manager wants to monitor my personal goals, when a client introduces his mistress, and more

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

1. Our manager wants to monitor our goals for our personal lives

I recently started a new job where employees are expected to set regular goals and check in with managers about their progress. Although I find the task kind of annoying, I totally get why it’s a thing and am happy to set goals related to my job performance, learning new skills, etc. The problem is we’re also expected to set goals for our personal life (starting a new hobby, places you want to travel, etc.) and check in with management on their progress. This feels like a weird blurring of work-life balance to me. I want the freedom to set (or not set) personal goals without worrying about updating my boss on their progress.

My employer places a high value on culture fit, so I’m concerned that pushing back on this ask will get me labelled as someone with a bad attitude/not a team player. Is it worth telling my manager I don’t want to be accountable to them for what I do off the clock, or should I just set some goals and lie about their progress to my superiors?

This is a huge overstep from your employer! It’s none of their business what goals you have in your personal life, or whether you have personal goals at all, or whether you meet them or not. What if the only personal goals you have are highly intimate ones, like drinking less, separating from your controlling parents, or divorcing your spouse? Are you supposed to make up less personal ones to fulfill the terms of this exercise? Or what if you, like many people, don’t have any particular goals in your personal life at the moment? Are you supposed to pretend you want to, I don’t know, eat more vegetables just to satisfy your manager? And even if you do have personal goals that aren’t particularly intimate — like walking daily or reading more — it’s still none of your employer’s business and it’s wildly inappropriate for your manager to expect to check in with you about them.

Whether or not to push back or play along depends on your sense of how your boss will respond, but you should be able to say something like, “I’m happy to check in on progress toward work goals, but I’m not comfortable bringing personal goals into work. So I’m going to keep this process focused on professional goals.”

But if you think it’ll be a big deal or you don’t want to spend the capital on it, there’s no shame in just making up some fake but bland goals (cleaning closets, learning to knit, whatever it is). Or hell, you could come up with some machiavellian goals — “I really need to improve my work/life balance and carve out time for a real vacation — can you help with that?” More here.

2. When a client introduces you to his mistress

This is a story about my friend who for 10 years has been a guest attendant in a hotel. Mr. X is a frequent traveler and a loyal guest at the hotel, and he often brings his wife. My friend and Mr. X became friends and comfortable with each other. One day, Mr X checked in with a woman who he introduced as his girlfriend and asked my friend to keep it a secret between them. What should my friend do?

If they were friends separate from work, your friend would have standing to tell Mr. X that cheating on his wife (if indeed that’s what he’s doing) isn’t okay, and he could decide to back off from the friendship if he felt that he couldn’t in good faith continue it. But this sounds more like a work relationship, where he’s encountering Mr. X as a client of his employer. Given that, there’s not really anything he can do here. He doesn’t have standing to alert Mr. X’s wife or lecture Mr. X on his behavior (and he’d be doing that as a representative of his employer, and his employer almost certainly wouldn’t be on board with that). He can pull back to a more professional relationship with him if he’d like to, but that’s about the only realistic option available.

3. How to apologize for ghosting my employer when I was in a bad place mentally

I got my first job out of college a year ago. I took it because I wanted to have a job, even if the salary and benefits were subpar for my field, and initially I enjoyed it. But it required me to move away from my college friends and my family, live alone in a suburban area as the pandemic was ramping up, and work in an office where people were cordial but not terribly friendly.

I made it four months or so before I started to break down. My work was solitary, I’ve been wrestling with depression for almost a decade now (wow), and I didn’t have the support structures in place that I’d left behind at school and at home. So I started racking up unexplained absences from work that I’d try and pass off after the fact with terrible excuses, when the truth was that I was just miserable at home and getting washed up to go be a functioning person at work felt like it was off the table. The response from senior personnel was concern, not anger, and at least one person was aware I wasn’t doing so well emotionally, which I’m really thankful for.

By the time I realized I probably shouldn’t have taken the job in the first place, I was unhappy enough that I just wanted the whole situation to go away. I know a lot of people do absurd things when they’re in a bad place mental-health-wise, and I was no exception; at the time, it seemed like my best option would be to ghost my employer (not kidding) instead of trying to explain anything. I got fired (obviously), paid back my retention bonus, and ran away home, concluding the saga of my first “real job” in just about the worst way possible.

But all of that is in the past, and it’s my albatross to haul around from here on out. My question is just, how do I go about apologizing for all of that, now that I’ve reached the stage of “cleaning up after yourself post-mental-health-meltdown”? I just want to write and say sorry for my series of bad decisions but … how do you write a letter like that? What’s appropriate to include? How much information would my former management/coworkers even want? I don’t want to sound like I’m making excuses; I don’t want to make excuses, because even if I wanted to blame my mental health for all of it, I made the decision to take the job in the first place. Does anyone I worked with actually want to read an apology letter like that, or are they all over it by now, given that it’s been months?

You don’t have to send an apology, but I’m sure an explanation would be appreciated — both because people were probably worried about you and so they have the right context when they look back on what happened. You don’t need to go into a ton of detail; you could simply explain that you were dealing with some difficulties outside of work (you could specify “health issues” if you wanted to, since mental health is health) and handled it badly and you apologize for causing them concern, you appreciate the efforts they made at the time, and you’re now doing better and didn’t want to leave things the way you’d left them earlier. That’s it! I bet they’ll be relieved to receive it.

4. Emergency contacts must be over 100 miles away

My employer is asking for an emergency contact name and number specifically for someone over 100 miles away. I’ve heard this recommendation before but only in the context of families trying to communicate with each other in a natural disaster scenario.

We are a small business that serves clients with high needs. We are all key employees in some sense, me especially! I totally understand having an emergency contact on file, or even two! If I was in a car accident with my emergency contact spouse, a back-up emergency contact would be useful so that they can inform my boss I am incapacitated and they need to arrange coverage in order to make sure our clients are cared for. But to insist that one be over 100 miles away seems odd to me. If we have a regional disaster, and I’m able to contact my relatives in another state, I should also able to contact work.

In the grand scheme of things, this is not a hill I’m willing to die on. I’m already one foot out of the door as I’m job hunting actively for other reasons. I’m curious if this is actually something worth pushing back on, for the benefit of other employees who may not know this is weird or if I’m just annoyed at everything and this isn’t actually all that weird, or actually beneficial for a reason I’m blind to. Thoughts?

Why not ask them? The might have seen it on emergency preparedness lists for other contexts and not put much thought into whether they really need it. Or who knows, maybe there’s some reason we’re both overlooking.

Either way, it doesn’t sound like something that you need to spend capital on unless you really want to. That’s especially true if you’re thinking of doing it mainly for benefit of other employees; if they’re bothered by it, they can say something.

5. I’m exempt — can my company make me take my time off unpaid?

I am a salaried employee and I have a child due next year. My “maternity leave” is based off the amount of vacation and sick leave accrued, which is not much because our vacation time starts over each year. After I use up my hours, they say it’s unpaid but since I am a salaried exempt employee, are they able to reduce my check if I decide to stay out longer?

Yes. If you’re exempt, they have to pay your full salary for any week where you perform any work (with some narrow exceptions) but when you’re out for full weeks, they do not need to pay you for that time. (If you’re thinking, “Great, I’ll just work a few hours each week for months and get my full salary,” that’s highly unlikely to work. They’d presumably tell you that you need to come back full-time, stay out completely until you’re ready to come back full-time, or convert to part-time hourly.) However, any chance you and other employees there can push for real parental leave? It sounds like anyone in your office who has a baby in January would get zero paid leave (not even vacation or sick time), which is ridiculous.

{ 594 comments… read them below }

  1. Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii*

    Or hell, you could come up with some machiavellian goals
    World domination!
    You could get really creative and/or really ridiculous.
    If you want to troll them you could come up with ethically questionable “goals” but that is probably not a good idea if it won’t land well.

    As for world domination, it was a goal of Homer Simpson, Lisa saw through it pretty quickly to which Homer replied, i think that ones a typo.

    1. Jackalope*

      Regarding the other suggestions on the link for #1, I am definitely telling any future employers that try to have me give them personal goals that I’m working on dismantling the patriarchy.

      1. Jopestus*

        Well, that is not outlandish enough. I would prefer majorly inappropriate ones with great detail. I mean it, majorly.

        1. KeinName*

          I was thinking:
          work to get comfortable with my DIVAcup
          make my period more ecofriendly
          support the women in my family in ecofriendly period management

          1. CalypsoSummer*

            Good, good, excellent goals — but you forgot the part about making menstruation a normal topic for discussion at work.

            The extra detail about socializing that in order to let the public know that the company is woman-friendly as exemplified by that can wait until later, until the manager recovered from the shock of your previous announcement.

      2. Toodie*

        Just a few days ago I came across the older post that advised using “dismantle the patriarchy” as a personal goal. It’s on a Post-it at my desk now. Best advice ever.

    2. mandamus*

      I like to come up with really awkward goals:

      “I don’t want to be personally sued this year.”

      “Figure out what that smell in my bathroom is. The stretch goal is getting rid of the smell.”

      “wear matching socks at least once.”

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        I’m in the reptile hobby and give LW1 full permission to say: “Expand my snake room.”

        One afternoon on a reptile forum and they’ll be able to bombard the manager with the intricacies of tropical snake husbandry for ten minutes (those Brazilian rainbow boas are very particular). That’ll probably get a company-wide ban on personal goal sharing…

        1. T. insularis*

          Ohhh, a friend of mine is a very well-known keeper of venomous snakes. An afternoon on his YouTube channel would get you enough info to never have to discuss personal goals again. Goal- snake-proof room for my mambas and cobras. Let them think about where the snakes are RIGHT NOW!

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I used to work with someone whose hobby was breeding cockroaches. I bet his personal goals would… Be interesting.

            He left the company to teach middle school science.

            1. Rara Avis*

              My colleague, who teaches science, is an entomologist who studied cockroaches for her dissertation.

          2. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

            I so desperately want to watch that video! Unfortunately I think they changed the title. Any other clues would be greatly appreciated!

          3. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

            I watch a number of venomous keepers on youtube – I’m very curious who your friend is! Though obviously I completely understand privacy concerns, I wouldn’t complain about any hints dropped ;-)

          4. ophelia*

            Bonus points if you can explain straight-faced that you’re making it a goal to prevent them from getting into your work bag. Again.

          5. New Jack Karyn*

            “I’m hiding snakes in your car. You’re never gonna know where they are, or if you got them all out. Gonna lay their eggs right in the glove compartment.”

          6. cosmicgorilla*

            Ohhhh…this just makes me think your friend is in Raleigh, NC. (see: great zebra cobra escape that rocked the region)

        2. Dog and cat fosterer*

          Fostering sick animals often involves poop, and other disgusting problems. I share them with other rescuers, my diarrhea buddies, but if a workplace insisted… I could be pushed to share details. I have yearly personal goals about this, as I track how many I help, so sharing with an employer wouldn’t be extra work!

          1. Nicotena*

            Haha thank you for this – I foster kittens, which is obviously quite cute, but 99.9% of the job is dealing with poop and poop related issues, and the average person obviously does not grasp that!! They want adorable stories about baby kitties and all I’ve got is turd anecdotes :)

            1. OftenOblivious*

              When I had pet rabbits (indoor, semi free range), many of my thoughts revolved around the quantity and quality of their poops.

              (Rabbits are really sort of delicate and basically need to have food flowing through the system at all times)

              1. HoundMom*

                I so appreciate this comment. I have a house bunny and one of my morning to dos is to look at her poop and adjust her morning veggies appropriately. I literally have a chart for my husband that shows good poop and not good poop.

                1. Not a cat*

                  We COVID sat a bunny and learned all about poop inspection. And bunnies are alarming delicate! More than one emergency vet trip taught us that.

                2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  A friend used to have us look after his rabbit on occasion, and it was delightful. He told us one carrot and one lettuce leaf plus a handful of pellets a day. I was appalled, and fed him bits of peel or whatever from all sorts of veg. At the time I was getting veggie boxes where you just get whatever has ripened on the farm, and some of the stuff was pretty weird, so the rabbit got all the stuff I didn’t know how to cook. His poop was always exactly the same…

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                A friend used to have us look after his rabbit on occasion, and it was delightful. He told us one carrot and one lettuce leaf plus a handful of pellets a day. I was appalled, and fed him bits of peel or whatever from all sorts of veg. At the time I was getting veggie boxes where you just get whatever has ripened on the farm, and some of the stuff was pretty weird, so the rabbit got all the stuff I didn’t know how to cook. His poop was always exactly the same…

            2. ceiswyn*

              I spent six months caring for an elderly senile cat with digestive issues.

              Personal goal: figure out how he got it so high up the wall…

                1. Kal*

                  For the shoulder height one – possibly got some on his tail, then flicked his tail around cause of not liking the feeling of it on his tail.

                  We all know how I know. My kitty was a girl, though.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                oh dear, I have an elderly cat with dementia who howls at very regular intervals like she’s trying to vomit her innards, but as always, there’s someone who has it worse.

            3. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

              I vote “turd anecdotes” for best phrase of the week and I will now try to use it in all my conversations :)

          2. ThatGirl*

            Until we adopted a dog with frequent tummy issues I never knew how many conversations I could have about dog poop.

            1. Anna Wiv A Banner*

              Yup. Husband and I obsessively watch small-dog’s every bowel movement. That colitis is a beetch.

              1. PeanutButter*

                I adopted a diabetic senior cat and his friend who is very, very overweight (22 lbs! My vet’s goal is to get him down to 16-17lbs) and can’t fully clean himself this Spring, so a lot of my time is spent on the lookout for dingleberries and cleaning up the big cat and dealing with insulin diarrhea and the peeing like a racehorse from the sugar kitty. Whenever a co-worker asks me how my cats are doing I always ask if they are being polite or if they REALLY want to know the blood glucose levels, ketone readings, and where everyone’s morning BM landed on the Bristol chart.

          3. alienor*

            I have an elderly cat with chronic constipation, so much of my time goes to managing his diet, giving him his meds, and tracking whether he pooped and how much, not to mention cleaning up “surprise” poops that have dropped in random places around the house. The poops also occasionally get stuck halfway out, and sometimes I can help him with them (don’t ask how) but other times they just have to sort of…be there until they emerge on their own. It’s terrible when the poor guy wants to cuddle and I have to be like “I love you, buddy, but not until you finish pooping.”

          4. Anon For This, You’ll See Why*

            I once had to emergency raise a trio of orphaned stray kittens. Luckily they were close enough to being able to eat solids that I was able to transition them pretty quickly from a bottle to kitten formula + baby cereal, then baby kitten kibble mush, then regular food, pretty quickly. But until then- SO. MUCH. DIARRHEA. OMG.

        3. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

          I’m not into reptiles but I love plants, so how ’bout “building a poison garden in the backyard”?
          And then bring a potted plant for the office gift swap. Optional cackles when the recipient unwraps it.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Get my big Nepenthes to grow decent traps.
              Grow a Darlingtonia that doesn’t die.
              You could get all sorts of mileage out of this one! (and find yourself wanting a greenhouse)

              Breeding your tarantulas could have its points, too, depending on the manager.

              The down side: if the manager is someone like me and you start talking about expanding your reptile room or growing carnivorous plants, I will think I’ve found a kindred spirit and pester you incessantly for updates.

            2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

              What about breeding a carnivorous plant with an insatiable appetite for managers who think it’s their deity-given right to control their employees’ diets, exercise regimes, spiritual lives, personal relationships and free time? Come to think of it, you’d probably do a brisk business selling the seeds of that plant to exasperated employees with overreaching bosses!

            1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

              Well, you could start your research with John Riddle’s book “Eve’s Herbs” – it describes all kinds of plants used for “family planning”. You could grow quite a garden with those plants alone!

            1. Admin of Sys*

              I still remember a seed packet years ago that was basically this. They were combining random seeds by color into packets (which, now that I know about gardening, is a stupid idea) and the purple one contained deadly nightshade, monkshood, and foxglove!

              1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

                To be fair, they are all very pretty flowers. Wild foxglove is very common here, and whenever I have visitors from my home country I remind them not to pick any purple bells, just in case.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            I have 1000% joked about having two herbal gardens. Which one you get depends on how much I dislike you.

            This came up after in a discussion about gardening I mentioned that the birds kept planting more bittersweet nightshade and everyone was vaguely horrified I knew what it was, thinking it was deadly nightshade.

      2. BubbleTea*

        For quite a few months my house had a recurring Mysterious Stench, and eliminating it genuinely was one of my goals. At one point we were moving furniture to check for decomposing rodents and inspecting the fridge motor for problems (none detected of either). Eventually a combination of washing all soft furnishings including sofa cushion covers, shampooing the carpet, and cleaning out all drains including the washing machine waste pipe seemed to do the trick. I didn’t get any credit at work for my achievement though.

        1. PT*

          My HVAC system periodically gets what’s known as Dirty Sock Syndrome, where somehow bacteria gets in the system and when it gets cold out and the auxiliary heat pump comes on you get this weird musty moldy sock wet paint smell blasting out the vents. It’s delightful.

        2. Retired Prof*

          At the tail-end of the Great Rat Wars, one died in the wall with ensuing stench. We had several visits from the rat man with his mysterious instruments to try to figure out where it was in the wall. Of course it was apparently sandwiched between the shower stall and the family room cabinets – which one did we want to tear out? Instead I drilled some discreet holes and poured in bleach and lime and eventually the Awful Smell disappeared. Someday we will need a seance for the Spirit of Rat that the dog thinks still lingers in the house.

            1. whingedrinking*

              I have held a grudge against Canada geese ever since an unfortunate incident involving summer camp and a sandwich when I was five.

    3. Siege*

      I put in my syllabus that our eventual class goal was world domination, but I taught comp sci, and Wil Wheaton said it best when he looked out over a packed audience at Emerald City Comic Con and said “if a natural disaster hits while we’re in this panel, there’s no IT from here to Eugene,” so world domination was a reasonable goal.

    4. Emotional Support Care’n*

      World domination – one filing cabinet at a time! Mua ha ha ha!

      Organize my sock drawer alphabetically by color in Finnish.
      Create an herb garden choir; eventually they can sing to senior pets.
      Knit/crochet snake sweaters for the underprivileged snakes of the rich and shameless.

      1. river*

        It’s the snakes that are shameless if they’re not wearing sweaters! Cover those scales young reptile!

      2. soshedances1126*

        I work at a humane society, and one year we had a young child knit and donate a snake sweater with the most spectacular note. Including a section about the sweater supporting the snakes curves as it slithered along. It was the highlight of my year!

        1. Enter_the_Dragonfly*

          Oh my goodness, I don’t suppose you took a picture? I really really really want to read that!

    5. ducki3x*

      I once worked for a company that was going to lay my team off, but due to some quirks of scheduling, it took them 18 months to do it, and we still had to do annual goals. I put in “watch all the Rocky movies” because I’d never seen them and my boss was a big fan, so every two weeks, we’d meet to discuss my progress towards the goal, how Rocky was influencing my professional career, etc…

      1. Loredena Frisealach*

        Years ago I was hired at a well known food company’s pizza division office at corporate, and it turned out that they were hiring there with the goal of closing down the existing office in Wisconsin. (Apparently WI required a several months notice for this sort of thing.) One employee in the WI office set as her goal making it to 5 years. Due to our mutual employers love of annual restructurings, she was still there a few years later when the entire division was sold, so clearly made goal!

      2. It's Growing!*

        There’s an idea. I’ve never seen any of the Rocky movies or Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Exorcist or The Titanic or It’s a Wonderful Life, nor do I care to. I could set a goal to continue to not watch these movies! I’d throw in making it through Christmas 2021 without having to see even passing scenes of that totally repulsive movie my sister-in-law loves, A Christmas Story.

        1. Artemesia*

          I’m with you there — ‘not watching any Rocky movies’ was a personal goal of mine, almost thwarted years ago by Rocky IV showing on the big screen in an airplane cabin. I kept my head down and read my book — so, so far, so good.

          1. ducki3x*

            @Artemesia – You know, I thought the first Rocky was interesting – more of a drama than anything else – but the rest didn’t do a ton for me…until I got to Creed, which was absolutely outstanding. You can skip all the rest, but def give that one a look.

            @It’s Growing – Raiders of the Lost Ark is peak adventure movie, really worth a shot

    6. Allonge*

      Get better at saying no and drawing boundaries. What, it’s something we could all use some work on, right?

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        “There are some toxic people in my life that I can’t, for various reasons, completely cut off. My goal is to draw better internal boundaries and limit the influence they have on my own emotional life.”

        No need to mention that your boss is one of those people…

      2. CalypsoSummer*

        I think they might appreciate specific personal goals that can be easily measured, like learning the words and tunes to all of Lerner and Loewe’s songs. When asked for an update, you could stand up and start belting out “Brigadoon” or “I Could Have Danced All Night,” at full voice.

        1. Gumby*

          I would go with Tom Lehrer since belting out “The Masochism Tango”, “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park”, or “We Will All Go Together When We Go” tickle my funny bone more.

    7. John Smith*

      I would definitely troll, but I wouldn’t be subtle about it because when I last subtly intimated to my manager how awful he was, he just looked blankly at me and carried on as if I said nothing.

      You have my sympathies for working for such an organisation. Have fun trolling them. They deserve it.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I’d go with “buy a house” as one goal because it’s going to be fun seeing the manager trying to help without suggesting I get paid more.

        1. Your local password resetter*

          On the other hand, they might start digging into your personal finances and make “suggestions” for cutting costs/working more.

          1. pancakes*

            That’s not something people can do without your participation. Asking for personal financial information and actually receiving it are two very different things.

            1. Cat Tree*

              Sure, but it’s super easy for Boss to judge that fast food lunch or fancy shoes, even though those things won’t actually make enough of a difference when it comes to buying a house.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              I think that was a reference to a letter here where the OP’s boss tried to do just that.

          2. Salymander*

            Oh yes, including that favorite suggestion of every armchair financial adviser, “Just stop buying coffee drinks and save your money!”

            I mean yes, it would be cheaper to just drink whatever swill they have at work, if any. But there is value in indulging in small luxuries. Living an entirely spartan lifestyle may be cheaper, but it is also not much fun.

        2. Llama face!*

          What do you mean? All you need to do is give up your avocado toast and daily Starbucks! /sarc

          Hey mebbe that can be its own goal!

    8. allathian*

      Yeah, something about having a better work/life balance, probably. Although luckily I have a pretty decent one, I can pretty much forget my job even exists when I’m not actually working.

      This sort of question would be utterly unthinkable in my org. They do recognize that events in people’s personal lives can affect their work, but that’s it.

    9. Bagpuss*

      “My goal is to become better and enforcing personal boundaries around privacy, work-life balance and and the separation between my personal and business life.”

      Then when they ask for progress the answer is “Not too bad. I’m getting better at not sharing personal information , but still struggling with shutting down people asking inappropriate and intrusive questions”

    10. Richard Hershberger*

      World domination seems overly ambitious. I am aiming merely to take over the entire Tri-State area.

      1. Mangled metaphor*

        So your personal goals will be which inator you are working on this week, and where you’ve put the self-destruct button?

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          I’m not sure why I always put in a self-destruct button, but I fully intend to continue doing so!

          1. Your local password resetter*

            It comes in very handy in case it gets stolen or infiltrated by the heroes!
            Just push the button, watch the fireworks, and make a pithy statement on the improbably low survival rate for those pesky do-gooders!

          2. JLP*

            Just make sure to label it! I’m curious and if I don’t know what a button does, I push it. Totally gonna be awkward one day.

    11. Ashley*

      I love travel related big goals. Forces conversation on better pay and time off potentially.
      Depending on how well your office is doing with COVID, not catching COVID could be a personal goal.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This would be a good one for me. There’s a film music festival I’ve been trying to get to for the past several years. In Europe.

    12. Richard Hershberger*

      I see from Alison’s link to January of 2020 that I was reading the Sporting Life from the fall of 1891. I really slacked off on that for a while. Nearly two years later I am only up to June of 1892. In my defense, I have been writing my book, which doesn’t get within twenty years of 1892. In any case, if anyone asks me about my personal goals, I will give them a detailed account of what was going on in baseball in 1892.

      1. SparkleConsultant*

        Yes if you have to pick something please choose something that’s a complete fabrication so that it doesn’t even skim anything personal. By boss asks me repeated inappropriate questions about my health weekly and even trying to shut it down and giving vague but not at all useful answers takes a toll on my energy (and health!). This is 100% their problem. It can help to picture them in a little bubble of their own influence that can’t touch you when they bring this up.

        1. Dog and cat fosterer*

          There’s no need for it to be a fabrication! The world is full of many topics that would be painfully boring to someone not interested in sports, or animals. I would probably torment this type of company with how much I know about diarrhea and animal health.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            My thought was to say, “I have decided to help everyone around me learn to hydrate better. I have made you this handy little chart to fill in daily with the amount of water you had for the day. When we meet to go over my goals, we can go over your daily water intake at the same time.”

            Not only is this annoying and invasive but it requires daily work on his part. In my mind it’s a two-fer-one.

            It’s probably simpler just to say, “I will not be participating in this program.”

          2. kitryan*

            As a sort of calming technique to deal with personal stressors, I’ve been watching some hamster keeping YouTube channels (low stakes, minimal narrative to follow, cute furry creatures) and it’s amazing how much hamster info I now have on tap. I can bore the pants off someone now about a new thing!

          3. Dramatic Intent to Flounce*

            Or things where you’re not personally planning on taking up this extremely niche hobby, but you’re interested enough in it to learn a slightly absurd amount about saltwater tank upkeep or the nuances of speedrunning Super Mario 64 that you can report back to your overly-invested boss. Watching their eyes glaze over as you earnestly explain what, exactly, counts as an A-press for this very specific niche category in a niche community will prove entertaining, and with any luck you’ll only be asked about it once. (You got into it watching a biannual charity stream. Did you know people can beat this game blindfolded in under two hours? Wow. And they did it while raising millions for preventing cancer! How inspiring. Anyway here’s how this one time was only achieved because a stray neutrino hit the game in just the right way at just the right moment to cause a glitch that shaved off this many seconds from the run, which as you can tell is VERY impressive.)

      2. irene adler*

        Richard- Do I read/comprehend correctly? Are you working on a NEW book? I read the Strike Four book. Loved it. I have something to look forward to??

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Thank you. Yes, I have a contract with University of Missouri Press. My working title is “The Rise of Baseball 1744-1871.” University presses have an extra layer of process, with the result that the likely release will not be until early 2024.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Everything is available on Amazon, once it is available at all. Academic presses are entirely happy to sell through them.

              Also, reader reviews are always appreciated, he hinted.

            2. pancakes*

              I don’t like Amazon at all and want to point out a great resources for buying books from university presses: The University Press Sales Bot on Twitter. It does exactly what it sounds like, tweets about sales.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                Publishers traditionally were reluctant to sell directly to readers for fear of destroying their relationships with their distributors. Amazon has changed things. Nowadays many (all?) university presses are happy to sell directly. Sometimes this is through other outfits. Order a book from University of Missouri Press (my upcoming publisher) and the shopping cart page is a University of Chicago URL. As for trade publishers, the smaller ones also are eager to sell directly. Last time I checked, the majors weren’t doing this. I expect it will come sooner rather than later.

                1. pancakes*

                  I have seen that happen sometimes with urls. If you look at the University of Missouri Press wiki page, it seems they have a distribution arrangement with Chicago.

                  Bookstore dot org is good for finding independent bookstores when buying direct doesn’t work out.

              2. Richard Hershberger*

                From the author’s perspective, if a direct purchase option is available, that is the best one to use. Royalties for smaller presses are usually based on wholesale rather than retail price. In a direct sale the two are identical.

                That being said, the sort of writing I do would be absurd if I were in it for the money, and I likely could get more by self-publishing. That would miss the point. I am doing this because I have things to say. Self-publishing scholarly nonfiction is a good way to shout into an empty void. Going through the publisher is the price of having a voice in the conversation. Any income is strictly beer money. So what I tell anyone who feels moved to buy my book is to buy it however works best for you.

      3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        In any case, if anyone asks me about my personal goals, I will give them a detailed account of what was going on in baseball in 1892.

        That could backfire. I’m a Pittsburgh Pirates fan and they were relevant back then.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Well, if by “relevant” you mean “in existence” then yes, but if you mean “good” then not so much. Apart from a surprisingly strong performance in 1893, it wasn’t until the next decade that they were a powerhouse. They won the jackpot when the National League contracted in 1900 from twelve to eight clubs, by picking up Honus Wagner from Louisville.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I meant pre-1900, not 1891 specifically. And I think there’s a good argument they were more relevant in the early 1890’s than they have been since 2015.

            And yea. Bless Dreyfuss and the Colonels.

          2. Aitch Arr*

            Fun fact, which only Richard might care about: I have a personal connection to Duke Farrell.

            Revealing it would reveal my identity, so I’ll be vague.

      4. Empress Matilda*

        Okay, I actually do want to know what was going on in baseball in 1892! When is your book coming out?

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          1892? Very distant. The one I am working on now only goes up to 1871, and even that is probably not coming out until 2024. My grandiose vision is a trilogy, the second volume running from 1871-1891 and the third from 1891-1903. (Why 1903? The peace treaty between the NL and AL, which set up the institutional structures of modern MLB.)

    13. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      Best goal I’ve ever heard someone use for a thing like this was “Fail to beat a Guinness World Record every week.” You can claim you’re being realistic if they complain (you’re not saying you’ll beat it successfully) – and all you have to do is open the book to a random page, tell your boss what one of the records is, and say “nope, didn’t beat it.”

      1. quill*

        “most marshmallows stuffed in mouth at one time”

        Boss, I thought there was a risk I could beat it, so I just… didn’t eat marshmallows this week.

    14. L.H. Puttgrass*

      “My goal is to need fewer goals and find greater happiness in the life I already have.”

      Go zen on them, that’s what I say.

      1. Bamcheeks*

        “Be less goal-orientated” is a real one that several of my friends with a tendency to anxiety and perfectionism have had as … a goal.

        As one of life’s natural coasters, I am fundamentally opposed to the idea of goals in my personal life. I would really not deal well with this.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          When I was much younger and much more goal-oriented, someone shared a copy of “The Tao of Pooh” with me. To young striver me, it was…I dunno, like giving a shark a book on the benefits of a plant-based diet.

          Thirty-ish years later, I finally get it.

      2. Cat Tree*

        Not in a work context, but I decided several years ago that my New Year’s Resolution is to stop feeling inadequate about various aspects of my life and to accept myself for who I am.

    15. Meg*

      My first thought is “I’ve let my relationship call to the back burner. I really have one real personal focus this year. My personal goal is to be intimate with my partner more often” because… well… what are they going to say, let’s reconvene and discuss your sex life?

      Or geez, I’d really like to lose weight, so let’s reconvene and discuss your weight? (Unfortunately I read this blog too much to believe every employer would just say they would let it drop there, some of these employers really think they get to discuss your weight with you if you’re heavy.)

      1. Nicotena*

        Yeah I’d just lie about something bland and then lie again about my progress. Make the conversation boring and maybe they’ll move on.

      2. MustardPillow*

        I’m naturally quite thin and had a manager who enjoyed talking about it because? I’d make my personal goal to gain weight and expect snacks with any follow ups. “You’re supposed to be helping me right?”

    16. DiscoUkraine!*

      Dear Nosy Boss,
      Per our earlier conversation, below are my personal goals for the quarter:

      1) Crush my enemies
      2) See them driven before me
      3) Hear the lamentation of their women

      Thank you for the opportunity for personal enrichment. Please reach out if you have any questions.



      1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

        But is this actionable as it stands? I mean, how many enemies are you aiming to crush per quarter? What about your enemy-crushing stretch goal?
        What are your metrics for seeing them driven before you? Is there a set distance they need to cover before it counts? Miles or kilometers?
        I’m going to need documentation for the lamentations of their women. Social media posts?
        All best,
        Nosy Boss

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          Is the distance from you, or from their starting point? are you allowed to chase them?

          If the partner starts celebrating instead of lamenting, does that count towards the goal, or is it a negative?

        2. Blonde Spiders*

          Excellent point. How does this fit into SMART goals?

          Specific: Crush my immediate enemies. Tertiary enemies can wait until next cycle.
          Measurable: Crush exactly 5 enemies. Any more is out of scope.
          Attainable: How to crush them? Literally crush skulls, or spread nasty rumors? What makes more sense with the resources you have?
          Relevant: Does enemy-crushing align with my long term goals?
          Time-Based: (See Attainable) Ask PM to create different timelines based on skull-crushing or rumor-spreading, see what’s within scope.

          (that was enjoyable)

    17. Jayn*

      I’d be inclined to go for weird but mundane. “Get neighbors dog to stop pooping on my lawn.” “Track down an oil painting of a girl riding a polar bear.” “Teach squirrels to roller blade.”

    18. Decima Dewey*

      Machiavellian goals sound great, but my inclination would be to propose personal goals that would make the follow up sessions mind-numbingly boring.

      “As to my goal of purchasing a Phillips head screwdriver, remember that last week I priced them at major hardware chains? Well, this week I priced them at independent hardware stores. And when I picked up prescription at CVS I saw some tiny ones for crafts, so next week I’ll see what RiteAid, Walgreens, and other chains might have….”

      1. whingedrinking*

        At one point I legitimately had the goal “make perfectly clear ice cubes”.
        I am happy to share my note with anyone who needs to bore the pants off someone else.

    19. TootsNYC*

      I really wouldn’t want to have my boss judging and evaluating me on the progress I make or don’t make on any personal goals.
      I might have the goal of fixing the microwave, or repairing the plaster in the bathroom, but it also may not be all that urgent to me, and I don’t want someone else to decide their opinion matters on how fast I do it.

    20. wendelenn*

      “I’d like to live just long enough to be there when they cut off your head and stick it on a pike as a warning to the next ten generations that some favors come with too high a price. …
      Can you and your associates arrange this for me?”

      Bonus points for the fact that Vir Cotto actually ACHIEVED this goal and got to give the snarky wave to Morden’s head on the pike.

  2. Caramel & Cheddar*

    #2) I’ve never worked at a hotel, but have always gotten the sense that discretion around guests is paramount, whether someone is bringing their apparent mistress or getting up to some other mysterious but not illegal behaviour. There’s nothing for the friend to do here except continue doing their job like they always do, because being chummy/familiar with a guest doesn’t really change the expectation of privacy or discretion.

    1. banoffee pie*

      I don’t think hotels care much about that type of thing and are used to all sorts. That reminds me of a daft thing that happened to me. I was accused of being a sex worker once at a hotel because several people had used my room number to get in for a free breakfast. (Yes all you had to do was give a room number.) I assume they’d just come in off the street, made up a number and taken a chance, since most hotels use the same numbering system, but obviously a more likely explanation was that all these men I’d been with in the night had been sent down by me for a free breakfast (!) The breakfast bouncer woman was threatening to call the police until I showed her my credit card had paid for the room. Even then she wasn’t totally placated but had to back off. I’m pretty sure she believes to this day I got away with something. Weird encounter.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        I’m pretty sure I had a hotel room next to an escort once in Montreal. There were loud you know noises about once a hour all weekend including like 6 am on Monday. My husband was like “that guy’s a stud!” I was like “no one is that much of a stud – I think it’s a sex worker.”

        1. allathian*

          When I was traveling in Paris in the mid-90s with a few friends, we stayed at a really cheap hotel. It had thin walls. When we got there, I realized that they rented out some of the rooms by the hour. Luckily we only stayed in our room to sleep, although being woken up at 7 am by the bedstead banging against the wall of the next room when you’re on vacation and could sleep in is not an experience I’d care to repeat…

          1. banoffee pie*

            My story happened in Paris too but in a 4 star hotel. Maybe that was the problem. I wasn’t dressed swanky like most of the rest of the guests and they probably wondered how I could afford the room.

        2. Sandi*

          I was at a conference in Virginia Beach years ago when an Aussie commented that he hadn’t chosen the best hotel. He was in an elevator with a couple, and as they left the elevator she gave him a business card with a wink and the comment “I’ll be free in an hour if you’re interested”. I admire her tactic, but it made me think that some places must have a lot of interesting people!

        3. yala*

          When I was still in hostels before finding a flat in London, one of my roommates was a sex worker. Fortunately, she didn’t bring her clients back to the room.

          It was an adventurous sort of hostel. Six strangers jammed into a room above a bar. No hot water. I got pretty serious about apartment hunting.

        4. Retired Prof*

          My dad was once on a business trip and heard a voice calling “Help!” from the next room. He called the front desk, and when the clerk arrived and unlocked the room next door, Pop followed him into the room. No one there. But they heard a muffled “Help!” coming from the couch, which turned out to be a sofa bed – with a man folded inside. The guy claimed he just wanted to know what it would feel like to be folded up in the couch. But Pop suspected the guy had been rolled by a hooker and her pimp. Pop never said what the guy was wearing… or not wearing.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        … Come on, breakfast bouncer, that’s not how prostitution works. The client pays. The provider does not throw in a free breakfast buffet.

        1. Gray Lady*

          It wouldn’t have to be anything the provider did, if the clients just knew the hotel’s policy and used the room number.

      3. Nanani*

        I’m sorry that happened to you. Misogyny (“women affording hotel rooms? UNPOSSIBLE”) meets anti-SW garbage. Ugh.

        1. RagingADHD*

          I mean, hotels charge by occupancy in order to cover costs like the breakfast buffet. The “bouncer” could rightfully object to a bunch of people getting free meals on a single room without bringing sex work into it at all.

        2. banoffee pie*

          thank you, I appreciate it. I was a bit scared of the police coming tbh and a lot of this was happening in French so it was intimidating.

        1. banoffee pie*

          Believe me, I tried in vain to explain to her how easy the system was to game. She could not or would not understand it.

    2. MK*

      Honestly, I think the trouble began with describing the relationship as a friendship, when…it’s really not? There are professional relationships that can get intimate by the nature of the work, but they are not friendships.

      In this case, the hotel worker feels weird because he knows that man and his wife, but you are right that the professional relationship implies some degree of discretion. It would be a huge overreach to tell off the husband or contact the wife (the only reactions I can think of) and their employer would be rightly annoyed if they did that.

    3. UKDancer*

      Definitely! I’ve worked in tourism (although not in a hotel) and the rule was absolutely that you didn’t comment on what people got up to unless it was significantly illegal or disturbed people in the vicinity. So it was usually fine for someone to bring a sex worker back to their room (sex work not being technically illegal in the UK) but it was not fine for them to make large amounts of noise with the sex worker or violate rules on room occupancy or smoking.

      It’s not uncommon for people staying in hotels to bring someone who is not their spouse with them. Part of what people are paying for in an hotel is discretion and privacy. None of my then friends in the hotel side of the tourism industry would have commented on who was staying with whom. Hotel staff are not the morality police.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yeah, I’d guess that a hotel that turned away affairs and sex work would alienate a significant part of its clientele.

      2. PeanutButter*

        A long time ago I worked Night Audit while in school, and we had plenty of regulars who were full-service sex workers operating out of their rooms. Even though it was (and still is) illegal in that area, no way were we going to call law enforcement on customers who paid their bills on time and caused no ruckus and didn’t need maid service every day.

        It really can’t be overstated how little most hospitality/hotel workers care about what people do in the privacy of their rooms as long as they don’t make more work or bother other guests.

    4. Your local password resetter*

      The guest did put him in a weird spot though.
      By explicitly telling him he had a mistress amd asking him to keep quiet, he now has to pick sides in this personal affair.

      1. unpleased*

        No, no he doesn’t. The LW’s friend just has to behave according to industry standards, which according to the people who have commented here who know something about this, means discretion is key. The friend does nothing.

      2. pancakes*

        Are you assuming that the guest’s wife also visits the hotel? Even in the extremely unlikely event she does, the letter writer can simply pick a side in their own mind.

          1. pancakes*

            I skipped over that part, but it doesn’t change my answer: The letter writer’s friend would be out of line to get involved in these people’s marriage in any way, and any side-taking doesn’t need to be communicated to anyone.

            1. LouLou*

              Totally agreed! I do see why they feel more awkward since they also interact with the wife regularly, but they really can’t get involved.

    5. allathian*

      Yeah, this is unfortunate, but it’s also something that hotel staff deal with routinely. The hotel employee should just treat the client like any other, in a friendly and professional manner. While protecting customer confidentiality is a part of his job, if he doesn’t want to be friends with a cheater, it’s okay to say that, but only if they’ve been close enough to hang out when he’s not working, and only if the client wonders why he’s no longer acting so chummy.

    6. OyHiOh*

      Having worked both back of house and front of house in hotels – you see nothing!

      You might have a bit of gossip in the break room about things you *found* in rooms but otherwise, I saw nothing, nothing at all. The men’s softball team bunking 4 to a room (2 bed room) and used PPE on every imaginable surface? We went in with masks and gloves (long before masks and gloves were standard, generally used just for blood contamination), cleaned up, and later gossiped about the PPE count, but I don’t recall any speculation as to how four men sharing a room could have managed such a feat. I mean, there’s the obvious explanation but we didn’t say it or even suggest it.

    7. Chickaletta*

      My ex-husband worked at a nice hotel when he was young and had all kinds of stories about what people were up to, celebrities too. But discretion WAS key. As a hotel employee, he had the “privilege” (perhaps that’s the wrong word but you get the gist) of seeing into people’s personal lives, so in return, he had the responsibility of being respectful with that information.

    8. Elmer W. Litzinger, spy*

      I work at a hotel and you don’t talk about this sort of thing. It’s not our business.

      Years ago after check in we had the bellman help a couple down to their room. When he returned he said that was an old teacher, but not the spouse of the teacher! We wondered if the guest was now hoping no one told the spouse, but that was it.

  3. Talley Lach*

    I think LW 4 has emergency contacts backwards. The LW wouldn’t be contacting the emergency contacts, nor would the emergency contacts be contacting the LW’s employer. I always thought the emergency contacts are in case something happens to the employee at work (an accident or a heart attack) the employer can contact that person so they can go to the hospital or notify other family members etc. I still can’t think why you’d need one more than 100 miles away. Presumably if there was a natural disaster that affected everyone within 100 miles, the office wouldn’t be in charge of notifying anyone.

    1. PollyQ*

      Yes, that’s my understanding of how emergency contacts work. And living in earthquake country, I can kind of understand why you’d want someone outside the area, since it’s theoretically possible that “The Big One” will hit, and all my closest family, who are local, would be unreachable. But I don’t know what my NY-based relative would do with the information that I was injured or missing in that case. She’s certainly not going to hop on a plane to check up on me, and she wouldn’t have any better luck reaching my local family than the employer would.

      1. Hekko*

        I presume the distant contact can then try to reach the person or their immediate family (not all of whom may be listed as emergency contacts for that person) while letting the company employee contact everyone else they need to contact and also take care of themselves, since they would be also in the affected area.

      2. Nicotena*

        I think it’s not-uncommon in the DC area; my old job was close-ish to the pentagon and presumably they wanted to be prepared for an attack, so you couldn’t list contacts who would also be in the blast zone or whatever. I do agree that since the office itself was in that same area, it’s unclear who would be reaching out to Dear Aunt Mildred in Des Moins; I guess it’s just backed up on the cloud for whoever is left to sort through … morbid.

        1. quill*

          I think if they’re working on the assumption that nobody in the area will be reachable, the emergency contact will be contacted much later, and only if they need to arrange a funeral.

      3. PT*

        I have read this as a tip in natural disaster preparedness, assign a relative or friend who lives out of the area as a point of contact. Since presumably a hurricane or forest fire or whatnot would knock out local communications, instead of everyone trying to contact each other to check on each other, everyone checks in with Uncle John in Chicago (which generally would not be involved in either disaster) and then Uncle John sorts out where everyone is and if they need extra assistance.

        I am frankly unsure how this affects a business, though. You would think a business would set their emergency point of contact as a business contact out of state- in the event of a disaster call our Chicago office- not demand everyone set a personal one.

        1. Calm Water*

          I remember hearing this as well – but it was in the days of land lines. I also remember being told that if there was an emergency and land lines were working but overwhelmed, long distance calls might get through when local calls would not. But I don’t know enough about phone systems to know if this is actually true.

          1. Nikara*

            Yes, this is actually true for landline phones. Overall, it’s much easier to text than to do any sort of call during a major disaster- a lot less data needs to get through, and there doesn’t have to be a continual connection.

        2. Nikara*

          This is the exact idea for a major disaster- one person holds information on how people are doing, and everyone goes to that one person for updates, instead of a tangled web of people. Obviously, you need that person’s consent to act as the emergency contact. It doesn’t even have to be a catastrophic disaster- a long power outage can easily takeout the cell towers and would make it very challenging to communicate locally.

          I’m happy to see a business encouraging people to set up out of state contacts. There definitely could be situations where they could be used. Here’s a scenario- a major earthquake impacts office A. The staff at office A do a building check and account for everyone. Cell phone/landline phones are down, but they are able to communicate via a satellite phone with Office B. Office B could then let those emergency contacts out of the impacted area know that their loved ones are safe, and sheltering at work.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Surely if an earthquake is so bad that you’d need to let relatives far away know, the company will not be in a position to be doing business? Or if their premises were not touched, people are going to understand that there will be disruptions to normal living because the other half of the city fell down.
        I mean, on another forum, a freelancer was moaning back in Feb 2020 that his client had disappeared without paying him. Turned out the client was in Wuhan. We just told him, read the news, it’s worse than civil war out there, no way this guy can get to the bank, even if he’s not dead or dying. Yes it might be possible to pay without going to the bank, but sorry you’re not a priority right now, get on with other work and reach out to the guy once things have calmed down.

      1. banoffee pie*

        I don’t think there’s anyone who lives more than 100 miles away from me who cares enough about me to be an emergency contact. I’m not even joking. I’d have to make someone up… John Smith, 123 Fake Street ;)

          1. JM in England*

            Conversely, what happens if any employees of this company don’t have any relatives who live 100+ miles away?

            1. Shirley You're Joking*

              Yup. This employer hasn’t thought this through. I’m in HR and the two times we’ve used someone’s emergency contacts were to check that employees were ok at home because they didn’t come in. One person was found passed out from a medical condition. You can always call the police for a wellness check in these situations, but isn’t it better to call the person the employee told us to call? So, yeah, someone 100+ miles away could, in many situations, be pretty useless.

              1. EvilQueenRegina*

                Anyone remember that letter a while back where someone’s boss called their mother, who was an employee for the same company but in a different state, and bypassed the original emergency local contact, and there wasn’t even an emergency in the first place? In that situation mother did the only thing that could have been any use, and called the local partner herself. In similar posts there have been other comments where a contact was far enough away to be of little use practically in such a situation.

              2. Anonym*

                I could see having a local contact for most things and a non-local one for disasters. Seems like a pretty simple solution!

              3. LouLou*

                The employer hasn’t thought this through…OR this is a general policy that doesn’t work with some peoples’ unique personal circumstances. FWIW, I’m not familiar with the concept of emergency contacts needing to be 100 miles away, but OP’s short explanation made perfect sense to me. Not understanding all these takes!

              4. Nancy*

                The out of area emergency contact is not for the situation you describe. It’s for the unlikely event of a disaster where everyone is trying to make local calls at once. Hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, etc. I was asked to give an out of area contact and a local one.

                Anyone who doesn’t have someone not local just leaves it blank.

                1. raktajino*

                  Are out of area calls still doable when local calls aren’t functioning? Is this is also applicable to cell networks or just landlines?

                  Earthquake country here: my emergency plan involves an out of area contact with the assumption that all my local family and friends will also be in the same disaster zone and dealing with the same problems. I also am operating on the assumption that phones just won’t be reliable for a few days, regardless of who I’m calling.

              5. Loredena Frisealach*

                Several years ago I was on a project where the consultants flew in from all across the country and were onsite Monday through Thursday. One consultant though made arrangements to rent a local place instead so either was there over the weekend, or possibly drove to another state to visit a friend.

                So, one week it was about midweek when we realized he hadn’t been in all week, yet no one recalled him saying he was going on vacation. We called HR to find his emergency contact, who turned out to be his ex wife (and she was not pleasant at all about the call!). Then we looked at social media and found the above friend, pinged her to ask if he had gone there. Nope. We finally resorted to calling the police for a wellness check. He’d had a widow-maker heart attack at some point on the weekend. :(

                1. Artemesia*

                  Every work related wellness check I have been aware of — 3 in my lifetime — has ended this way. Almost no one just doesn’t show up for work so when it happens, prepare for the worst. And don’t let it go too long without that wellness check.

                2. Loredena Frisealach*

                  The first one I was aware of it was the client who did the check. This one I somehow ended up being the one to make all the calls, and it leaves you with a sick feeling and a lot of if only we had checked sooner thoughts.

            2. pancakes*

              I don’t see why it would have to be a relative, specifically, but if they don’t have any good friends that fit the bill either, surely nothing would happen? They would say, “I can’t give you a name since my emergency contacts are all closer than that,” and that would be that. It’s a non-issue. The employer isn’t going to demand that someone fabricate a name, or take a trip to some random place outside of the designated zone in hopes of befriending people there.

              1. Nancy*

                Yep, HR doesn’t care who the contact is or whether you even give one.

                None of my contacts are relatives because I chose friends who I know always have their phones on and with them.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yeah, I have plenty, but I haven’t spoken to them in ages.
            Oh, if we can cite people who live several thousand miles away, I have plenty of in-laws. Small problem: there aren’t that many who speak English well enough to be of any use.

        1. Wigged out*

          Same. I literally have no one that lives more than 100 miles away from me. All my friends and family are local!

        2. ThatGirl*

          My mom is about a 2.5 hr drive from me, and I just mapped it, it’s about 130 miles, so that would count. She could get here in a reasonable amount of time if needed, as long as she was at home in the first place. So, I guess.

          1. pancakes*

            That doesn’t seem like a problem, either. My understanding of the purpose of emergency contacts is that they can be contacted in case something happens, either because they are family or a close friend and would want to be informed, or because they’re someone who can be counted on to inform the people who want to be informed. A number of people here seem to have a different understanding, whereby an emergency contact is someone who can spring into action to provide urgent care in an emergency. I don’t think that’s quite right.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              But in an emergency that bad that you can’t call someone in the neighbourhood, I doubt I’d be calling work to let them know I was suffocating under a building that collapsed. I’d just think, they saw the news, if I don’t come in everyone will realise what’s happened. And anyway what chance is there that anyone else will have got in to work that day? And if someone did, they might just have too much work to do filling in for the absent to be able to start chasing up faraway relatives. And even if they decided that the priority at work was to contact all employees and contact the distant emergency numbers of those they didn’t get through to, what then? How is it going to help anyone?

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Saw once as an emergency contact:

          Cellophane, MR
          123 Not Real Blvd
          Anywhere, CA 50005

          I stopped and had a good chuckle over that one, then back to work.

    2. Allonge*

      Yes, for me this is nonsense to the level of suspecting it’s a typo. As in, someone redrafted that sentence to many times and there is an extra ‘not’ left.

      I mean, I now live at more than that distance from my parents, but there have been long periods in my life where my answer would have been a ‘…what do you think my third cousin I meet once a decade can do about any emergency I am having here???’

      1. Underrated Pear*

        In earthquake-prone places this is not uncommon, although as I’ve said in a response below, I question how useful it is for most workplaces. BUT one organization has always asked me for an out-of-area emergency contact is our kids’ daycare and preschool. Because god forbid there is an earthquake while the kid is at school and the parents are unreachable… they need to try to find someone in an unaffected area who they can contact. Obviously how easily that person could respond/get there depends on many factors, but there needs to be some kind of plan in place if at all possible.

        1. Birch*

          This makes sense in the context of children, less so for adults. But even then, it’s dangerous bordering on irresponsible to ask only for a contact that far away when the most likely scenario is a single person having an emergency and needing their close family member there ASAP. Why not ask for 2 contacts?

          1. Snow Globe*

            I assumed the company asked for both a local contact and one 100 miles away and the LW was questioning why the second was needed.

          2. Underrated Pear*

            Like the above commenter said, in my experience they usually want a “normal” emergency contact as well as one out-of-area.

            I’m a little amused by the furor this letter has caused. If the LW is under the impression the company ONLY wants someone far away, that is likely a misunderstanding. And if an employee doesn’t have someone they can/want to put down, just leave it blank.

        2. goducks*

          I live in the pacific northwest and since we are due for a massive earthquake my kids schools have always wanted a out of area emergency contact. I haven’t seen it in an employment situation, but for kids, definitely.

        3. BubbleTea*

          My son’s guardian if anything happens to me (single parent) is my brother. He lives between two cities, one which is 100+ miles away and one which isn’t. He would bob in and our of being eligible depending where he was! But then again we don’t really get earthquakes here so it’s unlikely to be an issue.

          1. Lime green Pacer*

            There’s more to worry about than earthquakes. Climate change has seen an entire city in my province evacuated due to wildfire, and a city in a neighbouring province evacuated due to flooding.

        4. Sara*

          We were always told to have a shared contact between all family members who’s out of town in an earthquake. Basically as a home-base to check in with – the school or kids might not be able to get through to someone local even if they’re fine. And the local parent/guardian might not be able to contact the school either, but can contact the same remote emergency contact. And then basically use this person as a message board/proxy for communication. Basically I think the logic is that when the phone systems are unstable, you’re more like to get a connection to someone outside the affected region than within the affected region.

    3. WS*

      I live in a bushfire prone area and we all have one emergency contact outside the area for this reason – last time we all got evacuated, all phone communication went down in the area and there was very spotty mobile service for weeks afterwards. For 24 hours we didn’t know if one employee and her family were alive, but we managed to contact her out-of-area person and then after a day she managed to contact them too, and they could relay the information to us. But our phone reception didn’t line up with her phone reception for over a week afterwards, and there was no non-resident access to the area where she lived for nearly 2 weeks.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I’m kind of surprised people are focusing on earthquakes and not wildfires which are becoming a big problem in the American west. If there’s a fire, communication in the area can really grind to a halt and calling emergency contacts who are also trying to evacuate from a fire is a mess. Having an outside contact means you can alert them to the emergency and they hopefully can take over and start coordinating things (simple things like being a good phone line to call hospitals or closer family or look on Facebook to see if the person has activated their Im safe status, etc.)

        The chance of an emergency contact being used is super low, but if it’s needed you want to make sure you aren’t wasting time and can get the persons “circle” notified quickly.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          What exactly is the employer’s role in this, though?

          If you’re a organisation that has a significant role to play in emergencies, it makes sense to have some kind of contact point so you can gather people for a first response situation. Or I can see employers being tasked with coordinating contacts and check-ins with employees on behalf of the authorities just so they’ve got the infrastructure. But if this is about checking whether I’m coming in to handle widget spreadsheets in the middle of an emergency, I’m not sure I want you to have my contacts!

          1. LouLou*

            The employer’s role is it’s completely normal for employers to 1) want to be able to notify family in case of injury and death 2) find out what has happened to an employee in case of an emergency when they haven’t heard from them. I’m not sure why you’d jump to “they obviously want me to make spreadsheets during a 1000 year flood!”

            1. bluephone*

              Welcome to the AAM readership, where everyone jumps to the weirdest conclusions with less than negative provocation

        2. raktajino*

          As someone who grew up in Seattle, I think some of it is the newness of the degree of risk. Earthquakes are something the whole I-5 area has had looming for decades. Wildfires affecting the “wet side” of the Pacific Northwest specifically are very new. The idea that people in metro areas might have to evacuate from actual fire is definitely a last five years thing. It was primarily a concern for southern California and east of the Cascades before that.

    4. Asenath*

      In fact, my emergency contacts with at least one organization are the other way around; they want a local contact. My next of kin, the person I do want notified if I am unexpectedly carted off to the hospital, lives well over 100 miles away, so I was asked if I could put a second, local one down as well. I chose a friend who is close (bother personally and in terms of location) as a kind of secondary emergency contact.

      1. EPLawyer*

        That’s the point of emergency contact. Someone to let the company know the employee needs help. What someone from over 100 miles can do when told Adorabelle is on her way to the hospital I am not sure. They aren’t going to be able to get to the hospital quickly.

        1. Asenath*

          Well, in my case, if I were carried off from my workplace to a hospital while unconscious, it’s only my more distant emergency contact who can legally speak for me about my medical care, presumably by phone to the hospital. My local friend can’t make my medical decisions, but can contact my actual legal next of kin. Now, in my case, it wouldn’t matter who my employer had listed because the hospital I’d be taken to already has my information on file. I suspect there are many people whose emergency contact is pretty far away from where they live. We’re a very mobile population. I hadn’t thought about the possibility of an earthquake or flood – not likely where I live – when we’ve had other weather-related emergencies my employer closed down anyway, and the emergency didn’t shut down all communication with the outside world.

        2. pancakes*

          I don’t agree that the point of emergency contacts is to have a list of names and numbers of people who can do something quickly. My understanding has always been that the point is to have the names and numbers of one or two people who can inform others close to the employee that there’s been an emergency. The hospital (or paramedics, or fire dep’t, etc.) would be providing treatment or care for the emergency, after all, not the contacts themselves.

      2. goducks*

        When my kids schools ask for a contact that is out of the area, it is a specific contact designated that way in addition to normal local emergency contacts. The reality of living under the threat of a 9.0 earthquake that is expected to decimate the region is that your local emergency contact will likely all be victims, too. Only family a long way away may be able to take in survivors. It’s a totally grim fact.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          That makes sense for schools which have enough reach to play major role in identifying and tracking young people and acting in loco parentis if parents aren’t available, but how would it function for employers? I’m really confused what responsibility an employer thinks they would have in this extreme situation!

          1. Malarkey01*

            Are you in the US? I only ask because here this is completely normal to have emergency contacts and you seem to have a few questions about why.

            An emergency contact is someone your employer can contact to let them know you have become incapacitated or to alert them if you stop showing up to work. I’ve had an employee have a stroke at work and become unconscious, 911 arrives to take them to the hospital and we can provide his name but there’s no central registry for the hospital to know who to call and for this particular gentleman who was single they can’t call his home either. I pulled his file, saw his emergency contact was his sister, called her and told her what happened and which hospital he was going to- that’s it. I assume she took that information and could call other family members, the hospital, etc. but instead of having someone alone, unconscious at the hospital unable to tell people who to call, someone is aware. It’s a pm employees responsibility because a) you’re a decent human who needs to help people in an emergency and b) these people are your employees and injured at your workplace (or missing from it) and you need to inform family.

            1. Tali*

              Yeah but what is an employer supposed to do with an emergency contact 100 miles away? A major earthquake devastates the area around the workplace, all your local emergency contacts are also victims–so is the idea that the employer would go around calling emergency contacts across the country? To do what? There is no info they can get from them and no reason to give them information. The employer is not responsible for acting in loco parentis for their adult workers, so why would an employer need an emergency contact 100 miles away?

              I say this as someone who lives somewhere with frequent earthquakes–we have safety plans for employees to sleep/eat at work for 3 days, an emergency phone tree, and emergency contacts with no distance specified.

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Still kinda weird. The employer seems to have their risk calculations out of whack.

      OP is at work, a hurricane or earthquake hits, OP is injured, and OP’s company “needs” somebody 100 miles away to contact. Because the people 100 miles to notify, what would they do? Rely on local emergency services, try to contact local friends & family, leave voice mails or social media posts. Well that’s presumably what employer would do if OP was on the job at the time.

      Are they thinking that they have liability for failure to contact someone? Large-scale natural disasters usually relax the standards for that kind of thing (act of God, force majeure, etc.).

      1. Calliope*

        No, the issue is that someone far away who’s not directly affected by the disaster is more likely to be able to try and contact local friends and family because they’re not affected by the disaster. Conversely, folks on site are not necessarily going to be able to do more than one phone call. And it may be easier to reach a long-distance number than a local one if communications are disrupted. It’s not really that sinister or weird.

        1. Crop Tiger*

          But if the company can’t contact local contacts because of of an emergency like an earthquake, volcano or wildfire, neither can someone 100 miles away. Sure, you can contact my second cousin, but what are they supposed to do?

          1. Calliope*

            They’re can then try until they can get through and be a point of coordination. Which someone in the immediately affected disaster area probably cannot. It won’t work every time but it’s another layer of protection.

    6. TootsNYC*

      I remember in the late 1970s or early 1980s, when I lived in Iowa, there was a tornado or horricane that devastated an area, and all the phone lines were clogged with people trying to reach their loved ones in the disaster zone.

      These phone calls absolutely interfered with the ability of actual responders for elsewhere to reach anyone official in the zone to coordinate a response.

      There was a huge push on TV news, etc., for people to designate (inside their families) someone who lived farther away as a response person. The person in the zone would call Grandma or Aunt Talley, and then cousins, friends, etc., would call Grandma or Aunt Talley, who would say, “they are safe.”
      It keeps phone calls out of the zone.

      This sounds like an extension of that. “If there were a hurricane or terrorist attack, and we needed to know whether you were alive, who would you contact outside of our area?”

      A little on the weird side, but not that bad.

    7. English Teacher*

      Thank you for pointing this out, their reasoning was really confusing me as well. As far as the reason for this policy–i’m also in the DC area, and my initial thought was that when things like disasters or riots or even large rallies happen, often cell phone signals get very bad in the immediate area. If your work has a landline and can call someone outside the area, it’s probably going to be much easier than trying to call somebody in the middle of a disaster situation where everyone is on their cell phones. That person can then work on trying to contact you and your people in the area while work continues to check on other employees.

  4. Oui oui oui all the way home*

    #3, as someone who has had a worker “ghost”, an email like the one Alison suggested would be welcome. I would just be glad to hear you are doing okay now, and it would be kind for you to acknowledge what they did for you and apologize.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      Totally agreed. My heart is breaking for LW3. It would be a nice thing to let the employer know that you were going through a THING for which they weren’t (fully) responsible, and that while your departure from them was not the way you normally would have chosen to do it, you’ve moved on and are better now.

      But mostly, don’t keep beating yourself up because you needed to go nuclear to take care of yourself.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        Please, please stop beating yourself up! You had a health crisis that derailed your employment. It happens to a lot of people and it’s not a moral failing. It’s also not a moral failing to take a job and discover it’s not right for you–that doesn’t mean trying the job was a mistake or a fundamental error of judgement. You took the job in good faith and you tried to make it work.

        Apologizing is still a good thing, but do offer some of the generosity you’re extending your old employer to yourself.

      2. Meep*

        I think what gets me is that mental breakdowns can happen at any time (unfortunately) but a mental breakdown during a global pandemic where you are isolated is a million times worse as you have no one there to help. But I am also happy they had at least two people on their side who tried to help.

        Last year, I was driving home every day trying to find the best place to drive my car into a wall because my manager was being an absolute abusive P.O.S. during the pandemic and I only had her because she isolated me from everyone (she even told me to stop talking to my own mother lol). I am very lucky to be alive and as far as I am concerned she tried to kill me. Hearing LW3’s story made me want to wrap them up in a warm hug and tell them it gets better.

    2. how to make amends*

      i learned how to properly apologize “make amends” in a 12-step program and this is essentially the formula

      1. say you are sorry and acknowledge your actions
      2. communicate how what you did harmed the other person/people/entity
      3. state what you are doing to make sure it won’t happen again

      i think more people could stand to learn about it! and if you can’t think of what to say for #2, meaning you can’t figure out how you harmed the other person, chances are there’s no need for an apology

      1. Green great dragon*

        I think formatting this as an apology is the correct thing to do, but really it’s mostly about letting them know you’re all right now (OK, with some elements of apology for inconveniencing them). If I were the manager I’d be wondering if they were OK, and also whether I or anyone else at the company had done something that contributed to the problem, and would be very glad to know you’re in a better place now.

      2. Metadata minion*

        #3 seems a bit unnecessary in this context — they’re not apologizing to a friend; this is an employer that they’re probably not going to significantly interact with again.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          If I were to receive such a letter, I’d be happy to read a line about the LW having learnt a lesson, that the guilt they felt has served its purpose in making them a better person.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      I like how LW3 isn’t trying to get rehired or ensure a good reference or such. They just want to let the employer know they’re sorry and that they’re okay. That attitude will go far in writing a good apology, I think. And I agree that the people at he former employer would appreciate knowing what happened and that the LW is okay now.

    4. Lacey*

      Yes, it sounds like the OP worked with decent people. They’ll just be glad to hear the OP is doing better.

      1. NoviceManagerGuy*

        Agreed, this can be two sentences, no need to agonize over it. They’ll be relieved to hear anything.

    5. aubrey*

      Same. I had a coworker ghost once and everyone at the company was just worried. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate note or get into a lot of detail, just something like you were having a really hard time, appreciate what they did, wish you’d handled it better but are doing okay now. Even years later we would have welcomed a note just to know this person was okay.

      1. Mimi*

        Me too. I would be *thrilled* to hear something from John, even now, seven years later. I honestly wouldn’t care if it was an apology, just a “Hey, I was going through a rough time; things are better now” would be wonderful to hear.

      2. 2Legit*

        OP, we’re all pulling for you! The note doesn’t have to be perfect… Just do it! You can do it! Don’t worry about it being perfect! Just do something, and tell us how it goes. You Got this!

    6. irritable vowel*

      I think it would also help the LW get some necessary closure on the situation, even if they don’t hear back from the employer. My previous spouse had exactly the same thing happen on his first job out of college, and the experience affected the rest of his working life in terms of not having confidence that he could do any job without the same thing potentially happening again. I think acknowledging it as a product of specific circumstances can only help the LW process it as a standalone incident and not feel like it’s an essential part of their character. (Seeing a therapist might also help.)

      1. LW#3*

        This is exactly what I’m worried about now, lol! (And seeing a therapist is on my to-do list, don’t worry.) I don’t think it’ll resolve until I prove it by succeeding at something else, but that’s on my to-do list as well. :)

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          LW#3 I had a colleague “ghost” me on a project and an apology would have made all the difference.
          (She actually just went off on maternity leave without handing in anything, and she was supposed to hand in several months’ worth of work. She then proceeded to do the work from home and sent it in just before giving birth. Only we’d already hired someone else to do what she hadn’t, because she hadn’t said anything about working from home. And she sent in a pile of nonsensical crap that would never work, whereas the new recruit was producing great, ready-to-use work.)

    7. BurnOutCandidate*

      I manage a large, generally monthly project that involves about twenty people and several departments. (But I’m not a manager, go figure. Yet I’m the one who gets the crap if anything goes wrong. Anyway…)

      Five years ago, one of the people I worked with on the project went to lunch on “crunch day.” While he was at lunch, his admin walked out of the building and disappeared. She could not be reached. There was nothing particularly out of the ordinary about this month’s project or her role in it. Something happened, and gathering up her things and going was her way of coping. That month’s project was completed without any major issues. There were rumors about what had happened, but no one knew. We moved on.

      Two years later she friended me on Facebook, and she sent me a message. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t mad at her.

      I followed up and said that, no, I absolutely was not and never was mad at her. Things happen, and my concern, as manager-not-manager of the project at the time that she disappeared, was that she was okay. The project was going to make its deadlines — and it did — but was she okay?

      We talked about this, what was going on with her at the time, what she was going through her head, and how she reached the point where going through the door made more sense to her than staying on. I understood. No surprise none of the rumors were true.

      She wasn’t looking for her job back; I wasn’t in any position to give it. She just wanted to check in with the people she worked with and apologize where she could.

      I don’t know if she ever apologized to her direct supervisor. I told her, in my opinion, he would appreciate hearing from her and knowing she was okay, but more than that I couldn’t say. He wasn’t one to hold grudges or even play the office politics game. He managed a big account — our largest — and did right by them and us. And leaving abruptly like that put him in a short-term bind. When he left the company — that account hired him on — I thought about asking him if she had but decided against it. It was between them. I was just a bystander.

      Point is, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to people after some time has passed to apologize. They may not be receptive, they may “ghost” you back, and that’s just how life goes.

  5. tired EM*

    Emergency manager checking in – the 100 miles thing is because in the event of a natural disaster or other major emergency, it can be impossible to contact people by phone nearby but possible to contact people who are far away. The local lines get totally overwhelmed, but you can call out to people further away who aren’t seeing as much traffic and leave a message with them.

    So – your emergency contact is Aunt Betty in Idaho when you work in California. An earthquake hits, and while the phone lines are still physically functioning they are totally swamped with people phoning around the city to check on each other, and you can’t get through. You call Aunt Betty and let her know you are ok / can’t make it to work / have no power / whatever, and your work calls her and gets the message without either of you having to call through the local network. Obviously this is phone-only, but it’s why the rule likely exists.

    However – if you don’t have one, you don’t have one. It’s probably not worth pushing back on if you’re already leaving though.

      1. Brett*

        It’s even more important in the cell phone era, as cell towers get overwhelmed even more quickly than landlines during a disaster.

        1. PollyQ*

          But if the towers are overwhelmed, or perhaps even damaged, does it really make a difference if it’s a local call or a long-distance one? The whole thing seems like it would only work in a very specific case, and if there’s been a big natural disaster, maybe the employer could just assume that if someone hasn’t come in and you haven’t heard from them, they’re probably not coming in.

          1. WS*

            I’ve been in this specific situation in 2018 and yes, it does matter. The reason is that local calls have to go both to and from active towers, whereas if you’re calling out of the area, you only have to have one active tower in the disaster area. I could get through to my work colleague’s city contact occasionally, and they could get through to me occasionally and to her occasionally, but I couldn’t contact her directly because the local towers were constantly up and down. We didn’t need her to come in, we just wanted to know if she was alive.

            1. NerdyLibraryClerk*

              Interesting. I didn’t realize you needed at least two cell towers for cell phones to work. Does that mean that if I were to call someone in the same room, the signal would have to go from the closest tower to the second closest tower (and then back?) before going to their phone? Does that mean you might, even without disasters, have a better connection to someone further away?

              (Of course, people with small or nonexistent families are still SOL on that emergency contact requirement. Unless they are *very* close to on-line friends.)

              1. doreen*

                I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s always necessary to have two towers – that is, I’m pretty sure that if I am calling you and you are in the next room , we can both connect to the same tower. As a practical matter- it’s another story. In an urban area, the towers might be .25 or .50 mile apart and if there some sort of emergency, even most local attempted calls are going to be further apart than that- so if a disaster affected my area and I trued to call my mother 3 miles away, we will each need to connect to a different tower. If I try to call my neighbor three blocks away, we might both connect to the same tower – but I’m unlikely to be calling someone three blocks away in this situation.

              2. Perilous*

                Both sides of a local cell phone conversation can go through the same tower. However, this conversation uses twice as much of that tower’s bandwidth. In an emergency, you may be fighting with thousands of others for this limited bandwidth, so if you’re lucky enough to get a response from the tower, other people are already using the remaining bandwidth for their calls, and the tower will be unable to talk to your friend’s cellphone because it simply doesn’t have the resources at that time. However, calls out of the area may still work because the “pipe” out of the area isn’t as likely to be overloaded.

              3. Worldwalker*

                For someone in the same room, you’d be going through the same tower. But cells are quite small, so for someone a couple of miles away, you’d be using your local tower and they’d be using their local tower.

                Also remember that if you’re calling someone 10 miles away, the signal doesn’t miraculously get from here to there — it still needs local communication links. The ones that are damaged and/or tied up. A call out of the area, on the other hand, gets passed off to an undamaged or less-congested link.

          2. pancakes*

            It doesn’t have to be a natural disaster for this to happen. I have been in that precise situation in 2001. When I stepped out of the building I was attending class in on lower 5th Ave, it was beyond surreal to see that only one tower was standing where there’d always been two, and absolutely everyone was trying to make mobile phone calls at the exact same time. It is extremely helpful in that sort of situation to have something more than assumptions to work with.

    1. Underrated Pear*

      Ok, but I’ve had to provide out-of-area emergency contacts for work before, and it’s never been specified to employees that in an emergency, *we* should try to contact the person we have specified first. Without these explicit instructions (which it doesn’t sound like the LW was given), few employees are going to stop and think “I’d better call Aunt Betty! In two days’ time, when work is trying to put the pieces back together, they might try to call her, and she can relay the message.” It also relies on the logic that someone at work, who is also experiencing the same emergency, will be dedicated enough to log in to work immediately while local phone lines are still jammed and start tracking down people’s out-of-area emergency contacts. In a huge emergency, it’s likely this won’t happen until at least the next day, at which point (in my limited experience) the lines are probably un-jammed.

      Also, even in these situations, you can still generally communicate via internet. I was in a massive earthquake 10 years ago (Japan), and (1) I never would have thought to call an out-of-area emergency contact, and (2) could still post to Facebook via iPhone to let people know I was ok even though phone lines weren’t working all day.

      Now, our daycare/preschools have asked for an out-of-area contact, and that makes sense to me. Because if you have a two-year-old in your care and their parents haven’t shown up, then yeah, you should start calling around. But that’s a bit different, because the point is to contact someone (who the parent has authorized) who can somehow eventually get to the child.

      1. doreen*

        I think the idea is that the emergency contact is someone that you would be communicating with in any emergency. A lot of people don’t have someone like that out of the area, and if you don’t, you don’t. Even if you do, they might not be reachable if your cell service and internet service are both out but there have been times when relatives in Georgia or Florida knew more about what was going on with me than relatives in NY who live a mile or two away – in part because of communication difficulties but also because they , too were dealing with the effects of the disaster. They care about me, but when their basement has three feet of water, that’s going to be their priority.

        1. Underrated Pear*

          Right, I agree – my comment was intended to “disagree” (or gently push back on) the logic presented by the commenter upthread.

      2. This Old House*

        I would imagine the assumption is that if someone is close enough to be an emergency contact, you’ll make some effort to let them know you’re alive (or they’ll be trying to find out) in the aftermath of a disaster, regardless of whether work specifically told you to. The hope is that they would have (or be interested in receiving from work, if you were in the office during the event) some information on your well-being, not that they would be a message service for scheduling shifts during a hurricane.

      3. Cascadia*

        I don’t think the expectation is for you to call your emergency contact in case work calls them. This scenario would be used if you were at work when there was a natural disaster, and your work wanted to let someone in your circle know that you are ok/injured/missing/etc. I work in an Earthquake state, and if I was at work when an earthquake happened, presumably my work would attempt to call my husband, a few miles away, but if they couldn’t get through, they would then call my parents, who live many states away. My parents could then reach out to my husband and let him know what my status was. If you aren’t at work when the disaster happens, then I highly doubt work is going to be calling anyone – unless they have some reason to believe you’re missing/etc. If there’s a massive earthquake on a weekend, I’m pretty sure my work will assume that we are all dealing with the fall-out of the earthquake and that we will get in touch when we can.

        1. CBB*

          Right? This is the first time I’ve heard the idea that your emergency conact is the person your work calls to convey messages to you.

          I always assumed my emergency contact is the person my work will call to inform that I’m unconscious is a hospital (or morgue).

        2. Underrated Pear*

          Right, and that was my point in responding to the commenter at the head of this thread. They were making the argument that the way it works is that (1) employee calls Aunt Betty out of state, and then (2) Aunt Betty is able to inform the employer when the employer calls. Which is simply not something anyone (outside of maybe emergency management professionals) is going to do.

    2. Turkey Time*

      I lived in Japan during the big earthquake of 2011. When it happened my brother and I weren’t able to call my mom (a few hours away) but were able to call my dad in China no problem. He called my mom, and then called us back to tell us she was okay. Calling out was the only way to communicate inside.

      1. Underrated Pear*

        Same. Tokyo cell towers were overloaded for at least 12 hours, if I recall. But posting online worked, no problem (except in 2011 smartphones were not quite as ubiquitous as they are now, so it still wasn’t necessarily an easy way for families to communicate).

        The thing is, though – yeah, my employers had an out-of-area emergency contact for me. But even if someone in my office had been dedicated enough to spend their afternoon contacting everyone else’s people, they didn’t have a way to access any of that information, because, you know, *we’d just been in a massive earthquake* and were still experiencing large earthquakes every 20 minutes! We were locked out of our office (long explanation, but basically a safety measure gone slightly awry). Even if we’d had remote access to work files, which we did not back then, almost no one lived anywhere near walking distance to be able to get home and on a personal computer. I was probably closest, and it was still a 5 hour walk. Other coworkers spent the night in nearby restaurants.

        Still, I don’t think there’s anything weird with the employer asking for this information. Had the situation been slightly different, there’s a possibility it could be useful. I’m not sure why people have such a big issue with it – best case scenario, it helps in an emergency; worst case scenario, it doesn’t.

    3. Whynot*

      Thanks to all on this thread for the useful information! I hope not to be in a disaster situation, but if I am, I’ll remember that I’ll have better luck reaching people out of area.

    4. Student*

      The thing is, that makes sense for a handful of emergency-oriented jobs where you might expect reasonably be expected to actually deal with work in the event of a major regional disaster. FEMA, medical profession, police, etc.

      Unless this “small business” specializes in some small handful of such applications, this emergency contact policy is dumb for them to implement. The vast majority of people in a disaster zone are going to be focused on issues more important to them than to their job for quite some time. Long enough for the local phone lines to calm down, at least!

      1. Aitch Arr*

        It’s not dumb.

        Most people will be at work and it’s in the company’s best interest, as well as, you know, a kind, normal human being thing to care about your employees.

        I can’t believe the commenters here are So! Incredulous! About! This!

        1. Calliope*

          Yes, the point is to be able to contact someone if you’re incapacitated AT work. Not to drag you INTO work! This is so, so normal.

        2. Underrated Pear*

          Right?? People are reacting as if the LW is being held at gunpoint or something. The company is trying to add an extra level of emergency response by having a backup contact who wouldn’t be affected by local disasters. Whether or not this is practical for adults (because I’ll reiterate, I DO think it is important for children’s schools to have) is debatable, but for goodness sake just leave it blank if you must.

          And for everyone saying “I don’t have anyone who lives more than 10 miles away” – fine, then just say that. But plenty of people do (like, for example, the millions of transplants who live in the disaster-prone cities of LA and San Francisco), so this can be helpful for many. The fact that it doesn’t work for everyone is not, in itself, a reason not to do it.

        3. Allonge*

          But then they need to spell it out like that. If this town is burning down, and you are injured and we know and have the time to make notifications, who do we call who is a reasonable distance away that they can pay attention to news about you and not in the fire themselves? Not ‘provide an emergency contact X distance away’.

    5. Allonge*

      Thanks for the explanation! I am still not convinced I get it though.

      If a company wants an emergency communication method, they need to set up a company phone number somewhere distant enough that it can be used for this and tell their employees to check in there. Or online message board or whatever.

      If the company needs to inform people of your status, I suppose I just don’t get the scenario where you are dead or seriously injured on site but the company has time and resources to be calling Aunt Emma… luckily I don’t have a lot of experience with this.

      1. pancakes*

        It’s the latter, and there are countless scenarios in which something might happen to someone and their employer has both the time and resources (primarily, a functioning phone line) to notify there emergency contacts. A coworker I didn’t know well was hit by a bus one afternoon, for example – an actual bus, not a proverbial one. I don’t know for certain whether it was our employer or the police or someone in the ambulance crew who was the first to contact her person or people and let them know, but I don’t see why it should seem unthinkable that it could’ve been the employer.

        Another example, if someone had a stroke at work, why wouldn’t someone else there have the time or resources to get in touch with their emergency contact? If the same thing happened while they were out getting lunch, amidst strangers in a restaurant or something, it would be necessary to see if they have an emergency contact listed in their phone or wallet, or a contact saved as “mom,” “dad,” etc., but people who know them well and work with them daily could simply have that on file. It’s a plus to be able to respond quickly and without confusion. I don’t get why people don’t get this.

      2. Calliope*

        But . .. what do you think happens if you, say, collapse at work and are taken to the hospital? Of course they will call someone if they can. It would be horrible if they didn’t. If there’s a widespread disruption like an earthquake and they can’t reach your spouse across town but can reach your mother in another state (for example), who can then try to call your spouse until she gets through, that is a good idea for them to have that separate number. Otherwise someone at the office has to repeatedly call your spouse until they get through when they might instead need to be trying to contact their own local family. None of this is full proof, of course – it’s just an extra layer of protection.

      3. SimplytheBest*

        I don’t understand this response. That is literally the point of an emergency contact. If you are dead or seriously injured on site, your company is going to contact someone for you. Of course they are. How is this hard to comprehend?

        1. Allonge*

          That part is easy. I collapse on site, my workplace calls my emergency contact, who is statistically at least likely to be somewhere nearby (or if not, I know why), and they go to the hospital or wherever I am taken. This I understand.

          I am thrown by the idea that there has to be someone else over 100 miles away for the company to call, in case the phone lines are too busy locally of whatever disaster is happening. This seems like a box to tick – the person 100 miles away can, in a best case scenario, be available for calls from both the company and my local loved ones. There is nothing else they can do – they are literally too far away.

          So on the off chance that, cumulatively,
          1 a disaster is happening and
          2 I get hurt and
          3 the company knows about this but my local contacts don’t and
          4 my local contact cannot be reached and
          5 the company has time to be making calls (if there is a wildfire, do they take the list of emergency contacts?) and
          6 -7 both my local contacts and the company can get through to Aunt Emma three states away and
          8 all this then leads to a potentially sooner notification of my local family about my status than they would get from the hospital or wherever,

          the company stores the personal information of an Aunt Emma for every employee that has one that qualifies and bugs every other employee about this… that part I don’t get. Not for adults. Sure, for kids, or otherwise incompetent persons, but the responsibility of the company (impacted by a wide area disaster that overwhelms local phone lines!) does not extend to this.

          And if the company cares so much that they want to provide this service, they need to set up a company person over 100 miles away who is the contact for every family member everywhere on the status of employees in emergencies. That is helpful, and does not outsource the crazy level of preparedness to the employees.

          1. Calliope*

            Dude, no they don’t. It’s something that could help and is easy to provide. It doesn’t have to be fool proof to be worth doing. It’s recommended by experts. The company isn’t providing or guaranteeing anything. They’re just giving them another number to reach.

  6. learnedthehardway*

    OP #4 – Maybe your company is confusing this idea of a having distant personal emergency contacts with the very sensible idea of having a professional contact over 100 miles away for business continuity. THAT would make sense – companies (at least, companies over a certain size) SHOULD have proper business continuity and crisis management measures set up, with redundant computer systems and storage, as well as remote backup people identified in the event that a local team is incapacitated. In some industries, it’s a regulatory requirement that they have these measures in place – eg. banking.

  7. Zan Shin*

    Re number 4: (assume concerned look) “I’m sorry I don’t have any family or close friends to be reached in an emergency who live that far away!”

      1. LisTF*

        As a person with a small and dysfunctional family, and only a handful of close friends, the emergency contact thing sucks in general and the 100 mile requirement would make me so anxious! I literally have only 1 acquaintance that lives that far and we don’t have the kind of relationship where I’d want to ask them to be my emergency contact.

        1. Wendy*

          “I don’t have real life friends that far out, but here’s my username on – just tag something on the top reply to whatever the most recent post is and let people know what’s up. Someone will find me, I’m sure!”

          (/sarcasm, kinda, but there have definitely been times where people who only know me by my username on some site know me better than most RL friends!)

          1. Sleepless*

            OK, I was honestly thinking that for many people, people on social media or a message board would be their best long distance contact!

          2. Loredena Frisealach*

            Same! I’m much better known online as Loredena, with a much wider social circle, than in meat space. I’ve absolutely worried about online friends accounts going black, and would want online friends to be informed if something happened to me.

          3. calonkat*

            My daughter asked what my name was on an online game once, then she smacked her head (I heard the thwack over the phone) and said, nevermind, it’s calonkat, isn’t it.

            For a few years I was a volunteer game manager for a game, and I always wonder when posting somewhere if I’ll get someone still irritated that I banned them :) And once I lost my phone in a town I didn’t live in, and managed to find someone I trusted online (ah the days you could just park and find unprotected networks) at 2am my time who was willing to call my cell phone # to help me find it. Still not someone I’d contact in a genuine emergency (also, didn’t know his real name, so “ratboy223” or whatever, probably not a real emergency contact)

        2. BethDH*

          I hear you on this, and just want to say that I have had to ask people to be my emergency contact who I didn’t know well (moving to new places for short jobs, which is common in my field) and I am not one of those people who other people like right away. Everyone I have ever asked has been totally fine with it. They know it’s not likely to be needed. The way I picked someone was I thought about who would have the practical things that would be needed, and usually went for someone like my landlord, since they could access my apartment and get any needed files.

        3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

          LisTF, I leave mine blank for this reason. Last time I was sick (luckily just a regular respiratory infection and not covid) I told my boss to not expect me to be on the computer for a few days. I work from home but cold meds put me in such a fog that it would be pointless to try to work. He actually called me on day 3 to see how I was and (half jokingly) to see if i was alive. He said if I hadn’t answered he figured I lived in a small enough town that he could probably of sent a well fair check to my place with out getting hold of HR for the address. (town is about 6 blocks square)

        4. RagingADHD*

          This truly is not something worthy of being anxious about. There are lots of people, even in the internet age, who don’t have emergency-contact-worthy relationships 100 miles away. Because there are 2 aspects of being an EC: knowing the person well enough to ask them, and having that person be capable / reliable to participate (reachable, responsive, responsible, and not overwhelmed with other responsibilities).

          It’s extremely common to have limited choices for that role.

        5. Underrated Pear*

          @LisTF I do sympathize with this, and I hope my other replies to this post aren’t insensitive to the fact that of course there will be people for whom this is a difficult or stressful ask. But I don’t think it’s reasonable for employers NOT to ask for emergency contacts just because there are some people who wouldn’t want to provide one.

          Ideally, it should be perfectly acceptable to say “I’m going to leave it blank, and I won’t hold you responsible for contacting anyone if I’m in an emergency,” but to do away with emergency contacts altogether is not likely to be in the best interest of most employees.

    1. Glomarization, Esq.*

      No reason to “assume concerned look,” though. If it’s plainly factual that you don’t have family or close friends outside of the 100 miles, then just say so. Ask what the goal is, and see what kind of work-around you and the office can find to meet the goal.

  8. Observer*

    #4 – As others have explained, it could make some sense. I don’t think it would really be all that useful in the case of a disaster, but I understand the reasoning that sometimes when there is a large local disaster, getting through to a non-local emergency contact can be easier. Or, more dramatically, it could theoretically possible that any local emergency contact would themselves be incapacitated.

    In any case, I don’t see any reason to push back. Unless they are being really weird and pushy (eg insisting that only 1st degree relatives are acceptable), it’s just not a big enough deal.

    1. FisherCat*

      Maybe it’s just my professional boundaries speaking here but this seems like a bigger overstep to me than the rest of the commentariat so far. People are bringing up the possibility of a regional natural disaster, but if that’s the case we’re all well aware that I’m not working until things start to get resolved. I’m happy to provide my spouse as an emergency contact, because they’re most likely to know what’s going on with me if I, e.g. unexpectedly don’t show up at work and would be in a position to help if I became incapacitated during the day. But an arbitrary distance limit so that someone who isn’t close enough to me to be involved in my personal business could maybe contact my employer post-disaster? Limited utility and major overreach.

      1. Mangled metaphor*

        It’s questions like this that remind me the US is a big place.
        I’ve just done a quick “what’s 101 miles from my location” search and it includes what are technically two different countries (Scotland and Wales). Inside the 100 mile radius is everyone I’ve ever known long enough to potentially be a contact, emergency or otherwise.

        Of course, we’re not on a fault line, prone to bushfires or similar, likely to be hit by a tsunami. It wouldn’t be a _natural_ disaster that requires an emergency contact. Any _unnatural_ disaster would be national news and any emergency contact would probably know about it before my employer.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          Just tried the same thing (same country as you although Scotland didn’t come up for me so I must be further south than you) – turns out I do have family outside of the radius so I would have names I could give, but since I live somewhere hurricanes hardly ever happen (using that example as my area is specifically named in that line from My Fair Lady, but as you say, area not really prone to natural disasters, the worst I can remember here is Storm Dennis last year and that wasn’t bad enough to mess with the communication lines) it’s unlikely to come up as an issue.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah my parents live 150 miles away but probably the vast majority of people would live within 100 miles of their family – London probably has a higher proportion of people with family in other parts of the country/world, but 100 miles is quite a lot.

        2. pancakes*

          Can you not imagine a scenario where something disastrous happens and your emergency contacts don’t know for sure whether or not you were affected? And you can’t inform them yourself because you’re, say, unconscious? The idea of having emergency contacts listed is to be able to give them more reliable information than guessing.

          1. Mangled metaphor*

            Oh, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have emergency contacts! I have three.
            They just live within 10 miles of me, not 100…

        3. BeckyinDuluth*

          This also varies in the US. On the east coast you can pass through 3 states in 100 miles. I live in northern MN as do my parents and 2 sisters, and none of us live within 100 miles of eachother.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        I think this seems confusing because the LW has an odd idea about how emergency contacts work.

        The emergency contact does not contact the office.
        The emergency contact is someone the office contacts if something happens to you at work, or perhaps if you’ve gone missing.

        1. doreen*

          Yes, the idea isn’t that my cousin who lives 100 miles away is calling my boss to say I won’t be coming to work – the idea is that my boss is going to call my cousin when they can’t reach my husband due to the disaster to say that I’ve been hurt while at work or perhaps to ask if they have heard from me since the disaster.

      3. This Old House*

        I think it makes perfect sense. If the earthquake hits while you’re at work and you’re crushed by a filling cabinet and your local contact(s) is (are) unreachable or also dead, does work just not tell anyone that you’ve been killed (or where you’re hospitalized, or whatever)? Better that they have a contact unlikely to have been affected by the same event.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Serious question – is your workplace the person who is going to reach out first if you’ve been killed during a natural disaster? Or would that be law enforcement, after the body has been appropriately identified, assuming that there are likely multiple fatalities, multiple injuries, etc.?

          1. doreen*

            I can’t imagine why it would be impossible – there are certainly circumstances where a person could be injured/killed during some sort of event that doesn’t require law enforcement to identify the bodies. But even if law enforcement was going to make notifications, they have to get the emergency contact info from somewhere , which will probably be the workplace if that’s where the person was injured/killed.

          2. pancakes*

            It took over 20 years to identify all of the bodies from the WTC 9/11 wreckage. I don’t see a huge upside to employers not collecting emergency contact information. The only downside seems to be that some people who are estranged from family and don’t have many (or any) friends are uncomfortable with being asked. That’s not a good reason for everyone else to treat it as a worthless endeavor.

          3. Nikara*

            Workplaces will likely be the first to reach out in a major disaster situation, honestly. Law enforcement will need to take the time to identify people and find their contacts. You are much more likely to hear updates on a loved one through workplace or their friends, as opposed to the officials. You’ll hear from them eventually, but that will take longer.

          4. Retired Prof*

            In a great earthquake (M7.0+) you should assume you may not have access to emergency services for 72 hours. In Mexico City in 1985, most of the people recovered alive from the collapsed buildings were dug out by civilians. The streets were clogged with debris and there were 10,000 dead, so emergency services were overwhelmed.

            In the 1986 Loma Prieta quake, people in collapsed buildings in San Francisco were trapped for more than a day. Local phone lines were jammed. If your employer knew your building had collapsed, they could call Aunt Minnie in Minnesota who could call your spouse in SF to tell them what happened. Any emergency response is probably not going to be worrying about contacting relatives for a while.

            For earthquake country, having one local and one far-away emergency contact actually makes sense. If you don’t have a far-away contact, then you don’t give one. I suspect someone in HR at this workplace had some disaster training.

            (In case it wasn’t obvious, I used to teach geology).

      4. LouLou*

        But how would “we all” be well aware if no one tells them? It’s not like most natural disasters instantly kill everyone in the area. If something happens to you and nobody contacts your emergency contact, I don’t think they would just assume. Maybe you’re from the same place as the OP, who seems to think the emergency contact is in charge of contacting work and not the other way around, as I believe is usually conventional?

      5. JB*

        It feels like you have a very odd idea of how natural disasters work and what the aftermath looks like.

        Work isn’t contacting you to come in during an earthquake. They’re contacting to find out if you’re still alive, and maybe to let you know if they’re making resources available to employees – ex. if the company buildings survived intact, that might be a better option than public shelters.

        1. JB*

          There’s also the fact that, if a natural disaster happens WHILE YOU ARE AT WORK and you are injured, they need someone they’ll be able to get through to that they can tell what happened and where you are, who can then relay that information to local family/friends/whoever.

  9. Brett*

    This is something we used to use when I worked emergency management.
    The idea is that the emergency contact is someone outside the disaster zone who can reached to alert others (not the company) of your status inside the disaster zone; that way you can focus on the disaster response and not on letting people know you are okay.

    The basic plan was that we would leverage HAM radio to notify a designated network outside the region of the status of our employees (e.g. okay, injured, hospitalized, stranded, missing, etc). They would then operate from that safe area outside the region to notify all the 100+ mile emergency contacts who would then be expected to notify employees’ families. This was all based on the assumption that contacts _inside_ the region would have similarly impacted communications and be coping with the disasters as their first priority.

    In the event we lost HAM communications, we had a first backup plan to fly a designated pre-loaded laptop with employee statuses on a helicopter out of the region to the nearest operational 911 center. The backup plans kept going from there with several different ways to get the information out of region, but centered on the idea that status needed to be relayed to emergency contacts outside the region.

    1. FisherCat*

      This might make sense in your work context, but I’m quite sure most employers don’t have a ham radio or helicopter airlift (!) plan. There might be good intentions here but it seems like they just want more personal information for the sake of having it and there are way more potential issues here than benefits.

      1. Snow Globe*

        I think it’s a big assumption that the company is just nosily trying to get more personal information on their employees. They probably do have some type of emergency response plan that may involve a worst case scenario where there is a localized disaster. It’s probably very unlikely, and I would suppose employees could decline to provide names if they don’t have any close contacts outside that area, but the company is probably just trying to make sure they have every eventuality covered.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          I agree. They’re asking for emergency contacts, which is totally normal. And if they’re asking for contacts further away, OP likely lives in an area prone to natural disasters. It makes sense to have someone further away to contact if needed. I highly doubt they’re asking for personal information just because.

          1. LouLou*

            Seriously! There’s really no need to be conspiratorial about this. If you don’t have anyone suitable to list then just say so.

          2. Rodriguez*

            I’m really confused by the amount of pushback this is receiving from commenters. Like, is it the general idea of emergency contacts that people find invasive, or is there something about the 100-mile thing that people find particularly objectionable? Do they think the company is going to do something inappropriate with the contact information, like call up the emergency contacts and say…something?

            I don’t get it.

            1. FisherCat*

              For me, its the idea that someone besides the person I want responsible for me in an emergency HAS to be listed. I’d naturally list my spouse as an emergency contact, he should be told if something happens to me at work! But an arbitrary mileage number would mean I would be down to only an estranged parent- who I absolutely do not want contacted.

              1. Rodriguez*

                Exactly what The Other Dawn said. If you tell them that and they demand that you give them a name or else, then that’s a problem. But asking for the contact is not the problem. Your workplace can’t possibly be expected to know your specific life circumstances and relationships with your family members.

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I grew up in a major hurricane zone, and now live in an earthquake zone. Having emergency contacts outside that zone makes sense. But this is very based off of the fact that I do live in an area where natural disasters aren’t unheard of.

            1. Cassie*

              I live and grew up in an earthquake zone. The emergency contact forms I’ve seen at work and from school didn’t ask for emergency contacts outside a specific area. Presumably, if there was a major disaster, the business itself would be impacted and probably not going around calling emergency contacts for all of their employees.

              For our international student workers, they’re asked to provide an emergency contact in their home country that speaks English. On a practical level, this makes sense but that’s not the way I would handle it. I’d rather let them designate a local contact (presumably speaks English) and a contact in their home country (may or may not speak English). If we do need to call their contact in their home country, I’d prefer to loop in the embassy here or the US embassy there because surely those staffers are able to speak the language and could help make arrangements (if we’re contacting family overseas, it’s probably going to be a major situation and not just “student missed work today, are they ok?”.

      2. Observer*

        While most employers don’t have that level of planning, the idea that they just want it to be nosy is almost as unlikely. It’s just not all the useful in other contexts, and another piece of information the HR needs to monitor.

        I mean, don’t give the information if you don’t want to, or you don’t have someone, but it’s really highly unlikely that this is an attempt to do some digging on all employees.

      3. RagingADHD*

        What nefarious plan do you think an employer would further by collecting the names and phone numbers of their employee’s random cousins, aunties, or college roommates?

        And what “potential issues” do you imagine it creates?

        What’s the end game here?

    2. No Tribble At All*

      This plan is dope, please tell us more! I’m confused about your priorities in the event you have to use a helicopter— wouldn’t the helicopter be needed for medevac or something?

      1. Brett*

        The helicopter involved was a police helicopter. It could be used to basic rescue but not medivac. In a major disaster, getting information out is a higher priority than even evacuation. Information that is critical to staffing continuity is one of the highest information priorities. Beyond that, the other major priority for the police helicopters is aerial damage assessment (we had other more efficient ways to do evacuation).

    3. Not really a Waitress*

      When 9/11 happened, I was in Florida, but one of my sister’s lived in Northern VA and worked not far from the Pentagon. (Her roommate was a former student of my father’s. ) The roommate worked at the Capital and we couldn’t reach her (Come to find out she was “in the bunker”) but logic told us that was expected. But my sister was MIA. The rest of the family lived all over, and we were all calling everywhere trying to track her down. . Getting calls through cell phones was near impossible because “all circuits” were busy. Turns out she had a dentist appointment and which was farther away from work than home was. I can see how having a contact OUTSIDE the 100 miles might be helpful.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        My cousin was working in London at the time of the 7/7 bombing and his mother was trying to get hold of him (she was outside the 100 mile radius) – it did take quite a few attempts before she managed to get through, she eventually managed to reach the office and whoever took the call said he was in the building somewhere. This person then didn’t tell my cousin that she had called, and later in the day when the phone network had cleared up a bit he then ended up ringing the family wondering why no one had called to ask if he was all right.

        1. londonedit*

          I was also working in London in 2005 and it was a nightmare trying to get information/get hold of people. I think I’m right in saying that the phone networks were shut down so they could be taken over by the emergency services, and the internet we had at work at the time was really slow in comparison with what you’d have today. It seemed to take forever to get the info through to anyone that we were OK.

      2. NoviceManagerGuy*

        9/11 was my grandfather’s birthday, but being in Texas we couldn’t reach New Hampshire at all, because I guess phone lines in the whole Northeast were overwhelmed.

    4. Vermont Green*

      Ham (amateur radio) communications fail only if there is no power supply to a radio. They don’t require cell towers, or the internet, or wires of any kind. This is why they are the ultimate back-up communication system. They do need electricity, but most hams have batteries and many have systems providing solar power.

      1. PeanutButter*

        A childhood friend’s father was big into HAM radio and he was also an electrical engineer. He had an old exercise bike rigged to supply power to it in the event that all the other doohickeys he had as backup systems failed. We never got to test it out. :(

      2. Brett*

        Yep, that’s why it was the first method. Basically it only failed if damage and casualties directly impacted the network.
        We also had _many_ corporate groups who sponsored their own ham sites (for the same purpose of relaying information on employee and operations status out of the disaster zone), and their sites had extensive generators and multiple staff backups. Our HAM site for the EOC had a room sized generator, two full battery backups, and eight operators.

  10. KEG*

    Re #4 – my oldest is more than 100 miles away but active military so I dunno how that would actually help. More likely they would be telling me to duck.

  11. WoodswomanWrites*

    For #1, I’m trying to picture a manager creating a plan for their employee. How in the world do they decide that a good plan is to pry into their employee’s personal life and goals? Where do these managers come from? Are they hatched from some alien planet? I truly don’t understand why anyone would think this is a good idea.

    1. banoffee pie*

      The things some people think are a ‘good idea’ boggle my mind sometimes. I assume they’ve misunderstood some training manual or advice to ‘get to know the whole employee’ and are taking it to a really pushy extreme.
      It would be so awkward to mention something like this to an employee. ‘What are your personal life goals?’ I can’t even imagine doing it. Yikes. I’d expect them to say MYOB and I wouldn’t blame them. Plus I wouldn’t even really want to know.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Can I imagine Michael Scott doing this? Absolutely! Take The Office as a documentary and it all falls in place. If I can imagine Michael Scott doing this, I can imagine some random manager doing it.

    2. EPLawyer*

      Bad advice from somewhere. It’s part of the whole “bring your whole self to work” thing and supposedly caring about workers’ mental health. See we pry into your personal life because we want to help you be your whole authentic self and make sure you are happy. Instead of you know, offering decent pay and benefits.

      1. BubbleTea*

        My org includes a question during one to ones about our personal lives, but it is worded in such a way that it’s clear we don’t have to share anything we don’t want/need to. Something along the lines of “is there anything in your personal life that is affecting your work that we can support you with?” When I first split up from my wife, I told my manager and was given paid time to go and see a solicitor for an initial consultation, for instance. Another colleague has their working hours adjusted to allow for elder care for a relative. It’s a great way to proactively offer flexibility and understanding. The example in the letter is… not this.

        1. You get a pen and you get a pen*

          We had something similar on a self-review for a company I worked for. And it was not so much to pry into others’ personal lives but to see if there were ways that the company could support that employee in attaining that goal through ways like flexible hours or even work time set aside for continuing education credits completed online.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            This seems like it would quickly become judgy, based on what exactly the goal was. So Fergus gets to tweak his hours to go to school since getting a degree is often seen as a professional leg-up but Jane can’t leave early for figure skating practice because that’s “recreational.”

            1. RagingADHD*

              I don’t think it’s judgy to distinguish hobbies from career advancement, or to distinguish sports from the examples given of divorce and eldercare.

              1. banoffee pie*

                I’m with you on this one, Elizabeth. And sometimes people can be teetering bewteen hobby and career, like if I had time to practice music more, maybe I could play in pubs. Not saying the boss should worry about this, just musing. I guess they wouldn’t give me time off so I could go away and practise to leave them to be a musician anyway! But then Fergus could be using his degree to look for a better job as well…they might be sorry they gave him time off to get it haha

                1. 2Legit*

                  I never would have had the opportunity to finish my bachelor’s degree had it not been for the fact that I worked for a place that was really flexible with my hours… this was an office job that was considered a career for most people because it had a pension, good hours, etc… but it wasn’t what I wanted. As a first-generation college student, I had a lot of barriers to overcome, and they helped me knock them down by being flexible with me to work with my schedule. But they didn’t initiate any conversation about my interests- I went to them and said I wanted to go to college, and could they work with me with my schedule, because my program was daytime only. I think it’s weird for employers to pry into their workers’ personal affairs.

        2. Napkin Thief*

          The difference here as well is the explicit boundary of only asking for relevant-to-work personal details. That I think is the heart of “bring your whole self to work” that’s getting missed by OP’s employer and others.

    3. Beth*

      As a survivor of a job where this was done — it was part of an overall plummet into ever-deepening dysfunction.

      BTW, it was not an option to propose crazy or fake goals. The personal goals had to be approved by the bosses (who set their own BS criteria for what was “good enough”), and quantifiable, so they could assess the extent to which we had succeeded. Or, rather, did not succeed; it was a wide avenue for negging.

      The annual goal also had to be DIFFERENT EVERY YEAR, because Personal Enrichment has to be New and Exciting! So if you actually did want to learn anything or start a new habit or pick up a new hobby, you had to abandon it after a year and jump to something else.

      I hope the LW pushes back so hard it opens cracks in the walls.

    4. Nanani*

      Misinterpreting a good idea and/or being so clueless about lives that aren’t theirs that it legitimately never occurs to them that some people have things in their lives that aren’t work’s business.

  12. Princess Hylia*

    #1, if you put some time into thinking about it, you might be able to frame a professional goal as a personal goal. What comes to mind for me is language learning — there’s a lot of Spanish speakers among our clients, so it would be a reasonable professional goal to learn Spanish, and it’s a very common professional goal! It could be something like coding or another skill you want to develop as well.

    1. sacados*

      Yes and I also think OP could maybe start by just asking her manager about it. I totally get worrying about being seen as not a “culture fit.” So starting with something like “I was interested to see that the goal-setting process here involves personal goals as well, can you tell me more about why the company chooses to do that/feels it’s important?”
      And then maybe if you get lucky, you have a manager who’s like “oh no I think the personal goal is a huge overstep, feel free to ignore that part and just do professional goals.”
      Or if not, then you know you just have to make up something mundane and relatively painless.

      1. Sara without an H*

        This is a good idea. If nothing else, it would help to get a sense of how much importance the manager sets on this particular item. Maybe OP could ask for a couple of examples: “I’ve never done this before, and I’m kind of stumped as to what sort of personal goal would be appropriate. Can you give me an example or two to start my thinking?”

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Other ideas of professional goals that can pretend to be personal goals:

      *Improve public speaking (in case I have to give a wedding toast)
      *Improve clear and concise writing skills (for writing letters to friends)
      *Learn how to use [software platform that’s work applicable] (so I can teach my parents to use it)

      Oh, also, make any of these personal goalsnthe *opposite* of SMART goals, so when your manager asks how it’s going, you can just say, “Oh, it’s going great, thanks for checking in. Now, about my otter grooming output…”

  13. Stevesie*

    Growing up on the west coast, the “emergency contact more than 100 miles away” was very common. It’s so they can reach your family if something happens to you while you’re at work, not the other way around. We always had to have this for school, camp, and work. I lived near a fault line and the next earthquake was a matter of when not if. We also had to bring non parishable emergency food during the first week of school that was kept somewhere that is suppose would be accessable in an emergency?

    I’m now realizing I always add a far away emergency contact even when it’s not asked as a default.

    1. Anononon*

      Yeah, I think it’s so region dependent, which is why some people in the comments are pushing back on it so hard. I’m on the east coast, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard of the practice, but from reading the comments, I totally get the reasons for it.

      1. Observer*

        You know what – at this point, even on the East coast this kind of thing is beginning to make sense. It’s true that widespread disasters don’t happen that often, fortunately, but still.

  14. Maid Dombegh*

    #1, Tell them your goal is to create and maintain firm boundaries between your work and personal life.

  15. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: I’m angry enough to say ‘my personal goals are not to have any more people I know due to Covid and to that end I’m promoting vaccines everywhere. How’d you wanna help or measure THAT objective?!’

    (Lost another friend last night. I. Am. Done)

    1. PollyQ*

      I’m so sorry for your loss. The death toll truly is staggering. ((((Jedi Hugs)))) if you want them.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Thank you all. We honestly thought she was going to make it but took a sudden turn for the worse last night. My eternal respect for the staff of the NHS who did everything they could to save her but sadly, the virus won.

    2. Emma*

      I’m so sorry. I’ve been lucky not to lose many people but each one is still awful, and so devastatingly preventable. I hope you have supportive people around you x

    3. allathian*

      I’m so sorry for your loss.

      I feel very privileged because I haven’t lost anyone (yet). But the numbers are spiking, the number of people in hospital and in ICU with Covid is bigger than it ever has been during the whole pandemic, and the delta variant seems to be spreading in schools that less than two months ago got rid of the mask mandate. Granted, most of the kids infected got it from their unvaccinated parents rather than from their classmates or in extracurriculars, but it’s enough to make me howl at the moon and tear my hair out in frustration.

      But yeah, how about skipping all the talk about building community spirit at work and sending everyone who can WFH back home?

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Yeah, our local hospital is cancelling their regular appointments because they are swamped with Covid cases. Again. And I drove past an antivaxx demonstration on my return from getting my meds so I’m not doing great.

        Having said that – want to give a big thanks to Alison for this community. Reading issues, thinking of advice that might help etc actually is pretty effective at taking the mind out of panic mode.

    4. Jean (just Jean)*

      I’m sorry for your loss. And totally agree that anybody not yet vaxxed should get it already unless they live in a country with inadequate vax supplies or have some genuine medical reason to avoid the vax.

  16. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP3: I’ve been there (major depression for nearly 30 years) and you are not alone. You are not alone and you’re doing amazing. Sincerely.

    I sent a message, never got a reply but didn’t expect one, of something like ‘following diagnosis and treatment of a medical issue that was causing my absence from work and subsequent job abandonment I realise that my behaviour at the time wasn’t professional. I would like to apologise for this’ I did add on something about being a lot better these days (thank you medication!) but I can’t remember how I phrased that.

    Lots of support mate. Sincerely. You’re ok.

  17. This the dumb*

    #1 oh I hate this. I would make something up that is extremely dumb like my goal is to increase the time I spend watching Netflix/picking dog hair off my clothes/laying still and doing nothing.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Can I change my answer to ‘picking cat hair off my sewing’? Because I like your thinking.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Yes, but be prepared to report not much progress. It’s a never ending task.

        My hair is bad, I shed. Not like the letter writer who wrote in, but bad. My husband opened an Amazon envelope once and shortely thereafter my hair was found inside. By shortly, I mean less than a minute. Don’t ask me how. Hair has mysterious properties once shed.

      2. Mockingjay*

        My goal is to sew a flannel duvet cover. But finding a dog hair-free space to lay out long lengths is proving impossible (no matter how much I vacuum and use lint rollers).

        New personal goal: “furry flannel” duvet cover. Materials responsibly sourced (my dogs have a never-ending supply).

        1. JESUS IS THE MAN!*

          We just bought a flannel duvet cover, and unless you’re really good at keeping your dogs off the bed, I think you’re on track to achieve your new personal goal inside of about 10 minutes.

          We only have one dog, and he’s not even that big, but…he decided a long time ago that he sleeps on the bed, so here we are. I’d like to think the fur makes it warmer, which is all to the good in our cold, windy climate.

      3. AnonoDoc*

        There was a hysterical thread on Ravelry years back where some innocent person not acquainted with the ways of cats seriously inquired why people kept posing their cats on the finished objects they were trying to show.

    2. the cat's ass*

      My goals would all be cat related-ooooo, maybe learning to make little felted articles out of their combed out hair?!? Or something equally weird so they NEVER ask me for a personal goal again, because that’s just frickin’ intrusive?

  18. me*

    easy-to-achieve goals:

    * improve my awareness of current events (by scrolling through various news sites / my Facebook news feed)
    * increasing my cultural knowledge (by watching the shows everyone is talking about on Netflix)
    * expanding my culinary horizons (by ordering from the new restaurant down the street)

    1. Meghan*

      100% These goals. Also! I’d stay away from crafty goals just in case your boss wants to see them OR they ask you to make something for them.

  19. Principal Skinner*

    #1 I suspect your manager misunderstands what “personal goals” means. Where I work we have a similar process where you have to state your business goals (how do you intend to contribute to the company’s revenue) and personal goals which includes things like training, skills development, experience etc. Basically professional development. They recently changed it to “development goals.” I know there have been some managers who thought personal goals meant things like buying a house, getting a dog, learning to ride a horse, etc.

    But maybe your company is just weird.

    1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

      What you’re describing makes a lot more sense than what LW#1’s company seems to be trying to do. Personally, I think what that manager is asking for is, on the face of it, utterly bananacrackers and even offensive. I hope they come to their senses very, VERY soon,

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      How do you contribute to the company’s revenues if you are not in a revenue-generating department? Sure, if you are in sales, this is straightforward: sell more stuff. But if you are in, say, production or IT, your department doesn’t generate revenue, it spends it. Or do we actually mean profits rather than revenue? At that point the answer is “By doing my job well.” I am having a hard time seeing how going beyond that will lead to a non-BS discussion.

      1. Shiba Dad*

        I think Principal Skinner used revenue as one example. For IT, it could be something like “a more responsive help desk” or “less server downtime”. To be fair, those could be just goals to fulfill a box-checking exercise (aka complete BS).

        1. Metadata minion*

          Yeah, my annual pre-review thing distinguishes between more immediate work goals (e.g., I want to streamline the student employee training process this year) and broader career goals (e.g., I want to learn Python, which is not something I currently need to do my job but would be useful both here and in future positions).

        2. Principal Skinner*

          That’s right. Business goals would be things you will do for the company, and personal/development goals are what you will do to grow in your career.

    3. UKDancer*

      Yes my company does something similar. Personal goals mean things like training and development. Mine include maintaining and improving my command of German and enhancing my presentation skills. It’s not supposed to be about your personal life but how you plan to develop and progress in your career and what you might want to do to add value to the company.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, we have similar personal career development goals. Sometimes people indicate a wish to advance when no opportunities are available in our org. Good managers put such employees in touch with their networks and offer to be their references if they apply elsewhere. A work friend did just that and got a new job elsewhere. A few years later they returned to us when the kind of position they’d originally wanted opened up. They were really keen to work with the supportive manager again.

    4. Bront*

      I was going to say exactly this. We have performance and development goals. Our peeps are allowed (rather than required) to have a personal goal as a development goal, but that’s not in a “you’re accountable to me for your personal goal” but more in a “how can I support you to achieve your personal goal?”

      Interestingly, one of my team actually did have a goal for a better work/life balance. We did a bit of work around setting priorities, turning off at the end of the day, and flex time, and after 6 months, she’s become a far happier and more productive team member.

    5. Quinalla*

      Yes, this is how our goals work, you can have a personal goal (developmental) which may sometimes involve things that are more outside of work or strictly in work depending on the coachee’s preference but are more for personal career advancement/personal growth that may or may not really benefit your employer and/or performance goals that are directly of benefit to your employer. I would approach it that way and see if that satisfies them!

    6. Sara without an H*

      Ditto. I’ve (mis)spent my entire career in university libraries. It’s by no means unusual to have both job-specific goals (“increase cataloging throughput by 5%”) and a “personal” (professional development) goal (“Take a Russian course so I can reduce the backlog of uncataloged books in that language.”) If OP#1 really has to come up with something, this may be the way to go.

    7. Managing to Get By*

      Where I work the PTB decided that each employee needed to come up with a personal development/wellness goal and it was clearly described to be not work related. I’m a manager and I was pretty ticked off not only that I’d need to put something personal on my development plan but also that I’d have to track my direct reports’ personal goals.

      The managers and directors in our area discussed this and we decided that we’d tell our staff to list something simple and not too personal, be vague if they wanted, and that we would take their word for whether they accomplished it or not and not ask for any details or proof. So it’s technically in the HR system, we have to enter goals into a form that gets saved, but everyone gets the highest mark and we don’t pry. Some people have wanted to talk to me about stepping up their workout routine or taking a class online and that’s fine, but all I say ask for is their self-evaluation of that goal, and if they don’t give themselves a 5 out of 5 I tell them that I think they deserve that just for having a goal and mark them 5 on the manager score.

      This is an obnoxious instrusion and I HATE it.

  20. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

    What you’re describing makes a lot more sense than what LW#1’s company seems to be trying to do. Personally, I think what that manager is asking for is, on the face of it, utterly bananacrackers and even offensive. I hope they come to their senses very, VERY soon,

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      My personal goal is to use “bananacrackers” less often, but I guess that’s going to rely on the behaviors of those around me ;)

      Today isn’t a good day to start this goal, for example.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          My goodness, yes! I adore the word bananacrackers and try to use it as often as possible. :-D

          Bananapants is another good one.

  21. Jessie J*

    Curious question: I’ve seen many posts where people have managers overstep into the employees personal life outside of the work environment.
    Why is this happening and don’t managers have proper training to focus on work whilst at work and the rest is not any of their business?

    1. piefaceline*

      I think it’s a side effect of the ‘bring your whole self to work’ thing. Some managers seem to think that now your ‘whole self’ is at work, they might as well start treating it in the same way as they would your ‘work self’ aka giving you goals and things to work on.

    2. Joanna*

      I think they often want their workplace to be seen as a great place to work that’s compatible with having a fulfilling, balanced life and playing lifecoach is easier and cheaper than being generous with granting leave and limiting overtime

    3. Paul Pearson*

      I also think we’re creeping increasingly into a greater sense of ownership of employees. While “bring your whole self to work” means we need to see people as people and not just employees, the side effect of that when you are a boss of a person is you see yourself as a boss of that WHOLE PERSON rather than just their work persona. Especially as employer creeping into personal time is happening more and more.

      1. Observer*

        This is actually NOT a new thing. Even outside of extremes like company towns, the idea that a boss had a right to look at more than your workplace behavior is faaaar from new.

        1. Sara without an H*

          Somewhere I read that Henry Ford used to send inspectors to workers homes, especially if the workers wanted promotions. I haven’t taken time to confirm this, but it sounds plausible.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      It’s “new age” or cutting edge or whatever they want to call it.

      It’s interesting to me because I found in supervising people, sometimes people do talk about goals. Sometimes I got asked for advice. Other times I just cheered someone on or celebrated a success. The key is that THEY initiated the conversation when they wanted to. And I followed their cues as to how much conversation should/could go on. My advice usually involved suggesting a professional who would be acquainted with their concern/goal. And that was enough, we moved on.

      What the boss is doing here is AT BEST forced/contrived. There are plenty of opportunities in leadership to offer help or encouragement. This process does not have to be formalized nor should it be.

    5. Bagpuss*

      Also, no, managers don’t necessarily have proper (or any_ training in how to be manager. Obviously this will vary but I think it’s quite common , and of course training is pretty unregulated so you can also hae situations where people are given training which isn’t appropriate.

    6. Quinalla*

      To be honest, sometimes they are TOLD to do this kind of thing. I’d say it is 50/50 bad manger vs. manager following orders from above on stuff like this.

      And a lot of times it comes from a place of good intentions, but is terribly implemented. A lot of folks read about whole self to work or vulnerability, etc. and think – cool, I’ll jump right to the end of this program when they haven’t done any of the never-ending work to build trust and psychological safety at work. You can’t just jump into personal stuff with people and you might never get there and that is ok, but building more trust at work so people can CHOOSE to be more vulnerable is a great thing, but even the most trusting workplaces should still have boundaries.

      1. miss chevious*

        Yeah, this. I am happy with my job and think my company generally treats its employees well, but we had a spate of this “vulnerability” and “bring your whole self to work” thing last year that was handled badly. Of course people should feel comfortable at work telling people about their same sex partners, for example, or taking time off to celebrate their religion’s respective holidays, or wearing their hair in a natural style without being judged as unprofessional, as examples, but I don’t want to be deep in the personal lives of my work colleagues and I don’t want them in mine.

        Last year we had a small group sharing thing that was supposed to be about being vulnerable at work. I brought a story about how I had handled a misstep in a client meeting, because I think it’s important to be able to make mistakes and recover from them in a workplace, but several other people brought incredibly personal stories about their reproductive health or their marriages or their relationships and it was terrible, firstly, because none of us in the group had the closer relationships where it would be appropriate to know that kind of thing about co-workers, and secondly because none of us knew what to say in response to these stories, so we all just awkwardly moved from overshare to overshare, and I now know things about relative strangers that make it hard to say “hey, Susan, could you prioritize that TPS report?”

    7. College Career Counselor*

      I think you’re assuming managers get proper training. I suspect that it goes like this, most times: you do your job well enough, and you get promoted to managing others doing the job. Any special management training is either on you to ask for/pursue, but it’s not necessarily a matter of course that you’ll get it from the organization.

    8. Cat Tree*

      First keep in mind that letters to an advice column don’t represent the general workforce. People with good or even mediocre managers don’t tend to write in for advice. So it can give a skewed impression that these bosses are more common than they actually are.

      But no, at the vast majority of places I’ve worked the managers get minimal or no training on actually being a manager. Often it is a person with either seniority or technical skill and that doesn’t necessarily translate into good management. I’m now working at a place that trains managers and it makes such a difference. But it isn’t common.

    9. Observer*

      don’t managers have proper training to focus on work whilst at work and the rest is not any of their business?

      Short answer? Nope. Nowhere near enough training.

      Longer answer – as others have noted there is a lot of stuff out there about “bringing your WHOLE self to work” and being more “human centered” etc. All good things – as long as you understand what they actually mean the limitations. But that’s a lot more complicated, and so we wind up with this kind of nonsense.

    10. Sara without an H*

      Short answer: No. Most managers are promoted from individual contributor positions. Unless their own manager is unusually proactive, they get no training. So what happens is you take your top salesperson, and promote them to supervise the rest of the sales staff. The results are unpredictable.

      Another thing that happens is that senior executives Get Ideas from books, articles, seminars, and TED talks, then try to implement them without really understanding the concepts or doing any ground work necessary to make them successful. I used to shudder whenever I heard my dean was going to a conference, because he always came back with An Idea that the rest of us would somehow have to work around.

  22. Mannheim Steamroller*


    Time once again for my standard answer-a-question-with-a-question:
    “What is the BUSINESS purpose of this?

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      “We have found that employees with fulfilling personal lives are more productive in their jobs, so helping them achieve fulfillment leads to a more profitable business.” Next question?

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        That still doesn’t give bosses the right to monitor or govern their employees’ personal lives.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Of course it doesn’t. My point is that your question about the business purpose isn’t going to shut down this discussion if they want to press the issue.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Just like mandatory fun does not mean everyone will have fun, mandatory goal setting does not mean everyone will have a more fulfilling life.

            Oh wait.
            One has to be able to comprehend that mandatory fun is not fun.
            I see.

            Back to, just say “no, I am good here.”

  23. Paul Pearson*

    I think this all kind of underlines how much we’re blurring our personal and profesional lives – in both the first two letters I think it’s a good reminder to keep those lines more solid: with both our bosses firmly out of our personal lives (though I’d always be tempted to say something like “find the UFOS who have been following me since I was a child!” or “achieve our cult’s aim in the name of Cthulu the great devourer, Schlup Schlup, blessed be his tentacles”) and in the second letter recognising that our client’s marriages just aren’t ours to fix or be involved in

    which neatly reaches the third letter and Alison’s awesome reply of revelation and explanation while maintaining boundaries.

  24. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

    I missed the comma at first and read the headline as “manager wants to monitor my personal goals when a client introduces his mistress” and was vaguely horrified, but also really wanted to see where that was gonna go.

  25. EventPlannerGal*

    OP2: Unless this is a purely hypothetical question I would be interested to know what makes your friend (especially someone who has been doing this for ten years!) think he ought to get involved here. Unless they’re unusually close on a level that I haven’t really come across often, guests are not generally your friends – you can have a friendLY relationship but not really a “giving unsolicited commentary on your marriage” relationship. I agree with Alison’s advice but just in general that might be something he wants to think about.

    1. UKDancer*

      Yes. I’ve been going back to the same place in Austria for a holiday for several years (sadly not for the past 18 months due to Covid) and we’re friendly with the owners so when they had a baby we sent them a card and when we went after the baby’s birth we brought a toy for little Paul with us. But we’re not friends to the extent we’d expect relationship advice from them or vice versa. It’s a small hotel so we chat while they’re serving the dinner or if we’re going past reception and we’re on pleasant terms but that’s about it.

      I’ve never stayed anywhere where we’ve become close friends with the owner because in my experience you mostly don’t when it’s a service based relationship.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Right! I think anyone in hospitality will have regulars who they’re on good terms with, that’s one of the nicer parts of the job, but that’s about as far as it goes. Certainly in some roles you end up hearing a lot about guests’ relationships whether you want to or not, but I would just kind of nod and smile, smile and nod, you know?

  26. Busyness of Ferrets*

    For LW1 I would start normally
    1. Learn French
    2. Save $5 a week
    3. Host 18 orgies by February
    4. Throw the body in my trunk off a bridge
    5. Join the Illuminati

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        “Quietly commit to destroying the Illuminati from within, having been told it’s not possible to quit.”

  27. agnes*

    My advice is always to clean up the past to the extent possible. Regardless of how your employer receives it, it will give you relief for having done it. It’s a brave thing to do, and will give you peace of mind.

  28. Beth*

    #5 Does your health insurance include short term disability? My company has no maternity leave. My company has the – my doctor says I just had surgery/traumatic medical experience and need X time to recover – leave. It is not full pay, because short term disability is typically not and usually you have to chip in a few days of vacation/sick days first but then the disability pay starts. If that does not apply and if your company qualifies, ask about filling out the paperwork ahead of time for taking FMLA unpaid leave so at least you have some protections.

    1. Shirley You're Joking*

      +1. It sounds like your employer doesn’t have a short-term disability insurance plan for employees or they would have provided you info about it, but it’s worth asking any. (Disability insurance is not part of health insurance, but a stand-alone insurance policy.) If your employer doesn’t have disability insurance, you (and others) might want to lobby for this now, as it could be set up pretty quickly for next year. Short-term disability insurance is generally inexpensive for employers and it’s a life-saver for employees. Heck, the employer could even pass along the cost of the insurance to employees, giving you the chance to opt into the group plan at your own expense and it would be worth it. A typical group plan would not have any pre-existing condition limitations, so if the plan started Jan 1 and you gave birth Jan 2, you would be covered.

      If you live in a state with paid leave (there are only about 7 right now) then you employer has the responsibility to tell you about that.

      Not allowing people to save up vacation for medical emergencies or maternity/paternity leave –while also not having disability insurance or a paid parental leave policy — is out-dated and pretty short-sighted. This is the kind of thing that people leave jobs or turn down job offers over. If it’s at all feasible, I’d follow Alison’s usual advice about pushing back as a group and trying to get this changed. (Like you have nothing else to spend your energy on while you’re pregnant. But maybe one of your colleagues will take up the cause and be the leader?)

      1. Office sweater lady*

        I think it’s ridiculous that companies still think it’s acceptable to have zero options for any paid leave during the birth of a child, especially if you are a full time employee. Alison has been mentioning a lot lately that the job market is uncommonly good for workers right now and I wonder, if your current workplace won’t work with you on this and you aren’t getting paid anyway, maybe you want to look for a new job with better benefits once you are ready to begin working again after the birth. Totally understand there are reasons you might not want to, but might be worth considering?

        1. anonymous73*

          Most companies in the US have leave for all things that is vastly underwhelming, especially for the birth of a child. I’ve been working for 25+ years at 6 different companies and not one of them has had maternity leave. And most of them didn’t even have short term disability. So you basically use up all of your sick leave and PTO, and then FMLA for 12 weeks with no pay. It’s bonkers! My husband had major foot surgery a few years back, works for the government and had to have co-workers with a ton of built up leave donate it to him so he could be paid while he was out because it was the end of the year and he didn’t have much leave built up. Thankfully he had that option and some generous co-workers, but it shouldn’t have to come to that.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I would very carefully check about maternity leave and short-term disability policies. I’m very hopeful that things have changed since my teen was born, but maternity leave was the single exception to the “we don’t have any pre-existing condition exclusions” on the two policies I was on at that point (one through work, one personal via the Duck-Company). The policy had to have been in place for 11 months prior to the birth of the child for maternity leave to be covered.

        I hope that that has changed in the time between.

      3. Perfectly Particular*

        My company hosted a mandatory workshop where they wanted us to create and share goals that focused on our top priorities. So many people loved that workshop and said they came out feeling energized, and ready to tackle new accomplishments. I *hated* it – my family and free time are my priorities and it just made me feel even more guilt that I’m not able to give them my all. So I came up with some really lame goals like ensuring that I use all my vacation time and don’t work on the days during the school year that the kids are off. I am doing pretty well with achieving those goals, but I’m not sure my boss would like to review them with me….

      4. my $.02*

        When I had my children (14 and 12) I worked for a hospital system. I had to save up my PTO for 2 years to have enough for just the first 6 weeks. I also used short term disability that kicked in only once all PTO was exhausted and paid only 40% of my salary. Turns out that if I was off for more than 2 weeks I was required to pay the employers portion of my health insurance for as long as I was off. So guess what that 40% went to!!!

    2. June First*

      Had to use PTO when my first child was born. It was early in the year, which meant I only got 4 weeks off*, even after they reduced my hours to stretch the days off. It made it so much harder, because I couldn’t afford unpaid days off but my doctor said I needed more time to heal. Unsurprisingly, I was burning out and left a few months later.

      When my second child was born, I was at a different org that offered short term disability for maternity leave. What a game changer!

      *Four weeks was not my usual PTO allotment, but the most they could give me under this system by changing my schedule, etc. The doctor’s recommendation for minimum was six weeks.

    3. Amy*

      I had 6 weeks of fully paid STD for one of my pregnancies, on top of 8 weeks paid maternity leave, 2 weeks of vacation and 2 unpaid weeks. But it was a fairly high bar. The STD insurer needed all my medical records connected to the disability, my doctor needed to sign off. The insurer had a conversation with the doctor.

      I think it would have been very difficult to massage it. It definitely didn’t apply to my previous pregnancy, even though I’d had a complication with that one too. Just not one that met the bar of a disability.

    4. Engineering Mom*

      Yep, it’s ridiculous but common for employers in my field to not provide paid maternity leave for exempt employees. I had my first baby Oct 2020. My company had short term disability, so I received full pay for 6 weeks after birth. I then burned through my remaining 2 weeks of vacation and took the last 4 weeks unpaid.

      I was told that you can get short term disability insurance privately, which would cover some of your pay while recovering from childbirth (6-8 weeks). Not sure if that’s an option since you’re already pregnant, but it might be worth looking into.

      And 1000% make sure you get the FMLA paperwork filled out! It’ll at least protect your job while you’re out.

    5. A Friend Indeed*

      Aside from the short term disability insurance option, it’s also possible that your employer will let you “borrow” against your balance of PTO, but has not volunteered this. Please ask HR about it, as they may not be inclined to make it very clear to you that you can (this is more obnoxious than words can describe, but I have seen it and worse) but may indeed bend to the specific request.

      In addition, you may want to find out if you qualify for a private STD plan of your own, though the ways you can buy them on the private market (never mind the costs) vary by state.

  29. Feral Fairy*

    OP 2- Your friend should absolutely not do/say anything about the affair. It’s certainly an uncomfortable position to be in but part of his job is to respect the privacy of his guests (as long as they aren’t doing anything illegal or disturbing to other hotel guests).

    I work at a restaurant with regular customers. I can’t imagine that a married person who frequents the restaurant with their spouse would also bring an affair partner there as it seems to risky, but if that were to happen, it wouldn’t be any of my business. Meddling with customers’ marital issues is way beyond my pay grade!

  30. The Cosmic Avenger*

    Incidentally, does anyone know why #5 is a thing? My spouse’s company does that, and it leads to more hoarding and then wasting of hours, and we’ve joked that the company policy is that you should get sick in December, not January. My company just has a rolling cap (you lose anything over X hours), which seems much easier to manage.

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Presumably, the organization doesn’t want to have massive amounts of PTO carrying over on its books. That can be considered a liability to have to pay out if they did layoffs or a bunch of people quit all at once. Some states (hello, California!) consider PTO to be a form of wage, and it cannot be forfeited if you quit, get fired, or retire. That’s why they do use-it-or-lose-it policies.

      1. doreen*

        Yes, but there are other ways to do either use it or lose it or limit accruals . For example, my husband gets 4 weeks PTO a year- it’s all credited on January 1 and must be used by December 31 ( I don’t recall how it worked his first year) so it would never happen that he has no PTO in January although it is possible that he could have used all his 2021 PTO by October. Presumably if you know you need time off in November/December , you wouldn’t use it all up by October. My job has a cap on accruals – but the only day I must be below the cap is Jan 1 when I will lose everything over the cap.

        I’m not exactly sure what the OP means, though- at first, I though she meant that she would have little PTO available because she was planning to go on maternity leave in January/February and would only have accrued a couple of days by then. That seems to be how Alison read it based on her response. But upon re-reading, I’m not sure if “not much” refers to a couple of days or if she might be credited with all her PTO for the year in January and “not much” is a reference to the 1,2 or 3 weeks of PTO she earns in a year or that she’s due in August and will have accrued only three of her yearly four weeks by then.

    2. miss chevious*

      Yeah, my company does a hybrid approach — you have a certain amount each year and you lose it if you don’t use it by the end of the year, but you don’t have to wait until it accrues before you can use it. I could use all my PTO in January (assuming my manager approved it) and just accrue for the rest of the year to bring the balance to zero by December 31st, for example.

      When people leave (voluntarily or involuntarily) there’s a true up, so the employee is paid if they’ve accrued or may have to pay if there’s a deficit or PTO, but the ability to use all of it and any time stops people from hoarding and everyone being out in December. Also, our sick time is a separate bank and rolls over from year to year, but doesn’t get paid out (or create a deficit) if you leave.

    3. Deborah*

      My company does use-it-or-lose-it but it’s linked to your start date so you don’t have massive vacations all at the end of December, and they let you use some vacation prior to accrual (at their own risk) so each employee doesn’t always wind up having to take the last few days of each (personal) year off. They also have maternity leave, and are flexible enough that if you wanted to extend maternity leave by saving and rolling over some vacation time, in that circumstance they’d let you. (They let me roll over vacation in 2020, I didn’t use it because of COVID travel restrictions, and I asked to roll it just in case I caught COVID, AND I DID, and it was very nice not to use up all my vacation lying sick in bed.)

  31. Lacey*

    LW5 says vacation time starts over every year, but I don’t think that means they start accruing vacation time in January – they just start over with a full bank of vacation hours in January, but have to use them all by the end of December.

    That’s how it’s worked at every company I’ve been at, except for one where vacation hours started over on your date of hire, which was very confusing for everyone.

    Fortunately, at my current company vaca and sick time are separate. You can only carry over a little bit of vacation time each year, but you’d have to be there over a decade without ever using a sick day to even approach the sick time cap.

    1. eastcoastkate*

      I think it’s confusing because they say “vacation time” (which starts over like yours at a set amount and doesn’t accrue) and “sick leave accrued”- could they potentially have one that accrues and one that starts over at a set amount?

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      No, I think they mean what my spouse’s company does, which is that you cannot carry over any leave from Dec. 31 to Jan. 1, you lose anything in your “bank” at that point. Like I said, I don’t understand the reasoning (if any) behind it.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Like I said, I don’t understand the reasoning (if any) behind it.

        The justification I always hear is that “leave is important and its expiration compels/inspires you to use it.” I generally can’t suppress the snark well enough to continue the conversation from there.

      2. PayRaven*

        mostly that American companies really, REALLY hate the idea of people getting something they didn’t “earn.”

    3. J.B.*

      That is not how my company does it. We start over at 0 so they don’t have any liability to pay out banked vacation. They breezily assure us we can go negative but don’t get why staff wouldn’t be comfortable with that. Oh, and they tried to yank accumulated 6 months worth of leave because they misinterpreted when the year turned over.

    4. londonedit*

      We have a set number of days’ holiday per year (25, not including public holidays and the period between Christmas and New Year which is designated as a ‘company holiday’ and doesn’t need to come out of your annual leave) and we have to use them between January 1st and December 31st each year. We can carry over 5 days to the next year, but those have to be used by March 31st. But holiday is completely separate from sick time here and we don’t have a set number of sick days – obviously if someone’s off sick a lot then it’s a discussion between them and their manager/HR, but you can self-certify for up to 5 working days in a row without needing a doctor’s note, and if you are signed off by your doctor for a longer period of time then the company will top up the statutory sick pay you get to your usual salary for up to 15 weeks. So holiday is for holiday, you don’t need to save it in case you get ill. I don’t think I’ve ever worked anywhere in the UK where you could accrue a huge number of leave days – it’s always been use them within the calendar/financial year.

      1. Media Monkey*

        but you get all those holidays on Jan 1st (or whenever it rolls over). so if you wanted to take them all by march that would be up to you. you don’t need to wait til you have “earned” them which is what i think the OP is saying she needs to do

    5. PayRaven*

      My partner starts at 0/only what he carried over from last year in January (and sick doesn’t carry over). :/ This meant that the year he got the flu in January he only had one sick day, and then his company forced him to go negative on vacation until he recovered. It’s heinous and anti-worker and on its face ridiculous, but it’s not uncommon. American employers really, REALLY hate the idea of people getting something they didn’t “earn.”

      (They did eventually give him back the vacation day, but as a “fine, since you asked,” not as a policy shift.)

    6. amariyah*

      My last job did it that way. You started on January 2nd with zero PTO (also no sick leave) every single year. You can take time off but you have to go negative. Gosh, it would be awful, but no one ever gets sick or has a baby in January, what a relief.

  32. Ms Teacher*

    I have a question about the exempt employee thing. As a teacher, I am salaried and exempt. I also only get 3 personal days a year (and seven sick). If I go over the 3 days, any time off is unpaid even if I work the rest of the week. How does that work with exemption laws?

    1. doreen*

      There are a couple of exceptions – one is that if the employer provides paid sick leave , they don’t have to pay you for full days that exceed what you are entitled to under the policy. Another is that they don’t have to pay you for full day absences for personal reasons other than sickness or disability.

  33. Roscoe*

    #2 Yeah, the hotel employee do nothing here.

    This is one of those situations where I feel the word “friend” is thrown around too loosely. My guess is this person would see the same person pretty often, and maybe they had some drinks at the bar on occasion and discussed life. That is a friendly relationship, but likely not a real friendship. Either way though, as the relationship started professionally, and they are only coming into the mistress information from their professional role, you need to keep quiet as a rep of your company.

    I once had a friend with a job like this. Her hotel tended to host a lot of the sports teams who came to town, and even the hometown sports teams the night before games sometimes. Some of these prominent players, everyone knew if they were married. She still would often see them coming back with girls they met on the town. And her job was to just make sure the guest had what they needed, not to pass judgment.

    On another note, I do find it interesting the difference in tone with responses about this situation and the letter last week about the HR person telling the wife that the employee was sending pictures to a coworker. To me, these seem to fall under the same umbrella of an overstep for a company to get involved in the personal lives.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Well, in the previous case the cheating husband was making it a work problem since he was harassing coworkers. So HR needed to be involved. Crossing the streams to notify the wife was definitely inappropriate, but it’s not the same thing as a hotel worker involving themself in something that they have NO work-related need to be involved in.

  34. Quinalla*

    OP5: Definitely try to push for real paid leave. I worked for a small business and was the first person there to need maternity leave, I ended up negotiating for reduced pay while I was on leave and I took 16 weeks – enough to keep my insurance active basically – and that I would still get my typical PTO to use that year. Now this is not an amazing arrangement, but it was a pretty good compromise from what was legally required (nothing, we weren’t big enough even for FMLA – I could have used all my PTO for maternity leave, but seriously no thanks, I need that vacation time throughout the year ).

    Geez I wish so much that we had some federal mandated parental leave in the USA at full pay or at least partial pay with insurance kept active, but for now I just do what I can to keep pushing my employer and help other advocate at their employers for better policies for parental leave, PTO, sick leave, etc. It is honestly something we should all try and push for more right now with so much more power being on the employee side at a lot of places right now.

  35. anonymous73*

    #1 I am a very private person and would 100% push back on this. It is none of your manager’s business what your personal goals are because they’re…personal. Maybe talk to your colleagues and get their thoughts on this and push back as a group? If manager is insistent after you say no, I’d even go over their head or take it to HR. They are crossing a line on something that has NOTHING to do with your job and the work you do. And if you’re thinking about making stuff up – you’re already annoyed by the process of creating goals for work, think about how annoying it’s going to be to keep up the charade of the progress of fake personal goals.
    #3 I would definitely send a letter because you mention that they were concerned about you so they seem to care. I know I would appreciate an explanation for a situation like that. And who knows, you may encounter one or more of these people in the future for a job and instead of them writing you off as a flake, they may be more willing to keep you in consideration because you explained to them what was happening when you worked there.
    #4 That’s really odd. What are you supposed to do if you have no emergency contacts that live over 100 miles away (I don’t)? Plus the point of an emergency contact is for that person to be made aware of your emergent situation and come to your rescue, so if they live far away, how is that helpful?

  36. Kesnit*

    Re: #2

    Is your friend sure Mr. X and his wife are still together? My first thought when I read the letter was “they are probably separated / getting divorced and Mr. X has moved on.” Yeah, maybe they are separated / getting divorced because Mr. X had a girlfriend on the side, but in that case, Mrs. X already knows.

    1. Daffodilly*

      Mr X asked him to keep it a secret from his wife. So….probably not separated/divorced if he’s trying to hide it.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      It doesn’t make any difference. The OP’s friend works in a place where Mr. X is a customer. It isn’t the OP friend’s place to say anything to anyone and to do so could cost the OP’s friend their job.

  37. The Other Evil HR Lady*

    You had me at “Machiavellian” goals.

    – “I want to travel more, but I don’t really have the funds or the time. I need a raise and more vacation time.”

    – “I want to save more towards my retirement, but I need a raise in order to be able to not live paycheck to paycheck.”

    Or, heck… “I’d like to move to Timbuktu, but I need my employer to be able to help me WFH in that country. I need you to research Timuktuan laws so that I can work for you from there.”

    HA!!! Suckers…

  38. Not really a Waitress*

    When people ask me what my New Year’s Resolution is I tell them my goal is to not set any goals that I will most likely fail at and will make me feel bad about myself.

  39. Elps*

    LW1: It seems like people who make policies like this only hear half the advice. Yes, it’s good for employee engagement and retention if employees share their personal goals *voluntarily, and if the organization can materially support those goals.”

    I ask my staff about their career goals, and if there are personal goals that they WANT to share. Sometimes I’m able to offer support they didn’t know about (for example, working at my org gets you $2 access to all the museums in our city. If a goal of an employee was to visit more museums, perfect thing for me to know!), or at least check in occasionally and see how they’re doing. But not to make it required or, even worse, an evaluation metric.

    Sorry, LW1. Your manager is trying, but forgetting about half of what this idea is supposed to be about.

    1. anonymous73*

      Even if you’re giving them the option to share, some may feel like they need to share because you’re their manager and it’s really not an option. Personal goals should not be something that should be part of work…at all. If you develop a good relationship with your employees and make them feel comfortable enough to share personal things with you that’s great, but it should never be done within the context of a review/official work meeting.

  40. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    LW #1: My goal for the year is to teach my supervisor at her convenience the Latin language.

    My stretch goal is to teach my supervisor at her convenience the Proto-Italic language.

    My fantasy goal for the year is to teach my supervisor at her convenience the Proto-Indo-European language.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      For bonus points, you should insist on changing all office documentation to transliterated akkadian.

      1. F.M.*

        Why transliterate, when you can break out the clay tablets and styluses, and have people find far more personal fulfillment at work than they would have expected? Aim for the skies!

  41. adulting?*

    #4 reminds me of a question I’ve always had: what’s the primary purpose of an emergency contact? For the years I was single and living hundreds of miles from any family I was never sure whether to put a local friend or a parent. Is it more important to have someone who could come pick me up from the hospital or feed my cat, or someone who knows my personal info or pay my bills?

    1. ecnaseener*

      That’s kinda up to you, but generally it’s the person you want work to call if you were hospitalized or something. If that’s a local friend who can pick you up, make sure that friend has contact info for your parents – or vice versa.

  42. Meghan*

    #1 Its annoying, but if you’re new, just create some dumb “goal” to hit. Hopefully its a phase and the manager will eventually forget about it. That said, I wouldn’t pick up a crafting goal. Since you end up with a physical object at the end, the boss might want to see it or (god forbid) they might ask for YOU to make something.

  43. K.K.*

    OK, Alison kept me up half the night stressing with her answer to #5. I am pretty convinced now by some friends that it is very misleading. The options are not “come back full-time, stay out completely until you’re ready to come back full-time, or convert to part-time hourly”. You can totally take intermittent unpaid FMLA and remain a full-time employee (i.e. with full time benefits) while being paid for the parts of the week you work. HR Daily Advisor’s July 11, 2012 “How to Handle Intermittent FMLA Leave for Exempt Employees” addresses this.

    1. Boof*

      Not sure how I see allison’s answer is different; LW5 was specifically asking about PAID time off for maternity leave, not unpaid time with continuing benefits. FMLA doesn’t mandate pay as you stated here.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. The OP is asking about how to get paid maternity leave (and maternity leave specifically, not intermittent leave). I said if you’re exempt and out a full week, they don’t need to pay you — and the part about the options being ““come back full-time, stay out completely until you’re ready to come back full-time, or convert to part-time hourly” was in reference to if you think “great, I’ll just work a couple hours a week then since they have to pay me my full salary for any weeks where I do any work.”

    2. Amy*

      Use of intermittent FMLA is subject to the employer’s approval* and is, in my experience, having taken 24 weeks of FMLA, not incredibly standard.

      * of course, some things vary by state

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Many employers default to intermittent FMLA, and insist on counting days toward the limit when they first recognize a condition as meeting eligibility criteria, e.g., the first three day absence. I’d have to refresh my recollection, but I have a vague memory of other criteria that could start eating into the time allowed earlier than an employee might imagine.

        Anything that the employee is entitled to claim as FMLA if the employer resists giving time off, the employer is entitled to count toward the statutory limit on mandatory FMLA.

  44. Persephone*

    LW3, I would recommend reaching out using Allison’s script just for your own peace of mind. I had a similar experience a few years ago where I ghosted someone who hired me as a freelance consultant. I felt so awful about it for years, and last year I finally reached out with an apology letter. The WEIGHT lifted off my shoulders as soon as I hit send was absolutely amazing. I didn’t expect a response, but the employer responded with forgiveness a while later and it seriously was one of the nest things that happened all year. I wish you the same peace of mind. Best wishes.

  45. JS*

    LW 3: I’ve also struggled with horrible depression/anxiety most of my life and I also have made really bad decisions at work (and my personal life). Please don’t beat yourself up over this. You acknowledged what you did and all you can do now is just take the steps to get healthy and try to ensure past behaviors don’t repeat.

    If you had a good rapport with your boss, I would go ahead and write a letter using Alison’s script. If I were your former supervisor/coworker, I would be happy to hear that you’re doing well now. I wouldn’t care so much about the apology itself. Good luck with everything LW3

  46. I'm just here for the cats!*

    I don’t understand#4. What if you don’t have someone 100 miles away? It everyone has family spread around the country and many peoples family are around the same area.
    Plus I thought an emergency contact was for if something happened to you at work they could contact that person, not that if something happens outside of work the emergency contact is supposed to call your work which seems to be what the LW is implying. And if there’s a natural disaster in your area wouldn’t it be obvious that you wouldn’t be working.

    1. Observer*

      I think the LW is misunderstanding what the office wants. I think they want someone they could contact outside of a disaster zone if something major happened.

      As for “What if you don’t have someone 100 miles away?” Say so. That’s it. Obviously if they are going to be ridiculous and insist that YOU DO have someone, that’s a problem. But a simple “I don’t have anyone over 100 miles away who could be called” should do it for a reasonable manager.

  47. Meep*

    Re LW#3 – I think the first step is forgiving yourself. The pandemic was hard and isolating on everyone. It is not to say that your struggles weren’t real, but that they were, unfortunately, normal and should be understood by your former management who were very clearly worried about you.

    I am glad you are doing much better, though!

  48. Beth*

    LW #1 — ARGGHHH, they did this at FormerEvilJob, and tied part of our bonus to it! I’ve ranted about it in detail here before, so I won’t repeat myself. But UGH. It was so many flavours of vile.

  49. Former Retail Lifer*

    OP #1, I think I’d make my personal goal something fake that was inappropriate or uncomfortable to talk about at work. My personal goals would absolutely have something to do with MLMs, religion, a cult, or bodily functions. Let’s definitely make those check-ins really uncomfortable.

    1. 1.0*

      This seems like a really bad idea that wouldn’t make your boss think twice about personal goals, but would make your boss think twice about your professionalism and understanding of how to behave in public, honestly.

      1. pancakes*

        Every time there’s a question like this, there are commenters who seem to think making themselves look foolish, malicious, or untrustworthy is a good idea. The impulse to do this needs some examination!

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. If you’re sure this is a personal goal, don’t want to do this but feel you have to, then say something bland and uncontroversial and then move on. Good ones might be “I’m going to read more widely” or “I’m going to do Duolingo as part of my commute to improve my Spanish” or even “I’m going to learn how to make carrot cake.” Most of the time as long as you tick the box on the form marked “personal goal” nobody cares about the details.

          Obviously you can fight this but it’s a question of whether it’s a good use of personal capital. I’d probably just pick something innocuous and move on.

        2. marvin the paranoid android*

          I can see the temptation to go the malicious compliance route, but I think it would be smart to go for something subtler, like a goal so boring that you can have a bit of fun tormenting your boss with tons of tedious details.

  50. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

    LW # 4, I always turn those emergency forms back in mostly blank. Had HR ask me about it once and I told them that I was the person everyone else contacted incase of emergency and if I was incapacitated there was no one else to call. Single, no dependents, no immediate family. If I were to fall down the stairs at work and end up in a coma I don’t see what a 2nd cousin’s kid several states away would be able to do about it.

  51. EmmaPoet*

    Speaking as someone who tracks health/fitness/diet/personal improvement goals* on a daily basis, my boss has no need or business knowing any of them. I’d probably declare my personal work improvement goals to be things like learning Spanish and Amharic or destroying the patriarchy, depending on how annoyed I am with this nonsense.

    *I find it helps with my health issues to be able to look back over a week and say, “Yeah, my migraine was due to lack of sleep combined with accidentally eating a food trigger.” Or, “X food seems to be causing me issues, I need to eliminate it from my diet.” My boss needs to know exactly none of this.

  52. Elizabeth West*

    #2 —The OP’s friend is not a “friend” to Mr. X. This is a cordial client relationship only. If they breach the confidentiality of a guest, they will probably lose their job and, depending on their role, they could find it difficult to get a similar job anywhere else. If I ran a hotel, I would not hire someone who inserted themselves into a guest’s personal business, barring something illegal, and then I would expect it to be brought to my attention so I could contact the appropriate authorities. Cheating is disgusting but not illegal.

    I know the situation is gross. But there’s nothing the friend can say. Unfortunately, this seems like it would be part and parcel of working in the hotel industry.

    1. Former Retail Lifer*

      Agreed. If they’re not committing an illegal act, just do your job and mind your business. There’s probably way shadier stuff going there on that you don’t even know about.

  53. Sasha Blause*

    #1 I would be so tempted to make my personal goal to enhance my sex life with my partner. With SMART goals around frequency and intensity. It’d be a sequel to the LW who insisted her coworkers refer to her partner as her master.

    I mean, I wouldn’t actually do it. But I would *really* want to.

  54. 1.0*

    Surprised by how much ire #1 is raising – this is not particularly uncommon at places I’ve worked and is an attempt to acknowledge we all have lives outside of work, not some control freak pry into your personal life.

    I am a distance runner, so I always say something about whatever big race is coming up. My check-ins with my manager for work stuff are detailed; in the last minute or so we’ll chat vaguely about sports. Half the time it doesn’t even come up. It really doesn’t have to be a big deal.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      There’s a difference between acknowledging life outside of work, and making life outside of work a work goal.

      It sounds like you voluntarily share info with your boss which is cool. What LW1 describes is mandatory sharing.

    2. Observer*

      this is not particularly uncommon at places I’ve worked and is an attempt to acknowledge we all have lives outside of work, not some control freak pry into your personal life.

      Sorry, you are actually wrong about the last part of this. Because while it’s way too common, it is UTTERLY unnecessary to do this as part of acknowledging people’s humanity outside of their job roles.

      My employer is quite good about acknowledging people having lives outside of work. We congratulate people on their life events, let people know about sad events, have occasionally given people work time to go to the funeral of a co-worker’s close family etc. That does NOT require managers to monitor people’s personal goals!

    3. Student*

      That’s great that this works out well for you in your particular (running) shoes.

      I submit to you that some bosses won’t react as well as your bosses have. Some people’s personal goals won’t be aligned with what their boss thinks, and their boss will make a point out of it in an abuse of authority. This is especially a problem for people who are already marginalized at work.

      You say you have good, brief chats with your boss about sports. You’re on the same page, and that’s great! I’m going to use it to give an example. I’m a woman and most of my bosses have been men – women are uncommon in my field. I have worked with men who have strong opinions about women doing things as basic as exercising and who don’t hesitate to share those opinions and try to berate anyone who thinks otherwise (and are never held accountable for doing so in my field). You may be unaware, but it was considered “common knowledge” when I was growing up that women shouldn’t exercise overmuch because of beliefs we now know to be nonsense, such as beliefs that it’d “hurt women’s reproductive capabilities”, that it’d be “too much” for women and damage their general health, or the still -held opinion by some that “women with too much muscle are unattractive”. My own parents felt this way and used these justifications to keep me out of any “unwomanly” sport when I was a minor, which included running/jogging.

      It is mid-boggling how many men I’ve run into who, if I try to talk about exercise with in a collegial way, will take that as open season to talk about my body’s current state what could be improved about my body, their own preferences for how women “should” look, their own prejudices about women exercising, etc. It’s unpleasant. I don’t do it anymore.

      So, I really don’t want to talk to a male boss about a range of my personal hobbies and goals. I would dread talking about something like jogging regularly, out of a fear that he might react as other men have reacted previously to me over very similar topics. I don’t want to deal with it, and I shouldn’t have to. I don’t want to give him a chance on the subject, because it’s more likely to be detrimental to me than to provide me the kind of collegial benefit you’ve gotten. I realize that’s industry-specific, regionally-specific, and probably applies to certain demographics more than others. I’m glad you haven’t had similar experiences. But I’m asking you to hear that I have had very contrary experiences that make me very leery of sharing personal info with bosses for good reasons, and recognize that other people in these comments are having negative reactions for the same reasons.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      The difference and why it’s a big deal:

      What you’re describing is a spontaneous chat. You took it on yourself to volunteer that information. What the OP’s boss wants is a mandatory work requirement that has to do with employees’ personal and private business off the clock.

      Sure, bosses should acknowledge that employees have personal lives outside work. But not by demanding oversight of them.

      1. Observer*

        Sure, bosses should acknowledge that employees have personal lives outside work. But not by demanding oversight of them.

        Well put!

  55. Taquito Tuesday*

    “In an emergency, local phone lines are often jammed because of the number of people trying to make calls at the same time. Long-distance lines, however, are freer, so you can usually make long-distance calls. Therefore, each family should decide on a contact person who lives at least 100 miles away.”

    Could just be a relic of the past since typically everyone has cell phones now.

      1. RagingADHD*

        I think the point was that if your cellphone doesn’t work locally it’s not going to work long distance either.

        1. Pibble*

          Actually there was someone earlier in the comments who had an example where the cell tower near them and the cell tower near their employee were both working intermittently, so they couldn’t communicate directly to each other, but they could both communicate with an emergency contact outside of the zone when their individual towers were working and were able to confirm the employee was okay that way.

  56. Nanani*

    #1 makes me wonder if someone in management thought this was a brilliant scheme to catch people who want out. If your personal goal is “get a better job” or “move to X” or even “take a vacation,” well, there’s definitely a reason people don’t always share those things with their bosses before it’s a done deal.

    Tread carefully and trust your instincts, LW1.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Come on. Nobody in their right mind would tell their boss that their goal is to get a better job or move away, and no manager in their right mind would expect it.

      However, talking about general career development and wanting to advance, or working toward a promotion, are work-related goal that good managers discuss with employees all the time.

  57. Be Like Nancy, Just Say No*

    For #1, I wouldn’t engage with this at all, even to troll. Engaging reinforces the idea that they have a right to do this and it’s just a matter of negotiating how. Absolutely freaking not. I’m perfectly capable of looking out for my own personal life and I don’t need or want this kind of infantilizing boundary stomping, thank you anyway.

    If that gets me labeled “not a team player”, so be it. In my experience, “not a team player” isn’t the kiss of death people think it is.

  58. RagingADHD*

    LW#1, to me it really depends on the context and how they’re approaching this. I know a business owner who asks about personal goals and “bucket list” items so they can be supportive of their employee’s lives and do things like make their appreciation gifts meaningful. So, if the goal is that they’re gut-renovating an older home as a long-term DIY, the boss might give gift cards to the hardware store as a birthday /holiday gift. If they’re saving for a trip to Paris, then the boss would give books on Paris or travel items. One employee said they had a bucket-list goal to meet a sloth, so the boss scheduled the next major teambuilding retreat in a suitable country, and included a visit to an animal sanctuary with sloths.

    This person isn’t “monitoring” progress in terms of trying to be an accountabili-buddy, but doing more general check-ins on how things are going. They certainly wouldn’t expect someone to reveal anything they’re uncomfortable with. But it really depends on the company and the boss.

    There are good ways and bad ways to do this, is what I’m saying. It’s probably a good idea to talk with your new co-workers and see what the process looks like in practice and how they feel about it. It might be intrusive and terrible, or it might be low-pressure and thoughtful.

    As for LW#2, I think the best response would be something along the lines of “Of course I wouldn’t say anything, but we aren’t equipped to guarantee total secrecy.”

    The employee shouldn’t have to go out of their way to try and keep a secret that the client is so careless about. If someone on staff accidentally made a comment that clued the wife in, or the wife found the bill, or something, the front-desk person isn’t responsible for that, and shouldn’t go along with any expectation that they can control it.

    Anybody stupid enough to take their girlfriend and their wife to the same establishments doesn’t know what a secret is.

  59. LW#3*

    LW#3 here :) Huh. I’m surprised by how positive and unanimous the comments are! I guess once you’ve convinced yourself that people should hate you it’s hard to get past that, even if it’s potentially illogical.
    I’ve had an apology outlined for months–just wasn’t sure whether or not I should send it, and if I need to make any changes. If they don’t want it, they can always delete it, right?
    It’s common wisdom that “everybody makes mistakes,” but it can be pretty hard to believe that as a new adult learning from others with far more experience. I’m still not convinced it’s true! But I am at least convinced that sending the email is the right thing to do. Thanks, everyone, for your advice, and hopefully one day I can send a followup with some good news.

    1. marvin the paranoid android*

      Speaking as the veteran of a lot of guilt–often the things we have to do to survive a really tough situation are not the things we would choose if we had the freedom. You did what you had to do and you got through it. If your past coworkers are halfway reasonable people, I don’t think they’ll hold it against you.

  60. SimplytheBest*

    It is truly shocking to me how many people on this site don’t know how emergency contacts work.

  61. bluephone*

    For OP1, just make up something like “read 5 books by X date” or whatever. This is very much not the battle to pick as a new employee (or really, at any point in your career).

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