traveling with my boss when I’ll need two airplane seats, sending “thanks!” emails, and more

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

1. Traveling with my boss when I’ll need two airplane seats

I’m starting to travel again for business. I don’t mind traveling, but as a fat person, flying gives me anxiety, because I struggle to fit in certain places, no matter how small I try to make myself. On planes with 17” seats, I can just barely get the armrests down, and I dread the disappointed look on a fellow passenger’s face when they realize they have to sit next to me. It’s one of the many areas in life in which an everyday experience for average-size people can be downright traumatic for a fat person.

Luckily, Southwest Airlines is amazing and has a policy that will allow “customers of size” to reserve a second seat for free. Although I’ve only recently become fat enough (thanks a lot, pandemic stress) to need it, I will forever be a loyal customer of theirs for developing such an inclusive policy. I’ve taken advantage of this offering twice, and the employees are incredibly discreet and sensitive when handling the situation.

Anyway, this Friday, I’ll be on the same return flight as my boss, a tiny woman who has never known what it’s like to be overweight. I’m not sure how to handle the situation of me pre-boarding (which Southwest encourages in my situation, but when I don’t have obvious reasons to pre-board) and having two seats. Do I just tell her the real reason why? (For what it’s worth, she’s a kind person and wouldn’t say anything to make me feel bad, but I’d be pretty mortified nonetheless.) Do I try to come up with another excuse? I’m a bad liar and don’t particularly like lying anyway…

It’s pretty common not to sit together when you’re flying with a coworker for business — there’s often an understanding that you’ll sit apart to have some space and privacy. And Southwest has unassigned seating, so when you board you could simply head toward the back of the plane where your boss is less likely to follow. If she does happen by your seat at some point during the flight and comments on the empty seat next to you, “yes, it’s nice!” is a perfectly acceptable response.

You also shouldn’t need to explain why you’re pre-boarding (and it might help you feel more comfortable to remember that there are lots of invisible disabilities that can qualify someone). If you happen to be near her when they start pre-boarding, you can simply say “That’s me!” and go get in line. (You also don’t need to wait with her at the gate; you could be off getting a magazine or a drink or so forth.) If she asks about any of this stuff point-blank, you might find it easier to just explain — but you can definitely stick with being vague if you prefer it! (With polite people, being vague works more than you might expect it to!)

2. Should I send “thanks!” emails when someone sends me something?

I’m new to office jobs, and my question seems a little too insignificant and petty, but oh well. When someone sends me a file I asked for, etc. should I respond with another email that would literally just say “Thanks!”? It seems like a waste of inbox space, but I want to be polite!

Some people do and some people don’t; it just depends on the person. Personally, if I were laying down a rule on this, I’d say to send the “thanks!” email if it’s someone you don’t deal with often (as confirmation the item was received and to politely close the loop) but not if it’s someone who you’d be sending dozens of “thanks!” emails to a week (because at that point it does become annoying inbox clutter).

3. Asked to interview at 4 am

A friend of mine has got a video interview coming up … at 4 am. This friend is usually based in Europe (CET) but is currently on an extended visit to see family on the west coast of the U.S. (PST). The role is 100% remote, with a company based in Europe, and would involve regular contact with companies around the world and so may well involve working outside of standard business hours wherever you’re based. The company is apparently aware that she’s currently on the west coast, and so could have calculated for themselves that they’re giving her an anti-social interview time, but they did not reference this when they invited her for an interview.

My friend is not too concerned about the interview time as she can fit it around her current schedule and in the future she would ideally like to divide her time between Europe and the U.S., so she is willing to demonstrate her flexibility by interviewing at 4 am. Plus, she has worked in the industry for a long time and has had to work at odd hours before. I’m supportive of her either way, but am concerned that the company is showing little respect for her time, especially as the company did not even acknowledge that 4 am may be a difficult time. I also feel that just because one can interview at 4 am does not mean that one should interview at 4 am; plenty of otherwise good candidates would not be available for a video call then, for many reasons. And interviewing isn’t working; if you have a job you’re being paid to work into the small hours of the night, whereas this is just an interview to establish mutual interest. What do you think?

Eh, I’m not terribly concerned! When you’re interviewing with a company in a time zone nine hours ahead of the one you’re vacationing in, you might end up being asked to interview at weird hours like this. Ideally the employer would acknowledge the inconvenience and explain why this is the time they’re offering (for example, if it’s the only time their interviewers are all available that week), but (a) they might not thought about the time difference; people often forget about them — and if the meeting is being scheduled by someone different than the person she mentioned her travel to, that person might not even know, and (b) it’s not uncommon to figure that if you’re interviewing while you’re vacationing somewhere else, you might need to make time zone adjustments on your side.

If she wanted to, she could have said, “I’m actually nine hours behind you right now so that would be 4 am for me — any chance we could do it a few hours later?” But I’m not terribly alarmed that they asked.

4. Handling questions about the unexpected loss of a baby

My infant daughter passed away unexpectedly at one day old. The pregnancy was healthy and the last thing that many people outside of my immediate team would have heard was that I was in labor and out on leave. My question is about when I return to work. I know people will offer congratulations without knowing, and my news tends to bring conversations to a screeching halt. It’s not something I want to discuss at work in any length, but I know I’ll have to find a script to let people know what happened. I’m just not sure what script gives them an out without making everyone uncomfortable. Is this an impossible ask? I’d like to have something prepared so I can practice saying it, but everything I come up with sounds wrong.

I’m so sorry. Can you ask your manager or someone else at work to share the news ahead of time so that you don’t have to? If there’s anything specific you’d like from people once you return (like if you’d rather people not mention it to you), you can ask them to share that too. Colleagues are often very good about handling this kind of thing on your behalf (and generally are happy to do it, since it gives them a way to help).

That said, you could still encounter someone who doesn’t know and it does make sense to know what you’ll say if that happens. The most important thing is what you feel comfortable with; there’s no script that will make others comfortable because this is inherently a sad and awful thing. Don’t feel like you have to come up with wording that somehow sidesteps that; I don’t think there is such wording! One option would be to say, “We lost her soon after she was born” — but readers who have been through this might chime in with what they found easiest as well.

5. Interviewing when there’s already a candidate who’s “acting” in the role

I’m in a managerial position in a university setting, and there is no room to grow in my team. I am looking for a new job, and I applied to a high-level managerial position in a central leadership team — a very visible and coveted role. There was a person in that role but they left, and now there is someone “acting” in that role. The acting position is temporary and to get the gig full-time, they would need to go through a normal hiring process where the job is advertised and opened up to other external and internal candidates.

I applied for the position as I think I would be a competitive candidate and was informed that an external executive search agency will now be running the process. The external agency contacted me for an interview and I am excited about it. However, I was talking to someone who works in one of the central divisions and they told me that the person in the acting position is going to be made permanent and this hiring process is just to follow hiring protocols to look unbiased. I’ve seen this happen before at the university and so I am not shocked, but really disappointed to hear this.

Part of me wants to cancel the interview, but the other part of me wants to go through with it for practice, but also maybe if I wow this recruiter, they may consider me for future positions as they fill roles in executive positions across the country.

This whole hiring charade is so aggravating and especially because there is nothing I can do about it. The search agency process gives internal HR good deniability that they weren’t able to find a better candidate, and even the external agency couldn’t. I don’t mind not getting a position if I am not the best candidate, but to not even have a chance is really disillusioning and part of me feels like if I go along with this, I am just adding to this charade. What should one do in this situation?

You should still interview. First, the person who gave you that information might be wrong! Second, even if they’re right, things can change — the acting person could get a better offer somewhere else or change their mind. Third, even in hiring processes with a preferred candidate, things can change — some of those hiring processes truly are just rubber stamps for a decision that’s already been made, but some are genuinely open to finding a clearly stronger candidate. You can’t know from the outside which of these it is, so if you’re really interested in the job, it doesn’t make sense to take yourself out of consideration preemptively. (You should temper your expectations, but that’s a good idea in any interview process.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 408 comments… read them below }

  1. Viki*

    To LW4: My condolences. When a colleague lost their child very soon after birth, he told a few select people. I was told the following in a very to the point email, pasted here (Names changed).

    Earlier, Colleague and Spouse welcomed Baby Girl. Tragically Baby Girl passed away due to unforseen complications. Company has sent flowers and donations to Charity of Colleague’s choice in Baby Girl’s name. Colleague will be out of the office for the foreseeable future, all of project questions will be directed to XXXX.

    Please respect Colleague and Spouse’s wishes to their privacy with this time.

    I found this useful. As far as I know this email was only sent to people who worked on the project. Something similar was sent out, without the project part to the department at large (about 30 people).

    I think it worked there.

    1. Snuck*

      LW 4, I’m so very sorry.

      I’ve worked with someone in a similar but different situation. They were out on 12mths maternity leave (Australia) and lost their child to SIDS at 11mths. I say this just so you can hear you aren’t alone, that this has happened the world over, and we’re all shocked, saddened and lost along with you.

      In this situation we had work EAP reach out to her, and ask her how she wanted to handle the return. If your work doesn’t have an EAP program maybe you could discuss with a grief counsel or trusted person how you’d like to share and handle this.

      Some things my colleague communicated were things like: “don’t be upset if you mention your kids in front of me, I still want to hear about your families/don’t make the contrast too great/taboo” and “please don’t hide photos of your families, this feels false” and “If I am teary and upset please let me alone a few minutes to compose myself – I don’t want a lot of attention”. She also asked us to advise all the staff before hand and explicitly asked NOT to be sent condolence emails or messages from individual staff but instead to have a single one from everyone combined before she returned. She wanted to return with a feeling of ‘normalacy’as she felt that worked best for her.

      Now these things might not work best for you! She was a different person, in a different situation, in a different workplace (predominantly male engineer types, the sort who have chronic foot in mouth itis and would do things like send emails to her that were missing hte mark – she knew her ‘crowd’ well enough to ask for one curated message for example ). But it might help you imagine some ideas of how / what you might ask for.

      I’m sorry this what has happened for your family, and I cannot even begin to understand how you might feel. Much care being sent to you from Oz.

      1. Shenandoah*

        I think all of this is so helpful – in my experience, people mean well but are not always great at dealing with tragedy and grief. Giving them even a little guidance on how to best interact with the grieving person can make things a lot easier.

        And LW4, I am so sorry for your loss. I hope you and your family are receiving a lot of support from your community and loved ones.

      2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        Very true about people meaning to be helpful but having “foot in mouth.” It was not the same (and I don’t mean to say it is) but a friend of mine lost her adult son very suddenly to a seizure. The number of people who said things like, “at least it was quick” and “he didn’t suffer” and “he’s with god now” (they were/are atheists) was staggering. These people MEANT well, but absolutely none of that was helpful and a lot of it was actively harmful.

    2. Anonbeth*

      A coworker suffered a loss in the family. My team was told about it similar to how other commenters have said. My coworker’s response to in-person condolences was to say “it’s been really hard, I can’t even talk about it” or “thank you. I can’t talk about this” (depending on formality level) and then change the subject. I think you could also leave the room after saying that, if you’re in a scenario when that’s possible.

      As a person hearing this, it was very clear to me what I could do to help this coworker (not talk about it!), and the exchange did not feel uncomfortable on my side. (That said, I agree with other commenters that preventing others’ discomfort does not need to be a priority for you.)

    3. Antony J Crowley*

      I’m so very sorry for your loss OP4, losing a baby is horrific particularly when it’s so unexpected. My babyloss circumstances are entirely different but I remember the terror of going back into work afterwards and I cannot recommend enough always having a cup of coffee or tea or something in your hand, so if you need to take a second (and cover your face for a second) before you respond to someone you can take a sip of your drink. It just gives you an extra defence before you need to respond.

      I would rehearse what you’re going to say with someone too if possible – hopefully someone will be able to get the word around for you so you don’t have to explain to many people but it’s likely there will be one person at least who doesn’t hear and who asks you. I know you say everything sounds wrong, that’s the fault of the situation, you shouldn’t be without your baby so OF COURSE every way you explain it sounds wrong.

      I would also suggest getting someone to make it clear how you want people to react when they see you. A year or so previous a woman in work had lost her husband unexpectedly and our building manager made it clear she wanted people to only say “it’s nice to see you” and not comment on her loss. People respected this AFAIK. I wanted people to be able to say”I’m sorry for your loss” but without any follow up and again people respected that.

      Also, I got a lot of cards from people. I really appreciated this. If you wouldn’t, again, get someone to spread the word.

      I’m so sorry you’re going through this. It’s not fair :(

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I’m sorry that you and others are giving advice earned through loss, but it’s very helpful to those of us who haven’t faced this. I found your advice about always having a drink in hand, for example, to be simple and understandable, while also something I never would have thought of on my own.

        I do echo what everyone has said about LW#4 not being responsible for the feelings of others. Depending on the work culture, it might be helpful to have the person alerting the coworkers ahead of time provide suggestions (i.e., “If Sallie says she doesn’t wish to talk about it, ‘it’s nice to see you’ is friendly and acknowledges this; ‘oh god, I’m so sorry! I won’t mention it! I’m sorry!’ will prolong the discomfort.”) but I realize that that will seem very prescriptive and perhaps condescending in many situations.

      2. M. Albertine*

        This is wonderful, especially the “making it clear how you want people to react” part. A lot of people have suggested having a designated person announce it to the office, which is a great idea, and you could also have them say that if people want to express individual condolences, you would prefer a written note or card (no email), so you can choose to read them when you feel like you are up to it and won’t have to worry about “performing” acceptance of condolences without bursting into tears.

        1. Antony J Crowley*

          That’s also really good. Going to put that one in my back pocket.

      3. Toothless*

        Masks are nice for that as well. It’s not as big a loss, but I recently went through a breakup with someone who goes to my same church and shares the same friend group and being able to wear a mask through that is nice. I have a little more room to have my own feelings without having to worry about how they’re affecting my facial expressions.

        1. Antony J Crowley*

          Thank you. Over a decade and it’s easier now, but it still really hurts sometimes, and I still wish I could have known the person that baby would have grown into :-|

    4. Bagpuss*

      LW4, I am so sorry for your loss.

      I agree with the suggestions mad by others – let HR, or your manager, or a coworker you trust know in advance and ask them to let people know both what happened, and how you would or wouldn’t like people to respond.
      Be kind to yourself. Your tragedy may be uncomfortable for other people but you don’t need to be the one doing the emotional heaving lifting to make it less uncomfortable (and actually, if you ask someone else to do that for you, to break the news and tell people how you need them to treat you, that person may actually feel grateful to you for giving them something concrete and useful they can do for you )

      I would be as clear as you can with HR, and ask them to be specific about how your would like people to act .

      And as others have said, be aware that there may be a few people who didn’t get the message, or who decide to say something anyway, so do practice a response (even f it’s just “I can’t talk about her – can we stick to work related stuff right now”) and be gentle with yourself. There will be times when it overwhelms you anyway, and you may find yourself crying at work, or needing to leave a meeting.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This is useful for many situations:

        Subordinate lost a sib. I greeted her with “Welcome back!” because I kind of sensed this was Not Good in more than one way. She immediately said, “I don’t want to talk about it.” I nodded that I understood, and I said, “I am happy to see you, we missed you.”

        A boss had serious-serious surgery with a long rehab. “Hi Boss!” Immediately the boss said, “I don’t want to talk about and I will not be discussing it.” Again, I nodded to indicate I heard her and accepted her wishes. Then I said, “I am very glad to see you.”

        I really appreciated being told immediately and directly what each person wanted/expected. There are times OP where people do not mind being told directly (if need be) that the other person just wants to focus on matters at hand.

        The subordinate did discuss it somewhat much later. The boss never discussed it. Both of which are okay also.

        1. TootsNYC*

          in a way, your experience is an argument for getting that “I don’t want to talk about it” info to people before you get back, so that they can relax into “good to see you.”

          Another thing someone in your shoes could do is to grab that second sentence and steer it into work. “Welcome back! I left you the Simmons folder on your desk.”

          I guess you run the risk of seeming uninterested and uncaring, but I imagine one could counter that with a friendly tone and body language.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This would be acceptable to me. If I’m dealing with hard personal stuff, even if I knew the colleague didn’t give a rip, I’d be relieved to just get into work mode. It helps me compartmentalize.

            LW4, please accept my condolences for your loss. *internet hug*

          2. OhNo*

            The suggestion to steer the conversation directly to work topics is a good one! It’s a way to make it clear that you’re taking the request not to talk about it seriously, not just laying in wait for “the moment” when you can spring the painful subject on them.

            In that same vein, LW, it might be worth thinking about what your ideal response from your coworkers when you get back would be. It can be hard to think of all the things you don’t want someone to do, so if it helps, try thinking of what you do want them to do instead.

            Do you want everything to continue as if you’ve never been out of the office at all, so no one goes out of their way to greet you? Do you want a catch-up meeting with specific people, but everyone else can wait to see you until it’s convenient for you? Do you want to talk with your boss first thing so you can get a feel for how people have been taking the suggestion to not talk about it? Similarly, how much interference do you want your coworkers/boss to run for you? Should they stop people from walking over to your office/desk to welcome you back? All of that is stuff that you can ask for if you think it would be helpful.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I really recommend letting someone at work spread the word on exactly how you’d prefer to deal with it. I know some people are comforted by sharing and receiving verbal condolences, but I am absolutely not that person. When I experienced a loss last year, I emailed a trusted colleague and my boss to say what had happened and that I absolutely did not wish to talk about it at work. They emailed condolences but also let my team know what had happened and not to bring it up at work.

        LW#4, I am so incredibly sorry for your loss.

    5. Noncompliance Officer*

      LW4: My heart goes out to you for your loss. I recently had a similar loss (our 3rd child was stillborn at 37-weeks). My boss since an agency-wide email out let everyone know what had happened. I was so grateful because I don’t think I could have handled the questions when I came back.

      1. Noncompliance Officer*

        I would also add I still haven’t found a script I am comfortable with when people ask about this or even ask how many kids I have. I am lucky that my job can be done largely through email. I stayed in my office and avoided human contact at work for the first month or two.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I don’t know if it would work for you, but my colleague who lost a kindergartener in a car accident would use the phrasing, “We have three kids at home.” when asked how many children they had and he did not want to discuss his daughter’s death. One of my husband’s good friends lost their second child to unexpected late-term stillbirth, and they took a more direct approach and typically mentioned it right off – two living, one passed away before birth.

          I’m very sorry for your loss.

          1. Spero*

            I have a son who was stillborn, and I also use the phrasing that I’ve had two children, and one at home with me.

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            My dental hygienist, after I had my son, was talking with me about the bodily issues with motherhood (because I had a let down while my teeth were being cleaned). She’d commented about how when her friend’s baby would cry she would always have one and very matter of factly said that she loved watching the friend’s baby grow because she had one with her and one she had faith she’d see again. It sounds weird writing it out but it was clear from body language what she meant and that she didn’t want to dwell on it or answer questions.

        2. Let's Just Say*

          Something I read in a grief book that really stuck with me is that you don’t owe people the full story. You don’t have to tell every casual acquaintance or stranger about the baby you lost, and it’s not a betrayal of your baby to make it easier on yourself by just saying “I have two kids” (or however many living children you have). Of course, this only applies if that’s the approach you *want* to take — it’s for the benefit of the griever; not to make it easier or less awkward for other people. And what feels bearable or right can shift, especially in early grief. But it can help ease the burden of feeling like you have to come up with exactly the right words in every situation.

          1. LW4*

            My husband said something similar to me when I was stressed about talking to people. He said “you don’t owe anyone your story.” It was eye opening.

      2. Former Employee*

        I’m so sorry for your loss.

        I never know what to say or not to say, so I would be grateful for the type of guidance you described.

      3. Ellie*

        LW4 I’m so very sorry… this happened to a former boss of mine. The team was called into a meeting about a week after they had started their leave, where the higher-ups explained that unfortunately, the baby had died, that it was still their intention to take the rest of their leave, and to please respect their privacy, etc. There’s no good way to handle it, but decent people will take their cues from you.

    6. Annika Hansen*

      I went through a loss a few months ago. I couldn’t talk about it at the time without losing it. I let a trusted co-worker know. She let everyone else know (without copying me so I don’t know exactly what was sent). Everyone respected my wishes to not talk about it. I think this wording sounds great!

    7. New Here*

      A former colleague suffered a loss late in pregnancy and, similar this reply, the team director sent out a note similar to this one. The note also included an email address for condolences that my colleague had set up to separate these messages from their personal email address.

      1. Anne Elliot*

        I think the separate email is a really good idea. It permits the coworkers to register personal condolences, which they might feel moved to do, but lets the person who suffered the loss decide when they feel up to reviewing those messages, which might be then next day or might be never.

      2. TootsNYC*

        From a strict etiquette standpoint, the SOP traditionally has been to write a letter of condolence and mail it to them at home. This puts that communication under their control.
        It also covers the topic before you* see them next, so you won’t feel some pressure to express those condolences in person, since it seems SO uncaring to make no mention at all of their loss. If you write them at home, you will already have made mention of the loss and expressed condolences, and you don’t need to bring it up then.

        I don’t know how people feel about that, but I do know that I wouldn’t mind receiving letters; if people were hesitant to give out the address to everyone, they could be gathered in a group and sent then.

        When my mom passed away, I came back to find a few handwritten notes on my desk, which was nice and served much the same purpose.

        1. Salyan*

          The problem nowadays is that coworkers’ home addresses are usually unknown, and it is against privacy laws for the employer to release that information.

        2. OhNo*

          That is a good point – LW could ask one person to be in charge of collecting condolence cards/letters before they go back into the office. That will let coworkers feel like they’ve addressed it, without having to bring it up in person. Combined with an email to folks to spread the word about how much or little in-person discussion of the loss LW is comfortable with, I think that would likely cover all of their bases.

        3. Admin Here*

          I HATED finding cards on my desk when I came back from a loss. I would have much preferred people to send them to my home, or not send anything at all.

          All of which to say… it’s best if a trusted colleague can tell people what you’d prefer. People experience loss in a million different ways, and what’s a perfect gesture for some people is the wrong thing for others. When people know what you want, that’s generally what they do (or try to do).

    8. Doug Judy*

      Yes this is similar to messages HR has sent out in the past in these situations. It takes the burden off the LW to be the one to break the news. Ours usually includes “Colleague does not wish to discuss this matter upon their return to the office, so we ask that people please respect their wishes” or something to that effect so it makes it clear that people should not bring it up. Some people still will, but it does lessen those cases. My boss lost her first grandchild similarly, and it was very hard because at the time we had an open floor plan and I sat within arms reach of her. I let her know if she wanted to talk about it I was happy to listen but I was not going to bring it up. Not because I did not care, but I wanted to give her whatever space she needed. She really appreciated that, and occasionally we’d talk about it, but on her terms.

      LW, I’m a deeply sorry for your loss. There’s just nothing that can ease your pain, and I hope you have support to help you through this.

    9. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I add my heartfelt sympathies to the OP, and to everyone who has also suffered such an unthinkable loss. There are no words to truly express one’s sorrow, nor to take away even a little bit of pain.

      A friend who suffered a stillbirth told me that she actually found it helpful when people didn’t say anything directly related to her loss. She said what helped her most were the hugs and non-verbal acknowledgments of her sweet baby boy. Words usually didn’t register unless the person was trying to say something profound or helpful, and failed miserably: OMG I’M SO SORRY WHAT HAPPENED??; you’re still young and can have another one; God needed another angel; take these vitamins for next time; and other similar comments.

      Work situations are trickier, but I agree with everyone who said the person’s manager should prepare and coach her teammates in how to react and respond. It might be better to not try and make things easy for her – impossible to do, IMO – but strive to not make them harder.

      1. Speaks Softly But Carries A Big Switch*

        >you’re still young and can have another one; God needed another angel; take these vitamins for next time; and other similar comments.

        These sorts of people seriously need to be taken out back of the woodshed and…experience appropriate consequences.

        I swear, I don’t know what possesses people to think this sort of response is EVER reasonable, desirable or welcome. But there’s always at least one or two in every group who feels that the best way to handle a situation is to either dismiss it, victim-blame it, or otherwise make it worse. I had one person in my circle like that when I was diagnosed with cancer last year. She was well-intentioned, but completely oblivious and insisted upon sending me all the horror stories of her friends who had gone through the same thing. For…reasons? Who konws. It got to the point where The Spouse was delegated the job of pre-reader for her emails so I wouldn’t have to spend the next week having anxiety attacks at 4am.

        I find it useful to establish communications boundaries with people from the get-go on sensitive topics like this (or have someone else establish them for me). One FB group I belong to had a practice of encouraging posters to add a clear and explicit “commenting policy” with any post that had emotional or personal sensitivity. And everyone was expected to respect that policy, and you got booted from the group if you established a pattern of ignoring them. It was wonderful to have an organizationally sanctioned tool like that at our disposal, since the group was focused on doing a lot of vulnerability-inducing self-work. I have since taken that habit to heart and run with it in my emails, FB posts and other communications for any situation that might trigger unwelcome responses. For example, if I’m in a conversation where my diagnosis comes up, I might add: “Lest anyone worry, I am currently cancer free. Feel free to send your best wishes for my ongoing health if you like, but please refrain from offering any health, medical or lifestyle advice and let’s just not with the whole ‘warrior’ inspiration-porn/survivor-bias comments.” And I will absolutely block their ass if they decide that part is optional. (Obviously, the response will be tonally adapted to the context at hand. But I am intentional about making it no less clear or emphatic, regardless.)

      2. Let's Just Say*

        This. A close friend suffered a term stillbirth, and even well-meaning people said shockingly upsetting things. The words “I’m so sorry for your loss” are all you need, or “I’m so sorry for the loss of ___(baby’s name).” Show them that you acknowledge their baby’s life/existence. They don’t need intrusive questions, medical advice, or a “silver lining.” One good piece of advice is that if it includes the words “at least,” don’t say it – and that really holds true for any grieving person.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Yep. The loss of a child is unfathomable, and I’d like to think people were more compassionate and measured. But I would be wrong. My niece died several years ago at age 25 and my sister still doesn’t have any light in her eyes. At the funeral, an older woman in the receiving line patted my sister on the arm and said, ‘Don’t you worry, honey, God knows what he’s doing…’ I don’t think my sister was present enough to hear it, but I grabbed the woman’s arm and pulled her away before she could say anything else. I still get angry thinking about it.

          Speaks Softly, I am so sorry you had to endure the ‘good intentions’, and so very happy to hear you’re in better health now.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          A friend of mine experienced a stillbirth and was told “at least you didn’t have time to get to know her and get attached” when this is actually the very thing she was grieving for at the time. It was so needlessly cruel.

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            What an unspeakably cruel thing to say to a mother who lost the baby she knew and was attached to from the beginning. Some people are truly heartless.

          2. SimonTheGreyWarden*

            I would have killed over that. I knew I was pregnant almost right away (I can’t explain why. I just….felt him, even before he was anything but cells) and I bought a home doppler to listen to his heart. I had horrific PPA and was certain I would lose him before he was born, and yet I was so fiercely attached from before they even did the ultrasound to confirm pregnancy at like 7 weeks. I *knew* him. I *was* attached. That would have killed me.

        3. Epsilon Delta*

          It’s amazing how saying “I’m so sorry for your loss” can seem so shallow to the speaker but, at least for me when I had my miscarriages, it was the most comforting thing to hear. With loss there just isn’t anything that you can say to make it better. And I get the urge to try, especially if you’re a person who’s normally a “fixer,” but you can’t fix death.

    10. A Library Person*

      OP 4: I’m so sorry for your loss. My wife and I have lost two pregnancies (earlier in the process) and it’s difficult to imagine a more painful experience. The second pregnancy advanced far enough that we had begun to tell everyone, and when the loss happened I wrote a short email to my team with the basic facts and asked for privacy. This worked out for the best: I received a lot of condolences (including from a colleague I definitely did not expect to hear from), but no one asked any invasive questions. When I did come back to work everything was more or less normal.

      This will obviously be dependent on the specific people you work with, and what your own emotional capacity is, but I thought it might help to share my own similar experience.

    11. I don’t post often*

      OP4. I am so very sorry for your loss.
      I lost our twins suddenly at 22 weeks pregnant. It was the type of thing where I was sending emails one evening and completely unreachable (due to being in the hospital) the next morning. Everyone was caught by surprise when I appeared to blowing off meetings that morning.

      With that being said, there are many ways as mentioned above to handle this. The best for me was (if I didn’t want to talk about it. Or dealing with someone who didn’t know), “thank you for asking, but I lost our babies at 22 weeks. This has been difficult. (Pause) so we scheduled this meeting to talk about {work thing}….”

      Here is the thing: most people cannot imagine this and they are awkward. They want to respond, and they want to say something helpful, but well. There isn’t anything that can be said. Many will say the completely wrong thing, not realizing just how terrible it is. Like you, I just frankly didn’t want to deal with it, so I adapted the script above.

      This will sound stupid, but practice the delivery before you go back to work. I found it helpful for what I was going to say to be almost rote.

      Finally…. don’t hesitate to take extra time off, walk out of the room, or whatever you need to do.

      Prayers for peace and comfort.

      1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

        I think there’s a certain amount of…IDK, fear? My friend who lost her adult son talked about out-of-order death and grief — as in, most of us expect to bury our parents, we don’t expect to bury our child, at least not now with modern medicine and health care. There’s a sense almost that if it happened to “that person,” someone I know, it could happen to anyone.

        People want to be kind, want to be helpful, and most of us are the most awkward in the world in acknowledging death.

    12. Spero*

      I had a full term, unexpected stillbirth where all my coworkers knew was that I left midday in labor and expecting to deliver. I asked my boss to send an email ‘Spero’s son Fergus was born on X date, unfortunately he passed away at birth. Please reach out to [boss] with any questions or concerns.’
      When I was about to return from leave, she sent a follow up that said ‘Spero will be back in the office x day. Unfortunately, the circumstances of Fergus’ passing are still unclear and she has asked that you refrain from asking questions about the situation. She has shared with me that she is, obviously, still quite distressed over the situation and asks for your understanding and support if she is distraught during the workday.’ It was helpful to know that they weren’t going to be surprised or judgmental if I randomly burst into tears (which happened) and simply grabbed me tissues and walked me back to my office or offered a hug.
      I did have one community partner who apparently thought I was still pregnant and made a ‘supportive remark’ about when I had my baby – I burst into tears and ran out of the room, others explained, I came back half an hour later and we carried on, he sent me a heartfelt apology email and it wasn’t mentioned further. When I had another (living) child other occasional partners who only knew I had been pregnant before made comments about ‘having another’ or ‘little sister’ and there were some rough moments there. On the other hand, there have also been times I’ve referenced my pregnancy with him or his birth in casual conversation (without crying) and no one seems to blink an eye – it’s not a taboo subject.
      Honestly, my advice is – don’t be shocked if you cry in front of people especially at first, don’t feel like you need to apologize for doing it, let others handle the explaining. I don’t know what they said. I honestly don’t care. My job was to handle my own emotions, not give them good language to explain or handle their reactions to finding out my situation.

    13. Diatryma*

      When we went through this, and my work sucked, my spouse and I had business cards made saying our son’s name, date of birth, that he had died, and that we didn’t want to talk about it and the person receiving the card could say they were so sorry and throw it out. It worked for social things too.

    14. Pwyll*

      My condolences as well. When this happened with my boss and she bumped into people who may not have heard, her go-to script was, “She passed unexpectedly, but I really appreciate the sentiment” followed by an immediate segue onto a work topic that had some element of absurdity or excitement.

      Something like, “Anyway, I hear they moved the TPS report up by two whole months, how could anyone meet that deadline?!” or “Anyway, I heard you scored ABC client–that’s amazing, we’ve been trying that for years!”

      It seemed to work really well for her. I only ever heard once someone try to circle back to apologize, and even then she just replied “Thanks” and steered us back to the absurd/exciting work topic.

    15. LW 4*

      Thank you all for your kind words and helpful suggestions. I am definitely going to have a coworker spread the word among teams I work with who probably wouldn’t have heard. It’s especially helpful to hear that it’s okay to not try to manage others emotions. It’s advice I’ve heard about grief in general, but I suppose I wasn’t thinking about it in a work context.

      I have to add, I’m so sorry to see so many sad stories in the comments. It has felt like such an isolating experience, hearing others stories reminds me we are not alone in our own story. We are part of a club that no one wants to be in, but I can’t express how thankful I am for you all sharing your experiences.

    16. Turanga Leela*

      Just one more person offering my condolences for the loss of your daughter. I had a late miscarriage—late enough that everyone knew I was pregnant—and I emailed a supervisor and asked her to spread the word so that people would please not ask me how the pregnancy was going. People were so kind. People are uncomfortable around death, but that’s not for you to fix, and the important thing is to take care of yourself so you don’t have to tell people over and over.

      For whatever it’s worth, I have two living children and I still think every day about the baby who didn’t make it. Life goes on and grief becomes a part of it, and eventually, generally, it’s bearable again.

      I’m so sorry that you’re going through this, and I wish you peace and healing.

    17. TheSnarkyB*

      LW4 – please know that you’re not alone. I’ll write this from my experience of loss – though not the loss of an infant, it was a public and visible loss at work. In 2019, I lost a baby at almost 21 weeks of pregnancy. I was showing, everyone had been told (because I had to at that point), and so the news of the loss had to be broken to everyone as well. I sent my team an email the day before I came back with some of the following sentiments:
      It basically said that they may or may not have heard that we lost the baby. We were extremely sad and distraught, but we were getting through things one day at a time. Please avoid bringing it up or asking much about it, as it’s still an extremely difficult subject.

      Then one thing that I found extremely helpful was finding ways to respond to the small conversational bits that happen throughout the day. When you’re first grieving, it’s 100% clear that people are asking about your handling of the loss when they say “How are you?” But then you eventually start to get “How Are You”s that have a more casual tone, or that seem more ambiguous, and it’s weird to not know quite what the person means. I found that even in my very human-services, emotional intelligence workplace, I was able to get away with being asked “How are you?” and very cheerily responding, “Hey! How are you?”

      Many people didn’t even notice that I hadn’t answered, and it worked quite well.

      Wishing you peace and healing, and remembrance of your baby.

    18. Ally McBeal*

      I’ve not personally experienced the loss of a child, but I’d suggest adding one step to the “ask HR or a close colleague to communicate the situation and appropriate response” suggestion — ask colleagues to mentally rebrand LW’s leave from “maternity/paternity leave” to “medical leave.” It’s SO easy to slip up and say “oh, when LW was out on maternity leave we had to deal with XYZ issue” – and god forbid that happens in front of a client or someone not in the loop and then the client might congratulate LW and it all goes downhill from there.

  2. Budgie Buddy*

    #3: people in Europe can sometimes forget how big the United States is. They may be used to working with people on the east coast and not immediately realize that there’s another whole three hour time difference.

    For #1… it kind of depends on preference. If the boss is small she may not know about the considerations of flying while fat and genuinely not clue in to why OP is boarding early. However, if she is a polite person she will accept whatever explanation of lack thereof OP chooses to give. Since she has eyes she can probably identify why OP might need the empty seat.

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      3. Yes, I work with people based on both the East and West coasts, and I am forever checking what time it is.

      A previous global company had a tool on its intranet showing time zones so you could work out when was the best time to get New York, London and Singapore together. Unfortunately, it meant having to hold separate meetings!

      1. Cat Tree*

        I’m in the US on the East coast, and occasionally need to have meetings with the global group. We have found that the sweet spot is duplicate meetings at 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. EST to cover everyone. These way even the host doesn’t have to log on in the middle of the night.

        1. SpiderLadyCEO*

          Yep. I’m east coast, and work with a team where one of us is in Australia, one is in London, and then there is me. We found 8am est was dreamy for us, because everyone was awake at those times – it was noon in London, and dinnertime in Aus.

          Unfortunately, our availabilities change and now our poor London contact has to meet with us just before she goes to sleep!

          1. Nessun*

            Similar situation – we have a meeting for our global group and there are people on from Australia, London, east & west coasts in America, and also Hong Kong. There is literally NO good time for everyone, so we’ve just been up front that it sucks and it’s the cost of doing business. People are expected to plan their work day in accordance – if you need to log off during the day for a rest because you have a call at OMG o’clock, then do it.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              Yes, I’m on the West Coast and work with people in India, so sometimes I’ll have to be in early for me (5:30-6), but considering it’s late in the evening for them, both sides have to accommodate the time difference.

      2. David*

        I work for a company based in Central Europe, and the latest they’re possibly going to be available for a formal meeting like an interview is 3-4 PM CET, which works out to 6 AM on the West Coast. Fortunately I’m on the Eastern Seaboard; it’s a bit more manageable.

        There just aren’t any good options; the last thing an interviewee should want is to be tail-end Charlie after a long day for the interviewers.

        1. Jack Straw*

          This gave me flashbacks to when one of my major clients was a goods provider for South American with offices in Miami, FL. My coworkers could never understand why I needed to get everything for that office done before 3PM and often wouldn’t take my own lunch until then… Two hour late lunches with drinks at 2:30pm and a nap at the hotel after *did* make for fun site visits though. :)

      3. MassMatt*

        LW #3 seems oddly invested in thinking this interview time is disrespectful–to the extent that she’s writing an advice column on behalf of her friend, who is herself not bothered by it.

        If you’re working for a global company, meetings outside of “normal” business hours come with the territory. That would go DOUBLE for someone who’s vacationing in a very different time zone from the company they’re interviewing for.

        With more people working remotely and businesses becoming increasingly global, expecting your schedule to always be 9-5 in your local time is increasingly unrealistic.

      4. Æthelflæd*

        I have teams in South Asia, work with a team entirely on the east coast (I’m on the west coast), and have another team in the midwest that sometimes says to me “7pm your time” but means EST, because everyone else on the team is on the east coast. I spend so much trying to figure out what time people are fracking taking about! The only reason I show up to meetings on time is Outlook automatically adjusts times to your local time.

        The best part is when someone on EST schedules a meeting that I have to attend at 8am, which is 5am for me At least I work from home?

    2. Forrest*

      If I was getting a flight with a colleague and they we’re called early, I’d assume:

      a) scared of flying and have to be in a particularly seat to feel comfortable
      b) invisible disability that I don’t know about
      c) they fly regularly with this airline and it’s a perk that I don’t know about
      d) they really, REALLY don’t want to end up next to a family with kids
      e) they really REALLY like a window seat and have paid extra to make sure they get one, or vice versa

      etc. People get called early for all sorts of reasons, and it’s not really interesting enough to speculate about! I definitely don’t think it’s something you need to explain.

      1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

        Priority boarding is definitely a common perk for frequent flyers, but in many companies (European companies, at least) it’s also simply something you can buy and there’s no need for a reason. I often got it when booking through my university’s travel agency, presumably because of some agreement. I also bought it last minute a couple of times, when sh*t happened and I was afraid of running late.

        I think it’s really unlikely that the boss will ask! And if she does end up sitting next to OP and comments on the empty seat, OP can reply enthusiastically that it’s “so nice when it happens, because you can keep your bag handy and spread you elbows!”, there’s again no need to tell her it’s on purpose. It’s a thing that happens, and I would imagine it’s not so unlikely now that fewer people are traveling.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I like an aisle seat and I’m fussy where I sit so if I’m on an airline where the seating isn’t allocated I tend to pay for priority boarding. If it’s allocated on check in then I can pick the seat more carefully.

          1. Ellen N.*

            Southwest is a no-perks airline. They don’t even assign seats. I don’t believe that they have priority boarding for an extra fee.

            Also, Alison doesn’t seem to understand how it works when you get an extra seat because of your weight. The flier uses both seats; there is not an empty seat next to the flier.

            If I were the original poster, I would assume that his/her coworker would understand why he/she had priority boarding and two seats and that the coworker wouldn’t say anything about it.

            1. In the provinces*

              Southwest does have priority boarding for a fee–used to be $20 – $25; not sure what it is now, because, for obvious reasons, I haven’t flown in a while.

            2. SweetTooth*

              You can pay to upgrade to A1-A15 (I think that’s the range). That’s also the boarding section for business select or whatever the higher ticket level is. I think that’s separate from other priority boarding though, like preboarding for medical reasons or priority boarding for families (I believe that’s after the A group has boarded but it might be before).

              The main point is that there is early boarding for a number of paid and unpaid reasons, and even if your manager does discern why you are boarding early, it should not matter. Having traveled on Southwest on the same flights as my manager or coworkers, I am always relieved to have reasons not to be boarding near each other so there’s no pressure to hang out on the flight.

            3. Ms Jackie*

              southwest has early boarding – for $25 you get to go after people with disabilities and military

              1. Mr. Shark*

                It can be up to $40 for the A1-A15, but if you fly frequently, you are on the A-List and therefore are usually A16-30, or A31-60 at worst, which still means you are boarding before the majority of the other passengers and can get a seat you want.
                I’m always on the A-List and get the perfect seat near the window that has the most elbow-room. It allows me to make sure I have a spot for my carryon in the above-head baggage area and can settle in before anyone else shows up.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, all of this. I wouldn’t even think about it.

        I don’t fly a lot and don’t keep track of what, if any, perks I might have earned, so I always just line up according to my seat number and wait until that section is called. If you, LW, boarded early my first thought would be that you managed your airline miles better than I do. (Literally everyone manages their airline miles better than I do.)

    3. TechWorker*

      I am in Europe and have a bunch of colleagues on the west coast who regularly schedule meetings at 7,8,9pm my time, and (less frequently) occasional ‘urgent’ meetings at ~1am or later. Luckily in the latter case it’s usually scheduled when I’m already out of the office so I happily skip it. (I’ve also been asked to present at 1am and this was the ONLY timeslot, but luckily found someone local to cover). I’m not sure it’s Europeans forgetting how big the US is as much as just people being generally bad at timezones :p

      1. Cat Lover*

        Heck, I’m American and I have American friends that forget there are 4 timezones in the lower 48! I’m an east coaster and some people lump Mountain and central together in their heads. Not to mention Alaska and Hawaii, and weird DST rules.

        1. Christmas Carol*

          Heck, I’m in Michigan, and I’m SOOOO tired of explaining to my Florida based Corporate Overlords why I didn’t answer my phone @ 5:45 pm. No, I didn’t scoot out early, I’m in the Eastern Time Zone just like you. Not an hour behind in the Central zone like you as you decided I should be from a quick glance at a US map.

          1. Anononon*

            I always tend to forget that most of Texas is central time – it just seems too far west for that!

            My dad is in eastern, but he deals with most of the country regularly, so he’s used to doing conversions. However, he recently started working with someone in New Brunswick, Canada, and having to think forward an hour, instead of back, is just super weird.

            1. CatLadyLawyer*

              I work for a company that has offices all across North America.

              Newfoundland is 1.5 hours ahead of eastern.

              One. Point. Five.

              Just wanted to share this trivia lol. It’s led to some interesting scheduling fuck ups.

            1. Megdc*

              Heck, in Indiana, where I live, we have central time in the north west and southwest corners of the state and the rest of us are in the eastern time zone. It’s absurd!

              1. Kiwiii*

                This just gave me the visceral memory of when I lived in southern Illinois and was figuring out an interview in Evansville, IN; it was like every day between when I scheduled it and the day I drove over to interview I had to re-figure out if I needed a time difference buffer or not.

              2. JillianNicola*

                HA the financial advisor I work for is originally from Indiana (we’re in Minnesota), which means a lot of his clients are IN based. Every time I schedule a meeting I have to google the town name to see if it’s in Central or Eastern. And he had to be the one to tell me that exists because one of his clients lives in the little southwestern CST portion! Truly absurd.

              3. Bureaucratic Hospice*

                Florida actually has both Central and Eastern too: ~Panama City westward is all central time!

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Lived in AL for a while, and it was super confusing to one family member because they kept thinking that I should be on EST because their hometown in OH was as far west as I was and it was on EST.

                  I eventually gave up trying to convince them and instead went with – I will call you, please don’t call me.

                2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Adding – most of Alabama is on CST, and I was in that part on CST.

              4. Tessie Mae*

                I’m in Michigan and I like being on eastern Time. And I feel like eastern time should include Alabama, and all of Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Florida.

                It throws me off that certain states have two different time zones. I frequently Google the time zone in those states because my knowledge of geography is not great, and unless I remember that a place is far east or west in the state, I can’t keep track of what time zone they are in.

                1. lebkin*

                  Fun fact: Michigan itself has two time zones. The western portion of the UP is in Central, up near the Porcupine Mountains.

                2. Aggretsuko*

                  From what I recall, there’s ONE TOWN in Nevada–Jackpot–that is somehow on a different time zone than the rest of the state.

              5. SweetTooth*

                Back when I was in college, Indiana (or parts of it) didn’t do daylight savings time, so half the year I was on the same time zone as my family, and the other half not! I was so confused haha.

            2. ThatGirl*

              So should Indiana, but they chose Eastern for some reason when they finally decided to declare a timezone.

              1. MelonHelen*

                ::raises hand:: Arizona representing! We don’t do DST. So for half the year, we are the same as MST, and the other half we are the same as PDT!

            3. AnonMom*

              Another Michigan native here, and I like being Eastern. Means I get to see the sunrise in the mornings before work, and also get to enjoy daylight in the evenings after work. If we were Central it would be too dark in the evening to do anything outdoors.

          2. Lore*

            I once had a flight from Philadelphia to Florida with connections in Detroit going and Memphis coming back and I was wrong twice in my assumptions about time zones. (You’d think after the shock of Detroit, I would have checked before boarding the return flight but this was the pre-smart phone era and it was a lot harder to do that while on vacation.)

          3. Blackcat*

            Why is eastern time so wide?! Ohio is so far from Boston, yet somehow the same time zone. Yet New Orleans is central!
            I am constantly baffled. And I wish Boston would move permanently (without daylight savings) to Atlantic time. Canada has this perfectly good time zone that those of us in eastern New England could use!

        2. NervousHoolelya*

          A friend just moved to AZ, and figuring out timeslots for phone calls — especially after DST ended — melted my brain. I’m glad I don’t generally have to keep those considerations in mind when scheduling work stuff.

          1. LeahS*

            I just had this meltdown last week while scheduling interviews for my company!

          2. NotGoneGirl*

            One year, we went on vacation to AZ and flew in/out of Las Vegas. We left on a red eye the evening of day light savings ending. We spent the whole vacation discussing what time we needed to leave to drive to the airport to be there at the right time.

          3. Gutenberg*

            I live in Arizona and I have found that sending quick time zone update emails to my regular contacts when daylight saving time starts and ends has been helpful. It’s easier to just ask them to think of Arizona as switching between Mountain and Pacific time and also stating the difference from US Eastern time. For anyone who is wondering, Arizona (except the Navajo Nation) does not observe daylight saving time. We have too much daylight already!

          4. pancakes*

            I spent a semester in India and Nepal in college and they are 15 minutes apart. It was definitely for the best that I seldom had to schedule meetings or appointments there.

          5. Filosofickle*

            I grew up in AZ (no time change) and went to college in IN (in the part that has no time change) and I was the only person in my dorm who didn’t have to calculate when to call home and remember which season they were ahead/behind. :D

        3. joss*

          I have found that dealing with international customers is far easier than dealing with colleagues on the opposite coast. At least the international customers are always aware of the time difference and we work to find the best time for all of us. In the US it took an outright refusal to attend certain meetings before they (occasionally) start to look at time zones. Like you want me get up at for a meeting at 5am? Or planning your recurring meeting during my lunch time so you can clock off at 4 pm? Not going to happen. It took me a few years (slow learner here) before I finally decided that I was done with that nonsense and now, except if there is an emergency meeting, I no longer put up with that.

      2. Rara Avis*

        I agree that people are really bad at time zones. In our new pandemic life, I get all sorts of invitations to virtual events in distant places — but no one puts the time zone in the invite. 3 p.m. where? Also, I feel like west coasters always get the short end of the stick — conferences that start at 5 a.m. my time; professional development offered after work for some, but falling during my work day.

      3. Marillenbaum*

        I work overseas from my main office, in a majority Muslim country with a different workweek to accommodate Friday prayers. Part of my email signature says “Please note that X office is Y hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Business hours are Sun-Thurs, 8-5.” This way, if I’m dealing with someone back at main office, they understand why I’m emailing on the weekend but absolutely unreachable on Fridays.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I think it’s less that people forget how big the USA is and more that most people don’t think about time zones much, and often find them confusing and that people who are not in/from the USA also don’t necessarily have a huge familiarity with US geography, so they won’t automatically place a location in the correct time zone.
      I think the most likely explanations are wither that the person arranging the interview wasn’t aware of the candidate’s location, or that they were but made a mistake in working out the time difference (if they mistakenly thought the difference was +7 rather than -7 hours then they would have thought they were inviting her to interview at 6 p.m., not 4 a.m, for instance)

      Unless she flagged up what time they were requesting and asked them to change it, and they refused, it seems odd to me to assume bad faith / lack of respect .

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I’m vaguely aware the US has multiple time zones but not sure which ones are where. I think most people are not all that great at time zones and don’t always think about them when sorting out meetings.

        1. londonedit*

          Yes – today I learned that the US has a time zone called ‘Mountain’ :D

          It’s not part of my job to routinely interact with people from the US, and I have to admit I have no idea about how the time zones work, let alone all the quirks involved. And there are similar quirks in Europe – Portugal, for example, is on the same time zone as the UK, but Spain/France/Germany/Italy etc are an hour ahead. I’ve even been on a plane landing in Portugal where the flight attendant has said ‘the time here is 4:15pm’ and then someone’s had to correct them and they’ve had to get back on the PA system and say ‘Sorry, the time is 3:15pm, no need to change your watches’. Time zones are confusing!

          1. ThatGirl*

            Poor Mountain Time gets forgotten all the time :) (to be fair I think that’s the least populated swath of the country).

            1. Kiwiii*

              It is! The Mountain time zone has just 6-7 percent of the country by population (vs. say, Eastern, which has nearly 48 percent)

              1. Not playing your game anymore*

                West River SD is in the Mountain time zone. People East River can’t remember that. We don’t expect anyone else to have a clue.

        2. joss*

          google is your friend. Just type in “what time is it now in (xyz)” and you know the time difference you need to deal with is

      2. SarahKay*

        Very true. I’m in the UK and part of a team that is about 50% UK people and 50% mainland European people. We all know that 50% of the team are in a different timezone and yet at least once a week an email will be sent out to everyone (from someone in the group) with a deadline of (eg) 11am … and no timezone given!
        Worse; despite being infuriated by it, on occasion I’ve been guilty of it myself. People are just bad at timezones.

        1. Allonge*

          Heh. This was one of the discoveries of COVID for a former employer of mine. We can do videoconferencing for a large meeting for people all over Europe – awesome! Not specifying that all event times are CET – less awesome!

        2. Anne Kaffeekanne*

          I’m in mainland Europe but work mostly with my company’s UK team, and, despite having lived in the UK for a not-insignificant period of time, at least twice a week I get confused about the time zones when setting up meetings.

      3. Allonge*

        Yes. Even in places where they work with the whole Europe people tend to forget.

        In this case I also see a potential added twist: hiring manager knows that candidate is on the West coast. Hiring mangers’ assistant, who schedules the interview and needs to coordinate with the other members of the panel, does not necessarily know, and presumably expects the interviewee to say, sorry, that is impossible for me if that is the case.

      4. SufjanFan*

        tbh I live on the East Coast and I’m coooooonstantly like using internet calculators to figure out the different time zones in the US ahahaha

      5. Blackcat*

        The only demographic I’ve found who excel at time zones are Australians. I assume it’s because they are far enough from so many places that they just look stuff up all the time.

      6. tamarack and fireweed*

        This kind of confusion has definitely happened within my earshot during my career.

        “We *specially* picked a time so that it would be in the early afternoon for you… oh, dear, it’s 4 am?! I guess we added instead of subtracting the time difference…”

    5. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I really think that the absolute best thing you can do when scheduling things for people in multiple time zones is to quote the time in all of the relevant time zones. “Okay, Sara. Thanks so much for setting up this interview time for me. That will be 4am PT for me which is 1pm CET for Daveed who I’ll be interviewing with. Does that sound right to you?”

      I conduct a great many phone interviews and set people up with second interviews and say basically the same thing to candidates. It seems to work really well and helps keep all parties cognizant of the time.

    6. I edit everything*

      One of my clients is UK-based. I’m in the Eastern US. We have authors, project coordinators, etc., spread all around the world. It is apparently impossible to schedule a reasonable time for people spread from US Central (who can’t get on a call until afternoon due to day job) time to Israel, and a PC from Australia had to sub for the Israeli, because the times worked better for her. It was ridiculously early in the morning for her, but I guess less early in the morning than it would have been late at night in Israel.

    7. Don P.*

      If I can semi-hijack for a related peeve: business that list their hours as, say “10AM — 5PM EST”. No, I bet your hours are 10 to 5 ET; you don’t change your hours during Daylight Saving Time. You just though “EST” sounded more professional or something.

      1. Evan Þ.*

        I sometimes passively resist that by quoting times as “PDT”, Pacific Daylight Time.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, my boss once asked me to phone a client, he just said they only spoke English so I had to do it. I called every day for a week and only ever got the answering machine without the possibility of leaving messages. I told him I hadn’t got through, then suddenly he asked what time I was calling, because they were in the US. I’d been calling in the morning as this is typically the type of thing I get out of the way before getting stuck in on projects requiring huge concentration levels.
      So then I tried calling just before I left, and still got the answering machine. I asked the boss again and he looked the address up, turned out they were in California so even calling late afternoon was too early. I told him I could stay late one night to call them if he paid me overtime, suddenly he no longer needed me to call them.

  3. Delighting in daffodils*

    LW4, my heart is broken for you.

    I wonder if you might draft a paragraph that you ask a trusted colleague to send around the office? This would 1) not have folks replying to you and 2) allow you to share the news exactly how you like, with as much or as little info as possible, and present boundaries without fear of them being lost in translation.

    I envision something along these lines: “LW4 asked me to share some sad news with you all. Their infant daughter was born DATE and unexpectedly passed away the next day. LW4 has been grieving and asks that when they return to work, you kindly not bring up this difficult topic in conversation. LW4 appreciates your support during this hard time.”

    So many times, folks want to do A Thing to Help. If you’re so inclined, an additional sentence about where donations in your daughter’s memory could be made might help folks channel that desire. Absolutely up to you!

    1. Beth*

      Yes, this is exactly the kind of thing that office gossip networks are for. Talk to one colleague and ask them to spread the word for you. Hopefully by the time you come back, everyone who works closely with you will have been notified of your loss. There will probably be a couple who miss the news, but you should be able to avoid most of these conversations completely.

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

    2. WS*

      This is what happened in my workplace when a colleague sadly had a stillbirth after an uneventful pregnancy. The message was very similar and had a donation link to the charity that had supported her and her family.

    3. Foxgloves*

      I think this is really good. My sister in law had a stillbirth on New Years Eve after a completely healthy pregnancy, and this is very similar to how they handled this with anyone who wasn’t immediate family/ very close friends. I think it would also be good to use management here too- if people DO bring it up unprompted by LW4, they need to be ticked off, and swiftly, for not respecting these very reasonable boundaries.

    4. londonedit*

      Not the same circumstances, but that’s how a previous employer handled it when a colleague was unexpectedly away from work after a traumatic event. We just got an email that said ‘I’m afraid I have to share some bad news from Tabitha; she suffered a traumatic event over the weekend and will be out of the office for the rest of the week. Our thoughts are of course with her at this difficult time, but she has asked that when she returns to the office, we refrain from asking about the incident as she is finding it very upsetting to discuss the details. Thank you for your understanding’. When Tabitha did come back to work, she did begin to speak to people about what had happened, but everyone understood that it was her decision as to when and where that would be appropriate.

    5. Elizabeth Bennet*

      I think the part of giving people something to do to help is quite useful. It alleviates the worry of those who want to help on what to do, while still respecting the boundary set.

    6. ursula*

      I was covering someone’s mat leave when they experienced a similar loss and our director sent out basically this email. I was so grateful to have clear instructions on how the person would like us to handle it. No one on our team had trouble respecting those boundaries (to my knowledge, at least), but it may bring you peace to get your manager on-side to address any issues if they arise. Wishing you peace, LW4.

  4. Lori*

    LW 4: I’m so very sorry for your loss. I had a stillbirth and found myself unable to face going back to the office with such questions. Thankfully I had a coworker who was very sensitive and generously let others in the office know before I returned from leave. Hopefully you can confide in someone to do the same on your behalf? You should, of course, only share what you are comfortable with.

  5. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere*

    Personally, I think that OP #1 is overthinking things. Boarding groups get randomly assigned for any number of reasons, and coworkers generally never sit together anyway. I wouldn’t offer any explanation – I have never concerned myself with who boards when. I don’t even pay attention because I give less than zero f-cks. You don’t have to justify yourself to anyone.

    1. John Smith*

      Totally agree with this, well put. At least your manager booked you a flight! My manager has arranged a business trip that is 400 miles away (in my country, that’s a deal due to crappy infrastructure). He’s decided to take the train and book a hotel for the night but his assistant has to drive to the meeting and drive back again the same day (and he wonders why people don’t talk to him).

      If anyone has an issue with you, it’s they who have the problem, not you. A quick glance, “I’m good, thanks”, a smile and look away again usually puts people in their place!

      1. Silver Radicand*

        To be fair, 800 miles of travel is an entire day’s worth of work right there even with good infrastructure. Not to mention being ready and doing the rest of the business that needs to happen that day.

      2. ErinWV*

        I don’t think that’s physically possible. A 400-mile drive is going to take 7-8 hours, isn’t it?

        1. John Smith*

          Exactly. It’s about 6 hours – 5 if you ignore speed limits on the main roads. Worse still is that this meeting was originally scheduled to start at 9 am. Our hosts, when they discovered that someone was actually driving, rescheduled the meeting for the driver’ sake and provided a link to a decent hotel (£30 for the night). Our manager has already declined this “frivolous” expenditure…..

        2. The Rural Juror*

          Depends on where you’re going and if you’re able to take a highway with no interruptions. For example, to travel to see my parents, I drive 380 miles. I’m able to take an interstate 90% of the way and only pass through one major city. I can do that drive in about 5-1/2 hours if I only stop once for a bio break. The speed limit most of the way on that particular highway is 75mph, then 55-65mph through the city.

          There’s another drive I do for work sometimes that takes me to a more rural area of my state (Texas) that’s about 250 miles one-way. It takes about 4 hours, but that’s because the highway is smaller and there are many small towns to pass through. It’s a pretty drive, but you don’t get there very quick…

          I used to do that drive, have my meetings for a big portion of the day, then drive home. My company offered to get me a room, but there’s only one motel there and it’s just…not great. I didn’t mind coming back if I was able to come in later the next day (like at noon!). From the time I left my house at 6am to the time I got back that evening, it was usually about 14 hours.

    2. traffic_spiral*

      Agreed. I mean, as the senior person on the trip I might want to at least see that the other person had made it past check-in so I know they’re not missing the flight, but other than that? DGAF, do whatever, it’s not my problem. It’d be different if they were taking some crap budget line that overbooks and has tiny seats, so that there’s a legitimate chance of LW getting bumped from the flight. In that case, yeah, give the boss a heads-up so they know there might a problem to resolve. But if there’s no problem, boss doesn’t care to know about it.

      Also, assuming the boss isn’t visually impaired in some way, she’s perfectly aware of what size LW is. It’s not like she’s gonna be like “OMG you aren’t a size 2? Explain!”

      1. Barbara Eyiuche*

        People can see I’m fat, but they can’t judge whether I’ll fit in the airplane seat. In a country where such things are more openly talked about than in the USA or Canada, I’ve had people discuss the issue and come to the conclusion that I could not possibly fit in the seat. However, I always have; the question is only whether I’ll need a seat belt extension. People often also try to look over discreetly as I’m buckling the belt to see if I fit.

        1. Anononon*

          Yeah, people are really bad at estimating fatness. Part of it is that for many, subconsciously, being fat is seen as morally bad, so if they’re friendly with a fat person, clearly that person isn’t fat fat, just a little bigger. I once potentially needed a pair of nicer pants while at work, and my size 8 coworker genuinely offered me, probably like a size 20, an extra pair she had.

          1. Anonforthisone*

            This is so completely accurate. There is someone at my work who I believe was extra hard on me in part due to weight bias; in spite of evidence to the contrary, he seemed to find me “lazy” very easily.

            He either got over it eventually or realized that everyone else disagreed with him and he wouldn’t win them over, but once he started telling our group a story about a man in a larger body he had seen in the airport. His body-shaming wasn’t the crux of the story, but it was definitely included to emphasize his negative opinion of the person he was speaking about. Both myself and another larger bodied coworker were in the group for this story, and he clearly thought we would feel the same way about this stereotype.

            Afterwards, she asked me how he didn’t realize how inappropriate that was, and I said its clear that because he likes us he doesn’t think of us as “fat” because he told us all the negative things he associates with fat people. Since he doesn’t associate those things with us, we couldn’t be fat in his mind.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            Half the time I can’t even estimate whether or not something will fit me, and I live in my own body.

          3. Pam Poovey*

            (CW: size and weight number mentions)

            We’ve gotten so many screwed up messages on what X number means in terms of clothing size or pounds that people literally cannot estimate correctly. Especially the farther away they are from what they’re estimating. Many people look at me – who wears a US size 24 or 26 – and probably assume I weigh like 250 pounds because to them that’s as massive as they can imagine. In reality I’m much heavier than that. Add in that everyone carries differently and muscle vs fat and it’s all kinds of fucked up.

            1. Anononon*

              Yupp. Many people don’t know what fat looks like. Like, 200 pounds sounds massive to many people, but it’s really not shockingly or unusually large. There is (was?) a really good website that had user-submitted photos and organized them in a chart with weight on one axis and height on another. It really showed what different weights could like, and it showed just how different people can carry weight, even if they’re the same height and weight.

          4. Quill*

            For some, “fat” is not necessarily sub-consciously seen as “morally bad” but it is commonly seen as “unattractive” or overall just has negative connotations.
            Which leads to the response — “You’re not fat, you’re just… a little overweight.” Perhaps one day, “fat” will become used neutrally, like “short/tall” but that’s not currently the case.

          5. Turanga Leela*

            This is 100% my experience. I can barely keep track of what size I wear, and I have no ability to judge what size other people are. I can basically estimate “thinner than I am” and “fatter than I am” but can’t gauge actual sizes.

        2. Observer*

          Sure, people are bad at figuring this stuff out. But if it comes up, most people are not going to be all “What? How could this be?”

          1. Anononon*

            You’d be surprised. I’ve had people try to convince me I’m not fat before, even though I clearly am by any account.

            1. Pam Poovey*

              My favorite is calling myself fat and having someone say “no, you’re beautiful.” I didn’t say I was ugly! I called myself fat as a description because it’s accurate, I know I’m also hot af.

              1. John Smith*

                That made me laugh loud! I think I can sympathise in a way, being vertically challenged (I’m a real short arse) and try to be humourously self deprecating about it (and many other things). I can see the looks from others when trying to reach a high shelf in a supermarket or having to buy clothes from the kids section as adult sizes are too big for me (cheaper, but coats with SpongeBob Squarepants logos really don’t suit me). I just try and think of wisecracks and hold my head up high (high for me at least).

              2. Fat and Hot*

                This happened to me with one of my boyfriends once – I can’t remember the conversation exactly but I must have said something like “…because I’m fat.”
                He immediately said “you’re not fat, you’re hot”. Darling, no. I’m fat AND hot.

            2. knitcrazybooknut*

              Yep, me too. I’ve always been very straight up about my actual weight, and I have gotten “you don’t look like 230 pounds!” and more recently “your bmi can’t put you in the obese category!” Sorry folks. This is my body, and bmi is a joke. Both of these things are true.

              1. Observer*

                and I have gotten “you don’t look like 230 pounds!” and more recently “your bmi can’t put you in the obese category!”

                Yeah, it happens to me, too. But a lot of the people who say that are trying to be nice, not actually argue. (Yeah, I know….)

                And I actually did have one person actually try to argue with me recently. But that person is pretty notable for lack of some social lubricant. For the most part people may say something like “you don’t look like it” but it doesn’t become a THING or cause great shock that requires a lot of explanation.

                1. Frank Doyle*

                  If a good friend of mine says they weigh a certain amount, and they’re kind of complaining about it or apologizing for it, I often say “well, I’d never know, you carry it very well!” Is that okay, do you think, or is it still not great? Maybe I should just say “you look great!” and leave it at that?

                2. Observer*

                  @Frank Doyle If a good friend of mine says they weigh a certain amount, and they’re kind of complaining about it or apologizing for it, I often say “well, I’d never know, you carry it very well!” Is that okay, do you think, or is it still not great?

                  It depends on the person. But whatever you do, do NOT argue or push it.

                3. John Smith*

                  Re the question of a friend apologising. I would ask them why they’re apologizing for something they don’t need to apologize about to someone they don’t need to apologize to (i.e, anyone). I’ve said this to people at a low point (replace ‘fat’ with ‘depressed’ or similar) and you can see them processing the question and almost instantly changing inside. Invariably, they say “oh… You’re right”.

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Agreed. Most colleagues I have flown with have sat separately. There was just one time I was expected to sit with a colleague or else be accused of not being a team player. I found that really weird.

      Some people have definite opinions on how others travel- how much time they give themselves at the airport, whether they work on the plane, whether they check a bag, etc. I have stopped worrying about what those people think as my travel is always within company guidelines and not at all outlandish.

      Sometimes I work on the plane and sometimes I don’t. In any case, I get my work done when I need to get it done and don’t need to be babysat when I travel. I’ve seen colleagues get work done on the plane and have also seen colleagues read magazines. Some play video games. Others watch a movie or sleep. Most do not care what others do.

      I often try to carry on a bag because I have gotten stuck at a hotel overnight while my bag was checked, due to a flight cancellation. So I find it better, for me anyway, to carry on my bag when possible in case that ever happens again. But if I do need to check a bag, that’s a normal thing to do, although some colleagues will demonize you for it. I have a credit card where I get a free checked bag as a benefit, so if anyone freaks out that I spent company money on a baggage fee, I let them know that. Although one manager I had then argued that it’s the time it takes at the baggage claim that she had a problem with. I have never been late or missed anything due to baggage claim. LOL!

      Some people also love to cut it close and give themselves as little time as possible to get to the plane. I prefer to give myself enough time to ensure I don’t miss my flight. I usually get work done at the gate or in the lounge while waiting for my flight to board.

      Fortunately, most colleagues are normal and don’t feel the need to hold hands the whole time or question your every move. I like the “I’m fine, thanks” then look away type of response suggested below. And if they don’t let it go after that, you can have an incredulous look on your face and ask what they mean. But most of the time, you won’t have to deal with anyone even noticing or caring what you do.

    4. jenny20*

      I think there are no boarding zones which is why OP is worried it will stand out. I would just tell your boss that you’re entitled to pre-boarding without giving a long explanation. I doubt she will ask why (unless she is super nosy and rude). Agree with 5 o’clock above. Don’t over think it!

      1. Artemesia*

        SW boards by numbered slots not zones but they do pre-boards — one possibility if the flight originates in your city (and it thus empty when the first people board) might be to ask to board in the first groups of 30 which makes it appear that you just have a lower boarding number. Not that you should, just another idea since it bothers you. You could arrange it with the gate agent.

    5. Cedarthea*

      I appreciate what you are sharing but you need to understand that when you are fat there is a mental calculus that goes into every decision, especially in a work environment. You have to be aware of what food you eat in front of colleagues because you don’t want them to think that you can’t control yourself, always make sure there is a suitable chair that will support you because you don’t want it to break under you. Make sure you are extra polished and put together so that people don’t perceive you as sloppy.

      Flying is incredibly fraught for fat people. I personally am around a pant size 24 so I fall into the mid/large fat categories so I can fit in one seat and I can buckle my belt but I do ask for an extender so I am not miserable. I am always afraid of being next to people and being shamed for it. For people fatter than me it can be soul crushing.

      If you are interested in learning more, Aubrey Gordon (who has written under the name Your Fat Friend) has an amazing book “What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat” that she unpacks this experience as a fat person in the world.

      1. Palliser*

        This is so true. I bought my own seatbelt extender so that I wouldn’t have to ask. They are on amazon for about $30 if memory serves. I would have paid $130 to relieve myself of that burden. I’m also hyper aware of which airlines have smaller belts (United cut down their belt size when they upgraded cabins, Air Canada is pretty generous). It’s exhausting.

        1. Marillenbaum*

          These are also good to have for cars! If you drive, keep one–it’s important to make sure the belt hits at the right spots in the body to minimize injury in a collision.

      2. Jules of the River*

        Seconding Aubrey Gordon! She also co-hosts a fantastic podcast called Maintenance Phase and in one episode (likely the one where she discussed her book) she did talk a good bit about her experiences flying.

      3. Fat Lady About Town*

        Thank you! I am not sure thin people realize exactly how difficult it can be to deal with this sort of thing. I have been given the extra seat on Southwest and the following has happened on every single flight with it (probably 3 or 4 flights):

        1. a couple asks me to switch seats so they can sit together – I have to say no, they get mad
        2. Couple presses and offers money, I say no
        3. Sometimes I simply tell people the seat is taken (it is) and later they harass me that it’s empty, sometimes even involving flight attendants who then have to say the seat is taken
        4. Someone offers me $20 for my aisle seat or tries to persuade me to take a window (even on Southwest where it’s like, uh if I wanted a window I would’ve gotten one), all while talking to me like I am a child

        I have had people openly harass me about having an empty seat next to me, call me selfish, or just stare and whisper. It’s not fun though I do appreciate the extra seat.

        On the other hand sometimes people are very kind. On crowded flights where I don’t have an extra seat, I have had thin people offer to lift the armrest for my comfort, for example, which is greatly appreciated. I felt respected and seen.

        1. HazardousIncident*

          I’m just so sorry that you had to endure that – is sounds exhausting. I wonder what the Insistent Ones’ response would have been to a polite “I paid for the extra seat”? They aren’t entitled to know that you pay for it emotionally when people like them behave badly, even if you didn’t have to pay actual dollars to have the extra room.

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            “I booked two seats” would also cover that without the equivocation about paying :)

    6. Esmeralda*

      On Southwest you get assigned a group (A B C) and a number. and you line up in order.

      I like Alison’s wording for pre-boarding. OP says the boss is a kind person, so just assume she won’t say anything or be weird about it.

      OP might end up sitting w the boss, btw, since the rows are 3 X 3.

    7. Poofy Panda*

      When “flying while fat” on Southwest, I was able to bring my travel companion along with me when I did my pre-boarding. I generally asked my coworker, “I can board early, would you like to join me?” This let us take the entire row and allowed us ample space to stow our bags and have an easy flight. No one asked why, but I am hella fat–I’m sure they were glad to have the extra space and not have to worry about sitting with me while I overflowed my seat into theirs.

  6. Waving not Drowning (not Drowning not Waving)*

    OP4 I am so sorry for your loss.

    OP 5 I’ve been on both sides of the process – where I’ve been acting in a role that was being made permanent, and
    also applying for a role that (I didn’t realise) had someone acting in the role already. Its frustrating, as in by the act of applying for a position, you are already investing time and emotional energy in the role. And, when I was acting in the role being converted to permanent, there was no guarantee that I would actually get the position, as another candidate may have had more experience/ more to offer the role.

    I wouldn’t pull out of the process, as you never know where it may lead. I’ve gained 2 positions that weren’t the ones I interviewed for, but the positions became available within the organisation a few months later, and was approached to see if I was interested in the different role on offer, and didn’t have to go through a formal application/interview process.

    The same has happened in my current workplace, they went to the other strong candidates when a very similar position became available a few months after their originally interviewed position.

    Even if it doesn’t work out, the interview experience can be valuable.

    1. Alh*

      My whole career path changed (for the better) because I applied for a job I didn’t realize was a rubber stamp for the person already acting in it. Now, this was internal, so the situation was different, but it flagged me as someone interested in advancement, I was offered certain training opportunities and guidance, and now am in an even better job than the one I originally applied for. You never know what doors are going to open.

    2. Snow Globe*

      #5 – I also have had opportunities come up after I’ve interviewed for a job that I didn’t get. This is particularly likely with an internal position – by interviewing you are demonstrating that you are interested in moving up, which can put you top of mind the next time a position opens. And you also have an opportunity to talk with people who might not know you really well, and that can definitely help in your overall career progression.

      1. Artemesia*

        My daughter ended up as COO of a small company where she came in second in interviews but they wanted to ‘keep in touch’ and then hired her for a part time free lance project which when they expanded was made a full time position. The person who beat her in the hiring process was long gone by the time she was promoted.

    3. Guacamole Bob*

      I applied as an external candidate for a role without realizing that there was an internal candidate identified – I only found that out after I’d gotten the job and heard through the rumor mill a few months in. It was a case of an internal candidate, not someone acting in the role already, but it’s a reminder that these processes aren’t always a box-ticking exercise.

      1. LW # 5*

        Thanks everyone for your perspective. Makes me feel a bit better and not approach this interview feeling discouraged. I always temper my expectations but this one I’ll just have to do it and let it go.

        1. MCL*

          I have worked in a large state university for years, and there are so many erroneous assumptions about how hiring works, and it’s so damaging when those assumptions spread. Sure, sometimes an acting or internal candidate is the de-facto choice. But not always! I’d say almost never, in my particular context; the interviews that have had internal candidates are pretty seriously competitive and the outcome is by no means a guarantee.

    4. PT*

      I was the acting internal candidate who was “set” to get the job. But grandboss didn’t like me and didn’t like women, so she passed up all the female candidates who came highly recommended and hired an unqualified male candidate and just dumped all his work on us internal women who weren’t getting paid to do his level of work.

      I spent the entire year with people following me around, “Wait why didn’t she hire you for Fergus’s job? Why are you doing his work and not getting paid for it? That’s not fair.”

      No it was not. But if you’re the outside candidate, go ahead and interview! You might get lucky like Fergus did.

      1. LW # 5*

        Sorry to hear that PT! I am an internal candidate, just from a different department.

    5. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      My husband interviewed for a position at my organization that had an identified internal candidate, though he didn’t know it at the time. She was of course hired into the new role, which meant her role needed to be filled. He had impressed them in his interview and was called in to fill it with an expedited hiring process, and has been there happily since. Actually, he’s about to go through a hiring process as the identified internal candidate for a position they’re creating especially for him….it’s all very stupid and pointless.

  7. Viette*

    LW#1 – I totally agree with Allison’s advice. I do think the LW is over-thinking things somewhat and stressing out about how embarrassing they find this, overall. There are so many reasons the pre-boarding or the extra seat could happen! Please, if you can, allow it all to pass unmentioned — you say your boss is a kind person who hasn’t previously commented on your weight, so give her the option of continuing not to comment on it. If you brought it up you say she would be kind but you would be mortified, and what would that do for anyone?

    Absolutely the most likely thing is that she will not notice, and if she notices, she will not care, and if she cares, she will not say anything.

    1. Chc34*

      Yes, and as a fellow fat person, I know too well the overthinking anxiety that accompanies situations like this. It gets built up in your head but will likely be fine. I find that the less embarrassed you act about it, the less embarrassed the other person will be in return: so if your boss does something like try to sit in the empty seat next to you, a cheery “Oh, I’ve actually got both seats!” will smooth the situation over more calmly than if you act ashamed as to why you have two seats.

      1. Sans $$*

        I am a smaller framed person who used to fly with a larger colleague at my last job a few times a year. LW, if you’re reading this, I cannot emphasize how much of a non-issue it was for them, me, or us as a working pair. If your boss is a decent person as you say, I have no doubt it’ll be a non-issue for you as well!

        1. 867-5309*

          Yes, I think it would surmise why there is the open seat and not think of it again. It would definitely not be a “thing.”

          As for boarding early, I would probably be jealous but also not give it a second thought. As Viette noted, there are so many reasons people board at different times that I would assume you had status on the airline or who knows what else.

          1. Cat Tree*

            I actually prefer to board last, although I might feel differently if I needed help or was on a flight with unassigned seating. But the plane will take off at the same time whether I’m on first or last. Since I’ll be waiting the same amount of time, I’d rather spend that time in the airport or standing in line, rather than in a cramped airplane seat.

            1. Artemesia*

              This does not apply to Southwest where late boarders will be sitting in middle seats.

              1. MCL*

                But since this person has a second adjoining seat with their reservation, maybe their order of boarding is irrelevant?

                1. Gumby*

                  Not on Southwest. You may have 2 tickets but there is absolutely no guarantee that they will be adjoining. All seating is “open seating” in the sense that the ticket is for *a* seat on the flight but not any one in particular. Any two tickets are for two seats – but there are no promises as to where they are in relation to each other. Which is why Southwest has you pre-board if you need adjoining seats. It’s the only way to make sure the seats are next to each other.

                  When I last took a Southwest flight there was a mom with two small kids in the last boarding group (may have arrived at the gate after the pre-board period since they were the last ones to enter the plane). All non-middle seats were taken. Thankfully, several of the passengers saw the problem and volunteered to move so that they could have 3 seats together. Possibly because no one wanted to sit next to a toddler whose mother was two rows behind them…

  8. Margaret*

    OP5, the other thing to consider is that there might be more than one position available in the future. I was acting in a role and it was advertised with the intent that I’d get it (because of government regulations I couldn’t just be given the job, I had to apply with everyone else; as other people have said, I can think of a few examples where the person acting *didn’t* win the role because an external candidate was more competitive!).

    I nailed the interview (phew!) and got the job. A month later someone in the same position left and we offered the job to the “second choice”. In my department, they can do this for up to a year after the interview. I would imagine in private industry it could be similar, with people potentially offering to interview you for similar jobs at the company based on the strength of your application.

    1. Rez123*

      Yes, this! I’ve applied to a few positions that they already knew who they were hiring, but then they contacted me to apply for another position few weeks lated. Didn’t get it, but I still feel like it wasn’t a waste. I also think interviewing is a good practise whenever possible (assuming it’s not insanely inconvinient).

    2. Camelid coordinator*

      And as you said, OP, it is worth your time to make a good impression on the search firm so they consider you for future roles. If the acting person also thinks it is a lock they may tank their interview, which could also work out for you.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I had a similar experience. A job opened up in my department that would be a promotion for me. At this senior level, it’s standard in our company to require an interview. Of course I expected to have a very good shot because I already knew so much about the department. But they still interviewed several people for it. I got an offer for the position, which I expected, but they also created a second position and hired another candidate for that. I’m so glad they added that person too because there’s plenty of work to go around.

    4. Nona*

      This! I’m academia-adjacent and got my last job after interviewing for a position that was advertised so that the person in that position could switch from a visa to a green-card. I never had a chance at that job, but they liked my experience, and created a position for me.

    5. Junior Assistant Peon*

      My mom had a situation like this. She interviewed for a job and wasn’t chosen, but made a good impression and was offered another job about six months later. I’d recommend going through with the interview for that reason.

      Ironically, the mandatory interview policy ended up being something she disliked about the company. Frequently, she’d want to make a good temp permanent, and had to go through the motions of interviewing two other candidates who were both wasting a chance to fake sick from their current jobs.

    6. LW # 5*

      Thanks a lot for the encouragement and sharing your experiences! I’ll definitely go for the interview and try to smash it out of the park.

      1. Indy SQL Goddess*

        OP 5:
        About 20 years ago, I was working in Higher Ed and was approached by a colleague, asking if I would apply for a new position. Others at our institution had attempted to just appoint someone to the new position, but HR said no, there needed to be a fair job search. They did agree to consider internal candidates only.

        My colleague told me they had already picked someone out for the job, but she strongly felt they needed to make it an honest search, so asked if I would apply. I looked at the job description (which had not been circulated like most new positions were) and it actually looked really interesting. I agreed to apply, but knew it was unlikely I would seriously be considered.

        I updated my resume and applied, was invited to interview, and thought it went well.

        To my surprise I ended up being offered the position. I later learned the other candidate assumed she already had the job, and showed up at the interview making several demands, and did not handle the interview professionally.

        I received a large pay raise with the new position, and learned new skills that have changed the trajectory of my career and my life (all for the better)!

        1. LW # 5*

          oh wow! that’s comforting to hear. I’m glad it worked out well for you. I wrote to Alison because I felt so discouraged hearing from my colleague how the person in the ‘acting’ position has it locked in and this is just a charade. I know it’s hard to gauge the truth as I am getting the info from someone outside that team, but close enough to know what’s going on. I think I just have to get all the negative thoughts out and show the recruiter why I would be a great candidate for this role. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  9. Beth*

    OP1, assume your boss isn’t going to notice your seating arrangement–as Alison says, she probably won’t try to sit next to you. Even if she does notice, she probably won’t ask, so the odds are good that you won’t have to say anything at all.

    If she does ask, you can be as vague as you want in your response. In my experience, thin people generally aren’t aware of Southwest’s policy regarding ‘customers of size’ (which is a pretty excellent policy, I agree!), so I doubt she’ll jump to the conclusion that it’s related to your weight. But I also don’t think it would be at all bad to just tell her, especially if you’re not comfortable with lying! It’s a reality of planes. The seats are tiny, the spaces are tiny, and larger people don’t fit. (‘Larger’ here meaning height, weight, or both–and with regards to weight, not just fat but also muscle. Linebacker shoulders don’t fit in an economy seat any better than my size-24 hips do. I don’t subscribe to the idea that it’s shameful to be fat, but even for those who do, it should be obvious that not every body is going to fit well on your average plane.) Even very small people should appreciate airlines that acknowledge and try to accommodate for that; it makes flying more comfortable for everyone.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve only flown domestically (furthest was to Inverness) but none of my coworkers who I flew with on business flights ever asked why I got preferential seating.

      In my case it’s because I’m a) obese, b) exceptionally tall and c) physically disabled but not seriously visibly so (walking stick only). Nobody has asked, but if they did I’d probably just say something along the lines of ‘it worked out this way’.

    2. londonedit*

      Yes – I have a friend who is 6’7″ and he always books one of the extra-legroom seats (the ones at the front of the plane or near the emergency exits in the middle). I’m sure no one would question him doing that even if it meant he wasn’t sitting next to the person he was travelling with! Also, my parents fly within Europe fairly frequently (or at least they did before last year…) and they have a special membership with the airline that allows them to have priority boarding – so the way the airline does it is to board people with disabilities and small children, then priority boarding members. Once the initial boarding is called, everyone starts getting in the queue, and it’s often pretty hard to distinguish between the people who are in the queue for priority boarding because they have a disability and the ones who are there because they have a membership.

  10. Cambridge Comma*

    OP3, last week my spouse had to interview multiple people several time zones away (who would relocate for the job). She was wrestling with the schedule for days trying to get them in at least at 11pm or 6am, but given the schedules of everyone involved one person could only fit in at 3am for her. (She got the job.) It wasn’t a red flag at all, just the only option.

    1. Super Admin*

      As someone who schedules interviews, it can be impossible to get everyone you need for an interview to be available at the perfect time. If there’s more than one interviewer it may just be the only time they could all do. We try our best to accommodate everyone, but if an interviewee is OK doing odd hours to suit us it’s hugely appreciated!

    2. Lilo*

      My spouse once had to do a joint phone call with people in the UK, U.S., and Australia. In that case the hours are always weird for somebody.

      1. Trekkie*

        Yes! For the international groups that I work with, we generally have calls beginning at 13:00 Central European Time — which works out as 7AM on the US East Coast, and (mostly) 7PM for colleagues in Asia. Unfortunately, it is 9PM for colleagues in Australia — but, because of daylight savings time, only during Northern Hemisphere summer — during Northern Hemisphere winter, it is 11PM. So, it is often difficult for them. [Of course, they get to live in Australia, and so my sympathy is limited :)]
        And so, when I am calling in at 4AM from vacation on the US West Coast, I just grin and bear it.

    3. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I have to schedule meetings with folks from China, Switzerland, and the east and west coasts in the US. Someone is always getting a weird time (usually the long-suffering sole colleague in Basel).

    4. Smithy*

      As someone who works with global teams and often schedules a number of multiple time zone meetings – sometimes it does happen when someone get stuck with the fuzzy end of the lollipop time. If you’re scheduling a meeting inclusives of Kenya, Vietnam, Seattle, and New York times… do the best you can.

      However, it’s also never my goal, and if I was under the impression I was scheduling someone for a 7am meeting (early but sometimes happens) and it was actually 4am, I’d feel really awful. For the OP, I would write back and ask if it might be possible to move the interview forward or back a few hours (depending on my own preference for 1-2am vs 5-6am) due to the time difference with the Pacific Time Zone. This would give the scheduler the chance to find another time and if it’s not possible – at least make people aware. In an interview, the last thing I’d want would be for the interviewers to feel badly for me because they were unaware of the time.

  11. Cyn*

    Letter writer #4: I am so sorry for your loss. It’s the worst kind of shock. My son died a few hours after he was born (we had no idea anything was wrong until we suddenly needed an emergency surgical birth). I could barely talk about it at all. I could (somewhat) write about it, I could talk with some people, but, so much of the time, I’d simply freeze up. It’s been over 11 years and there are times even now I simply can’t answer the question “so, how many kids do you have?”

    I strongly recommend you tell a small number of people at your work. Be explicit that you want them to spread the news because it’s going to be too hard for you if people don’t know. A lot of people will think they’re helping by respecting your privacy and letting you do the telling. So you’re going to have to be really clear that’s not what is going to be helpful. I say more than one person because a lot of people you ask to tell others simply won’t. I’ve even been blindsided when one doctor referred me to a bodyworker to help me recover from the c-section and the bodyworker had no idea why I was there (it was horrible to have to explain). The doctor didn’t want to violate my privacy grrrr.

    If someone comes up to you at work and asks a question too hard to answer (no matter how simple an answer is supposed to be), I suggest saying “could you ask [designated coworker] about that?” (make sure the designated coworker is on board). In my case, I wrote a blog post about the experience and referred people to that, but that’s not for everyone.

    Another thing that helps is inviting coworkers to the funeral. Obviously I did this long before the pandemic so it may not be an option for you (and it may have already happened). I wasn’t working but my husband’s workplace was well aware of our son’s death and several coworkers attended the service, which was very sweet of them. This helps frame things as a death in the family, which people understand. A lot of people don’t really understand infant death on the same visceral level.

    To that end, I recommend not saying you “lost the baby” which people will take to be that you had a miscarriage. I’m not downplaying the grief of miscarriages or of stillbirth (which is a loss in late pregnancy) and people who experience those deserve sympathy and compassion. But it’s like being kicked in the teeth when someone refers to my son’s death as a miscarriage and worse when they make statements like “yeah that happened to me too but I got over it.” (Once was too many but it happened more than once.)

    You’re going to make people uncomfortable no matter what you do or don’t say, because death is uncomfortable. There are less painful ways to let people know what’s happening, but there’s no getting around the awkwardness. It’s okay to deflect, to be brief, or to walk away. Having people who can run interference for you is a lifesaver. And the more you can rely on the standard protocols of grieving (announcements, funeral, anniversaries, etc), the more likely it is that people will give you the space you need.

    I wish you well.

    1. Maggie*

      What beautiful advice, especially about the funeral and having the word death. I am sorry for both of your losses.

    2. Spero*

      Cyn, I so agree with not saying feeling pressured to downplay or say you ‘lost a pregnancy.’ I usually say my son died or my son passed at birth.

    3. LW 4*

      LW here…Im so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for your suggestions about language. Clearly that is an area I’ve struggled with since she passed as the words everyone uses are always euphemisms for death. I think that’s the part I need to practice a bit, and all the comments have been so helpful with that. We had someone ask how many children we had just a few days after she died and it was like a roundhouse kick to the chest to not have a response prepared.

    4. Cyn*

      Thank you Maggie and Spero and LW 4. LW 4, I am glad my words are helpful. It’s a small community of people with this experience (thank God!) and it’s really hard for people who haven’t gone through it to understand (I know I didn’t). How many kids…that question still gets me. And I die a little each time my daughter (who was 4 when her brother died) tells other people she’s an only child. I usually say “I can’t answer that question” and change the subject or leave. Not the nicest but it’s the best I can do. The real answer is “Two. One living.” But while I can type that, I can rarely say it out loud. I wish you strength and an utter lack of clueless people.

  12. Tex*

    Op3 – that’s an established trade off for life on the west coast with a European company. I know west coast finance people who have to be in the office by 5 am in order to prep for east coast markets opening and marketers who have 2 am meetings; they’re willing to do it because they value their location. It seems that your friend understands what’s required for working with a company with a significant time zone difference. Otherwise there’s only an hour or two of overlap and that’s never enough.

    1. FYI*

      To be honest, I’m not sure why LW3 is questioning their friend’s situation. The friend has no problem with the interview time at all, and odd hours are going to be part of the job. It is 100% FRIEND’s business. If LW wants to be supportive, then finding fault with a job prospect isn’t the way.

      1. Smithy*

        I’m in international nonprofits and not international business – and if I was in the OP’s shoes – my guidance would actually be to flag the time and see if it might be possible to move the time up or back. Not because 4am meetings never happen, but because I’d want my interviewers to know in advance and for it not to be an issue.

        When I’m scheduling meetings – no matter how many time zones included, I really try to avoid having anyone have a meeting go later than 11pm and earlier than 6am. It’s not always possible, but there’s a lot of care taken when it does to make sure we’re accommodating what best suits someone’s life and schedule. If someone is a night owl and 1am is easiest, I’ll aim for that rather than 5am just because its my preference.

        In an interview, the last thing I’d want is for my interviewers to feel bad for me or offer to reschedule because someone else scheduled a meeting without being aware of my timezone status.

      2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        This. Why is the OP even concerned about this? It’s not their interview!

    2. Esmeralda*

      Yep. For many years my brother worked for a Japanese company with a factory in California and an office in Milan. Everyone understood that someone was going to be meeting at a hideous time. Anyone who interviewed who primadonna’d about the meeting time? was not going to work out.

      1. A*

        Hopefully not a prima Donna about it, but I can see accommodating the candidate’s time zone more than a regular meeting. Interviews are nerve wracking enough without doing it on little sleep, so hopefully that’s taken into consideration

      2. UsernameRejected*

        Same… I work with people in Western Europe and West Africa, so if someone in the West Coast is interviewing, the interview phase is actually a good heads up that they may sometimes have early calls. If it doesn’t work once, it is definitely not going to work for them long term.

  13. Josephine*

    OP3, it is most likely that the person scheduling the interview is unaware of your friend’s current location or assumed that all the US is one timezone. There are actually laws regarding working time and hours in many European countries and the fact that for working at night (e.g., before 6 and after 22 h) they’d need to compensate extra when on something like a collective bargaining agreement salary. But this is most likely an oversight and not some test or intentionally malicious. If it is then there will be other red flags.

    Regarding future working time: I am in a global role for a European company working at HQ and work with people all across the world from New Zealand to US West Coast, and the only times I have to work outside of regular working hours (let’s say 9-5, though my schedule skews earlier for personal preference) is when we have global meetings that run until 6 pm my time. My manager sometimes has meetings until 9 pm, but those are rare (and more due to the fact that everyone’s schedule is so busy). In global companies everyone usually exerts some flexibility and makes it work, Europe is actually the BEST place to work globally, because if you need to accommodate a global team then usually Europe is smack in the middle of the workday .

    1. TechWorker*

      I’m sure different countries have different laws, but if you’re thinking of the European working time directive where I am signing away your rights to that is one of the first things many professionals do :p

      1. Dutchie*

        I think you mentioned you were Dutch once…
        Can confirm. In general, every second article of the labour code seems to end in “Unless stated otherwise in an individual or collective employment agreement.”

        (Which might work when unions are strong, but that’s lessening fast… and even then, there’s a weird rule that says the ‘Minister of Work’ (SZW) needs the agreement of a certain amount of employers to make the CBA apply to the entire industry, but there’s no minimum amount of employees that need to agree – which is how you get employer-founded unions that only have three members and represent no one that can then sign off on a collective bargaining agreement for all painters or florists in the country. Further reading: “De ‘Antillenroute’ van het cao-overleg” De Groene Amsterdammer, 4 maart 2020)

      2. londonedit*

        Yep, I’m in the UK and every employment contract I’ve had has included opting out of the EU Working Time Directive. I’m lucky that I’ve never worked anywhere that expects crazy long hours anyway (I’ve always broadly only worked my contracted 37.5 apart from emergencies) but I’ve always been asked to opt out.

  14. Not Australian*

    LW#1: the boss may be dreading it too, for other reasons. Depending on the length of the flight I’d be tempted to say “I expect you’d like some peace and quiet while we’re in the air, and I’m likely to go to sleep, so why don’t we meet up again at the other end?” and then scoot off on your own somewhere. Either that, or you might want to suggest that air travel makes you queasy and you’d hate to embarrass yourself by throwing up in proximity to your boss. But even with someone I’m close to/married to I can’t *ever* be chatty and sociable on a flight; I’d far rather be left alone to read/sleep/listen to podcasts or something, and I know I’m not the only one. That’s really all the explanation you need!

    1. MK*

      Eh, I get what people are saying about not sitting together in a flight, but in my culture it would be very weird to intentionally sit separate. That being said, no one is expected to be sociable; I have spent long flights with anyone from close friends to bosses, and always slept or read most of the time.

    2. UKDancer*

      I think this is a fine approach. My boss tends to manspread and I tend to fall asleep and snore and we both prefer aisle seats so as a rule we tend to sit separately so we tend to agree on sitting separately.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      I was going to say something similar. Maybe just my experience, but there’s always been an ‘every man for himself’ vibe once the plane starts boarding. Nobody wants to sit next to a coworker, there’s often different airline status among travelers (perks and such), and at the end you’re getting to same place so it doesn’t matter so much who you sit next to.

      I think the only exceptions I’ve seen to this unwritten rule is when my boss had a sudden (as in we were already through security) change of plans and gave me her 1st class ticket to use for her seat, and a small regional plane that usually carries at least 10-20 coworkers per trip.

    4. Hillary*

      My teams always split up when traveling together – the airplane is usually our last daytime break from each other until the trip is over. Once we land we meet up, then it’s car time together, meetings together, and meals/social outings together.

      I had one trip to Europe where my seatmate was a colleague I hadn’t met before. That was kind of weird, but we ignored each other after chatting for the first 15 minutes.

    5. the Viking Diva*

      I like your phrasing, Not Australian.
      As the boss, if I’m traveling with a colleague, I always signal well in advance that I don’t expect us to sit together. It covers the situation where I have earlier than they do boarding (because I fly a LOT more, or did pre-COVID anyhow) and it gives them permission to sleep or read and not feel they are “on duty” to talk to me. I say something like, “I have set aside some things I want to get done during the flight, so I’ll see you when we get off at the other end.”

  15. Well...*

    LW2, as someone who lives in europe but collaborates with folks on the west coast, east coast, and Asia, I’m pretty used to this sort of thing. I’ve taken meetings starting at 11pm going well past midnight, meetings at 6am, etc. I know someone who also interviewed at 4am.

    We try to avoid terrible times but sometimes they happen and if everyone is okay with it, it can be kind of fun to have a three-continent meeting. Also, I just did a 10-hour Zoom “campus visit” interview in a 6-hour staggered time zone so…. It happens! Working from home helps because you can set your hours to sync up with evening meetings ahead of time. But IMO this is one of the fun things about working in an international field and being at an early career stage where you have a ton of collaborators.

  16. Virginia Plain*

    OP#2, one thing I’d add is if you are sending a thank you email to a group of people (eg to “I’ve finally managed to secure a big enough meeting room for Tuesday; I’ll send you all the calendar invitation this afternoon”) don’t reply-all with your thank you – it comes across as “oh look at me look at me, graciously thanking this other person, see how great I am” – no need to shout about your good manners. Plus then everyone else wonders whether they should do conspicuous thanks too and ugh.
    OP#4 Alison is so right about figuring out what makes you feel comfortable. Getting someone to share the news ahead of you can help with that by making it clear what you’d like from people. Worst case scenario someone puts their foot in their mouth and feels terrible and you end up comforting them! So you might not want to talk about it At All, or conversely you may feel that totally ignoring it is erasing your baby and you want to acknowledge she was with you even just for a short time, so a gentle, “I was so sorry to hear your news. Shall we meet later so I can bring you up to speed on our new otter stroking services?” might be better. Have a think about how you would like/need to be treated, and get the news-sharer to let people know.

    1. Mockingjay*

      OP2, requests for acknowledgement are pretty common when sending large files. One change: rather than plain thanks, I’ll reply: “got it” or “downloaded successfully, thanks.”

    2. EPLawyer*

      Oh yes, #2, be careful with reply all. I belong to an organization and when they send out a group email, there is a die hard group that wants to let the sender know the information was received so they hit reply all and say “received.” Which means all the REST OF US get that email too. WE don’t know need to know individuals received it. This last time someone snapped and sent out a message telling people to not use Reply All. It might have worked.

      1. Lego Leia*

        I do not understand people that send out group emails and do not use BCC. One of the great features of BCC is that reply all only goes back to the sender! If you are sending an email to group of more than a few people, please use BCC!

    3. MassMatt*

      Amen on being careful with “reply all”, really email programs should make it harder to access than a simple “reply”.

      I am someone who sends quite a few “thanks” emails but it’s because I’m often needing help to get things done quickly. I deal with lots of outside vendors and internal support staff, the latter are often pulled in several different directions at once and even though yes, supporting me is part of their job, I want them to know I appreciate their efforts, especially if it inconveniences them. Honestly, I could not be successful without their help so I try to treat everyone well vs: treating them like “the little people”. I’ve seen firsthand how people who are brusque, dismissive, or rude wind up with people not willing to go the extra mile for them. In the long run it pays to be nice.

  17. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW2, I send many “close the loop” emails each day, because I’m in an industry that’s hot on paperwork. Some are literally just “Received with thanks”, no signoff or pleasantries – in the olden days it would have been a return fax stamped RECEIVED in inch-high letters.

    If you feel that’s too abrupt, you can add something reiterating the position, eg “Thanks for the data. We’ll have the report to you by close of business on Thursday”.

    And I agree with another comment that you should first strip out any unnecessary recipients.

  18. An American in Europe*

    I work in Europe with colleagues and customers on both the East and West coasts. I try to be considerate of their schedules when having calls with them, but it can be really tricky sometimes esp. with small children to do these calls late enough in the evening…I think with an interview panel it probably is even harder than usual to schedule as you have to get everyone able to do the interview at a late enough time. I think our US colleagues realizing the headquarters are here are all early risers.

  19. lailaaaaah*

    LW#5 – there was someone acting in a role that I interviewed for who was fully expecting to be made permanent. I got the role instead. I’m not saying it’s necessarily what’s going to happen here, but there is sometimes hope!

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      Something like that happened in my old job, I’ve posted that story here before – I don’t know what exactly had been said in the weeks leading up to interviews, whether “Riley” the acting candidate was actually told anything to suggest he’d automatically get the job or whether he just jumped to that conclusion (I started in the middle of this drama, after interviews had taken place but before the successful candidate started), but in the end “Spike” an external candidate was hired.

      I don’t know what the deciding factor was on the day, but Riley’s behaviour after Spike started only proved to everyone that the right decision was made.

      1. Skippy*

        I’ve been Riley. It’s not a particularly easy situation to be in, and my company handled the whole thing very poorly. I ended up leaving within a year.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          He ended up leaving after a couple of months. In the initial moment after the decision was made, from what I understand, people were surprised that an external candidate was picked over him and felt sympathetic towards him; less so after people started picking up on the way he undermined Spike in the last weeks when they overlapped in the team.

          Honestly, I suspect their boss probably could have handled it better – she was known for not handling things well, although as I said above I did miss a lot of the early stages of that situation, having started in the middle of it.

        2. Shut It Down*

          Same. I might actually have stayed, but the person they hired over me was lazy and incompetent. My replacement quickly quit, too, for the same reason.

      1. LW # 5*

        oops! that was for lailaaaaaah’s comment. I guess if it’s not handled well, it can create tension between the supposed person to get the position and the person who got it.

    2. CM*

      I’ve also been on the hiring side, multiple times, in situations where the acting person didn’t want the job (and in some cases, didn’t want to admit it)

  20. LB*

    #2- my office uses Outlook which now has a function where you can “like” an email which is what I often do instead of saying thanks.

    1. Cat Tree*

      We started using Teams for IM, and while I’m not fully sold on it yet, I like the feature that I can give a thumbs-up to someone’s message. So I dint have to write, “ok got it, thanks” when someone answers a question. The thumbs-up conveys that I saw the answer and got what I need from it. But, I have one coworker who will give the thumbs-up AND still type “thanks”. It’s an extremely minor irritation because both notifications pop up on my screen (and I don’t want to turn off notifications completely), but I just remind myself of his good intentions.

      My new-ish boss responds to all emails with “thanks”, I guessing to show that he received it. I just view it as an amusing personality quirk and roll with it. But it sort of dilutes the genuine thanks for a project I worked hard on when I also get thanks for telling him of my upcoming vacation days. We use Outlook so I’ll have to look into that “like” function.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        The thumbs up in Teams is massive – so useful both for communications and morale.

        1. Cat Tree*

          This is a tangent, but my biggest issue with Teams is that statuses just aren’t as useful as our previous messenger, and this is especially important while many of us are WFH. It changes to “away” too fast and you can’t change it, plus it doesn’t register some activity that isn’t directly in Teams. So if I need a quick answer, I’m trying to divine (based on time since last activity) whether this person is actually available but reading a long document or watching a training video, or if they’re truly away from the computer. Teams also doesn’t differentiate between “meeting scheduled on calendar” and “actually in a Webex right now”, so I get a lot more people messaging me and interrupting while I’m actively participating in a meeting. If the meeting is done through Teams instead, it changes the status to “on a call”, which isn’t super helpful either. If I need to contact someone who has that status, I don’t know if they are on a regular call which I would generally expect to last only a few minutes, or if they’re actually in a meeting which I won’t expect to end until the top of the hour.

          I find myself using email way more often when I used to use IM just because the statuses are so unhelpful.

  21. EW*

    LW#4, I am so sorry for your loss! I would encourage what many others have suggested, having HR, your manager, or another coworker send out an email to your coworkers notifying them of the situation, and how you’d like them to handle it. Some wording that you might consider for speaking about your hopes for how others react is “As many of you know, LW#4 recently gave birth to [baby’s name, info as you see fit]. Sadly, [Baby] unexpectedly passed away the following day. LW#4 has been out on maternity/bereavement leave and will be returning to work on [date]. As you can imagine, she and her family are grieving their recent loss, and she kindly requests your help with returning to a sense of normalcy by allowing her to focus on work while she’s here in the building [/ “attending to work duties”, if you’re working remotely]. Please respect her need for privacy as she copes with this unexpected loss. If you wish to express your condolences, the family has suggested that donations in [Baby]’s name be made to [charity].”

    1. EW*

      Also, a possible script for the rogue co-worker who brings it up would be “Thank you for your thoughts. I am trying to keep my focus on work during the day, though, so [insert work topic]”. Or, “I appreciate your concern! We are working through lots of tough feelings, but I’m not ready to talk about [Baby] yet.”

    2. Wine Not Whine*

      That’s beautifully phrased, EW.

      LW4, I am so very sorry for your loss.

  22. Drinkin’ tea and stayin’ anonymous*

    LW2 – I tend to send “that’s great, thanks!” responses to let the sender know there’s no follow-up question coming, to close the loop. Also, sometimes I can find “Thanks for the prompt response, that’s exactly what I was looking for.” can act as a positive reinforcement, and help get prompt responses in future. :)

    1. Grey Panther*

      Yep. Definitely agree with this.
      I also appreciate receiving this kind of quick acknowledgment when I’m the sender of (information, a completed project, whatever), so I know it was received.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      I have an email signature that’s just “Thanks! -Marillenbaum” so that when I get something like that, I just click and go.

  23. Oska*

    LW2: Seconding Alison’s advice here. With some people, I send emails back and forth so frequently I doubt anyone wants to pad that with separate “thanks” emails. Meanwhile, if I need something from someone I don’t communicate with that often, I don’t want them to feel like they’re throwing information into a black hole, so I send a thank you.

    The latter group used to be people working outside of my own office, but now I send them to people in the workshop at our location too, as I haven’t seen them in a year. :( Management is terrified of the illness or just-in-case quarantining rules affecting production, so they don’t have physical contact with anyone but their own, small departments; I wouldn’t be surprised if I looked through the window and saw them rolling around in giant hamster balls.

  24. Jo*

    LW4, I’m so sorry for your loss. I would echo what Alison and others have said and go with whatever you feel comfortable with. Maybe think of some wording in advance that you’d be comfortable using if you do encounter someone who doesn’t know. Sending you best wishes and hugs xx

  25. KR*

    Plane LW, any way you could tell a white lie that you have whatever Southwest’s sky miles or premium status or whatever it is for that airline? They often board first. But I don’t think it will be as awkward as you’re fearing. Most people on flights don’t want to be right next to their coworkers- I know I always get grungy and sweaty on flights so I don’t like to be near anyone I know!

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “any way you could tell a white lie”

      Don’t start with lies. It’s just one more thing to have to remember to maintain, and will probably bring more anxiety.

    2. Observer*

      any way you could tell a white lie

      Why? To be honest, if it ever came out, it would be a MUCH bigger deal than almost anything else the OP could say. Jumping to a lie is just bizarre and totally unnecessary.

    3. Turanga Leela*

      I don’t recommend this for one simple reason: People who are into miles/statuses/etc. LOVE to talk about them. It is entirely possible the boss is an Airline Miles Person, for lack of a better term, and that she will want to talk about the pros and cons of the Southwest program, and then you will not be able to and you’ll get caught in the lie. Just pre-board without explaining.

  26. Asenath*

    LW 5: Interview anyway. I’ve worked in that kind of milieu a long time, and although they might prefer to go with the acting incumbent, they might not, especially if they get a really good applicant, and sometimes the acting incumbent withdraws at a late stage – prefers their original position, is actively jobhunting and gets something else, etc. If all else fails, the interviewers know that you are looking and what your qualifications are, so might be more inclined to hire you when something else comes along. It never hurts to grab the opportunity to make a good impression on people who might be hiring again soon.

    1. LW # 5*

      Thanks! That has been my thinking all along, but I was just really frustrated about this. Felt like that by interviewing, I am just enabling this charade, but there can be unanticipated outcomes from it. At the very least, it’s good practice.

  27. Helvetica*

    LW#1 – pre-pandemic, I used to fly a lot for my job. Like, at least once a month if not more often. And often, I was on the same flight with colleagues. Believe me when I say that there are so many reasons why someone would board at a different time that it shouldn’t be a problem and any decent human will not notice and not ask.

    Also, I’d kindly say that just because your boss is “a tiny woman” doesn’t mean she has always been tiny and couldn’t understand what you might be experiencing. And even if she hasn’t, I’d hope she’d understand that people are different and have different needs and not hold it against you in any way.

    1. Jay*

      This. I had bariatric surgery three years ago and started my current job six weeks post-op in an org that was growing rapidly, so most of my colleagues came on after I did. We are mostly remote. Very few of my coworkers know the extent of my weight loss. She might well understand more than you think.

      Before I lost weight, I hated flying with colleagues more than flying by myself. It was humiliating enough to ask the seat extender and see the rolled eyes when I sat down next to strangers. It was far worse to have colleagues witness it. I get a little panicky just thinking about it now. Hugs to you, LW, and I hope you have a good trip.

    2. NeonFireworks*

      I agree with all of this. There’s a woman at my workplace who is about a size 4 and said once that she has never been overweight and so doesn’t know what fatphobia feels like from the receiving end, but that she is the odd one out in her family and she watches how the others are treated.

    3. Observer*

      I’d kindly say that just because your boss is “a tiny woman” doesn’t mean she has always been tiny and couldn’t understand what you might be experiencing.

      And even if she HAS always been tiny, you have no idea who is close to her.

  28. Foxgloves*

    I DETEST emails that simply say “Thanks!” from people I deal with super regularly- as Alison says, they’re just so much mental/ inbox clutter. I actually read something recently that outlined that not doing so would save thousands and thousands of tons of emissions each year (due to the servers needed to host emails etc etc), which I’m tempted to point out to the senior colleague who sends masses of them a day…

    1. CheeryO*

      Highly recommend using conversation sorting in Outlook if you aren’t already. It keeps things so much tidier.

      1. Foxgloves*

        Conversation sorting is the best! Still annoys me just having a “Thanks!” at the top if there’s useful info further down the line, but you’re right, it is much, much better that way. Particularly when returning from being out of the office- so much easier to spot when requests have already been handled!

  29. Sled dog mama*

    LW#4, I lost my daughter at 9 days after an uneventful pregnancy and normal labor and delivery.
    I have to echo a lot of what’s been said above. Choose one or two coworkers and tell them what you’d like others to do and know, and tell them to spread the word. You don’t even have to be sure that it’s going to be the right thing but knowing ahead of time that you aren’t going to have to tell people will relieve some of the stress. When I went back to work I asked that no one ask about my daughter, after a week I realized that I wanted to talk about her and wanted to share my few pictures. Five years, one month and two weeks later I still keep a picture of her on my desk and tell her story to anyone who asks.
    Also be prepared for going back to work to be much harder than expected. I closed my door and cried every day for the first week and pretty often for the first month. It takes a lot longer than any one thinks to recover from the loss of a child (or pregnancy). For me it took 3 years before I started feeling a little less crushed by it.
    All the internet hugs and sympathy from a stranger who has been there.

    1. Ali + Nino*

      “When I went back to work I asked that no one ask about my daughter, after a week I realized that I wanted to talk about her and wanted to share my few pictures. Five years, one month and two weeks later I still keep a picture of her on my desk and tell her story to anyone who asks.”

      I’m so sorry for you loss – thank you for sharing your story, and a great example of how your feelings and expressions of grief can change over time.

    2. LW4*

      I’m am so sorry for your loss, but want to thank you for your comment. The balance of not wanting to talk about her, but also not wanting to feel like I’m erasing her from my story has been a challenge. You actually answers a question I hadn’t thought to ask, which is that I can change my mind about it as time passes. What I decide now doesn’t mean I can never talk about her. Thank you.

  30. Caaan Do!*

    OP5, a few years ago a team I worked adjacent to at the university where I work had a post someone was in on a temp basis, with a view to making him permanent. They too had to follow the formal hiring process, and although he was a perfect fit, there was one other candidate who was absolutely stellar. The team ended up creating a second post for her and she stayed with our division for 3 years, promoted after 2.

    Granted, university budgets have been hit hard by covid in these times, but all of this is to say there could still be benefits for you to interview; even if this particular post doesn’t work out, if something else just as good or better comes up down the line there is a decent chance you will be uppermost in hiring managers’ minds.

    Side-note pet peeve – I really wish hiring managers wouldn’t treat these kind of hiring practices as a box-ticking exercise that’s a pain to go through just to “avoid the appearance of bias” and actually THINK about why it’s a GOOD thing to offer opportunities to a wider pool of people. Academia (IME) has a practice of hiring from within, which is great for upward movement opportunities, but when ‘within’ is already not very diverse, things can never truly change for the better.

    1. LW # 5*

      Thanks for sharing! At this point it doesn’t hurt to interview and try and blow their socks off. I am 100% with your sidenote pet peeve. This just one of the major issues with how this university hires, not to mention unable to negotiate pay. EDI efforts have put a light on many departments and I’m watching what they do as the higher up the chain you go, the teams are less diverse.

      1. Caaan Do!*

        Yeah, the fixed pay spine system can get frustrating if you get locked into a certain bracket when there’s little to no wiggle room. EDI where I work are doing the same thing, I hope it pays off.

        Good luck with interviewing, for this and any future efforts :)

  31. LabGirl*

    LW#1 – As a fellow traveler who also requires that second seat (unless I’m traveling with my wife who doesn’t mind) I would tell my boss, especially knowing what a kind person she is. In my 20’s I would have been mortified and NEVER would have said anything, but now in my 40’s I figure everyone can see my size and I’m not hiding anything. It simply wouldn’t be worth all the stress and overthinking to me. If you boss has any compassion at all (and it sounds like she does) this may bring a new awareness of the invisible challenges of being overweight and may help alleviate issues in the future (picking out chairs in common rooms, furniture arrangement in rooms, future travel plans) for you and other employees that may need these considerations.

    1. Allonge*

      I think I would find the policy so cool that I would mention it too. And yes, I am also fat, in my forties and my level of caring at all about what people think of my size decreased a lot over the years.

  32. Mitzii*

    LW2: if I feel the need to send a thank you email, I add “Thanks—” to the beginning of the subject line so the recipient can immediately see why I am writing back.

  33. Luna Lovegood*

    LW5, I would definitely do the interview if it were me. Maybe they truly have their minds made up already, but I’ve been part of two search committees that fully expected to hire a strong internal candidate and then changed our minds when someone else was a better fit. I’ve also seen a situation where most people expected an acting person to be hired, but there were actually performance concerns that a lot of us didn’t know about, and I found out later that my boss eagerly hired someone else. I wouldn’t get my hopes up just in case, but give it your best shot because you really never know what’s happening on the inside.

    1. Heidi*

      Yes to this. It’s honestly bizarre how much bad information about hiring gets around in academia, so just because one person believes that they’re going to hire an internal candidate doesn’t mean that there’s no chance for an external candidate. I would go meet the people in the department just to make the connections. Even if they don’t hire you, it’s not uncommon for people in academia to recommend candidates to other departments or other universities if they know someone there is hiring for a specific skill set.

    2. LW # 5*

      Thanks for sharing your experience. Gonna try and hit this interview outta the park :)

    3. Anon Recruiter*

      I’ve been the external recruiter on academic searches like this. It’s definitely true that many times the hiring authority will say, “Although X internal person is very good, I would prefer to hire someone from the outside,” even if everyone on campus is sure that X is going to get the job. And sometimes X’s friends will intentionally spread gossip about how X is definitely going to get the job and it’s a waste of time to apply, because they want to discourage external applicants so their friend X will stay in charge!

      Searches like this do tend to attract fewer external candidates because many people get discouraged by the notion that outsiders have no chance. So, if this type of gossip is going around, you may find yourself with less competition… all the more reason to apply!

  34. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #1

    I don’t think you need to say anything about pre-boarding. People do it for all sorts of reasons, including paying for the privilege.

    If your boss happens to notice the empty seat and if she’s actually looking to sit in it, just tell her you reserved it. I see no reason to lie about it. People book extra seats for more reasons that just being overweight. (Even though I’m no longer obese, my husband and I always book an extra seat when it’s a three-seat row because we’re tall and want that extra room for our legs.) I think it would be odd to say, “Yes, this is great,” in that case. To me, that comes off as you not wanting her to sit next to you. But if she’s not looking to sit there, such as when she’s walking to the restroom during the flight, and makes a comment, then “Yes, this is great,” or, “I sure lucked out,” might be fine.

  35. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    #1: If your boss sits “next” to you when you get an extra empty seat right next to you, that means she gets an empty seat next to her as well, which is nice for anyone of any size. You might still want to sit apart for other reasons, but if you did sit together your boss benefits too.

  36. LabGirl*

    OP5 – The advice given by Allison and the other commenters seems excellent. In addition, I have heard that university positions are highly competitive and workplace politics are a huge factor. If this is the case for you I think interviewing is a really good idea. It will put you in “that category” in everyone’s minds in the future. If there is another upcoming interim job you may be considered for that as well. The optics of pulling out of the interview at this point, especially if it is known why, may not look like “team playing” or someone who can roll with the punches, especially in a highly political workplace. I think you want to get yourself out there and in people’s minds as much as possible as a future candidate. Does this seem right to people who work in highly competitive environments?

    1. LW # 5*

      Thanks for sharing your perspective! I am going to prep really hard for this interview and see what happens.

      1. Annie*

        This is what happened with me (academic library). I interviewed very well (twice) for positions I knew were likely to go to others, which put me into the pipeline for a similar “acting position” when someone left unexpectedly. I still had to interview again for the role, because that’s the rules at our institution. They can’t directly appoint anyone unless it is part of a planned restructure. When she finally offered me my permanent role, my manager said “every time I interview you I learn something new about you”, so wasn’t a waste of either of our time.

  37. Jay*

    OP #4, I am so sorry for your loss. I had a similar loss and did what everyone else has described – I told one person and asked them to disseminate the news and to tell people I preferred not to discuss it at work. Everyone respected that and I was grateful.

  38. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    I have a blood clotting disorder (and, frankly, a very tiny bladder!) so must have an aisle seat so I can easily move around when I fly without getting a(nother) thrombosis.

    Last time I flew with colleagues I’d paid extra to guarantee the aisle, they boarded way later than me into unassigned seating and we just met up at the other end in the Arrivals area.

  39. Policy Wonk*

    OP4, I am very sorry for your loss. As others have mentioned, please ask someone to notify everyone before you return. This was done in the case of a colleague of mine, and I think it helped her.

    OP 3 – this is no big deal. When you work internationally these things are common – particularly when trying to connect with Asia, given that the time difference is more significant, or trying to schedule meetings that involve players on multiple continents

    OP 5 – interview! I have seen cases where the person who was Acting and presumed they had the job was passed over when a better candidate appeared. While it is far more likely that the favorite will get the job, it is not guaranteed.

  40. I'm just here for the cats*

    Isn’t there usually a hiring committee at University? For my job there was about 4 people not all of them from my department. We are hiring now and there are people from other departments on the hiring committee. So I find it odd that everyone is in cahoots to put this person in the position.

  41. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP 4: there’s a cultural thing in academia (derived from the practice of tenure, I guess), where it’s assumed that whoever’s got the job will have it until they resign, retire, or die. Just because somebody says “Wakeen has the job” doesn’t make it so.

  42. Ex-U*

    OMG, having worked in higher education for decades, I can only say that that these “fake job listings” are so so common. Someone really needs to come down on this charade. As for me, I’ve gotten good at spotting these fake job listings (where they have no intention of hiring anyone but the pre-chosen candidate) and not bothering to apply for them. One particularly excruciating instance was when I was asked to be on a hiring committee for a position that was being held open for the son of the divisional budget manager. He was borderline unqualified for the job (no slam on him, he was eager to learn, but he had zero experience or training). A wonderful, talented female applicant (this was an IT job, so women have lots of challenges) was one of the ones interviewed and she was one minute late to the interview because of a parking snafu that wasn’t her fault (we didn’t tell her the right place to park). It was terrible not only keeping up the pretenses that she had a shot at the job, but later she contacted me by email to apologize again for being late. I so wanted to tell her “No worries! We loved you! We would have hired you in a minute, but…” UGH. I departed this university about a year later. This incident just helped drive me away.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      What an illustrative story. It shows explicitly how interviewing “to avoid the appearance of bias” means wasting university resources – and not to mention the applicants’ time – specifically to cover up bias like hiring a less-qualified male candidate over a more-qualified female candidate. So gross.

      1. Tom*

        Disagree. The -ism there wasn’t sexism, but nepotism. Had the genders been flipped, it’s probable that the same thing would have happened.

    2. Mimmy*

      I once had an interview where they already had a candidate in mind. It wasn’t in higher ed and was partly the result of a mix-up between me and HR. It was a long time ago but I still sometimes cringe when I think about it. I really wish employers wouldn’t waste candidates’ time with this tactic.

      It’s a shame this is so common in higher ed – that’s the field I’m hoping to enter :(

    3. LW # 5*

      Yeah this is what gets me – waste of time and resources to keep up appearances when the decision is almost made, or surely made. But, as other commenters and Alison have pointed out, it might be good for me to become a known quantity in the central departments. If another role comes up, they might think of me. I know this practice is terrible and I wish they would just stop with it. It is so common in higher ed.

    4. meyer lemon*

      One of my relatives used to work for a provincial government where this kind of thing happened all the time, because there was an explicit policy against preferential hiring, so they always had to have a formal interview with outside candidates regardless of circumstances (I realize the irony here).

      My relative got to know the signs of a fake interview: the main one was when the job listing required a bunch of experience that had nothing to do with the job itself but happened to line up perfectly with the preferred candidate’s resume.

  43. Please Exit Through The Rear Door*

    OP #5 — Last year I interviewed for a high-level position against an organizational rock star who had been acting in the position for months. After hemming and hawing for days over whether to go through with the interview, I ultimately did interview for all the reasons Alison mentioned. The rock star got the job. It was a frustrating experience. My advice to you would be to try to block out, as much as possible, the fact that your chances of getting the job don’t seem great on the face of things and treat it like any other interview. In my case, I think I went into the interview giving off a bad vibe, knowing I didn’t have much of a chance against Rockstar, and probably actually hurt my chances for future positions in the org because I didn’t interview all that well. Don’t let that be you. Good luck.

    1. LW # 5*

      Thanks for sharing your experience! that’s kinda how I am feeling but trying to get out all the negative vibes outta my system so I can just interview normally and try and go for it. Chances are slim, but knowing that I can be a bit more relaxed throughout the process.

  44. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

    LW #4 – I am so sorry for your loss. I think everyone above has given excellent advice. The only thing I have to add is to make sure you are taking care of yourself. You may still get coworkers who either don’t get that you don’t want to talk about it or still want to “help” you and say things that are point-blank awful, like “Everything happens for a reason” and “It’s all part of God’s (or insert other deity here) plan”. While you should try to remain professional, you are always within your right to end the conversation and leave. Or tell the other person that they need to leave your desk/office/etc. You don’t need to worry about managing other people’s emotions.

    1. Observer*

      OH, yes. OP, please prepare a script for someone who says something like that, and then hope you never have to deploy it. Because I suspect that if someone DOES say something like that you will not be able to come up with any useful (to you) response in the moment.

  45. Verde*

    LW4, my heartfelt condolences. I wish you the best.

    Alison, this almost seems worthy of a whole piece about co-workers, the ring theory of grief/sadness/illness, and not exacerbating already fraught situations.

  46. AthenaC*

    OP#4 – I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine.

    I have never been in your shoes but I have definitely been That Coworker that stepped in it with a cheery “So how is everything?” because the office gossip wheel tends to never reach me for some reason.

    When you do encounter that person at the office, my thought would be to shut it down with, “You must not have heard – we lost her shortly after birth. You’re kind to ask, but let’s return to (insert work topic here).” Or if you just encountered them in the hall, your last sentence could be “You’re kind to ask, but I have to run.” And then physically walk away.

    Open to other suggestions, of course.

  47. Lisa*

    LW 1 I fly for business a lot and I always sit with my boss and my coworkers, in fact we are always booked to sit next to each other. On Southwest we check in at the same time, one of us checks both of us in so that we get assigned around the same check in or we both have priority boarding and board together. I have worked at many companies and this is always been the case. I would find it a little weird if I was on the same flight as one of my colleagues and we were not sitting together, especially my boss, unless of course we did not like each other. Sometimes we conduct business other times we just ignore each other. I feel like though it really depends on the situation, but if it were me in her shoes I would just go ahead and address this with her boss otherwise I think it would end up being awkward for both of them. I also think that it will allow the LW to ease her own anxiety about the situation. If the boss seems cool about it there is no reason to not do so or be embarrassed about it. I am a small petite woman, but as a frequent flyer I would likely address this with my subordinate prior to flying and ask them if they needed me to have the company book them another seat so they could be comfortable. But it’s possible she has not thought about it. Just let her know what’s going on ahead of time.

    1. Jack Straw*

      I’ve been traveling for work for 25+ years and had the opposite experience. TBH this sounds like my nightmare: “I always sit with my boss and my coworkers, in fact we are always booked to sit next to each other.” I would feel obligated to make small talk, do work, or otherwise “be productive.” And I *really* like my coworkers. And my bosses, too.

      Traveling already has so many logistical hoops to jump though, the idea of trying to herd cats to do it all at the same time causes additional anxiety. We typically share a vehicle once we’ve all arrived, and do our best to land at similar times, but we sometimes (often, in fact) even fly different airlines.

  48. Anon in nj*

    LW 4 I am so sorry.
    There is a great organization called nechama comfort there primarily work with Jewish clients but may know other resources. Their site also has information that your manager might find useful

  49. Lily Rowan*

    For LW5, I just can’t imagine they would hire an external firm if the assumption is that the Acting person has a real leg up. What university (or any employer) is looking to spend extra money on appearances in this day and age?

    1. LW # 5*

      my only thinking around this is for internal HR to have plausible deniability of bias – hey we didn’t find a good candidate and so we reached out to a search agency, and even they didn’t find a better candidate than the person who is currently ‘acting’. i could be wrong, but that’s how it looks to me.

    2. Snark No More!*

      If the external firm does not have the “winning” new hire, they typically don’t get paid.

  50. PB&J*

    For #5. Definitely still interview. I experienced obtaining a position over an incumbent under very similar circumstances (in academia).

  51. SaffyTaffy*

    LW 3 Alison is totally right, but for what it’s worth I once woke up at 3:30AM for a 4:30AM job interview, and the interviewer said she was “deeply impressed by [my] dedication.” This was for a job overseas, and one thing about those jobs, as your friend may already know, is that there’s a higher-than-average turnover because of stress from the international dynamic. So for me, making that effort really worked in my favor. Of course, your friend’s mileage may vary.

    1. Alexander Graham Yell*

      Yep. I’m likely moving from the US to Europe at the end of the year and my boss and I have already discussed that I’ll need to shift my hours somewhat because I’ll still be working primarily with US clients. It’s totally normal and a tradeoff I’m willing to make to live where I want to, and I’d guess that LW3’s friend did the mental calculation and decided the early interview was worth it for the opportunity. Would I have asked for a slightly later time? Probably. Would I still have taken the time slot if that was the only one available, or the only one that didn’t conflict with other plans? Totally.

  52. SomebodyElse*

    PSA To all time zone challenged friends (I am one of them):

    You can show up to 2 additional time zones in your Outlook calendar. Google “show second time zone outlook calendar” for instructions. This is hands down the best function if you are regularly trying to schedule in multiple time zones.

  53. Anon For This*

    I’m so sorry for your loss. The most important thing for you to keep in mind is that it’s not your job to manage other people’s feelings. You are the one that has suffered a loss, and it doesn’t matter if that fact makes other people uncomfortable.

    I was unfortunately recently on the opposite side of this. A consultant returned from his paternity leave and I cheerfully asked him to start a meeting (thankfully just us) “How’s the baby?!”. Awkward silence, he didn’t answer, and then just moved on to the business topic. I chalked it up to a bad connection. He zoomed me to say it had been a stillbirth, they don’t know the cause, her name was XXX. Of course I expressed condolences and stressed that I didn’t know.

    I cried for about an hour and told my boss I was inadvertently the biggest *jerk* in the world for what had happened.

    All this to say, unfortunately not all people will know and there will be inadvertent comments that are going to rip that wound open for you. I think you follow Alison’s standard advice for most uncomfortable topics. Matter of fact state what happened (as much as you are comfortable) and re-direct the conversation to the work.


  54. Jenn*

    OP #4, I’ve been in your position. I’m so sorry for your loss. I agree with much of the advice above, especially to try to have people informed in advance.

    But I wanted add: Your job is to cope, and be professional where possible under the circumstances. If occasionally other people are uncomfortable, it’s their job to cope with that. I totally get not wanting to make the situation awkward, but there are moments — even now 16 years later — where it just inherently is.

    For some phrases to handle it in the moment:
    “I appreciate your asking…we lost her a day after she was born. Hey, about those TPS reports…”
    “Thanks for remembering…unfortunately she passed away after she was born.”

    I also wanted to just steel you a bit for the things people will say after you say this. People are almost always very well-intentioned, but all kinds of dumb things come out of their mouths. “I guess Jesus just wanted another little angel in heaven!” (Well screw that guy!!!) “God never gives us/We’re never given more than we can handle.” (My strength is not the deciding factor here!) “You’re so strong/I don’t know how you cope/I could never handle that.” (Like I have a choice.) If you find those comforting that’s great! But I didn’t. All of these statements are people deflecting the emotion of the situation, and for me I needed to kind of keep a little wall up for those few statements. It made me really appreciate the people who could just – sit with me in the loss.

    Another group of people will be all like “What happened????!!!” and of course it’s up to you and the moment, but having a set phrase like “I’m just not ready to get into the details right now” can help.

    You’ll get through this. Hang in there.

    1. Observer*

      Another group of people will be all like “What happened????!!!” and of course it’s up to you and the moment, but having a set phrase like “I’m just not ready to get into the details right now” can help.

      It may help to realize that people don’t mean to pry. It’s more like shock and trying to process. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to provide any answers! “I’m not ready to go over the details” or “I don’t really want to talk about it” are perfect responses. Decent people will move right on.

      1. Jackalope*

        That’s a good point about the shock (and another reason to have someone tell everyone before you get back). I remember years ago calling a family member about a crisis, and he responded, “You’re kidding!” I was a bit annoyed, as I was right in the thick of it and had been trying to reach him for hours (before cell phones), so why would I do all that work to set up a terrible joke? Then many years later I got a call from him about another (unrelated) crisis, and my knee jerk response was, “You’ve got to be kidding!” Which again, he wouldn’t have called me at midnight if he were joking. But there’s something about the shock that can make anything and everything fly out of your mouth. I hope you don’t have to deal with that, but if you do, knowing that this is prob the issue with some responses may help.

    2. Not A Manager*

      People have said similar to me about events in my life. My best response has been, “that’s a sweet sentiment,” or “thank you for your good thoughts.” I feel like those non-agreement responses let *me* acknowledge to myself that the statement was ill-considered, while also signaling that the person meant well and maybe does find that kind of thing comforting.

      LW4, I’m very sorry for your loss.

  55. Anon for this comment*

    For the person traveling with her boss: I’ve never waited at the gate, boarded, or sat with my boss or colleagues on a plane. You’ll probably be totally fine.

    For the person whose baby died at 1 day. First, my heart goes out to you. Second, something similar happened to a colleague of mine, but he was starting a new job after the death of his baby. He chose to spread the news himself for the most part, letting me (I was his closest colleague) tell some people. But he also relied on me to let him know which colleagues/bosses were more likely to ask “do you have kids” so he could be prepared. As new people come on board, you meet people who don’t know you that well, you can probably rely on some close colleagues to either give you a heads up or to let the new people know what’s up, depending on your preference.

  56. Kiwiii*

    For 2: I have a pretty regular, but random, task where I need someone to verify for me that the customer I’m working with is allowed to have the access they’re requesting. Some weeks I send this verification request every day, sometimes (much more rarely) I don’t need to send it at all, but most of the time it’s like 3 days/week.

    Usually this person is on top of their mailbox, so I don’t bother sending a thank you when I get a response; but if they’re a couple days behind, I’ll often send a thank you to the oldest one they respond to/get back to me; or if there’s a response that requires additional context or explanation.

  57. JustMyImagination*

    I traveled with my grandboss once when I had only been at the company a few months. We took the shuttle from the hotel together back to the airport and then she invited me to dinner since our flight was delayed. It was a long time to be “on” as I didn’t know her well enough to fully relax. One nice thing, though, was that she had priority boarding and asked the gate agent if I could board same time as her since we were traveling together and the agent allowed it. We did not sit together on the flight (assigned seating). I wonder if you could ask the gate agent if she can board with you as you’re traveling together. Then casually let her down the aisle first and let her grab a seat and then keep walking down the aisle and cheerily say “see you in City!”.

  58. Elle Woods*

    LW4: I’m so sorry about the loss of your daughter. No advice to give, just my deepest condolences.

  59. WantonSeedStitch*

    LW#4, I’m so sorry. I hope your workplace handles everything in the best possible way to help you.

  60. BuckeyeIT*

    Lw4: My heart completely breaks for you- I am sorry for your loss.

    My losses have all been in the first trimester, but a lot of the advice already written is what I would give. With my last loss, I asked my Mom to let family know so that I wasn’t bombarded the next time I saw them. My boss at the time was atrocious, so I had a close coworker let the people I worked with most closely know ( I was open about our infertility treatment so people already knew). One thing I did was always have something close or in my hands- like papers or something, so that there was an excuse if I needed to end any conversations quickly and duck into the bathroom or office to compose myself.

    I wish no one had to go through this, I am sorry that you are.

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

    OP3 (time zones): I’m in the UK, and if I were applying for a job in the UK/Europe but currently on holiday in the USA or Asia or whatever… I wouldn’t expect a company to rearrange their interview schedule on account of my trip when I was the one who’d gone 9 hours away!
    It would be different if she was based in the States permanently and would be working with a European company as that would potentially set the tone for how they work ‘internationally’ across time zones…

  62. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – I wouldn’t read much into the timing of the interview. If your friend had wanted to, she could have asked for the interview to be scheduled at a more convenient time. Had the company then refused to do so, I would say that would be a possible flag, depending on how tightly scheduled her interviewer is (eg. sometimes I set up meetings for executives and have to do so within the very narrow windows they have available, as they are really busy). As it stands, I’d assume that someone didn’t realize how large the time difference was.

    Also, if your friend wants to work in a global company and in a role that works closely with colleagues around the world, there are going to be times when it is expected that her work day begins or ends outside of regular office hours. She’ll have to determine for herself what her tolerance for work/life balance is, but demonstrating willingness to accommodate a global schedule is not a bad thing.

  63. Academic glass half full*

    Interview anyway.

    First me-
    When I applied for my position, I was told there was an inside candidate. I was told that person was going to get the job by more than one person. I was told the search was just a formality. On paper it looked like I had many fewer credentials.
    Inside candidate tanked their job talk. I aced mine. I got the job.

    We had a prestigious opening in our dept. One candidate was an obvious choice. She got the position.
    Candidate two was outstanding. We created a position for her.
    You never know.

  64. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – I would not assume that the search is a rubber-stamping exercise, particularly not if they are using a retained executive search firm to do it. It’s an investment for the company to use a retained search firm, and it shows the company wants the BEST candidate for the role.

    There may be some element of benchmarking to the process – it’s likely the internal candidate will be given a fair chance of winning the role, and that person has an advantage of having the institutional knowledge of the organization and also buy in from certain people in the company. However, it does not mean they are a shoe-in or that the process is simply there to rubber-stamp them.

    The contact you have is in another division, and likely does not have a real line of sight to the actual decision process. It’s equally likely that the hiring manager feels they need an external hire and that involving the interim person in the process is going to demonstrate that a more senior person is needed – sometimes the best way to do that is to make the interim person realize they are in need a of a more senior mentor or that they require some further development: a rigorous interview process where they have to compete against more qualified people is a good way to do this.

    1. LW # 5*

      Appreciate your perspective. Yeh, my contact might not have the best info as they are adjacent to the dept that I am applying, but they are in closer proximity to this team and know how they function. In either case, I am still going for it and see what happens.

  65. Just a Manager*

    Go ahead and interview. I was in the same situation. I interviewed for a position with a state agency where another internal candidate was a shoo-in. I got a call about six months later from them to interview for another position and was hired. They remembered me.

    1. LW # 5*

      Thanks! I hope if I don’t get that job, that the agency folks don’t forget my name. I’m a very competitive candidate for this role and I’ll do my best to convey that.

  66. SeluciaMD*

    LW#5, I was on the other side of that – and we went with the external candidate and it was a TOTAL surprise. I used to work for a small non-profit where the ED who had really grown the org had stepped down after 15 years. A Board member and long-time volunteer stepped in as Acting ED and was great at the job. They really wanted to take on the role permanently and nearly everyone thought the Acting ED was a shoo-in. As someone who worked with both the original ED and the Acting (and who was part of the hiring committee) I also thought there was no way in the world anyone could have been better for the role and we were just wasting time going through the motions of interviewing external candidates. I could not have been more wrong.

    We narrowed the field down pretty quickly to the Acting ED and this one other external candidate that just kept wowing people at every point in the process. I conducted one of the final interviews for this “dark horse” candidate along with another colleague who, going in, also believed that there was no way anyone would be a better fit for the role than the current Acting ED. We met with this person for close to two hours and they absolutely blew us away – and apparently everyone else in the hiring process as well, because they were eventually offered the job. It came as a total shock to literally everyone who had been involved with the hiring process because while we absolutely went into the process in good faith, I think we all really felt there was no possible way anyone would be a better candidate than the Acting ED.

    So you should absolutely interview if this is a role you are excited about and think you could do well in! You really never can tell how these things will play out. Good luck!

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        The other question that begs answering – how did the rest of the staff accept the new ED???

    1. LW # 5*

      oh wowww!!! that is quite the story. thanks for sharing that and lifting up my spirits.

    2. Prunella T. Cornbubble*

      LW5: I’ve worked in some places where the hiring process was a charade to give the acting manager the permanent job after appearances and process requirements checked the required boxes for a “competitive” hire …

      But I’ve also seen situations in which the acting manager has no chance, because the leadership has already decided that they want somebody new from the outside, with no history (and therefore not much loyalty to) the organization.

      In one case I was close to, the acting manager was widely presumed in the org to be a lock for the permanent role, because she had performed so well in the interim acting capacity. She was carefully not told that it had already been decided that the org needed fresh blood and the C-level was determined to hire someone brand new.

      So she went through the charade, never knowing that it was a futile exercise. Once she was replaced by the outsider, literally all of her responsibilities were removed until an excuse could be found to chase her off — the new hire wanted to bring in their own people and needed the slot. Plus, the newly hired permanent manager didn’t want to be looking over her shoulder at a possibly resentful direct report.

  67. No Boss I wont be sitting next to you*

    LW1, if your boss asks about your seating, you can directly say – I need certain accommodations so our seats might be on different spots of the plane. I’ll see you after we reach XXX (the destination). If she at all asks you – what sort of accommodations, you can say – ‘I’ll need an extra seat. SW is amazing that it offers this service free for people who need it’.

    1. No Boss I wont be sitting next to you*

      And absolutely no need to mention – why you need this accommodation.

  68. Thankful for thanks*

    I think the thank you emails are nice! I used to pull a weekly list to send to several physicians (containing people who had recently supported them). About half the doctors would thank me and half wouldn’t respond. I appreciated the people who took the time to respond, so that I didn’t feel like the effort was going into the void unappreciated, but I’m also generally less averse to emails than some people.

  69. A tester, not a developer*

    LW#2 – the unofficial ‘rule’ with my area is that “Thanks!” emails are always flagged as Low priority by the sender. That way they can easily be filtered out.

    1. OyHiOh*

      This is a good idea! In my org, there are people who mistrust things they can’t see/touch and are therefore always worried that a recipient didn’t get materials electronically, also people who treat email like a face 2 face conversation, and people who use reply-all to excess. An informal rule about low priority flags might help us calm things down a bit.

  70. ElleKay*

    LW#1: I think Alison’s spot-on and you should give yourself permission to not overanalyze this!

    As a thinner person I am thrilled when the seat next to me is empty & I expect your boss wouldn’t give it an extra thought; if it even becomes a thing she notices. (I always fold the arm rest up and tuck my feet up & under the blanket in this case, so expanding into that space when it’s available seems to be a norm; whether or not the seat is “officially” yours)

    Another thought: if you did end up sitting near your boss (If she asks/assumes you’ll sit in the same row, (which shouldn’t be an assumption + may not be possible with SW boarding groups anyway…)) could you to sit in the middle? This guarantees an empty seat on one side of you while your boss might be on the other side?

    And, lastly, I literally tripped in the airport parking lot once and came down hard on my knee. I asked the SW check in if I could join the pre-boarding group since I was stiff and moving slowly and they were fine with it! I *may* have gotten a raised eyebrow or two when I boarded early but no one said a word. So I’d avoid worrying that your boss will assume anything- there’s tons of reasons to pre-board and most people will be fine to assume you have a reason to do so!

  71. TootsNYC*

    One reason to interview for a job you think will go to an insider is that it’s a chance to present yourself to people who might have a line on FUTURE jobs.

    Working with an external recruiting firm might not do that for you, but then again, that interviewer might keep you in mind for other things.

    1. LW # 5*

      Thanks for sharing! The external agency fills roles across the country so if there is a role somewhere else that might be a good fit, I am hoping they’ll keep me in mind.

  72. Finland*

    LW#2, maybe you could add the thanks in the same email with the request, something like thank you for your help with this or I appreciate it . This way, you don’t have to send a follow-up and maybe you don’t feel rude.

  73. Anon Y Mouse*

    This so much. I’ve had a number of weird reactions to my actual clothes size or weight (when I’ve had to provide them) because people have a mental image that goes with those numbers and I’m apparently not it. Telling me that you’re surprised or incredulous that I need a size 20 uniform shirt… I know you mean it well, but I didn’t ask you to hold me up against other people to see who can pass for “normal-size” and who can’t, and I still need the right size of shirt, thanks.

    I fit in an airline seat, but I’m still not thrilled at the idea of being sat right next to someone I know but not that well. I’ll be very aware of how much space I’m taking up.

    So I hope the boss proves to be as nice and polite as usual on the topic, and doesn’t mention anything.

  74. Queenie*

    We had a coworker deliver her baby stillborn. It was devastating for all of us as we are a tight group. An email went out to the organization–all 20 of us–delivering the news. She was out for several weeks and before she came back she let us know she wanted us to talk about our families and kids like normal. We didn’t avoid talking about her baby but we didn’t bring her up either.
    Most customers had heard about the loss but when one didn’t and asked her how the baby was she was at a loss at the sudden question and had to let him know she lost the baby. We all swooped in and changed the subject quickly and distracted him as she was sitting at her desk trying not to cry. After he left we joked with her and got her laughing as she was, understandably, having a hard time with the sudden question.

  75. Jack Straw*

    LW2 – Alison’s advice (per usual) is spot on, but if you’re in doubt, ask your boss or a tenured coworker. There is a limited window to use the “I’m new here” or “This is my first professional/office/post-grad/insert-whatever-fits job…” to your advantage. Most people like to help, and asking about organizational norms is something I do when I start a new job, and I have 25+ years of work experience.

    FWIW, I was nearly put on a PIP by a former manager for not replying with “Thanks! Got it!” to every single one of her emails. Finally, by grand and great-grand bosses intervened and explained to her that was a completely UNreasonable expectation and I was the one following normal business practices by not doing that. That manager is no longer with the company and not of her own volition. ;)

  76. Frequent Sufferer of Flying*

    #1 FWIW, most airlines offer larger passengers a second seat free of charge…no need to give Southwest too much credit, especially because their open seat policy has been proven to be ostensibly bad.

    1. lil falafel wrap*

      Not sure ostensibly is the right choice here? Or maybe it ironically is, because I do think if you don’t have a ton of difficulties with flying, the open seat policy is pretty good!

    2. Reluctant Manager*

      I just checked the info for most US carriers, which all way you have to pay for one, so I’d love to know if there’s another way to approach it. Southwest is the only one I know of. A lot of them also say that if you get to the airport and need another seat, you’ll have to pay whatever the rate is that day.

  77. Pam Poovey*

    LW 1:

    This is going to be something not everyone is comfortable doing and I completely respect that, but honestly I think as fat people we shouldn’t be so shy or ashamed about this topic and should just spell out what’s happening and why. This again is if you’ve got the bandwidth and are comfortable with the person.

    Flying sucks when you’re fat (save me the “it sucks for everyone” comments, I know, but if you’re not fat you don’t understand how much worse it is for us). And 100% of the fault is with the airline industry while precisely 0% is with people existing in their bodies. SW has a less shitty policy than other airlines, but still it’s not great.

  78. Alexis Rosay*

    LW5 – I was an in an Interim Executive Director role for several months. Some people in the organization wanted me to apply for the permanent job, but my time as Interim ED helped me understand that I was not well suited for this role.

    The reasons folks wanted me to stay in the role ranged from laziness about conducting a serious search to fear of the unknown. Once we got a strong external candidate, people were more comfortable with hiring from outside. Don’t be afraid to apply for something like this; it’s hard to tell what is going on internally.

    1. LW # 5*

      Thanks! Yeah it’s hard to play the Oracle with this type of situation and I just have to put my best foot forward and see what happens.

  79. Delta Delta*

    #2 – OMG I frequently exchange emails with someone who Has To Have The Last Word. It becomes a Thank You loop. She thanks everyone on the thread if they respond, and she always replies all. I bet I have over a thousand emails from her that are just thank you loop emails. It drives me nuts.

  80. Spicy Tuna*

    LW#1 – my mother is disabled and she feels uncomfortable pre-boarding. People that can pre-board should with no qualms. The airline has the policy for a reason – in part to accommodate travelers that need it, and in part to make the boarding process go smoothly. I can guarantee you that most people don’t care about why some folks get to pre-board, and for the ones that do…that’s their problem.

    LW#2 – I know some people dislike getting those “thank” emails cluttering up their inbox, but I like to know that an email was received. One woman I work with usually follows up requests with a “received and noted” response, which I think is a good option.

    1. Jack Straw*

      I’m a supporter of read receipts if you want to know something was received.

  81. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

    OP3: I also work with people all over the world, and in spite of the fact that I keep multiple entries in “World Clock” on my phone, (trying to figure out whether Brazil is 1 hour ahead or 3 hours ahead gives me a headache!) there are times when meetings are just very inconvenient for some of the participants. We tend to go with the position that if you’re the “one off” then you get the short end of the stick time-wise. Right now some of my local colleagues (US EDT) are having to join daily meetings at 4am because there’s a project that’s happening in Europe, and the meeting is at 10am CET. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

  82. knitcrazybooknut*

    I would love it if if people could address the concern that OP #1 has expressed, instead of telling them that they’re overthinking it. I understand that this is something common on this site — many new employee do, in fact, go into mad detail about something like accidentally using the wrong font on a resume, and to me, that qualifies as overthinking.

    But when you’re a fat person, any amount of overthinking won’t protect you from all of the bad possibilities. This culture has decided that fat people are bad, and they should be punished – overtly or covertly – for existing. Every public situation is fraught with possible stares, snide remarks, and presumptions about your health, your intelligence, and your personality.

    This situation may be something that won’t be nearly as stressful as OP is thinking it will be. But they’re completely justified in worrying about it, and preparing for the absolute worst possible scenario.

    I apologize if this sounds harsh, and I know that the commentariat have good intentions. But I still wanted to point this out.

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      I agree. I wrote below to say the stigma about pre-boarding on Southwest is very real…

    2. annana*

      Probably because Alison gave concrete advice in the column and the rest of us are talking about other aspects of it.

      1. Jack Straw*

        The vibe of AAM commenting is to trust the letter writer and to answer the question posed vs. adding and reading into things. Alison–many, many times–will even jump into comments specifically to ask AAM commenters to stick to the question at hand.

        That’s not to say that readers cant offer additional info, but I think knitcrazybooknut’s reminder is legitimate given the history of the blog.

  83. Case of the Mondays*

    I understand LW1’s concern. While I am not a “passenger of size” I am someone with an invisible disability that needs to pre-board on Southwest to get an aisle seat near the bathroom. The bonus is that if no one else needs it for their disability, I can often get the bulkhead!

    Flying blogs refer to “gate lice” the people that gather at the gate clamoring to be the first on. I am a very confident person but I legit have seen so much shade thrown my way when I pre-board with the disability pass. People just assume I’m abusing the process. Frankly, it would be easy to abuse. Southwest does not ask what your disability is. I usually tell them as I’m embarrassed to ask and don’t want to look like a faker.

    I’m an athletic looking 40 year old and that just doesn’t register as “disabled” in many people’s minds. The worst was when I pre-boarded in Florida. They had me board before the wheelchairs as the people in wheelchairs needed assistance and not a specific seat. Those older ladies were not shy about speculating about me as I walked passed them to board.

    I agree that on most airlines, pre-boarding is no big deal. Southwest though is very different. You board before the people that paid extra. I think they even announce it as our passengers with disabilities … it would be nice if they just said instead “our passengers with a pre-board card.” I don’t think they are even allowing families with small children to pre-board anymore so you are very much called out as “other” when you board.

    What’s funny is I’m an advocate for the Crohns and Colitis Foundation and not shy about my disease. I should get some funny t-shirt that says “I preboard because I poop too much” or something like that. For me, it’s a safety issue as I’m likely to “have to go” in the midst of turbulence. Nerves and Crohns don’t play nice together. So it’s a lot safer for me to dash across the aisle when the seatbelt sign is on than it is for me to walk through half the plane.

    Don’t just people with invisible disabilities ya’all!

    1. Hks*

      I don’t really have a comment but my mom has Crohns so I thought it was interesting to hear your experience!

  84. Carebear*

    LW#4: a lot of responses here recommend having a manager/co-worker spread the news for you (which I agree with) but what if they are not allowed to say anything due to privacy/health laws? How is your manager suppose to inform people if they aren’t legally allowed to talk about? I would love to know what people think of this.
    Sorry for your loss!

    1. Observer*

      How is your manager suppose to inform people if they aren’t legally allowed to talk about?

      What privacy law forbids spreading information that the person who is about explicitly asked to be spread?

      1. Carebear*

        In this situation the employee didn’t explicitly say anything about letting anyone know. She just suddenly was no longer was taking MAT leave. Legally no one is allowed to ask her about any medical stuff, so it was just left as this weird awkward thing that no one really understood what happened (we have PAT leave here so it wasn’t clear if the dad was taking PAT leave or what happened).

        1. Observer*

          In the US it’s not illegal to ask someone about medical stuff, it’s just really bad manners. In any case, none of this is relevant the suggestion is NOT for the manager to take it upon themself to spread the word. Legal or not, that would be a TERRIBLE idea.

          The suggestion was for the OP to ask someone (manager or otherwise) to spread the news, giving whatever level of information she believes will work best in her situation. That’s a very different thing.

    2. Dahlia*

      They’re legally allowed to talk about things you give them permission to talk about.

      What law would prevent someone from talking about something you give them permission to talk about?

  85. Jack Straw*

    LW1 – I recommend a Facbeook group where I’ve found support and to be a safe space to ask questions: Flying While Fat. It should come right up in a search.

  86. Just observing*

    #4 –
    I went through a nearly identical situation last year; my heart goes out to you.
    I called my boss, someone I felt I could openly talk and cry to, and gave her the short of what happened. I asked her to do whatever she needed to do to make sure nobody mentioned anything to me about it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold it together if they did. I came back to work a couple weeks later and it was clear she made my wishes known. With the exception of a few private phone calls from others in the company checking on me and sharing their own stories of similar grief, nobody treated me any different, nobody brought it up, nobody asked questions, and I was able to get through my work day without falling apart.

  87. Rusty Shackelford*

    For #1, doesn’t Southwest have you put a sign in your second seat to reserve it? Isn’t that going to be an issue for the LW if the boss plans to sit next to her? (I mean, it *shouldn’t*, but none of this *should* be an issue.)

  88. Patty*

    I worked in State government for nearly 30 years. There were civil service rules that were required to be followed for all hires. In reality, they were followed if convenient and ignored whenever management didn’t agree with them. Routinely, “pipelines” as the postings were called were sent out, administration went through the motions, but did whatever they wanted as far as the actual hiring. People were promised the job/promotion beforehand, sometimes before the pipelines even were sent. I personally know of two positions in my office that were created for specific people, even though that was not allowed per civil service. People started working the new position before others in the office who’d interviewed were even notified they weren’t selected (another no-no). In three other cases in my office alone, previous employees from years before were contacted by management, told of an opening coming up and asked if they’d like to come back if they could have that job. All three times the answer was yes and the hiring process sham was held even though management already knew their decision. I know of all these details because I was the HR rep in the office and intimately involved in hiring/interviewing. My objections were always either ignored or I was subtly threatened.

    1. LW # 5*

      holy crap! that’s quite the run-around on the rules. sounds like the wild west. i don’t think it’s quite as bad where i’m at, but i’m open to being surprised. thanks for sharing your experience.

  89. ejh*

    I have gone through this before and my coworkers were so amazing letting people know. As part of my job I travel all over my state and often may meet someone 2 or 3 times and never see them again. For those people who met me when I was pregnant, and then I had to see one more time when I wasn’t, I was usually only asked if I had a boy or girl and I would simply say I had a girl and then move the conversation immediately onto what we there to discuss. Some people I dealt with more often didn’t hear the news from my colleagues and I would tell them about my loss. One person said, “Oh my God! I just threw up in my mouth!” Then she literally ran away. We had just bumped into each other in a hallway, so we didn’t have a work reason to move the conversation on to something else. She later apoligized and told me she was super embarrassed because she hadn’t heard my news and about her response when she did hear it. She felt that she made the situation less about me and my loss and more about her behavior and she hoped I wasn’t offended. I wasn’t offended at all. People’s reactions to this kind of information vary widely. In my experience, you will likely experience more grace and understanding than you expect. Virtual hugs to you!

  90. Somethingdefinitelyhappened*

    I am so sorry, LW4.

    Our daughter died shortly after she was born, and before I returned to work, I sent an email to a colleague with details about our daughter (name, birth weight, who she looked like) and that I was happy to talk about her if people wanted to, but completely understood if they didn’t feel comfortable doing so. I asked her to pass it onto the rest of our team and anyone else she thought should know.

    As Alison says, if there is a colleague you’re close to or perhaps your manager, please consider asking them to help spread the news before you return.

    When I did go back to work (our daughter was 13 weeks early, so not everyone knew why I suddenly went on a long leave), if anyone asked where I’d been, I said: ‘We had a little girl, but sadly she died’. If you can, say this straightforwardly, accept their condolences and move the conversation on. This does get easier over time.

    There’s a charity in the UK called Sands, which has some fantastic resources for people who are returning to work after losing a child, or for people whose colleagues are coming back to work after a loss.

    Again, I am so sorry for your loss.

  91. Former Employee*

    OP #4: My condolences on the loss of your baby. It reminded me so much of what Chrissy Teigen said about the strangeness of going to the hospital pregnant and then coming home without a baby. I hope you are able to ease back into your job with as little drama as possible.

  92. Brain the Brian*

    LW2: I tend to send “Thanks — I’ll let you know if I need anything more.” That way, the other person is assured that the attachment was the one I needed and I don’t need anything further at the moment.

  93. Elizabeth*

    To #5, I used to work as an internal career counselor at a major university and would see this kind of thing all the time – position is filled by an “acting” person who then needs to interview like everyone else. Sometimes, the “acting” role would give a good employee and candidate the experience and knowledge to truly be the most competitive candidate but just as often I’d see them flounder because they assumed the whole process was a sham and the job was theirs. I’m encouraged by the fact that an outside agency is managing the process, this means they’ll have to show up and shine like everyone else and suggests that interviewing is absolutely worth your time.
    Unrelated, my husband recently went through a similar process in our state government and didn’t get the job, but the person who did ended up leaving a vacancy in his full-time role, which my husband was then hired for! Just a short anecdote to show that interviewing is always worth it and hopefully you’ll land somewhere soon. Best of luck!

  94. Insomniac*

    To LW#5 – I have a friend/coworker who interviewed for one of our clients who (one of the doctors we work with) proposed and created a job for her. Someone else got the job! She was understandably disappointed, but it just goes to show that other candidates can still come along and change the game plan. Good luck!

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