my boss is upset I won’t drive long distances, getting reimbursed for pole dancing classes, and more

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

1. My boss is frustrated that I won’t drive long distances by myself

My job involves some emergency response (not all the time). One of the main sites where we get called to respond is a 5-6 hour drive from the office. The problem: I’m not comfortable driving more than 2-ish hours by myself. Last time the response was needed, I was the only one available, so I ended up taking my dad with me to help drive (I ditched him at the hotel, don’t worry!). This time, my supervisor (who just got back from a very long response) asked me to go. When I told her I couldn’t drive that far by myself, she decided to go instead. However, because she just got back from a long response, she was frustrated that I couldn’t go. Am I about to be fired?

Some context: I am new to this job (less than one year) and have never been to this specific type of response. It seems much more involved than I would be able to handle by myself (being so new), but I have technically had training in this area.

I can’t say for sure what your boss might intend, but I doubt you’re about to be fired. It’s very likely, though, that she’s concerned that you don’t want to or won’t do what might be an important part of the job.

When you accepted the job, was it made clear to you that driving some distance for these emergency responses would be part of the role? If so … well, your boss would be right to be frustrated! But even if not, it sounds like you need to sit down with her and figure out how you both should proceed. Is she willing to keep you in the role knowing that you won’t drive more than two hours on your own? Are you willing to try to find ways to do those longer drives? (Is your discomfort just lack of experience or is it something else? If it’s just lack of experience, are you open to pushing yourself to get more used to it?) How often does the need come up, and how will affect your standing if you just can’t do it? Those are all questions you both need to talk through, so you can each figure out if it’s something that can be worked around or not.

What you shouldn’t do is just leave it undiscussed and hope it doesn’t come up again — because it’s probably going to come up again, and it’s better to talk openly about it before it does.

2. My boss keeps a sad photo at the desk we share

I work part-time in a public service, county job where we rotate shifts on the desk that directly interfaces with the public. I have a coworker, Mary, who was recently promoted to the head of our department — thus, supervising me. She is a mother of three who also has narcissistic tendencies and a turbulent marriage she tells me about constantly. I have gotten pretty good at dealing with her in the years I’ve worked here, except for one thing.

Mary had a one-year-old niece who was hit by a drunk driver and killed a few years ago. Of course this is heartbreaking, and I’m sympathetic to that. The one picture she keeps where she normally sits is of her niece, and in full public view. People often ask if its one of her kids, and she always goes into the story for them, always including that her family started an organization around her death focused on acts of kindness which makes bumper stickers with their group’s hashtag.

I usually worked at the other desk, but we recently hired another full-time person who sits there now. Mary has moved into an office, except for the hours she is scheduled for the department’s main desk, so now I am mostly at her old spot. Mary moved all of her personal belongings to her new office… except the picture of her late niece. As such, I’m now the one getting asked the questions about the picture. I usually just answer “oh, that’s my coworker’s picture,” but I really would like not to have to talk about it anymore. I feel like leaving the picture out is deliberate on her part so she can tell people this extremely sad story whenever possible for attention. (We even had a cultural, educational event a few years ago about a holiday in which people honor their family who have died; she made the photo the centerpiece of the display and included an info sheet about the organization, even though the holiday is not a part of her culture.) I also don’t want people who come into our department to be blindsided with this story of infant death, and frankly, I don’t want to think about it so often. Her inclusion of the organization also rubs me the wrong way, and I feel like people are pressured to say that they want to be involved or order a bumper sticker.

Our head supervisor is new to the organization and has worked here less than a month, so I don’t want to bring it up with her and look like a scold who doesn’t want anyone to be able to keep personal photos in their area. Should I address it with her or try to talk directly to Mary? How do I keep it professional without letting all my resentment about this situation show?

Could you simply move the picture to Mary’s new desk without that being weird? In part this depends on how many hours you’re at the desk vs. how many hours she is. If you’re there 10 hours a week and she’s there 30 hours a week, it’s normal for her to keep personal objects there. But if she’s mostly at her new desk, it shouldn’t be that odd to simply move the photo there and, if asked about it, to say, “I figured you’d want it at your new spot.”

But if that feels weird or if she tells you she prefers to keep the photo where it is … that’s about all you can do. Sharing a desk means some of her stuff will be there. You can’t really say, “I don’t like seeing a photo of your niece.” You might be right that people feel blindsided by her story — and it’s definitely inappropriate if she’s pressuring them to order bumper stickers — but ultimately, she’s your boss, you’re there part-time, and you’re better off letting it go. Saying “oh, that’s my coworker’s photo” when people ask you about it isn’t that onerous (especially compared to the capital you’d need to expend otherwise, and the risk of looking insensitive in the process).

That doesn’t mean what Mary is doing isn’t strange; her approach with people does sound off. But sometimes odd things at work aren’t ones that are fixable by you, especially when it’s your boss.

3. Getting reimbursed for pole dancing classes

I was wondering what your take is on something that happened at my previous job. My old job offered fitness reimbursement. Towards the end of the year, there was a deadline by which you had to electronically submit receipts for anything you wanted reimbursed. I was taking dance classes during the year, so I asked HR if that would count. She said yes and encouraged me to submit for reimbursement. I submitted but I was never reimbursed and my form was never approved or denied. I handed in my resignation not too long after (honestly, I forgot to follow up with HR before handing in my resignation — oh well).

Here’s the thing. The receipts I submitted were for pole dancing classes. This may sound ridiculous, but it never occurred to me that the reputation of pole dancing would make it an inappropriate submission. For me, pole dancing is a sport like any other, and not necessarily more sensual than some other forms of dance. But now that it has occurred to me, I’m curious. I wanted to ask if you think that caused HR to avoid my form.

Nah, typically if an employer won’t reimburse something you’ve submitted, they’ll just tell you that. HR deals with all kinds of weirdness so it’s less likely that they were too shocked or uncomfortable to say anything to you and more likely that it just slipped through the cracks, especially since you left soon afterwards.

For what it’s worth, lots of fitness centers offer pole dancing now so it’s gone somewhat mainstream … meaning that most people would probably understand your participation didn’t indicate anything especially racy. And if someone did question the reimbursement request, you could easily explain it was just a fitness offering at your gym (ideally while looking baffled that they’d assume otherwise).

4. Offer was rescinded and is now back on the table — can I ask for more money?

Back in March I accepted a job offer I was really excited about for a position I’ve wanted for a few years. Unfortunately they had to put my offer on hold and eventually rescind it due to Covid. Luckily my previous employer allowed me to stay on, and I still work for them now.

Recently the person who would’ve been my supervisor at the new job reached out to ask if I was still interested and to say that he was working on getting my offer back. The problem is, in that time I’ve been promoted and now accepting the new job would be a lateral move.

I’m not opposed to that per se because I have little connection to my current workplace and am very interested in the new position, but it would essentially be a salary cut due to the commute and other benefits I currently have. I’m also nervous about leaving my current job because of how kind they were in allowing me to stay despite my notice almost being up and the fact that they promoted me during a pandemic.

Would it be appropriate for me to ask for a higher salary than was originally offered to me or is that unacceptable because I previously agreed to the lower salary? It’s also an industry that has been hit hard by Covid.

You’re not locked into a salary that you agreed to 10 months ago for a job that never came to fruition! It’s perfectly fine to explain that since they made the original offer you’ve been promoted and are now earning more than you were back in March. You could say, “I’m still really interested in the role and would love to talk again! I want to let you know that after the first offer was rescinded, I was promoted at my current job, and the original offer would be a salary cut when I factor in benefits and commuting. Ideally I’d be hoping for an offer of $X if I were to leave. Is that something that would work on your side?”

5. My boss won’t let me take more than two weeks off at once

I’ve worked for my company for five years and have earned three weeks of vacation time a year. I want to travel abroad with my family next year, and my manager refused to give me more than two weeks vacation time at once. I am not spending all that money to for two weeks vacation time. Is that legal?

Yes, it’s legal. In the U.S., it’s not uncommon for companies to only allow people to take vacation in two-week chunks, largely because it can be hard to have a role go uncovered for longer (even with temporary coverage, since the person filling in generally won’t know the work like you do). That said, many companies will make exceptions for unusual circumstances (like traveling to see a family many time zones away). So it’s not unreasonable to ask, but your company is allowed to say no. You might have better luck if you offer to go at a time that’s particularly slow for your job, or if you offer something else appealing (for example, working a holiday that your office has trouble finding coverage for). But it also might just be a no.

{ 458 comments… read them below }

  1. Kisses*

    I’m wondering if maybe the picture of the infant might be triggering as well, especially since the coworker tends to go into the whole story when asked. While I would absolutely sympathize, if I had lost a young child myself, I might have a very hard time seeing it right up front everyday.
    But I certainly hate that it happened. It must be very painful.

      1. Cj*

        It is a situation like that, in my opinion, since the co-worker goes into detail to the public, who may have lost a child.

    1. MsRoboto*

      I say put it in a drawer.
      I wouldn’t say a thing about it.
      I would leave it there and let the boss “find” it.
      This is a shared space and there is no reason for this picture to be prominent when the boss is not manning the desk.

      1. BuildMeUp*

        I feel like putting a picture of the boss’s late niece into a drawer without talking to her about it could come off really badly.

      2. JSPA*

        It’d be less pass-ag to bring in one’s own meaningful or inspirational photo or item that’s large enough to shield boss’s photo from view. When you’re at the desk, put yours in front. When you leave, shift Boss’s to the front. That way, you get asked about your (spouse, parent, pet, favorite quote, view of half dome, needlepoint sampler, whatever) and not about someone else’s thing.

        If boss wants to make “fundraising for my foundation while at work and talking about my dead baby” part of the job description, boss can put that in an email, and HR can get involved.

        If boss wants a de-facto shrine, boss can put up a little display on a side table, somewhere other than a shared desk.

        Customizing your desk for you, while you sit there, to the tune of one framed item is pretty normal. It should not raise eyebrows. Putting yours in the drawer and setting boss’s back in place when you leave (rather than leaving it Boss’s in the drawer) is a sensible choice as an employee, because the boss is the boss, and you’re not.

        1. JSPA*

          Or at minimum, nestle it in a really pretty box with a soft lining, so that the picture really is safer in the box in the drawer, than it is on the desk (and clearly looks cared for, not, y’know, thrown in a drawer).

        2. Sparrow*

          Since OP is only there part time, I think this is probably the best option. If this was now OP’s desk 35 hours a week and someone else used it 5 hours a week, that would be different. In that case, I’d quietly move the photo to her new office or put it in a drawer, and if asked, say that I assumed she’s forgotten to take it with her. Personally, I wouldn’t have a problem saying I wasn’t comfortable with someone else’s personal belongings/mementos in my work space since it made me feel responsible for their items and it prevented me from customizing the space to my needs, but I think that’s only something you can say if it’s truly *your* work space.

          1. Amaranth*

            I think it would also be appropriate to just say that people ask OP about it and she’s not comfortable telling the sad story. Maybe the other employee could put it on the side table in her office along with the brochures for the charity…which is really improper to promote at work IMO, but that seems a separate issue.

      3. Tara*

        I would say the drawer is fine, not leaving it there for the coworker to find though. Just simply putting the photo away when the LW is at the desk, and returning it to its usual place when they’re not there. Saves LW dealing with any questions about the photo, and would be hard for the coworker to disagree with, especially if it’s disruptive to LW’s work to answer questions on the photo.

      4. Amused Cat*

        If the desk is designated shared space, where you are not allowed to return the picture to Mary for her designated desk, then whatever the general rules for personal items on desk are, should apply. You should bring in other pictures , or interesting desk tchotkes and either put Mary’s picture in the desk drawer (but you must remember to put it back on desk at end of day) or put your brighter/larger items forefront (not blocking the other photo, but just upstaging). Your stance should be that of course, Mary would want to keep something so personal and important on her designated desk, and that it does not feel right for you to discuss her photo in her absence with customers.

    2. ACM*

      My first reaction was that she should’ve been gently asked to stop telling that story to guests looong ago, as *they* could find that extremely painful. Imagine if someone had only recently lost their child and came in and got the story? I just had a baby a few months ago and already have started having a really unpleasant gut reaction that verges on physical to TV plotlines involving harm coming to babies and small children, so while I’m not a huge fan of the word “triggering”, this seems like it really could be. It sounds though like she has fewer opportunities now, so moving the photo into her new office should take care of it (and if not, then you raise the issue).

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I had the same reaction when my son was a baby. For as long as I was breastfeeding, I couldn’t even watch the news if there was a story about a child being hurt or killed. Now that he’s 11 years old, the reaction has abated somewhat, but I still avoid movies and TV shows that involve kids getting hurt. I have a morbid fascination for true crime stories, but I’ll skip the ones where the victims are children. I love to read crime fiction, but I avoid stories involving kids.

        Just being a parent was enough to cause this reaction, it wasn’t triggering in the sense of being a reminder of past trauma.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I think it’s not an uncommon reaction with parents. I’m in graduate school and my dad still avoids stories where the kid dies or gets injured. I assume that the boss is playing on/banking on that visceral reaction for attention/money/whatever, but I’m a known cynic.

      2. MK*

        I don’t have any particular emotional reaction to such stories (apart from, well, being human and generally upset by harm coming to the young of the species), but this is still a very uncomfortable experience to met out to random strangers that came in to return library books or drop off clothes donations or whatever.

        1. WellRed*

          Thank you! Not everything has to be triggering to be uncomfortable. Honestly, when people comment on a photo or ask How are you? It’s typically a polite social norm. Don’t trap me into a long, one sided conversation, sad or otherwise. Especially when I’m there on business.

          1. EPLawyer*

            This. People are asking just to make small talk. They don’t want someone’s whole story.

            The Big Boss needs to be made aware that boss is telling long winded personal stories to people who come in seeking services. It could have a real impact on how people perceive this agency and even whether they utilize the services. that’s BEFORE getting into the pitch about her personal organization and the bumper stickers. Let her fundraise for her org on her own time.

          2. Jennifer*

            This exactly. It doesn’t have to trigger someone to be inappropriate. This is similar to asking a complete stranger how they are doing, just out of politeness, and they go into a long 20-minute story about everything that’s going on in their life. She’s just being rude. Period. We can think she’s rude while still having compassion for the family and thinking the story is terribly sad.

          3. anon for this*

            I work at an arena where high schools will hold their graduations. We had a part time worker who was there to hand out gradation programs and help people get to their seats, etc. Folks would go up to this employee and comment how excited they were to see their child graduate. She would then launch in to a story about how she wished she could have seen her daughter graduate but she couldn’t because her daughter had been violently raped and her school mates made it difficult for her to be at school with all their questions, comments, and opinions about the rape so the daughter dropped out of school. She would spend about five or ten minutes on this story multiple times a day with the graduation guests who just happened to make a tangental comment about the ceremony. Guests would have these stunned expressions on their faces while listening and trying to get away. No one thought to bring it up to management because it was thought that management knew about it. They did not. Finally a guest called in about it. That worker was not seen again. Please let management know, if it affects a guest experience in a negative way, it’s important.

        2. Mel_05*

          I wouldn’t be particularly triggered by this story either, but yeah, I still wouldn’t want to be cornered with it when I’m just running a normal errand.

      3. EvilQueenRegina*

        This. If she’s showing it and telling the story to people she doesn’t know, she won’t have the context to know if it’s going to be particularly triggering to them, and even if someone doesn’t find it extremely painful per se, they might still feel uncomfortable having that kind of conversation with someone they don’t know.

      4. Shenandoah*

        I agree. When I was newly postpartum and coursing with hormones, I would weep thinking about children who died hundreds of years ago. I can imagine hearing this story may have provoked some unwanted public tears for me.

        1. micklethwaite*

          Yes, god, I would have been an absolute wreck hearing about this when my kids were tiny. Which definitely isn’t a reason for people to pretend their own tragedies haven’t happened – obviously my reaction doesn’t trump their grief – but it’s one of many reasons not to haul the whole detailed story out like small talk at every opportunity. It’s taking the conversation to a place many, many people won’t be able to handle professionally and with comfort.

      5. RagingADHD*

        I don’t see any point in informing her this could upset people or make them uncomfortable.

        She knows it upsets people and makes them uncomfortable. That’s exactly why she does it.

        1. JSPA*

          She may only have thought it through as far as, “they’re uncomfortable because they’re sympathetic and have become aware.” If she’s self-involved, that can round down to, “I’m doing them a favor by awakening them to the sad reality of life, which I uniquely appreciate…and another favor by helping them donate to spread the awareness.”

          Boss would not be the first person to confuse “creating awkward discomfort due to violation of social norms” and “helping people become more ‘woke’ about the reality of the lives of others.” (They certainly can overlap, but they’re not the same thing.)

      6. Girl Alex PR*

        My son died eight years ago- long before I took my current job. I can’t imagine wanting to relive the pain of explaining the circumstances surrounding his life and death to people repeatedly. I love him and am still grieving, but I do not keep photos of him on my desk. I find it very odd that this woman does- even knowing from experience how people grieve differently.

        That said… It would be very triggering to me to hear of another child’s death repeatedly. It’s hard enough to navigate normal social interactions with the loss- “how many kids do you have?” questions etc. are minefields- particularly immediately after the loss.

      7. Friendly Ghost*

        When I started my job there was a coworker who had pictures of her daughter in her cubicle, in various outfits (dance costume, graduation photo) as well as a inspirational poem (lettersize) pinned on the wall about the love of a daughter. In my limited life experience, it did not occur to me that this was a shrine. I just thought she had a close relationship with her daughter. I commented on the pictures (your daughter looks like a professional ballerina, you must be proud of her talent). She was not particularly friendly to me afterwards. It was months later that I found out from a coworker that the daughter had died the previous year of leukemia.

    3. Argye*

      I get the feeling that leaving the photo there and telling everyone the story is the point. The coworker may consider it “outreach” or “raising awareness,” particularly since they started a related foundation. If that is true, I think it will be nearly impossible to get her to remove the photo.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I agree. Which just adds a layer of inappropriate ickiness. “Cute baby/Thanks, she’s my niece who died horribly” is bad enough, but “and you should donate” puts it over the top.

        1. AKchic*

          That’s what makes it shady for me. I don’t think she’s doing it altruistically at all. I think it’s a shock effect tactic meant to shake them and get them emotionally unbalanced so she can guilt them into giving money.

          She doesn’t keep pictures of her children out there. Just that niece. The niece that can tug at the heart and wallet. She is an emotional and financial vampire. She’s like Evie Russell, only with the very specific financial aspect (hey What We Do In The Shadows fans) being her niece’s charity instead of her cat(s).

          1. OhBehave*

            She’s looking for attention. The end goal to get sympathy and donations (look at the good works I’m doing!). Bringing it all back to HER.

          2. Quill*

            It reminds me (perhaps unfairly?) of all the high school assembly / PSA’s that would get sprung on us from time to time, always starting with “five years ago I lost my wonderful child to [suicide, drugs, drunk driving, pick another issue] and primarily made everyone wish they were back in math class and also guilty that they wished it.

            I get the impulse to try and make someone’s death – especially a child’s – mean something, but I wonder if people who end up monetizing grieving at other people aren’t setting themselves up for never healing.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              I don’t think you’re being unfair. Most of the suicide PSA-ers I encountered in school were more concerned with the attention too. Regarding the ones I dealt with, I don’t know if they truly were grieving or that there was any emotional injury to heal. I always came away with the impression that they considered their dead child as a convenient way to get attention, which is the same impression I get here.

            2. AKchic*

              I think when the person is soliciting money, or the person who started it has very tenuous ties to the deceased… yeah, be extremely wary. When it’s a parent who splashes their child’s name and image all over it – they are grieving and are channeling that grief (whether appropriately or not) into something productive.

              Do I think the high school level PSA assemblies work? No. Not a single one of us actually went out to a party after one of those things and took a step back thinking “oh, waiminute, what about whashisface from the assembly that got me out of math class that died? Should I really be drinking right now? Or should I be a designated driver?” Not one bit. It takes a longer effort than that.

  2. Chilipepper*

    OP # 1, I cannot tell if the issue is the distance (you don’t ever want to drive that far alone), if you are just not used to the distance (and might get used to it), or if it is inexperience with the work task? Can you tell us more?

    1. Pennyworth*

      Stopping for a break after 2 hours driving is often recommended to ward off fatigue, I wonder if that would work for OP#1? Having a walk around, with a snack and a drink can work wonders. I never let myself eat in the car when I am on a long distance trip, so I can look forward to the treating myself during each break.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, but with Covid and all, it’s probably more prudent to eat in the car and wear a mask when you visit the bathroom and buy snacks. Or just bring everything you plan to eat on the way from home and just take the occasional bathroom break to stretch your legs. I for sure couldn’t sit for 6 hours in the car without taking at least one break on the way.

        For the record, I hate driving in unfamiliar areas. I’m hopeless at navigating without a satnav and not much better with one, and if the map is out of date or I need to take a detour because of roadworks on the way, I get very anxious. So I really feel for the LW in this. I was 35 when I finally got my driving license, I’ve lived in cities with good public transit all my life and never needed it before, but when I met my husband, the plan was to eventually move to the suburbs for a lower COL where I’d need a driving license, if only because taking the bus took more than an hour while driving my kid to daycare and continuing by train cut the commute in half. I’ve mostly driven in the ‘burbs, short distances to drop my kid off or pick him up, I tend to avoid driving downtown and long distances on the highway. Two hours is fine, I’ve never driven six hours alone.

        I would never accept a job where a part of it would involve driving long distances in unfamiliar areas alone, and I’d be very peeved if I did accept a job and my new employer neglected to tell me this was one of the requirements of the job.

        1. Jackalope*

          You raise a good point. I remember my first experience navigating an unfamiliar city alone by GPS. It’s significantly harder than with another human navigating for you. The other human can look for street signs to make sure you turn at the right place, tell you when you’re getting close with better precision than the GPS, and other such useful things. I was trying to find a gas station and the GPS and I had different opinions on what that meant. I was trying to find a place where I could buy gas, and it kept sending me to places like a 7-11 with no gas pumps. Someone else to keep an eye out for that would have been SO helpful.

          That being said, the OP didn’t mention this as an issue so it may be irrelevant, but a navigator is certainly helpful.

          1. Vimes*

            I vividly remember the terror of my first ever “driving for work” experience. I grew up in nyc, where nobody has a car, though I did get my license because high school offered driver’s ed. Then I moved to Boston, and about six weeks in my grandboss loaned me his PERSONAL SUV and sent me to Lowell to interview a program. Lowell is not close to Boston. Also this was in 2002 before GPS existed. I got there, but screwed up the Mass Pike going back and my grandboss got his car back about 3 hours later than he should have. Holy mother of pearl that sucked.

            But then four years later in upstate NY, where everyone, including me, drove, I had weeks where I drove 1000 miles for work because if two kids had court 3-4 hours away and I had a home assessment 3 hrs away, hey, that’s life. (There was a pool of agency vehicles and no issue with reimbursement ever). Which shows that driving for work is definitely something a person has to get used to, and also that the invention of google maps/satnav was a wonderful wonderful thing. By the time I left that job I could get to most counties by myself—-buuuuut only to family court and psychiatric hospitals.

              1. Corporate Lawyer*

                YUP! It took me several years of living in the Greater Boston Area before I finally worked up the nerve to drive in the city.

                1. Jules the 3rd*


                  I have now driven in multiple US cities (Boston, NYC, DC, Charlotte, Atlanta, St Louis, Seattle, Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Nashville, Chicago) and a few European ones (London, Edinborough, Amsterdam, Florence, Paris, Pao, San Sebastian) and the worst one to drive in was Boston.

                  Boston was *much* worse than any of the US cities. The only European city that came close was Florence, and that was just because the volume of drivers was very high. Florence drivers were much less aggressive. Florence drivers pull into holes in traffic that are about .9 car lengths; Boston drivers just pull into the lane whether or not there are other cars there.

            1. New Englander.*

              >Lowell is not close to Boston

              Lowell is 40 minutes from Boston. It is on 495. It is a suburb.

              1. Vimes*

                If you commute from Lowell to Boston, I salute you but also vigorously question that 40 minute thing in actual traffic, because I lived in Somerville and worked in Brighton, which are reallyclose on the map but in real life it was—-eh, 25 minutes?

                Sidebar: still miss Taiwan Cafe, which if it still exists has amazing mapo tofu, Punjabi Dhaba, and Toscanini’s.

                1. Alison*

                  My cousins commute from southern New Hampshire to Cambridge a few days a week. Lots of people drive very long commutes, especially into cities from suburbs. I used to drive from Bridgeport to White Plains for a job. Without traffic it was maybe 40 minutes, but there is never no traffic on the Merrit so it was always 1.5 hours each way.

              2. Risha*

                I mean, 40 minutes what time of day? I’ve never been to Lowell but I live in North Providence, which means the occasional trip into Boston for things, and which is 50 miles instead of 30. It can easily take me 2 to 3 hours via 95 if I time it wrong on a weekday.

              3. Aitch Arr*

                Boston to Lowell is 30 miles.
                93 -> 495 can be a b*tch and a half. It can take over an hour depending on time of day.

              4. Indy Dem*

                I commute MetroWest to Cambridge – ~ 25 miles. It’s 1 hour 15 min – 1 hour 30, without accidents. One way.

                1. Aitch Arr*

                  I feel you. I had to do MetroWest to Charlestown a couple of times a month at my old job. It was soul-sucking.

            2. cheddaronrye*

              On the way to a swim meet in 1992ish (so no GPS), my mom and I got lost going to a swim meet in Lowell. I think we accidentally got on the Lowell Connector going the wrong way like 3 times, drove around forever before find the pool, and were definitely really late which is bad because I swam the first event. We laugh about it now, but 28 years later my mother still shudders if you say “Lowell Connector.”

              1. Aitch Arr*

                My ex-husband claims that the Lowell Connector is a quantum tunnel to another dimension. He may not be wrong.

          2. Jeepster*

            My first driving for work was pretty bad. After driving a one ton manuel transmission work truck loaded with heavy machinery through the busy downtown part of the city while navigating one way streets,dealing with horrible directions, and turning down the offers for a lunch “date” from the working girls, my nerves were shot.
            To O.P. 1, I think it would help to know what about the drive time gets to you.Is it the distance? Sitting in a car watching mile after mind numbing mile tick by?

        2. Elenna*

          Yeah, I would never want to commit to driving 5-6 hours at once, just because I’m not that comfortable with driving. That being said, I think my response to this question depends on whether LW knew that driving long distances was going to be part of the job when they took it. If they didn’t know, there might be some leverage to push back. If they did know… then yeah, I expect the boss is pretty annoyed.

          1. Smithy*

            I think the point of whether or not being requested to drive 5-6 hours at once was part of the job is critical. However, I do think it’s fair to flag that driving solo 5-6 hours specifically is not the same as a job description of “needs own car for some long distance driving” – or something more vague like that.

            I’m fine driving 2-3 hours solo, but if I was looking at a job I really wanted that required some 5-6 hour drives – that would be a stretch skill I’d need to develop. I think there are often job tasks that when we get comfortable in our sectors and job – things just sound normal. For one place – driving your own car solo for 5-6 hours is normal in the same way that coworkers sharing hotel rooms for conferences is.

            If the OP saw that requirement and made an assumption that those trips would not be solo – then that’s still worth flagging as something worth clarifying. Or if the text about “long solo trips” was simply vague, then it’s fair to flag they had read that to mean travel of no more than 2-3 hours. It may be that you learn more about your sector, or it may help the OP’s boss in hiring to be more clear.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              If I were interviewing for a job whose description included mention of long distance driving, I would seek clarification. The occasional six hour trip to me falls about in the middle of what that might mean. Also to be clarified would be if this included overnight lodging at employer expense plus a per diem, and when I would be expected back at the office.

              1. Quill*

                It might just be me but in my previous jobs that I had to do any driving for “long distance” could mean going into the city (2 hour trip due solely to traffic) or out into the middle of nowhere that was much further away but was statistically, a much easier drive, for two hours.

                If your commute is typically under 45 minutes I would expect any trip for work that is “long distance” to be less than 4 hours drive! If you’re going to travel for the majority of a work day there are a variety of questions I’d want answered about how that time is going to be paid, insurance, etc.

          2. Librarian1*

            Right. The key issue here is whether or not OP knew about the long drive when they took the job. If they did, they don’t really have any leverage to push back and will probably need to get used to it. If they didn’t, I think it’s fair to push back more or request a longer period of time to work up to the long drive.

        3. MK*

          But if the problem is the unfamiliarity, the solution is to become familiar with the route, not try to get out of going there altogether. It doesn’t sound as if the OP is asked to go to new locations all the time, it seems as if there are specific locations that they are required to go to for their work. Even if it wasn’t spelled out during hiring (which it should have been, of course, but sometimes things slip up, people assume the candidate knows, they don’t realise not everyone is comfortable with long drives etc), it sounds like it’s part of the job. If the OP has a medical issue or there are safety concerns, that’s one thing. But if it’s merely a matter of comfort, well, they should work on getting comfortable, or at least try to.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            We do tend to avoid the unfamiliar, don’t we? But life in/out of work isn’t always predictable and we sometimes need to handle things as they come up, familiar or not. I agree that the OP should have been told about travel if it was a regular part of the job, but OP should also be prepared for, ‘this wasn’t part of the role, but it is now.’ Some employers put ‘duties as assigned’ in job descriptions for this reason. If the business needs change, so can job functions.

            Also, none of the scenarios or issues the OP or commenters have brought up sound unusual or unreasonable to me – day trips are pretty typical in some fields or functions. I’ve left home before dawn to arrive at a remote office around 9 am, and plunged into my day; I’ve also arrived the night before, stayed at a hotel, did my thing the next day, and drove home that afternoon. I didn’t always enjoy those trips but they weren’t an insulting request or unreasonable demand. I needed to be on-site for a specific purpose, and driving a few hours downstate was how I got it done.

            If OP’s employer is balking at paying expenses that would make OP’s trip easier to manage – say, overnight hotel stay – that’s a whole other issue. Heck, a previous employer insisted on rental cars for day trips; the car was a current model year, roadside assistance was covered by the company credit card, and the rentals were presumably safer than some of the jalopies in our employee parking lot.

          2. pleaset cheap rolls*

            This. Get familiar with the route, plan for breaks etc. A six-hour drive differs from a two-hour drive in that it’s longer (duh) and breaks may be needed. So plan that and do it.

            “If OP’s employer is balking at paying expenses that would make OP’s trip easier to manage – say, overnight hotel stay – that’s a whole other issue.”


          3. Traveler*

            I make 18- to 22-hour drives (midwest to coast) by myself at least annually for the past decade. For years I was intimidated and flew only every few years (expensive) to see family. The first time I drove I was amazed at how simple it was and wished I had done so years earlier. Familiarity with the route, cell phone, a credit card, and a reliable vehicle are key, IMO. Different towns are not any more dangerous than the one you live in and major highways tend to have a pretty good state police presence.
            It sounds as if this emergency call is to a fixed site, I suggest mapping the route ahead of time and picking your gas/rest stops. Fill up with gas when you have a quarter tank or more, find a rest stop/gas station/restaurant you are comfortable at for a mid-trip break and quick walk around the parking lot. Get a roadside assistance plan like AAA just in case the car breaks down. Maybe even take a “Sunday drive” (folks used to drive without a destination in mind as entertainment back when gas was cheap) to the first or second gas station and become familiar with the area.
            If you have a medical excuse bring it up with your company, but if it is unfamiliarity stretch your comfort zone. If this short, unathletic, middle-aged woman can do it you can too.

            1. Self Employed*

              AAA is an excellent idea. I don’t know if Premier Plus is available nationwide, but I have had it in California since the mid-2000s because you can get a tow up to 200 miles and my 5-7 hour drive from Rural College to Big Metro Area was 350 miles. So anywhere along the route, I could get a free tow either to my mechanic in Rural College Town or the mechanic my host in Big Metro Area liked.

              Luckily, I only needed it for locking myself out of my car (yes, you could do that in a 98 Nissan Sentra).

              But my advisor wished he had it when he trashed his front axles hitting a tree branch that fell in front of his car almost exactly halfway to a conference in Big Metro Area. He could only get a tow to the closest dodgy gas station garage, and had to get one of the other professors to rescue him and the students he was driving, so they all missed a good chunk of the conference. (After Rural College paid for it, they asked if he could please drive vehicle pool cars instead of his private vehicle.)

        4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Just have your walk or lunch where there aren’t any people close by. You get Covid from spending several minutes in fairly close vicinity. I’m pretty sure I have never in my life spent enough time close to a stranger at rest stop to contract any disease. It would be weird.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            Yes, this. I routinely drive 12 hours one-way to see family, rarely splitting the trip. I realize I am in a minority of people who like long drives but even pre-covid I either packed lunch and stopped at drive-thrus.

            Not all non-highways (or even some highways) have rest areas, and getting to know the routes helps…but even when I take the rural route through Alabama and Mississippi (where I have to strategically plan gas stops) there is usually a truck stop every couple of hours with enough room to do a few laps and not come in contact with others.

            1. Quinalla*

              Yes, for me 5-6 hours is fine, long but not a big deal but I agree I’m in the minority on that one. My childhood we regularly drove that long and longer, sometimes just for a weekend trip cause we were weird :) and once I could drive I started helping with the driving and worked my way up to longer and longer drives. And yeah, it is so much better now with fairly accurate GPS to guide you, but not perfect in tough areas – Boston ugh!

              My husband could not fathom driving more than 2-3 hours when I met him as that is the longest trip he had ever done. Now (well not right now with COVID, but you know) we regularly drive 5 hours to see our families as we live that far from some of them and while it is still long for him, he can do it no problem. (To be clear, we will usually make one stop, though honestly when I driv eit by myself, I don’t stop as again, prefer to just drive it and get it done with.) And I drive 3+ hours for work trips quite frequently, and for me that’s driving 3 hours, doing work mostly involving walking around, measuring, writing things down and taking photos for 2-4 hours and then hopping in my car and driving back same day. I always have the option to stay the night if it makes sense, but personally prefer a long day trip so I can get home to my bed and kids and husband. My last job I traveled by car and plane about 2x a week, so this job where I only travel about 2x a month on average is lovely. But again, if you aren’t used to it, it takes time to work up to it if you want to do that.

              Anyway, to the OP, not sure what exactly the issue is, but you can work up to driving longer distances and if this is something your boss wants you to be able to do, a plan to work up to that would be a good idea. I hope it goes well for you and I agree better to address it up front. Travel is negotiable. I made sure it was 100% clear I did not want to do any flying travel, but I was fine going anywhere in my state or just outside the state (hence my typical 3 hours max). I did make sure that was all clear up front, but I do have to remind people about it sometimes. Plenty of other folks at my job don’t travel at all or only do local (for different definitions of local) for various reasons.

            2. Shhhh*

              Yep – I’ve been driving longish distances (ranging from 5 to 12+ hours) since I got my license at 16. Like you, I know I’m in the minority – I grew up with a parent that doesn’t like flying, so we drove about 22 hours one way without stopping to go on vacation every year for about 15 years so I’m used to it. That said, when I first starting driving long distances, I did find it difficult and had to make more stops to walk around and clear my head. Knowing the routes definitely helps.

              I’ve driven between my parents house and my apartment (7 hours) several times since COVID started and I haven’t found it difficult to distance from others. I’m sure it depends a bit on where you’re traveling, but I’ve been able to find sufficient space to walk my puppy without coming in close contact with anyone, so it’s doable.

              All of that said, long-distance driving isn’t for everyone and LW should definitely have the conversation Alison recommends with their boss.

              1. Quill*

                Yeah, I grew up with a lot of road trips but for many reasons being trapped in a car for upwards of four hours is just not sustainable for me these days.

                There’s also the aspect where OP’s comfort with taking a break may not be totally dependent on Covid though – I routinely used to drive to visit my college friends but if it was a route that didn’t have family rest stops, or where I had to drive in the evenings? I would not, for love or money, have stopped, alone, without a passenger or my dog.

      2. LOL*

        When I had to commute for school and work (school in one city, work in another city, home in a third city due to lack of opportunity in small hick towns), I would eat shelled sunflower seeds. I drove along a rather dangerous highway, so there were not a lot of opportunities to stop and I did a lot of driving at night.

        I would pop those sunflower seeds in a few at a time and de-shell them in my mouth. It wasn’t so distracting that it kept me from noticing what was going on with traffic, but it required enough brain power to keep me awake. I tried all sorts of snacks and coffee, but sunflower seeds were the best.

        1. nozenfordaddy*

          I’ve been told about the sunflower seed trick by multiple people over the years. I use pumpkin seeds because I prefer them but it does absolutely work.

        2. Alison*

          This is interesting. I am also used to driving long distances being from a fairly rural area. When I was in college I would drive back and forth a few times a semester the 6ish hours and would rarely stop, maybe a bathroom break if needed. I would put on an audiobook and just listen and drive and would pretty much zone out. Especially on the highway portions that went on forever. Still my favorite way to drive though I listen to a lot of podcasts now (I was in college in the early 2000’s so I was listen to CD’s!).

          1. LunaLena*

            Yes, audiobooks are great! My husband and I drive 16 hours to get to my in-laws’ house for holidays, and we go to the library and rent things like stand-up comedy CDs and radio plays to listen to in the car. The radio plays are especially great, because they have multiple actors and sound effects and usually last just an hour or so. Our favorite ones to get are Twilight Zone plays.

          2. Traveler*

            CDs, podcasts, and audiobooks really help long drives! I treat myself to a new audiobook (library or on sale) whenever I have a cross-country drive. It is easier than finding a radio station every few hundred miles.

          3. allathian*

            I can’t listen to audiobooks on the road. I can’t even listen to talk radio on the road. Either I literally don’t hear what they’re saying because I’m focusing on the road, or if I tried to listen attentively, it would be as dangerous as talking on the phone. Music is no problem, because I rarely listen to lyrics that closely and they usually repeat.

            I’m a fast reader, so audio is a bit of a waste of time for me because I can absorb the same information much faster if I read and I’m also more likely to retain it. That’s not possible when you’re driving, of course.

    2. Beth*

      Yeah, I think this one really depends on the circumstances. OP, if this was clear as a job requirement from the start and there is no particular reason you can’t do it , you should probably start working on getting comfortable with long solo drives. But there’s more gray in it if there’s a concrete reason you can’t do this (e.g. a medical issue or other safety concern, beyond the normal level of fatigue that’s inherent to long drives) or if it wasn’t raised as a job duty (many people would be less than thrilled to have such a long drive sprung on them without warning).

      Either way, though, you should figure out ASAP if this is a required duty or something you can feasibly avoid. You almost definitely won’t get fired for not being available this once, but if it is required and you consistently refuse to do it, you needing to find a different job is a very possible outcome.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The letter is a classic example of leaving out vital information. The problem with the drive might be merely aesthetic or it might be medical, or somewhere in between. I suspect that if this were a medical situation requiring accommodation, that would have been mentioned. If the objection is aesthetic, very few people leap for joy at the prospect of driving six hours. If it is part of the job, it is part of the job. Don’t try to foist off on other people the dirty parts.

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, this is where I land on it too. We can’t REALLY make a judgment because we don’t have all the information… but if there were more information making the OP’s position stronger, they probably would have mentioned it. “I’m not comfortable” just isn’t going to cut it as the only justification for the OP’s aversion.

          I would have a lot more sympathy if the OP had no idea driving to sites would be part of the job before they started. But I also feel like they would have mentioned that if it was the case.

        2. TechWorker*

          Sometimes things are between. I am a nervous driver, I have never driven more than about 3 hours and 6 hours in a car alone would be a challenge. I also get migraines with visual disturbances about once a fortnight and have a constant fear that I will be driving somewhere alone away from home, get a migraine and have to stop at short notice. It’s never *actually* happened whilst I’ve been driving, but still scares me!

        3. Traveler*

          I think a lot of this depends on the society you grew up in. When I left for college two hours away my mother, who had lived in the same county all her life, wailed like I was going to the ends of the earth. By the time I was a junior she might stop by to visit me for an hour and then continue another 2 hours to the big city for sightseeing with her friends. Knowing other people who made the trip regularly really helped her adjust.

    3. N.*

      My issue with driving 5 hours would be that I would be exhausted when I finally got there. Not appealing having to go to work straight away for how many hours? Then sleeping in a new place (hotel), another 5 hour drive while I’m still not refreshed, then perhaps working a few hours more if you are expected to go straight back go the office and another 8 hour work day the day after. I tire just thinking about this! Could be OP has the same energy issue.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        That’s something I’m wondering, too. Is it 5-6 hours both ways, or each way? If it’s each way, is OP expected to be back the same day, or is overnight lodging covered?

        I mean, I don’t drive so I’m speaking from hypothetical scenarios only, but I can’t see myself being all too comfortable with travelling 10-12 hours on my own, either, especially after working (5-6 yeah, I could see myself doing that).

      2. pleaset cheap rolls*

        A five hour drive with, say, three breaks totaling 90 minutes (lunch plus two quick stops) and then working an hour or two? Yeah, sounds like a work day.

        I get pretty tired after 8 hours of regular work myself. Do I have an energy issue?

        1. Quill*

          My joints would be screaming by the time I got wherever. Even if we’re talking 2 hours one way and 2 hours back, that’s still half a work day.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Let’s say it’s 3 hours each way. Plus an 8 hour work day. That’s a 14 hour day.
        NOT ME! no how, no way, not ever.
        By the time I got there I’d be pretty tired. Driving home I’d be a hazard on the road.

        I have done the 6/8s but I was with another person. Even then we realized that this probably was not safe to be doing.

        There are plenty of stories of people driving long after they should have stopped. Companies are pushing this behavior. “you want the job or NO?” It’s a nationwide problem.

        My husband drove from here to Large City – it was 8 hours each way. Plus a couple hours to do business. The owner of his company was IN the car with him and refused to drive at all. My husband was expected at work the next day like nothing happened the day before. There is something so wrong here.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          “There are plenty of stories of people driving long after they should have stopped.”

          So stop.

          The problem isn’t the driving. The problem is not budgeting time for breaks and rest.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Also are they expecting you to drive 5 hours and do a full day’s work immediately? Are they paying you to stay overnight or expecting you to be back at the office the next day? Some people would expect that but the one time I did a 5-hour trip and returned the same day, I made it 4 hours the next day and had to go back to bed. (College so I could.)

    5. Ann O'Nemity*

      “if you are just not used to the distance (and might get used to it)”

      Yes, this is a good point. I used to think 3-hour drives were tough, until I had to make a 7-hour drives four times a month for a year. It sucked at first, but I got used to it. Even now, years and years later, 3-hour drives don’t seem that bad.

    6. Butterfly Counter*

      I agree that certain details might sway me toward or against the OP for this one. I learned to drive in Texas where everything is far away. My first boyfriend, one town over, lived in a house 45 minutes from mine via major highway. However, I have also developed an anxiety over certain driving in the last few years, so I am sympathetic.

      If it’s just a case where OP isn’t used to driving for so long, it’s something that they CAN get used to. Download some audiobooks or podcasts to keep you company and the time can really fly by with a minimum of tiring. It definitely can be done. If you need conversation, get a blue tooth for your phone and you can chat to your dad (or whomever) as you drive. Or find music that pumps you up and that might be a solution. Make the car ride something fun?

      Of course, as others have been saying, there are possibly real limitations that you cannot overcome with practice that will prevent you from driving this distance. If this is the case, you need to level with your supervisor.

      You’ve been there less than a year and have been asked to go twice already. So this might be something they expect you to do. How much you can fight back on this is really going to depend on a number of issues that you may or may not be expected to overcome.

  3. Chilipepper*

    OP#2 it sounds like the desk with the photo is the desk you use when serving the public, like a reception desk or the info desk at a library? I think it is unusual to have personal items at a shared, public facing desk like that? I like Alison’s idea of putting it on Mary’s desk and saying, oh, you forgot this, or maybe, this is so precious, I want to keep it safe in your office.

    But I also think you could raise the issue of keeping the desk professional and clear of personal items with the new main boss in a couple of months, once you have a better sense of her.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this. I get the feeling that the narcissistic (according to the LW) boss is only keeping the photo on her desk so that their clients will ask about it and that’ll give her an excuse to talk about her dead niece. Sure, the death was a tragedy, but I would find it very off-putting to work with someone who tried to milk others, especially clients, for sympathy with a personal story like this. I don’t think displaying that photo and milking clients for sympathy is particularly professional behavior. The longer this goes on, the less professional it will seem.

        1. allathian*

          I don’t see why the LW couldn’t just hide the photo in a drawer while she’s sitting at that desk. If the boss ever wonders why, she could simply say that having that reminder of the boss’s loss on her desk makes her uncomfortable. If the boss insists on keeping the photo of her niece at that desk even when she’s not sitting there herself, then it might be time to escalate to the department head, who may well decide that personal items can’t be displayed on public-facing desks. I don’t think I’ve ever visited a public-facing desk where personal items would be on display, except the occasional water bottle. If the LW’s boss never says anything about the LW not displaying the photo, problem solved.

          1. LOL*

            “I put the photo in the desk because I’m worried that our clients will think that I’m using her for sympathy points since I’m not related to her and don’t have pictures of my own family.”

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I’ve worked with a couple of people who did exactly what you describe. I’m sympathetic to loss; when my own niece died, I was a wreck for about a year. Only my team and close business partners knew, and they were kind enough to follow my lead of not talking about her. I had bad moments – still do – but I didn’t even have her picture in my office because I would lose my composure.

        I believe some people take comfort in reminders or talking briefly about their loss, and some don’t. But those particular co-workers of mine had shrines in their workspace – there is no other description for it – and baited people into asking about them. Because we were in close proximity, I heard them angling for questions and guiding conversations. I can also attest that their stories were shared almost word-for-word each time. In these rare cases, I felt I was hearing a performance, not an actual expression of grief and loss.

        Since it’s a shared workspace, I think OP is justified in putting the picture in a drawer when she works there. If the boss wants to have the picture out when she works, that’s her choice.

        1. Hazel*

          I agree that the photo should not be on a public-facing desk. If the boss wants to solicit sympathy and attention and trap coworkers into a conversation about the photo, she can do it from her own desk. I can absolutely see how it can seem that people had shrines and were performing for their “audiences.”

          I also think that sometimes actual grief can look attention-seeking or a bit odd. When I was grieving the loss of my dog, I really hope this is not how I came across to others. I used to have two dogs, so I had a photo of both of them as my screen saver. It felt like I was “forgetting” the dog who passed if I only had a photo of the living dog. I didn’t actually want people to comment on it because it felt embarrassing to tell them that I kept up a photo of a dog who was no longer alive and that I missed him so much. I will acknowledge that it did feel better to talk about him a little bit with people and then move on to work topics. I felt like if I shared the grief with them (appropriately!), it was less sad for me.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Please trust me on this, Hazel, these particular co-workers fell into a different category. I’ll share a bit more context: they steered conversations toward their loss, no matter what the circumstance or with whom. Long-time teammates who already heard about their loss, repeatedly… first-time sales rep visits…co-workers from another division…the FedEx or UPS person needing a signature…you name it. These co-workers could talk for half an hour or more if someone let them, and didn’t take hints to get back on track.

            As I said, we were in close quarters, so we all heard what was said. I found myself talking along with them verbatim in my head because I’d heard them say the exact same things for years – literally. Knowing these specific people as I did, I know they suffered a loss. But I also believe that, if no one asked them about the multiple pictures, plaques, and posters, these folks found ways to get asked.

        2. AKchic*

          I agree with you that this most likely isn’t a true expression of grief and most likely a performance. The act is meant to maneuver the mark towards the selling point – the charity. The whole performance party piece is meant to sell the mark on the charity, otherwise, why mention it at all? They want people to give money.

          Charities are (supposed to be) worthy causes. Many are. A lot of the smaller ones overlap each other in their aims. Strong-arm tactics for donations, especially with emotional blackmail, rub me the wrong way. If this is being done in a place where I have to be, where I kind of need the person soliciting funds to do something for me, and I feel almost like I’m not going to get what I need done in a timely manner without that “donation”, then I’m going to feel like I have to pay this “donation” in order to get what I need done. Almost like a “greasing the palms” kind of thing. Is that what Mary is intending? Probably not (I hope not).

          On top of that – when Mary advertises the charity on company time and company property, as a client, I have to assume that the company not only approves, but endorses it (depending on Mary’s body language and tone of voice). Especially since Mary is a manager. As a public service agency, this could be seen as showing favoritism to a charity (if, indeed, it is an actual charity). I see a lot of problems with this being allowed to continue.

          1. Garbage plate*

            “The whole performance party piece is meant to sell the mark on the charity, otherwise, why mention it at all? They want people to give money.”

            Assume, for the sake of argument, that OP works for a charity (she indicated she works for a county “agency”) and that this theory is true (which it may not be; people grieve differently).

            Do you really propose that a new, part-time employee should confront her boss over something that is bringing money into the organization?

            You may not like the sales technique. I don’t like it, for that matter – although you can always say “no” to emotional appeals from charities, so I don’t see this as any more unethical than a Sally Struthers appeal. If it’s working from a fundraising standpoint, the organization may be perfectly happy with the practice, and that is ultimately the lens through which it will judge OP for challenging the matter.

            This isn’t OP’s hill to die on.

            Frankly, even if the explanation is more prosaic, your boss’ office décor still not the hill to die on. It’s a photo. Save your political capital and pick your battles.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              I think you’re misunderstanding the situation. The charity Mary is fundraising for (and telling clients/customers about with regard to the photo of her late niece) is NOT the organization they work for. If Mary is guilting her clients into donating to the charity, that money is not going toward the organization Mary works for. In the government agency where I’m employed, this would be a huge deal that might get me fired. When I’m on the clock with my government agency, I CANNOT do work to benefit a second agency unless that agency and mine have an official, on the books partnership. Mary, as a government employee, soliciting donations for her family’s charity while actively on the clock working for the tax payers, could get in a whole, big lot of trouble.

              Also, the shared public desk is not the boss’s office, and it cannot be decorated however the boss wants. Our shared public desk at my agency has fliers for upcoming events and related/sister agencies and lists of phone numbers for other government departments. The most personalization I’ve ever seen in all my years of doing customer facing government work is the employee’s computer backdrop/screen saver. As a government worker who mans a public desk and works with customers, having family photos at a shared public desk is really, really weird.

              I’m not saying OP should take that on at all. I love the idea other commenters have suggested about bringing in a photo of their own to put in front of the photo of Mary’s niece when they need to use the shared desk. I just think you misread and got the details wrong on this.

              1. Garbage plate*

                Minnie is right. I missed the OP’s statement that Mary had started an organization dedicated to “acts of kindness” (and bumper stickers).

                So yes, please disregard most of my comment!

                The one caveat I’d add, however: we don’t know that Mary is actually fundraising for her organization at work. That’s AKChic’s inference, and while it’s a plausible one, there’s still no hard evidence that’s happening. I would advise OP against reporting Mary to ethics hotlines, or escalating the issue internally, or what not absent solid evidence of fundraising.

                (I would also be skeptical that telling people about the existence of a charity, as opposed to actively fundraising for it, rises to the level of an ethics violation, but I defer on people with expertise on government ethics on this point.)

                *If* there’s no ethics violations involved, we’re still talking about a new, part-time employee telling her boss to move a family photo from a desk where the boss still, ultimately, often sits. From an organizational behavior perspective, it’s hard to see how this scenario ends well for the employee — even if Mary is oversharing the story behind the photo. “Pick your battles” is still sound advice.

                Indeed, if this is a government agency that generally permits employees to keep family photos on desks, requiring Mary to remove it might amount to a content-based restriction and run afoul of the first amendment.

              2. Hello world!!!*

                “Also, the shared public desk is not the boss’s office, and it cannot be decorated however the boss wants.”

                I mean, assuming that we’re not talking about pinup calendars or QAnon fliers…she’s the boss. So she gets to make the decision?

                1. allathian*

                  She’s not the department head, who presumably has the final say on what people can and cannot display on public-facing desks. I’m secretly hoping that someone will complain about Mary’s niece’s photo and the spiel. I would find it extremely off-putting.

              3. Not So NewReader*

                “When I’m on the clock with my government agency, I CANNOT do work to benefit a second agency unless that agency and mine have an official, on the books partnership.”

                This, so much this.

                OP, does your boss clam up when her boss is around? This would be very telling.

            2. AKchic*

              I work in gov’t. I have an ethics hotline I can call 24/7.

              I also volunteer for two non-profits (one charity, at the board level). I am not allowed to discuss my non-profit work with our customers, nor am I allowed to solicit funds from them at any time. It is a breach of ethics and I would be subject to termination. I am paid for one job and one job only while on gov’t property, and that is not spreading information about my volunteer work or fundraising on their behalf.

              I agree that people grieve differently. However, if part of a person’s grieving process is soliciting funds from CLIENTS of their legitimate public service organization for their (potential) family-run charity organization, that is a very unusual form of grief. That picture is not bringing money to the employer’s organization, but the boss’s personal charity (of which there is no proof it is registered as such, but we’ll give benefit of the doubt here) that is done (or should be done) off-site and off-business hours.

              Also, this isn’t necessarily the boss’s desk. It is a public-facing desk where the boss sits a few hours a week. At least one other person sits there to fill up the full-time role.

              1. Garbage plate*

                As noted above, I missed the point about Mary starting her own organization, and I entirely agree she shouldn’t be fundraising for it at the office. (Again, caveat: *if* she is, indeed, fundraising, and OP has evidence of that. Speculation alone isn’t evidence.)

                1. allathian*

                  Just mentioning the charity in any way counts as fundraising. Even if she isn’t directly soliciting donations, while she’s at the agency in a public-facing role, she’s there to serve the public.

                2. AKchic*

                  She mentions that the organization has stickers. Whether she is actively selling/giving them away right there or not, she is giving a “hint” (or solicitation). Mentioning that it is a charity, and what it supports, after the guilt-tripping, tear-jerk story is another pull at the purse strings (why else tug the heartstrings?).

                  Mary may not ask outright, but she is is relying on a series of hints, guilt trips, social niceties and tacit obligations. I don’t know what public organization this is, so I’m going to toss a random one out there: Let’s say permits. Let’s assume I want a permit for a variance for my property so I can build a greenhouse. I come in, fill out the forms, bring my money, and in my desire not to have total silence, I decide to make conversation. Oh, look, a picture of a small child. “Cute kid”. Trap has been set. Cue elaborate sigh and story about how that’s her niece and niece is dead. “Oh. I’m so sorry for your loss”. Oops. There’s the second trap sprung. Now she’s talking about how hope springs eternal and how the family has put their grief into a charity in the niece’s name. Here’s all the information. They even have a catchy hashtag. They sell stickers. Here’s the website. I nod inanely, wondering if this woman will hurry the hell up so I can get my paperwork. She’s looking at me earnestly, eyes shining. Oh, did I just agree to something? I don’t remember agreeing to anything. Oh, I was nodding, wasn’t I? I was just trying to be polite! I just wanted to build a greenhouse! Great, now I have a pamphlet that I didn’t want. Just smile. No more nodding. Don’t commit to anything. Why is she going so slow? Why is she still talking about this charity? How come the other line is going so much faster? “I’ll check it out when I get home” Oh good, she’s smiling and printing my permit. Now I can get out of here. If I have to come back, I am going to avoid her. I hope there’s a trash can before the parking garage.

                  I can 100% see that happening. OP knows the charity makes bumper stickers. That takes money. So, either they are selling them, or they are using money they get from donations to make the stickers and give away. Either way, they need money to come in somewhere.

      2. Anon for this*

        I am not saying that the photo should ideally be there, but calling the boss a narcissist when she is grieving the loss of a close relative is very unkind.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          It read to me like she was calling her a narcissist for unrelated reasons, but mentioning it for useful context. It didn’t seem to me OP was saying one because of the other.

    2. Casper Lives*

      That’s a good point. I can’t remember going into a library or other gov’t area for the public where there was a lot of personal touches.

      Actually, I volunteered at a library where there were no last names given out and no photos due to issues with some members of the public in the past.

    3. Thistle whistle*

      I’d be tempted to put it on her desk and say it got knocked over and you were trying to protect it as you didn’t want it to get damaged. Makes you caring and get on the bosses good side, but moves the photo.

    4. ender*

      I like this response. Just move the photo to her desk, and if asked about it, “You moved everything else. _Obviously_ you must want it with the rest of your things.” Play dumb, even though you know she’s been milking the photo. Pre-suppose the intent so she looks silly if she tries to keep it at the public desk where none of her other items are.

  4. Enough*

    Re#2 Why don’t you put the picture away when you are at the desk. Seems like that would be a reasonable action for any space used individually by more than one person like hot desking that requires you to always clear the space when you are done with your shift.

    1. Pennyworth*

      I think it would be quite reasonable to do that, and if challenge by Mary to say you find the photograph upsetting.

      1. Beth*

        I suspect telling Mary this would only lead to more drama (she sounds like the type, from OP’s description!). But it would be easy enough for OP to explain it by saying that they prefer a clear desk surface while using the space.

      2. Colette*

        I would just say “oh, when it’s out people ask me about it, so I put it away since it’s not my story to tell”.

            1. AKchic*

              “I’m not comfortable doing that” suffices in that instance, repeated ad nauseam (because Mary would try to “empower” LW to do it over her protestations).

      3. Momma Bear*

        I would tell Mary that I put it away for the time being since I was the one at the desk. Let her know where it is so when she sits there, she can put it back up. If she balks, suggest she move it to her office.

    2. HannahS*

      I think that’s really reasonable. If Mary notices and asks why the photo isn’t there, you can say something like, “I put the photo in the drawer when I sit here. I’ve noticed that people often ask me about it, but it’s really your story to tell. I’ll put it back before I leave, though.”
      And then do two very important things: Immediately steer the conversation to where you want it to go (either ask Mary about the non-profit to assure her that you care very much about her family’s situation even though you may not want to hear about it anymore OR change the subject entirely) and also remember to actually put the photo back at the end of the day.

      1. Green great dragon*

        Agreed – if Mary won’t permanently move it, you can at least move it while you’re sitting there. I think you’re completely reasonable not to want to answer questions about it while you’re sitting there (and generally if you’ve a shared desk you surely get to use the space as you want it for as long as you’re using it). I find it hard to see how Mary can insist *you* display/look at a photo of *her* family member, regardless of any other factors. But do put it back when you leave.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        >”people often ask me about it, but it’s really your story to tell”
        Excellent phrasing!

        1. allathian*

          Yeah, this is really good. If the boss gets annoyed by this, then it’s high time to involve the department head.

      3. LGC*

        Oh, I like that! It makes it much lower stakes and less confrontational. It’s a little more work for LW2, but it solves the primary problem.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      Agreed. OP can just put the picture away when she arrives and then put it back when she leaves for the day.

  5. IT Relationship Manager*

    Agree that it isn’t unreasonable to limit vacations to two weeks off. I had a friend who had built up six weeks of time off because of the pandemic and she considered taking it all at once. I told her it would be incredibly rude to do that because people at work relied on her.

    You have to be considerate of your coworkers. If your position has to be covered, someone is likely doing more work. If there are things that require your input or approval, waiting for weeks on that would put a real hindrance on them. Hopefully your organization has a period where there’s downtime and people are just catching up in things (often December or August is like this in many places but it depends!). Those are good times to cash in long vacations.

    It’s good practice to be considerate of your leave and how it effects your team. Two to three weeks is much more significant than a few days or a week when shifting work loads.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, I’d argue it’s not rude! If your organization allows you to do it, I don’t think you’re obligated to forego what would be a significant benefit that your manager has approved just because it would inconvenience others.

      The impact on workflow is indeed why many orgs/managers don’t allow it, of course. That’s very much their prerogative. But if they’ve given it their blessing, leave things as organized as you can and go enjoy your long vacation.

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        My experience is in Europe, but I tend to find that people take large blocks of holiday (between 2-4 weeks) when it is less likely to impact others, so during the summer. It’s up to the manager to decide on coverage, so my department works on a minimum one-in, one-out basis.

      2. OK Computer*

        We also seem to cope just fine in other counties when people routinely have longer periods of leave. One to two months is common. It’s a bit inconvenient for those still at work but you just work around it.

        1. allathian*

          I’m in Finland, where taking long vacations of up to 6 weeks if you have enough time accrued is common in the public sector. In the private sector, the standard is 4 weeks off in summer (May to September), not necessarily at once, and one week off in winter. Of course there are jobs where long stretches of time off aren’t possible. If you’re an accountant, there are weeks every month when you can’t take time off unless you’re on sick leave. Cross training is essential in jobs where this is normal and expected. To be fair, government in many areas in Europe shuts down pretty much completely except for essential functions in either July or August, so the workload also permits this. Our collective agreement also stipulates that it is mandatory to take at least one 2-week stretch of vacation every year, even if the employee would rather use up their vacation time as it accrues and only work 9 days every 2 weeks at full pay.

          All that said, in places and jobs where this is common and expected, workflows and processes are designed to make it possible without making long absences too arduous for coworkers. You just can’t apply the same standards to situations where there is no cross training and a job essentially doesn’t get done if the employee is on leave.

          1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

            Another Finn here and thought about the same thing. We don’t see 4-6 week vacations as a problem because it’s the norm everyone is used to. It’s just one of the things you have to think about when you plan work – employees need a lunch break, employees need a toilet, employees have a 4 week vacation every summer… But this means that the entire country lives according to this norm. Many companies want everybody to take July off and if someone doesn’t have the vacation accrued yet (new employee), there may not be much work to do and nobody more experienced to help with it. Also usually for example public healthcare doesn’t do that much non-urgent stuff in July, everybody knows it and that’s just the way things are. I can see that in a country that isn’t prepared like this, a 6 week vacation could create problems.

            1. But There is a Me in Team*

              Agreed. Part of the problem in the US is an arms race of expectations, esp. if you’re grant funded or government. Your grant from last year says you’ll serve 200 clients? Well, everyone is competing for the same funding so this year it’s 225. An unrealistic workload is baked in. What manager is going to lower your sales goals/whatever performance metric year over year? It only works if everyone reins in.

          2. Rewe*

            We also have summer jobs (well obviously depends on job and company) where students can do some of the work and gain work experience and more permanent employees can have their annual leave.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            It’s a chicken-and-egg situation. Employers plan for it because employees do it, employees can do it because employers plan for it.

        2. Asenath*

          I’m in Canada, closer to the US but different in many ways. Still, I took nearly two months holiday in one chunk – I had the leave built up (I had been in the habit of not taking my leave until HR said “Use it or lose it” so I had a fair bit available). I wanted to go to Australia and New Zealand, and thought it wasn’t worth taking the trip unless I could spend as much time there as I could afford. I had no issues at all with my employer, possibly because (a) I was entitled to the leave and we all knew it and (b) I started planning early and obsessively so that I had as much work done in advance as possible, and coverage arranged for anything that might come up. That included working out dates which were a bit slow at work but which were at a suitable time of year (regarding probable weather conditions) in my destinations. It worked fine.

          1. Nessun*

            I’m also in Canada and did something similar – I had a bucket-list trip to Japan that I really wanted 5 weeks for. I had enough time saved up, and the opportunity arose, so I went to my boss – we negotiated the length (allowed 4 weeks, no more!) and we agreed the dates, and I arranged for full coverage of all my tasks and trained someone for all eventualities. The trip was amazing, and my boss understood why it was so important to me. I did get told when negotiating, that this was a one-off offer – this much time at once was not a standard and I shouldn’t expect it to happen again – which was fair.

        3. hbc*

          As someone who has worked in and with a lot of European countries, my experience is that plenty don’t “cope just fine.” Everyone may have to just deal with the results, but I’ve heard “You have to get that done by mid-June, because we’ll need to get two weeks to review it, and then nothing is getting done here for the next two months and you need to have that finished up by September.” Colleagues with generous vacations often explicitly lean on the ones who don’t and pressure them to do more so that they can take those long vacations.

          Obviously there are ways to handle it better, but I’ve seen a lot of European suppliers get dropped by US companies because “Welp, nothing gets done in late July/early August” doesn’t work for a lot of the world.

          1. Storm in a teacup*

            I would like to point out that the US does not equate to ‘a lot of the world’

            Having worked in healthcare in the UK for many years up to 3 weeks’ off is at a time was allowed and 2 weeks the norm. I think this is important for the benefit of the worker and when you have 5-6 weeks paid holiday a year to take it’s preferable to have some taken in a large chunk.
            I’ve been an avid reader of AAM the last year and my mind still boggles at the lack of downtime US employees get and the attitude to well earned vacation time!
            However longer than that and you would need to request far in advance, have a good reason for it and manager’s discretion as to whether they allow it.

            1. Quickbeam*

              Yeah…American here. I’ve just celebrated my 50th year of full time work and I have never been allowed to take more than 2 weeks off at a job ever.

              1. Chilipepper*

                Also American. I have a hard time getting more than about 9 or 10 days off in a row, and that includes weekends! I have about 25 days available, we just seem incapable of figuring out how to manage desk coverage with one person out for more than 5 days. They keep staffing low but even so, the issue is more to do with poor planning. It is disappointing.

              2. Becky*

                From the US here: The longest I’ve ever taken at once is three weeks but it has always been near a major holiday (Thanksgiving or Christmas) so there were a lot of other people out and a expected slow in our work cycle from our clients too.

                I’ve had co-workers out for longer but mostly that was when someone was on parental leave.

                There’s no rule on how much consecutive PTO you can use at my company so it is up to the discretion of the manager and my manager is usually pretty flexible.

          2. ThatGirl*

            The last company I worked at (like many US companies) worked closely with suppliers in China, and typically the factory would close down for at least a week, maybe 2, around lunar new year. We built it in to our schedule, it was just one of those things. I know 4 weeks is longer than 2 but it doesn’t seem unmanageable.

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            And yet European economies do run somehow.
            “Colleagues with generous vacations often explicitly lean on the ones who don’t”
            I’m not sure what countries you are talking about but here everyone gets at least five weeks leave. There are some places where you get extra leave as from a certain rung on the ladder, and the first year working you haven’t yet accrued any leave so you can only take unpaid leave, but basically everyone has a decent amount. If you’ve just starting working at a place, you’ll expect to be covering for people during the summer, that’s the new hire’s role.
            Things don’t move ahead much in the summer, but then everyone gets back nicely rested and raring to go again and things get done again.
            Things close down for a good couple of weeks in China too, for the Chinese New year, and again I see no reason for them not to enjoy their holiday. It’s perfectly possible to source both a Chinese supplier and a European supplier, and that way you’ll always have access to at least one, and can juggle between the two the rest of the year.
            Working in a firm with only three other staff members, we always managed coverage, often with interns over the summer or Christmas holidays. As the most senior staff members, my colleague and I made sure one or the other was always in. It really can and does work.
            Also, patience is a virtue.

          4. LTL*

            The point of allowing people to have extended vacation times isn’t to raise the bottom line, it’s to increase the happiness and wellbeing of employees. The same reason why employers are required to provide benefits and pay minimum wage.

            When you see people try to advocate for work-life balance in the US, it often comes with explanations and studies about how it ultimately makes people more productive. But that’s really besides the point. We live in a culture where the money is more important than the well being of human beings. That attitude is why Europeans gawk at our PTO restrictions. “Live to work” should be a choice, not a requirement.

            If certain colleagues are pressured to do more work due to others taking extended vacations, the solution is simple. Give everyone the same PTO. Hire more people if it’s an issue.

            1. Librarian1*

              Yeah, it’s 100% beside the point, but unfortunately the people who have power in our society generally don’t care about employee well-being, so you have to talk up how giving more time off benefits the bottom-line of the business.

          5. allathian*

            What you’re describing is simply the cost of doing business in Europe. We seem to do pretty well, considering.

        4. KateM*

          I remember reading about my own country that it is not allowed to take LESS than a week at a time, and also at least one of your chunks must be AT LEAST 2 weeks. (I’m a teacher so taking my holiday at any other time but July and August would be hugely rude indeed.)

          1. But There is a Me in Team*

            That’s interesting Kate- to clarify, you can’t just take a day or 2 off? There are times when I just want a 3 day weekend and don’t need a whole week off. Since coming back to the US, I’ve taken 1.5 weeks off once, I think, and it’s (unfortunately) not worth how hard I had to work before and after because there is only so much you can ask of you coworkers when they are already maxed out. We have an unhealthy work culture here, but in my current job I think I could pull off 3 weeks. That would be the only job I’ve had in 20 years where it would be feasible. Waiting for retirement to go back to Asia/ New Zealand. (Love, wonderful place- you Kiwis are such nice folks and so lucky!) If I had family abroad, though, I’d have to push the issue.

            1. KateM*

              I think the “no less than a week” is about paid vacation time. Of course you can call in sick or health day or whatnot. I don’t really know much because of being a teacher. But in our school, teachers can say things like “I want to have all my lessons on just three days, no matter which” (just back from maternity leave and juggling childcare) or “I want to have no lessons on Mondays” (because of working in another school part-time on Mondays) – but unless you are sick or in a (teaching-related) training for yourself or accompanying kids to some event, you are at school, period.

            2. Rez123*

              We have the no less than 2 weeks law. I have 28 days of annual leave. 10 days minimum (so 2 weeks including the weekends) of that has to be taken in one chunk. Rest can be used few days at a time or however you want to.

          2. agnes*

            I once was a partner in a business in a foreign country and the law was that employees had to take all their paid time off. Period. They could not cash it out or roll it over. This resulted in many business simply closing down for a month and designating that month as the vacation month.

            1. TechWorker*

              This feels like it must also be a symptom of either a culture where people are encouraged not to take holiday or the business was very seasonal? Where I am I’ve never heard of anyone be able to cash in holiday, we all get quite a bit and the norm is to not be able to carry over, or just to carry over a week. Never needed to force everyone to take it at the same time :p

              1. KateM*

                I’m a bit baffled that someone could consider it a problem – being required by law to take a break. Why shouldn’t breaks in a 12-month year be as mandatory as breaks in an 8-hour working day? And don’t even in USA exist things like mandatory 30-minute lunch breaks plus a couple short breaks – a mandatory 2-week holiday plus a couple short ones is pretty much the same principle, no?

        5. Firecat*

          Now that I work for a European company I can tell you it’s because of redundancy. In the US it is very common that you are the only person who does what you do on a team.

          I very much think this is a us corporate culture/policy issue. Longer vacations are fine when there is redundancy.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            By “redundancy” you mean having more than one person capable of doing all the jobs that need doing, right?
            (If not, please define!)

            1. New Englander*

              I think they mean redundant how we use it in engineering:

              serving as a duplicate for preventing failure of an entire system (such as a spacecraft) upon failure of a single component

      3. Observer*

        *IF* the manager gives their blessing AND the manager is competent and cognizant of potential workflow issues, sure. In that case, it’s fine.

        But that’s not the case here. The boss is NOT giving their blessing, but the OP wants to force the issue.

      4. Sleepy*

        In my experience, the length of a vacation is usually less problematic than the timing of the vacation. In our work, folks regularly take 3-4 weeks off during quiet periods and no one bats an eye, while taking just a few days off during the busiest periods is regarded as rude and a way to shift a huge burden onto your coworkers.

        If taking all 3 weeks of vacation at once is really important, I’d approach it less as a demand and more as a conversation with your boss: Is there a time of year when we could really make this work?

      5. Garbage plate*

        “But if they’ve given it their blessing, leave things as organized as you can and go enjoy your long vacation.”


    2. Lemon It's Wednesday*

      If you have family on the other side of the world it is very very hard to only take two weeks. To visit my in-laws it’s usually 36hrs of travel to reach them. That alone can eat into a good chunk of a 2 week trip.
      I did go visit for two weeks once so I could be at a wedding and it was ROUGH. I did not have time to recover and ended up at work having slept maybe 4 or 5 hours in a 48hr period.
      Sure it sucks to miss work but people are usually understanding if you need time off to visit family.
      OP the best way I’ve gone about it is being honest w my boss about where I’m going, why I need the extra time, and talking to them months in advance. I’ve been able to negotiate 3-4 week leave before but I’ve had friends who cannot get time off to go home.

      1. AnotherLibrarian*

        Yes, one of my old coworkers was from Poland and took 6 weeks off every summer in our slow time. It was all prearranged, he worked overtime to comp to cover the additional days off and was super willing to work any holidays/weekends the rest of the year. None of us resented him in the least and he always brought back very tasty European chocolate. I don’t think it’s rude to take a lot of time off, I just think you have to be considerate of your coworkers and plan it far far in advance.

      2. allathian*

        I’m curious, did you get that extra leave at full pay or unpaid? I expect that negotiating for extra unpaid leave would be easier, and would additionally seem less unfair to employees who don’t “need” the extra leave because their family doesn’t live half a world away.

        1. Caroline Bowman*

          I used to live and work in the UK and our company had a very, very strict policy of not more than 10 working days off consecutively, which obviously was to ensure cover, but it somewhat shot them in the foot when I managed to get a very, very grudging extra 2 working days (unpaid), with about 6 – 7 months notice so I could go and see my family on a different continent. Manager very angry when she later realised that I still then had quite a bit of leave because she’d triumphantly insisted I take the days unpaid, very crestfallen.

        2. Lemon, it's Wednesday*

          I had accrued my PTO to cover the full time off. So I never took unpaid leave.
          I’m lucky that I work in biotech and every job I’ve had has at least 3-4 weeks PTO.

      3. WS*

        Yes, I’m in Australia and it’s super common for people here to have relatives all over the world and (COVID times excepted) want time to visit them, despite the very, very long flights. Most places will happily negotiate leave – we get a mandatory minimum 4 weeks per year plus public holidays – as long as you’re willing to go at a reasonable time, whatever that is for your business.

    3. Allonge*

      Even if it’s inconvenient to other coworkers (is being away ever really convenient?), I find ‘rude’ to be a very strange value for taking longer leave. I personally get antsy after two weeks and at that point might as well go back to work, but if the rules allow it, why on earth would somebody not take three-four weeks off? Plenty of people have to cover school holdays and whatnot, or just relax really after a certain number of days, or want to travel longer and maybe even get over most of the jetlag before going back to work. Rude would be bragging about it upon returning.

    4. Not Australian*

      Maybe, but we’re back to ‘ask’ v ‘guess’ culture here. Surely the sensible thing to do is talk to one’s boss and say ‘I have x weeks of holiday built up, can we discuss when and how it would make the most sense for me to use it?’ It might, for example, make sense to take a longer break when an intern will be available to help with cover, or during a slack time of year, or even so that it falls partly in one leave year and partly in another. I’ve also had friends who accumulated so much annual leave that they were able to take a half day off every week for months, because that suited them and didn’t inconvenience the workplace.

      It’s not just the needs of the workplace that have to be met here. Leave/time off is part of the compensation package and there should be at least a reasonable expectation that the worker can take it at a time to suit them. At any rate there should be civilised discussion about it between the parties, rather than the worker trying to guess what the employer might find acceptable. If that isn’t possible, then I’d suggest the problems are not solely confined to the question of annual leave.

      1. Cat Tree*

        It seems like half the answers on this site are some variation of “use your words”. Our predominant culture in the US is very much guess culture, but I’m trying to change that one polite interaction at a time.

        1. Washi*

          I have this theory that quite a lot of people would consider their own communication style to be ask culture because your own cues feel obvious to you. And anyone more opaque is then classified as guess culture, and anyone more explicit just feels rude.

          Really, I don’t think there’s a binary of ask vs. guess, I think it’s a spectrum. In my experience, different areas of the US are in different places on the spectrum (and it can depend on the subject matter), but I don’t think as a whole that we are unusually skewed towards guess compared to other cultures.

          1. Cat Tree*

            Right, it’s definitely a spectrum.

            Your first point is something I hadn’t thought about before. My mom is the most extreme example of guess culture imaginable, which made my childhood…interesting. She never asks for anything until she stews about it for hours and then blows up in anger, even to the point of not telling her own children to do chores and then getting mad when we didn’t do them (and we didn’t know how). But when anyone asks her for something, she interprets it as a serious command and can only say no if she comes up with a long justification which she rehearses ahead of time. So I guess if she views polite requests as harsh commands, it makes sense in a way that she wouldn’t want to impose that on others by asking for anything.

            I don’t know if it’s generational, geographical, or just a result of her dysfunctional upbringing, but it makes sense that someone who feels like she can’t say no also feels like she can’t ask for anything. It’s still super frustrating on my end though.

            1. Bear Shark*

              She never asks for anything until she stews about it for hours and then blows up in anger, even to the point of not telling her own children to do chores and then getting mad when we didn’t do them (and we didn’t know how).

              I can’t tell how relieved it makes me to know that I’m not the only one whose mom did that.

            2. Aitch Arr*

              “She never asks for anything until she stews about it for hours and then blows up in anger, even to the point of not telling her own children to do chores and then getting mad when we didn’t do them (and we didn’t know how).”

              My ex-husband was like this. Emphasis on ex.

            3. Lemon, it's Wednesday*

              We call my Aunt “the Martyr” because she would do this. Loud dramatic sigh with “well I guess I’ll go do X because no one else in the house will”.

        2. Avasarala*

          I disagree that the US is a guess culture, it is pretty solidly in the middle on a global scale.
          I don’t even think this is an ask-vs-guess issue, it’s just a miscommunication.

          I work in a very guess-culture country and it’s perfectly normal to ask in advance about long leaves of absence. Because you should read the room and guess that your coworkers will be inconvenienced. You can even feel out the best time to take off in a very indirect way.
          It’s not that Ask is better than Guess, it’s that people need to be aligned on their communication styles.

      2. Observer*

        In this case, I don’t think it’s ask vs guess, though. The boss has told that OP that they can’t take more than 2 weeks at a time. The OP says “I’m not doing that” and wants to know if it’s legal. That’s beyond “ask” and is not going to get the too far.

        I do understand why the OP would want to do this, but they are on shaky ground. Allison’s advice is good – that provides the space for a “civilized discussion”. Hopefully their boss will be willing to work with them to make it work.

    5. rudster*

      Two weeks vs three weeks of pretty arbitrary though, especially considering that three weeks is about the minimum necessary to visit family abroad without having to effectively spend half of your vacation traveling or recovering from traveling. Both my wife and I have immediate family abroad and we often used our vacation to visit them. We’ve done it in two weeks but it’s incredibly exhausting and harried, in hindsight barely worth the tip at all. Even in Europe people usually don’t take 4 or six weeks at a time unless it’s at a time when their entire workplace basically closes anyway, but there isn’t really anything that can be covered for two weeks that can’t be covered for three.

    6. Lonely Aussie*

      I think it goes both ways, sometimes it’s a good way for peeps to be cross trained or have an opportunity to step into a role they wouldn’t normally have.
      My workplace had a manager who took 10-12 weeks off every summer (He got crazy amounts of leave, 4 weeks by law, 6 weeks of long service and then time in liu [got for working weekends; 12 hours every month plus 6 for every public holiday he worked]). He wasn’t a great manager so things ran smoother when he wasn’t there, but the best thing about him taking that time off in a block was that it meant that the people below him had a chance to step up into a manager’s role for a fixed amount of time.
      Gave many of the current managers and 2IC’s a chance at management without locking them into the job as it’s the sort of place that people who are good at the job, not necessarily good at managing people get promoted. A few peeps did it and then decided it was too much for them.

    7. Stik Tech Drone*

      I know plenty of people here in my local community that work for 2-3 years straight to bank enough vacation to spend a month or more visiting family in the Philippines (or elsewhere in the Pacific.)

      I also know more than one person who walked away from their jobs just prior their trips, because someone would try to rescind their vacations, usually a new supervisor or manager, simply because they weren’t accustomed to workers taking that kind of time off all at once. This was time that had been negotiated months and sometimes years in advance, and whether or not travel was refundable, as far as these would – be vacationers were concerned, the trip was a done deal from the time the previous (or sometimes that very same) Boss had approved it.

      The people I knew who did this, would usually get their vacation paid out upon leaving anyway, and often times would come back to find their position had not been filled. At that point, they would just come and ask for their old job back. Ones who were told no, inevitably were picked up by to the competition. Local companies figured out a long time ago that it was just better to agree to the time off in the first place.

      I imagine this was in large part the reason that nobody around here batted an eye when my husband used the entirety of his banked vacation (just short of 3 weeks) to visit me when I was working abroad.

      Meanwhile our friends elsewhere, were absolutely shocked he had a job to come back to.

    8. Green great dragon*

      It’s obviously good to be considerate, but taking leave as a block rather than scattered around isn’t necessarily less considerate. I had to take 7 weeks for a family issue and we planned around – some things could be delegated (good experience for my reports), some things got delayed, some done in advance, my boss had to pick up a little more – it was fine. And being considerate doesn’t mean you have to give up seeing your family to prevent mild inconvenience to someone else.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It’s also a lot easier to get a temp/contract employee fully productive when they’re there longer than 1 or 2 weeks. AND you have the benefit of seeing what else they’re qualified to do. (Says a former long-term temp hired from a project administration contract into a project management role.)

    9. Teyra*

      Due to me having basically all my leave untouched this year, and it expiring quite soon (I’m new to the world of work and enjoying my job, and with COVID frankly just forgot to take it) my manager had been encouraging me to basically take the entirety of March and February off. As long as the days are available, meaning we’re not short staffed, there’s no issue.

    10. Workerbee*

      It’s worth examining where that “it’s rude” reaction comes from. In my part of the US with its background, it does seem to be instilled that taking one’s actual earned vacation time for more than an arbitrary amount at one time is not the thing to do. And to work extra hard and exhaust yourself in advance of the days you DO take off! My boss is also one of those fond of saying, “It’s a short week due to *holiday* so we’ll be grinding extra hard.” (And so far in my experience, those types of bosses are the ones not joining in the grinding.)

      #NotAllProfessions, but I realized awhile back that the work will always be there. The inbox will keep filling. The project will keep spawning. And that—again, at least in my experience—taking time off will not really make much difference to work but will make a great difference to your well-being.

      I’d even go so far as to say if you have to pretend to work extra hard leading up to it because of someone’s ridiculous expectations, so be it.

      People adjust to things all the time. They’ll adjust to someone’s time off, too.

      1. a clockwork lemon*

        My team is currently collaborating with a different team from our group on a project, and some of them were very passive-aggressive about their PTO in ways that we found to be very out of step with both my team’s culture and the broader culture of our company: making a big deal about taking time off then not wanting to tell us when they’d be back, skipping meetings that were scheduled specifically to accommodate this time off, getting huffy when others weren’t able to rearrange their entire workflows to make up for time lost due to someone taking a two week vacation during our busiest time of the year.

        It’s annoying to get emails when you’re on PTO, and even more so when you’re on PTO in quarantine from your house where your work computer is sitting in the corner silently judging you for playing video games in your underwear all day. However, the defensiveness from these collaborators had AND their saltiness that others weren’t able to then drop everything to dedicate 100% of their time to this project in the weeks leading up to our deadline was, well, rude.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        Preach: I realized awhile back that the work will always be there. The inbox will keep filling. The project will keep spawning. And that—again, at least in my experience—taking time off will not really make much difference to work but will make a great difference to your well-being.

        Once I started working for someone who allowed me to use PTO my productivity and confidence in work skyrocketed. I’ve also never taken more than 2 weeks, but have co-workers who take a full month every year, during their departments downtime. These are people who have worked at the company a long time and accrued tons of vacation under the old 90s-00s guard that was very “butts in seats = loyalty” and “vacation=slacker” and they have embraced the change.

      3. anon e mouse*

        +1. Norms around work and benefits are one area of my political life where I sound like a socialist in the US context, even though these would not be particularly left-wing views in most other developed countries. Four weeks annual leave should be standard, sick days should go back to being a separate bin so people stop coming to work sick, and we shouldn’t have to make a big groveling show of gratitude and long “makeup” days to actually use our vacation time and disconnect during it. These are not unreasonable desires, and people should be outraged that we live in a system where norms are so screwed up.

    11. The Other Dawn*

      I’m in the US. I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily rude, but I agree one needs to think about how it impacts the department, the workflow, etc. when making a request for a long vacation If someone wanted to take a long vacation, I’d approve it as long as they’re giving me enough notice. If someone told me they want a six-week vacation and it’s a week before they’re leaving, I’d be annoyed (obviously there’s the possibility that something personal has come up at the last minute and that’s why it’s a short lead time), but I’d try to find a way to approve it. Though I’d make sure to tell them it’s not a guarantee. If they gave me a longer lead time, I don’t see any reason to deny the request unless there’s a very large, important project going on or a regulatory deadline to meet. And even then, that’s why we cross train people.

      1. DistantAudacity*

        Oh yes – even here in Europe it has to be pre-planned well in advance.

        Like the Finnish discussion, Norway also has a rythm where it is expected that people take long vacations during the summer.

        The rule is that you are entitled to 3 weeks continously off ( to ensure a proper break) during June – Sep, but your employer can decide when (e.g. for coverage purposes). I think it must be finally decided by mid-April (ish). This gives everyone time to plan and manage the work.

        At my company, a global consulting company (no coverage needed), they tell us “please take July off unless your project/client needs dictate otherwise”.

        You would never get 3 weeks off approved on a week’s notice!

        1. allathian*

          Yes, this is crucial. I have one coworker who has the same job description as I do. Unless one of us gets sick while the other is on vacation, we agree between ourselves who takes which weeks off to ensure coverage, and our boss just signs off on the leave requests. In previous years, there was often a week in July when both of us were away, but last year that wasn’t necessary. I took three weeks from late June to mid-July, my coworker took four weeks from mid-July to mid-August, and I took another week after that. Worked well. We had coverage, but didn’t have to work longer days than normal, because the load was much lower as so many of our internal clients were also on vacation. Outside the vacation period there’s plenty for both of us to do.

          For the holidays, I took the week before Christmas off and my coworker took last week off. Now we’re back at work.

    12. Momma Bear*

      How it affects your team is relative – two days off in a row might be too much for some jobs.

    13. Public Sector Manager*

      A lot of this depends on the work of the office. I’m in the public sector in the US, and during the first 9 months of the year we are very busy (basically doing 12 months worth of work in a 9-month period). The last 3 months of the year is our slow time.

      So if someone wanted to take all of October off, no big deal at all. We don’t have a paternity leave policy, but when I wanted October, November, and December off to bond with my son, my boss didn’t even bat an eye and it was approved in about 60 seconds. But if someone wanted 3-4 weeks off in June, that would be a huge issue. We’d be short staffed. Work would have to be reassigned. There would be a lot of extra hours, and since most everyone in my office is salaried, they’d have nothing to show for all the extra hours. It would be a hit to the morale of the people having to pick up the slack for the person off 3-4 weeks during our busy season.

      So during our busy time of year, we try to be flexible as possible, but 3+ weeks would be pushing it. But a 3-4 week vacation in the fall, have a great time!

    14. Anonymous Hippo*

      Is it normal that your manager figure out how to cover you duties when you take vacation, rather than you work it out yourself? I’ve never once had any of my managers sort that out for me, it was always something I did myself. Is this just me having, um, laid back managers? If I asked for 3 weeks off my manager would totally approve it without hesitation, but unless I dealt with my work load, I’d come back to an absolute disaster on my return (and probably have my email and phone going non stop while I was gone).

    15. Des*

      Having been someone who covered a coworker’s 5 weeks of vacation — it was stressful and inconvenient for me but it was totally worth knowing that I could do the same if I wanted to in the future. We should be allowed to leave for the allowed time. Sometimes two weeks is just the amount of time you need to start to truly relax and enjoy the vacation.

    16. Mid*

      I don’t have that much leave built up yet, but I could pretty easily take a month off in a row, because my tasks either don’t impact others, or someone is cross trained on tasks. I don’t think it’s rude to take time off.

  6. CatCat*

    OP #1, just tossing this out there in case it’s helpful. It’s not entirely clear what the source of your discomfort is, but if you get tired driving long distances, you can stop the journey and take cat naps along the way to refresh. My mom had to drive these distances and would do this. It really helped her stay alert to complete her trips. She’d park at a shopping center, put on an eye mask, recline her seat, and set an alarm for 30 mins.

    1. Julia*

      I just read somewhere that it’s not considered okay to sleep in your car in some locations (or might not be safe), so this would probably depend on appropriate places to park.

      1. I heart Paul Buchman*

        This is so common where I live that there are designated spaces along highways to do so. I’m surprised that this isn’t usual in other parts! Driving while tired is very dangerous.

        1. Lonely Aussie*

          Around public holidays in Aus, many of the roadside stops on the highways every X amount of kms have volunteers who give out tea, coffee and biscuits to encourage people to stop and take a rest on their drive.

        2. allathian*

          Resting is one thing, and when my husband and I go on long drives, we’ll either switch over occasionally or he’ll drive all the way, with rest breaks, because he’s a much more confident and experienced driver than I am.

          We do have places where people can pull over and sleep, but those are mostly used by truckers, who must take statutory rest breaks, including sleep. But long-haul trucks also have a sleeping space built in.

          But yeah, driving when you’re tired is as dangerous as driving drunk.

          Some data on drowsy driving from the CDC (I won’t put a link or the post will get stuck in moderation, but just google drowsy driving):

          Studies have shown that going too long without sleep can impair your ability to drive the same way as drinking too much alcohol.
          Being awake for at least 18 hours is the same as someone having a blood content (BAC) of 0.05%.
          Being awake for at least 24 hours is equal to having a blood alcohol content of 0.10%. This is higher than the legal limit (0.08% BAC) in all states.

          1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            I have memories (from the UK) of motorway signs reminding you that driving while tired is dangerous just before every service station, which was usually when (when I was a child) my mother would pull in, have a cat nap in the car park and get a coffee before driving on.

        3. Caroline Bowman*

          Not as dangerous as being murdered in your vehicle possibly. It absolutely depends on where one is located. Where I am, even stopping by the side of the road in some areas is a very risky thing to do.

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Where I live the police have shot people sleeping in their cars.

              Sure, there can be safe places, but that isn’t going to work for everyone, especially folks that are part of a marginalized or socially vulnerable group. I know, even if I was able to find a relatively safe spot, I wouldn’t feel comfortable closing my eyes for more than 10-15 minutes in a parking lot or rest stop (especially not a rest stop).

          1. Annie Moose*

            This is getting a bit into “not everyone can eat sandwiches” territory, I think! LW is talking about quite long trips; I doubt for an entire five hour drive, there’s nowhere safe for her to pull over for a few minutes. Even if that’s the case, LW can make that decision for herself! Suggesting she take breaks if possible is a reasonable solution that would work in many situations, even if it doesn’t work in all situations.

          2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            Yeah, I was a teenager when Michael Jordan’s dad was murdered at a rest stop, and it left an impression. I absolutely won’t sleep at one by myself, except maaaaybe on a really busy weekend during the day when there are lots of people around and volunteers selling coffee. Except for a few without good alternatives in the rural part of my state, I try to stop at McDonalds for bathroom breaks rather than at rest areas as well, particularly when I’m driving alone. (In my area, they tend to be the chain restaurant with the cleanest restrooms if you’re stopping someplace you’re not familiar with. When I can locate one, I’ll stop at a Fred Meyers instead since they’re the grocery chain that tends to keep restrooms unlocked even in neighborhoods when other businesses start to get fussy about them, but those aren’t usually listed on highway signs like fast food places.)

            I wish there was some kind of “supervised sleeping and restroom use” club I could join, where I could instead stop at a rest area with an attendant keeping an eye on both the sleepers and the restrooms, but that doesn’t seem to be a thing. I really haven’t figured out a place I feel safe getting some sleep on long car trips, and it sucks. (I also wish getting to, say, Gold status with a hotel chain meant they’d be cool with you using their lobby restrooms at their other locations along the way, but that is also not a thing as far as I can tell.)

            1. doreen*

              I think a lot also depends on the type of rest area you’re talking about. I have very infrequently seen the type of unstaffed rest area with some vending machines and restrooms – most rest areas I see are the large travel plazas with food courts and gas stations and I don’t think I would be afraid of taking a short nap in one of those, as people are there at all hours.

              1. ThatGirl*

                In my experience staffed travel plazas are more common along toll roads, and unstaffed rest areas are more common along freeways and rural interstates. So Tri-State Tollway (Chicagoland) and Indiana Toll Road will have travel plazas, but I-72 downstate or I-35 through Iowa only had the rest stops.

              2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                I don’t think I’ve ever seen a rest area with a gas station or food court. I’ve seen a truck stop or two like that, but where I live a rest area means some bathrooms, some parking spaces, a vending machine or two, picnic tables, a grassy area for dogs, maybe some signs about points of local interest or history, and sometimes volunteers serving coffee for donations if it’s a busy travel day. Sometimes there is enough open space to go for a short hike/long walk, sometimes not.

                In some more rural areas, I’ve seen “rest areas” that were nothing but pit toilets and a couple of parking spaces, even. (I try to avoid those when I can. I am a fan of plumbing and appreciate that I live in a society that mostly has it.)

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              (I also wish getting to, say, Gold status with a hotel chain meant they’d be cool with you using their lobby restrooms at their other locations along the way, but that is also not a thing as far as I can tell.)

              I can’t imagine a hotel stopping you from using the lobby restroom. Am I just naive?

              1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                Personally, I would feel really weird walking into a hotel I wasn’t staying at, asking to use their restroom, and then leaving without some kind of specific permission. I’d feel less weird if it was a hotel I stayed at regularly or worked with to run events and thus was at fairly often for meetings, but I wouldn’t just stop off at a random Best Western in a town I was passing through to pee and leave.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  I’ve… literally never *asked* if I could use the restroom at a hotel. I mean, I’ve also never used the lobby restroom unless I was staying there or having a meeting, but I still can’t imagine them caring. I’d prefer to stop at a convenience store if possible (and I do always buy something when I do that), but if there wasn’t anything suitable, I’d totally stop at a hotel in an emergency.

                2. Filosofickle*

                  Interesting! I have never done it on the road, but in cities/downtown areas hotels are my go-tos for good bathrooms and a place to sit for a few minutes. I’ve been doing this since I was a teen. You don’t ask, you just walk in like you belong there.

                3. UKDancer*

                  I agree with Rusty about not asking at hotels. You walk in confidently and with purpose and use the toilets. I’ve never asked. In my experience as long as you are reasonably presentable and clean they assume you have a reason for being there. If anyone asked I’d say I wanted a menu for the restaurant or a leaflet.

                  Obviously this is at big hotels, especially chain hotels. I wouldn’t do it at a small guesthouse.

                4. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

                  Yeah, I guess I wouldn’t think it was particularly weird at, like, a big-city conference hotel, but I’m thinking of more “Best Western in a tiny town” type hotels since those are the ones that would be competing with rest areas. (Since in larger towns there would be fast food restaurants, it’s only the teeny towns where I’m unable to find something open past 8 pm other than the local bar that I’m tempted to try a hotel.)

              2. pugsnbourbon*

                I think there are some hotel chains that will allow people who aren’t necessarily staying there to rest in their lobby. I imagine you can’t be full-on snoring right in front of the desk, but tucking into a corner and closing your eyes for a few minutes would be fine. COVID may have changed that, not sure.

              3. ThatGirl*

                I can’t either, it wouldn’t be my first thought but a typical hotel chain has publicly accessible restrooms and I doubt the clerk would think much of someone using it. I wouldn’t even ask or say anything myself.

              4. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

                I’ve definitely done it! Sometimes it’s easier in a foreign city where you wouldn’t be sure where public restrooms would be, but can easily locate a Hilton or something. The fancier the better, as they tend to have nicer bathrooms :)

  7. Not All*

    LW 1
    Maybe it’s because I’ve spent most of my life in the west where distances are big (and the rest of it in heavy traffic areas where rush ‘hour’ could easily take 3 hrs to go 40 miles on the interstate), but I’d have pretty serious concerns about whether an employee who couldn’t drive a half day by themselves. Unless they had a very coherent, logical explanation for me the assumptions I would make are not flattering. Without more info, I would jump to either a health condition (which now means we need to have a serious talk about whether you are physically safe to have working alone at all), you’re too insecure to be alone (in which case I need to worry about whether you can handle the job or any conflict that may come up), or you simply are trying to get out of a doing a mildly unpleasant task.

    There just aren’t a lot of reasons why the ‘alone’ part should matter at all. If you’re prone to blood clots from sitting for long periods (my family is…genetic clotting disorder) then you need to stop every hour & walk for a few minutes and another driver won’t matter at all. If you get sleepy then you also stop periodically & do jumping jacks or whatever and eat crunchy snacks/listen to audio books, etc.

    I’ve been doing 15hr plus solo drives (single day) since I was in college and while these days my back isn’t going put up with more than about 10-12 hrs in a day there just shouldn’t be anything to be afraid of. Yes I’m a small woman & nothing is going to happen 5 hrs away that couldn’t happen 5 min away.

    1. Barbara Eyiuche*

      What if someone is agoraphobic? I wouldn’t be comfortable telling my boss this, but it would certainly mean I couldn’t drive five hours away by myself.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        If you want to be excused from a part of your job based on medical grounds, you really do have to disclose medical information, as “I don’t want to” is not generally considered an acceptable reason for refusing job tasks. Then, if your condition is covered by ADA, there would be a negotiation with your employer, which would depend on what counts as a reasonable accommodation. If a core part of the job involves driving long distances, though, and you can’t do it, it could mean finding a new job.

        1. Ms.Vader*

          Yes agreed – if it is a part of your job requirements, you do have to disclose if there is a medical need why you are unable to. Otherwise it sounds like an excuse.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes — while an employer considering an accommodation isn’t required to get documentation of the disability, they do have the right to ask for documentation that describes the nature, severity, and duration of the impairment and the way it affects the employee’s ability to perform the work. Otherwise they won’t know if it falls under the ADA or not, and they won’t be able to engage in what’s call the interactive process, where they work with the employee to figure out accommodations that will work (which aren’t always the same as the ones initially proposed by the employee).

        3. Stephanie*

          Yeah, my last job required driving to supplier factories, which were often in remote locations that were realistically only accessible by car. But they were clear up front that a drivers license was a job requirement and that you would be expected to drive places.

        4. Observer*

          If you want to be excused from a part of your job based on medical grounds, you really do have to disclose medical information

          This is true. But it’s also a perfect example of a condition where not being able to drive alone for 5 hours says absolutely nothing about the the employee’s ability to work on their own. @Not All is claiming that not being able to drive long distances on your own somehow shows that you can’t work on your own. It’s not true and this is one example of how it’s not true.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        If you were agoraphobic, wouldn’t a one-hour drive be as problematic as a five-hour drive?

        1. Homebody Houseplant*

          Not necessarily. Sometimes whether through exposure by necessity or therapy, people can improve enough to function in a way that allows them to live life a bit more “normally” so to speak, but there are limits to what people can handle. For example, there are some things I can tolerate in small doses but could not for an extended period of a time, as I only have the coping skills to manage so much. Disorders are not one size fits all and vary from person to person, the textbook definition of any such disorder doesn’t always match exactly a person’s individual experience.

    2. Anononon*

      How uncharitable. I think those assumptions you’re making say a lot more about you than the OP, that those are the only three possibly reasons why someone wouldn’t want to drive 5+ hours. It is certainly not uncommon for people to have anxiety over driving long distances, and depending on the severity, it may not be an easy “just get over it” cure. Also, there are medical conditions that prevent driving but not simply working alone.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Was hoping someone would bring up medical reasons for not being able to drive that don’t mean you can’t work alone. The state I grew up in (many, many years ago so may have changed in intervening years) did not grant licenses to drive to anyone with Epilepsy. Does this mean that these folks can’t have a job working alone?

        (I would say no – just means that they can’t have a job that involves any driving.)

      2. juliebulie*

        Yes! I find driving terrifying (and I’ve been doing it for 35 years, so it’s not just a phase). A one-hour commute to work was doable, but exhausting. Driving much more than that while terrified is extremely draining.

      3. Anax*

        Yep, I have a medical condition that prevents long-distance driving but not working alone. I’m safe to drive for short periods if I’m very careful – weather overcast and < 75F, topped up on food + electrolytes + water, several bottles of Gatorade and snacks in the car. The longer the drive takes, the more difficult all those conditions are to maintain – especially the overcast weather, as even when it's cool and I have the windows open, being in a sunny car is a problem for me. I could do three hours in good weather without an issue, but five minutes in high summer… nope.

        (Heat intolerance related to postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. I get heatstroke and tachycardia at the drop of a hat, despite all my precautions, and a dizzy, confused driver is not a safe one. Seriously, five minutes in a car in summer and my resting heartrate is up above 150.)

    3. Ms.Vader*

      This seems a bit disingenuous- I’d be certainly annoyed if she knew about this before accepting the job and didn’t say anything then and I also get the bosses frustration having to do the emergency call twice in a row. But I wouldn’t leap to the conclusions you suggested. I would take the time to understand why she is unable to make the drive and either state the requirement to do so and it needs to be done as her job or find ways to work around it but that shouldn’t colour the rest of her job.

      Also the tone I’m reading it, and having her dad accompanying her, sounds like the OP May be young. Give them some slack.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      A health condition that affects driving should not on its own necessitate “a serious talk about whether you are physically safe to have working alone at all.” There are plenty of conditions that would make it hard for someone to drive long distances that would have no bearing on their ability to safely work alone, and this sounds a lot like disability discrimination. Please rethink this, both for legal reasons and general human ones!

      1. She's One Crazy Diamond*

        Thank you! I’m a bit narcoleptic, so I don’t feel comfortable driving alone really ever, but I am certainly capable of working most jobs that don’t involve operating heavy machinery. It’s extremely hurtful when people act like I’m less of an adult just because I don’t drive, if anything I think it makes me more responsible that I refuse to put other people in a situation where I could fall asleep on the freeway.

      2. Beth*

        This was my thought as well! Unless the job is inherently about either driving or operating heavy machinery (which requires similar levels of motor skills and reliable concentration), I can’t imagine how someone’s ability to drive would have any bearing on their ability to work overall.

          1. Jackalope*

            Is it? They’ve been there for “less than a year” but it sounds like still awhile, and this appears to have been the first time this came up, given the surprise. It’s possible that this could be a regular thing, but it could also be a couple times a year thing, in which case it’s still important but not as much so.

            1. Myrin*

              Little correction since I otherwise agree with you: this current situation was the second time this came up, the first time being the one where OP brought her dad along. But yeah, I’d guess she’s been in this job for something like 10 months now (because of the verbiage; it seemed to me like more than half a year but still less than one) so, let’s say, this happened twice during an 8-to-11 months period, which, while not necessarily unusual, definitely doesn’t sound like “a major part” of this job, either.

          2. Beth*

            This is a reply to Not All’s comment about assuming a person who can’t do long drives may not be fit for work at all, not to OP1’s specific situation.

      3. rudster*

        Agreed. I developed facial palsy on my left side after removal of a large cranial tumor. This consequence was expected from the surgery, which was essential to save my life. Since, I now have permanent dry eye, due to my eyelid not closing as completely or spontaneously as before, I have to pause and apply and prescription eye drops and/or gels many times throughout the day. Between having to throw my head back to apply the drops, and wait, while blinking, somewhere between a few seconds and a few minutes for my vision to clear. Obviously, this now makes driving long distances impracticable to impossible, but doesn’t really affect my ability to do other work.

      4. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I have several colleagues who can’t drive and it has no impact on their ability to work alone. In fact I don’t actually know which of my colleagues can drive and which can’t. We’re in London so everyone comes in by public transport or bike (although we’re all remote right now). I have one colleague who is a petrol head and has a picture of his posh car as his computer backdrop so I guess he can drive but otherwise I couldn’t definitively say.

        My colleague who uses a wheelchair is perfectly capable of opening the office, working alone and doing everything the job requires but is not able to drive. The fact she can’t drive doesn’t affect her ability to analyse teapot composition and recommend spout improvements. I wouldn’t employ her for a job as a lorry driver but then she wouldn’t apply for one.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Funny bit is, I have the opposite issue! I’m not allowed, under the company insurance, to work alone because I have epilepsy. But, because I’ve been seizure free for over a decade (thank you meds!) the DVLA has zero issue with me driving and the company accepts that. Kinda weird that I’m not allowed to be on my own at a desk but perfectly ok to be alone operating a car.

          Employment is fun!

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes my colleague has I think a form of cerebral palsy affecting her motor skills (although I don’t know the details because I’ve never been so rude as to ask). So she can’t do things like driving or operating heavy machinery but she has no problems being on her own because she doesn’t have seizures.

            The key thing I learnt from working with her is not to assume what she might or might not be able to do but to actually ask what she needs to do the job and work with her on the adjustments needed, some of which are things I didn’t even think about before she mentioned. Sounds stupid but it taught me a lot.

    5. Blomma*

      Having a medical condition that prevents one from driving several hours one way doesn’t automatically mean someone isn’t healthy enough to work alone. I have multiple chronic pain conditions and was asked if I’d be open to driving and working at our office 2 hours away occasionally. I said that driving for that long causes me too much pain so I wouldn’t be able to do that. Sometime after that I broke my right ankle and have permanent extra pain in that foot, especially when I drive. Neither of those issues mean that I can’t be left alone at work. (It doesn’t sound like a medical condition is the OP’s issue with the drive anyway based on how it’s worded.)

    6. Jackalope*

      I think you’re letting your own experience color your answer (and bring uncharitable to the OP). As Alison points out above, there are plenty of issues (including medical issues) that can make it difficult to drive by yourself for long distances but have no bearing on your ability to do other work tasks. I can say that in my own personal experience I can’t do more than about 2-2.5 hours driving alone most of the time because I get too sore in the driver’s seat (as a passenger I can move around more, stretch my legs, etc.). This has gotten worse as I’ve gotten older, but even in my 20’s I had a hard time driving for more than 3-4 hours without a sleep in the middle somewhere or at least an hour or two break (a ten minute stretch break didn’t cut it). I also personally get sleepy easily when driving and while I have no problem pulling over to take a nap, there’s not always a good place to do so (and honestly, if I were driving for a work emergency I might feel a certain amount of pressure not to stop, stupid as that may be). I have no idea if these are at all related to the reasons that the OP is concerned about this drive but I’m certain there are other similar reasons that could be a issue. Or perhaps not, but I can see legitimate reasons to be concerned about this. And a 10 hour round trip drive, especially if the OP has to do it all in one day (not specified in the letter) while also working, is a really long time to stay alert and focused if that’s not something you’re used to.

      (And it may be the case that nothing would happen 5 hours away that wouldn’t 5 minutes away, but you have a lot more options when you’re close to home. It’s a bit different during COVID perhaps, but during normal times I have enough people within a 50 min drive of my home that if, say, my car died on the road, I could call someone to come pick me up. The last two times my car died, that’s what I did, and it meant not having to wait a few hours for the tow truck. The first time I got a flat when I was an adult with my own car, the flat happened close to home so I was able to make it home, park, and get a friend to come the next day and show me how to change it. If no one can come pick me up, I know the local bus systems and am fortunate enough to be healthy and able to walk if needs be to a bus stop and figure out how to get home. I’ve traveled a lot and know how to find my way around the world through mishaps when I need to, but the logistics are much simpler when you’re on your home turf so to speak. I don’t know that the being away from home is the issue – the OP only mentioned the driving so being 5 hours from home may not even be a concern – but there are ways in which having Issues can be easier to manage with a second person helping out.)

      1. alienor*

        Totally agree with your last paragraph. I would do the drive, and have done similar drives in the past, but I wouldn’t be thrilled by the potential of breaking down and having to wait alone by the side of an interstate where any random creeper could roll up behind me to “help.”

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Isn’t roadside assistance an option in most places? Even if close to home, not everyone is in a position where it’s feasible for them to just call someone to help out with car trouble if there’s another option. My friends would probably wonder why I didn’t call AAA/CAA in the first place?

        Then again, I’m looking at this from the perspective of having been the only person in my household with a driver’s license and car when I was a teenager, so the standard “obvious” solution to getting stranded in my car was never an option for me the way that I suspect almost everyone else takes for granted. Not everyone has many more options when closer to home, so you learn how to make do without.

        1. Beehoppy*

          Not everyone has AAA-it’s a paid subscription that someone early in their career with a small salary who doesn’t normally drive long distances might not have. AAA can also take hours to come, so there is still the issue of standing alone on a roadside waiting for help and hoping no creepy people come up in the meantime.

          1. Not playing your game anymore*

            I get very drowsy when driving. I’m fine driving if I have a passenger willing to converse. I can easily drive an hour or so if I’m rested, but put me in a car on the interstate on my own for several hours? Not good. When my mom was hospitalized 7 hours from our home I had to stop and walk around frequently and consume large caffeinated drinks, which made it easier to stop at every rest area. Doable on I90 but if I’m going somewhere of the interstate? That gets really tough. Can be several hours between rest rooms and also, no cell service out there in the wild if you should have car trouble. I have a job that used to require 5+ hour drives (each way) every few months, but thank zoom and the pandemic we rarely meet in person anymore.

        2. Jackalope*

          It’s true that not everyone has more options when close to home, but it’s more likely that you’ll have them close to home than when you’re five hours away. Even if you don’t have friends and family who can pick you up, you’re more likely to know where you can walk to (or again, take the bus), know local cab numbers, or things like that.

        3. Observer*

          Isn’t roadside assistance an option in most places? Even if close to home, not everyone is in a position where it’s feasible for them to just call someone to help out with car trouble if there’s another option. My friends would probably wonder why I didn’t call AAA/CAA in the first place?

          AAA / Roadside assistance is generally an extra cost that not everyone assumes. Also, roadside assistance in some areas is a mixed bag – from experience I can tell you that in some areas it can take literally hours for them to show up. Also, calling AAA when your are in an area that you are familiar with can be a much easier experience than when you have not clue about the local options.

          Which is to say that worrying about breakdowns is not necessarily an unreasonable thing.

        4. Not So NewReader*

          This assumes cells work in that area OR there are businesses another places that can offer use of a phone.
          There are roads in NYS with no cell service and it is very normal to go for 2 hours without seeing another car. In that two hours you MIGHT see one or two houses. People have died in their cars waiting for help to come.

    7. HannahS*

      I mean, the assumptions you’re making there are indeed unflattering…to you. Why would you jump to conclusions when you can ask follow up questions?

    8. Lonely Aussie*

      I’m Australian, so also well used to those long drives and distances. A family member and I frequently tag team 3000km drives in short time frames. Honestly, I question the judgement of someone more who drives for 15 hours in a day solo than someone else who knows their limit is two hours. Two drivers is a different story but driver fatigue is a very real and dangerous thing especially in newer drivers.

      1. Observer*

        Honestly, I question the judgement of someone more who drives for 15 hours in a day solo than someone else who knows their limit is two hours.

        Yeah, I was thinking about that, too.

    9. Elenna*

      Hmm, I interpreted LW’s letter as not “I can’t drive that distance unless someone is sitting beside me” but rather “I can’t drive that distance in one go at all, I need someone with me to switch off with”. As in last time their father came with them and drove part of the distance.

      Personally, I haven’t driven much (I don’t own a car and I’ve lived in areas with decent public transit), and I find driving fairly stressful, to the point that after 2-3 hours (less in bad weather or at night) my brain just feels tired and I don’t feel able to concentrate enough to drive safely. So I can absolutely believe that LW just can’t drive that long safely.

      I could maybe do 5-6 hours with an hour+ break in the middle, although I’ve never tried it and I wouldn’t want to commit to trying it for the first time for work. Not sure if that would be okay for LW’s work? The term “emergency response” sounds like you wouldn’t want the responder to be delayed an hour, but the emergency in question can apparently wait long enough for someone to drive 5+ hours to get there, so who knows.

      1. HiHello*

        Same here! I have a license but I have never had a car. I drive maybe twice or three times a year – and that’s usually in smaller cities. I would never be able to drive downtown NYC or on a highway for longer periods of time and alone.

      2. MK*

        The OP doesn’t say she can’t, she says she isn’t comfortable doing it. I don’t know what that means for the OP, but frankly I think the answer depends a lot on that.

    10. Kerry*

      Yikes, this is a bit over the top! While I do think that LW 1 should consider whether the job is the right fit for them, I don’t think it’s necessary to make nasty assumptions based on their reluctance to drive long distances. People experience things differently from you, and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean they’re less capable or somehow inferior.

    11. allathian*

      Whoah. That’s really uncharitable. Many people have different life experiences from yours and that doesn’t make them unfit employees or bad people.

      My guess is that because the LW brought their dad along on the trip, they’re fairly young and presumably don’t have a lot of experience driving to unfamiliar places. Most people don’t get to spend 15 hours behind the wheel from their early 20s onwards.

      There are plenty of health conditions where it’s not safe or comfortable to drive for long distances, but where a shortish commute by car on familiar roads would be okay, and where the person’s ability to work alone wouldn’t be otherwise affected. Like I posted above, I hate driving long distances on unfamiliar roads and wouldn’t accept a job that required me to do so. I got my license late, in my mid-30s, so I have a lot less experience behind the wheel than most people my age.

      1. UKDancer*

        I am in a similar position. I have lived in London most of my life so don’t regularly drive and didn’t get my licence until I was in my 30s. So I am not confident driving and wouldn’t want to do so for long periods. That’s why I don’t take jobs that require me to drive places. When I travel on business I take public transport and that has never been a problem. In contrast my cousin lives in a small town and drives a lot on business and her company gives her a very nice car to do it in. She really enjoys the driving part of her job and lives in a pretty small town with no public transport. Her house is 3x the size of my shoebox flat in London. Different strokes for different folks. I wouldn’t want her life and she wouldn’t want mine.

        I think this issue is hugely situational. In some countries 5 hours drive on a motorway is comparatively easy and doesn’t get you very far (e.g. Australia, parts of the US) given the geographic spread. In the UK a 5 hour drive would take you halfway across the country. In parts of Europe it would take you across several countries.

        The point is I don’t think there’s a right and wrong answer to “is 5 hours too long to drive” because it’s so context dependent. I think it also depends on what the job says and whether this was a known duty when the OP took the job.

    12. Tinker*

      Largely going to try skipping over explaining disability as I suspect that will be solidly covered.

      Instead: We need to have a serious talk? Then let’s have a serious talk — an actual serious talk between adults who need to solve a problem given the presence of certain constraints — and not ponderously threaten it. Possibly a person shouldn’t be working alone, in which case that problem needs to be dealt with rather than stuffed out of sight. Perhaps some manager needs to know that people with bad knees are allowed out without a minder, in which case let us by all means have it out. Hopefully this serious talk does not have to involve an attorney, but this is certainly in territory where that is within the spectrum of possibilities.

      A serious talk?

      By all means, *let’s*.

      Managing people means eventually encountering the point that humans are mortal. People will have disabilities, acquire them, get sick, develop conditions that can be very serious. Die, sometimes. Threatening to send such people to the principal’s office does not exactly project the image of mature authority one would probably want to go for.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I always like your posts, Tinker.

        I agree 100%. And I would like to add that sometimes people just don’t want to drive for long periods of time. It’s got nothing to do with fear/disability/whatever. They just don’t want to.

        I hope we do not judge people on the basis of what we ourselves can do. The hard truth is, Not All, that there are things out there other people can do that you or I cannot do. This holds for every single one of us here. It’s not a moral failing. And it is not anything to scold people over. If your company needs people who can drive X hours per day, they can just say that on the interview and ONLY hire people who are willing to do that. There, simple, done and over.

        It doesn’t bother me that your company expects X from people. I am concerned about why you are so angry over it that you make such judgements about people. You sound angry. Perhaps that is the culture in your company.

    13. HiHello*

      What about people who just lack the experience? I have a driver’s license and I have had it for years. But even though I have had it close to a decade, I never really had to drive because I’ve lived in places with amazing public transportation. Because of this, I still have very little experience (imagine I drive maybe twice a year). There is no way I would willingly go alone on a highway for several hours. I would need the ability to switch with someone when I get too anxious. I am ok driving in smaller cities though.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I’m sure there are driving refresher courses that one could take to help you get more comfortable with longer drives.

      2. MK*

        If driving long distances is part of the job and you lack the experience, it’s reasonable to ask for a grace period to become accustomed to it. Expecting to be excused from this task forever, not so much.

        1. doreen*

          My sister only got a license because a government job she wanted required one. She hasn’t driven since her road test about 25 years ago. I don’t know exactly how she has refused to drive , but I am certain her refusal is related to the difficulties she has had at this job.

          1. Picard*

            “her refusal is related to the difficulties she has had at this job”

            Or her difficulties on the job are related to her refusal?

            1. doreen*

              Now that you worded it differently, I’m genuinely unsure which way is correct/clearer. So lets just say I think she would not have encountered many some of those difficulties if she hadn’t refused to drive.

      3. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

        You can go out on your days off and learn to drive longer distances. My first time driving any great lengths by myself was only about 2 1/2 hours – going to visit a friend – and I found out it was enjoyable and that I could do this. I’m a worrywart in general so this was a pleasant surprise, especially as I correctly followed directions (not a given; I can get lost almost anywhere, including big department stores).

    14. Jennifleurs*

      I like how you even admitted in the first line of this that your years of experience with long driving might be colouring your reaction and assumptions and yet you still proceeded to dump that blame-y, judge-y response in the thread. Second paragraph has potentially helpful information in it, but the rest of it? As someone who overcame driving anxiety and who does get sleepy and additionally, is British where the culture over what is a ‘long drive’ is different, this put my back right up.

      1. Lonely Aussie*

        I’m from a place where long drives are part of the culture and it’s drivers like that scare me on the road.
        15 hours in a single day? Way too many solo, especially given that would likely hit at least some of dawn/dusk and night time which is usually more taxing, especially if one drives in areas where animals can get onto the road and are active at night.
        Driver fatigue kills.

        1. MK*

          Why do people keep mentioning 15 hour drives? The OP’s location is 5-6 hours away and apparently they stay in a hotel overnight, so they won’t have a return trip the same day.

          1. Lonely Aussie*

            I mentioned it because Not All (the parent comment in this thread) stated they did 15 hour plus drives and used it as part of their judgement of LW1.

          2. Myrin*

            The 15 hours refer to Not All who started the thread and said “I’ve been doing 15hr plus solo drives (single day) since I was in college”, not the OP.

          3. SAS*

            People are responding to commenter Not All, who regularly drives 15 hours and considers it to be no big deal.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I am wondering how many hours truckers are allowed before they have to take a mandatory rest. Fifteen hours sounds like it can go into impaired judgement territory.

              1. Jackalope*

                The internet source I found said 11 out of 14 hours (with breaks of at least 30 min in there), followed by a mandatory 10 hour min break. I’m not a trucker so not sure because the Internet is a wild place, but I found it on some other sites too so guessing it’s right.

      2. Cat Lover*

        “…is British where the culture over what is a ‘long drive’ is different, this put my back right up.”

        I think this is really interesting because I do think there is a huge difference between the US (and I’m guessing some other large countries) and parts of Europe and the UK.

        I grew up in Virginia and went to college in southwest Ohio. I drove multiple times a year back a forth, which was 8-9 hours each direction, from ages 18-22. 9 hours was a breeze. A few friends from my area went to Alabama for college, which was ~12 hours one direction. Many upper mid-east coasters drive to florida, which is a full days drive (or more).

        I saw a funny post years back on tumblr that was like “europeans will fly everywhere but Americans will drive 15 hours one direction because ‘it’s not far'”.

        I do not agree with the aggressive tone of the above comment, but I can see culturally why someone would have this reaction…. I also think we need more info from the OP. Is it the distance itself? Is it safety? Being able to do work after driving? What is the boss’s issue specifically?

        1. londonedit*

          I agree. I passed my test when I was 17, then promptly moved to London (where there’s really very little need for a car) and I’ve been there for over 20 years now, so I haven’t done much driving at all. To me, driving 3 hours to visit my parents is a big deal – I would drive there and back in a day if it was absolutely essential, but generally I’d consider it to be a trip for a weekend stay or longer. Driving 5-6 hours in one go is totally alien to me and I wouldn’t even know how to approach it. And I probably would be totally exhausted at the end of the drive. However, I agree that we need more information from the OP – were they aware that the job would involve these long drives? Is there anything they can do to make it easier on themselves? Ultimately if their job description involves being asked to drive 6 hours on an emergency call, then their boss isn’t being unreasonable in expecting them to be able to do that.

          1. UKDancer*

            I think the other thing is the sort of roads. 5 hours on a motorway is not the same as 5 hours on rural Derbyshire roads. If you’re driving on a large, multi-lane road that can be a lot easier than needing to navigate very small rural roads or somewhere that’s got a difficult one way system like Leeds or an idiosyncratic layout.

            I think when people in the US think of covering long distances they’re assuming a major road whereas in other countries the roads may be smaller and the traffic bad. You can spend the best part of a hour doing a short distance on the M25 orbital motorway near London.

            1. Cat Lover*


              Also, this varies across the US as well. Driving up and down the east coast on I-95 (big interstate) is different than driving hours through the rural south/Midwest on a one lane road with no stops in sight, surrounded by cornfields (I’ve lived in both areas).

              1. allathian*

                Not to mention some rural parts of Devon in the UK, where they have literally one-lane roads, which are wider in places every few miles or so. You meet a larger vehicle such as a tractor or animal transport truck coming the other way, you’re going to reverse a couple of miles. Added to that, they often have hedges on both sides, so you can’t see what’s coming behind the curve. If you’re out riding a horse on one of these roads, you can see the fields that are invisible from a car. We lived in the UK for a while when I was a kid so I didn’t drive, but I did ride. In my admittedly limited experience as a rider, in the UK drivers were very considerate of horses that could be spooked by a passing car.

        2. English, not American*

          According to google maps, driving from Bournemouth (roughly the middle of the south coast of England) to Thurso (first place I spotted on the north coast of Scotland) takes about 12.5 hours. You’d have to make a concerted effort to spend 15 hours driving in the UK!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            BMW motorcycles had a very difficult time in the US many years ago. TPTB just did not understand that you can keep driving here. Over in Europe they had stops they had to make, such as country borders. No so here. Finally, TPTB visited the US and they were given bikes somewhere in the midwest and told to drive east to their flight home.

            When they got back to HQ, there was a massive undertaking to redesign the seats on their bikes. Seat problem solved.

        3. Rusty Shackelford*

          I saw a funny post years back on tumblr that was like “europeans will fly everywhere but Americans will drive 15 hours one direction because ‘it’s not far’”.

          My favorite version of this is “Europeans think 100 miles is a long distance and Americans think 100 years is a long time.”

    15. Yennefer of Vengerberg*

      We can debate the ethics and validity of Not All’s view, but at the end of the day, this is not an uncommon stance. If the boss has expressed annoyance, there’s a good chance she’s thinking along these uncharitable lines. It’s important information for the OP to have and can help her navigate. And it just highlights the point that this isn’t something you ignore and hope it goes away. It’s much better to have an open and honest discussion to clear the air OP, than to sit around wondering if you’ll get fired. Your boss will be happy that you brought it to her yourself rather than waiting for her to bring it to you, which will also help your cause.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, and if the manager ever needs to hire someone else to do this job, they’ll at least understand that it’s essential to be clear about the requirements of long drives. Presumably they wouldn’t be an issue to most interviewees, but would be for some, and better if they can opt out at an early stage if driving 6 hours one way is an issue.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. When I’ve looked at jobs (in the UK) the ones that require you to drive say things like “driving licence required” or “company car provided” or similar, indicating that part of the job involves driving.

          I think if you want someone to drive as part of the job and it’s not obvious (for example a job as a bus driver) then you need to actually say this in the job spec to be clear. Quite frankly I’d much rather employers did. I went for one job recently which was advertised as being based at either London HQ or small inaccessible town with no train station. What it actually involved was working 2 days per week in the small town and 3 days in London. I found this out at the interview stage and withdrew my application. It was a waste of both our time as I was not willing to drive 2 hours each way to the small inaccessible town. If they’d said on the advert that you needed to divide your time in this way I would have not applied.

          1. Metadata minion*

            Some US jobs will have “must have driver’s license” as a shortcut for “must have reliable transportation to get to work”, which is incredibly annoying and discriminatory when there are other ways to get to a job. I’m hoping in this case that the posting or at least interview process made it clear that driving is part of the job, but unfortunately it’s not always clear whether a job is requiring a driver’s license is because they expect you to drive on the clock or because they’ve decided all responsible adults must have a license and have forgotten that their area has a robust public transportation system.

            (Not that I’m bitter about this or anything. Ahem. I had actually said this past year would be the year I’d learn to drive, and HAH NO, THERE IS A GLOBAL PANDEMIC, NO DRIVING SCHOOL FOR YOU.)

            1. Stephanie*

              My last role had this requirement, but said “must have drivers license.” It was because you had to travel to sometimes remote sites where there wasn’t really public transit or rideshare. We had company cars if it was somewhere within 5 hours distance (usually 5 hours was the cutoff between flying and driving). I think we tried to explain this in interviews, but I could see how it might be construed as discriminatory.

              1. DataSci*

                That’s a bizarre and confusing shorthand. Why not “job requires X% travel including drives of up to 5 hours” in the description? Saves a lot of time for everyone by not having people apply if that’s a deal-breaker.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              Some US jobs will have “must have driver’s license” as a shortcut for “must have reliable transportation to get to work”, which is incredibly annoying and discriminatory when there are other ways to get to a job.

              And not particularly effective unless they also specify “must own a reliable car.” What if you have a license but don’t own a car?

              1. allathian*

                Depends on the job. Some bigger employers have a fleet of company cars for trips to outlying sites, or else a contract with a leasing company that bills the employer for any leases on the job rather than the employee who’s actually driving the car. This could be cheaper for the company in the long run than compensating employees for the use of their own cars.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  This was a response to a post about reliable transportation *to* work, not needing to drive while on the job.

            3. Adultiest Adult*

              Definitely have found this, and have learned to ask for specifics. I also get annoyed at the “doesn’t drive = not an adult” attitude that some people have. I almost passed upon a promotion because the boilerplate job description that was given to me said “Must have a valid driver’s license” where there was no clear need for it. Thankfully I took it to my boss, who looked at me and said, “I don’t need you to drive. I just need you to get to work. I don’t know why they put that in there.” Okay, as long as we’re clear!

      2. Chilipepper*

        Came here to say that. While we might not like what Not All said, some version of this response is quite possible. If it were not true that bosses all too often think things like that, this website would have much less traffic!

        So the lesson is that if you dont say something, you dont know what your boss will think.

      3. Tinker*

        I definitely agree that the correct takeaway here is to address the issue directly with the boss and be prepared to navigate potential weirdness.

        With regard to the part of the discussion that is outside of strictly addressing OP’s situation only, though: There’s this form in workplace advice where folks trot out some particular crochet or lurking bias they have and advise people to conduct themselves so as to avoid it, and the standard response when the crochet is challenged is “well, it doesn’t matter what you say to me, it’s some other hypothetical person who can’t be conclusively proved to not exist somewhere out there in the world who believes this same thing”.

        The advice is of course well-meant, but IME it’s generally not as useful as the person giving it thinks it is. The trouble is, if it’s “not just me but the other guy who also thinks that”, and there are many people who have these quirks and are quick to sagely advise the young to eschew salmon-colored shirts or brown nail polish or whatever, then the hypothetical person who can’t be conclusively proven to not exist has the accumulation of all such views. And while there are often relatively common threads among the spiders that live in various people’s attics, it doesn’t take much accumulation to find that the boogey-manager simultaneously believes that people who ride the bus to work lack moral fibre and people who don’t ride the bus to work are irresponsibly indulgent, at which point the only reasonable solution is to become a socialist revolutionary.

        Hence, to get back to the original bottom line, really the way to systematically address this “well I think this and that’s the way it is” type content is to be prepared that some people will end up not being reasonable and plan to deal with that as it comes, more so than going to extended efforts to head them off at the front end.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        Agree Yennefer. OP drag it out into the open and deal with it. Better to know now than spend huge amounts of time worrying about it.

        I took a job were I had Y concern about the job. “Do we need to do Y here?”, I asked several people on the interview. Each one assured me that there was no need to do Y. Six months in I realize that not only is there lots of Y to do, but *I* am expected to do my share. Had I known, I would have ended the interview.
        And that is exactly what I said to HR. I told them that several people said there was no Y to do here. If I had known there was Y, I would not have taken the job. This is why I point blank asked.
        HR stepped back. I was allowed to keep the job and do minimal of Y. I did however support others when they had to do Y.

    16. Sandman*

      This is my reaction as well. It’s interesting to see the responses here, because norms seem to be pretty regionally-based. Coming from a small town in the midwest, I’d be flabbergasted if someone weren’t willing/able to drive 5-6 hours on an occasional basis. Right or wrong, in my mind that’s such a normal thing that I don’t know if I’d even think to bring it up in an interview.

      1. Salamander*

        It is interesting, isn’t it? I live in a large midwestern city. I am an anxious sort and hate driving in bad weather and heavy traffic. But it was expected to have a driver’s license since the time I was sixteen and to use it to get to work and school. And that was what was expected from everyone else I knew. I grew up in a rural area, and if you didn’t drive, you couldn’t work and you couldn’t get anywhere. Public transit in my city is meh, and I literally can’t get to the nearest grocery store if I wanted to use the bus line.

        I don’t enjoy driving, but if it’s part of the work, it’s part of the work, and I wouldn’t quibble about it. For many places, it’s just part of the everyday landscape of life.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        It’s very regional and also rural/urban. My spouse is from a small, rural area in the middle of nowhere and wouldn’t think twice about a 5-6 hour drive. I grew up in a small city, and, other than when I was in college 5 hours from home, 2ish hours in the car is more than enough for me. I would not take a job that expected me to drive solo for more than half a standard workday and would certainly expect to know about this requirement prior to taking the job. (I can drive for longer, but I don’t really want to. The 8-hour drive to my in-laws’ once a year is excruciating.) We now live in a large city with public transit, and many of my teammates don’t even own cars. It’s really what you’re used to.

      3. Librarian1*

        It’s also very much an urban/rural thing. I grew up in the Chicago area and a while we’d sometimes do 2-3 hour drives to get to special events, a 6 hour one-way drive (which is how I’ve been thinking of this) was not a regular occurrence because we didn’t need to. We had airports and trains and such. When I went to small-town Iowa for college I was surprised that people would drive over an hour each way to go shopping because I never had to do that because I didn’t need to.

        1. Salamander*

          It is indeed a thing. Where I grew up, the nearest hospital was forty-five minutes away. It was totally normal to drive that far to get to the nearest grocery store. The nearest actual shopping center with places where one could buy clothes and electronics or go out to eat was about that far away across state lines. The upside is that there’s very little traffic, but one certainly needs to batch one’s errands. While I consider where I grew up to be reasonably rural, it’s not nearly as rural as many other parts of the US.

    17. Observer*

      There just aren’t a lot of reasons why the ‘alone’ part should matter at all. If you’re prone to blood clots from sitting for long periods (my family is…genetic clotting disorder) then you need to stop every hour & walk for a few minutes and another driver won’t matter at all. If you get sleepy then you also stop periodically & do jumping jacks or whatever and eat crunchy snacks/listen to audio books, etc.

      Those are far from the only two reasons why someone would not want to drive alone. Your assumption that any other reason means that you now “have” to basically threaten your employee’s job (ie you “have” to assume that they probably can’t work on their own or are too insecure to do ANYTHING on their own) is wildly out of sync with reality. The ability to drive long distances (or lack thereof) alone says nothing someone’s ability to do anything else on their own.

      For instance, it is totally possible to be VERY self confident while recognizing that driving long distances is not one’s forte. In fact, someone who recognizes their limitations is something I would MUCH prefer over someone who thinks that they are good at EVERYTHING, even if they are not.

      The fact also is that stopping every hour simply does NOT work for a lot of people, under many circumstances. A lot depends on the driving conditions and the car, but it’s just not uncommon.

    18. nozenfordaddy*

      I’m in a similar position as Not All – though I’m a big woman not a small one – for the last 10 years or so I’ve regularly had to do 3-5 hour drives for work. Or 3 hours day one, 1.5 hours to get to a job site day two a half days work and then and 4-5 hours home. Occasionally two 3-5 hour trips in one day with work in the middle though most of those I did in 2020 so I could avoid hotels and restaurants etc. My dad did something similar for 10-15 years in his job so it wasn’t a completely alien concept when it came up in my career.

      Now it’s easy, I barely think about it – I know where all the rest stops and Starbucks’ are on my routes. I have a variety of ‘gear’ including a case of water in my trunk in case of emergency. I know how to I have an eye mask for roadside napping, audiobooks cued up on my phone and snacks in my glove compartment. But it took time to get there.

      When I started, I hated it. I was constantly terrified – heck I still don’t like it when I have to go somewhere unfamiliar but those locations are fewer and farther between after ten years. I hadn’t regularly driven more than the 10 miles to my office, and long trips were the 45 miles to see my parents. It took time to get used to it, and in the beginning it took having a coworker in the car with me the first few times. I don’t know why OP#1 feels like they can’t do 5-6 hours alone, if it’s medical, fear/anxiety, disinterest, traffic, but there’s so much room to recognize that regardless of their reasons it isn’t a simple task.

      I don’t know, maybe you sprang into existence a full formed 15 hour long haul expert but it took me more than a year of being kind to myself (and thankfully the support of my employers) and building up my skill and tolerance before driving 3-5 hours was ‘easy’.

  8. Ms.Vader*

    Op #1
    Are you perhaps scared of getting lost far from home? I used to get nervous driving long distances because when I was younger, we had to print off maps and had no internal GPS to guide you if there was a detour etc. However with GPS now on phones and in cars, I’m comfortable driving anywhere. If it’s the fear of being lost, use your maps feature on your phone/car and just remember that you can always find your way using that – even if you take a wrong turn, it’ll reroute you.

    If you have a policy where you can’t drive with a phone (our Province, you can only if it’s mounted and you have a full license), ask your boss if it is reasonable to have a mobile GPS to install in the car. That may help.

  9. OK Computer*

    I live in one of the most remote ‘big’ cities in the world and my organisation sends staff all over our large state for work (furthest town is 2175 miles away with not much else on the way there – tourists get stranded and die along the way). Our organisation has a shared driving policy for long distances but there was a lot of corporate resistance because it doubles the trip costs. But too bad. I guess in the US nothing is very remote though, so my whole story may be irrelevant.

    1. WS*

      Perth? I think a shared driving policy is a good idea considering the distances and the risks there. But there are parts of the US that are relatively remote, and that also have difficult terrain like very steep mountains.

      1. sam*

        Can’t be perth. Most remote workers fly in / fly out rather than driving. Also I’m in a regional centre that’s a 3 hour drive from perth,and even on the quietest day there’s constant traffic flow. Tourists don’t ever get lost and die driving between perth and the nearest towns.

    2. Beth*

      There are definitely parts of the US that are very remote and potentially dangerous to solo travelers who aren’t prepared for the trip. (Mountains, deserts, remote areas where the highway heading there might have no gas station for 50 miles and very spotty cell service in between…most work trips won’t take people into these kinds of areas, but they do exist, and precautions for safety would be important in these kinds of cases.) But there are also plenty of places that might be a 5-6 hour drive with suburbs and solid service the whole way. It would depend on the specific trip, whether I thought a shared driving policy or other official precautions might be a necessity.

    3. AnotherLibrarian*

      Coming from Alaska, I am confident saying that parts of the US are super remote. However, we don’t tend to also have roads. (Rule of Alaska truly rural travel: There’s bold pilots and there’s old pilots and there are no old bold pilots, so pick your pilot carefully.) I do think that most places where road travel is common, outside of national parks, you generally have places to stop, unlike I know parts of other countries.

    4. Alice's Rabbit*

      Um, there are parts of the US that are definitely that remote. And large swaths of the western US are so devoid of people, you can drive for hours on a “busy” day without seeing a soul.
      The solution is to plan for this. Keep water, food, a blanket, a shovel, a can of gas, a bottle of oil, and other emergency supplies in your trunk.
      Be prepared for a long wait, if you break down, and don’t panic. If nothing else, the gas tanker or grocery store semi will come by every couple days, and in remote places like that, the drivers do stop to render aid. And if you’re driving for work and don’t check in, one would assume the boss would organize a search effort of some sort.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        To drive to the southern part of the state where my parents live, there are massively empty stretches of road; this includes both bits in the mountains with limited cell service, and the sort of signs that read “Last gas station for 100 miles”. It takes some getting used to.

      2. Mynona*

        Oh, this sounds a lot like Australia. I like road trips and grew up in Texas so I thought I was used to long-distance driving. Then I visited Australia for work. Melbourne and Sydney look really close on the map, but they’re actually a 10-hour drive or something. Nowhere in the US is as remote as remote in Australia.

        1. Emi*

          Remote doesn’t just mean big, though. It’s not a 10-hour drive through the wilderness; there are cities along the way.

    5. Librarian1*

      There are places that are that remote that still have roads, mostly in the West (eg. the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, parts of the desert southwest, etc). Idk how they compare to where you live in terms of places to stop along the route though.

    6. LGC*

      I mean, yeah, we’re not on the scale of 2000 miles as an intrastate trip (partly because Australia has fewer states), but it really depends on where in the US you are. (Generally, east of the Mississippi, things aren’t very remote. West of the Mississippi is more sparsely populated in general, especially in the Mountain West. And then there’s Alaska.)

  10. Casper Lives*

    OP3 – fitness reimbursement sounds like a nice perk. Otherwise I agree with Alison. The gym I went to pre-covid offered pole dancing with other classes.

    1. Malarkey01*

      I was a little surprised by Alison’s response and think some of this may be regional/company culture and a case of know your company and ask if there are questions. While I’ve done pole dancing fitness classes and don’t see anything personally risqué about them, it would very much be a pearl clutching moment at the last 3 places I’ve worked, and at one of them I’d never mentioned I was taking a class because it would become a THING and I’d be the woman taking stripper classes”. Just a case of what is right, might not be what is done/assumed so keep that in mind when approaching your company.

      1. sofar*

        My current company won’t reimburse me for my martial arts/boxing gym because “violence” (*eyeroll*), so yes, it could definitely be a cultural issue here. But my HR department told me exactly why they won’t reimburse my martial/arts boxing gym, so it is possible the form just got lost in the shuffle for LW. Who knows. Regardless (and this is a bit of a tangent), I’ve always found it curious that companies offer (and tout) their fitness reimbursement, but not everyone gets to claim the benefit.

        1. pancakes*

          Do they think you’re doing violence in the class? This seems like something that could be effectively pushed back on, particularly if you have an employee handbook that says you can be reimbursed.

          1. sofar*

            I have pushed back. They are not having it. And, technically, our employee handbook excludes any classes that involve fighting, anything with the word “dojo” in it, combat training and shooting. I think it’s silly, but …

        2. But There is a Me in Team*

          That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, sofar. Those same “violence” nannies probably binge watch CSI. We did lose a domestic violence trial once because the victim took kickboxing at her gym and the defense attorney continuously referred to it as “combat cardio ” and “combat class” to the jury. The jury bought it.

      2. Oof*

        The only part that surprised me was to “look baffled”. Oh come on now – it’s not that unthinkable that the class could raise eyebrows. If asked, just explain and move on, but to look baffled would also look really out of touch. To be honest, my first thought at the headline was not an exercise class, but professional development. It’s not just a great workout, it’s also how people make a living.

      3. Observer*

        Sure, there might be pearl clutching. But would those places just refused to process the reimbursement without saying anything?

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      I would guess that the reimbursement didn’t go through because the OP employee resigned, not because HR objected to pole dancing. HR would have, should have reached out if there was an issue with the type of fitness selected.

      1. LW #3*

        OP here! To be completely honest, the form was outstanding for a few months. It was unmarked for a significantly long time before I resigned. I was just forgot all about following up on it which is on me. Y’all are probably right though that HR just missed it.

  11. Allonge*

    LW1 – from your point on context, it seems to me that you are worried not just about the drive, but also being able to do the job once you get there. May I suggest that you consider this and discuss with your boss also this element? It’s easier to focus on the drive, and it seems the more immediate issue, but these things tend to merge together to make stuff even more scary.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah. I think that people (myself included) have perhaps focused too much on the long drive itself. I suspect that the LW isn’t fully confident in their ability to do the job once they get there, and that the combination of feeling anxious about the long drive and about their ability to do the job could be too much. In this case, I think it would be entirely fair, if it’s more than just the drive that’s causing anxiety, to request some training in dealing with that particular recurring emergency.

      Perhaps the next time it happens, the LW could ask to accompany someone else who gets sent there, both to familiarize themselves with the route and to get some training in dealing with the emergency. After that, they should be able to do the job themselves, even if the long drive makes them a bit uncomfortable, if there’s no medical reason why driving for that amount of time would be unsafe or cause extreme discomfort. They got there with their dad, so just sitting in the car for 6 hours isn’t a problem.

      1. Alison*

        That’s exactly what I was thinking. I don’t think she wants to do any of it alone, not just the drive. She needs to tell her employer that that is the problem so she can be better trained or maybe have someone go with her a few times or something so she can become more comfortable and confident. Or maybe it’s not the right job for her.

    2. Myrin*

      Definitely. I’m getting a general sense of “insecurity because of inexperience/unfamiliarity” from this letter and I think it would be immensely helpful for both the OP and her boss to have a candid talk about that.

    3. Washi*

      Yeah, if it’s just about the driving I don’t see how it’s relevant that “I am new to this job (less than one year) and have never been to this specific type of response. It seems much more involved than I would be able to handle by myself (being so new), but I have technically had training in this area.” Like, if you can’t drive long distances for a health reason, it doesn’t matter how comfortable you are with the situation on the other end.

      OP, I’m getting kind of an “aghhh I can’t do this” vibe from the letter which is understandable (I actually had a lot of driving anxiety for years until I had to do it for work!) but isn’t going to be helpful to your manager or you in figuring this out. I think you need to get clear on what specifically is the problem and go into this conversation with some concrete suggestions of how you will be able to make this job work.

    4. BethDH*

      Agreed. I might be projecting, but I remember a similar situation in my first “real” job. I had to go check some page proofs for a rush print job and the press was considerably outside Boston.
      The drive was definitely a factor (renting a car, driving somewhere unfamiliar, part of the drive being in Boston) but it was the whole package that made me anxious. Going to a big warehouse without an obvious point of entry, making an on the spot decision about an expensive print run, having people who had only “met” me by email see how young I was, and so on.
      I did that several more times in that job, and it did get manageable, and in particular the drive got easier once I knew what to expect at the other end.

  12. I heart Paul Buchman*

    LW1 I am in a large state in a large country so I’m quite used to driving big distances. Here we have fatigue rules that normally preclude more than 12 hours travel a day with breaks on work trips.

    It might help to know that we treat long range driving as a skill that needs to be learnt. Younger drivers gradually build up their driving stamina by making progressively longer trips. Everyone has their own preferred method of remaining alert and working this out is part of the process of building these skills.

    Also, once these skills are gained and you have done trips with a buddy… There comes a time when you have to manage the anxiety and have a go on your own. Like any new skill the first time is the hardest.

    Good luck and stay safe!

    1. Susan Calvin*

      For sure! I’m also from a “good public transit” kind of area, and drove very little until the end of grad school. When I started a job requiring relatively frequent on-site meetings, that was a pretty steep learning curve, but luckily I got started with clients in the area. The closest I ever got to actually refusing an assignment was about one year in; that one was in a fairly rural area about 2h from the nearest airport, in a country where they drive on the wrong, excuse me, other side of the road, and even that went fine.

      Still, after five years of near daily and often longer distance driving, I would absolutely be worried about a 6 hour drive – my last pre-covid client would’ve been 7h away by car, and you better believe I took the 1h flight instead every single time.

    2. Annie Moose*

      Definitely! My first time doing a four hour drive on my own was quite nerve-racking, especially because it ended in Chicago in the middle of the night (and I’m firmly a country girl with little big city driving experience–sounds a bit like a country song, lol). But as I’ve continued to travel and drive on my own, I’ve gotten so much more comfortable. It really is a skill!

      Not sure if this is the way you’re wired, but for me, it really helps to think through what exactly I’m worried about. Am I worried I’ll get lost? Run out of gas? Be too tired? Get hungry or thirsty? Get in an accident? Then I think through how to minimize each risk. For example, I often pull up Google Maps and go over a route before I leave, in case something goes wrong with my phone navigation. And I keep bottles of water in my car because I don’t like stopping to buy drinks when I’m driving. Simple things, but sometimes focusing on addressing these simple things can make a whole big mess feel much more manageable!

  13. Move the Photo*

    For number 2# just put the photo in a drawer of the desk when you sit down and replace it when you’re done. Problem solved.

    1. Alice's Rabbit*

      Or just put the photo in the drawer and leave it there. The boss can take it out to display it when she’s at the desk herself.

      1. allathian*

        Maybe. But maybe the LW doesn’t want to risk the boss getting annoyed with her for putting the photo away… Just hiding it in a drawer when she’s sitting at that desk would save her from curious questions and it would also let her stay away from the boss’s weirdness about the whole thing.

        My hope is that eventually the new department head will realize what’s going on and ban personal items from being displayed. The employees should be there to serve the public, not to fulfill their own cravings for sympathy and attention. They can do that on their own time.

        1. Chilipepper*

          Agree that Mary is likely to make more drama if the OP puts it away each time she is at the public desk (someone commented on this up thread). Maybe the solution is to accidentally on purpose knock the picture so that it is turned around and not visible? I know that’s incredibly passive-aggressive but sometimes you do what you gotta do.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Frankly, I’m clumsy enough that I’d genuinely be worried about knocking the picture over and damaging it. An alternate route is to say that the clients kept picking it up and OP was worried?

  14. Self Employed*

    LW#1, If the main difficulty with the 5-6 hour drive is primarily from lack of driving experience, it’s possible that once you’ve done the trip a few more times, it won’t seem so daunting.

    Last decade, I went to school at the most rural branch of our state university system, coincidentally 5-7 hours from the closest large metro area. I had an early GPS but it still felt like the trip took ages and ages and the road was so, so twisty (compared to Southern California freeways). By the time I graduated, after doing the trip at least once a semester, I was so familiar with that highway that I knew where the freeway was likely to be closed for construction, where to find nice restrooms and cheap snacks, and where the speed traps would be. It didn’t seem like that big a deal any more. Going to the Big Metro Area for a long weekend seemed reasonable.

    Also, is part of the reason you don’t like long drives that your car is uncomfortable for long drives, or potentially unreliable? If so, and your job is likely to involve a lot of driving, you might want to get a car that’s better for your job. The car I had in school was so uncomfortable that I was really sore even if I took breaks, and the car I have now has an unacceptable probability of breaking down in the boonies (and terrible mileage).

    If you’re also concerned about not being prepared for the work needed, what kind of training could you get to be better prepared? Would your boss be able to go with you the first time, or can only one staff member be out on the same call?

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Also, is part of the reason you don’t like long drives that your car is uncomfortable for long drives, or potentially unreliable?

      That was the question I had. I hope OP’s work provides a rental (mine did when I had a job that involved travel), but was wondering if it does.

      If so, and your job is likely to involve a lot of driving, you might want to get a car that’s better for your job.

      Hmm, that would be a bit too huge of an ask in my opinion. Like a few commenters above, I am one of those people who likes long drives, and has been going on long weekend trips multiple times a year pre-Covid. As my car is getting older, I’m starting to look at new reliable cars that would be safe for long trips. We are talking $25-30,000. Unless OP’s job is giving them a raise in that same range, that is a lot to ask that OP buy that kind of a car for work that they would not need otherwise.

      1. Annie Moose*

        True, but if OP’s in the market for a new car soon, it might be a worthwhile thing to consider. At any rate, for her current car she might want to think about other options like a seat cushion, one of those pads that make a seatbelt more comfortable, etc.

        1. Sandman*

          Agreed, and it’s not always feasible, but it’s something my family takes into consideration. In non-COVID times my husband’s job requires a ton of driving travel. His company policy is to use a reimbursed rental car for all travel, but very occasionally there won’t be one available and he’ll have to take ours. Having a good car (and in our case, one that handles well in snow) makes a good contribution to peace-of-mind. If that’s the concern, I wonder if the OP’s company would consider reimbursing a rental car.

      2. Stephanie*

        Yeah, if OP’s job requires regular long-distance drives, they should be allowing her to expense rental cars or providing a company car (if they drive that much).

        1. Mockingjay*

          Yes, this. Driving 5 or 6 hours for work repeatedly is not trivial. It’s a lot of wear and tear on your privately owned vehicle.

          Also, personal insurance may not cover excessive driving distances, depending on the policy you have (less miles = cheaper rate). The company should be providing corporate coverage to employees.

  15. Amy*

    When I was 25, I started a job that was similar to this. The driving wasn’t daily but it could be intense.

    It wasn’t easy for me. I was a NYC resident, didn’t own my own car and had done minimal driving since I got my license at 16.

    But over time, with practice and experience, it got better. I still wouldn’t describe a 4-5 hour drive as ideal but it doesn’t fill me with dread.
    In my case, there was no possible accommodation- it was (and is, I’m still here 15 years later) part and parcel with th job.

    Good luck

  16. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW1: I don’t know if your situation is similar because I don’t know if this kind of on call driving is part of your job or an occasional thing that can be easily mitigated.

    However I’d strongly suggest taking Alison’s advise and speaking to the boss directly.

    I once ran an IT department that did have on call duties on staff, which meant that a techie could be called to drive up to 6 hours on their own to a site. (Getting to really remote sites out in the middle of nowhere to fix a microwave network isn’t fun). One new techie did ask me if he could refuse to do anything over 100 miles because he hadn’t been driving long.

    I took him off the on call rota until such a time he felt better able to handle it. It did mean he didn’t get the (quite nice) payment that the others got for being on call and there was some hurt about that. But 4 months later he came in to say he felt better able to do it now. Put him back on the rota, worked fine from there.

    It’s worth talking to the boss.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      (There was more discussion than that, I didn’t unilaterally remove him off the rota. He didn’t want to lose the money but I couldn’t refuse jobs if they fell outside his catchment area. So it was a comprise of sorts)

      1. allathian*

        I bet that losing the extra pay for being on call also motivated him to get more comfortable with driving longer distances.

        It’s a bit like one of my best friends who’s a bookkeeper. She got hired when she had completed all the courses she needed for her Master’s degree, but hadn’t finished her thesis. So she had the skills but not the diploma. Her employer hired her at a slightly lower salary and requested her to complete her thesis within a year or so. When she did, she got a significant one-time bonus and a salary hike. Her employer has been through several mergers and acquisitions since then, but she’s still there, 25 years later.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          From what I understand, he never clarified, he spent a couple of months actually driving out to our major client sites (we covered from London to Penzance) on days off, finding things to do in nearby towns so they weren’t so ‘scary strange’ to him.

          I suppose when a place becomes more familiar the distance to it becomes less stressful.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            (He was the one who later found the location of a blimmin fantastic roadside cafe for lorry drivers that was open 24 hrs in a really remote part of Wales. Best bacon baps ever)

            1. Chilipepper*

              I know I can google but wanted to hear an answer fro someone who actually knows, whats a bap?

                1. Never Nicky*

                  Sounds like you’re from the same part of the world I’m from but that depends on where you stand on the gennel/snickelway/jitty debate!

              1. QoB*

                A lovely soft floury bread roll. In Ireland, a blaa is similar, but better (and has protected status from the EU ;) )

              2. Chilipepper*

                Now I need to know about this!
                The gennel/snickelway/jitty debate – I googled the terms, but dish on the debate!

  17. Lady Heather*

    OP1, I think you’ll want to be prepared for your boss to be a little peeved at this only coming up now, rather than having been mentioned when it first came up/first became known to you that you would be expected to respond to these sites.

    By prepared, I mean, have a few responses ready that aren’t defensive (but still defend you, if appropriate).

    “I did mention to [Former boss] that I was unable to drive there and he said it wasn’t a problem as someone else would handle those sites. I realize now I should have had that discussion with you, as well.”
    “No, I didn’t mention that – that was poor judgement on my part, I’m sorry.”
    “I wasn’t aware I was part of the group that handled [Site], or I would have mentioned that’s not a distance I can drive.” (Only say this if it’s actually true. If it’s something you were or should have been aware of, you don’t want to say you weren’t.)

    I don’t know how likely it would be for your boss to be peeved and how justified such a peevement would be, but I think it’s a good idea to have a response ready so that you don’t default to either “Yes, you’re right, I’m bad, am I fired?” or “Wait, no, but it wasn’t like that at all, this was totally different!” neither of which are a good look.

  18. Delta Delta*

    #2 I’m uncomfortable with the fact Mary is using her public-facing county government job to raise funds for a personal project. If the new supervisor isn’t helpful, maybe there’s someone higher up? I’m guessing there’s probably a no-solicitation clause in the employee handbook (which is likely lengthy, and might operate as a contract, depending on the situation and the contract). The county’s HR or legal may have some thoughts about what she’s doing, generally.

    But in the meantime, maybe the photo goes in a drawer when mary isn’t at the desk. Another commenter mentioned saying, “but it’s your story to tell” which invites Mary to say that anytime anyone inquires LW has to go get Mary to explain and open her palm for donations. (Sorry, but I’m just so grossed out by the fundraising at work)

    1. Here for the Randomness*

      I agree. Handing out, discussing, or selling bumper stickers for a private organization while working a public position is a significant ethics violation. Mary is using her public position for personal gain. This applies whether it is a random non-profit or a non-profit associated with her/her family. It was mentioned that this is at a county level, so the oversight of this type of activity could differ depending on the county. Essentially, she is using the public desk space as a personal sales desk. Could other workers use their public facing desk to sell school fundraiser candy, sell homemade goods, ask people to vote for a candidate, or take orders for a MLM? Since people are coming to that desk to perform some public function, Mary has a captive audience and could be withholding a public service until they listen to her sales pitch. This could give the public the impression that the county endorses her non-profit or they will get better service if they purchase/take a bumper sticker. This applies even if that is not Mary’s intention.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        It might be worth seeing if the county has an anonymous “ethics line” or similar that the OP could call into and ask if this is an issue. I wouldn’t feel comfortable telling my boss not to solicit donations myself, so I’d understand the OP not doing that because of the power differential, but if there’s any kind of anonymous reporting system for things like this it seems reportable to me. The intention here is almost certainly not personal enrichment, but it possibly falls under the guidelines that are supposed to keep government employees from soliciting or accepting bribes depending on how they are written.

      2. Letter Writer #2*

        Funny you should say that—Mary used to plug her low cost jewelry MLM at work but has backed off recently since realizing she is not making the money she thought she would in it. I’d forgotten about it since it doesn’t happen much anymore, but is probably why I’m more sensitive to her plugging this organization.

        1. Here for the Randomness*

          Oof, if your organization allows an MLM, they probably won’t do anything about this. It still isn’t OK, but it may not be a battle to fight. In that case Allison’s advice sounds about right.

  19. LGC*

    LW1 – to answer your end question in more detail: if your supervisor is halfway reasonable, you’re not about to be fired. It’s definitely an employer’s market, but it’s still a pain in the butt to fire and replace people. Most supervisors don’t want to fire people as a first response and if they do, getting fired by them is a blessing.

    I also don’t blame your boss for being annoyed! I’m not sure if you understand how much of an inconvenience this was for her – she had to do back to back overnight trips (or even worse, long days). Yeah, supervisors should help out with coverage, but they can’t do your job for you.

  20. Jenny*

    LW1 – to be blunt, yes, if you aren’t able to do a key part of your job, you are likely going to get fired. My spouse basically does quality audits for his job which requires him to travel to a number of facilities. Which aren’t always close to airports either. He has a colleague who is a friend of mine who has narcolepsy who can’t do the driving for those audits, but she has it medically documented and she makes it up by taking other “bad” tasks so the hard work is spread out.

  21. hbc*

    OP1: I’m not sure why you threw in the bit about not being comfortable/prepared for the type of visit you were making. If you’ve got a problem with driving long distances, then that should be irrelevant.

    You’re probably going to need to talk to your boss about this, but first you need to get crystal clear in your head what the problem is. Do not put it as a physical driving issue if it’s anxiety about being so far from people you know. Don’t bring up your discomfort with your prep unless it’s “Long drives drain me to the point that I’d be useless unless it’s a response scenario that I’ve encountered before.” Basically, the worst possible result is that you state a problem, your boss works with you for a solution, and you still can’t do the modified job because you only partially stated the problem.

    Though if you put yourself in your boss’s shoes and can’t come up with a reasonable compromise that would make both of you happy, I’d probably focus on job searching. It sounds like this will come up often enough that you not being able to visit that site (and others?) will not be sustainable.

  22. EnfysNest*

    #2 – Would it be possible for you to actually add a few pictures of your own to sit next to the picture of the niece? I’d guess that people would be less likely to ask about it if it’s not the only one there, and if they still do, then it would be easier to transition the conversation away with something like “Oh, that one is Coworker’s photo, but this one is my nephew’s marching band – they took second place in their competition last month!”

  23. Put the Human Back in HR*

    #2. I lost my wonderful, beautiful daughter August 13, 2019. I think of her all of the time, each and every day. I’ve always prided myself on being a good manager. After losing my sweet girl, I’m extra sensitive to my employees’ losses. However … I wouldn’t let one of my employees use a picture in a customer-facing place to kick off discussions on work time about their loss, giving out flyers, or trying to sell bumper stickers. It’s a psychic assault on innocent customers. I’m shocked Mary got promoted – that has to send her the strong messsage that her employer supports what she’s doing. If you don’t feel comfortable putting the picture in Mary’s office or in a drawer as others have suggested, then you could address it with the new head boss. You’ll have plenty of justification if it’s impacting getting your own work done. You could also bring it up from the customer service perspective. If the new head boss is a good one, though, she’ll realize that Mary is acting inappropriately in the workplace. She’ll ask Mary to stop, and refer Mary to the EAP or healthcare provider.

    1. allathian*

      I’m sorry for your loss.

      I do wonder how she got promoted, especially given LW’s comment above about Mary selling MLM jewelry at work before! I do question the ethics of this particular local government agency. There should be some standards about ethics in public service, no matter what the administrative level is.

  24. UK Expat*

    LW5 – Take vacation around a Holiday for “Extra Days” my family and I are going to Europe in 2021 (rescheduled from 2020 due to Covid) We are leaving the Friday before Thanksgiving week and returning the Monday after because it includes a weekend and the Thanksgiving Holiday we are using 5 PTO days for an 11 days trip. The other major benefit is less crowds and a more reasonable prices.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      This is what I did! I went to UK/EU and only had to take off 5 days for almost 2 weeks! Took the red-eye over and a late flight back so I had barely any jet lag on either side; came home on a Saturday so I had Sunday for unpacking and restocking the fridge before work Monday.

    2. Chilipepper*

      In my workplace, I have to ask for the whole 11 days off or they would schedule me for the weekend days (and we only close on Thanksgiving day). It is incredibly irritating that if you ask for days off so you can leave on a Friday evening, have the whole weekend off, the whole week off, and the whole next weekend off, they schedule you for the weekends you would normally be off! It is hard for full time staff but even harder for part time staff (the bulk of our team) because they only get 2 days paid holiday and limited unpaid days off and have to use them all to take any holiday at all.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      This varies by workplace – some places your coworkers would be VERY frustrated if someone took the “shoulder” days on both sides of a holiday because it would mean that the person covering for you couldn’t take any days off around that holiday at all. (So, instead you’d take all of your days off prior to the holiday and plan to be back at work the first work day after the holiday so that your co-worker could instead start their vacation on the holiday and have those post-holiday days off while you in turn covered for them, or work out an agreement that one of you would take a chunk around Thanksgiving and the other around Christmas, or whatever made sense for your particular workplace.)

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I think it depends on how often you take the shoulders. In the 2 years before taking the 3 days leading up to Thanksgiving I didn’t take any time, and I was sure not to take anytime between big trip and end of year. With my trip at least, I had 18 months advance notice so it wasn’t a last minute “oh by the way, I’m taking the holiday and you can’t”

  25. lapgiraffe*

    Re: #1 – I am genuinely curious what kind of job has an on-call response that is categorized (according to OP) as an emergency but is six hours away. I understand in rural places many services are lacking and people would have to come from afar, but then you’d also think the OP would be more accustomed to long distances in general if they lived in such a place?

    I don’t question the advice given and can understand there’s a hundred reasons someone might not be up for that kind of drive alone, I’m more sincerely confused at what kind of role this is and how anyone could arrange their life around something like this.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I was thinking something like outsourced IT, but I’m sure there are other industries in which there might be emergencies that far away, like natural disaster response.

      1. Em*

        I work for an EAP — one of the services we provide is on-site counsellors for various situations (hold-ups at banks, layoffs, death of an employee, all sorts of things). We sometimes get calls at 11PM saying “Hey, can we have someone on-site by noon?” It’s an emergency in that a rapid response is necessary, and sometimes does require lengthy travel. Some of our clients are natural resource-based and the job site might be an offshore rig or a lumber or mining camp well away from the nearest city-where-our-onsite-counsellor-bank-counsellors live.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Oh, I hadn’t thought about EAPs. I work at a bank and I remember a branch was robbed at gunpoint once (a bit unusual these days–they normally just pass a note), and the EAP sent out a counsellor right away.

    2. Lady Heather*

      When something breaks a non-expert can perhaps deal with the immediate fall-out but an expert needs to fix it ASAP, but not necessarily within minutes.

      Plumbing example: when a water pipe in your wall bursts you yourself can turn it off at the meter and deal with the “There’s water spraying everywhere!” crisis/emergency and then you call a plumber to ask for help with the “I can’t shower or wash dishes, do you have short notice availability for urgent issues” emergency/urgency.

    3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      This was my question as well.

      Not gonna lie, it would be extremely fascinating to know more about any field that requires the sort of specialized skill where you regularly contract with someone to provide emergency responses, knowing they are more than six hours away.

      Also… at 6 hours driving, is there the possibility that other transit options would make more sense and work for the letter writer? IE – trains, air travel, or even a bus? I can’t imagine they’d actually be that a ticket on a bus or train would be that much more expensive than reimbursing for mileage and gas at that point.

      I mean… to my mind, clearly these ’emergencies’ can’t actually necessitate dropping everything and running out the door to the car with just a pre-prepared go bag. If they did, the clients wouldn’t be able to wait the 6 hours for you to show up in the first place – and all these ideas about stopping and taking a short walk/break/ what have you would clearly never work either, because those might mean you didn’t get on site in six hours… it might be 7 or 8 before you arrived.

      I suppose I could see it being the case for something like air crash investigators – where the situation happens so rarely that there really isn’t a widespread pool of expertise to draw upon, and the emergency element lies in trying to reach a site before it gets too disturbed to impact the investigation.

      So, yeah. Color me curious.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I was thinking about people who may need to repair highly sensitive or technical instruments. I’m friendly with a couple engineers who have to go to all sorts of interesting places to repair lenses and various other things that genuinely need an expert to fix. I recall an update from a week or so ago with someone referring to instruments that cost more than most people’s houses – that’s the kind of thing that needs the right person to fix it. And I was also thinking this potentially could be in academia in a large state with a large system of universities, like New York or California, where it’s possible to be on one end of the state and have to go to the other end of the state to legit fix something. Like…. someone at UCSD needing to go to San Fransisco to fix a telescope. (I know that’s more than 6 hours – I was just trying to think of 2 related universities that are very far apart, and where flying might take the same amount of time or not be possible, depending on what may need to be done)

        1. Jenny*

          My spouse partially does lab work and had a special piece of equipment break. They ended up both bringing in a specialized repair person and videochatting with an engineer from the company in Germany that made the equipment (if it hadn’t been for COVID they probably would have flown over).

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Yes, you can see this in manufacturing. When a production machine is down this is a bfd. I have a story where the repair person came from the opposite side of Canada to see our machine. He billed at $600/hr portal to portal.

          Medical equipment such as MRIs is another big deal.

      2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        In the West, if there’s a train at all it probably comes once a day. For example, the Worldcon (world science fiction convention) was in Spokane, WA a few years back. I looked into taking the train, but the ONLY train that goes to Spokane gets in in the middle of the night. I don’t mean the only direct train from my starting city, I mean that exactly one train line (Empire Builder) stops in Spokane, and regardless of whether you are coming from the East or the West on it the only train of the day will stop in Spokane in the middle of the night. Have fun walking through a bar district/downtown area after midnight in a strange city to your hopefully-nearby hotel! (No, you can’t rent a car at the train station. Maybe a taxi? I don’t remember. I ended up not taking the train as a result.)

        Buses generally give you a few more options. There might be several buses per day if you’re going to Spokane, which I will continue to use as my example of someplace that’s a reasonably-sized but inconveniently-located metro area since I researched it for that Worldcon, particularly if you’re willing to look at both Greyhound and the other bus line that only advertises in Spanish (Estrella Blanca?), but they are slow compared to driving as well as adding the delay of waiting for the next bus rather than starting as soon as you know you need to go. It would certainly be faster to drive yourself, probably by multiple hours. Also, unless your work site happens to be by the bus terminal (maybe, if the bus terminal is downtown and so is your worksite, but that’s not always the case) you will need to figure out the rest of your trip. It will probably be possible to get a taxi, but I have never seen car rentals by a bus station.

        Flights might be possible, depending, but again have the problems of “when is the next plane leaving?” and “how far is the site from the airport?” to deal with. 6 hours is right at that sweet spot where it might or might not be faster to fly depending on the answers to those two questions, but it would certainly be much more expensive. Depending on the amount of expense involved in each additional hour of waiting for a fix and the frequency of the emergencies, it would theoretically be possible to have an ongoing arrangement with a chartered plane to fly you in for faster responses (I know my dad’s company had an agreement with a charter service in the 80s for disaster recovery flights where he was supposed to report to the charter field and get on a plane to Florida immediately in the event of a major natural disaster that took down their local mainframe since they had their disaster recovery site there), but that’s a very different level of expense than driving.

      3. Suz*

        “it would be extremely fascinating to know more about any field that requires the sort of specialized skill where you regularly contract with someone to provide emergency responses, knowing they are more than six hours away.” I used to repair lab equipment in manufacturing facilities. Almost all of our plants were in rural areas. If a piece of equipment went down, the plant had to cease production because they couldn’t perform quality control testing prior to shipping the product. So it was pretty common for my coworkers and I to make emergency trips to our sites.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        Also… at 6 hours driving, is there the possibility that other transit options would make more sense and work for the letter writer? IE – trains, air travel, or even a bus? I can’t imagine they’d actually be that a ticket on a bus or train would be that much more expensive than reimbursing for mileage and gas at that point.

        If the writer lives in the U.S., much of the country has no train service at all, and if bus service exists, the buses go from one large city to another on a less-than-daily basis.

        1. rural academic*

          This. Many rural locations in the U.S. (I am most familiar with the Midwest, but this is true of other areas too) simply do not have train service, or more than rather infrequent bus service.

    4. Malarkey01*

      I have a program management/client relations job that supports projects in multiple states. There can definitely be things I classify as an emergency that aren’t life or death but are extremely urgent for my project and need someone to come in right away to access or fix and it just means I’m traveling there outside of my normal scheduled trips and putting other projects on the back burner while resolving. Last minute work trips stink, but I don’t think they are that unusual in lots and lots of different industries.

      I also think people outside of the NE are surprised by how unserved many many areas of the US are from airports. I live in a major metro but there are usually lots of people on my flights that have driven in 3 hours just to get to the airport (heck even I have to drive an hour through traffic to get to the airport). Trains aren’t even an option and a bus here will take 4x as long and still require a drive from bus station city to final destination.

    5. higheredrefugee*

      I worked in a Rocky Mountain state, and the state IT folks were sent out for things like this when various government buildings flooded, were damaged, etc. The State Architect’s office could be called out for structural issues, and in smaller states, there is often a need to send someone from the HQ, as there are so few employees anyway. Also, if a judge suddenly dies or becomes sick, before COVID-19 forced court systems to become more robust with virtual offerings, there has been a scramble to see who can drive to handle coverage. If an agency like CPS has only 1 person covering an area, sometimes a conflict case or covering vacation requires short notice to send in backup. In smaller states, the state agencies sometimes handle things you’d think counties should manage as well, as there is just more efficiency in having 3 great state employees than 25 people on call who can identify a problem, but can’t solve it.

    6. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Any physical object that people need to do their jobs that also is complex enough to require expert repair. Nobody’s dead, nobody’s hurt, but also nobody can do their work until the thingamajig is fixed. So basically any expensive equipment, machinery or scientific instruments.

  26. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    OP, you need to sit down with your boss and talk about the job requirements. It’s not clear from your letter whether you were hired knowing you’d have to drive offsite, sometimes five to six hours away, or if this is something new (it doesn’t seem like it is since you mention your training). Before talking with her, you need to figure out what the issue is with the drive–also not clear from the letter other than you aren’t comfortable (physically? mentally?) with it. Once you figure that out, talk to her. If it’s a job requirement then you either need to accept that and work on getting comfortable with, if possible, or accept that this isn’t the right job for you. Either way, it’s a conversation with your boss if you can’t work through it on your own.

  27. cncx*

    I feel bad for OP1 and agree that this is one of those- was this part of the deal or not situations.

    I can drive, technically, but i hate it, and i have dyspraxia which means i have to sit there and think about speed and where i’m at on the road compared to other automobiles constantly and literally nothing is subconscious for me, stop and go traffic exhausts me. even in a good situation, i get mentally tired after about an hour, and driving makes me anxious. Especially if there was any kind of traffic, i would have no brain power to actually do my job after a five hour drive. i wouldn’t accept a job if i knew five hours one way callout was part of the deal, but i would maybe say yes to a perfect job where i had to drive thirty minutes infrequently (like once a month). I also tend to spell this out (i work in IT so a lot of jobs tell you up front if you have to drive to sites or not) so i can self-select out. Also, even with practice i really don’t get comfortable, there’s only a few trips where i relax when i drive and one of those is because it’s literally country roads with no one around and if anyone comes up they can pass me.

    I also feel like five hours in some industries and locales is a little far not to mention in the interview process even if it is understood that someone drives to sites- like what if someone has family responsibilities, a dog, night classes or something? Maybe working for a rural ISP but again i feel like that would be a Known Thing.

    so i would be really upset if i took a job thinking i didn’t have to drive or drive that much, then got on the job and found out the expectation that five hours one way was part of the deal so i feel for op1 man and i hope this isn’t something that was sprung on them and they can talk this out with the boss.

  28. Phony Genius*

    On #5, Alison’s example of exceptions made for visiting family many time zones away raises some interesting questions. In my office, we have the same 2-week limit. You can get longer vacations approved, but they are usually reserved for that specific situation where family is half-way around the world. Many of those who qualify save up their time and go every other year, and when they come back they tell us about all these other cities and countries they “stopped off” at on the way, meaning that they really just back-to-backed a regular vacation with a family visit. Since the only employees who ever get to have longer vacations are people from that part of the world, could there be a case to be made that this policy is discriminatory?

    1. Allonge*

      I think if that is the point you make, a likely outcome is that there will not be any exceptions authorised to the two-weeks-only policy. I would try and find a job where there is no limit to time you can take off at once, if this was important to me.

    2. LTL*

      If you have to take a 14 to 36 hour flight somewhere, what’s the harm in enjoying some stops along the way? The trip is a big investment in time and money and PTO. You’re going to want to get as much out of it as a you can.

      I’ve never heard of anyone doing this so I don’t know how common it is, but I mean, even if some do, it’s still not the same as a regular vacation. At the end of the day, they still have to get to their final destination where their family is, which is presumably at minimum a day’s trip from where you’re located. You seem to be implying that family is an excuse for a longer vacation.

      1. doreen*

        I don’t think Phony Genius is implying so much that family is an excuse for a longer vacation. I think the issue is that some of the coworkers are getting vacations approved for longer than 2 weeks based on something like “my family lives in country A and it’s not worth going if I only have two weeks off because I’ll spend so much time traveling. ” And then they stop in multiple other countries/cities . And there’s nothing wrong with that, except that if coworker stopped in say three other cities/ countries, that means the vacation could have been at least three days shorter and still allowed them to spend the same amount of time with your family. Which wouldn’t be anybody’s business – except that it seems if Phony Genius wanted to take the exact same amount of time off and go to the exact same places, they wouldn’t be approved for more than a 2 week vacation. Because their family doesn’t live in country A.

        1. LTL*

          “if coworker stopped in say three other cities/ countries, that means the vacation could have been at least three days shorter and still allowed them to spend the same amount of time with your family”

          This isn’t exactly true. A big part of why extra time is needed for traveling far away is to account for the recovery period. If where you go has a 10 hour time difference, then it takes time to adjust to the new timezone, both when you arrive and when you come back home. If the stops you make are in between the origin and destination, then those stops fall into the recovery period. You’re essentially bringing your body slowly into the timezone you want it to be in.

          1. LTL*

            I should clarify that while I disagree that you can call such policies discriminatory, I do believe that employers should allow everyone to have more extended vacation times (coverage problems? hire more people). Unfortunately, American corporate culture has a long way to go.

            1. Phony Genius*

              If only people with family in certain countries can take the extra time off, this can be a form of discrimination based on national origin, which is protected against in the U.S.

              1. LTL*

                This is a bit like saying that providing accommodations for pregnancy or disability is discriminatory (I’m not saying that it’s as egregious, but categorically it’s similar). Different circumstances warrant different treatment. It seems strange that something that generally makes life more difficult (family living abroad) is being seen as a benefit when employers choose to be understanding about it.

                Consider that people who are saving up all their vacation for a long trip aren’t able to take as many days off just for themselves or any days off for a fun trip to some place they want to go. Those extra stops are probably the only way those coworkers probably got to travel at all. Almost every PTO day is stowed away for the family trip.

                And once you get there, you don’t get to use your days off to relax. Three weeks or a month may seem like a lot by American PTO standards but it’s almost nothing to see multiple family members and friends you haven’t seen in at least one year (possibly more). You’re constantly going from one house to the next to catch up. I’ve heard people with family abroad say that they’d often feel like they needed a vacation after their vacation.

                1. Phony Genius*

                  Providing “reasonable accommodations” for pregnancy or disability is not discriminatory. But having different sets of rules based on national origin is not reasonable. If the only way to be reasonable to that group is to allow longer vacations, then the employer MUST make that available to everybody, no matter where they were born (as you did state above).

        2. Phony Genius*

          Doreen is very correct about the issue. A few years ago, one employee wanted to take a 4-week vacation to country B for pleasure (no family there). He practically begged the High Honcho -in-Chief of the organization to be allowed to go. He was only approved after he found a work function he could perform there (which was really just “research” in the form of a few photographs), which also entitled him to partial reimbursement. He later nearly lost his job misrepresenting himself to the same High Honcho-in-Chief on another matter, and left a few years later.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      Is it possible those people really are just “stopping off” in those cities along the way? I have been on one international family vacation in the last few years and we went to Italy but the flights were set up that on the way home we flew through Paris and we spent the night before continuing with flights the next morning. So we did walk around the city but it was literally just fly in > take stuff to the airport hotel > took the Metro into the city and walked around for a couple of hours, ate some macarons and took some pictures with the Eiffel tower in the background > back to hotel for sleep and then flew home in the morning.

      It might have been possible to just fly right home without sleeping there for the night but it was more restful this way plus we got one extra night of pretty sights. So if people are doing something like that, just taking the opportunity to explore a city that they need to fly through anyway, that seems reasonable to me. But if they are visiting their family for like a week or two and then traveling other places for a week or two I can see where you would feel that was not very fair and I’d be a little annoyed in your shoes as well.

  29. Bostonian*

    For #5 if it’s coverage that’s the issue, could you offer to work remotely a day or 2 while away (or check email X amount of times)? (If your work can be done remotely.)

    1. Observer*

      That’s what I did one time- I wanted 3 weeks, so I offered to log in daily to deal with the most urgent issues. It worked out reasonably well.

  30. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#4 — I think it would be reasonable to treat this new (potential) offer as a new negotiation. It’s been nearly a year since you first discussed the job with them and many things have changed. Nobody’s locked into anything at this point.

    In addition to discussing a more realistic salary, you should also ask the manager some questions about whether the role has changed. You said the industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. It would be understandable if they’ve adjusted the job description in the months since you last discussed it with them. You need to make sure it’s still a role you’d actually want.

    So treat this as a new, conditional offer that you and your prospective employer need to work out. Be sure you understand the requirements of the job as it’s currently configured, and start fresh on the salary negotiations.

    Best of luck to you.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      I was coming to say something similar. Treat this like a brand new offer and base it off of where you are in life and career NOW.

      If I were OP I’d also want to know how the pandemic affected the role specifically, since the hit was noted. What about your current industry, OP? Was that hit by the pandemic, did it prosper, did it remain neutral?

      Those are all things to take into account, as well as the long term stability of the new company vs current. I wouldn’t take the fact that your current company allowed you to stay when the offer was rescinded into account, but some of the other benefits and the longer-term picture could be factors.

      Best of luck!

  31. Watermelon lip gloss*

    #1 I’m sorry OP, I don’t want this to sound like I am coming down on you but I think this may be a live and learn type of situation. Since you went the first time secretly taking someone, if you haven’t raised any concerns to your boss I think you are right that you are on a direct path to being fired and I think you need to know that. Depending on your jobs role and what emergency response means in your position this is likely a big deal that may at the least put you on a improvement plan. If you didn’t know this type of travel was a possibility of happening and had never made the trip or when you returned from the last trip if you had asked about options because the drive doesn’t work for you then I think it would be different. However if you have remained silent it really is going to depend on how your boss/companies management is. The bottom line is you need to have a discussion with your boss asap and decide if this is the job for you.

  32. CRM*

    Op#5, In my experience, people are often able to get more than two weeks of vacation approved if they are willing to work or be on-call for part of the time (remotely, of course). For instance, if you are taking 3 weeks off, make yourself available for questions and answer emails for one day each week, or a few days during the final week. I know it’s not ideal, but it’s a fair compromise that enables workers to travel while avoiding pitfalls such as having tasks be incomplete or done incorrectly for an entire month.

    FWIW, I’ve done a bit of international travel, and found that two weeks is generally enough even for the furthest locations. That depends a bit on your plans – if your goal is to climb Mt. Everest, you will probably need more than two weeks. But two weeks is plenty if you just want to visit and explore a new country, especially with a rock-solid itinerary.

  33. [insert witty username here]*

    Question for Alison on letter #4 – I agree OP should not be locked in to an offer originally given 10 months ago, but I’m curious about your suggestion for them to so blatantly say they now make more (although an actual promotion IS relevant news) and it would be a pay cut for them. I agree when you so strongly advocate for employers to not base a job offer based off someone’s previous salary; shouldn’t this go by the same logic? Again – I do think OP#4 should still negotiate with the new company, but based on their experience and the market value for the new position, not based on the fact that their old company now pays them more. I think that should be part of OP’s internal decision making, of course, but it just struck me as odd how you suggested they word the counter offer to the new company and wondered about your thought process there.

    1. Chriama*

      Well it sounds like the new job was originally a promotion for OP, but they got promoted at their current job instead. So they were being offered a step up in both position and pay, and now the only way the new job can compete is to offer a step up in pay because the positions are now equal.

      1. Bored Fed*

        But if we don’t want employers to base offers on previous salaries — as AAM notes, that is “a terrible practice” that “build[s] in a potential legal violation with every offer”– then competing based on the employee’s current salary would seem illegitimate.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Basing an offer on a previous salary would be “you made $X in your previous job, so our policy is to only offer you $X plus 20%, even if you were grossly underpaid.” That’s not what’s happening here. Instead, we have “this offer was a step up for me at the time, but now it’s actually a step down.”

          1. Bored Fed*

            I think that is a distinction without a difference — the principle is really the same.

            For example, under the Federal GS pay scale, the 2021 range for GS12 ranges from $67k for step 1 to $87k for step 10. The presumption is that everyone comes in at Step 1 — *unless* they can show that they made a lot more in their previous (often, private sector) job. On the one hand, giving more (though still a pay cut) to those who made more in the private sector perpetuates those salary differences. On the other hand, it is indeed necessary to be competitive with the saleries of those who made more in the private sector– who may be more talented candidates.

            I guess that my point is that “ignore prior salary” may carry unintended consequences.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I don’t see the correlation. The LW is not saying “I want +X% of my current salary,” nor is the employer offering it. The LW’s salary isn’t part of the conversation at all, other than to say “now I’m making more, so this is no longer a raise for me.”

        2. Elsajeni*

          But you’re not asking them to base the offer on your previous salary — you’re telling them “I would leave my current job for $Y, but not for $X.” The reason you wouldn’t leave for X may be that you’re already making X at your current job, but that’s not really the relevant part.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      When someone originally said $X was acceptable, I think it’s appropriate to explain why it’s no longer an acceptable option for them.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      No, this shouldn’t go by the same logic because you would be saying “I can no longer accept that offer because I’m making more money than that now. But if you can also offer me more money than I would be able to accept the offer.” They have no other reason to increase the offer. Previously all parties involved agreed that it was a reasonable amount. But now OP’s circumstances have changed and they would need the offer to increase. It’s totally reasonable and normal to explain that to them.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        To clarify further–an offer shouldn’t be *limited* by your current salary. It would be crappy for a company to say “well you only make X now so anything we offer higher than that would be a bump so we’re going to go as low as we can in our salary range to just beat out what you are making.” This kind of thinking makes it hard for people to correct things if they are already underpaid and it increases pre-existing pay gaps between white men vs women and people of color.

        The flip-side of that though is normal and would and should happen all the time. If a company wants to hire you and offers below your current salary, most of the time people are not going to leave their current job to take one that pays less money. So it would be totally fine and good to say in any situation like that “well you would at least have to match my current salary for me to accept.”

  34. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    I wish OP1 had included more detail on why such a long drive was uncomfortable by themselves. Besides all the possible medical reasons and experience reasons it could be something as simple as a girl raised in an environment that teachers her to never travel alone for safety sakes. (not all that uncommon in the US) I found I had much more confidence in out of town road trips when I bought a little Garmen. (Even though Its sadly out of date now) The agency I work for had a volunteer route for delivering meals to the elderly. We were supposed to work with a partner for safety reasons(not the best part of town) and also so 1 could navigate while the other drove. I knew the route well enough that I kept on delivering during the pandemic when the partners bailed. Unfortunately due to the pandemic more and more stops kept getting added to the route. It was really hard to read directions and drive somewhere unfamiliar at the same time. If I hadn’t grown up near these neighborhoods and somewhat familiar to the streets I could have easily seen the route turning into a full blown panic attack.

  35. SnowWhiteClaw*

    OP#1 — I completely understand! I don’t have a medical condition but I am uncomfortable doing solo 5-6 hour trips because of how motion sick I get. A 5-6 hour drive usually takes me about 8 hours with the number of times I have to stop due to the motion sickness.

    If I have another driver or take a different form of transport, I can easily prevent motion sickness. I don’t think this warrants being diagnosed with something.

    I don’t know if this is what is making OP1 so uncomfortable. Please consider that many people are uncomfortable driving this far for reasons that aren’t medical.

  36. pancakes*

    “She is a mother of three who also has narcissistic tendencies and a turbulent marriage she tells me about constantly. I have gotten pretty good at dealing with her in the years I’ve worked here, except for one thing.”

    Enduring an endless and unwanted stream of intimate narrative about a coworker’s marriage doesn’t sound like dealing with them at all. It sounds like capitulation.

  37. HumbledVacationLover*

    I’m always a bit amazed about American vacation time. Where I’m from, 20 days a year (based on 40h work weeks) is the minimum and 25 days a year the norm. When i was hired at my current job, it was made clear that I can take max. 3 consecutive weeks off, and honestly, that gave me the most pause about accepting the offer. I can’t imagine working in a culture where time off isn’t valued so much, and sometimes even discouraged. So OP#5, I’m completely emphatatic to your situation!

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      The American approach to vacation time definitely sucks, as far as I’m concerned. I won’t go on a long tirade about it here, but just know that most of us Americans would much rather get the kind of vacation time you described. We put up with the situation mainly because we don’t have a choice if we want have an income and be able to pay our bills, etc. Our labor laws about how employers are allowed to treat their employees aren’t what they should be, imo, but getting things changed is an uphill battle for political reasons that I can’t go into here.

      In the meantime, employers do whatever they can get away with, and workers don’t usually have a lot of options other than dealing with it as best we can. So yeah, most of us aren’t thrilled about working in “a culture where time off isn’t valued so much, and sometimes even discouraged.” But it’s the culture we’ve got, and we’re stuck with it, at least for now. So we do what we have to do.

      1. HumbledVacationLover*

        Yeah I completely get that! I can imagine it’s sometimes disheartening to deal with, but of course, you don’t really have a choice but to accept it. Hopefully the number of employers who can appreciate the advantages of a healthy work-life balance will grow steadily. But yeah, cultures are a tough thing to change!

        For now I just have another reason to be appreciative of my country’s culture (even when I sometimes want to complain about it ;))!

  38. Anono-me*

    Op#1 I see three issues in your letter and while it is important, not wanting to drive 5-6 hours is to me less important that the training and the bringing your father to work issues.

    1.Yes for most people a 5-6 is a mildly unpleasant task, but unless you have a medical complication; for this job you probably need to figure out how to get it done.

    2. It sounds like the task is an big important one that you have training for but no experience. I think that the next time this emergency occurs that it would be helpful to ask if you can accompany someone and assist them.

    3. I am really uncomfortable with the optics of you having your ‘daddy’ drive you to work. The last time that happened for most people was when they were 15, (at least openly). This runs the risk of you being perceived as ‘not a real grownup’ and of people not taking you seriously. (And I think that if you are young woman, the risk and damage of being seen as a ‘Daddy’s girl’ is even greater.) If you need a visible non coworker backup in the workplace again, please try to have a non parent figure. (Not saying don’t have skull sessions with your folks, please just be discreet. )

    1. Owler*

      Honestly, your point #3 is a pretty condescending response. Using “daddy” when the OP’s version did not? Kind of insulting. And honestly, I might have done the same in my early 20s. I don’t know if I would have had any friends available to skip out of their own work for two days to help me drive somewhere, but I would have trusted either of my parents help me with the drive and then disappear while I was working.

      1. Ads*

        I read the “daddy” in point #3 as “this is how people will perceive this situation” – maybe it’s uncharitable, but there are people that will think “not a real grownup”. This isn’t like having someone pick you up from a medical appointment – the premise is that normal workers at this job can drive 5-6 hours, so absent some medical issue, it can be perceived as immaturity.

        1. allathian*

          We don’t know if the requirement to drive 5-6 hours and then deal with an emergency was ever made clear to the LW when they were hired. Driving long distances takes getting used to, dealing with a complex problem you have no experience with is another cause for anxiety. I hope the company will send the LW out with an experienced employee the next time there’s an emergency at this location.

  39. Anono-me*

    I’d like to clarify that I used ‘daddy’ in quotes specifically in number 3 to make a point about the risky optics of the involving a parent in your work situation, not to condescend. Maybe I’ve worked in to many dysfunctional workplaces, but especially when I

  40. Anono-me*

    Sorry the screen went wavy and this posted early and in the wrong spot.

    But especially when I was young looking, being seen as an ‘adult professional’ not a ‘girl’ was a lot of work.

  41. His Grace*

    OP 4:
    Under more normal circumstances, I would recommend that you pass on this employer, because pulling a job offer after someone accepted is an awful thing to do. But given that we are still in the middle of a pandemic, which has had long term consequences on the economy, that advice seems inflexible and irrelevant.

    That being said, you are under no obligation to accept that old offer with this company, especially if the company is not willing to pony up (at least some) more money. I understand that there is a concern regarding how the pandemic and recession impacted your industry, but you should still expect to see some more money since your current employer (who was nice enough to let you stay) promoted you in the interim.

    Have a word with your would be boss (and her boss as well) and lay out your expectations in this matter before you commit to anything. And if they are not going to meet you on them, then kindly decline the offer. If they are responsible and reasonable, they will respect your decision and leave the light on in case your paths meet again.

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