenses is the husband’s company. LW’s company is quite correct to say that it didn’t create this situation.

      3. Atlantian*

        There is a fabulous group on FB called RVs for MDs that works to team up essential workers who need to quarantine with RVs that they can use to isolate themselves when necessary.

        OP, I know you are not “essential” but, you say that your partner is. It is an option, and a much lower cost one, to see about joining the group and finding an RV that can be donated to you. Many jurisdictions have waived ordinances against having one parked in your yard or driveway if that is a concern for the duration of the pandemic, and most of those we put in place by people in the group contacting their local governments and proposing the waiver. Definitely something to look into if quitting your or your husband’s job is not in the cards, or if you cannot afford a hotel room or you company refuses to pay for it.

        Good luck!

      1. Juniantara*

        Hotels aren’t generally regarded as high-risk as long as you don’t congregate in the public areas of the hotel. As long as you stay to your room, it’s regarded as a low-risk by most experts.

    3. TheHotNerd*

      To LW#3 — not every therapist is good. As mine likes to say, there are dysfunctional people in every role in society. Hence the bad “life coaches,” the therapists who have sexual relations with their clients, the social disordered manager, the insecure teacher, etc. You don’t have to stick with a therapist that doesn’t work for you. My current therapist was #4.

  2. LifeBeforeCorona*

    LW1 What recourse does OP have if she travels to a high COVID risk area and contracts it? Is her workplace responsible for all of her medical costs because they insisted that she travel to that area? Can she push back enough to get it in writing? Based on their belief that it “isn’t real”, I’m doubtful and it’s an awful no-win situation to be placed in.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      All I can think of is worker’s compensation. The tricky thing would be that this normally doesn’t cover infectious diseases like the flu, and in states that do cover COVID, there’s the difficulty of proving that you contracted it as a result of your job, rather than other activities.

      A quick search shows that this varies wildly by state – some cover it, some don’t, and some only for health care and other essential workers. And the legislation is in a high state of flux.

    2. Important Moi*

      This is a good question. I hope an attorney or someone with real information will answer it.

      In my area, I’ve started seeing signs at establishments that state by entering said establishing they cannot be held liable if you contract COVID-19. Is this even legal? Sometimes if you state things in an officious manner people will believe you.

    3. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      I live in a state that was at the top of the White House’s list for “at immediate risk for severe COVID outbreak” until recently, helmed by a governor who is a COVID denying idiot.

      When our outbreak started getting really bad during July, signs started appearing on businesses, “Under state law the business is not liable for any damages should you contract COVID here. Do not enter if you do not agree with this.”

      So I am guessing that’s LW1’s work’s stance as well.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Can they post a “enter at your own risk” sign and refuse to allow people to wear masks inside? I have seen signage stating that masks aren’t alowed to be worn inside. It seems so contradictory.

        1. ...*

          They can unless there is a government mask mandate in which case the mask part would be breaking the government rule. Ive never heard of a business being liable for infectious disease picked up in said business. It seems like it would be really hard to prove the source of the infection and if the proprietor is following the government set guidelines, I think it would be hard to find fault with them.

    4. Bubbles*

      It is a no-win situation. Businesses are not assuming the risk of the medical costs and other costs associated with a positive COVID result.

      I will say that I have seen one organization accept that risk. I live in California and there was recently a detective that passed away from COVID. He and several others traveled to a location with a known outbreak as part of their time-sensitive investigation. 3 of them contracted the virus. He passed away from it. As such, his agency filed his death as a line-of-duty death (rightfully so, in my opinion!) so his family has access to additional support and insurance.

  3. MK*

    #3, as far as I can tell, there is no silence around imposter syndrome; if anything the word is thrown around fear too much.

      1. MK*

        No, I understand it is. But I don’t think there is any particular shame attached to it or silence surrounding it, so that it’s important to speak about the issue. Also, I think the word is often misapplied: if you are in your first job out of university and don’t feel confident in your abilities, that’s not imposter syndrome, that’s a good grasp on reality, same if you are a mediocre performer. My understanding of imposter syndrome is that you are actually good at your job but feel that you don’t deserve it, no?

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Someone *in* college can have imposter syndrome. Imagine someone earning B+s and As saying “I don’t know why they accepted me…I’m not good enough for this school!”
          Once it’s probably frustration with a tough assignment. But repeatedly over months it may be more.

          1. Lady Meyneth*

            Well, sure, someone in college or even high school can get imposter syndrom, but they’ve also had 10+ years experience as a student. That’s the point MK is making. If a person starting on their first job, with no experience in what they’re doing, feels insecure about their duties, that’s not usually imposter syndrom, it’s just being realistic that they’re probably not doing everything right.

        2. Elliott*

          I think it’s relative to what expectations someone is holding themselves to. I think less experienced workers can sometimes be more prone to over-inflating the seriousness of minor mistakes or expecting too much from themselves too soon, which can contribute to imposter syndrome.

        3. Always Late to the Party*

          There’s a difference between insecurity about aspects of your job and feeling like you don’t even deserve to be there. The latter, if prolonged, would be imposter syndrome and is valid at any point in one’s career.

        4. JJ*

          Hey MK…it seems as if you haven’t experienced impostor syndrome, so you may not really understand what it’s like. Plenty of places (specific workplaces, industries, even geographic locations) have cultures that shame people who are not The Most Confident All The Time. It’s a particularly difficult tightrope for women, who must appear both very confident and capable, but also not TOO much so, lest she be “arrogant” or threatening in some way.

          TLDR; It’s not really helpful to tell OP what she’s feeling isn’t real.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            What she’s feeling is certainly real, and I don’t think MK was disputing that — what’s in question is the *cause* of what she’s feeling.

            1. JJ*

              I disagree, MK says there “is no silence around it” (OP is being silent about it) and that the term is “often misapplied” (implying OP is misdiagnosing themselves). I don’t think MK probably intended to convey things this way, but I wanted to flag it as it’s a little gaslight-y.

              1. BonnieVoyage*

                Gaslighting is a pretty specific term with a specific meaning that I don’t think includes “saying something that is incorrect/that I disagree with”. If we are going to talk about terminology I don’t think it’s very helpful to use a term intended to describe a very particular type of mental abuse to talk about an online comment you disagree with

              2. Spencer Hastings*

                Ah, my comment was referring more to MK’s second post, the one you replied directly to. But even with her first post, I don’t think MK meant “there is no silence around it” to mean “nobody ever has impostor syndrome and keeps it a secret”. I interpreted it to mean “impostor syndrome is not one of those things that our society as a whole is very hush-hush about”. Which I’m pretty sure is true — people talk about it quite a lot, IME.

                1. Spencer Hastings*

                  Plus, I think it’s eminently possible for impostor syndrome to be misdiagnosed, *from either side*. I’ve been in a situation where I perceived or foresaw a problem and brought it up to my supervisor, only for them to basically go “oh no, there’s no problem, you just have impostor syndrome! you need to have more confidence in yourself! ^_^” and then when a problem did arise, I wasn’t as prepared as I could have been, because I’d been given a pep talk instead of actionable advice or help on the real issue.

              3. Myrin*

                MK clearly means “silence on a societal level, often going hand-in-hand with shaming should one break the silence” (which is something, that exists widely with, for example, mental health issues”, not that no one who has imposter syndrome is never silent about it.

          2. Yorick*

            The comment wasn’t about telling OP she doesn’t have imposter syndrome. The comment was about the therapist’s advice: you don’t need to “break the silence” about imposter syndrome, because people are talking about it a lot. It’s not like it’s shameful. A lot of the people I know who claim to have imposter syndrome are not really that good and so it sounds like a humble brag. Of course, I understand it’s a real thing and some people do recognize when they have it and work to fix it.

          3. Observer*

            I don’t think that MK was addressing what the OP is feeling, but rather what the so called therapist was claiming.

        5. delicate&lustrous*

          I agree that silence or shame has not been my experience with the topic. Unfortunately, several of the people I’ve known to be most open about suffering from imposter syndrome were… aggressively mediocre to downright poor performers. I can only imagine how much worse this makes things for people who are actually quite qualified and feel like they aren’t due to imposter syndrome, to see someone who is clearly unqualified for their position assuring themselves out loud in a humblebrag sort of way that of course they are great, they just have imposter syndrome.

      2. Andy*

        Well, at least on tech forums, you would sometimes believe everyone has imposter syndrome. That includes people who come across as overly confident. It absolutely exists, but when everyone has it …

    1. Lark*

      I agree that imposter syndrome is one of those terms that gets overused. Everyone has some amount of insecurity and anxiety. For most people, it doesn’t rise to the level of syndrome or disorder.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Impostor syndrome is not a diagnosed medical condition that must rise to a specific level of impact or functional interference to “count”. It’s incredibly common – the wiki article about claims that around 70% of people report experiencing these sorts of feelings at some point in their career – and, though it does correlate with medical conditions like anxiety and depression, impostor syndrome itself has no official criteria actually having it or not. I don’t see the value to telling people who have these feelings that they aren’t really experiencing impostor syndrome or that theirs is not severe enough to be the real thing.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I too do not agree with any ‘everyone feels like that so it’s not a syndrome’ things. Mostly because that’s why it took so long for my depression to be recognised (“everyone feels a bit down!”).

          If a person says they’re suffering from X, believe them.

          1. Quill*

            Also: a metric ton of anxiety / depression umbrella problems are partially linked to a person’s life situation. So, you know, it is entirely possible for something like “self doubt” to be something that ‘everyone’ has but if you’re doing it all the time, yes, that’s impostor syndrome probably. And even if an overwhelming number of people had impostor syndrome? It would still need and deserve treatment and to be recognized!

            “70% report those sorts of feelings at some point” is like saying “70% of people report back pain at some point in their adulthood, therefore either nobody has chronic back pain or everyone has some sort of back pain and you should deal with it.”

    2. I edit everything*

      I think some people use it as a humble-brag. Not that it’s not a real thing. My father was a wonderful teacher, but he had to talk himself into stepping into the classroom every time and fight against the sense that he didn’t belong.

  4. anony*

    #1. That sucks. Methinks that you can’t return to your home for two weeks after visiting the home office, because of the covid risk to someone you live with, and thus, your company needs to reimburse you for the full cost of each trip, which includes an extra two weeks at a hotel.

    (Obviously not an ideal situation for you, but if YOU frame it as a cost issue to them rather than that you can’t go, maybe they will respond by deciding it’s too expensive for you to go. Maybe that will even happen before pigs fly.)

    1. Dancing Otter*

      Pigs can fly. Throw one off the roof with enough angular momentum, and it flies right down to the ground. They just aren’t good at landing.
      (Don’t really do this.)

  5. Artemesia*

    For the person with the out to lunch therapist — switch therapists now — what if she gives you equally terrible advice in other areas of your life? Telling an employer who thinks you are great ‘actually I’m not’ is a good way to 1. change their opinion and future promotion options and 2. come across as broken and needy. Struggling with a bit of impostor syndrome is common and you are wisely sorting things like this out in therapy — but find better advice.

    1. Willis*

      Not just promotion opportunities, but opportunities for new and challenging work in your current role, too. Telling your boss that you don’t feel confident in the work you’re doing could mean that she starts pulling back on how much she’s giving you or stops giving you stretch assignments or more interesting work and instead keeps you on simpler stuff in an effort to help you build confidence.

      The fact that the therapist got this advice based on a Google search and pushed back when the OP expressed concern about it definitely does not sound good.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        Right?? I feel like the therapists advice is to just… Give into your imposter syndrome. Does she also tell people with social anxiety they should just never leave their house in order to better live their truth???

        I suffer from imposter syndrome, and am constantly working to prevent my doubts from coming out of my mouth hole in front of my boss and replace them with a can-do attitude. Which has done way more for my career (and honestly, therefore my imposter syndrome) than forcing my boss to act as my cheerleader has.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Your last sentence is reason enough. If your therapist is giving advice based on a google search they are a terrible therapist. Considering therapists are in the advice business, they should have better sources to check than Oh Hey I Found a Listicle on Google.

        That would be like me saying oh let me just google your legal problem instead of you know checking the law books (which are online fine, but it’s not the same thing)

      3. Guacamole Bob*

        I have a very good relationship with my manager. I can imagine, in an evaluation or work planning context, saying something like “I’m looking to grow, but I tend to be pretty conservative about raising my hand for ambitious new assignments if I’m not 100% sure I’m ready. It’s worked out well in the past when [you assigned me the llama project, you were out on vacation and I had to jump in on that big client meeting], so please do keep pushing me to take on bigger assignments when you think I’m capable of rising to the challenge.”

        Expecting employees to always raise their hands and be pushing for stretch assignments isn’t great – that introduces a (sometimes gendered) bias around what kinds of personalities thrive in an organization. So it’s useful information for a manager to know how their employees approach that kind of thing.

        But that’s pretty different from what the therapist is suggesting.

        1. Newbie Manager*

          This is a good point and as a new manger I would love to hear more from Alison in the future what is an appropriate level of “managing your employees’ emotions”. I worry my office culture has turned out management team into part-time therapists.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            There’s managing emotions, and then there’s working with employees’ different working and communication styles, which is totally appropriate and something good managers should be thinking about. Confidence and imposter syndrome issues kind of hover on the line between those, sometimes, and it’s good to be mindful of keeping away from managing emotions territory.

          2. Lizzo*

            +1 for hearing more from Alison about this.

            My experience: it *is* possible to be transparent about struggles without the expectation of the manager serving as therapist. That requires that the employee take ownership of their feelings, figure out what they need from the manager as it relates to management activities (e.g. flexible schedule, more frequent check-ins, general cheerleading, change in job responsibilities, access to resources from HR), and proactively ask for those things so they (employee) can be supported in their healing and growth while still completing work and contributing to the overall team’s success.

            1. Oh No She Di'int*

              Thank you, I needed to read this. I have a difficult case on my staff who very aggressively pushes the boundary between a management check-in and a therapy session. It always starts out with talking about work, moves to her personal frustrations about getting it done, then just to her personal feelings in general, and then we’re down the rabbit hole.

              1. Lizzo*

                Hold firm to that boundary when she veers into the personal stuff! Does your company have an EAP you can refer her to so that she can receive help with whatever personal stuff she’s dealing with?

              2. Lizzo*

                @Oh No, do you do agendas for your meetings to help keep conversations on track? My boss and I always come prepared for our check-ins with lists of things we need to cover. We know we need to stay on track because we have a limited amount of time to get through a LOT of stuff. How long does it take for the meetings to go off-track and down the rabbit hole? Maybe schedule the meetings for just long enough to come up to the cusp of that tangent, then have an agenda and draw the conversation back to the agenda when it starts to veer off course. Then, hard stop at the end time. Maybe have another meeting or call that starts immediately after this check-in? Don’t give her the room to derail the conversation.

            2. Guacamole Bob*

              Yes, this. I certainly consider it part of a manger’s job to keep those who are overconfident in check when necessary. Being encouraging to those whose confidence isn’t quite up to the level of their abilities is the other side of that coin.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          There is often an inverse relationship between someone’s willingness to volunteer for a stretch assignment, and someone’s ability to succeed in completing that stretch assignment.

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            Certainly the relationship between “aggressively goes after stretch assignments” and “is ready for stretch assignments” is… not consistent.

          2. Observer*

            True. In any case, it is useful for a manager to know when the issue is not capacity or willingness but the employee’s mis-perception. Guacamole Bob’s framing is good – it’s open about the problem without being needy and asking the manager to manage their emotions on the one hand, and it’s specific, actionable and solution oriented.

            TOTALLY different from what the therapist is suggesting.

        3. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          I like this framing. One thing I appreciate about it is that it doesn’t pretend that there isn’t a “problem” to be solved. Ignoring the problem/growth opportunity could make someone seem like they lack self-awareness if their manager has probably already noticed their tendencies.

      4. Jjjbb*

        I think the therapist has zero experience working in an office. That she thinks this is appropriate, gleaned from a list on the internet no less, says she has a serious issue understanding the protocols and pitfalls in doing what she suggested. She definitely needs a new therapist that understands working situations and who educates herself in proper treatment rather than internet suggestions.

        1. Alice's Rabbit*

          Yes, this is clearly a therapist who went straight from academia to seeing patients, with no real world experience. She’s going to screw up so many lives with her horrible, naive advice.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      Agreed. A lot of times you can go “your advice is great for a social/romantic/familial relationships but entirely crap for work issues,” and just focus on what they’re good at but… how can you possibly think that denigrating yourself in front of your boss is a good thing?

      1. 10Isee*

        And I’d be nervous about a therapist who passes along online advice wholesale rather than stating she isnt comfortable addressing that particular issue and offering other referrals.

        1. Things That Make You Go Hmmm*

          Removed because this will derail and I don’t want us to bash other columnists here. – Alison

      2. Perpal*

        I don’t even see it being good advice for non-work relationships. Imaging if you told your SO “you’re so wonderful!” and they said “I don’t feel wonderful because [some small issue from several days ago]” I mean… yeah it’s good and ok to ask for reassurance once and a while but that just comes across as overly insecure, especially if nothing was particularly going on at that moment. In a “maybe say this to your therapist and don’t ask [non-therapist] to be your therapist” sort of way. (I get that some people might say something like this to their SO periodically and that’s ok, but I’d really encourage anyone to get to a place where they DON’T do this kind of thing much at all)

      3. Mr. Tyzik*

        I dropped a therapist once because of this. She remarked several times that she didn’t understand what I did (IT Manager), suggested simple conversations without acknowledging that politics could exist and those conversations weren’t as simple as she maintained, and expressed confusion at times when I tried to explain a situation. She kept telling me how smart I was.

        I didn’t need a cheerleader. I needed a guide. I’ve since found a professional coach who understands work issues and is like a therapist yet explores my thoughts for solutions rather than blithely offer suggestions. OP might look for an ICC certified coach who could help with imposter syndrome.

    3. dogmom*

      It actually sounds to me like LW doesn’t know what impostor syndrome is, though? She says “I know I’m not an impostor because I’ve been called a perfect employee” but then goes on to describe how she’s feeling, which is exactly impostor syndrome. I think you’re right that LW needs to find a new, better therapist who can actually explain what impostor syndrome is, which apparently this one hasn’t, and help her manage it.

      1. SometimesALurker*

        I read that more as “I know that my fear is irrational but I still have it,” or “I know it’s impostor syndrome and not actually being an impostor, because of this outside evidence that I’m doing well.”

    4. Data Analyst*

      Seriously. When I entered intensive treatment for my anxiety, a lot of which was work-based, I was specifically banned from saying stuff like this because it was a form of “reassurance seeking” aka a way of pushing the anxiety away rather than dealing with it.

      1. Elaine Benes*

        Yeah I was going to say… workplace issues aside, the advice is basically to make her fears someone else’s problem to manage, which is not a real or helpful solution.

      2. Smithy*

        I think one of the hardest parts of finding a therapist is that the patient is basically asked to know how to articulate their treatment needs upfront to help identify a therapist. For years, I was getting treatment that focused on depression – when in reality once I switched to anxiety focused therapy it was far more helpful and practical.

        For therapy, I think this becomes even more challenging if you want to focus on issues related to religion, LGBTQI, race/ethnicity, etc. finding a therapist that focuses/specializes on unique needs or realities can be even harder. Given how imposter syndrome is historically tied to women in the workplace – I’m sure there are therapists that have more/less experience there but that’s hard when you’re searching for a specific therapist to see with availability.

        1. TootsNYC*

          For years, I was getting treatment that focused on depression – when in reality once I switched to anxiety focused therapy it was far more helpful and practical.

          I knew a kid who was really struggling, and he was being treated for hyperactivity. Then he was re-evaluated and began treatment for anxiety, and it made a HUGE difference for him.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            It’s weird how often hyperactivity is a response to anxiety in kids! It’s like all that excess energy just has to find an outlet one way or another.

      3. Reba*

        This is a more precise naming of the emotions management that OP is (rightly!) wary of pushing onto her boss.

        Even if done in the name of something like “clearing the air” or idk “owning your truth,” the Boss is going to feel she has to respond in some way. And, it sounds like the Boss already gives plenty of information on how she thinks OP is doing! If the review didn’t convince you, what else could the boss say that would convince you? (Nothing, it’s your anxiety talking!)

        OP3, I hope it’s been helpful to have your instinct about the bad advice confirmed here. Good luck!

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I know I had issues with demanding reassurance a LOT in one job. Leaving that firm was the best thing I ever did.

      5. Arts Akimbo*

        Not to derail on this, but could you say a little more about this, Data Analyst? I have never heard it put like that, but “reassurance seeking” is something my kid is doing A TON lately, like even to the teachers in his virtual classes, and it’s so disruptive and doesn’t do anything but spin the wheels of his anxiety and probably makes his peers and teachers frustrated and annoyed. It’s something I worry about in terms of how he might treat a future romantic partner, too, and we would like to help him work through this in a healthy way. But he won’t talk about it with his therapist and I’m at the end of my rope trying to figure out how to get him to learn his own coping strategies rather than pushing his emotional labor off onto people around him.

        Are there any good resources you might recommend? I know he has to want to help himself, but the more we can educate ourselves on the topic, the better!

        1. Data Analyst*

          Great question! So, I only have perspective on it as an adult, although I’m sure I did some version of this as a kid too. My anxiety had always been not great but I thought I was managing it okay…then I had my second kid and the anxiety got out of control. I was convinced I’d forgotten everything I learned in grad school, and that if I asked for help on particular types of projects I would “reveal” myself as a fraud. So if I “confessed” those feelings, I could get someone to say “what, no, you’re really smart, it’s normal to not have perfect recall of something you learned years ago” and then I’d feel momentarily better…but the feelings would come back, and the cycle would begin again. I felt like I could barely function at work, so I entered a treatment program (and was able to get short term disability in order to go) of like six or eight weeks where I would be in treatment from like 9-3 every weekday. And then eventually it stepped down to working half days and going back to treatment for the other half…another maybe four weeks of that.

          Wow this is going to be long…anyway, the basis for the therapy there is the idea that when anxiety is mounting, it feels like it will never end, which is when we do one of our behaviors like reassurance seeking to make it go away. But in fact, if you wait, feelings of anxiety will peak and then start to dissipate. The specific kind of therapy I did was “exposure therapy and response prevention”, ERP. So I would do an “exposure”, like go up to a staff member and deliberately tell them something false, and then go sit with a timer and track how anxious I was and how long it took the anxiety to go away. And then I also kept a little notebook with me to track the times I got the urge to do my compulsive behaviors (reassurance seeking, avoidance, rumination [probably my biggest one], etc.). I kept tally marks each day for how often I submitted to or resisted the urge to do these things. And I found that even just the action of tracking them and being aware of them made me do them less.

          So, it was super hard work, but it was like the best thing I’ve ever done. It totally changed how I think about and respond to my anxiety. There are definitely programs like this for children and adolescents, although I only know of the specific one I did for adults, and I only found out about it because my best friend is a social worker and told me I should go to it. Anyway, only you can know if your kid’s needs rise to that level of treatment. And of course, everyone with behavioral or mental health issues seems to be having a harder time due to Covid. But if you’re interested, you could ask his therapist if there are options like that in your area…I had been in more conventional talk therapy for years, and it was good but I feel like it only got me so far. I think there are probably therapists who do the sort of work I’m talking about here on a less intensive basis, but for me at least I kind of needed time to really work at it, and I’m not sure how well it would have gone if I was just checking in with someone weekly and trying to do it on my own.

          Phew, long answer, sorry I don’t know more about general resources.

          1. Merkohl*

            Data Analyst, thank you for this comment! I have only recently *started* to deliberately seek reassurance in some circumstances rather than just sweating bullets and never asking, but I can see how that could also be a maladaptive response to my anxiety. Thank you for sharing about your experience with ERP and putting a name to these phenomena; I’m hoping that having this framing can help me find more resource to use in my own life.

    5. Dust Bunny*

      I’m not even sure I like this advice for non-work relationships, at least not as a blanket personal strategy.

    6. Marzipan Shepherdess*

      LW, you were right to consult Alison Green on this – SHE’S qualified to advise you on workplace matters and manners and your therapist is NOT! Worse than that, the latter doesn’t seem to realize that she’s in over her head in this case, or that not everything you find on the internet is valid, sensible or useful. (Wish we had the link to the essay containing that disastrous advice – it’d serve as a good example of what to ignore!)

    7. Mystery Bookworm*

      Yes. And in addition to other people’s comments, the fact that the therapist is pushing back on your hesistance is a big red flag.

      1. JJ*

        Yes yes yes yes…I have had therapists encourage me to stay in toxic jobs and with toxic, cheating partners, and I was convinced like, “well, they ARE the therapist, I guess they see something I don’t?” Spoiler: they were just bad therapists. Listen to your gut!

    8. Librarian of SHIELD*

      And I’m seriously side-eying this therapist’s whole “I found this top ten list on the internet so we can totally follow the steps in your treatment!” I get that not every therapist is an expert on every issue, but I’d expect a therapist to be looking for solutions in professional resources. If I wanted a top ten list from Buzzfeed, I could have googled that myself.

    9. JJ*

      I have advice! I used Allison’s “how to ask for a raise” advice to help me realize that I was actually crushing it at my (bad) job, it sounds like that will work for you as well, since you are a “perfect employee”. Just write out a list outlining everything you’ve accomplished lately, happy clients, successful projects, ROI numbers, skills you have others in your workplace don’t, etc. Make the case for yourself on this paper. It really helps to see it all written down.

      What you seem to be doing is focusing on your deficiencies…the exercise above helps you shift focus to your strengths. As long as you have a decent workplace (who are not contributing to these feelings by being jerks) in my experience, focusing on what you’re great at is hugely helpful for Impostor Syndrome. Remember: you can’t be good at everything!

      I think your instinct to not broadcast this was correct…you got this!

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This is the kind of advice a therapist should give her!
        “If you have external evidence you are a good performer, let’s work on reaffirming those with this practice”…NOT “Since your boss thinks your a rockstar, you should tell her why you aren’t”

        1. TootsNYC*

          and also maybe, “let’s work on finding ways to elicit or gather more specific evidence of your performance, beyond ‘perfect employee,’ which isn’t that helpful.”

          and “let’s work on how to define what a good employee is, and how to internalize that, and how to to de-catastrophize the mistakes you make.”

          And “let’s work on decoupling your idea of your own worth with your identity as a worker, and instead attach your self-worth to your existence as a whole person”

  6. LittleRedRiding...huh?*

    LW4: As someone,who contracted Covid from a random neighbour, who was standing outside his front door and accidentally coughed on me when I walked by, please do NOT under any circumstances listen to your parents this time. The virus does not care how safe and cautious you think you may are. It only takes one tiny window of opportunity and sh*t hits the fan.
    I was lucky enough to have had “only” mild symptoms, but coughing so violently I literally spat out small chunks of my lung, was terrifying.

    1. Colin*

      Also worth mentioning that Covid progresses differently for everyone. Some people go from asymptomatic to hospitalized in a day. You have to ask yourself, do you want to be alone in an office if there is a risk of that? A positive test for yourself or someone you live with means stay home until all clear. Period.

    2. Colin*

      But also, you don’t have to live in this much fear. It sounds like you and your family are taking the best precautions you can under your individual circumstances. Be aware of symptoms, wash your hands, cover your face – beyond that, don’t dwell on the “what ifs”. You’ll drive yourself crazy, and there’s no sign of this slowing down anytime soon, so don’t trap yourself in a state of perpetual irony.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I think quarantining oneself if you have a positive test, symptoms, or live with someone with a positive test or symptoms isn’t fear, it’s common sense.

        1. CR*

          I am flabbergasted that someone would even consider going into work with a positive test. Here the rule is you’re supposed to quarantine for two weeks – a real quarantine, no leaving the house!

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Yup, here too. Although I’ve heard plenty of people I’m distantly related to who have believed quarantine only means if you personally have symptoms, not a positive test.

          2. ...*

            People definitely do! Nurses in a friend of mine’s hospital system work with a positive test as long as they aren’t showing symptoms.

        2. Old and Don’t Care*

          Perhaps Colin meant that it’s okay not to devote a ton of mental energy to a hypothetical positive test. Dealing with an actual positive test is another matter.

          1. kt*

            This I agree with. I live with a health care worker; after plenty of initial worry I’ve switched to only worrying about making my home office nice ;) I just can’t take endless months of non-actionable worry, and I know he and his colleagues are doing well at their precaution.

            Have a plan for what you can do if a positive test comes through, write it down & set up what you need to set up, then put it on a side table or in a filing cabinet and continue living your life fully within the bounds of the cautious behavior you’ve set up!

          2. Alanna*

            I think it’s actually pretty helpful to have a plan in place for a positive test for you or your household. People are REALLY good at rationalizing things as “safe” in the moment, so making the plan in advance in a disinterested way can be really helpful. Plus, then you can stop worrying about it because you have a plan.

            Broadly speaking, the plan needs to be self-isolating and quarantine, but it’s worth thinking out (and writing down) the details because quarantine is logistically complicated! Questions like: Is the person who’s positive going to isolate within the household? Will you all wear masks? Is grocery/supply delivery available and affordable to you, or do you have a friend or family member you can make a mutual aid pact with so someone drops off supplies? Will your work let you take time off?

    3. Chinook*

      I don’t know the laws where you are, but up here in Alberta, a positive test in the household puts the whole household under legally required quarantine.

      Practically, if someone you live with tests positive, then you have been exposed and can have symptoms come on quickly. You work alone. What would happen if you become incapacitated? Could you get yourself home safely? Who would disinfect the place before your replacement came in? These are important questions that need to be considered if you hide the results.

    4. Alex*

      Exactly. If you test positive on Tuesday but let a maintenance worker into your office on Monday, that maintenance worker has a right to know they came into contact with someone who tested positive. And it seems to me that companies that are handling COVID well, as LW #4’s employer seems to be, are likely to be more reasonable about providing paid time off for quarantine than, say, LW #1’s organization.

      1. Paulina*

        Yes, LW4’s employer seems to be very reasonable. From my read of the situation, it sounds like LW4 is currently the designated person to go into her office, and another employee substitutes when LW4 isn’t available. Unless there are other reasons why her workplace would vastly prefer it be her, and other keys tasks of her job can’t be done from home (that I don’t see in the letter), I would expect the employer to use the news of her exposure to simply reassign who went into the office and shift her to WFH. If so, exposure concealment wouldn’t help anything while being a significant vulnerability.

    5. Tired of Covid*

      Covid infection normally does not happen instantaneously. There must be a combination of exposure (1) to a high enough concentration of infectious particles (2) for a long enough period of time, to cause infection. These two factors are highly variable for each individual, which is why mitigation is so important. Had the neighbor had on a face covering, you likely would not have caught anything from him.

      ITA agree that OP should not disregard public health by listening to her parents, they are so off-base here. This virus is no plaything. Sorry you were so sick, and hope you have no lasting effects.

    6. Mama Bear*

      I’m glad you are OK now, LRR.

      I had an asymptomatic family member. LW4, if someone is positive please do not go about your daily business without quarantining until you know that person hasn’t infected you/everyone is covid-free. If it comes up, look into the law that was mentioned and any other options for paid leave.

    7. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      Agree. I tested positive for covid in July. I had been working from home for months. I wasn’t seeing friends or family (except husband and kids who live with me). I did most of my grocery shopping online. My husband had returned to work at his (very small) office, saw limited people every day, and took the usual precautions.

      Still, I got covid. No idea how or who. My family didn’t get any symptoms although I didn’t isolate from them. The point being that it’s incredibly easy to catch and pass along, and you may not even know it’s happened. It’s something that must be disclosed, don’t even consider doing otherwise.

    8. Acey*

      Not to mention that if someone in your household has tested positive or even is *presumed* positive, you’re supposed to quarantine at home 14 days to be sure you don’t have it.

  7. CastIrony*

    OP 4, I had to tell my retail store about a COVID scare last weekend where my mom was sick with COVID-like symptoms. Luckily, she was only sick from taking my prescription pill by mistake, and it didn’t go further on me texting my manager about it and keeping her posted. Phew!

    1. CastIrony*

      Sorry, I wrote this while tired. My point was that letting your employer know a household member has COVID-19 symptoms is the right, even if it feels weird, thing to do, because they have policies in place in how to proceed.

  8. Lady Heather*

    LW3, it’s worth remembering that your therapist’s only skilled “workplace experience” may have been with clinical supervision – a context in which it is appropriate to share your hidden thoughts, doubts and fears.

    I think your therapist is projecting her own experience with supervision onto you – and being unable to separate “me” from “you” is a MAJOR therapist red flag. I wouldn’t trust a therapist who does that with.. well, anything.

    1. Impostor OP*

      I think your second paragraph really embodies what I felt from the therapist, including other topics I’ve talked to her about.

      I’ve already contacted the provider and got switched to another person. Fingers crossed.

      1. Mr. Tyzik*

        That’s great that you got switched to someone else! Hopefully, they’ll have more experience in work issues. I dropped a therapist recently because she didn’t understand my job, corporate politics, or political capital, and she kept telling me how smart I was, making me feel like a failure for not figuring this stuff out on my own.

        What helped me was finding an ICF professional coach who understood multiple industries, who shared some of my career background, and who could empathize with my problems. My coach acts as a sounding board for ideas, and asks me powerful questions that help me develop innovative ways of achieving my goals. I still need a therapist for my personal life, yet my professional life has flourished in the year that I’ve had professional coaching. If you are down with ICF (I’m not a commercial, they’re just most common in my industry), coachfederation dot org can help you find someone near you.

      2. Observer*

        I’m really glad to hear that you’ve switched out.

        If you can do so without too much trouble, I think it might be worth letting the organization know what’s going on with this therapist. It really sounds like they perhaps really should not be practicing.

    2. Washi*

      This is a great point. I’m in social work school and we’re definitely encouraged to talk openly about these feelings in supervision. In this line of work, there’s a strong emphasis on understanding and accepting yourself so that you can be really present with clients, and recognize when you’re reacting to something based on your own baggage, not based on the client’s actual situation. Basically, you talk through your work-related emotions with your supervisor so you don’t end up accidentally trying to work through them with a client.

      But most other jobs do not require that level of emotional input, and the OP’s therapist, not their supervisor, is the perfect person to work through this with.

    3. Kiki*

      Yes! I think it’s always important to keep someone’s past history and experiences in mind when receiving advice. Just like parental advice can be outdated and advice from teachers can be off-base in corporate settings, work advice from therapists isn’t always going to hit right. There are therapists and coaches who specialize in work-related anxieties and professional coaching, but if your therapist isn’t in that category, I’d take what they say about work with a big grain of salt.

    4. Gnizmo*

      This was my exact thought as well. It is very bad for a therapist to remain silent about their doubts, fears, and potential screw-ups out of fear of consequences to them. It does lead to a weird view of working relationships as well that have to be managed a lot differently.

      In general though, I think therapists aren’t going to have a great idea of how the rest of the working world runs. Administrative supervisors at best can push me to do paperwork more often. Other than that there is no easy or systemic way to evaluate my performance without just asking me how I am doing, or observing which causes a ton of other issues. You get a high level of autonomy at entry level and it only goes up from there. It’s why I refer to this place when in doubt, or pull suggestion from it. I just don’t get how non-clinical jobs work.

    5. Procrastinatrix*

      I’m so glad you mentioned this because now a recent training I attended makes so much more sense. I’m in legal services but work alongside healthcare professionals, including social workers and therapists. We all had a recent trauma-informed care training that included techniques we could use to regulate our emotions and connect better during supervision sessions (a term I hadn’t heard before but took to mean any kind of serious conversation with a direct report) that sounded a little weird/touchy-feely to me. No wonder! Managers in my field definitely do not do anything like clinical supervision.

    6. Procrastinatrix*

      I’m so glad you mentioned this because now a recent training I attended makes so much more sense. I’m in legal services but work alongside social workers. We all had a trauma-informed care training that included techniques we could use to regulate our emotions and connect better during supervision sessions (a term I hadn’t heard before but took to mean any kind of serious conversation with a direct report) that sounded a little weird/touchy-feely to me. No wonder! Managers in my field definitely do not do anything like clinical supervision.

    7. Gymmie*

      Agree. Even my friends who work in higher-ed are in a very different work cultural environment where feelings and personal info is widely shared. It’s very very different.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        And this is something that, at least in my experience, differs wildly between faculty and staff cultures. A lot of the touchy-feely stuff that seems commonplace with faculty just wouldn’t fly in my non-student-facing niche area of higher ed admin.

  9. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. It doesn’t sound like the boss’s “Observing” is going to be very helpful. If Boss had said in advance that they wanted to have a better idea of the work the division undertook, then it would give people a chance to prepare something.

    1. Mookie*

      Almost sounds like this person is wedded to “optimization,” but I may be jumping the gun. I was in a similar position under a new manager who was very uncomfortable dealing with anything he didn’t immediately understand and was impatient when expected to “self teach.” He believed every concern, including his own ignorance, could be boiled down to a failure in procedure and would default to “optimization” before even demonstrating there was a problem. His “observations” and frequent one-on-ones were, in his mind, the starting point for his disruption-lite overhaul. The weird thing was, like all failed optimizers, this was an inefficient, time-wasting strategy that hurt his reputation as a previous wunderkind.

      Add to that that this manager is already overwhelmed with the duties of two people, I just don’t get what he’s doing here.

      (For anyone who’s seen it, this was the splitting image of Julius Nicholson in The Thick Of It, with his white papers about streamlining the processing of ASBOs. Trying to make himself look indispensable by dreaming up problems to “solve” in order to shirk actual, much more difficult but necessary work.)

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Yes, the boss should have contacted people in advance and said, “I want to know more about X, Y and Z tasks. Can we sit together for an hour?”

      I did this when I took my current job. Although I’d been in this highly-regulated industry and position for a long time, I had to learn how *we* do things, who does them, what tools we use, etc. I asked each person to pick a couple tasks and schedule a time when we can sit down together so I can observe and ask questions. It worked out well and I was able to learn a lot. I would never have just shown up in their cube unannounced and told them I’m staying for a while to observe.

      1. Lilyp*

        To me it smells like someone who doesn’t trust people and thinks that giving you time to prepare would mean he gets a bunch of canned BS that’s not actually what you do all day, whereas doing it pop quiz style means he gets the “authentic picture” of what your day is like (i.e. he thinks he might catch you in the act of being un-useful). Not a good sign about him!

    3. MissDisplaced*

      If a manager is new and/or is not familiar with a particular division, “observing” that division might be a good way to get acquainted with it. I’ve been through a few things like that. But usually, this may mean only following certain people or certain activities, and having a group meeting with others to understand what they do.

      Sitting and watching someone on their computer doesn’t seem an effective way to do this!
      I’m not clear if this is what the manager thinks he needs to do (following orders) — or he didn’t know what to do? Or if it was a misguided way to meet with everyone individually? It’s really weird, and may say something about that manager that isn’t exactly positive honestly.

      1. OP2*

        OP2 here. To be clear – I would normally have been fine with a new boss’ observations, especially if it was about the responsibility that accounts for about 70% of my time and is public facing. Watching me respond to email doesn’t seem particularly effective (I even asked if he would prefer for me to do something else while observing me but that would be more engaging). Everyone had already met with him one on one at this point.

  10. Lady Heather*

    LW4, Plus, I would have to get tested, in order to prove that I’m not contagious if someone in my household tested positive.

    No, no, no! If someone in your household tests positive on Monday, and you test negative on Tuesday, they may still infect you on Wednesday – and you can infect your work on Thursday.

    A negative test only says you hadn’t been infected yet at the time of testing. (Or that your viral load is too low to pick up on.)

    That’s also why, when I had to go for covid testing, they said “You were negative at the time of testing – if your symptoms worsen or if you get additional symptoms, you need to be tested again because then you may still have covid”.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      YES! If you’re living with someone who is ill, you can get sick at any point up until they’re free of the virus, and then you need to wait out the incubation period to make sure you’re clear.

      Where I am, positive cases are immediately transferred to a special ward of a designated hospital. Their family members are tested, and if negative, have to quarantine in their home for two weeks, after which they are tested again. If someone else falls ill, the clock resets to zero.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        I know you’re not to blame for your region’s policies, but hospitalizing people who do not need medical care seems like a collossally bad idea for the following reasons:
        1) risk of infection to healthcare workers and spread of the disease to the rest of the hospital (isolation can never be perfect)
        at home you can quarantine the whole household and it’s only a few people, once you lock someone up you need cooks, cleaners, nurses etc. working in shifts to meet their basic needs
        2) waste of hospital beds – surely this cannot work in a place with a high number of cases?

        1. AcademiaNut*

          There are a total of 16 people in the hospital right now, in a population of 23 million, and no documented community transmission in 5 months (the number of cases, total, has been less than 500). It wouldn’t work once the virus is spreading widely in the community, but it’s incredibly effective when you catch things early enough. There’s also a designated hospital for cases, with all patients in negative pressure rooms in a dedicated infectious disease wing and plenty of PPE – I think there were one or two cases of health care workers catching it early on, but none later.

          And the benefits…. given that we’ve had no lockdown at any point, students haven’t lost any school time, and the economy is doing well, I’m certainly not inclined to blame the government for their response!

          1. Beth Jacobs*

            Ah, I withdraw my previous comment. Those of us who are in affected areas are in no position to criticise countries that managed to prevent community spread altogether. Well done.

              1. AcademiaNut*

                Yep. They learned from SARS, developed a “what to do if a novel coronavirus crops up” playbook, and started deploying it in late December. Having an epidemiologist as vice president didn’t hurt.

              1. AcademiaNut*

                They’re processing work visas now. So if you can get a job with a Taiwanese employer that will sponsor a visa, you could make the move, but you do need a test before flying out and two weeks quarantine after arriving. My employer has gotten a couple of (very delayed) postdocs in the last month from overseas.

        2. Kaya toast*

          On the contrary, hospitalizing, or at least isolating, all positive cases has been an important strategy in places like Hong Kong and Singapore. There was an excellent article about the tent city that Hong Kong built for this purpose. The facility was more like a hotel, complete with fruit baskets, than a hospital.

    2. Anononon*

      Yup. My neighbor recently tested positive, and his wife was told by her employer that she still needs to quarantine even though she’s currently tested negative.

    3. Bubbles*

      Yes!!! We had a family outbreak. One person contracted it at work, but my family got together on Saturday night before he knew he had it. He felt weird Monday. Sent home sick on Tuesday and was required to get a test. Came positive Wednesday morning, so everyone at the party Saturday night had to be tested. My sister – who is pregnant – came back positive and she and her husband and their son had to quarantine. Both her son and husband tested negative initially, but the county DPH simply assumed they would end up with it since they share a household. My brother in law had to wait it out and then provide a negative test two weeks after exposure to demonstrate he was safe to return to work.

  11. PlainJane*

    Oh, OP1, that sucks, and it’s a terrible time to be pressuring people about their jobs, and they have to know that.

    What on earth is the purpose of a visit to the office that is so very important that they can’t skip it during a pandemic when the Internet is, as far as I know, working everywhere? If you’ve been doing the job for the last several months without going in, what do they think is going to change?

    I know, I know. You don’t have any control over it, but the requirement is so incandescently stupid that I can’t wrap my head around it. If nothing else, the last few months should have taught everyone how very little of the “essential” traveling they’d been doing was actually essential.

    Honestly, if they’re actually crazy enough to think that something that’s killed around 200,000 people is fake, it really might be time to polish the resume, even in this market.

    1. WS*

      I’m in Victoria, Australia, which is coming towards the end of a huge lockdown. In between the first and second lockdown, sales reps (from the city) were surprised that we didn’t want them to visit us (in the country) because of the risk of COVID spread. Turns out we made the right call because then the second wave hit, and my area has had a grand total of 2 cases (no deaths) while the city has had thousands of case and hundreds of deaths.

      1. Chinook*

        Exactly. DH went up north to relieve some police officers for their delayed annual leave and he said that the screening at every airport was intense for symptoms and travel history. The territories were disease free and planned on keeping it that way. As a result, community life has stayed normal because there is nothing up there to catch.

        Isolating a whole district i much easier than isolating individuals when you are remote.

    2. Kaya toast*

      With due respect, you have no way of knowing what LW1’s company does, the nature of her role, etc. Suppose she (or someone else similarly situated) worked for AstraZeneca and had to go to Oxford to review the outcome of vaccine trials?

      The difficulty in travelling, especially internationally, has hurt our business immensely. Just because we have muddled through does not mean the situation is remotely optimal, and even that is with my boss (who is a dual national and thus can travel more freely) crossing the Pacific two times since May.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The commenter is responding to someone who’s said, “What on earth is the purpose of a visit to the office that is so very important that they can’t skip it during a pandemic when the Internet is, as far as I know, working everywhere? If you’ve been doing the job for the last several months without going in, what do they think is going to change?”

          The reality is, some jobs do require travel to be done effectively. The OP’s might not be one of them, but they certainly exist.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Considering that OP1 said her company doesn’t believe COVID is a real threat, there is no way they are actually involved in fighting it. Don’t be disingenuous.

    3. OP1*

      The visits are helpful (might save the company money) but not essential. Think of it in terms of participating in a science experiment, versus just reading the report. Not being there can cause rework for the team that is there, if they don’t quite get me the data I was looking for. But so far I’ve been lucky/good enough to outline the procedure well enough that there has been no rework.

  12. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

    OP2: I think you’re right to see it as a flag. That kind of behaviour reeks of being out of touch (not just with your work!) and it doesn’t signal competence in being able remedy that effectively.

    There’s some similarities in your letter to an experience I had with someone (I’ll call him Faux Boss) who was put in charge of our department despite having no clue what we did. Not saying you need to know a department inside out to run it well, but there’s a similar pattern of behaviour in what your division head is doing and what Faux Boss did that ended up being huge flags of what was to come. Eg: attempts to understand anything about the work are useless checkbox exercises, the total lack of interest and engagement when he says he’s there to learn or understand, always preoccupied on a device looking important instead of showing effective use of time**, and then staff suddenly leaving… none of those are good signs.

    I ended up leaving without another job to go to because of the eventual fallout from Faux Boss’s short tenure. So I’m trying not to sound extreme or alarmist here as YMMV, but I really wanted to say… please watch your back. It’s amazing how far people can get in their careers just by being able to talk the talk. Depths of incompetence take time to surface, and higher-ups are better positioned to obfuscate that, especially if they’re good talkers.

    A boss who has no idea what you do, no idea how to learn about what you do, and no interest in learning it, can be a terrifying prospect in combination with a certain level of ambition.

    **I get that sometimes the device preoccupation thing is a fact of life and has to happen, but the people who are always like that are generally not good managers – of time or people – IME. (Faux Boss was always “so busy” booking holidays and checking his share investments, as it turned out.)

    1. Seal*

      Yes to all of this. The variation I’ve seen is a boss that claims to be shadowing a department but instead spends the time grilling the staff on tangentially related issues and questioning their work ethic. I had more than one staff member come to me in tears after these sessions. The boss in question is the definition of someone that moved up because they’re a good talker, but everyone that’s ever worked for them knows better.

      1. OP2*

        Yep, there have definitely been tears and major amounts of stress/ fretting from staff about these random observations!

    2. OP2*

      OP2 here. Yep, there are other clear red flags from this boss already, but that I thought might be too identifiable to write in about. I just wanted a gut check about this particular action of his. Normally, I’d be looking for another job but 1) pandemic and I need a job/ health insurance 2) for other personal reasons, I know I’m only staying at this job for about a year and a half more, at most. I love the other parts of my job enough that I can tough it out until then.

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

        Funny how some flags can be so indicative of even bigger ones! Trust your gut and look after yourself, OP. All the best and come back and let us know how it all eventually unfolds (unravels?)

  13. Database Developer Dude*

    Regarding the positive COVID test, how does your job handle the science?

    I had a positive ANTIBODY test, and the job is still requiring me to quarantine for 14 days, and get a viral test before coming back. Apparently, they don’t understand science.

    1. Perpal*

      I don’t think we’ve yet proven the antibodies prevent people from catching covid; theoretically they should but not everything works that way, some diseases antibodies only reduce liklihood but can still get it.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That’s another thing that’s making the vaccine development take so long. We simply do not know that antibody titres mean a dratted thing to preventing infection/reinfection, nor do we know how long those titres last.

      2. Ranon*

        The final conclusion hasn’t been reached but lately the scientists I’ve been listening to on This Week in Virology are leaning towards it working mostly like other coronaviruses- you get mostly durable immunity in that you continue to get an immune response (even though it declines I over time), but you don’t get neutralizing immunity, so you still get sick- just asymptomatically or mildly with just upper respiratory symptoms. Meaning odds are you can definitely be contagious more than once but the second time around you at least won’t feel like total garbage.

        1. Christmas Carol*

          So you don’t realize you’re sick the second time around and then go out and spread it around some more?

        2. Ranon*

          I think that was an early hypothesis, in the (two?) cases of recurrent infection that have been confirmed by genetics (so they had the virus genome from the first and second infections and they were different) they saw mild symptoms or were asymptomatic the second time around. They discussed it in one of the relatively recent episodes of This Week in Virology, worth a listen.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            mild symptoms or were asymptomatic the second time around.

            I’m hoping that proves to be the dominant pattern in reinfections.

        3. Doc in a Box*

          FWIW a nurse friend of mine had the opposite experience. She’s gotten it twice, the first time relatively mild, and the second time much much worse. I suspect her situation has to do with viral load/extent of exposure, but there are other viruses that work like that too — dengue being the classic example. It’s called “antibody dependent enhancement.

        4. Jennifer Thneed*

          The problem is that word “mild”. The general public hears “mild case” and thinks of something like a bad cold. But the reality is that in this setting, “mild” means “not sick enough to actually need the hospital”. And you can be pretty danged sick, like sleeping for 18 hours of every day and barely enough energy to get to the bathroom, but not actually need to be hospitalized.

      3. Natalie*

        That’s all true, but it’s not relevant to whether Database Developer Dude should have to quarantine. I’m not aware of any suggestions that people should quarantine solely because of a positive antibody test, nor would that make logical sense.

        1. Ranon*

          I couldn’t tell from a quick read whether the antibody test was the cause for quarantine or a reason Developer Dude felt quarantine shouldn’t be required, I can see reading it both ways for sure

        2. kt*

          Yeah, I’m with you. It does not make sense to quarantine due to a positive antibody tests (although maybe we could have a discussion if it’s the IgM antibody test instead of the IgG test, and for sure if you have symptoms then the antibody test is not really relevant — no one wants to be near a feverish or coughing person regardless of test results!).

          It’s true we haven’t pinned down how detectable antibody presence correlates with immunity. But that’s a different question.

    2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

      My understanding is that an antibody (blood) test just shows whether you’re having or have had an immune response. It’s not an accurate indicator of your current infectiousness which is why you need a nasopharyngeal test to see if the virus itself is still present and can be transmitted. Maybe someone clinical can weigh in on that.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        The antibody test is supposed to check whether you were exposed to Covid two or more weeks prior, not whether you have a currently, so it’s weird for it to be used in quarantining decisions without asking for an actual swab test too.

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        A bunch of states got in trouble for lumping their antibody test results in with their PCR test results, which artificially inflated the amount of testing they were doing. So it would be really wrong for a company to equate the two.

    3. The New Normal*

      I would like to slip in and kindly suggest that if you are able to, please donate plasma while you have antibodies. :) I have a 16 year old student at my school who would be dead right now if it wasn’t for the plasma transplant he received.

  14. Bookworm*

    #1: Yikes. I’m so, so sorry. And I agree: if you can walk away, perhaps it’s something you should consider. Set aside the jobs: your organization is clearly willing to risk YOUR life by making you travel. Plus anyone in your household or even potentially who you come in contact with, etc.

    That is not cool at all.

    #5: You can, but be prepared for radio silence. Unless you’ve had a good interview and/or some other in, (and depending on your field), I’ve always found this goes nowhere. It might be different for you and do hope that is true, but this is advice that has never panned out for me and you should prepare yourself to not get any sort of acknowledgement at all.

    1. Hamburke*

      #5 – it either goes nowhere or both hiring managers assume the other hired you. That was my husband’s experience.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Or it works out, as others have reported in this very comment section and as I’ve seen happen multiple times. “It hasn’t happened to person X” doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

        But it’s more likely to be successful at smaller organizations, where the hiring manager is more likely to be invested in other teams’ hiring / has more opportunity to pass a candidate recommendation along.

    2. Alice*

      I give someone the internal side eye at a conference because of this. I was a finalist for a job at a particular company, but not hired, and the hiring manager said “I’d really like you to apply for Other Job Here” (she brought it up, not me). So I did, and the hiring manager for Other Job totally ignored my application. We see each other regularly at regional conferences and, although I have never and will never bring it up with her, I haven’t forgotten. Oh well, water under the bridge.

    3. Shark*

      It happens, especially if an organization is relatively small or there’s overlap with the hiring teams. I know this came up recently for my organization, we were hiring for a relatively high level role, and pretty much everyone agreed that a candidate was a perfect fit for another role one level down. There’s probably no harm in asking, but OP should apply to the other role separately to make sure their application gets to that hiring manager.

  15. Jasmine*

    OP4: I don’t know what the rules are where you live but, from a medical standpoint, if anyone in your household tests positive for coronavirus then the rest of you should self-isolate for 14 days from when they first exhibited symptoms (as that’s the maximum period you could reasonably be incubating the virus yourselves without showing symptoms). If you don’t isolate you could be spreading it around unknowingly. Source: I’m currently working as a contact tracer (in the UK) and have to give people this advice daily.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Former virologist in the UK and just want to give my support to the incrediably intense work you do.

      1. Jasmine*

        Thanks. It’s periods of intense boredom mixed with periods of intense stress, with the occasional lovely person who wants lots of info but also wants to follow the guidance thrown in.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I found the probability maths to be ‘oh my, I need a computer brain’ when doing the epidemiology bits of my degree. Full respect.

    2. voyager1*

      LW2: Observing you do your job is not weird. I have had numerous managers do this. Now none of them have showed up unannounced to do it. The times my managers have sat with me have been when they are new or when they worked at a different location as me. I think for the nonlocal managers sitting with employees were their way of getting face time with us.

      This is just a vibe I am getting, but it feels like you are looking for a reason not to like this new manager.

      1. Kaya toast*

        I fully agree with this. It is not uncommon for managers to shadow employees for a short period of time. He is only doing this for 30 minutes according to the author, which is not a huge imposition.

        For that matter in many countries it is common for junior employees to shadow senior employees as well.

      2. Quill*

        It wouldn’t be weird in some jobs (I’ve worked in a lab) but in other jobs, such as most office jobs, it probably would be.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          When I was doing therapy with children, I was occasionally observed by my superiors…but they didn’t like, watch me fill out reports or check emails. So I think it really depends on the work being done.

  16. voyager1*

    September 14, 2020 at 7:35 am
    LW2: Observing you do your job is not weird. I have had numerous managers do this. Now none of them have showed up unannounced to do it. The times my managers have sat with me have been when they are new or when they worked at a different location as me. I think for the nonlocal managers sitting with employees were their way of getting face time with us.

    This is just a vibe I am getting, but it feels like you are looking for a reason not to like this new manager.

    1. Nikki*

      Like Alison said, it really depends on the type of job. There are some jobs where that would make a lot of sense. At my job, I spend 90% of my day typing on a computer. My boss would learn very little by pulling up a chair and silently watching me do that and it would feel quite awkward. To learn more about my job, it would make a lot more sense to sit down with me and ask questions. I would also have serious questions about my manager’s ability to manage if she did this.

      1. Arvolin*

        I spent most of my day staring at my computer, sometimes looking off into space. There would be flurries of activity, sometimes sustained typing, but in software development all the important stuff is happening in the developer’s brain, where it’s hard to observe.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      Really? You’ve had managers just sit by your desk and watch you type for a while? That seems incredibly weird, and as a manager, I can’t imagine what I would get out of it.

      1. voyager1*

        Absolutely have had managers sit behind me. Many times it was so they could learn how a process works or see how different people did a process.

        Sometimes like I said above it felt like they were doing it just to get “time with me.”

        Never felt it was weird. I work in banking so maybe it is more prevalent in my industry.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          So they came at a specific time for you to walk them through a specific thing? That sounds more useful to me.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I’ve had many a manager sit with me, sometimes to watch or help me do something, but I’ve never had one just sit behind me and watch me. I think it’s normal to sit and have a conversation and get face time that way, but I would be pretty weirded out if someone just… sat down. It also makes me so self-conscious I start to make mistakes.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Right, sitting with you as you do a certain task makes sense. Not just at random while you reply to emails or whatever!

    4. Eastcoaster*

      LW2 makes me think someone (HR or a prof development book perhaps?) gave this boss the idea of “observation” and he’s executing it weirdly/off-base or with the wrong team members. I know in previous roles I’ve been given the advice of getting to know what your team does- spend the day with them in the field, perhaps sit out in the cubes instead of in an office to get an idea of workflow- I wonder if he’s mis-interpreting what he should do and it’s obviously not helpful haha

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Eh, disagree slightly. I once had a boss who liked to ‘observe’ and had a really bad habit of sitting right behind me and tapping my back frequently to get me to zoom in on bits he watned to look at. Found it creepy.

      1. Arvolin*

        For anything requiring concentration, that’s an excellent way to ensure that the employee is useless during the observation period, and that the boss won’t see anything useful.

    6. OP2*

      You’re right in that there are other reasons I don’t like his managerial style, but I felt those were too specific for me to remain anonymous. I was writing in to get a gut check about this particular action of his. I wrote this elsewhere, but I don’t think I made this clear enough in my original letter – I don’t have a problem with observations themselves. I think it would be very useful to observe me in one particular aspect of my job that accounts for about 70% of my responsibilities, is public facing, and is sometimes most difficult for “outsiders” to understand the logistics of. He happened to be observing me while I was literally sorting through my emails. I asked if he wanted me to do something else (related to my job) that would be more interesting and give a better idea of what I do. He said, “no that’s ok. Just pretend I’m not here”

  17. it works sometimes*

    LW5: this is how I got my current job. There was a gap of a month or so in between my unsuccessful interview and the initial interview for the job I now hold for a different position at the same company.

    1. Ama*

      I have both hired an employee who initially applied to a job in another department (they really liked her but decided to hire a candidate with more direct experience in the specialized software they used) and forwarded candidates for my open jobs to my colleagues if I thought they might be more appropriate for their open positions. In fact I had a temp shortly before the pandemic that I just recommended to a colleague in another department. But we are a very small and collaborative office (around 35 employees) and are pretty familiar with what makes a good candidate in most of the roles that are open, even when they aren’t in our department.

  18. Shirley You're Joking*

    #3 – Therapists are usually people who have never worked in an office environment. My therapist — who is absolutely wonderful and well-trained — will sometimes offer off-base opinions about my work issues. (For example, it’s nice that my therapist thinks I so special that my employer should let me work three days a week if I want to, but she has no idea whether it’s a reasonable request.)

    When the therapist pushes you toward something you know isn’t right — like this situation — that’s a sign to try a new therapist.

    I could imagine an exercise where you discuss what would happen if you told your manager. What do you think she would say back to you? Just talking that through with a therapist could maybe be helpful. But imagining it and doing it are very different! You are so right to reject the advice.

  19. Blue Eagle*

    LW1 – I’m curious what it is that you will be doing at the home office. You don’t mention what the task is and whether or not it is critical that you be physically there. If it is just for a meeting (or something like that) is it possible to ask to do it via teleconference. But if it is something that physically requires your presence, well, that is another story that might require a different solution.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      If it’s anything like my travel for work, it’s so the other employees don’t forget what OP’s face looks like.

      1. Kaya toast*

        Your cynicism, which you have expressed several times in this thread, is not helping anything. Believe it or not, corporate travel is usually for entirely legitimate purposes. I understand that you personally dislike it. That does not make it nugatory for the company.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          My experience, over two-dozen trips, is actually the exact opposite. Travel has usually been for socialization, hand-holding, or box-checking.

          The least frivolous trips have been for:
          1. Training (which can be done via Zoom, webinars, etc)
          2. Hardware swaps (which can be done via USPS/UPS/FedEx/etc)
          3. Onboarding (which can be done via Zoom, screenshare, etc)

          While I agree that, in theory, summoning an employee to the main office could occur for valid reasons, I have never seen it happen in practice. The other remote employees I work with see even less benefit from the travel.

        2. Lilyp*

          I suspect Sola is right about this company. I’ve been remote for 3 years now and the only trips I’ve taken have been for “soft skills” reasons. I do think that in normal times traveling primarily to form or strengthen in-person social connections is actually very valuable and you get real benefits from it, especially higher up the ladder or for stuff like sales and onboarding. But it’s obviously not “override a pandemic” important, and it sounds like OP’s company is resuming the trips because they don’t care about the pandemic, not because there’s any real overriding urgency in the tasks.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      In my job we are all remote in different parts of the country. I work with the leadership team who are all incredibly busy. Before COVID, we would travel to a destination every 2-3 months for 2-3 days of all day meetings. It was necessary because we were all together without distractions and would get a lot of things accomplished. So while yes you can get the same sort of things done remotely, they aren’t necessarily as effective. But OP’s company is being unreasonable on this one – the last time we traveled was early February, and there are no plans to travel until next year.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I do believe that companies who really do require physical travel to do business have an obligation during this to ensure their staff have the resources to stay safe, such as quarantine after visiting dangerous areas, and factor that into their cost/benefit analysis.

      In an ideal world….

    4. OP1*

      The visits are helpful (might save the company money) but not essential. Think of it in terms of participating in a science experiment, versus just reading the report. Not being there can cause rework for the team that is there, if they don’t quite get me the data I was looking for. But so far I’ve been lucky/good enough to outline the procedure well enough that there has been no rework.

  20. Sara without an H*

    OP#3, unless your therapist found that list on a site run by a professional or scholarly association, I would consider it suspect, and I would really start to question her professional judgement.

    You say you’re “leaning” towards switching therapists. I would lean in much harder, and start interviewing other therapists.

  21. Evee*

    I have questions about the law that exempts companies from being required to pay up to 2 weeks of quarantine if they have over 500 employees.
    My company has only about 100, but we were bought earlier this year by a larger international company that has other subsidiaries like us. All the subsidiaries operate on their own and under their own names. So we have under 500 employees but our parent company has well over 500 because there are so many companies.
    Our company is not paying the 2 weeks because they claim with our new ownership we have over 500 employees… but does this count?

    1. employment lawyah*

      Maybe. It’s hard to say without more information as this is an odd area, but you should check with a lawyer. Most lawyers will talk to you for free, initially, because if the company is wrong–if a largish company is denying leave to all of its employees–that is a very good case.

      Use an employee-side specialist. For a good place to start, Google [YOURSTATE] Employment Lawyers Association, and/or check National Employment Lawyers Association. (Everyone who0 pays dues to the national one is also in their state one, but not the reverse, so start w/ state.)

    2. Natalie*

      Unfortunately it’s not an easy answer, it depends on the legal structure and relationship between the companies. The DOL says:

      Typically, a corporation (including its separate establishments or divisions) is considered to be a single employer and its employees must each be counted towards the 500-employee threshold. Where a corporation has an ownership interest in another corporation, the two corporations are separate employers unless they are joint employers under the FLSA with respect to certain employees. If two entities are found to be joint employers, all of their common employees must be counted in determining whether paid sick leave must be provided under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and expanded family and medical leave must be provided under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

      In general, two or more entities are separate employers unless they meet the integrated employer test under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). If two entities are an integrated employer under the FMLA, then employees of all entities making up the integrated employer will be counted in determining employer coverage for purposes of paid sick leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and expanded family and medical leave under the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act.

      (Only US employees count towards the threshold, since you said the company is international.)

      You might have noticed they mention two different tests as to whether or not two corporations are “joint employers”. Neither of these tests have clear bright lines, and neither of them overlap perfectly, but a key feature of both is that simply having shared ownership isn’t enough. Features like shared or centralized management of labor, or interrelated administrative operations are required.

  22. Marcy Marketer*

    LW #1: is the quarantine policy really only limited to your spouse’s work, or is it at a state wide level? My state and several others require two weeks of quarantine otherwise you’re fined like $1,000 so it’d be pretty insane for the company to imply that you should flout state law.

    1. Jaybeetee*

      It sounds like she’s saying her state has lifted quarantine requirements for “essential workers”, and that her job/company falls under that umbrella. So she is technically not violating state law, but would effectively need to live apart from her husband most of the time.

    2. doreen*

      My state also requires quarantine/potential fines. But there is explicitly an exemption for essential workers and rules they must follow if allowed to return from work. But it’s only for essential workers (which the OP didn’t say she is) not essential businesses/industries – and even essential businesses have been required to have staff work remotely to the extent possible. So while a nurse who traveled to a state on the list may be permitted to return to a worksite, that doesn’t mean the hospital payroll clerk would be permitted to. The OP says that husband is not permitted to work because his employer is stricter than state law- and I’m pretty sure “can’t come to work if someone in your household has visited a high-risk state” is specific to the husband’s job – I know my state’s requirements don’t go that far even for non-essential workers.

  23. Malty*

    Just to shed some light on the therapist thing, I trained to be a therapist and found that most of my cohort were, well, white, rich privileged. (The course was not cheap) There were multiple instances where I’d raise issues around ableism, poverty, racism, and the reaction was that if you were curious and accepting then you could handle anything and I was like no, you need to research. (I remember talking about specifying on your website if you went into private practice that you were LGBT+ friendly and they were like well I’m a therapist of course I would be!) The teaching materials could be similarly narrow minded. Of course not all therapists are this way, but it gave me some insight into how SOME courses are costly, attract a certain type of privilege, and then they can go on to be therapists who are well meaning, but don’t quite Get It

    1. The Rural Juror*

      Thanks for this. Turns out, therapists are people, too! With all their imperfections and sometimes self-UNawareness. If you feel like they don’t quite Get It, it’s perfectly reasonable to try someone else. I know that’s a little easier said than done, and takes time and effort, but it’s worth it to see if there’s a better fit.

    2. Mystery Bookworm*

      I’m in my final year of training as a psychologist and have a few years of therapy experience under my belt now. I agree with this critique of the field (although personally I have been very lucky with how proactive my course has been in terms of addressing these issues, and the diversity of the student body).

      In addition, I think it’s worth noting that therapists are asked to address a very broad spectrum of issues. As such, you want a practioner with the self-awareness to recognize the limits of their knowledge and who acknowledges the client as the expert in their own life. Even if the therapist was giving advice that was applicable to most workplaces, she should still have backed off when the OP suggested that it wouldn’t work in her specific workplace.

      No amount of education can make you an expert in one person’s lived experience.

  24. employment lawyah*

    1. My job’s travel conflicts with my husband’s job’s Covid policies
    There’s nothing you can do here. Sorry.

    Also, this company response (not the lying part, but the “your spouse is your business but the rules are the rules” part) is actually good. We have spent decades fighting AGAINST the tendency to consider spouses in business decisions and treat married people with different rules–that consideration is usually negative, and usually comes out poorly for the women involved. This is the flip side of that coin. It’s bad for you in this instance, but good overall.

    1. Lilyp*

      What? The company absolutely should be giving travel exceptions to anyone with personal circumstances which make travel a special risk or hardship, including people who are high-risk themselves, people who live with anyone high-risk (not just a spouse) and people like OP who live with someone (again, not just a spouse) with strict quarantine requirements. This isn’t about marital special privileges it’s about basic human decency and taking the extraordinary special circumstances of a global pandemic seriously. This is not a situation for “rules are rules”.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s not good for anybody in the case of a global pandemic to say that the people you might infect is irrelevant. Unless you’re not saying that in which case apologies.

      (Speaking as a high risk woman who is very glad her husband’s employer listens and lets him stay home)

    3. Quill*

      The company is actually just taking unnecessary risk. It’s 100% not about the status of marriage, but “This is a stupid risk AND conflicts with the person I live with,” which should not change whether it’s a spouse or a roommate.

      Rules are only reasonable when they’re made using actual real life risk assessment, and the company has failed that multiple times.

    4. Katrinka*

      Normal rules don’t apply during a pandemic. People absolutely must protect others who they live with, care for, or interact with on a regular basis. This is especially true for something like COVID-19, where a high percentage of cases are asymptomatic. This is not about lumping spouses together (LW would have the same problem if it were their child or parent or roommate), this is about what LW needs to do to keep their family safe and meet the requirements of their husband’s job.

      We do not want companies to ignore their employees’ living situations/marital status, what we want them to do is not make assumptions about employees’ roles in their family dynamic and not penalize employees based on their real or perceived living situations/marital status. For instance, we want an employer to be flexible when it comes to an employee who is trying to balance childcare, but we don’t want them to assume that mothers will never be available for work trips and that fathers will always be available.

  25. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #4 – We share 50/50 custody of my stepson, and his mother had COVID a few weeks ago. He was with us when we found out, but had been with her less than a week prior. I WFH, but my husband was going into the office. He called and let them know, and they told him to stay home. I had a hair appointment a few days after we found out, and I called and rescheduled. We all checked our temps every day for 2 weeks after the last time my stepson had been with his mom, and didn’t go anywhere other than the grocery store once. Everyone needs to take this seriously and be responsible about it. Please DO NOT listen to your parent’s advice. It’s that type of attitude about this virus that has us in the mess we’re in right now.

    1. Miami forever*

      Agreed! Our mayor has advised we will be following COVID precautions for the next 3-5 years until there is a vaciene. It’s best for everyone to get used to the procedure now so that a year from now it’s second nature and 5 years from now we will be treating all illnesses this way.

      1. Katrinka*

        It’s not just until there is a vaccine, but until it has been widely disseminated enough. We will probably have a viable vaccine within the next 6 months, but it will take a few years for it to be manufactured and administered to enough people worldwide to make it safe everywhere.

  26. Hiring Mgr*

    I can understand why a therapist might suggest this advice, since in that profession there’s a thing called “supervision” which is basically a regular meeting with another therapist (could be a mentor but not usually a boss) where they do get very personal at times (my spouse is a therapist so that’s my source)

    However it makes zero sense for a therapist to insist that there’s a “right” way to approach this, and certainly any good therapist should be aware that this style probably won’t work for the typical office culture

  27. Jennifer*

    LW3 I once heard someone say that finding a good therapist is like looking for a spouse. I agree with that assessment. It took me a while to find one that I clicked with and that seemed to know what she was doing. Follow Alison’s advice and ignore the therapist.

  28. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: Throw the whole job away (okay, I realize you probably can’t, but). I can’t imagine a manager hearing from an employee that work travel would require them to live apart from their SO 50% of the time, and saying, “That sounds like a YOU problem.” I’ve worked at some awful places pre-pandemic, and I still would have expected to be accommodated on something like that. I suspect you’re right that this has become a political thing for them, which makes them sound like extremely undesirable employers.

    If you need to do it to keep the job, so be it. But they’re wrong on every level here, and I hope you’re able to get out of there soon.

  29. Just an Idea*

    LW #1 – Check with the airlines. A friend’s sister was trying to fly home to visit family and her airlines wouldn’t allow her to fly because she is a nurse and potential has been exposed. I don’t know your husband’s field, but if it is something along these lines and you reside with him, maybe they won’t allow you to fly and this could be your reason for not going?

  30. I'm A Little Teapot*

    Sigh. Look people, if you look at history, the US made terrible decisions (or non-decisions really) during the 1918 pandemic that resulted in probably thousands of avoidable deaths. Clearly, the US as a whole has not learned its lesson. #1 and #4 – this is part of WHY we’re failing so miserably at dealing with Covid. These types of policies and thought processes.

    #1, your company is dumb. I’m sorry.
    #4, your parents want you to lie. That should tell you something.

    1. Kaya toast*

      I do not disagree in general, but you are incorrect to say that countries other than the US have stopped travel altogether. A friend flew from California to London to Stuttgart a few weeks ago to take a new job. He reported that the transatlantic flight was virtually empty while the intra-Europe flight was full.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        UK based and can confirm. I’ve heard of a LOT of people near me (in geography) who have flown out to the US, Spain, etc. on holidays and the spanish holiday think seems to be ramping up.

        (Meanwhile my home town is considering another lockdown after we had 3 major outbreaks of Covid, one in a supermarket)

        1. BigGlasses*

          Lots of people from the UK are holidaying abroad but if you have heard of a lot of people flying out to the US it must be because you know an especially US-connected crowd; right now, visitors from Europe are still banned and won’t be admitted to the US for a vacation unless they are a US citizen, permanent resident, or some specified family members of those.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’m actually relieved to hear you say that mate, thanks. The ones spouting off about their Disney vacations are for a rude surprise at Heathrow then!

      2. I'm A Little Teapot*

        I’m really not sure where you got that I said anyone has stopped travel. I called out “types of policies and thought processes”, which certainly could include travel but also includes the policy of being a$$holes and not factoring in the bigger picture and silently hinting that they should just lie. Like the other OP’s parents are doing. If you travel and are upfront about it, that’s fine.

      3. kt*

        Kaya toast, are you having a nesting fail? I’m A Little Teapot did not use the word “travel” in the comment at all.

  31. Jaybeetee*

    LW3: There are certain jobs, and certain manager/employee conversations, that *could* allow for a *sort of similar* conversation. In my first job of my present career, I’d been fired previously and was definitely jittery in the beginning. I didn’t bring this up to my manager, but she evidently notified my nervousness during my first performance review, and reassured me that if there were any problems with my performance, I’d already know. While I still have a little job anxiety to this day, I did find that very helpful.

    That said. She knew I was new in that career, she was decades older than me (she actually retired later that year), I was working in a small cohort of new hires, and there was a lot of “general mentorship” going on. If I think about having a similar conversation in my present job with my present manager… it would likely be a lot more awkward unless I found a very specific way to phrase things.

    Instead of making it about how you feel, one approach that *might* work could be more about clarifying expectations in your role. It sounds like the errors you make aren’t a huge deal for your boss, but some sort of more formal conversation on that vein might be helpful, without you baring your soul to your boss. (Assuming you even want to have a version of this conversation, which it sounds like you don’t anyway).

    Side note: You’re also allowed to push back and disagree with any therapist. You’re allowed to say, “that wouldn’t work in my situation because XYZ”, or even, “I’m not comfortable doing that.” A good therapist is supposed to work with *you* – not just hand you directives to follow without any input on your end. A good therapeutic relationship is collaborative.

  32. HR Bee*

    #4, absolutely, you need to tell management about a positive test OR symptoms.

    I have now quarantined FIVE times since this started. Twice for symptoms (once for myself, once for my son) and three times for confirmed exposure (myself twice, once my son). While my industry (food manufacturing) cannot be done remotely, my specific job (HR, obviously) can be and my exec team has understood and been completely fine with the remote shift each time.

    It sounds like your team would just switch someone else to the office and let you work remote. If that’s the case, there is really and truly no reason to hide a positive diagnosis. Even if that’s not the case, the risk is just too great to keep to yourself.

    1. HR Bee*

      Oh, and I should mention, my entire family quarantined each time. My son, my husband, and myself. Even though, my husband has never had symptoms or been exposed directly, he still quarantined since, obviously, he’s around myself and our son all the time.

  33. yala*

    For #1, I wonder if a train might be a possibility? I mean, that’s a longshot, American railway being what it is, but if it’s feasible, trains are generally safer (in terms of COVID risk) than air travel.

    It’s still absolutely gross and ridiculous that your company is demanding this of you and being so careless regarding covid…

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Genuine question (apologies Alison if this is too derailing), why are trains safer than airplanes? It seems like for both you’d have a lot of people breathing the same air and sitting fairly close to each other.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Yeah I’m not really buying this. Planes have high tech filtration and the trips are shorter. As long as you’re not seated next to a maskless fool coughing on you, a plane is typically a better choice.

      2. doreen*

        The only reason I can think of is that some trains are less crowded than planes. When I have taken Amtrak , I am usually far away from anyone I am not traveling with – like no one else in my row and at least a row empty ( usually more) in front of and behind me. But I’m sure that only applies to some trains and others are much more crowded.

    2. NotMyRealName*

      I think the problem is the destination, not the mode of travel. OP#1’s company is based in a high infection state.

    3. prof*

      How are trains safer? You’re in an enclosed space with other people, just like air travel…and for longer on a train!

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Trains however require you to be in an enclosed environment with other people for longer than a flight.

    5. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Safer how? The only advantage I can see for a train over an airplane is for short trips. If the trip is short enough, the total time from reaching the airport or train station, through waiting and the actual travel, to leaving the airport/terminal at the other end might be less if you took a train.

      At that point, it’s likely that the OP could drive to and from the destination, with nobody else in the car, which would be safer than either. (That isn’t an option for everyone, but for those of you who can, it’s worth considering.)

    6. GothicBee*

      I think the main issue is the destination though, not the mode of travel, otherwise OP could just drive herself, which would presumably be the safest way (assuming driving is possible).

      It doesn’t matter how the OP gets there though, the issue is that if she goes to a high-risk area, she will either need to quarantine away from her husband for 2 weeks or her husband would have to quarantine away from his job for 2 weeks after her travel is over. (Or she quits her job, or her husband quits his job, or they don’t tell husband’s company about the travel, etc.). None of the options are particularly good and it’s frustrating that the OP has been put into this position.

    7. anon for this*

      Yeah, I *love* trains and we’re totally avoiding them for now — close proximity for a long time no thanks.

      Due to family medical emergency — sole caretaker of someone experiencing numerous emergent complications in another state — my spouse has flown six times in the last three weeks. You might say, Oh my G(*, how irresponsible!! but interestingly, spouse is doing so because for first emergency flight there were only 4 people on the big plane, and flight back there were 13, it’s a less than 1 hour flight, and everyone is masked the whole time because there’s not even time for a beverage service. So spouse has figured it’s relatively safe, and spouse’s advocacy for sick person has already probably saved them from lasting brain damage, so for spouse the risk & benefit work out. I am full-time WFH so overall cannot be a vector.

  34. anonymous132324*

    LW#1–if your husband feels ethically obligated to report your travel to his employer, the best solution would be for the two of you to live separately for a few months. I know it’s a social norm for married people to live together, but once you get past that, some time alone could be nice, and definitely nicer than giving up your entire income. Don’t ever give up income for a man’s convenience–your savings are forever, your partner may not be.

      1. Quill*

        Also there is… zero way that these precautions won’t have an impact on your finances. Not to mention the significant risk of covid!

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Yup, I certainly don’t have the cash to go live apart from my husband. Nor would I want to do without his love and support. And I’m a feminist.

          1. Quill*

            Look I am unpartnered and currently living alone and regardless of your romantic or family setup the work of living during a pandemic is a LOT, doing it alone with travel and extra expense? Ridiculous. Especially given that there is a risk of contracting a disease that could kill you, cause organ damage, or otherwise negatively impact your quality of life for the rest of your life.

            For a job that most likely will NOT be flexible enough to let you fully recover.

            Worst case scenario for OP is not just “getting covid” it’s “getting covid while at the insurance, employment, and health care whims of a company who thinks they are more important than the health risk to OP and their spouse.”

    1. Temperance*

      Um, while I appreciate the sort of feminist message here about the importance of women maintaining an income, securing alternative housing is expensive AF … and many of us like living with our spouses/partners/etc.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I’ve heard “significant others are fungible and easier to replace than jobs” from employers referring to spouses of both genders.

        1. Paris Geller*

          Also, at least in my experience, untrue. I got my first job at 18, first significant other at 28! I’m not planning on letting him go anytime soon.

      2. Kiki*

        Yeah, this also isn’t “giving up income for a man’s convenience,” this is “my job is making me take unnecessary risks during a pandemic that make it unsafe for my partner to continue working if I do.” Yes, partners aren’t always forever, but neither are jobs. And a job that is willing to risk employee’s wellbeing unnecessarily isn’t one I would want to rearrange my personal life for.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Gods yes, I wouldn’t have the money to go live apart from my husband, nor would I want to. During the incredibly stressful time this pandemic is he’s been a real source of support.

    2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      This is disgusting.

      Presumably LW likes her husband better than her job. I certainly like my husband better than most of the jobs I’ve had. Most of the companies I’ve worked for have been run by Worst Boss of the Year and staffed with Ferguses all the way down. I can easily go out to another crappy company and get another crappy job. I daresay I cannot replace my wonderful husband as easily- as many of my single friends trudging through Bumble and Match and Tinder can readily attest.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Or worse, ‘go live with other family or friends!’ which would increase infection risks even if it doesn’t cost extra money.

        My husband is worth more to me than money. He’s supported me during all this crisis, he loves me, cares for me….no job has ever done that.

      2. Kaya toast*

        You are exaggerating when you say “this is a disgusting” suggestion. I have read plenty of accounts of health care workers for example who are temporarily living apart from their partners.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I think what they meant about the ‘disgusting’ remark wasn’t so much the idea as how it was phrased. Hearing ‘your husband won’t last as long as money/money is more important than a man’ is rather off putting to some of us (and not true to us either!).

    3. Black Horse Dancing*

      I thought this too. One lives apart–perhaps there’s a nearby family member who is willing to have one of them or something. Even renting a cheap sleeping room/casasita, etc.

      1. Observer*

        “cheap sleeping room” is not so cheap when you start adding up the real expenses, even if you can get one that is, by itself not so expensive. And that doesn’t even address the risk factors. Or the relationship / human side of the issue, which is not inconsequential. The idea that people are just employee robots that can just shed their relationships at the drop of a hat is actually something that is scientifically unsound.

    4. OP1*

      I mean, I’m sure I’d survive being apart from my family for months on end, but I wouldnt enjoy it. I quite like them, and spending time with them is the highlight of my day. I specifically chose a job with relatively limited travel because I want to “work to live” not “live to work.”

      It’s also, as others mentioned, quite expensive. I wouldn’t want to live with someone else during quarantine because I don’t want to risk their health.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I know this doesn’t help solve your situation, but I wanted to say you’re coming across as very careful and considerate in your post/updates and I really respect you :)

    5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      This was my thought initially as well, not from any point of view about “relationship advice” which I am quite unqualified to give (in a personal sense as well as a professional one!) but just logically: if OP1’s travel is mandatory and can’t be cancelled/reduced, husband’s company policy is absolute and can’t be waived, OP1/husband can’t quit the jobs and they can’t accept the “2 weeks unpaid per month” then the only resolution to this is that they are not a ‘household’ for the quarantine period.

      Actually I don’t see this as being about gender particularly (“don’t give up your income for a man’s convenience”) as I think the people could be any gender and it would still be the same situation.

      I think it all depends on a bunch of factors like how much do they need both jobs, can one of them quit outright, can one of them find something else easily (with no travel and/or without the 2-week quarantine requirement), how much standing do they have with their respective employers to stand their ground with the implied “or I quit / you fire me.

      I’m sure I will be roasted for this, but your “if your husband feels ethically obligated to report it” occurred to me too. It’s possible that he knows you are away from home (obviously) on business (presumably) but not necessarily that it’s out of state, if you get my drift. I’m not saying it is a good idea, but it is a possibility.

      1. Observer*

        but not necessarily that it’s out of state, if you get my drift. I’m not saying it is a good idea, but it is a possibility.

        That’s at least as unethical. And stupid. If it came out and he were to claim that he didn’t know where she was traveling, it would not help and could make things a LOT worse. Because people dealing with this kind of issue do NOT like folks who act as though others a dumber than a post.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Well, as much as I’m an honest, upfront and direct person most of the time… sometimes a “white lie” is indicated.

          I’ve certainly been on business trips and didn’t give an address where I would be or anything like that. For all intents and purposes I was floating in the ether for the 3 days I was away.

          1. Kiki*

            It’s a pandemic and they’d be obfuscating information that affects public health and safety. This isn’t the same as a white lie to avoid seeing terrible relatives or whatever.

              1. Observer*

                Start looking for a new job. It’s not an instant solution, but their employer has shown that they are terrible bosses and unethical to boot.

          2. Observer*

            You mean that actually went on a 3 day trip and did not tell the significant other and person you live with your general destination?

            If you actually told your boss that as an excuse why you / you SO didn’t know that you had gone to a high risk area, they would call you a liar.

            1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

              .edited to add — I didn’t give a zip code, city or landmark or anything (my actual destination was something like a business estate etc) or an address for my hotel (which was at least 15 miles out from the place we were visiting)

              Isn’t it possible that OPs husbands partner (ie OP) ‘lied’ to them about where they were going?

      2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I think it might be worth asking the husband’s employer what to do about this. If they are that stringent about their isolation rules, they might already have hotel rooms or funds set aside for employees who need to live separately from the rest of their household to comply with the regulations.

    6. Observer*

      This is not about “a man’s convenience”. It’s about the ability to maintain a relationship. And while there is no guarantee that this relationship is forever, there is never a guarantee that a particular job is forever, either. Giving up one’s family / a primary relationship to please an unreasonable employer is a good way to kill yourself, because that never ends. And living together with one’s spouse is not at all just a social convention. Framing it that way is . . . odd

      Also, do you really think setting up a separate housing is NOT going to affect their savings? Especially since this in not going to change in 3-4 months as you imply.

      1. Kiki*

        Yeah, unless OP’s job is going to pay for alternate housing, this suggestion likely wouldn’t even benefit the OP financially. And even if LW has friends with extra space, how many of them will really feel comfortable housing them when they are frequently traveling to high risk areas?
        This advice certainly has its time and place, like, “My boss wants to send me to Paris for a great opportunity and my boyfriend Justin Bobby wants us to spend the summer together on his motorcycle.” But not, “my job is requiring me to make unnecessary travel during a pandemic and it creates health risks for me, my partner, and people at my partner’s job.”

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          unless OP’s job is going to pay for alternate housing, this suggestion likely wouldn’t even benefit the OP financially
          … except that OP needs to maintain the job for their long-term survival, and it may be that they need to take a short-term hit in order to ensure that, or else be fired. It’s a delicate balance.

  35. Krabby*

    LW2, I think your boss probably sucks. That sounds like HR was getting feedback in exit interviews that, “the new boss has no idea what I do day to day,” and HR told him to try job shadowing. Now he’s maliciously complying with their advice.

    I could be wrong, but I’ve seen this happen a lot when a department has one really visible function along a few others that are incredibly important, but behind the scenes.

  36. Quill*

    LW #1

    The idea that they want you to go into a “home office” that you would have to FLY to is absolutely ludicrous, as is the fact that you’re supposed to quarantine two weeks every time you change locations. Meaning that you absolutely should not hop off a plane, get a hotel for the night, and go to the office in the morning! That might be worth bringing up when you tell them that this is impossibly irresponsible.

  37. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW1: I’m wondering if you know if any coworkers have e.g. high risk people at home and what the company stance is on them travelling? Do they make exceptions for anyone at your job/level depending on circumstances?

    I’m really hoping they do :(

  38. cwhf*

    LW1, your partner needs to discuss your specific scenario with HR. Travelling for work is not always the same with the same risk as a vacation (like a trip to Disneyworld) for example. At my employment in this scenario, the employee would be required to do enhanced screening (ie take vitals and symptom screening more frequently than daily and document that) but would not necessarily have to not work. If he’s essential, they don’t want to lose 2 weeks a month of him working either. They may be able to safely work this out. Key would be of course if you had to do the trips to be as safe as possible and minimize exposures (but obviously with the company attitude this may not be possible and then you’ll have to go with Allison’s advice).

    1. Katrinka*

      LW is travel to a high risk area. Even if the spouse’s employer were willing to make exceptions in some cases (and I really hope they’re not), I doubt they would for this one.

  39. OP1*

    I guess I have a follow up question, Alison:
    I’m assuming that if I quit my job over this, I don’t qualify for unemployment? I don’t have kids so wouldn’t qualify for the child care exemptions.

    1. Katrinka*

      I suppose if it comes to it, you could refuse to go and they would have to fire you? AFAIK, you could collect unemployment in that case.

    2. MoopySwarpet*

      I was wondering this as well! Not if you walk, but if you refuse to travel and they fire you. Or is the refusal to travel considered resigning?

  40. Bibliovore*

    I am sure many will pile on this but I JUST cannot stand aside. DO NOT share your diagnosis with your supervisor.
    Holy crap. Your therapist is incompetent.
    Lets unpack this.
    What benefit could a human being get by sharing this information?
    You don’t need that.
    Why? You understand you are suffering from a condition. Keep this on a need-to-know basis.
    Shame? Letting go of shame? This isn’t a thing.
    Now that I ranted.
    What you can do-
    List your esteem-able acts- take time to share your successes with friends and family.
    do not diminish these accomplishments.
    Celebrate each small plank. Finish a report? Write a note to yourself examining the accomplishment with a rubric. Give yourself an A. send it in the mail to yourself.
    Your therapist is there to help you discover the why of the condition and work to change it.
    If they are not doing that- get another therapist.

    1. ...*

      I dont really think imposted syndrome is a ‘diagnosis’. I agree dont bring it up but its hardly some scary medical condition.

        1. fhgwhgads*

          My understanding is “imposter syndrome” is not at all a mental health diagnosis, despite having the word “syndrome” in the name.

  41. Tired of Covid*

    #1: If rapid results (one hour or less) Covid testing was widely available to any employer, and did not require symptoms to obtain, so many of these quarantine issues could be resolved without undue hardship. Proper contact tracing would also allow for efficient and effective management of testing. With almost 200,000 lives lost, a figure I feel is understated, the US has been so screwed by the inexcusable and intentional mismanagement of this public health nightmare. I may never stop mitigating, if I survive. May we all have the strength to endure.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      No. Because a positive COVID test requires that you have a certain amount of COVID in your system to be detected, and it can take many days after exposure for you to hit that threshold. You can have COVID, be contagious with COVID, and not be testing positive yet.

  42. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP1: can you reach a compromise with your employer whereby you only attend some of the meetings (say 1 out of each 3, so that you have to ‘isolate’ for 2 weeks out of 12 instead of 2 out of 4)?
    Can the company pay for a hotel or Air BnB or at least a contribution?

    I’m curious why it hasn’t been discussed with your husband’s employer, and also that that wasn’t mentioned in the official answer. (And could he really, in theory, take 2 weeks unpaid each month and still keep the job? that sounds really accommodating actually!)

    1. Katrinka*

      I think the whole point is that this travel is not essential and, therefore, no one should have to take time off unpaid. I seriously doubt that the husband’s employer will be willing to have him be out of work half the time, paid or unpaid.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        I understand that the travel doesn’t seem to be essential… I deleted (and probably shouldn’t have) a sentence I wrote which was along the lines of “assuming you can’t get out of the travel and that the rules of the husband’s employer can’t be changed”. Whether actually essential or not – I think there’s an assumption that the employer deems it ‘mandatory’ (otherwise it’s a much easier problem!)

      2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        Oh, and yes it does seem unlikely that an employer would accept someone out of work half the time, but OP1 said this…

        So, he will be losing two weeks pay every month

        … which made me think that it is maybe a situation that could be accommodated in his job, since OP1 mentioned it as one of the possible outcomes (rather than e.g. “he’d be fired for that”).

  43. Observer*

    On #3 I’m going to say that this therapist sounds seriously problematic. It’s not just that she’s giving terrible workplace advice, although I do think that therapists have an obligation to get a better understanding of how workplaces work before giving workplace advice.

    The thing is that it’s also bad advice therapeutically. It’s not just not your manager’s job to manage your emotions, it’s no one else’s job. I’m not saying that people should never talk about their mental health issues or their feeling because it’s not anyone else’s job to manage your feelings. There are many good reasons to speak about these things, none of which are that the person you are speaking to manages your feelings. But, it seems that according to your therapist expecting your manager – or ANY person other than yourself – to manage your feelings is actually a reasonable expectation! That’s just wildly off base.

    And of course, the idea that a supposedly credentialed therapist is working on a significant issue based on some internet listicle? I think that that would send me running right there.

  44. Katrinka*

    LW#1, to be honest, given your employers’ attitude, I’d be concerned that they won’t disclose it to anyone if someone at your workplace gets COVID. I wouldn’t trust them at all.

  45. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP3 (impostor syndrome): I agree with other commenters who have said the therapist is off-base although I won’t speculate why that is.

    I don’t think overcoming shame and ‘breaking the silence’ should be the motivation for talking about impostor syndrome, but I do wonder if there’s any legitimate circumstances where one could discuss this with their boss (assuming they are a high performer and haven’t had any concerns raised about mistakes or anything like that) – as this is something I’ve also struggled with myself.

    My boss is quite indirect a lot of the time and I feel like I have to push for “but what are you *really* thinking/feeling” when they say “no it’s fine” or whatever. I did bring up (to boss) some of the sense of impostor syndrome myself, not out of ‘shame’ and so on, and everyone I’ve talked to about this also says I shouldn’t have mentioned this for 2 reasons: because it may cause the boss to question their own assessment, and because it makes you look ‘weaker’ and less confident. I still think there is some place for this type of discussion in certain circumstances, though. This was in a general review, not in a specific “in the moment” situation.

    I’m curious for others’ take on the above, for my situation and perhaps also for OP3’s.

  46. Ana Maus*

    I had a bad experience talking about psychological issue with a boss many years ago. I told him that I was adjusting to a new medication and his response was, “I can’t manage that,” and held it against me later on.

    1. Quill*

      Yeah, was treated shittily by a former boss due to my anxiety disorder before. (Long story but he badgered me into a panic attack and then held it against me. Did similar to a coworker with OCD.)

      I’d err on the side of never disclosing anything to an employer that you don’t absolutely have to.

  47. TootsNYC*

    3. My therapist wants me to talk to my boss about imposter syndrome

    Much more useful would be the therapist brainstorming with you on how to ask questions to elicit specific and detailed feedback that would feel more credible when you review it later during CBT exercises to fight the brain weasels that are attacking you. (praise like "perfect" is very unhelpful, even to those of us not fighting off imposter syndrome or anxiety)

    Or to help you parse out what truly does make a good employee, and to pick through your reactions vs. reality.

  48. mgguy*

    Re: #3

    My current job is PERMITTED to be done remotely and to be honest I can do it just as well either place(maybe a lot of it a bit better at home), but for a variety of reasons I’m usually in the office 2-3 days per week.

    We have to be “cleared” to come in every day with a health self-assesment. It’s pretty straight forward-asks you to take your temperature, asks about a bunch of symptoms associated with COVID, and then the last question on it is “Have you been in contact with anyone known to have tested positive for COVID in the last 14 days.” Of course any of those things are an automatic “Don’t come.”

    That form goes to health services(it’s a college campus) and is confidential, but it would be relatively easy to track if I’ve been on campus when I was not cleared to do so. If I don’t get a positive “yes” I’m not chancing it.

    I’ll also mention that as I sit here, there are probably 3 or 4 other people in my 6 floor building, although that can fluctuate day to day. I mostly sit in my(private) office, but still use the restroom and walk out to get a breath of fresh air regularly. We’re required to wear a mask any time we’re not alone in a private office(and everyone does) but still, I wouldn’t chance it if I had known exposure.

  49. These employers' are not showing their best face*

    Can LW#1 say, “I’m not able to shoulder any of the costs of business travel. The travel you’ve outlined will cost my husband two weeks wages after every trip or cost me lodging expenses to quarantine for two weeks after every trip. These are not typical personal expenses and I am not able to subsidize company travel in this way. Would you prefer to cover one of these two options, or to find an alternative to site visits?”?

  50. LT*

    LW#4, I think you need to have a conversation with your work so you know exactly what’s what for just-in-case. “Boss, if someone in my household tests positive, can I work from home for 2 weeks?” Etc. A completely reasonable thing to ask about & get clear on *before* you need it!

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