is it OK to expense drinks with a coworker, my ex-boss blew up when I accepted a different job, and more

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

1. Is it weird that my coworker expensed drinks?

I have a colleague, Fergus, who is very close to me in age but senior to me at our company (not my manager, though). We have interacted at a few work events and had a great time talking to each other, and he’s mentioned a few times that he’d love to hang out. I’m also a great admirer of his work and am looking for friends in our city (I’m fairly new here), so I asked him the other day if he wanted to grab a drink and chat about one of his recent projects that I was interested in. We are both married, and it was clearly not anything romantic.

We had the drink, and I thought it was great! We got along well, and while we did discuss his project a bit, we also chatted about many non-work topics for several hours. He seemed like someone I’d definitely want to get to know better and hang out with again.

On the way out I offered to split the bill, but he said he was just going to expense it. This threw me a bit! I had though we we were meeting up for fun, and now I’m wondering if the expensing means that Fergus considered these drinks a work obligation. Is it normal for colleagues who spend time together to expense it, or should I assume Fergus isn’t actually interested in being friends and I misinterpreted what this hangout was? Am I overthinking this?

In many fields it’s common for people to expense drinks with coworkers and/or colleagues at other companies, even if the conversation was mostly non-work. Often that’s because they figure it benefits the company to have strong relationships internally and externally (especially in a situation like this where you don’t know each other well yet; expensing weekly socializing with your work BFF wouldn’t generally be acceptable) and the culture is such that they know the company would be fine with it.

That doesn’t mean Fergus saw it as a work obligation, just that he recognized that there’s enough work connection that he can get away with expensing it. (“Get away with” in this context doesn’t necessarily mean doing something shady; lots of managers are fine with this and encourage people to do it.)

There’s also a seniority element. Two junior people having drinks typically won’t be able to expense that, whereas two senior people often could (or a senior person who pays for a junior person). Partly that’s privileges of seniority, but partly it’s because there’s more expectation that senior people building relationships helps the company (and more common that they have expensing abilities at all).

2. My friend/ex-boss blew up after I accepted a different job

My contract in Company X was about to end and I was interviewing with several internal teams, so of course I reached out to my network inside, including a high-level manager I used to work for. Since our time together, we kept in touch as friends (or so I thought). She is now very well-positioned and immediately responded saying that she wanted me back on her team in a role that she was about to open. She then referred me to the potential supervisor.

I had a short exchange with him. The role did seem great and with a high-level of responsibility. The problem was timing, as my contract is ending and the internal processes haven’t even been completed so there is no open role yet. That would mean me being out of the system and unemployed until they hire me.They also changed the salary to a category lower than I was initially told. In the meantime, I received another solid offer and I called this manager to tell her that I needed to accept it to have a safe option, and we could see later how I could switch roles to her team. We agreed on this.

A few days later, I reconsidered that agreement. The truth is, I was dazzled by the career development but thinking it through, I felt uneasy going back on my word with the team who is hiring and welcoming me NOW. Likewise, my time working with her was filled with stress and burnout, and I’m not sure I am that person who works 24/7 anymore. So I write the manager thanking her for inviting me to be on board so quickly but telling her I am stepping out of this process, and of course apologizing for any inconvenience. She was on a business trip (so I couldn’t call her) but she texted me on Whatsapp late at night, and was very angry with me. Some of the wording included that she “could hire anyone she wanted” and “felt sorry for me for not choosing what is best for me.”

So, a friendship that spanned some years seems to have ended. Was I unethical? I understand the disappointment and inconvenience, but there was no work contract involved — heck, not even an open position. I never should have considered her offer in the first place, but I am human and I made a mistake. Is there any way I could repair this relationship?

You weren’t unethical. There isn’t even a job yet! There might never be a job. In fact, the only thing potentially approaching unethical would be if you’d accepted the other job with the intent of leaving as soon as the other one opened up — which is exactly what you realized you didn’t want to do.

Your old manager is being an ass. And if she reacts this dramatically to you not taking a job that doesn’t exist yet and hasn’t been offered to you and instead accepting a job that does exist so that you can have, you know, an income, you’re better off not working for her.

It doesn’t sound like the relationship is necessarily detroyed (not all arguments are friendship-enders), but whether or not you can repair it depends on her — both whether she calms down and becomes more reasonable, and whether you’re willing to move forward after her blow-up.

3. I don’t have the right equipment for my in-office days

I recently started a new job. Company headquarters are about two hours away, but there is a local office 30 minutes from my house. When hired, we agreed I’d be in the local office two days a week. The rest of my team is hybrid at the headquarters two hours away so while I see coworkers in other departments, I don’t gain face time with my team by coming into the office.

I could deal with that, though it seems a bit pointless. Since I’m here two days a week, I don’t get my own office but instead have to reserve a “hotel” office. That would be fine, except the offices are not set up with what I would expect for a functional work space. The docking station and monitors are incompatible with my newer (company-issued) laptop. Also, there is only one other hotel office that I have had to use when people don’t check the scheduling system. That office doesn’t have any monitors at all. I am much more productive with an external monitor.

Am I ridiculous for thinking that if I am required to be in the office, the setup should be functional for my daily activities? I asked my manager, who is usually very responsive, but she did not want to seem to want to make waves. Supply chain issues were also cited.

I should add that they provided everything for a functional setup for my home office, which seems to be part of the argument for why they won’t provide a second.

No, you’re not being ridiculous. If they want you working from the office, they should provide the equipment you need to do your job. I can understand not wanting to buy two of everything so you have it at both home and the office, but telling you to come in multiple days a week when there are (apparently) no real gains from having you there and you don’t have what you need to do your job is silly. It doesn’t sound like you’ll necessarily be able to do anything about it, but you’re not off-base in being irritated.

In a couple of months, if you find that is indeed harming your productivity without any payoff, you could see if your manager is willing to revisit the in-office requirement. Being able to show that you’ve made a good faith effort for a while can help strengthen that case.

4. I can’t have LinkedIn for safety reasons, but my new job requires it

I got a job offer today. Yay! But they said they require all their employees to have LinkedIn. Thing is, I have a crazy ex who will stalk me and hurt me at my place of employment if I publicize where I work. I have a very unusual last name so it would be easy to find me on LinkedIn. I don’t want to lose my new job. How do I tell my new boss that I don’t want LinkedIn due to having a crazy ex?

You are very, very, very unlikely to lose your new job over this! You just need to explain the situation, and any reasonable boss will understand. The easiest way is to be straightforward: “I’m very careful not to have an online presence because of a stalker situation. Could I opt out of this for safety reasons?”

If there’s an actual work-related need for the account (like if you work in recruiting so LinkedIn is a frequent work tool), you could talk about ways around that. (For example, would you be safe using a different last name and no photo, or another option like that?)

{ 224 comments… read them below }

  1. Santiago*

    I think the hybrid letter touches on a theme I’ve seen in other letters, and in my personal work experience to be honest. I get more done in my home; although, I see the value of coming in maybe twice a week for face-time. I go into the office most days of the week, since I was hired as such, but it seems that no one’s there. I need to figure out how to word it, but it’s just a weird transition in terms of face time and productivity.

    1. Hazel*

      Last year I went into the office a couple of times, and there was nobody else there. Other people on my team said they had the same experience (obviously on different days!). So I can understand why the LW would find it pointless to go into the office when no one else on their team is there. I got a lot of work done but, honestly, it was kind of depressing.

      1. Glitterati*

        I can relate to Hazel’s comment. My team is elsewhere and I go into the local office which is absolutely lovely, but with no team there I’m feeling like I don’t fit in properly.

        1. DuskPunkZebra*

          I worry about this. I’m about to start a job where there is a local office, but most of my team are several states away! It sounded initially like they wanted a hybrid setup where I’d go a couple of times a week, but it’s shifted to sound like it’s more occasional.

          I’m coming from a fully-remote team, so ANY office time is a shift, but I think the only benefit is that our customer agency is moving their main ops to my city, so I’ll probably be tapped for customer face time.

      2. Mianaai*

        I definitely feel this; I’m back in the office one day a week, but my team’s in-office schedule is spread out through the week to reduce Covid transmission risk… Which makes sense until you realize that it means that I spend every in-person day in my office with the door shut on conference calls and don’t interact with anyone in person.

        It’s a lot lonelier than home, where I at least have my spouse and cats, plus I have to commute and pack/buy a lunch (or what usually happens, starve because I’m awful at packing lunches, the cafeteria is closed, and I don’t have enough time between calls to go farther afield for something). And my individual office doesn’t have good (any?) ventilation so by the end of the day it’s unbearably hot and stuffy. Sigh.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      I think it’s going to take some time for workplaces to figure out what works most effectively. Having people randomly in the office can definitely make face to face communication difficult.

      For offices/roles that are mostly work from home with occasional in office, for example, having the office days scheduled might work best – having a designated day where all people in a group or groups are in the office, with a coffee break and provided snacks mid day.

      1. Sloanicota*

        This is what my office does, we have two in-office meetings per month that is mandatory for all employees. Our office space would usually not accommodate that many staff at once so it happens in the big conference room we can rent from our building. The only drawback in my opinion is that these meetings are pretty obviously likely to be super-spreading events that infect the entire staff at one time (coffee is served, masking is optional).

      2. Anonym*

        Yeah, my company has them scheduled, so teams are in at the same time as each other, but different teams are in on different days. It makes sense as far as it goes. But they’re forcing us back in 3 days/week for hybrid roles (this is their idea of being flexible, apparently) starting next month, and I’m dreading it. Half of my team is outside of HQ, in separate locations, so they’re in the same boat as many commenters here. And at HQ it’s just me and my boss, and neither of us really wants to be in the office or deal with the commute, so the whole thing is a farce. My teammates who are on their own have to go in to an office that contains no one they work directly with, and we’re forced to make long commutes to be on Zoom calls all day. :(

      3. Le Sigh*

        Part of what I’m struggling with is that I’m more productive and prefer to work from home, but I would like to go in sometimes to see my coworkers, work with them in person, etc. The problem is, I work in an open office and every second person I know is getting COVID right now, especially those working maskless in their offices or those with kids (granted, they’re vaxxed so it’s way less worse, but still). So if others are in the office, I have to wear my mask for 8-10 hours that day (which is both company policy and my own preference) and I don’t want to take it off to eat or drink, so I find that I’m less productive, and getting dehydrated and extra cranky by day’s end. So at this point, I’m having a hard time dreaming up a workable solution in the short-term, especially one that’s worth the hassle since 95% of our team’s work can be done from home.

        1. Le Sigh*

          And to clarify, if I worked a job that needed me on site, I would just wear it, but at this point I’d rather save it for the 5% of my job where I’m needed in person.

    3. allathian*

      Honestly, I don’t go to the office to work. I go there to build relationships. Sure, I get some work done, but my productivity, if you only count how many items I cross off on my to-do list, is nowhere near the level I get at home. This doesn’t mean I’m wandering around the office all day talking to people, but it does routinely mean two 30-minute coffee breaks on the clock and a hour or 90 minutes for lunch off the clock. My manager is fine with this, because doing so has improved my job satisfaction a lot, and I only go in once a week on the average, and on the days I WFH, I gain what I lose in productivity on my in-office days. Now that more people are going back to the office, both teammates and other people I need to collaborate with, it makes a lot more sense to do it than it did even a few months ago.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, there is a new balance to be found here for a lot of companies. I try to go to the office on meeting-heavy days, for example, even if they are all hybrid there can be a different vibe to it if I am sitting there. And sure, these days normally result in more things added to my to-do list than crossed off, but the thing is, the tasks would find me anyway, but sometimes much later and without a lot of context that I can get if I can have an off-the-record chat with others.

        And building relationships is a great way to see it too.

        That said, for OP there will be a limited value in chatting with people not on their team – I am not sure how much it’s necessary for them to be in the loop for company-wide things, but other than that I can see why it would be a pain. What Alison suggests makes a lot of sense here.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          I try to avoid the office on meeting-heavy days! I figure there’s no point in getting dressed and hauling my laptop downtown if I’m just going to be on Zoom all day – I can do that from home. Like allathian says above, I get less actual Work done in the office, but I do much more relationship-building.

          One of our first days back, I was eating lunch and one of the VP’s came and sat down with me. He’s not in my supervisory chain, but I’ve worked with him before and know him as well as I do anyone else in the office. We talked about our kids and the weather and our commute times, and all the ordinary things one talks about casually with colleagues – nothing especially groundbreaking, but it was good to make that connection. In an all-virtual environment, I certainly wouldn’t be in a position to schedule a meeting with him just to chat, but it worked out very organically in person. To me, that’s the real value of being in the office – the opportunity “just to chat” with people you wouldn’t connect with otherwise.

    4. Medusa*

      I’m in a new job and my office is in this weird transition period before the official return to the office date (like most people’s offices). I’m way more productive at home. And I personally wouldn’t even mind if I didn’t build personal relationships with colleagues, but it obviously makes work a lot more pleasant if you have some level of rapport with the people you’re working with. There’s a won’t be full time, but there is a large proportion of staff (including me) who will have to be in the office nearly time because we live on a border between two countries and those of us in Country B have to be at the office in Country A for tax purposes, while the people living in Country A will only need to be there a portion of the time.

      1. BethDH*

        Yeah, my office is on the border between US states and is figuring out how they can work with this. A LOT of people live in the next state over, closer to the nearest metropolitan area, and there isn’t enough housing stock here for them to move in-state. Frankly it’s turning into another class issue where only the wealthy people will be able to afford a house near work, and the people who live far away for affordable housing will also be the ones who can’t work from home because of the interstate tax issue.
        To their credit our org is very aware of this and is trying to come up with solutions, but it relies on so many things beyond our own leadership.

        1. Medusa*

          Yeah it’s super complicated and borders are annoying. For me it’s not so bad, I live a 20-minute bike ride from the office, and despite being non-profit, they pay pretty competitively (although I recently found out that one of my colleagues has a really shit salary but I don’t think that’s widespread across the organization).

    5. Testerbert*

      I see there being two strands to what is going wrong with hybrid approaches.
      First, most of them focus on the amount of time spent in the office, rather than the ‘quality’ of the time spent. I’d get more benefit from a single day where all my team are in the office, where we can have a good chat and hammer out some of the planning meetings which work better with everyone in the same room (whiteboards and post-it notes EVERYWHERE!) than I would from being mandated to be in the office three days a week where I’m trying to do my normal work just with added disruptions & distractions from non-team members and the delight of joining online meetings from a hotdesk rather than my home.
      Second, the people driving these approaches are so remote from the actual reality of how things work. It’ll be the company executives who were already effectively ‘hybrid’ working for years before the pandemic, just for them it was disguised by business travel and being high enough up the totem pole to decide that no, they’ll be working from their home office on Friday. They are either so blinkered that they don’t understand that their staff do very different types of work, or are so set in their ways that they cannot accept that the little people can be productive from home.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Your first point is so important! There needs to be purpose to hybrid work other than just “we feel like you should be in the office sometimes.” That could be client meetings, true group collaboration, whatever. But just sitting in your work office by yourself for a day doesn’t give any of the supposed benefits of in-person work.

      2. Bongofury*

        I just accepted a new job and I was told the rest of my team members are hybrid or work from home most of the time. But because I’m new I need to be in the office M-F. But who am I meeting with in the office? Because all my coworkers are at home? It’s a ridiculous policy.

        1. ferrina*

          I worked at a place that had this policy (pre-pandemic). Except the policy was regularly waived for full-time remote employees. The thought was that it was easier to train in person. And it was! Assuming both the trainer and the trainee were in the office. In reality, I’d only recommend this approach for new grads to help them acclimate to office norms, and maybe for a handful of roles where hands-on training is vital.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        That is what my home office team is doing. They only come into the office when there is something where all of them benefit from sitting in a room together (sometimes with us remote folks on line). This has shaken out to being only when there is need for some kind of strategic planning or troubleshooting so it looks like it will probably be 1-2 times a month at most. Otherwise they only come in when the need to ship something.

    6. Snow Globe*

      Like the OP, I am in a different location than my teammates and traveling to the office is pointless because the people in my local office are in a completely different division of the company – we have no work-related interactions. From a productivity standpoint, I’m much more productive at home. Fortunately, this month my boss was able to get approval for me to be full-time remote. (She wanted to offer that when I was hired a year ago, but was overruled.) Yay, it’s good to know that sometimes business will change to be more flexible about this.

    7. anonymous73*

      Yes face time can be beneficial if the people who need to collaborate are in the office at the same time. But if people are working a hybrid schedule, and your team is home while you’re at the office, it’s pointless. In OP’s case her entire team is in a different location, so coming into a separate office provides her no benefit over staying at home, especially if they can’t provide a working office space.

      At my last job, I worked with a small team but there were only 4 of us in the office. One ended up WFH full time because of a tech issue, another would come in when he felt like it and my manager WFH randomly as needed and I often wouldn’t find out until I had gotten there so I would turn around and go home.

    8. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      In this situation, it’s not even really hybrid, though. The OP works remotely from her team, just she’s required to work remotely from different places. That’s bananacrackers.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Yeah, that’s just wanting you in the office for no good reason. But if she is in the office, and she has to be in there two days a week, every week, they should set up an area for her for those two days, since it really is her office for those two days every week. She shouldn’t have to struggle to get a location and not have the correct equipment.

    9. Random Bystander*

      Agreed. I know with my job, at one point they offered us a choice (we had gone remote in March 2020 and in going remote, had taken home our full work stations–two monitors, desktop computer, plus new things a headset to replace the phone and a webcam). We could remain remote (we get an additional $25/mo for internet) and change nothing; we could return to the office full time (dropping that extra $25/mo) and have our dedicated cube in the office; or we could go hybrid, which was clearly the worst of all possible options as designed–lose the $25/mo internet, and no dedicated cube in the office, you would have to hot desk on your in office days). Unsurprisingly, no one was keen on the hybrid option.

    10. A Feast of Fools*

      Pre-pandemic, I worked for a company whose corporate offices were in another state. They had a leased office space for a group of IT people about 1.5 hours away from my house. I was required to drive to that office space 5 days a week.

      I am not in IT.

      I am not IT-adjacent.

      It was an open-floor space — literally just rows of desks and people sitting damned near shoulder-to-shoulder. It was loud. I worked with sensitive data and needed to be able to concentrate. Listening to the coders yell-speak to each other all day, with the radio cranked up and/or sportsball games on the big screen TV, with a foosball game going on in the corner, and their manager having conference calls on speakerphone in the partitioned-but-not-closed-off space that was her office was insanity-inducing.

      I never talked to any of the coders except to say, “Good morning” and “Have a good evening”. I couldn’t tell you their names if my life depended on it.

      My management chain absolutely refused to let me work from home or to work from a location of the office leasing company that was closer to my house. (It was one of those places where you could pay for a “membership” and then work at any of their locations). The VP’s direct quote: “This is not a remote job. This job cannot be done remotely. There is no remote option. You will work in the office or you won’t work here at all.”

      That was just one of many, many signs that the department I worked for was full of bees.

      Hilariously, once the pandemic hit, the company canceled their contract / lease / membership with the office space company and sent everyone home, including the person who replaced me plus the 3-4 people they’d hired when my old department grew. I’ve been told that the VP is pleased with how much more productive everyone is working from home — and pleased at the office expense coming off her budget — and has made WFH permanent for anyone not near the corporate offices.

    11. Koalafied*

      My company has a good policy around hybrid work arrangements that includes a standard set of peripherals like external monitor, mouse, keyboard, and laptop dock for EACH of your offices. (Workers who come in less than 3x/week don’t have permanent offices, but all the bookable offices have the equipment and IT is on site if that’s a compatibility issue and you need an adapter or to swap something.)

      That said – I’ve been 80% remote and an occasional freelancer for over a decade, so my home office has a lot of extra niceties I bought myself…and at home the bathroom is only about 15 steps from my desk whereas in the office it’s a literal half a city block away from where I sit. So I’m still more efficient at home.

      I work hybrid to my advantage by scheduling all my meetings for the one day a week I’m in office, which is the same day as the rest of my team. It helps me keep the days I’m at home clear for my high level work that needs a lot of concentration, and means I don’t need the better setup as much in the office because I’m not trying to do “that kind of work” there.

      On some weeks, if enough people who would normally be there are out for whatever reason, most of my meetings end up either being cancelled, or most/all of the usual attendees who would theoretically still be there decide we don’t add up to a quorum worth coming in for. Managers have no problem with this – even though we’re generally expected to stick to the hybrid schedule we committed to because regular schedules make planning meetings a lot easier, they don’t hold us to it on principal if doing so would lead to people wasting time and money on a commute just to sit in their office and Zoom from there instead of home.

    12. Anya Last Nerve*

      I’m not finding going in to be very helpful in terms of collaboration or productivity at all, but my (very large) employer would not and has not reacted kindly to such feedback. I would suggest this OP tread lightly and know management’s views before saying “going into this conveniently located office isn’t working out for me, I want to just work from home.” My employer would likely tell her she should start going to the office 2 hours away then so she can collaborate with her team (I’m positive of this because many people are required to commute this far despite having closer offices).

    13. Coffee Nut*

      Personally I’d wait two weeks and then on one of my office days I’d just log in from home. My work has a culture of everyone having video backgrounds so no one could ever really tell where you are anyway? And don’t lie to you boss but don’t bring it up proactively. And if she brings it up, just say “oh, I wanted to ask you if you minded if I work from home today – I’m working on that spreadsheet and it’s a nightmare without my external monitors set up.”
      Absolute worst case would be a scolding but more likely will be that she just say oh, you really need to go in next time. I bet that no one will even notice and just pop into the office with decreasing frequency. At some point if you’ve been working from home for weeks or months with no one noticing, what are they going to say? Especially with an excuse like “I couldn’t get my work done hot desking at the office”?

    14. MCMonkeyBean*

      I made a pitch to my boss based on those reasons–our company is moving to a hybrid model as well but it seems their goal is to minimize how many people are in the office at a time. We have become very effective at doing everything online and the only benefit to going into the office would be the face-time, of which there would not be very much. Especially because my boss herself was actually hired as a fully remote employee so she and I would be meeting over Teams regardless.

      It was a pretty easy sell and they have agreed that I can at least unofficially remain remote. I’d like to be reclassified as remote in case management changes in the future but this is fine for now.

  2. 13/13*

    #3. It’s only business. Do you think she’d care about your situation if the job never came to be, or took six months to manifest, or the salary was actually a lot less? No, of course not… because as far as she considered it’s only business. You are your own business – so do what’s right for YOUR business.

    1. GammaGirl1908*

      LW2’s ex-boss has described her ideal scenario, and is expecting LW to operate as if it’s a done deal, when really Boss is really hoping this could happen if everything goes well**, and a few things look promising for this! She wants LW to sit tight until this firms up, because it would be great to bring her back!

      Just, no. And that’s on top of the job being weeks or even months or years away from fruition IF it happens.

      LW needs to do what is best for herself. If it’s meant to be that you come back to this boss (…who has shown herself to be unreasonable…), it’ll happen. But meanwhile? Take the sure thing, and don’t look back.

      **I yell at my dad for operating this way too often. He’ll promise that X thing absolutely will happen on Friday! But the unspoken piece is that X will happen **if and only if** A-W things all happen, in perfect order, and right on time, and he only has control over Thing D and Thing K and is hoping on the rest. (Worse, this is often with money; he’ll agree to pay something on Friday, but 4 people have to pay him in order for him to have the funds. Gaahhhhhhh. Again, just, no.)

      1. MK*

        I don’t see how it matters, frankly. Even if the position did exist, heck, even if they had made the OP an offer, she could stil decide not to take it for whatever reason. The ex-manager is being borderline-unhinged in her reaction.

      2. TeaCoziesRUs*

        It drives my kids crazy, but I often don’t tell them we’re going to do X (particularly if it’s fun) until we’re literally driving there. This is because I have the same tendency as your dad, plus an unrealistic expectation of time (i.e. before picking up kids, I need to package 3 orders, stop by UPS. I have 2 hours to do this… and the orders are complicated enough to take 90 minutes. If the UPS line is too long, I can flex to later in the afternoon, but if I told the kids they’d get to go to the library or park after school, they’ll be miffed that I didn’t get everything done in time. Therefore, I’ll say maybe… then bust my butt to get everything done and make them happy, rather than say yes. Or I won’t mention that I’m thinking of rewarding them with a trip to the trampoline park because they’re awesome kids, we’ll just end up there when they thought we were on a grocery run. :) We have no secrets in this house, but lots of surprises.

        1. Zelda*

          Any analytical chemist (or other department that provides analogous services to internal clients) can tell ya– the best policy is Underpromise and Overdeliver.

    2. Lyon*

      Ex-Boss showed you that you did the right thing by extricating yourself. I’ve been involved in positive “ex boss wants to bring you back” interactions, on both sides actually, and the correct response to “i need to take a different job because i need something solid right now” is “of course, sorry the timing didn’t work out, circle back if anything changes.”

    3. EspressoDoppio*

      OP from #3 here :)
      Thanks for your comment! THIS is precisely what I thought. When I had a call with her to talk about the position, she pretty much told me that she wanted me because I perform and “not because she likes me or my good attitude”. I was taken aback that if this was strictly business, then why was the response so personal? Also, I agree that if I was left hanging, I would get a sincerely apology from her side but nothing more. It is a pity, because I truly appreciated this person as a friend but as you said, I am my own business and I need to keep it running.

    4. LaLa762*

      I would add though, Alison, I don’t think it’s unethical to accept a job while hoping another job will materialize. Just as you said: the other job might never materialize; it might open, but be less than promised; you might find that you LOVE the job you accepted and not be interested in the other job when it does open, etc.
      If we’re really serious that workers have to look out for their own best interests, we must acknowledge this situation could be best for some workers’ careers.

      1. MK*

        Workers do have to look for their own best interests, but that doesn’t mean they can do whatever they want and no one is allowed to criticize them. After all, all unethical actions are in the best (for some definition of the word) interest of the person who does them; that’s why they do them! “It’s best for the worker’s career” does not equal “ethical”.

        I don’t know that I would call accepting a job with the intention to quit if another one materializes unethical, that’s a strong word. It means the person is unreliable and their word not to be depended upon much, but not outright dishonest.

        1. EspressoDoppio*

          Hi MK, LW here :)
          I have always been one to fulfill my commitments. The fact that for the 1st time in my life I was thinking of switching, attests to how wonderful that other position seemed. I can for sure say that responsibility-wise it would be a career-changer. I agree with you on reliability, but I also think, that probation periods exist for this reason: either the Hiring Manager or the employee can decide if they really are a good match for the long-term. As a Hiring Manager, I would definitely be disappointed but if an employee is leaving for a role where they will earn more and upgrade their career development, it is understandable and within their rights. My company has also a 3-month-transition-period if you are switching internally, thus allowing all sides to plan the change and for the old team to find a replacement.

          That being said, now that I have met this team and worked with them, I couldn’t imagine doing that to them. The work is super interesting and the people so open, friendly, and professional. I wouldn’t have been able to switch. It would have felt – yes, unethical.

      2. EspressoDoppio*

        Hi Lala762, LW here :) at the moment it didn’t feel unethical, as I was offered a position that wasn’t the one I originally applied for (a maternity leave cover vs. a permanent, more senior role). Also to be honest, given this, if I got a wonderful offer that surpasses my current salary and career development, I feel that it is understandable that a candidate would want to switch. Internally we have a 3-month-period where you are meant to arrange your move and so you don’t leave anyone unexpectedly hanging.

        But after thinking it through, I saw the situation differently. I received a competitive offer, the team told me that they decided to go for another candidate but offered me this position, and they are such, such a wonderful team. I have been here 2 weeks and I am loving what I do, and cannot imagine being interested in something else. I certainly cant imagine leaving them either!

  3. acmx*

    The answer to #1 is interesting to me. I’ve never worked at a place that allowed you to expense drinks (or a meal) that you had with a coworker.

    Only time I could expense that is during travel. Every once in awhile, a group outing could be expensed (by leadership). Me being in a higher individual role than someone else but not a leader, I wouldn’t be able to expense it.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      It’s definitely something that varies wildly depending on workplace. I get reimbursement for my own meals eaten while travelling out of town, and under pre-approved circumstances, might occasionally take an out of town speaker and a few colleagues to dinner (with a strict limit on cost per person). That’s it. When I worked in Canada and the US, reimbursements for alcohol were strictly prohibited, where I am now, the dinner can include it if it comes within the limit.

      Of course, some employers are legally allowed to provide free coffee for their employees, too.

      1. WellRed*

        The hotel office is being ridiculous and I wonder if they are merely obtuse or on some level don’t approve of WFH. At any rate, these space OP presumably are also reserved by others, so the company stance that it doesn’t wanna buy them two is also ridiculous. And supply chain issues aside, most of those peripherals aren’t all that expensive in the grand scheme of office life.

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Regarding the docking station: I’ll wager the bet that the newer laptop is USB type C. I carry a mini-dock that cost me $25 off Amazon a few years ago (can’t remember if I expensed it or not); this might be an option for OP.

      2. acmx*

        My company allows 2 drinks at dinner when traveling.
        Taking a customer for a meal would be covered, I’m sure.
        I’m my position, I’m the customer sometimes.

      3. Sloanicota*

        I so remember the frustration of having to run a separate bill at restaurants for alcohol (or having somebody go get them at the bar) or trying to get the waitress to split the check between drinks and everything else, at my old job. We did not reimburse for alcohol so you had to pay for that on your own. We would cover the cost of the rest of the meal on travel.

    2. Raboot*

      I think it’s really what Alison says about seniority and discretion. I’m not supposed to use my corporate card for anything except travel-related expenses, but recently I was at the office at the same time as some coworkers and my manager used their corporate card to pay even though it wasn’t any kind of Official Team Event.

      1. Tree*

        In the UK, it’s not the sort of thing you can generally expense. The tax man is quite strict on what is claimable as an expense, mostly around travel. Anything for colleagues would be staff entertaining and that’s got very strict limits per head.

        1. TechWorker*

          I think you’re confusing ‘government rules around what counts as a business expense’ and ‘company rules around what the company is willing to pay for’. A company in the U.K. absolutely can choose to pay for drinks or meals for their employees, they just may owe NI/tax on those expenses, and irrc can’t claim back VAT on them.

        2. LDN Layabout*

          Private sector in the UK and it really does depend on your company and seniority what you can and can’t expense. Now I’m public sector and the answer is ‘slim to none’.

        3. Bagpuss*

          Well, not exactly. Employers are limited in how much they can spend on entertainment and claim a tax deduction on it, but there’s nothing at all to stop an employer allowing their employees to put that kind of thon on expensesso it is paid for by the company not the individual. It may count as a taxable benefit so the employee will pay tax and NI on it, but it’s perfectly possible, just not tax-deductible!

          I’m not even entirely sure that the it would have to be classes as staff entertainment – if you provide refreshments at a work related meeting that isn’t staff entertainment, nor is a working lunch. Based on the OPs discription I think this specifc stuation *would* be entertainment for tax purposes, as it would appear that the primary intention was social, but if it had been (say) a lunch to discuss work, the face they also had drinks, evenalcoholic ones, would not prevent it being a reasonable business expense.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, it’s standard where I work for managers to expense the first round of drinks at a leaving do or whatever (in the case of a small group of colleagues going out after work when someone’s leaving). Obviously there’s a limit and you can’t take the piss, but expensing a couple of bottles of wine at the start of the evening is perfectly normal, then everyone moves on to paying for their own drinks.

            1. TechWorker*

              Tree is correct that there are very specific rules around what HMRC considers a tax deductible business expense, and I suspect some businesses will only let employees expense things that fall into that. Many will pay for other things too though :)

          2. Graeme*

            Given the UK’s House of Commons has a subsidised bar, I think we’re a long way off any law change where alcohol disqualifies something from being work-related!

            1. Charlotte*

              I’ve been to that bar! Lucky enough to have a family friend in the House of Commons who gave us a private tour when we visited from the states.

        4. Raboot*

          Expense as a verb generally just means “have company pay for it”, tax man shouldn’t care if my manager pays for pizza or the company pays for pizza. What you are thinking about would be “claim” or “deduct”.

      2. acmx*

        When I was in a supervisor role, I could occasionally buy my crew a meal. But now, as an individual contributer, I can’t buy the new person lunch and expense it for example.
        Now, I might get lunch paid for during my one on one with a manager. Also, the occasional team lunch or team building event.

    3. Xena*

      Our company allows us a certain budget each quarter for team building. It’s not large ($30 per person per quarter or so?), and does have some limits around it (most of the time you have to be in some sort of mentor/mentee arrangement or on the same client team) but beyond that how you can spend it is up to you. This may be something similar. Or Fergus is abusing expensing rules. Hard to tell without knowing company policies.

      My workplace does have a written policy with amounts and uses outlined. Op could see if their workplace has something similar

    4. Asenath*

      I strongly suspect #1 is dependent on the industry (or maybe even employer). I worked for years with an employer and in a sector in which expenses, particularly entertainment expenses, were quite restricted. At my level I could only expense a smallish per diem for food for myself and NOTHING for alcohol. I could get food reimbursed if I was organizing some kind of clearly work-related event, and even then there were permissions to be obtained and limits to be observed – still no alcohol. I think the restrictions around alcohol were not for moral reasons or even for fear we’d all get drunk and cause a scandal or accident, but for reasons of expense and also the fear that word might get out that we were wasting our money on luxuries (yes, we were largely funded by government). Things were maybe a little more relaxed for much more senior people, but I’m sure some of the entertaining they did (all very professional; think going out for dinner with visiting experts from out-of-town) came out of their pockets. In that context, there was no way on earth to expense drinks and a little discussion of work with a co-worker. But I do understand not every employer works that way.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Absolutely – and most organisations will have policies about what can and can’t be claimed on expenses .
        I would imagine that no alcohol is pretty common (and could be about liability, as well at the issues you raise) , and that public/private secotd and different industries also have very different norms.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I once worked at a place where the sales team used to take all the other teams out on the corporate card. They just called it “customer relations” even though there was nary a customer in sight. It wasn’t ethical for them to do, but, personally, with the way that place underpaid support staff, comping some meals and cocktails for them seemed more right than wrong to me.

    5. lizesq*

      This happens in my office frequently but I work at a midsize law firm and law seems to have its own set of rules completely. But it’s incredibly common for partners to take associates, paralegals, legal secretaries, etc., out for lunch or drinks and use a company card to pay for everyone.

      1. Antilles*

        I’m in engineering and it’s pretty common here too. I’ve regularly had lunch or dinner with someone senior to me and that person has almost always paid with their company card then expensed it. It’s just viewed one of those things that falls under the general umbrella of “management discretion” – if it was a daily or weekly thing, it might raise questions but every so often is just considered an expected part of the department budget.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep, book publishing (UK) – I work in a small team and if my boss takes us out for lunch they’ll use their company credit card to pay for it. Unfortunately publishing isn’t as lunch-heavy and boozy as it used to be, but whenever someone joins or leaves the team, or maybe if someone has a big birthday, we’ll do a small lunch or after-work drinks and if the boss is there then it’ll go on the company card (or as I said above, they’ll at least spring for a couple of bottles of wine on the company card at the start of the evening).

        2. Not a cat*

          I’m in tech and VP level. I can expense meals/alcohol/donuts/candy at my discretion. Most of the commenters here must be pretty junior because some of these rules (outside of the public sector, which is different) seem to be a bit much. Although, I trust my teams and if they complete the expense process, I believe them and sign-off.

      2. Charlotte*

        Same at my consulting firm in the US. Directors and up have a lot of freedom to treat the team on occasion.

    6. Snow Globe*

      I’ve never seen this either (I’m in banking in the US). It’s fine to expense drinks when traveling, but grabbing drinks after a normal workday at the office? Never have I seen this, nor would I try it.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        Most places I’ve been tend to frown on expensing alcohol, but a senior manager going out with lunch or coffee with a junior employee as a business relationship building exercise (and expensing it) isn’t exactly unheard of.

    7. Sloanicota*

      Having always worked at nonprofits, expensing any kind of alcohol is a no-go; because some of work is for Federal grants, we end up applying their rules to all expenses. In fact, at my first job one of my roles was to review everyone’s meal receipts and make sure alcohol was never accidentally charged. However, I assume this is just one of those non-profit-only quirks.

      1. Ana Gram*

        I’m in local government and alcohol is also a no-no for us. If we purchase meals, we have to have itemized receipts so that it’s clear alcohol wasn’t purchased. I always thought it was funny since we usually do lunch from places that don’t typically sell alcohol, like Panera.

      2. Smithy*

        Lol, put this as another “your mileage my vary”.

        I’m in nonprofit fundraising – so putting aside having been on teams that had a dedicated events staff that regularly would regularly buy or acquire alcohol and then occasionally have surplus for impromptu office happy hours – I used to have a boss who would expense taking me for occasional after work drinks as “team bonding events”. But to the mileage may vary, most (if not all) fundraising nonprofit expenses are ‘general fund’, so depending on the nature of the organization – those are teams where the line items are often not read that closely.

        Also, where I am now, our travel per diem is a flat rate per day. So meals while traveling aren’t individually expensed and if you choose to spend everything on a liquid lunch……

        1. Sloanicota*

          Excellent point, I was on the programmatic side and our work was mostly tied to grants, but fundraising is a different set of rules because the $$ likely isn’t grant related.

          1. Le Sigh*

            I think it also depends on what type of grants you’re dealing with and how the program work is paid for. If a lot of it is paid for with general operating funds from individual donors, that’s not necessarily going to come with the same limitations as an entire project-restricted grant a government.

            1. Smithy*

              simplicity’s sake and to avoid errors. In our travel system, most of the default rules are to make every flight purchased US government grant compliant. While there are ways around that for flights that don’t need to be, the decision was clearly made as worthwhile failsafe measure.

              I also used to be the only fundraiser for a small nonprofit where while I was still paid under general operating funds, for the overall size and style of the organization – having the very few staff covered only by general operating funds have a set of policies different from program funded staff wouldn’t have been worthwhile given the overall size of the operation.

              Lastly, even if what the OP’s colleague is doing is in a gray area of employer policy – assuming that these drinks are standard priced (no rare 20 year aged bourbon) – it’s at that price point where it’s much less likely to flag much more than a wrist smack/request he pay the charges himself. This is hardly the Anna Delvey friend who ended up with tens of thousands of vacation costs on her corporate card.

    8. Dinwar*

      Depends on company culture, and it can be VERY project-specific. I once had a meal where the most senior person asked how work was going, everyone said “Oh, you know, pretty good”, and he replied “That’s enough work talk to justify expensing lunch!” I’ve also worked on projects where they wanted an explanation for buying a cup of coffee (“I was chased down a mountain by a blizzard and needed to regroup” was not the answer they were expecting!). In my case there’s also federal guidelines–I’m not allowed to pay for lunch for federal employees, and they’re not allowed to accept.

      Alcohol is trickier. Used to be a beer or two was fine, but now a lot of places no longer allow you to expense it. That said, there are ways to hide it. Note that I’m not condoning it, I’m just saying I’ve seen it happen. And honestly, I think a lot of this stigma against expensing alcohol is moral grandstanding and a few bad apples spoiling it for the rest of us.

      One thing I’ve learned as I move up the ranks, rank has its privileges. If you’re the one in charge of the money, or the one in charge of the ones in charge of the money, you have a LOT more wiggle-room in terms of what you can expense. Which makes sense. If the company trusts you with a $15 million dollar tasks, they should be able to trust you with a $50 bar tab. If you can’t be trusted to use the company credit card judiciously, you probably shouldn’t be talking to clients and regulators, contracting subs, and the like.

      Also, as you move up the ranks team building becomes more important. It’s often something you get evaluated on in your annual review. Being able to point to an expense report and say you were helping junior staff is an objective way to demonstrate you’re achieving that goal.

    9. HS Teacher*

      In finance, it was expected that I’d expense drinks. Part of my job included winning and dining with clients.

      As a teacher I was just on a business trip where I could absolutely not expense drinks and had to order them separately. It definitely varies by workplace.

    10. RandomCPA*

      I work in public accounting and it’s really common to do that. I’m a senior and I’m comfortable expensing the first round. If it’s more, that is a partner decision.

    11. Generic Name*

      I’m in consulting, and expensing drinks with coworkers or clients is common, and expected especially if you are in a seller/doer type role. It’s part of networking. I was surprised to learn that networking is just…..getting to know people you work with or want to work with. :)

    12. Environmental Compliance*

      It’s very industry/sector/company dependent.

      As state/county gov’t? *If* I got approved for travel (which was training events, the number of which over several years I could count on one hand), I got a very small per diem. Hotel was allowed up to like $70 per night, and I’d still catch hell about it not being $50 (when the avg. in the area was $150), iirc I got maybe $20 a day for food, obviously no alcohol… and now in private sector my per diem seems to be whatever the heck I put in, we do team meals all the time, we’re allowed 2 drinks per person reimbursed. We had an entire week where 8 people’s lunches were on my corporate card every day and no one asked why. It was a long training event, but still! I’ve also had coworkers bump themselves into a nicer seat for air travel and it was perfectly fine, apparently. Heck, I recently opted to fly instead of drive for a distance that I had absolutely been expected to drive when I was still gov’t (5+ hrs).

      It was an adjustment, for sure, to move from public to private, in many different ways. Nice though to not have anyone calling in on a weekly basis complaining they saw a state truck at a rest stop/gas station for ten minutes, because clearly state employees do not have any bathroom needs working in the field.

    13. RC+Rascal*

      This is industry specific, but also job and department specific. I say this as a Sales/Business Development executive who HAD the budget and also HAD to spend it. If Fergus is in a sales/bus development function entertaining could be part of his job description. It has been part of mine. That includes selectively developing relationships/ expressing gratitude to internal people who supported me. My company was strict on budgets, and if they gave you the money and you didn’t spend it that was a problem. It either meant company overbudgeted, which they were anathema to do, manager wasn’t adequately planning/spending/performing on things deemed important, and it also meant that you weren’t getting that amount of money again next year.

      Bottom line: if the entertainment budget wasn’t spent that month, I had to find a way to spend it and that might mean taking a junior co-worker out to lunch or drinks as a reward.

    14. A Feast of Fools*

      Back when I was in sales, I / we could expense pretty much anything business-adjacent, which included meals and alcoholic drinks with co-workers.

      Where I’m at now (in an accounting / finance position), we can expense team lunches and team outings, but the senior-most person has to be the one to pony up their corporate card. And that’s the policy to prevent a scenario where a junior person uses their corporate card for an expensive meal / event that their manager was at, and then the manager who was there approves the expense. You can imagine the kinds of “misappropriation of funds” activities that a manager-staff pairing who were BFFs could get away with if no one else but the two of them ever see / approve the expenses.

    15. Banana*

      At my old job, a director expensed literal cases of beer for a work event, but it was a work-hours fun thing on a critical project that had already suffered setbacks due to morale-caused turnover. The project was so huge we could have folded if it failed, and the event was prior to a really rough period where we’d be working weekends and long days. We also got a paid off week after that period. Transportation for the beer event was handled safely at no cost to people who chose to partake.

      Expensing cases of beer is definitely against our written expense policy. I know his boss approved it. I don’t think she got any higher level approval, but she had a ton of career capital and was also terrifying in the Lady Danbury sense, so I never expected it to be an issue.

    16. Feo Takahari*

      My job expenses drinks for internal team-building, but they have to be removed when billing a client for meal expenses.

    17. MCMonkeyBean*

      My big boss has definitely expensed meals when our team went out to welcome a new employee or occasionally just for general team bonding. No work even being done at all at those meals. If OP specifically asked Fergus to meet up for drinks to talk about a work project, I definitely think it would be normal to expense that at a ton of places.

  4. Glitterati*

    LW3 I have been in a similar situation and it was incredibly frustrating. I wish I could say it ended well but that’s another story. If only you could take a photo of the office, blow it up photoshoot backdrop style and place it behind you so you look like you’re in the actual office during video meetings. You cant use it a pic as a backdrop, it’s too obvious when bits of you disappear! Im only half joking….wonder if anyone has tried this?!

    1. Airy*

      I remember it being part of the solution of a murder mystery in a TV show – the killer used a backdrop of his office wall to make it appear he was in there during a video call to establish an alibi. So there’s that!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        There was an episode of Columbo where the murderer had an apparently airtight alibi with a photo from a traffic camera showing him elsewhere. Columbo figured out that the murderer had made a mask with his face, and it was an accomplice driving elsewhere.

        1. ferrina*

          That’s also the plot to an Agatha Christie novel- the murderer hires an impressionist to be her at a public event, while she slips away and kills the victim.

            1. starsaphire*

              The Copper Beeches, as well. :)

              (Sherlock is approached by a young lady who was offered a job and is puzzled about why they want her to do her hair a certain way and wear a specific dress and sit with her back to the window…)

        2. PotatoEngineer*

          Monk had an episode where a video call was someone’s alibi: they were calling from home, so *of course* they couldn’t have committed the murder five minutes later many miles away. But it turned out that, for the call, the “home” was the inside of a trailer, decorated to look exactly like the home many miles away.

      2. EvilQueenRegina*

        Something along those lines came up in a book I read last year – someone created his alibi by carting this great big painting across the country and put it up on the wall of the Premier Inn room he was staying in, so it would look like he was taking part in a Zoom quiz night from his own home miles away.

    2. Panda (she/her)*

      If you hang a white bedsheet behind you and then use a background, the filters work much better and it becomes very challenging to tell that they are using a background. Or you can just always use a background so people can never tell where you are.

    3. Monday Monday*

      I think someone recently in the comments said they did this :) LOL Not to hide but to see if anyone would figure out it wasn’t real.

    4. mlem*

      My director does this; it’s pretty easy to tell he’s not actually in his company office. I have yet to figure out why he does this now when he used to let his home office show through with no concerns.

      Other members of my team do it with pictures they’ve taken of their open-floor-plan office seats. One stitched together a series of pictures of himself at every desk in the section so he could have a background of Himself Everywhere. We have fun with it.

    5. Environmental Compliance*

      I have multiple coworkers who attempt to show an “office” background in Teams…. it’s pretty obvious. They’re using a low-quality webcam – slightly pixilated face – with an HD background picture. Plus the halo that appears around their hair from Teams not quite understanding where their head ends and background begins.

      If you’re going to attempt something like that…. at least take a picture with the webcam you’re using so the picture quality matches better, lol.

    6. Bumblebee*

      I have a colleague who has done this – although she thinks it’s hilarious and isn’t trying to fake anyone out, it’s just for laughs.

    7. wine dude*

      Back in the 90s when video conferencing was rare… we had a satellite office which was 5 office rooms facing a central space with a conference table, where the video was set up. I should also mention the video resolution was much lower than we’re used to on Zoom. One day I got a friend to take a Polaroid of all of us sitting at the conference table from the POV of the video camera. Then with a stick and tape I carefully positioned the photo in front of the video camera. We were able to get through a whole company wide meeting without anyone noticing!

  5. Pop*

    OP1, There are lots of things that are a middle ground between “working lunch” and “100% social”: a team happy hour after a staff meeting, or taking a newer coworker out to get to know them better, or a conversation that has a mentoring/professional development element. My current job would pay for all of those examples; my previous job (less budget, more employees) would pay for none of them. It’s very culture and company dependent.

    1. KRM*

      We took the contractors out to celebrate their graduation and some of the team was surprised I expensed it. But it was perfectly acceptable in my company’s culture.

    2. LilyP*

      I think it’s likely that Fergus saw the drinks as more of a work-related social thing, like a team happy hour, than a outside-of-work-friends hang out. Doesn’t mean he didn’t have a good time or he doesn’t like you, but it is a signal that he’s thinking of you as a work-friend and not a friend-friend.

      Honestly, I know meeting people in a new city is hard but I would recommend trying to make friend-friends *outside* of work and leaving your coworkers as work-friends. Trying to make friends at work can get really awkward if you end up pushing for more of a friendship than someone else wants, or if you were ever to have a falling out, or even just having to work with the same people you had one too many drinks with last weekend.

  6. l'anonymous*

    #4 I’m in a similar situation with not wanting to use my real and easily findable name on linkedin. I don’t have a stalker but do have people I don’t want to find me. Their privacy is awful to boot. I don’t want linkedin having all my data, not to mention getting spammed by recruiters and stuff. I have a very locked down profile with firstname last initial. If you end up going that route (or any other readers) , put your last initial in the last name field. There is a built in checkbox to only display last initial, I’ve been burned by that in the past because someone tagged me. You can block people, too, which may help if you end up having to make one. It’s awful they’re making you do this. I find it invasive personally, too. Are they doing this to keep tabs on when people are job hunting? Are you getting any vibes like that?

    1. learnedthehardway*

      I was going to suggest something similar – a first name, last initial, no photo, and don’t fill in any work history a stalker ex could know about. Leave dates and specifics off of degrees, etc.

      From the perspective of someone who has benefited from LinkedIn in work situations and recruiting situations, I think that it’s a mixed curse and blessing, but it is a shame that the OP can’t access the benefits – like professional networks and job opportunities – because of some cretin from their past.

      1. Mangled metaphor*

        You don’t need to fill in an awful lot on LinkedIn. It’s a social networking site, not your resume.

        One person in my network literally has “My Former Employers” (as in those exact words) as their entire employment history, with no dates attached. My only education listed is my high school (which in the UK has an end date of when I was 16, because college is a separate thing before university, and in any case I went off and became an Apprentice). The photo I use is a badly scanned one from my security pass twenty something years ago.
        Quite honestly, they’d get more information from my MySpace (if I’d had one). But I *do* have a LinkedIn, which, from the limited info provided by OP4 (no judgment, it’s just limited info) would satisfy the requirements of their new job.

      2. ferrina*

        What about using middle name as first name? Though that might require you to adopt your middle name as your name at work (which you really shouldn’t have to do).

        1. fhqwhgads*

          But the issue for OP was a very identifying surname, so the middle name doesn’t really help OP – although it may help someone else. That said, when the sitch is a scary ex, they probably know your middle name.

          1. Mangled metaphor*

            I’ve just done a little experiment – whether or not it fits the criteria of the company’s wanting a profile I have no way of knowing – although Last Name is a required field, there appears to be no minimum character limit.
            So OP4 could literally use just the first initial, or even use their middle initial. So for my given name of Mangled Silly Metaphor, I could use Mangled M or Mangled S – both would be accurate, but certainly not enough to identify me from every other Mangled M or Mangled S in the world.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            They could use any name that their stalker doesn’t know about, a typical example being their mother’s maiden name.

    2. Roeslein*

      It really depends on the field. If you’re in a client-facing role in, say, recruiting or consulting, I’m not quite sure how you would do your job without LinkedIn. Clients who are considering paying for your expertise typically expect at least some information about your background when they look you up (doesn’t necessarily need to include dates, but at least what you studied and what kind of jobs you’ve held, stuff you’ve written etc,) – you#re basically selling your skills, so it comes with the territory. Besides it’s also a sales tool. But I know lots of in-house folks, back office people and folks in other lines of business who don’t have a LinkedIn account and don’t need one.

      1. Really?*

        Not necessarily; my qualifications and those of my colleagues are also available on the company website and are frequently included in the proposal package for engagements where quals are critical — expert testimony for example…in fact my boss’s LinkedIn page is of recent vintage, thanks to her assistant; Boss said herself she doesn’t have time for it! That being said, I frequently lookup clients or others I am involved with to get an understanding of their background and experience.

      2. Marmalade*

        I said this down lower, but some companies have things like required trainings through LinkedIn Learning. So it may be that is the case and LW’s boss failed to articulate that they will need to do, say, diversity training that way.

    3. Kjolis*

      I was able to successfully push back at my HR when they were requiring everyone to have a LinkedIn account. I also have had issues with a person who was inappropriate toward me and other staff, who was later fired and banned from the premises. This person found me on other social media so I got rid of it. I mentioned all this to HR, including screen shots from LinkedIn’s site explaining what still appears on a public profile, regardless of how much you hide, and how it can take weeks or months for some information to disappear from search engine results. HR thankfully relented and found a workaround.

      1. CassieBear*

        HR should be pretty good with this…but my advice to OP would be to use the word “stalker” and not “crazy ex”. While a lot of people (especially women) will understand what you’re saying, many people will read “crazy ex” as “my ex is needy and weird” and not “my ex is a danger to me and others”.

        1. Zelda*

          Also, since part of the worry is that this person might *show up* at LW4’s workplace, it’s a safety issue for everyone onsite, not just the LW. I wouldn’t necessarily lead with that, as there is some chance that it’s seen as “LW is a problem” rather than as “LW *has* a problem, and we have an opportunity to do something fairly simple to help with that.” But if it has to be put in those terms, then HR should be pretty invested in protecting the company from a potentially bad situation.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Oh yes so much this. A crazy ex, aka client, showed up at my partner’s workplace, with a gun, wanting to “deal with” his ex’s new lover, my partner’s employee.
            They called the police, who did arrest him, although nothing came of it, one officer said to my partner “he does have a point though, his ex is a total bitch” (she left him because he was unfaithful to her, not that it even matters).

    4. Rage*

      #4: may seem a strange question, but…is changing your name an option? I mean, literally, legally, changing your name. I’m considering it for myself – not just because I do have some people who I don’t want to find me on social media, but for personal and professional reasons as well:

      1. My current last name is my married name – but I’ve been divorced for 25 years.
      2. I didn’t go back to my maiden name after my divorce because it’s horridly difficult to spell and pronounce, plus the hassle of actually doing it was something I didn’t have the head-space for at the time.
      3. I’m currently pursuing a graduate degree that will result in professional licensure, and I’ve been thinking how little I would like to have that last name on my diploma/license – and especially if I continue on and get my PhD: I don’t want to be Dr. EX’S NAME (ya know?)
      4. But I also don’t want to be Dr. UNUSUAL MAIDEN NAME either because it would be annoying and, frankly, I’m not that person anymore.

      In short, I have no real attachment to either of those last names anymore. So I’m considering (and by considering I mean I’m at the stage where I am looking up the necessary legal processes and printing forms, and have selected a new last name).

      Now, you might be supremely attached to your last name – and that’s OK! But I think a lot of people forget that you can legally change your name for any reason (not just marriage or divorce), and if that’s something that could work for you, it’s available as an option.

      1. Migraine Month*

        In my state, there are weird processes you have to follow (such as printing a name change notice in a paper (!) newspaper) specifically so that people from your past (bill collectors, non-custodial children, law enforcement) can still find you. How effective those processes are is debateable.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          If the OP has a common first name and chooses a common last name, this might still be enough to get “lost in the noise” of other people with that name combo. There were a double-digit number of people in our city’s phone book with my father’s first and last name back when phone books were a thing, and I know another person who is not related to him at all and lives in our city with his name. It’s not as good as your stalker ex not knowing your name at all, but trying to find the right Linda Smith or Sarah Jones would be pretty difficult in a large city.

      2. Emmy Noether*

        Just wanted to note that this is U.S. specific advice (which is fine, this is a U.S. centric site). A lot of countries have very specific rules about names. Where I am, you can only change to a married name, back to a pre-marriage name, or if your name is an actual slur or insult.

    5. Zennish*

      I don’t have any additional advice, and only want to say I’m so sorry that anyone has to live with this situation. I’m very privacy oriented myself, and hope that any reasonable workplace would understand and make an accommodation. (Or ideally, prioritize the safety and privacy of their staff in general, and stop forcing them to put themselves online.)

  7. ChubbyBunny*

    LW3 – I’m in a similar situation except HQ is across the country. I like Alison’s suggestion that after a couple months of giving the local office a reasonable chance, you could propose changes. One might be that you stop going into the local office (since it’s pointless) and instead go to HQ for a few days every other month or quarterly (since presumably that would be more beneficial for everyone from a productivity and relationships standpoint). That’s what I’ve done and it’s been really great to see my colleagues in person every few months, and I never have to waste time in our local office, which feels more like a WeWork to me since I don’t actually know or work with any of the people there.

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      This is a really good point! I was thinking it made more sense for OP to ask for temporary arrangements to wfh full time until the office actually is set up the way it needs to be. But the suggestion of infrequent HQ visits sounds like another option to consider if OP can swing it.

      2 days/week is 40% of their working time! That’s way too much to be uncomfortable and less productive for “a few months.” I really think a few weeks is enough to establish a “good faith effort. “

    2. Ama*

      One thing I was going to mention to OP3 is to make sure that whoever manages the IT equipment has actually been told that the in office setup isn’t compatible with the new work laptops. I have found that sometimes a manager who isn’t directly involved in IT will say no to a request for an IT expense because they either don’t fully understand what the issue is (after all it seems like OP can get *some* work done in the office just not that comfortably), or because they are worried about the cost hitting their budget. Then months later IT finds out the equipment is out of date and wonders why no one bothered to tell them because *they* have a budget for equipment upgrades.

      It’s possible this has already been done and OP’s company is just being short-sighted but I wanted to mention it just in case there’s another avenue to ask for assistance here.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Yeah, at least in my experience most modern docking stations are pretty cross-compatible, so I’m wondering how outdated the “hotel” office’s dock is! The ones my work uses have worked with multiple OSes with no issue, let alone different ages of Windows laptops, and I have yet to plug any laptop into it yet that just wouldn’t work. (To be fair, I have not needed to plug in a Linux box yet. I was kind of surprised that it worked just fine with the Chromebook, though.)

          If the issue is just that the docking station is full sized USB and you need USB-C to connect to your laptop, those adapters are definitely cheap enough that it shouldn’t be a big deal to get one. Those are cheap enough (under $10) that I might even just buy one out of pocket to have on hand in my laptop bag rather than try to get work to pay for it if it were the only obstacle and work’s ordering process wasn’t straightforward. If they’ll pay for it, a Dell DA 200 adapter is a nice small USB C dongle with a single HDMI port, single VGA port, single Ethernet port, and single full-sized USB port, and those run about $50. That’ll let you connect to just about anything if you only need one external monitor and it doesn’t require a power supply of its own, so it’s a nice thing to have tucked away in a laptop bag for travel/connecting to random projectors at conferences. If you don’t think you’ll need VGA or Ethernet, there are cheaper dongles available to just get USB-c to HDMI.

  8. ants*

    #1, we do this in my company all the time! At a certain seniority level if you go out with a colleague for a meal or drinks it’s expected you’ll expense it if there anything remotely work related about it. I’m talking 5 minutes of work talk and 80 minutes of social talk–expensed. My boss has been clear that this is ok and I’ve seen his boss do it as well. I used to work in finance and it was common there too.

  9. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    #4: You mentioned your stalker could “hurt” you. You are fully within your rights to go to your new manager and ask what security options are available to you should you ever be found (God forbid). At a previous workplace, our secretaries had a photo list of individuals who were NOT permitted to even know A) if we worked there, B) had to be asked to leave and warned that there were cameras at all times and in the parking lot. I don’t know if your new company requires ID, but my company (because we worked with kids) required all visitors to have their driver’s licenses scanned as well. Not that you could force new company to take these measures but they’re just some options.

    And do tell other coworkers casually “Hey, if you ever hear of someone you don’t know asking about me, could you pretend like you don’t know me?” Giving them a script like “Oh, I’m not sure I have heard of that person, how can I or so and so help you?” Or “I will pass your question on to the relevant person in that department “. And describe your stalker to them too, but yeah a general rule is good to avoid giving details even if it’s not your stalker asking per say.

    1. Enn Pee*

      Completely agreed.
      When I worked in government, we were required to post salaries, etc., on an online database. There were employees (like you) flagged so that no data would ever be displayed for them.

      Your workplace could want you to have your name, position, place in the org chart, etc., on their website, so please bring this up to your boss now so that they can work on a policy for each of these eventualities.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The script I was taught to use at a long-ago startup “This company is growing so fast no one really knows everybody anymore.”
      If the question or keeps pushing, the followup was “Tell me your question and contact information so I can give it to the right department.”
      Gray rock after that.

    3. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I know people who simply don’t use their last names on LinkedIn. They have a page but it says “Alexandra A.” or “Jennifer R.”

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      Or go in, spend enough time to say hello to random people and realize the equipment room is not available, and go back home. A pain, but a way to establish 1. You tried and 2. It’s not working.

    2. anonymous73*

      Not really a smart move for a new employee, which is why Alison suggested waiting a few months to bring it up to their manager.

    3. mlem*

      LW could be fired, or put on a PIP, or downranked on a review in ways that probably permanently hurt their earning curve. (I’ve been doing the math on that last one myself, because I have enough clout not to worry about the first two.)

      1. socks*

        Yeah, my entire department basically shrugged and said, “Nah,” when the CEO tried to make everyone come in 3 days a week. But that only worked because….it was the entire department, and the managers also thought going back in was pointless. (And if you think this sounds like a sign of widespread contempt toward the CEO, you are correct)

  10. GraceC*


    I work somewhere where people in my department are required to have LinkedIn accounts to be able to do our jobs – we’re a data team and need to be able to trawl LinkedIn profiles of companies and investors and executives to match up who owns what and who’s invested in who. LI is pretty much a permanently open tab for me.

    We’ve had a couple of people who don’t want their names out there and were reluctant to have accounts, but it is a requirement of the job role – but it’s not a requirement to have a full profile, or even a profile with your own name. One recent hire went for nickname+last initial, where the nickname on the profile was a different one to what they used in real life – think “Ellie S.” for Elizabeth ‘Beth’ Smith. Since we don’t ever actually need to connect to people, we can lock privacy settings fully down to hide from other accounts and use a different name etc, no photos, no information – but having a profile IS a requirement of the job role, and a full refusal to go anywhere near an LI account even with a fake name would mean an inability to do the job.

    1. Purple Cat*

      So it feels a little sketchy that your company has decided that LinkedIn is the absolute truth of business ownership and connections. Now that the Musk deal is on pause, I’ll just put in that I own Twitter. There’s no “verification” of these things on LI.

      Secondly, if your company IS going to take this sketchy approach, then they should just create a generic “Data Analyst” profile that everyone in the department uses. There’s literally no need for each individual to create their own profile.

  11. Allonge*

    LW1 – in addition to everyone saying expensing this would be normal for their company (which is really reasonable), I can also see a scenario where this is a bit of a white lie from your colleague to cut the discussion on sharing costs short. He may have wanted to cover the costs without it being awkward.

    1. Bagpuss*

      I wondered about that – it may be that he always intended to pay and this avoided any tussle over the bill – particuarly as he is more senior than you and had suggested meeting up

      1. KateM*

        No, it was OP who had suggested meeting up.
        “so I asked him the other day if he wanted to grab a drink and chat about one of his recent projects that I was interested in”
        Does that change anything about who should have paid?

        1. Hygge Hygge Hippo*

          I think Alison has said in the past that the more senior person should still pay, as they earn more money and it’s a kindness when meeting with something who is early in their career. Even where there isn’t a significant income discrepancy, if the senior person can expense it to the company, that benefits everyone. (Assuming it’s compliant with company policy, etc.)

  12. Luna*

    “could hire anyone she wanted”
    Perfect, you go do that, then; no need to keep anything open for me.

  13. Bookworm*

    #4: I am sorry your job requires this and echoes what others have said. I’m hoping your employer doesn’t make you add a photo, etc. but I’ve known and worked with people who have incredibly vague profiles that only have the general industry they work in (no full name, no employer, no picture, etc.).

    Hopefully your employer will be understanding and won’t make you add one. I feel the same about being added to the company website with a photo and bio, etc. No, thank you.

    1. Marmalade*

      The only thing is some companies have required trainings through LinkedIn. I’d only worked for non profits/in academia until this spring, and my new job has their required diversity trainings on the LinkedIn learning platform. So you may be required to use it for that – hopefully first/made up name and initial is plenty for them.

  14. Roscoe da Cat*

    First question, when I was in senior management at a consulting firm, we were told that we should always pay on the company tab for any meals with junior members of the firm. It was considered part of the culture and development of junior staff. I commonly took my employees out for lunch and paid for drinks under this rule

    1. Desdemona*

      I work in tech and it’s similar. Meals or drinks with junior staff are always covered by the senior employee, and usually expensed.

  15. Chilipepper Attitude*

    Is anyone’s office like mine? We almost only use chat, email, and Zoom even when we are all in the office.

    We can work from home with some, unspoken, limitations. Some have clearly asked for more WFH and were accommodated. Some need to be in person more for their position.

    But when we are in the office, we only chat, email, and Zoom with each other! I mean, we don’t meet in person in small groups or as a team even when we are all in the office.

    Partly this is due to COVID worries (one person caught it a few weeks ago). But also it seems the norm here. I only started at the end of last year so I’m not sure.

    I’m just curious how meetings work for others

    1. Snow Globe*

      I’m fully remote (live in a different city than my colleagues), but when we have zoom calls, most of my teammates are in a conference room. From conversations with my boss, it’s pretty clear that when people are in the office, they frequently visit each other’s offices/cubes for work discussions.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      If you are trying to accomidate one even one person dialing in romotely it is often easier to have everyone be remote. One remote person dialing into a conference room of people often leaves the one remote person left out. The conference room mic may not catch the voice of the people farther away from it and other problems.

      OTOH you gain a lot from the non-verbal communication, ease of not talking over people, ability to draw/write on a white board at in person meetings.

      Also type of meeting matters. When collaborating with a group, it’s much easier in person. When one or a few people brief a group, there’s not as much difference between in person and remote.

    3. anonymous73*

      When I worked in large offices, I regularly attended in person meetings and visited colleagues to discuss work things. IM and email were used too for quick questions, and we did have some meetings over a conference call if a room wasn’t available, but it was not unusual to get up and walk to someone’s desk to have a discussion. It allowed a break from your desk and a little bit of exercise. At home I have to get out of my chair and walk in place every once in a while to keep my back from hurting and to not become permanently fused to the chair.

    4. mlem*

      My team spans two work offices minimum. My larger group spans four, with one of those being a person in an office halfway across the country. Every single meeting is virtual unless we all make a special arrangement to gather in a meeting room (which is not an option for us right now). Even when I’ve lucked into being in the same building as another member of my group — adjacent seats, even! — we used the chat function for most of our conversation.

    5. Elenna*

      My work was like this pre-COVID (which meant that it was super simple for us to switch to working 100% remote during the pandemic). Since then I’ve switched teams (in the same company). Now that we’ve moved to one day a week in the office, my new teams seems to make an effort to schedule in-person meetings on that day and maybe talk at lunch. I’m not sure if it’s team culture or if they’re trying to show that going in is worth it.

      Still, though, even on that in-office day most/all casual unscheduled communication (e.g. “Hey Wakeen, do you know how to create this file?”) is still over Webex. Probably because our desks are all scattered around multiple different floors of the building.

    6. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      When I was in an office it was the same. Partially it was to keep noise down because we were in a big open cube farm and even if only 10% of the folks were having quiet conversations it raised the background noise to a not fun level and partially because we all liked being able to share our screens in meetings. I don’t work there anymore, but I take it the transition to WFH in 2020 was pretty seamless

  16. Hiring Mgr*

    As others have said, rules around expenses differ wildly, even within a company. One place I used to work at wouldn’t bat an eye if you flew business class internationally for $10K, but would question you if you exceeded your per diem by a few bucks on the same trip!

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        Did they have a rationale for that? Was it something as humane as “people work better when they are comfortable while they travel”?

        1. Aggretsuko*

          (Off topic, I’m laughing at this username and am all, “How? I went with 14 of ’em.”)

      2. tamarak & fireweed*

        My partner’s (tech industry, US) also requires business travel above a certain distance. Dunno if they give a rationale – not everything comes with a rationale – but they tend to be quite serious about creating a humane workplace.

        They also have/use a corporate travel agency. So does my employer (US public university), and I saw first-hand how large savings can be for travel agencies that have access to pools of swap tickets for example.

        (Now for myself, the rules of my employer would provide for reasonable per-diem and use of business class in certain (limited) circumstances, but we very rarely make use of them as we need to pay for our travel out of grant funds. And when it comes to paying for some student’s registration / workshop / hotel or getting a more fancy accommodation for ourselves, the choice is clear. There just isn’t enough travel money to go around most of the time.)

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        yeah, now that people are traveling for work again, this might be fun rather than sad!

  17. Shiba Dad*

    LW#1 – Sometimes one of my coworkers, whether a peer or my boss, will be working at a site near where I and another coworker work full time. When that happens they will take us out to lunch and pay for it on their company card. The “rule” is that the most senior person in attendance pays. Usually the discussion is a mix of work and personal, as the four of us have known each other a while (we worked together at a previous employer).

    Pre-pandemic we met current grand boss and current VP of our group for dinner. Current VP paid for meals and drinks. For reference, current employer is a small division of a Fortune 500 company.

    A previous employer would not reimburse alcohol at all due to liability.

  18. Erica*

    #4. So sorry you have to deal with this stressful person. You may also want to look into local laws and your employer’s safety policy to help back you up. I am in a public NYC agency and our EEO has an explicit option for requesting reasonable accommodations for victims/survivors of intimate partner violence and stalking. I hope it’s the same for you.

  19. Richard Hershberger*

    LW4: Plan A: Simply don’t do it. There is a good chance that no one will ever check.
    Plan B: If someone does, then explain about the stalker.
    Plan C: If they insist, set up an account that contains no useful information.
    Plan D: If they complain about the gaps, fill your profile with lies. The temptation would be to have fun with this: born in Transylvania, raised by a pack of hyenas, first job drummer in a band of Tuvan throat singers, and so on. Resist this temptation. Put in boringly plausible information: born in a different state, a year or two off from your actual birthday, and so on.

    1. Observer*

      The odds of no one checking in such a case are actually quite high. As for filling it up with nonsense, that’s not going to help with a stalker situation. The ONE piece that is going to have to be accurate is the employer and that’s really the important piece for a stalker who already knows all of the other stuff.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        The point of the incorrect information is to make it seem like the LW is someone else with the same name. So the profile shows the LW working a thousand miles away during the time the two were a couple. How well this would work would depend on how uncommon is the name, and what if any photo is used.

        But yeah, no one actually checking is a good shot. Kevin Smith has a story about how he was invited to do a film shoot at Prince’s house. The preliminary paperwork included a nondisclosure agreement. Smith simply didn’t sign it, and no one checked. Not until afterwards, when he was merrily telling stories about it.

      2. LilyP*

        If it’s your boss telling you to do it for a job-specific reason like finding recruitment leads then yeah, that’s gonna come up again. But if it’s just part of a standard boilerplate onboarding doc it’s very plausible that nobody will ever notice or care if you “didn’t notice” that bit and don’t bring it up unless it comes up for a job-related reason

        1. just a random teacher*

          I once held a job for 2 years and never set up or checked my voicemail. It’s amazing what judicious incompetence can get you at times.

          This started out as just having no idea who to ask to find out what password to use/how to get a new account for the phone line for my classroom, but after I was legitimately too busy to solve that problem for the first week or two and realized that no one had mentioned my lack of voicemail competence to me yet despite the red light on my phone being on, I decided to let it ride…it literally never got mentioned as an issue once in the two years I worked there. I was responsive by email and if someone called the main line and left a message with the secretary, and fully prepared to play dumb about the very existence of voicemail if needed, but it never once came up. Disclaimer: This may not work in a more functional workplace.

  20. Doctors Whom*

    LW3, I understand that setup is inconvenient. But, I will offer the perspective of a manger in an organization dealing with remote work, return to office, and availability of hoteling spaces, I would like to share with you some of the things happening behind the curtain that I have been dealing with from this end of the conversation:)

    – Since IT is supporting multiple configurations, the most effective solution for individuals is likely ordering adapters as needed for individuals instead of outfitting every space with docks for every possible configuration and then asking the individual humans to configure the right dock every single time they go in to the office. Your IT team would have assumed you would keep this issued equipment with your laptop.
    – We are having a hell of a time getting computers and peripherals from our approved suppliers so I would absolutely believe that there are challenges getting more equipment to outfit hoteling spaces. I am still waiting on a laptop I ordered in January. We filched that person’s monitor from the office of a departing employee.
    – As manager, if someone came to me about the peripherals available in one of our hoteling spaces, all I can do is ask the IT team if they can consider adding equipment to that room. I can’t purchase it out of my own budget because I can only purchase equipment that is tied to specific staff.
    – Some of our hoteling offices have monitors in them, some don’t. Our IT/infra folks have a finite budget for user equipment that they have to balance across a LOT of needs. They simply CAN’T outfit every hoteling space that way right now (because spaces with no monitors are the result of the employees who had the monitors becoming remote…. meaning we are now having to outfit more spaces than before and our IT budget hasn’t increased). That is just what we are working with – incrementally outfitting these spaces while also doing all the other IT spending we need to do. On this front, I would consider asking the IT team if there is an older monitor lying around in a spares closet that could be placed in this room in the interim.

    I would encourage some grace toward the manager and IT team and actually focus on the engagement (or lack thereof) associated with the in-office 2x/wk requirement. It seems like that is the real bogey here. I would ask the manager if there can be something done about folks squatting in the room you have reserved that has the peripherals you need, and after a few months ask if you can revisit the in-office requirement.

    1. Marny*

      If outfitting the hotel office properly is so difficult right now logistically, then that makes the in-office requirement even more silly on management’s part. Would you recommend grace if everyone was required to be back in the office but office chairs weren’t available because of back orders? My reaction would be that in-person requirements shouldn’t kick in until the company is prepared for them. I hope that’s what you’ve been saying on your side of the conversation.

      1. Doctors Whom*

        I specifically said that the in-person requirement seemed to be the real bogey in this situation.

        The IT team certainly doesn’t control that and it seems like the direct manager doesn’t either.

        As I said, my post was largely to share with the OP what the manager is likely experiencing on the manager’s end of these situations and why the manager may not be able to influence the state of the hoteling space. If you think I was trying to justify the 2x week requirement, you over-read my post.

      2. Purple Cat*

        Everything you just said highlighted why it’s ridiculous for companies to force people back into the office when they literally don’t have the proper infrastructure to support them.

        yup, IT issues suck along with everything else in the supply chain, so let the people work where they CAN work.

    2. anonymous73*

      Understandable, but if OP is being forced to go into the office 2 days a week, having the right setup is not an unreasonable ask. If companies are going to adapt to a hybrid solution, they need to have the logistics worked out before the employees come back in – people had to do a lot of on the fly adapting 2 years ago. There’s no reason to rush everyone back in if remote work has been the solution for the last 2 years.

    3. Critical Rolls*

      I think the issue is not really that IT ought to have the space equipped right now. It’s that the space isn’t currently equipped, *and* there doesn’t seem to be anything gained by going into an office with no teammates, **and** there’s a properly equipped space at home.

    4. kittymommy*

      I think this is a very good perspective. I was surprised when my IT department told me they could get my new laptop in but the necessary docking station would take a while. I think we finally got it after 2 months.

    5. Richard Hershberger*

      You have answered the question of why the company is unable to provide functional hoteling spaces. This was not the question ask. That was “Am I ridiculous for thinking that if I am required to be in the office, the setup should be functional for my daily activities?” The answer if of course not. The logical next question would be why the company is requiring the LW to be in the office? For that there is no clear good answer, though many bad ones.

  21. anonymous73*

    #2 – you were not unethical. In fact you did the right thing by letting her know you were no longer interested in the position, instead of allowing her to think you were a go and then turning her down when an offer came to you. You’re concerned about your friendship, but I would advise trying to figure out why you would want to continue a friendship with someone who treats you so poorly. Her response was way out of line and irrational.
    #3 – yes to everything Alison said, especially the part about revisiting the in office days. If your manager and team are at HQ, you’re in another location and you don’t work with any of the people in the other office, there is absolutely no point in you going there.

    1. EspressoDoppio*

      Thank you! I am concerned about the friendship mostly because she is a former Manager with whom I kept in touch, and her positive reference helped me get the position I had. She always treated me kindly (mind you, after we no longer worked together) and I had the impression that she appreciated me as a person. But who knows, maybe she is the kind of person who likes you “as long as you always say yes”.

  22. Saberise*

    #3 My assumption is they are having you go in 2 days a week because they are also having their other employees do the same at the home office. So to be “fair” they are requiring you to do the same. Most definitely take the adaptor with you. I would bet that IT expected you to. Even if someone didn’t do it on purpose it’s very easy to accidentally take adaptors when you are rushing to pack up at the end of the day. You mentioned that sometimes you have to use the other desk because someone doesn’t look at the schedule and takes it before you get in. There is a good chance they did look at it but are counting on you not making them move. I would just say something like “sorry but I have this desk reserved at 9:00 and really need the additional monitor to do my job” and stand their until they do.

    1. Oakwood*

      “…they are having you go in 2 days a week because they are also having their other employees do the same at the home office. So to be “fair” they are requiring you to do the same.”

      That’s kind of a warped version of fair. The LW said they don’t get any extra face time with their team at the remote office.

      1. Saberise*

        That is why I put fair in quotes. We have seen that a lot of companies are bending over backwards trying to be what they consider fair with these policies even if in reality it’s not logical and doesn’t really achieve anything.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Fair not in the sense that this way every employee enjoys the same advantages, but rather fair in the sense that every employee suffers the same disadvantages.

        1. zinzarin*

          Except that this employee suffers *greater* disadvantages. Not only do they have to come in the office, but they don’t get the (minor) advantages that other employees get from doing that (i.e. the face time, water-cooler talk, etc.).

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I did not mean to suggest that the policy was entirely thought through.

    2. Triplestep*

      I work in the field of Office Design and Planning, and what I am seeing is companies laying down rules of how often people need to be in the office with no reason given. LW#3, I suspect the reason your manager his been unresponsive is that she is answering to a higher power who hasn’t given HER a reason you need to be there two days per week. I agree it’s being done out of some warped view of what is “fair”, but even I am not being given a reason (and I am having to forecast for space, so I have to assume there is no reason. At least not a reason that makes sense. It’s all performative.)

      From my perspective, pushing back will be fruitless BUT over time when leadership sees (again) that people can be productive from home, they will be less insistent that people come in, even for those two days per week. Either that or they will lose so much of their workforce to companies that are more forward-thinking, they’ll change the rules. I honestly think for now you are stuck, but wait it out and things should change.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        If “fairness” requires the LW go in 2 days a week, then the manager should take action to make an acceptable workspace for the LW at the local site. IDK it’s probably the first time this manager is dealing with this. Maybe it’s the first time the HQ has someone assigned to their structure working from that local office. The manager needs to communicate with the local office manager to make the LW’s two days in office as productive at possible. At least have all necessary equipment which should include an extra monitor and the right wires to connect the laptop to the monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

        1. Triplestep*

          Yes, in a perfect world this would be true. From what I am seeing (and I’ve heard the exact complaint that this LW describes) managers are at a loss to make things workable because of spending freezes on equipment purchases. Teams are shorthanded and cannot keep up with documenting the equipment that IS available at certain desks. People start moving equipment around so their colleagues might book a desk thinking certain equipment is there, then come to find out it is not.

          This is not sustainable, which is why I think time will change things. I know that sounds dismissive, but business leaders have been ignoring the advice of their Office Designers and Planners for decades until they feel the pain of not taking our suggestions. Do you think *we* are the ones telling them to implement an open space plan with not enough enclosed spaces for people to collaborate, talk on the phone, or just focus?

  23. Incoming Principal*

    I have a work BFF, he is the closest person to me, period. I gladly have him at home and have dinner, but every now and then if we are to have a snack or even a meal at work, I would expense it. I do that with several people that I mentor officially and unofficially. I am senior and have a team and client entertainment budget which never gets used especially in these pandemic times.

  24. Annie*

    LW #1, like others have said this can be very industry specific. I currently work at a huge public accounting firm, and the things I’ve seen expensed are shocking to me. Casual drinks with colleagues are expensed regularly, and there are also occasional insanely expensive dinners that are expensed too. Large group happy hours that must cost thousands of dollars happen every couple of months. Connectivity budgets are also given for all sorts of things, and I never expect to pay for anything if the event I’m going to is in any way firm-affiliated. It sounds like your current workplace may operate similarly in that regard at least.

    Most of my work experience prior to this was in nonprofits, so it was a huge culture shock when I started at my firm. With my previous employers, basically nothing could be expensed ever (and definitely not alcohol). If we wanted to do anything social with coworkers we were on our own to pay for it.

  25. Person from the Resume*

    I joined an employer 10 years ago that had moved to virtual teams with members all over the country. I did get some benefit to going into the office when I started the job even though my teammembers were elsewhere. But I always had adequate equipment in the office including a second screen and headphone/mic. When I started working from home, I had to provide everything, but I already had an external monitor, keyboard, mouse setup that I used. And then at one point, I splurged and purchased a nicer widescreen external monitor for myself.

    You are not ridiculious. It seems likely that the problem stems from the office you work at not having the same (more modern) equipment as the Company HQ does. I’d be demanding about it. The obvious solution is that you work from home full time. If that isn’t possible then you should have the setup you need available for you on the days that you go in. Your manager should be responsible for making it happen. I understand that with you going into the office only 2 days a week why that may not be efficient for the local office to house a set up that is only useful to you, but that is the case for you to work from home full time.

  26. Just Me*

    LW 1 I wouldn’t worry about this at all. In addition to what she said, this could be seen as somewhat similar to a company treating its colleagues to a happy hour; it’s relationship building and a small perk to reward employees for their work.

    Now, my fiancee and his colleague were on a work trip a few years ago and where they got like ten drinks between them and the colleague tried to expense it all. The company said, “We’re happy to expense a drink or two if you’re on a work trip, but not ten.”

    1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I bet finance thought they were buying drinks for other patrons at the bar.

  27. Michelle Smith*

    With regard to the ex situation, I would definitely bring it up both to HR and to your direct supervisors. I would approach them with the attitude/assumption that they will obviously do the right thing to protect your safety. They should be aware that they need to keep your information private and not allow this person to be transferred to your phone line or be given any information that suggests you work there. If you have a protective order, that should be discussed as well. They should also be aware that you are not able to have a social media presence for these personal safety reasons and be willing to accommodate you. If you are a victim of domestic violence and/or stalking, you may have greater legal rights to protect you in the workplace and should consider looking into your local laws and speaking with an attorney, if you haven’t done so already. Womens Law dot org has some suggestions on how to prevent stalkers from gaining access to your information at work.

  28. Erin*

    LW #4 same! I have a very long, difficult last name, and there are 5 people in the universe that come up in a Google search who have my last name (2 being my parents). I also have an ex from 10 years ago who likes to stalk and torment me.

    I do have a LinkedIn. I don’t have my last name or photo on my profile. Also, my profile is set with pretty high restrictions regarding who can see my info. I’m not on social media, with the exception of an Instagram account that I keep pretty private/no first or last name/no profile pic of me.

    I know it has impacted my career to not be on these platforms. But, I network outside of them or send DMs to folks, and just live with the knowledge that I have to make this decision.

    It is ridiculous that we have to hide and stunt our careers because of the actions of other people. I am sorry, and I get it!

  29. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    1. Is it weird that my coworker expensed drinks?
    My company has something like a $70/day expense limit and it’s higher for Director level and VP’s. to maybe $150 So yes, you can expense a modest drink or two without questioning. When I travel I rarely hit the meal limit because I eat the free hotel breakfast and generally have super small lunches (like a soft pretzel and coke) so sometimes I order a drink or two with a nice dinner! Or if it’s a group of 3-4, we might order a bottle of wine. Now, a night out drinking is a whole other story!

  30. Bunny Girl*

    UGH I know a lot of people are going to LinkedIn right now but I honestly hate that trend because of things like this. I left my old job because I was being harassed by a faculty member, who retaliated against me when I complained. I do not want him knowing where I work either. I feel like there are enough safety related issues that companies should drop this expectation.

  31. Purple Cat*

    LW1 – It’s okay if your company says it’s okay. That will vary widely across companies. For mine, the general rule is that meals/expenses for only coworkers aren’t expensed, unless they’re travelling. However, going away drinks are often covered, and leadership can take their teams out for lunches occasionally. Realistically, office folks get more leeway than plant employees and the more senior you are, the more you can expense.

  32. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    #1 I’m in a more conservative org, we can expense food and non-alcoholic drinks for occasional social events with coworkers — alcoholic drinks are allowed, as in they can be on the bill, and they are often served at org sponsored events…no need to hide it — but the org won’t reimburse for them when we submit report/receipts. It’s weird.

    1. OyHiOh*

      Because of government grants we get, my org is not allowed to expense alcohol, and for reasons I don’t completely understand, tips must be under 25% of the total bill.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    On #3, if you have to go in anyway, there may be a cheap adapter you can buy/expense so you can use the monitors with your laptop. May as well make the best of it even if it’s kind of pointless

  34. BasicBench*

    #4, I am so sorry you’re going through this (I have been in a similar situation– very unusual first and last name, and was stalked by a violent, awful ex, so my advice is based on my own experience).
    My first step would be explaining the situation. If you’re in the USA, lots of states protect workers from discrimination based on intimate partner violence situations, plus it’s likely not a huge deal for them to make one exception to having a LinkedIn. This is also a great time to give HR and security details on your ex, so they can remove him from the premises immediately if he shows up. I’ve worked at several places– including two heavily public-facing/customer-facing roles– where we kept a list of people (including my ex…heh) who were banned from entry.
    If they have some pressing business reason for having everyone on LinkedIn, I’d suggest you use a different surname or a last initial. I personally have used the company logo or a photo of industry-relevant as your profile picture, and list absolutely minimial info (just your current employer) and lock it down as much as possible.

  35. Anon today*

    Re # 3: Did anyone else’s office take advantage of everyone suddenly working from home and decide to remodel the entire building, top to bottom? Sure, it was probably way easier to do that with no one in the building, and sure, a lot of those improvements were long overdue, but as part of this plan, no one has their own space anymore. It is entirely hot desking and hoteling now. Seems no one wants to come back in regularly or at all with this new office format.
    I really miss my old space. I would have still wanted to come back for a few days a week, even if I would be in a different spot, but to not have my own space at all seems untenable.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Yes, but not exactly. We were already scheduled to remodel are office and expand into another classroom (university). It was scheduled for summer 2020 so it was actually nice since it didn’t interrupt our services and no one had to live with contracting noises and such. By the time Fall 2020 came around everything was mostly finished and everyone loves the new expanded space.

  36. Lucy Skywalker*

    #4: I also have an ex (though she’s an ex-friend, not an ex-partner) who stalked me, and I solved the problem by finding her on LinkedIn and blocking her. However, if your stalker is more tech-savvy than mine, they may be able to find you anyway by making a different account. In that case, take the advice of Allison.

  37. Valancy Snaith*

    This morning, reading #3 there was a bit in there about OP having had an adapter that went missing from the station, but that doesn’t seem to be there any more. I’m confused–did I dream that up?

  38. MCMonkeyBean*

    OP1 I definitely don’t think you need to feel like Fergus was doing anything shady–you had a good time and had some non-work conversations which is great, but it sounds like you specifically asked him to meet you and talk about a work project! A more senior person taking a more junior person out for drinks to discuss a work project would be a very normal thing to expense at a ton of companies.

  39. EspressoDoppio*

    Thank you very much Alison, for including my question this week :-) I am the LW for #2.
    Your response and all the comments were really helpful and felt reassuring to me, especially to appease the uneasy feeling of guilt, ingrained from past work interactions where I was told to feel grateful for any job opportunity. I see that I didn’t do anything wrong or unethical, and this situation says more about the Manager than about me. Update: I recently had a birthday and for the past years I’ve always received a sweet e-mail from this person and this year no doubt was the first exception!

    A couple of weeks in the new job, I can tell you that I am happy where I am and that my new team treats me with the respect that I deserve. I would never imagine any of my supervisors talking to me as that person did. I dodged a bullet there!

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